Spotlight & Excerpt: Flame in the Palace + Giveaway

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I’m so pleased to share this stunning EPIC romantic fantasy novel with you today! Read on for details, an exclusive excerpt to read, and a chance to win a fantastic book box including a signed copy!

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Flame in the Palace (Lady of Avalion #1)

Publication Date: May 13, 2022

Genre: Fantasy Romance/ Romantasy/ Epic Fantasy

With her heritage shrouded in mystery and a future seemingly destined for obscurity, a young orphan is raised in her grandmother’s roadside inn. And though she loves her work tending tables, Myria yearns for more. She learns any magic she can from traveling mages, though this only serves to kindle her desire to break free from her mundane life.

When a chance visit to the inn provides an opportunity to learn the magic of the noble elite, Myria’s life changes. But to join the nobility and learn their mystical secrets, she must win the prince’s heart by the end of the summer and become the future Queen of Avalion.

Five noble ladies contend for the same prize over a season of ritualized competitions and formal events, and Myria is thrust into a world of glittering ballrooms, excessive wealth, and charming aristocrats.

But as she learns that the gleaming palaces of Avalion conceal nests of vipers, she must decide if joining them is a cost worth paying to unravel the mysteries of their magic. And the more she learns, the more she realizes there is a shadow hanging over the kingdom that cannot be dispelled merely by a Flame in the Palace.

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Excerpt

The minotaur reveals himself at the mouth of the cave. He is taller than any man she has seen, with the chest and arms of a human covered in dense fur. The bull shows in his cloven hooves, horned head, and elongated face. He must not have been asleep yet, as he watches her with alert and wary eyes. He is always careful. And she is careful to finish her music to the end of a major chord—careful to remain still for him.

When the last note fades, Myria lowers her flute and smiles.

“Hello there. I’m sorry. I know it is rather late. I hope you forgive me, but I brought some people who are keen to meet you.” She doesn’t know if he understands her, but she always speaks to him as if he can.

The minotaur raises his snout and sniffs the air before creeping to her. Myria remains still and waits for him to finish his inspection. Other humans have probably not been so kind to him as she, so she is patient with his trepidation. When his face is inches from hers, the minotaur stops and gazes at her. The anxious whispers of the men grow louder, distracting the minotaur. He snorts out a powerful breath with an uncertain grunt, blowing the hair out of her face. She senses the minotaur tensing in front of her, and her body coils like a spring.

She slowly reaches into her bag to break the tension and offers a peach. “Here,” she whispers, a slight tremble in her voice. “I know how much you like them.”

It is enough to refocus his attention. He is no longer cautious as he reaches for the fruit and bites into it eagerly. Myria breathes a sigh of relief and strokes his long snout.

“I am sorry for my rude friends. Can they come closer? I promise they won’t hurt you.”

The minotaur seems to consider her question for some time, chewing on his peach with his head cocked to the side. Then, amazingly, he nods.

The others draw near with less certainty than Myria. The minotaur’s ears flatten back, but he appears no more imposing than that as he waits for the men to approach.

Myria introduces each man by handing them a peach to give to the minotaur. “This is my cousin Geffrey, and his friends: Aryn, Emiri, and Leor.”

They stand in line, awaiting their turn to give their offering of peach as they gape at the towering minotaur. Myria steps back to provide them with space, crossing her arms and smiling at her handiwork. Emiri steps back with her as Geffrey hands his peach to the minotaur.

“Do you do this often?” he asks as he spins the peach in his hands.

“Do what?” she asks coyly.

“Make friends with dangerous, magical creatures,” he replies with a snort.

“No, the minotaur is the only one I know.”

“You know it’s crazy, right?” His spinning peach increases in speed. “Geffrey has us hunting a minotaur, and some barmaid takes us right to one, plays music for the beast, and feeds him peaches.”

Myria smirks, remembering his calloused hands. “Some barmaid? Is it as crazy as a commoner dressed up as a noble?”

Emiri chuckles, a husky sound that dissipates as he explains, “You are right; I am not a noble.”

“But you ride around with them searching for minotaurs? Do you do that often?” she points out, echoing his initial question.

“Looking for minotaurs? No. Ride around with them?” He gestures to the group before them, where Aryn is offering his peach. Emiri hesitates. “Yes, it happens occasionally.”

“How did you get so lucky?” Myria sighs.

Emiri tenses beside her. “I’m not sure if I would call it luck. How did you even know I was just a commoner?”

“I wouldn’t call you just a commoner, but if you must know, I saw your hands.” Myria reaches for one and holds it between the two of them. She traces the rough edges and lines with two fingers. “You have callouses, which means you’ve had to work hard in your life at some point. I have plenty of my own. Your friends don’t have any.”

Emiri says nothing about the sudden, forward gesture, and merely watches her. She maintains his piercing gaze with a shy smile. It is an expression that earns her many tips with the inn’s patrons, but that is not why she smiles now. The inn and minotaur are far from her mind as she puzzles out Emiri’s role among his noble friends.

“You never answered my question,” she points out.

“I—” Suddenly, a small gasp from the others cuts him off. Myria drops Emiri’s hand and races back to the minotaur, only to be greeted with a strange sight.

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About the Author

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Seluna Drake (she/her) is a high school English teacher, author, poet, and artist. Most of the time she passes as a chaotic creative who spends way too much time on video games and not enough time talking to her therapist. She also considers herself a witch, INFP, and an advocate for youth and marginalized voices. You can find her primarily on Twitter: @SelunaDrake.

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Spotlight: The Man Who Came and Went, by Joe Stillman

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Welcome to my stop on the book tour for The Man Who Came and Went by Joe Stillman! Read on for more info and a chance to win a signed copy of the book!

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The Man Who Came and Went
Publication Date: March 1st, 2022
Genre: Mature YA/ Literary Fiction/ Magical Realism
Publisher: City Point Press
Distribution: Simon & Schuster

The Man Who Came and Went, a novel of the new west, is a magically realistic story for the modern era that will tease your understanding and beliefs, and draw you into the mysteries of the universe, from the brilliant mind of Joe Stillman, acclaimed Academy Award nominated co-writer of “Shrek.” 

Fifteen-year-old Belutha Mariah, our storyteller, is the oldest of three kids from three different fathers. Her life’s goal is to keep her dysfunctional mom, Maybell, from procreating yet again and then to leave the coffin-sized town of Hadley, Arizona the second she graduates high school.

Along comes the new grill cook at Maybell’s Diner, Bill Bill, a mysterious drifter with the ability to mind-read orders. As word spreads in Hadley and beyond, the curious and desperate pour into this small desert town to eat at Maybell’s.

Some believe Bill knows the secrets of the universe.

Belutha figures he’s probably nuts. But his cooking starts to transform the lives of locals and visitors, and Belutha finds her angry heart opening, as Bill begins to show her the porous boundary between this life and what comes after.

In a normal American town, something new and strange, and yet achingly familiar, begins to unfold.

Joe Stillman has brought us an ensemble of empathetic characters, all in the elusive search for happiness in this witty and poignant exploration of love, expectation, and mortality. I laughed, I cried, I loved it.

–  D.J. MacHale, New York Times bestselling author

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Excerpt

The door opened with a DING from the bell that hung on it. No one noticed Bill entering. He was about average in height, but his skinny frame made him look taller. You could tell from his face that he was in his mid-20s, but those were hard years he had lived, and his body looked frail and geriatric. His clothes were old and clung to him like an extra layer of skin, with a smell that would never wash out.

The angles of his face were sharp and careworn. But his eyes, those were different. His face was hard and weathered, but his eyes were soft. They seemed brand new.

No one in the diner even looked. If they did they would have seen those eyes taking in every little detail: the people talking, forks carrying food, the string lights behind the counter, Dolene ringing up a check. But what drew Bill more than anything else was the grill. Harley, the grill cook, must have had four meals going at once, each with its own set of sounds and smells. Most of those meals involved eggs. His spatula made a metal-on-metal scrape as he turned them. Bill was riveted. He went to sit at the counter to watch.

Down the counter, a porkish-looking man named Earle—probably one of three men in town who had never slept with my mom—raised his empty cup. “Can I get a refill, Maybell?

Maybell stopped and faced him. “Seriously, Earle? Is it so goddam much trouble for you to get up off your ass and get it yourself? Can’t you see I’m working here?”

“Well…” he stammered. “I just—was I—I was—”

Maybell pointed to the coffee pot. “How far away is that? Two feet?”

“Sure, I guess…”

“Am I your personal slave, Earle? Is that why God put me on earth?”

“No, I don’t think you’re—”

Maybell grabbed the pot and sloshed coffee in his Earle’s cup. “There. You happy now?”

He nodded meekly.

While she had the pot in her hand, Maybell filled the cup sitting in front of Bill. “I’ll be by to take your order in a minute, hon.”

Maybell walked on. Bill just sat there and stared at the coffee. For him, there was no diner anymore, no Maybell, no clanking dishes or dumb conversation. He leaned closer to that cup like it was the only thing in the world. And there he was, smelling coffee for the first time. And it smelled like life. Like a whole world. Like this is how a planet smells if you’re up in space and could take a deep breath. Bill was motionless for who knows how long. And then, when he was good and ready, he took his first sip.

Those eyes, the ones that didn’t belong on his head, they closed as if he was praying. No, more like he was hearing a prayer. The coffee was praying to be heard, and Bill heard it.

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About the Author

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Joe Stillman co-wrote “Shrek” for Dreamworks which earned him an Academy Award® nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay and the Annie and BAFTA Awards.

Other produced features are “Beavis & Butthead Do America”, “Shrek 2”, “Gulliver’s Travels”, “Planet 51” and “Joseph King Of Dreams”.

In television, he was co-producer and writer on “King of the Hill,” for which he received two Emmy Award® nominations. He was a writer and story editor for Nickelodeon’s “The Adventures of Pete and Pete” and a writer on MTV’s “Beavis and Butthead”. More recently he worked on Nickelodeon’s “Sanjay And Craig” and “Kirby Buckets” for Disney. Other TV credits include “Albert” for Nickelodeon, “The War Next Door” for the USA Network, “Clueless”, “Doug” and “Danger And Eggs” for Amazon.

Joe is currently working on a “Curious George” feature for streaming on Peacock.

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