Thursday, April 16, 2015

Write On! Special Book Launch Edition: The Extraction List by Renee Meland

Today on the ol' Write On! series, we are spotlighting author Renee Meland's book, The Extraction List, which launched on April 7th. Read on for more information!

What's it called?
The Extraction List 

What genre is this? 
Young Adult Dystopian 

What's it all about?
When fifteen-year-old Riley Crane finds out her best friend Olivia is being abused at home, she knows just who to turn to: her mother Claire, writer and spokesperson for President Gray's Parental Morality Law. Under this law, Task Force Officers remove children from their homes if their parents do not meet certain guidelines, taking them to government-run boarding schools. Once they arrive, supervisors rehabilitate them, turning them into productive members of society. Or at least that was how it was supposed to work...

Now, after a government official threatens to make Riley the law's latest victim, Riley and Claire must rely on Cain Foley, a gifted killer with a tongue as sharp as the knives he carries, to get them out of America alive. Though he slices through men's necks as if they are warm butter, Riley can't seem to keep her cheeks from flushing every time he speaks. But when they stumble upon a deserted boarding school, Riley sees that escaping the country is only part of their problem. Together, Riley and Cain figure out that a killer can save a life, and a mother can damn a nation.

RELEASE DATE: April 7th, 2015


   Sometimes a killer can save a life. In this case that life happened to be mine. I wish I had met him before the whole mess started. Maybe he could have saved more of us.
   Maybe he could have saved us all.
   I met the man who saved my life exactly one month after he killed his twentieth person. Of course he didn’t call it “murder,” he called it surviving, though sometimes I thought he should try to explain the difference to the people buried in the ground. To me, one label didn’t necessarily cancel out the other.
   One of my teachers used to say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Trust me, I knew all about it; I called that road “mother.” That teacher never mentioned what the road back was made with. I figured it was because nobody’d ever found one. Hell sort of struck me as a one-way-ticket kind of thing.
   The night the Taskforce showed up on our doorstep, my mom screamed. After my brother Aidan’s death, then Dad leaving, hearing her carrying on like a crazy person wasn’t exactly new and different. I didn’t even flinch at first. I figured maybe she was missing my dad all the way to the bottom of a tequila bottle—again.
   After a couple minutes though I slammed my copy of Crime and Punishment shut and left my room. I took my sweet time going downstairs to see her, hoping to hold on to the little bit of normal I’d had just seconds earlier. I stopped by the bathroom and grabbed a giant bottle of aspirin. Just in case.
   Then I decided I was kidding myself. I knew better. There was no way she wouldn’t need aspirin.
   “Riley! Get your stuff! We have to leave right now!” I ducked as Mom greeted me with a scene full of flying paper, jackets, and a few photo albums. They seemed to spin like a paper and plastic tornado, twirling through the air and landing unevenly in a giant duffel bag spread open at her feet. Even in the chaos I paused for a second to wonder how Mom’s hair managed to stay fastened perfectly in place. The image in front of me looked almost ordinary, a beautiful blonde woman in a fitted black skirt, white blouse, and hair pinned back in a bun, with a briefcase resting just inside the door.
   Except this woman had thrown half our living room into orbit.
   “Mom, what’s going on? What happened?”
   Mom grabbed me by the shoulders and stared right into my eyes. “We need to leave right now, okay? I need you to not ask questions and just go pack a bag. You need to just trust me and do what I tell you, okay? And do NOT come downstairs until I say so.” Mom didn’t blink. I remembered the last time she didn’t blink during a whole conversation: When she told me that she and Dad needed to “work on their communication.” I found out later that was Mom-speak for “Dad’s about to abandon us and slam the door for the last time.”
   I suddenly wished for the empty tequila bottle.
   “You are my life.” Mom kissed my forehead, and I ran up the stairs. I didn’t come down again until I heard the gunshots. At fifteen, I was all too familiar with the sound. A person was never too young to know the snap of a gun anymore. But it was different coming from our house, like a firecracker going off inside my brain.
   When I got to the entryway, a pool of blood belonging to a man in a gray suit tried to hold my shoes to the floor. The sticky mess grabbed the soles of my sneakers and smelled like raw steak fresh out of the plastic wrap. I winced as I stepped through it toward my mom. A pink piece of paper rested on top of the pool, slowly flooding with the dark red liquid. Bo, my mom’s best friend, had appeared too. Pistol smoke swirled gently from the tip of his weapon.
   It wasn’t the blood, but the paper that made me scream. I felt the color drain from my cheeks, and I wondered if I looked as white as the dead man lying on our floor. “What the hell is going on? Is that pink paper what I think it is?”
   Mom ignored my question. I hated being ignored more than anything, especially by her. But since there was a dead body involved, I figured I’d make an exception.
   “Oh my GOD—you KILLED him!” Mom screamed, and in all her stick-thin glory started flailing her arms, hitting Bo with the strength of a flightless bird. Her bony fists bounced off his body as if his chest were made of rubber. If it hadn’t been a murder scene, it would have been kind of funny.
   “Are you SURE? I saw him push you and I panicked. Maybe he’s just wounded.”
   Thank God Bo didn’t panic more often.
   Mom took a deep breath and stepped through the blood. She gently picked up the man’s hand and placed two fingers on his wrist. When she released it, her fingertips were stained red. “Yes. He’s dead.” She made a grand gesture, starting at his head and finishing toward his feet. “That’s what dead people look like. What are we going to do?”
   My hands shook, partially from fright and partially because no one would tell me why there was a dead guy in the entryway.
   Or why he had the pink slip of paper.
   Bo grabbed Mom by the shoulders and held her still. “Claire, we’re going to grab Riley and we’re going to get out of here before more people come looking for this guy. I’ll tell you the plan on the way.”
   Mom scoffed at him with wide eyes. “Plan? I don’t need your plan. I’m going to go straight to President Gray about this and he’s going to fix it. He has to.”
   A twinge of hope rose inside me, working its way up from the tips of my toes to the top of my head. Maybe we wouldn’t have to leave our home after all. Maybe our little visit was just a really complicated, really messy misunderstanding. “Yeah, Mom’s right. I’m sure he’ll fix this. I can’t actually be on the Extraction List, right, Mom?”
   “Of course not. There’s no way.”
   Mom started toward the door, but Bo stepped in front of her.
   “Claire, you saw the paperwork with your own eyes. Gray knows all about this. His signature is there.” He pointed to the guy on the floor. “This guy was going to grab your daughter. We need to go right now.” Bo took Mom by the hand and dragged her out the door.
   I hesitated, frozen in the growing pool of red. Sweat broke out on my forehead, and it wasn’t because of the crippling D.C. heat. If I was on the Extraction List, I was supposed to end up like all those other people from my class, the ones who the Taskforce grabbed right from their desks. Those were the ones who disappeared. Since Mom had written the law that the Taskforce was responsible for enforcing, I never thought that I would ever be a target. Politics was all about protecting its stars, and there was no bigger star than my mother.
   But that little pink piece of paper could only mean one thing. I forced myself to look down at it. I searched the document, eyes falling on the bottom right corner. It was faded, stretched by the blood into an unnatural shape, but it was there—the President of the United States’ signature.
   I grabbed the bag Mom had been trying to pack and zipped it shut. I swung my own bag over my shoulder and followed Mom and Bo out of our house, hoping that I would someday be able to come back. But deep down, I knew we were about to drive away forever.

About the Author

Renee N. Meland lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two dogs. Her favorite obsessions are Rome, learning new recipes, and exploring the world around her. She is an avid reader of speculative fiction, and believes that telling stories is the best job in the world.
Twitter @reneenmeland

Thursday, April 9, 2015

*CLOSED* 2015 Author's Cyber Convention Contest #4: Pay It Forward

***The contest is now closed. Congratulations, Timothy!***

Hello again, conventioneers! Are you having a good time? Are you discovering a lot of new authors that you'd like to know more about? Would you like more incentive to do just that?

I've got an offer to make. 

You see, I hate talking about myself and will do anything in my power to take the spotlight off of me. So far, I have asked you to talk to me, follow me, and like my stuff. I feel like some sort of self centered snob at the moment! This is not who I am!

So let's stop talking about me. 

Let's talk about what you need to do to win not one, but all three of the books I'm giving away plus a copy of my latest book, Splitsville: Rise of the Discordant Book #2.

Jem and Nai may be twins, but as two halves of a split soul, they are as different as night and day. After losing their lives in a boating accident, the teens are recruited by Order to replace the recently departed Guardian of Blackbird. Their job? To protect and save the souls of the lost before they fall to the Discordant. A simple task under ordinary circumstances, but the town of Blackbird is far from ordinary. 
It would be bad enough if their arrival simply coincided with that of a wraith, a rare and nearly impossible to catch Discordant. But the teens must also contend with souls that won’t stay saved and adults who don’t trust them, all while keeping up the appearance of normal high school seniors. And just because the universe hadn't finished piling it on, a local mystic reveals that the twins’ worst enemy may be each other. 
Jem and Nai soon discover that they are just as anomalous as the town they have been assigned to protect and can’t help but to question the supposed infallibility of the Creator. After all, who in their right mind would put the fate of the world into the hands of teenagers?

So, what do you need to do to win all of these books?

You need to go back to the convention and look at the other authors' booths. If any of them grab your eye, become a fan. Comment here with which author you are a fan of. You will get a bonus entry for each author you become a fan of, up to five authors total.

Winner will be announced here on this post on Monday the 13th and will be cross-posted to Facebook and Twitter.
Good luck!

And don't forget that all of my books are available in digital format through Amazon for Kindle. During the convention, many titles are heavily discounted and even FREE! To see what's available in your market, click HERE!

*CLOSED* 2015 Author's Cyber Convention Contest #3: Wingin' It

***The contest is now closed. Congratulations, Aurelia!***

Bonjour mes amis! Welcome to contest #3 which is for a signed paperback copy of Past Life Strife, the first book in my humorous urban fantasy series, Rise of the Discordant.

Blackbird may seem like any other small Midwestern town, but the bland and unremarkable fa├žade hides a dark and deadly secret. The Discordant, creatures from the realm of Chaos, lurk in the shadows, preying upon the souls of Blackbird’s unsuspecting residents. 
As an Observer, Seth is tasked with identifying the lost before they fall victim to the Discordant. An unenviable job under normal circumstances, but the situation takes a turn for the worse when Blackbird’s Guardian calls it quits and no new Guardian is available to take her place. Instead, Seth now finds himself partnered with Desmond, a powerful and intimidating Warrior, who worries that Seth will give in to the lure of Chaos. Desmond’s fears are all but validated when a magical disturbance draws even more Discordant to the area. Among them is Amara, a dangerous and nearly invincible femme fatale from Seth’s past. 
To stop her, Seth must sacrifice his own soul or put all of his faith in a psychic’s vague prediction. But without a Guardian, both the Observer and Warrior are at a disadvantage and time is running out. 

Maybe I'm biased, but I consider this book to be the best I've written. I certainly think it has the prettiest cover and the title is quite catchy as well. Yet it doesn't seem to draw as much attention as some of my other books. Because of this, I'm not going to make you jump through any hoops. Just add this to your "To Read" shelf on Goodreads. Not sure how? Go to this book's description page and click "Want to Read."

Winners will be announced on Monday the 13th and will be posted on this blog post, and will be cross-posted to Twitter and Facebook.
Good luck!

Prefer digital? The Kindle edition of Past Life Strife will be available for just $0.99 in the US market or £0.99 in the UK market for the duration of the convention!

*CLOSED* 2015 Author's Cyber Convention Contest #2: Follow That Author!

***The contest is now closed. Congratulations, Marnie!***

Hello there humans! We're all doomed you know, but it's best to have a sense of humor about our impending doom. That is why this contest will be for a special deluxe paperback edition of my satirical zombie apocalypse novella, Going Green

In the ambiguously near future, a snap decision by a government official inadvertently sets in motion the destruction of mankind. Going Green chronicles the brief journey from infection to extinction through a series of short, interconnected stories, peppered with colorful commentary from both the skeptics and those just looking to survive. Please note: The following is a lighthearted and satirical novella of approximately 23,000 words. It is not intended for use as a survival guide in the event of an actual zombie apocalypse. 

What makes this editon special? Well for one, it has brilliant illustrations by artist Ben Boyce. For another, there's a few activities and bonus material to keep you occupied during the more boring parts of the apocalypse.
To win this book, you will have to follow me. That's right, I am begging you to be my friend! 
I'm lonely. 
Like me, gosh darn it!
You have the option of liking my Facebook page or following me on Twitter. Once you have pledged your allegiance to my cult... Er... I mean, once you have shown your support for this struggling author, post a message to my wall or send me a tweet stating that you have followed to enter the contest. This way I don't miss you as Facebook is funny about hiding likes at times. If you are already following me, simply post the short message stating that you want to enter the contest.
On the day after the convention, I will select the winner at random and announce it here on this post and will be cross posted to Facebook and Twitter.
Good luck!

Can't wait to see if you've won? The Kindle edition is available for FREE in all Amazon markets worldwide on the 10th & 11th of April. To find your market, click HERE

*CLOSED*2015 Author's Cyber Convention Contest #1: Get Your Awkward On!

***The contest is now closed. Congratulations, Quoleena!***

Hello convention goers and anyone who randomly stumbled across my blog today! This first contest will be for a paperback copy of my YA sci-fi book, Kind of Like Life

All Renee Ward ever wanted out of life was two things: Good friends to share her love of fantasy and fairy tales, and for magic to be real. When her family moves halfway across the country in the middle of her senior year, it appears as if Renee just might get her wish. With its Victorian homes and quaint downtown, Waterside is almost too good to be true. Not only does she find friends who share her interests, but she also meets a cute guy who seems to have a magical secret or two of his own. But after a visit from the mysterious Blake Carter, Renee’s new utopian life suddenly turns into a never-ending nightmare. The only question is, how much of this is real, and how much is just in her head?

This is an action-packed sci-fi adventure, but like many young adult tales, it deals a bit with the awkwardness of teenage life. If you take a moment to peruse my blog, you'll see that I know a lot about being awkward and I'm quite removed from my teen years. 
To enter to win a signed paperback copy of Kind of Like Life, you are going to have to break through the awkwardness. You see, the great thing about indie authors is that most of us are extremely accessible and easy to get along with. Yes, even those of us who are painfully awkward would rather have the respect of people who would like to call us friends over a bunch of adoring fans to be kept at arms length. 
So that's it. All you have to do is talk to me. You can leave a comment right here on this blog, you can ask me a question on Goodreads, or you can Tweet to me. You can just say hello, tell me about an awkward experience you've had, or ask me about my own awkward moments. It doesn't matter as long as you say something.

Winners will be selected randomly on Monday the 13th and will be announced right here on this post. I will also cross-post to Facebook and Twitter.
Good luck!

Do you prefer digital? For the duration of the convention, the Kindle ebook version of Kind of Like Life will be just $0.99 in the US market£0.99 in the UK market

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

2015 Author's Cyber Convention: The Story Hop

We are all storytellers. Stories are a part of us, in our blood, our hearts, our DNA. We have been telling and listening stories from the beginning. They teach, entertain, enthralled, but most of all they stick with us.

Imagine sitting around a campfire with a group of friends. The flames have died to embers, crickets chirp, The moon casts mottled shadows. Everyone waits breathlessly for the storyteller.

This, is my story...

"Have I ever told you about the time that I was blessed with all of the mind-blowing knowledge about the answers to life, the universe, and everything? No? Well, sit back, grab an drink and be prepared to have your mind blown away by this shockingly true story of how I learned and lost it all.  
You see, I was shaving my legs at the time. This was long ago, when twin blade razors were still considered cutting edge technology. 

Cutting edge, get it? 

Why yes, I've always had a sharp wit.

It can be a double edged sword ...

Okay, okay! Stop throwing tomatoes! Why did you bring rotten tomatoes to a camp out anyway?

I was also in my early twenties, which was a time best described as transitional. At worst, it could be described as a time of typical and utterly unremarkable existential crisis. I was never the type who thought I had it all figured out. On the contrary, I was the type who was always asking, “What does this all mean? Why are we here? What is my higher purpose?” For the record, this stemmed from a theological identity crisis and not, as it might look, from a copious amount of drug use. Though I do admit to dangerous levels of caffeine intake as well as much pretentious cigarette smoking whilst sitting in coffee shops, scribbling (even more pretentious) prose in a desperate attempt to find the answers to all of life’s little mysteries.

That the answers I was desperately seeking would come to me in the middle of such a mundane activity as shaving my legs was at once insulting and freeing. That I managed not to cut myself was a testament to the quality of the off brand razors sold at the dollar store. That I was shaving in the dark was a direct result of a poor decision by the landlord to have an electrical outlet installed on the lamp base that sat directly over the center of the shower.   

That last bit just might be rather integral to what happened next.

I remember scraping the cheap twin blade over the cursed black wires that marred the ivory landscape of my sun-deprived legs. My mind was wandering, as it was wont to do. Likely, I was thinking about what I was going to wear to work that evening or which diner I was going to grace with my pretentious presence after work, or why such an amazing and gifted individual such as myself was still single. But then suddenly, I wasn’t thinking about any of those things. There was a blinding flash of light and lo and behold! I could see everything!

By everything, of course, I mean the meaning of life. I knew why we were all here. I knew specifically why I was here and what my ultimate purpose was. I knew that Bob Marley was right and every little thing really was going to be all right. And then I was filled with a giddy euphoria that no drug in the world could ever come close to reproducing. I was, as the old joke about the Dali Lama at the hot dog stand goes, one with everything.

But no sooner was I gifted with the ultimate insight that it was taken away. I crashed back into reality and found myself perched precariously in my itty bitty shower stall, one foot clutching the soap dish with my hand still dragging the soapy twin blade across my shin. The thin trickle of tepid water still sputtered against my back and the conditioner in my hair making a beeline for my eyes. My heart still pounded, but the euphoria was gone, along with all that I had just discovered.

So how is it that I retained not the information bestowed upon me by the supreme beings of the universe, yet I remember clearly that it had happened? I don’t know, but I’m guessing it had something to do with the electrical outlet installed in the shower and the fact that when I toweled off and went to my room, my alarm clock was blinking:

If you've enjoyed my tale, be sure to check out all of the other storytellers participating in The Story Hop over at the 2015 Author's Cyber Convention on Goodreads. Of course, while you're there, be sure to check out our booths for trivia, games, interviews, free books, and all kinds of prizes!

Looking for more great storytelling? Check out the blogs of some of my favorite storytellers below:
K. Caffee, author of the Follow the Torments series. Her blog is here.
Bea Cannon, author of the Spaceships and Magic series. Her blog is here.