Book Blitz & Excerpt: Pretty Deadly + Giveaway

pretty deadly
Pretty Deadly
by Kelsey Josund
Dark Fantasy

Date Published: October 26, 2021

Publisher: Darkstroke Books

Cinna would quite literally kill for the throne.

She’s spent years forced to serve her wealthy cousins rather than attend society events alongside them, waiting for the chance to prove herself and exact revenge. When a ball is announced at the castle, promising to bring many powerful people to town, she seizes the opportunity to strike.

She bets her best friend, a small-time thief and con-man, that she can land a greater score the night of the ball than he can. They embark on parallel heists. But as their plots unfold, things begin to unravel: by the end of the night, the castle’s on lock down, a duchess is dead, a mansion has burnt to the ground, and Cinna hasn’t stolen anything. Or has she stolen something more valuable than gold and jewels?

Pretty Deadly Teaser

Excerpt

Johann sat on the barstool beside Cinna and sighed. Without acknowledging him, she slid her empty glass forward across the bar.

The bartender poured her another round of top-shelf whisky, which Johann knew she could not afford. He wondered briefly whether the bartender owed her a favor, or if she knew something the man did not want shared, then decided that he didn’t care.

She smiled, settled back on her stool, and turned to him at last. “Have a good day?”

He grunted, which made her laugh. He may not have had a good day, but it seemed she had.

Life of petty crime too petty for you now?”

He shrugged and began rolling himself a cigarette. She sipped her whisky in silence, watching.

In truth, Johann had been in a good mood until he entered the bar and saw her sitting there. Every moment around Cinna was exhausting. She was his favorite and least favorite person at the same time, and he had been looking forward to brooding about her alone with some tobacco and alcohol. That plan was foiled now.

He tipped the cigarette toward her, asking wordlessly for a light. She was always good for that, at least.

She pulled a matchbook from a pocket and drew a match quickly between her fingers to bring forth the flame, then offered it to him.

Neat trick,” he said.

As she pinched the match out again, she asked if he’d heard about the ball they were throwing for the fiftieth anniversary of the accords.

No?”

He could never understand why Cinna made it her business to track things like that, and he certainly didn’t care. Maybe she did not expect him to, because she just shrugged and changed the subject. “Anything interesting in the store?”

With her words, he realized that in fact there was a reason to be glad to see her tonight. “Finish that,” he suggested, gesturing to her still-mostly-full glass. “I have something to show you.”

She raised an eyebrow and took a slow sip, decidedly not finishing the drink in any hurry. “How mysterious.”

Or don’t,” he said. “But I think you’ll find this interesting.”

She considered his expression for a moment and then seemed to decide that he was worth her time. With a half smile, she knocked back the rest of her drink and slid languidly down from the barstool. “Let’s go, then.”

Johann glanced toward the window. It was too wet and windy to smoke outside, so he stubbed out the cigarette and pocketed it, then offered her an arm as they walked out of the dim little tavern into the winter evening. As he had expected, she made no effort to pay or even thank the bartender.

He knew she only walked with her arm through his to humor him, but still it felt nice. The cold wind erupted in his face and blew back the hood he’d lifted as they went out the door, sending a shiver of icy rain down the back of his shirt. Though she wore a much lighter jacket than he did, Cinna seemed unbothered.

They passed in and out of the blue light of evening and the flickering oily yellow of streetlamps, descending through narrow streets toward his pawn shop. Passersby paid them no mind, in a hurry to get home as the temperature dropped. Before long, the rain would turn to snow and the puddles to ice.

He released her arm to dig out a key and led them inside, not bothering to light a candle. He preferred the shop like this: gloomy, dusty, dark. It reminded him what he hoped to one day escape.

She looked around as they walked deeper into the shop, studying various wares on the towering shelves. If he didn’t know that even Cinna had standards, he would have thought she was casing the place, selecting which trinkets she would come back for when he was not around.

What did you want to show me?” she asked, leaning her arms against the counter as he walked around behind it.

He wanted to let the suspense build, loving her attention on him. He shrugged out of his damp coat, and turned slowly as if considering his options, theatrically stalling in a way that, as hoped, made her laugh.

I’m starting to think you just wanted to trick me into coming home with you,” she said, a smile in her rich voice.

He grinned and leaned across the counter in a position mirroring her own. Close enough that he could smell the smoky whisky on her breath. “Maybe I did.”

She laughed again, then leaned away. “I’m missing my nice barstool and whisky.”

What did you do for that, by the way?”

She smirked. “Wouldn’t you like to know.”

He sighed, well aware that she was as in control of this interaction as she ever was, and ducked below the counter to retrieve what he had thought to show her. It seemed silly now.

But he saw the sparkle in her eyes when he deposited the shoes on the counter with a flourish and knew he had been right. “They’ll fit you,” he said.

She lifted one in her hand, bringing it close enough to admire in the low light. They were truly beautiful, made of gleaming black leather embedded with tiny jewels, a delicate arch lifting upon sturdy but artful high heels.

She studied him over the shoe she held, eyes bright in the darkness. He had no idea what she was thinking, but he liked the hint of a smile on her lips.

You can have them,” he said, completing the thought he’d implied already.

She shook her head and set the shoe back down. “I have no use for anything like this,” she said. “You know that.”

He smirked and picked up the shoe that she had set down, holding it carefully in one hand with the other flat below the heel. With his thumb, he made some slight motion where she couldn’t see, and a slender knife dropped into his palm, pricking a tiny burst of blood where it made contact. Her eyes flickered to his face quickly enough to catch his grimace, but then they shared a smile.

She reached for the knife. He closed his fist around it and pulled away.

I have a weakness for pretty things,” she said slowly, picking up the other shoe and looking for the mechanism that would reveal the blade, “but usually I can ignore it. When beauty is combined with danger, though…” She grinned at him and he warmed at the sight of her honest happiness. “You know me well.”

And he did. Well enough to know that her real weakness was not that she liked objects that were pretty and dangerous, but rather that he knew as much. He was fairly sure she did not know his own.

But he would play into what she thought she knew. He set the knife he’d already extracted onto the counter and took the shoe from her, holding it aloft to show which jewel was actually a lever. “Someday I’ll get you every beautiful weapon you can imagine,” he said.

Gilded daggers?” she asked.

He nodded. “Swords inset with rubies.”

Guns that shoot not bullets but diamonds?”

He lifted his hands and parted them, as if to say he’d give her the world. She laughed, and he did too.

You talk a big game,” she said, lifting the blade by the hilt and tipping it back and forth. He watched her, seeing that she was thinking, wondering what she thought.

Cinna?” he asked.

The thoughts that clouded her face drifted away and she smiled. “What do you say to a wager?”

He folded his arms and raised an eyebrow. “Friendly competition between friends?”

Something like that.”

What are your terms?” he asked.

That ball,” she said. “Two weeks away. Everyone who’s anyone will be there. The king will empty his vaults to show off his treasure. It’s the ultimate target.”

I’m not seeing how this is a competition,” he said slowly. Understanding sank through him.

I’m not saying we do this together,” she clarified. “Let’s see who can land a bigger score that night.”

Risky, Cinna.”

Fun, Johann.”

She still twirled the knife between her fingers. He held only an empty shoe.

What’re the stakes?” he asked. He could never read her, much as he tried to. Maybe that was why she was so entrancing.

She shrugged, grinned, stood up straight. “Not high enough for you?’

Not high enough for you,” he replied. 

She laughed. A chill went down his spine.

Let’s decide once I win, shall we?” she asked.

He frowned. “That’s hardly fair.”

Her laugh this time was abrupt and biting, but her smile was friendly. “Then beat me.”

He drew a breath, considering. Cinna was not a fool: she would have a plan already, and he would be starting from behind if he agreed to this. But Johann was not a fool, either. Perhaps he needed something so risky and high-profile if he wanted to impress Cinna and break free of the ridiculous hold she had on him. Maybe this would show him that he did not need her approval to be strong.

Walk me home,” she said before he could reply, setting both knives down on the counter. “It’s late.”

He slid the knives back into their sheathes and put the shoes on the counter. “Are you keeping them?”

She lifted one by the heel, then the other. “I’ll wear these the night of the ball,” she said. “And I’ll see you there?”

He grinned, shrugged into his coat, and made up his mind. “If I do things right, you won’t.”

They headed back into the night, which had darkened fully by then. She did not live far away —the city was dense, with a small footprint—but even a woman as dangerous as Cinna knew better to walk home alone through those streets. Looking at her now, though, he was fairly sure she was the threat, not the one in danger. If someone thought to target her for a mugging, that would be their last theft.

The rain had let up but the paving stones had grown slick, just on the edge of icing over. Their breath clouded before them. Cinna held onto the shoes more firmly than she did his arm.

When they reached the mansion where she worked as a servant, they hesitated. He caught an inscrutable dark look in her eyes as she gazed up at its gabled roof and bright windows, and wondered for the thousandth time how Cinna had come to live the life she did. But if she shared that with anyone, it was not him.


About the Author

I am a software engineer and author living and working in Silicon Valley, California. I studied computer science at Stanford University, but I’ve always loved stories in all their forms. I approach writing fiction the same way I approach writing code: I like to know where it’s going, but I want to figure out the details as I go along. Good software is a lot like a good story, full of neat and clever solutions to tricky problems, beautiful at a granular level but also from a distance.

Originally from Seattle, I love getting outdoors and living in places that allow me to escape to the mountains on the weekends, and I care deeply about the ecosystems that humans impact and that impact us. My writing explores these issues while also following classic coming-of-age arcs in science fiction and fantasy. I’m also very interested in stories and characters that complicate the traditional and familiar, leading me to fairytale retellings from unexpected angles.

Contact Links

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Twitter: @kelseyjosund

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RABT Book Tours & PR

Book Blitz & Excerpt: The Ruins + Giveaway

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The Ruins

Demon Entanglements Book 6

by Torri Heat

Genre: Dark Fantasy, Paranormal Romance

Published by Changeling Press

 

Joelle’s a mess. Nightmares about the end of the world keep her up at night, and lack of sleep has her losing job after job.

The only consistency to these dreams is the man she calls “The Watcher.” After another night of frustration, The Watcher arrives at her door, in the flesh. Luc, a demon Mare, is the source of all her problems.

Could he also be her salvation?

Praise for The Ruins (Demon Entanglements)

“I found this to be an interesting and fresh paranormal story… refreshingly different and full of good imagination. Luc is known as a Mare – a sub-set of demon who sends and controls nightmares. I found this and the plotline surrounding Joelle and her long-standing nightmares of the world literally burning around her and herself unable to help anyone really different and interesting. I feel readers who enjoy paranormal-based stories, especially erotic and explicit ones, should find this a lovely breath of fresh air.”

— Fern, Long and Short Reviews

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demonentanglements - excerpt

Joelle

I woke up from the dream that’s been plaguing me for months. The one where the world was burning. I watched the town I had grown up in crumble to dust around me, and the taste of death was thick in my mouth. People turned to ash as I reached out to save them and blew into the wind as if their bodies had never existed. As hard as I tried, I could never save them. Nothing I did made a difference. I would look for water, but a small bucketful seemed pitiful against the raging flames. I would offer myself up to some unseen god, hoping my sacrifice might save another. But as in most dreams, I was powerless.

Sometimes I doubted if these visions were dreams at all. When I woke up in the dead of night, damp with sweat and out of breath, I swore I could see the golden tones of a blaze outside my window. I would have put money on the fact I could feel the heat licking my face, gentle as a lover’s touch. The world I was seeing in front of me felt so real — so condemning. Less like a dream, and more like a warning.

But no matter what I did, as hard as I tried, the end was always the same. The small town burned to nothing, and the people disappeared. The same disaster, night after night. The only other constant was the man in my dreams. The one who stood on the other side of the flames, always staring at me. Watching carefully. But his perfect lips never uttered a word of advice, and he never moved his rugged hands to offer help. He seemed to exist outside of whatever was happening in my dreams, this figment of my imagination. He never burned, and I never got close enough to see if he would turn to ash with my touch. He just watched.

That’s what I called him when I described him to my therapist — the watcher. Overseeing me, my dreams, my nightmares, my failures. Handsome, but the kind of beautiful that could cut you like a knife. Like an artist forgot to soften the edges. Messy blond hair ruffled in the winds of the world burning around us. His dark, foreboding eyes felt like they were staring into my soul and evaluating every decision I made. The watcher was tall, and a formidable sight amongst the destruction. But I couldn’t figure out if he was watching me try to save the world, or watching me as I destroyed it.

He was the only person in my dreams I didn’t know, which made him stand out. I convinced myself it wasn’t his haunting beauty drawing me back time and time again. And like every other night, the watcher had been there. Watching as I tried to save a childhood friend, and the plump owner of the bakery down the road from my small apartment. What woke me up wasn’t the warmth of the flames that lingered in my memory. It was the slight downturn of his full lips as I screamed in frustration when everyone crumbled in my hands yet again. He never had any expression on his face before. But tonight was different. Tonight, the watcher had frowned.

I sighed heavily and rolled over in my bed to switch on my bedside lamp, illuminating the room in a gentle light. I scrubbed my hands over my face, trying to remember if anything else had been different. If there was anything else I needed to write down for Dr. Tanya.

“Once you start to notice the differences in each dream, you’ll be able to take the control back,” she had told me at my last appointment. I wasn’t sure.

Control was currently a limited commodity in my life. I swung my legs out of bed, watching the blinking clock on my table flash a time way too early to be awake. I flipped on lights as I made my way into the kitchen, pouring an ice-cold glass of water and forcing myself to drink the whole thing before I let the thoughts overwhelm me. The anxieties. The need to do more. I slammed the glass down next to a stack of bills, all angrily stamped with “Final Warning” in a shade of red that hurt my eyes.

This was what my life had come to. I had wanted more. Wanted adventure, to feel alive.

Torri Heat has always loved control. Her mind was blown when she discovered she could control entire worlds through story writing. Throw some steamy romance in there, and it was pretty close to perfection. Torri loves dark heroes who ride off into the sunset on their motorcycles, fierce heroines who can fend for themselves, and a sprinkle of the paranormal to keep things interesting. When she’s not creating alternate realities you can find her managing her three ring circus of kids and animals.

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Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!

 

Win a handmade Swag Pack (US only)

OR $10 Changeling Press Gift Card (WW)!

(1 winner)

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Spotlight & Giveaway: Witches of Grimm, by C.M. Adler

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Witch in the Woods

Witches of Grimm Prequel

by C.M. Adler

Genre: Dark Fantasy

 

Once upon a time, there was a young girl who lived near an enchanted forest with her sister and her father. One day, while her father was gone selling firewood to the neighboring villages, her sister fell ill. Out of desperation, the young girl ventured into the forest for help and there she found a woman who gave her everything her soul desired…

Ambrosine lives next to an enchanted wood, which is no big deal when you know how to spot a magic hoax nest and trap nasty little night fairies. And certainly no big deal when there is not even a witch in the woods.When her little sister Rosaline encounters a strange new creature, she falls asleep and a dangerous fever dream threatens her life. With their mother dead and their father gone, Ambrosine gambles with the deepest desire of her soul as she fights to save her sister.Based on the Grimm fairy tale, The Tale of the Rose, this is a highly entertaining and bone-chilling story of the first Witch in the Woods.”

**Get it FREE HERE!!** 


Mother

Witches of Grimm Book 1

 

The writer’s voice and creativity is absolutely amazing throughout the story
– Amazon Review

Once upon a time there was a girl who grew up near an enchanted wood. She was the delight of her father. The most precious gem of his heart.
And one evening in the spring, on her sixteenth birthday, she clutched her infant daughter to her chest and ran for her life.
A century later, a young girl named Maia found true love. Or at least she thought she had before her happily ever after turned into cries of, “Witch! Witch! Witch!” After an impulsive deal with a rumple goblin, Maia escapes the pitchforks and torches by taking her chances in the enchanted woods.
But there’s a witch in the woods.
Cerelia hasn’t seen another human soul for over one hundred years until a beaten and bloody pregnant girl stumbles into her magical garden. While fighting off witch-hunting villagers is one thing, dealing with rumple goblins is quite another. What will be the cost of saving Maia’s child?

Mother is the first book in the Witches of Grimm series. A gripping fairytale retelling of Rapunzel’s Mother Gothel, Motheris a magical story of love and sacrifice.

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Kissing Crows

Witches of Grimm Book 2

 

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful, curious girl who lived in an enchanted forest by the sea. Her mother loved her so much that she kept her in a tower, safe from anything that might ever harm her. And it was there, beneath the bright spring sun, that the girl wished she was free to fly with the crows…

Rapunzel lives in a world of mist fairies and mermaids, a world in which her gothel, Cerelia, has always kept her safe from all the evils of the world–rumple goblins, night fairies…and men.

As Rapunzel grows older, the fairy tales stacked high in her tower and her companion crows are no longer enough.

And so she makes a wish…

Prince Charles Marcus of Aubergen is restless, refusing to be content with the details of his arranged life. To escape the suffocating formality of his younger brother’s royal wedding, Charles takes his small boat out onto the sea.

Then a storm hits.

After surviving the storm and fighting off mermaids, Charles wakes in a strange cave to Rapunzel’s curious sea-green eyes. At that moment, Charles knows he has found his true love in this beautiful Lady of Crows.

But will true love be enough to keep them safe from Cerelia’s raging fear? Or the dark magic festering in the enchanted woods?

Kissing Crowsis the second book in the Witches of Grimmseries. A dark fairytale retelling of the classic “Rapunzel,” Kissing Crowsis a powerful tale of forbidden freedom.

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CM Adler is the thriller and dark fantasy name for award-winning author Christine Nielson (formerly Haggerty). Christine lives a life that’s certainly never boring, and if there is ever a dull moment, she fills it with more writing projects.

Nestled in the mountains of northern Utah, Christine spends her days with her three human children and her additional four-legged, furry brood. In a former life, Christine taught English and karate and developed a love of spinning fire. Follow her adventures through her newsletter at www.queensandcrows.com.

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Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!

Grand prize (1 winner, $50 ARV):

-Signed copy of Witch in the Woods and Mother – each will have a personal note to the winner from CM Adler

-An UN-FUCK-WITCHABLE bar chain necklace

-A Witches of Grimm metal charm bookmark

Secondary Prizes for the Runner-Ups (3 winners):

-Signed copy of Witch in the Woods

Stainless steel bead and charm bracelet

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