The Dragon’s Playlist

Posted at May 18, 2017 5:47 pm

I’m thrilled to announce a new book this summer…THE DRAGON’S PLAYLIST!

 

 

From the author of THE HALLOWED ONES and NINE OF STARS comes a new novel blending the magical and the real…

“This is war,” the dragon said. And she believed him.

Di fled rural West Virginia to study music and pursue a bright future as a violinist. But when a mining accident nearly kills her father, she is summoned back home to support her family. Old ghosts and an old flame emerge from the past. When Di gets a job as a bookkeeper at the same mine where her father worked, she is drawn into a conflict pitting neighbor against neighbor as the mine plans an expansion to an untouched mountain.

If the mining company’s operation goes forward, there will be more at stake than livelihoods or the pollution of the land: Di has discovered a dragon lives deep within Sawtooth Mountain, and he is not happy with this encroachment upon his lair. When catastrophe strikes, Di must choose between her family’s best interests and protecting the dragon – the last surviving bit of magic in Di’s shrinking world.

In every fight, sides are chosen. And there can be no yearning for what has been left behind. 

 

THE DRAGON’S PLAYLIST will release June 1, and is available for pre-order now for just $0.99 at Amazon, Apple IBooks, B&N, Google Play, and Kobo.

You can also read new chapters each week, beginning June 1, at https://www.facebook.com/Author.Laura.Bickle/ and https://www.wattpad.com/user/LauraBickle. I’ll be sharing some story-related goodies there, too.

I hope you join me for some dragon excitement this summer! 

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Harper Voyager Impulse Giveaway!

Posted at Mar 4, 2017 12:25 pm

Family is such a comfort. There's your blood family and then there's the family you create through shared experiences. There's no better shared experience than writing, and many of the authors from Harper Voyager have become close. We love to support each other. 

And we love to do things together! Like chat about science fiction and fantasy books. 

And super lucky for readers, we like to give away books together, too! 




Please check out this collection of magnificent science fiction and fantasy books! Then use the rafflecopter below to enter to win a paperback copy. Or if a book sounds too good to miss, links are included so you can go ahead and purchase. 

We will choose three winners/each winner will receive four books. (Note: Winners must provide a US address.) The contest runs from Saturday, March 4th until March 15th. Please remember to tweet about the giveaway for extra chances to win! 

And be sure to join us for our monthly twitter #SFFChat at 3:00 pm and 8:00 pm EST on Monday, March 6th. We'll be chatting about every aspect of being a writer: querying, editing, drafting, marketing, and much more. We want you to join our SFF Family.
Giveaway Books



“What on earth would I gain from that?” I asked him. “Risk my own neck by violating my banishment just to leave you? The sentence placed on me if I return is execution. If I’m entering the mountains again, I’d damn well better get something out of it.”


Exiled from the Silverwood and the people she loves, Mae has few illusions about ever returning to her home. But when she comes across three out-of-place strangers in her wanderings, she finds herself contemplating the unthinkable: risking death to help a deposed queen regain her throne.


And if anyone can help Mona Alastaire of Lumen Lake, it is a former Woodwalker—a ranger whose very being is intimately tied to the woods they are sworn to protect. Mae was once one of the best, and despite the potential of every tree limb to become the gibbet she’s hanged from, she not only feels a duty to aide Mona and her brothers, but also to walk beneath her beloved trees once more.


A grand quest in the tradition of great epic fantasies, filled with adventure and the sharp wit—and tongue—of a unique hero, Woodwalker is the perfect novel to start your own journey into the realm of magical fiction.







Following the events of Elixir, Mabily “Mab” Jones’ life has returned to normal. Or as normal as life can be for a changeling, who also happens to be a private detective working her first independent case, and dating a half-fey.


But then a summons to return to the fairy world arrives in the form of a knife on her pillow. And in the process of investigating her case, Mab discovers the fairies are stealing joy-producing chemicals directly from the minds of humans in order to manufacture their magic Elixir, the dwindling source of their powers. Worst of all, Mab’s boyfriend Obadiah vows to abstain from Elixir, believing the benefits are not worth the cost in human suffering—even though he knows fairies can’t long survive without their magic.


Mab soon realizes she has no choice but to answer the summons and return to the Vale. But the deeper she is drawn into the machinations of the realm, the more she becomes ensnared by promises she made in the past. And in trying to do the right thing, Mab will face her most devastating betrayal yet, one that threatens everything and everyone she holds most dear.






Three brilliant novellas. One fantastic story.


Collected together for the first time, T. Frohock’s three novellas—In Midnight’s SilenceWithout Light or Guide, and The Second Death—brings to life the world of Los Nefilim, Spanish Nephilim that possess the power to harness music and light in the supernatural war between the angels and daimons. In 1931, Los Nefilim’s existence is shaken by the preternatural forces commanding them … and a half-breed caught in-between.


Diago Alvarez, a singular being of daimonic and angelic descent, is pulled into the ranks of Los Nefilim in order to protect his newly-found son. As an angelic war brews in the numinous realms, and Spain marches closer to civil war, the destiny of two worlds hangs on Diago’s actions. Yet it is the combined fates of his lover, Miquel, and his young son, Rafael, that weighs most heavily on his soul.


Lyrical and magical, Los Nefilim explores whether moving towards the light is necessarily the right move, and what it means to live amongst the shadows.







A world of chivalry and witchcraft…and the invaders who would destroy everything.


The North has invaded, bringing a cruel religion and no mercy. The ciudades-estados who have stood in their way have been razed to nothing, and now the horde is before the gates of Colina Hermosa…demanding blood.


On a mission of desperation, a small group escapes the besieged city in search of the one thing that might stem the tide of Northerners: the witches of the southern swamps.


The Women of the Song.


But when tragedy strikes their negotiations, all that is left is a single untried knight and a witch who has never given voice to her power. And time is running out.


A lyrical tale of honor and magic, Grudging is the opening salvo in the Book of Saints trilogy.







After the Earth’s power is suddenly left unprotected, a young geomancer must rely on her unique magical powers to survive in in this fresh fantasy series from the author of acclaimed The Clockwork Dagger.


In an alternate 1906, the United States and Japan have forged a powerful confederation—the Unified Pacific—in an attempt to dominate the world. Their first target is a vulnerable China. In San Francisco, headstrong Ingrid Carmichael is assisting a group of powerful geomancer Wardens who have no idea of the depth of her power—or that she is the only woman to possess such skills. 


When assassins kill the Wardens, Ingrid and her mentor are protected by her incredible magic. But the pair is far from safe. Without its full force of guardian geomancers, the city is on the brink of a cataclysmic earthquake that will expose Earth’s powers to masterminds determined to control the energy for their own dark ends. The danger escalates when Chinese refugees, preparing to fight the encroaching American and Japanese, fracture the uneasy alliance between the Pacific allies, transforming the city into a veritable powder keg. And the slightest tremor will set it off. . . . 


Forced on the run, Ingrid makes some shocking discoveries about herself. Her powerful magic has grown even more fearsome . . . and she may be the fulcrum on which the balance of world power rests.







Winter is the most deadly season in Temperance. And it’s not just because of the fierce cold. Evil is stalking the backcountry of Yellowstone, killing wolves and leaving only their skins behind.


As the snow deepens, Geologist Petra Dee is staring her own death in the face, while former Hanged Man Gabriel struggles with his abrupt transition back to mortality. The ravens and the rest of the Hanged Men are gone, and there are no magical solutions to Petra’s illness or Gabriel’s longing for what he’s lost…and what he stands to lose now.


Meanwhile, there’s a new sheriff in town. Sheriff Owen Rutherford has inherited the Rutherford ranch and the remnants of the Alchemical Tree of Life. He’s also a dangerously haunted man, and his investigation of Sal’s death is leading him right to Gabriel.


It’s up to Petra, her coyote sidekick Sig, and Gabriel to get ahead of both Owen and the unnatural being stalking them all – before the trail turns deathly cold.








Anders Jensen is having a bad month. His roommate is a data thief, his girlfriend picks fights in bars, and his best friend is a cyborg…and a lousy tipper. When everything is spiraling out of control, though, maybe those are exactly the kind of friends you need.


In a world divided between the genetically engineered elite and the unmodified masses, Anders is an anomaly: engineered, but still broke and living next to a crack house. All he wants is to land a tenure-track faculty position, and maybe meet someone who's not technically a criminal—but when a nightmare plague rips through Hagerstown, Anders finds himself dodging kinetic energy weapons and government assassins as Baltimore slips into chaos. His friends aren't as helpless as they seem, though, and his girlfriend's street-magician brother-in-law might be a pretentious hipster—or might hold the secret to saving them all.


Frenetic and audacious, Three Days in April is a speculative thriller that raises an important question: once humanity goes down the rabbit hole, can it ever find its way back?






For four hundred years, the Church has led the remnants of humanity as they struggle for survival in the last inhabited city. Echo Hunter 367 is exactly what the Church created her to be: loyal, obedient, lethal. A clone who shouldn’t care about anything but her duty. Who shouldn’t be able to.

When rebellious citizens challenge the Church’s authority, it is Echo’s duty to hunt them down before civil war can tumble the city back into the dark. But Echo hides a deadly secret: doubt. And when Echo’s mission leads her to Lia, a rebel leader who has a secret of her own, Echo is forced to face that doubt. For Lia holds the key to the city’s survival, and Echo must choose between the woman she loves and the purpose she was born to fulfill. 










A body is found in the Alabama wilderness. The question is: 


Is it a human corpse … or is it just a piece of discarded property? 


Agent Samantha Rose has been exiled to a backwater assignment for the Commonwealth Bureau of Investigation, a death knell for her career. But then Sam catches a break—a murder—that could give her the boost she needs to get her life back on track. There's a snag, though: the body is a clone, and technically that means it's not a homicide. And yet, something about the body raises questions, not only for her, but for coroner Linsey Mackenzie.


The more they dig, the more they realize nothing about this case is what it seems … and for Sam, nothing about Mac is what it seems, either.


This case might be the way out for her, but that way could be in a bodybag.


A thrilling new mystery from Liana Brooks, The Day Before will have you looking over your shoulder and questioning what it means to be human.






Both familiar and fantastic, Clark T. Carlton’s Prophets of the Ghost Ants explores a world in which food, weapons, clothing, art—even religious beliefs—are derived from Humankind’s profound intertwining with the insect world. 


In a savage landscape where humans have evolved to the size of insects, they cannot hope to dominate. Ceaselessly, humans are stalked by night wasps, lair spiders, and marauder fleas. And just as sinister, men are still men. Corrupt elites ruthlessly enforce a rigid caste system. Duplicitous clergymen and power-mongering royalty wage pointless wars for their own glory. Fantasies of a better life and a better world serve only to torment those who dare to dream. 


One so tormented is a half-breed slave named Anand, a dung-collector who has known nothing but squalor and abuse. Anand wants to lead his people against a genocidal army who fight atop fearsome, translucent Ghost Ants. But to his horror, Anand learns this merciless enemy is led by someone from his own family: a religious zealot bent on the conversion of all non-believers . . . or their extermination.


A mix of Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Shadow of the Apt, Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor, and Phillip Pullman’s Golden Compass, this is a powerful new addition to the genre. 

Goodreads|Amazon

Young Devin Roché is about to graduate as an Archivist from the prestigious Llisé’s University, and there is just one more task he wants to complete – to preserve a complete history of Llisé.


The history of Llisé and its fifteen provinces are a peaceful affair, filled with harmony, resolution and a rich oral tradition of storytelling. Nothing untoward ever happens in this peaceful land. Or does it?


Trainee archivist Devin Roché has just taken his finals at the prestigious Académie. As the sixth son of the ruler of Llisé, his future is his own, and so he embarks on an adventure to memorize stories chronicling the history of each province.


As Devin begins his journey with only his best friend Gaspard and their guardian Marcus, he hears rumors of entire communities suddenly disappearing without a trace and of Master Bards being assassinated in the night.


As the three companions get closer to unearthing the truth behind these mysteries, they can’t help but wonder whether it is their pursuit that has led to them.


But if that is the case, what do Llisé and Devin’s father have to hide?
In a domed city on a planet orbiting Barnard's Star, a recently hired maintenance man has just committed murder.


Minutes later, the airlocks on the neighbourhood block are opened and the murderer is asphyxiated along with thirty-one innocent residents.


Jax, the lowly dome operator on duty at the time, is accused of mass homicide and faced with a mound of impossible evidence against him.


His only ally is Runstom, the rogue police officer charged with transporting him to a secure off-world facility. The pair must risk everything to prove Jax didn't commit the atrocity and uncover the truth before they both wind up dead.

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Thank you to the Mysterious Carp and Bee Society

Posted at Feb 2, 2017 4:48 am

For the past few weeks, whenever I’ve gone to my mailbox, mysterious letters have been arriving for me. They are sent from all over the world, by anonymous members of a “Carp and Bee Society,” sending me encouraging wishes about my books. I’ve taken a picture of the ones I’ve received to date:

 

Aren’t they wonderful? I’m floored that another person would take the time out of her day to write to me, to draw something beautiful for me, to create calligraphy, to even think of me in this very sweet way. I am incredibly honored and super-grateful.

Many thanks to the Carp and Bee Society. You have given me a much-needed lift, and I can’t ever repay the kindness you’ve shown me. Thank you. It means more than you’ll ever know. 

 

 

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Release Day for NINE OF STARS!

Posted at Dec 27, 2016 6:35 pm

Today is the official release day for NINE OF STARS! I’m going to be kicking back in my jammies, enjoying some hot chocolate and sending good thoughts for the latest book bird to fly out of my nest. 

 

From critically acclaimed author Laura Bickle (Dark Alchemy) comes the first novel in the Wildlands series, NINE OF STARS. Longmire meets Patricia Brigg’s Mercy Thompson in this exciting new series that shows how weird and wonderful the West can truly be.

Winter has always been a deadly season in Temperance, but this time, there’s more to fear than just the cold…

As the daughter of an alchemist, Petra Dee has faced all manner of occult horrors – especially since her arrival in the small town of Temperance, Wyoming. But she can’t explain the creature now stalking the backcountry of Yellowstone, butchering wolves and leaving only their skins behind in the snow. Rumors surface of the return of Skinflint Jack, a nineteenth-century wraith that kills in fulfillment of an ancient bargain.

The new sheriff in town, Owen Rutherford, isn’t helping matters. He’s a dangerously haunted man on the trail of both an unsolved case and a fresh kill – a bizarre murder leading him right to Petra’s partner Gabriel. And while Gabe once had little to fear from the mortal world, he’s all too human now. This time, when violence hits close to home, there are no magical solutions.

It’s up to Petra and her coyote sidekick Sig to get ahead of both Owen and the unnatural being hunting them all – before the trail turns deathly cold.

“Bickle is well on her way to establishing her work as a cornerstone of her genre.”  – Publishers Weekly Starred Review

“…Laura Bickle’s latest hits that sweet spot.”    – John DeNardo, Kirkus

“Following the prequels Dark Alchemy and Mercury Retrograde, Bickle’s series launch mixes alchemy, folklore, and Native American traditions with a wintry Western landscape that will intrigue fans of the Weird West subgenre.” – Library Journal

“Full marks to Bickle for being unafraid to shake things up on this still relatively new, but consistently engaging series.” – RT Book Reviews (4 Stars) 

“Readers who like no-nonsense characters, the occult, Native American myths, and the modern Wild West will enjoy this. The writing is fun, compelling, and straight from the hip, with no apologies as to language used.” – Booklist

“Bickle’s world and characters are enjoyably complex, sinking the reader happily into this contemporary fantasy landscape.” – Omnivoracious

 

 

More deets, including buy links are here

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Win an ARC of NINE OF STARS!

Posted at Nov 22, 2016 11:53 pm

Edited: The contest is now closed! Winners are Alicia and Colleen – thanks for entering! 🙂

 

Hey, folks! I have a handful of ARCs of the NINE OF STARS paperback to give away! If you’d like to enter, please enter below. The winners will be announced on Nov. 27. 

NineofStars mm c (003)

 

From critically acclaimed author Laura Bickle (Dark Alchemy) comes the first novel in the Wildlands series, NINE OF STARS. Longmire meets Patricia Brigg’s Mercy Thompson in this exciting new series that shows how weird and wonderful the West can truly be.

Winter has always been a deadly season in Temperance, but this time, there’s more to fear than just the cold…

As the daughter of an alchemist, Petra Dee has faced all manner of occult horrors – especially since her arrival in the small town of Temperance, Wyoming. But she can’t explain the creature now stalking the backcountry of Yellowstone, butchering wolves and leaving only their skins behind in the snow. Rumors surface of the return of Skinflint Jack, a nineteenth-century wraith that kills in fulfillment of an ancient bargain.

The new sheriff in town, Owen Rutherford, isn’t helping matters. He’s a dangerously haunted man on the trail of both an unsolved case and a fresh kill – a bizarre murder leading him right to Petra’s partner Gabriel. And while Gabe once had little to fear from the mortal world, he’s all too human now. This time, when violence hits close to home, there are no magical solutions.

It’s up to Petra and her coyote sidekick Sig to get ahead of both Owen and the unnatural being hunting them all – before the trail turns deathly cold.

 

 

 

 

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Library Journal and RT Book Reviews on NINE OF STARS

Posted at Nov 22, 2016 6:54 pm

I’m thrilled to share two new reviews of my upcoming book, NINE OF STARS:

NineofStars mm c (003)

 

From Library Journal:

 

As a geologist, Petra Dee considers herself a woman of science, but she is also the daughter of an alchemist. Living in Temperance, WY, she has dealt with all sorts of magical issues, including her once-immortal partner, Gabe. Now there are rumors in town of an 18th-century wraith known as Skinflint Jack; someone has been killing the wolves in the area, leaving their skins in the snow. New sheriff Owen Rutherford, haunted by a past death on his watch and investigating his cousin’s murder, finds the clues lead to Gabe and Petra’s doorstep. Soon, the couple must flee from Owen and Skinflint Jack and go on the run with the wolves of Nine Stars, which have more than one surprise in store for everyone. VERDICT Following the prequels Dark Alchemy and Mercury Retrograde, Bickle’s series launch mixes alchemy, folklore, and Native American traditions with a wintry Western landscape that will intrigue fans of the Weird West subgenre. —KC

 

And from RT Book Reviews:

Full marks to Bickle for being unafraid to shake things up on this still relatively new, but consistently engaging series. Our protagonist is as likeable and resourceful as ever, but there are pretty immediate changes in this installment that have major ramifications and probably will for a while. The way the series sticks to a single source of the supernatural (alchemy) while still managing to come up with a wide range of manifestations and applications is very compelling. At some points this particular book does feel like it’s setting up for future entries, rather than just telling its own story, but that’s partly because of how much is going on. When the result is to plant this much interesting material (and really promising new characters) for future use, the slight hitch is worth it. (4 Stars)

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PW Starred Review for NINE OF STARS

Posted at Nov 7, 2016 3:39 pm

I’m delighted to share PW’s review for NINE OF STARS:

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Beth Cato’s BREATH OF EARTH Excerpt

Posted at Aug 23, 2016 6:49 pm

Beth Cato’s BREATH OF EARTH releases today! Deets and an excerpt below…

BreathofEarth_500x332

 

An Excerpt from Beth Cato’s Breath of Earth

In an alternate 1906, the United States and Japan have forged a powerful confederation—the Unified Pacific—in an attempt to dominate the world. Their first target is a vulnerable China. In San Francisco, headstrong Ingrid Carmichael is assisting a group of powerful geomancer wardens who have no idea of the depth of her power—or that she is the only woman to possess such skills.

When assassins kill the wardens, Ingrid and her mentor are protected by her incredible magic. But the pair is far from safe. Without its full force of guardian geomancers, the city is on the brink of a cataclysmic earthquake that will expose Earth’s powers to masterminds determined to control the energy for their own dark ends. The danger escalates when Chinese refugees, preparing to fight the encroaching American and Japanese, fracture the uneasy alliance between the Pacific allies, transforming the city into a veritable powder keg. And the slightest tremor will set it off. . . .

Forced on the run, Ingrid makes some shocking discoveries about herself. Her powerful magic has grown even more fearsome . . . and she may be the fulcrum on which the balance of world power rests.

This excerpt from chapter 1 offers an introduction to geomancy.

Whimpers and moans welcomed Ingrid to the junior classroom. Nearest to the door, a dozen boys half sprawled over their desks. A blue mist overlay their skin, and beneath that mist were the sure signs of power sickness—skin flushed by high fever, thick sweat, dull eyes. The rest of the class stared, their expressions ranging from curiosity to horror. Some of them still showed signs of very recent recovery in their bloodshot eyes. None of these boys was older than ten; the youngest was a pudgy-faced eight.

“There you are!” The teacher scowled, as if it were Ingrid’s
fault he’d been so inept with his accounting. Biting her lip, she held out the bag. He snatched it from her fingertips.

The chalkboard laid out the terminology of the lesson, one
Ingrid had seen taught dozens of times: hyperthermia, hypothermia, and the quick timeline to a geomancer’s death. These young boys experienced the hard lesson of hyperthermia. The last earthquake noticeable by the wardens had taken place
three days before. These students had been directly exposed to the current and hadn’t been allowed access to any kermanite. As a result, they spent the past few days bed-bound in misery as though gripped by influenza.

Thank God none of them were as sensitive as Ingrid. Another direct tremor would cause their temperatures to spike even more, and could even lead to death.

The teacher adept pressed a piece of kermanite to a boy’s skin. He gasped at the contact. Blue mist eddied over his body, the color evaporating as it was pulled inside the rock.

If she could see the kermanite in the adept’s hand, the clear crystal would be filling with a permanent smoky swirl. It took a trained mechanic to rig an electrical current to tap the trapped magic as a battery. When the energy within was exhausted, a crystal turned dull and dark. Once that happened, kermanite became a useless rock.

The young boy sat up straighter. “Thank you, sir,” he whispered,
voice still ragged. It would take him hours to fully recover.

Ingrid looked away, that familiar anger heavy in her chest.
Wardens and boys in training carried kermanite openly from
watch fobs and cuff links, or most any other accessory where
stones could be easily switched out once they were full.

She had to be far more subtle. Her kermanite chunks clinked together in her dress pocket. She had to take care not to touch them today, or the energy she held would be siphoned away.

Ingrid loved this slight flush of power, because that’s what it was — power. It sizzled just beneath her skin, intoxicated her
with how it prickled at her nerves. Certainly, if she absorbed
any more energy, she’d use the kermanite. She didn’t want to feel sick, though she could hold much more power than these boys, or even the wardens. Mr. Sakaguchi said she took after
Papa — that she stored power like a bank vault, while most
everyone else had the capacity of a private safe.

When it came to her natural skill, Ingrid often regarded herself as a rare fantastic or yokai — not like garden ornamentals like the kappas or naiads sold to the stuffed shirts on Market Street — but like the geomantic Hidden Ones Mr. Sakaguchi so loved to research. She was a creature relegated to idle fancy and obscure mythology, and aggravating shoes.

Amazon http://amzn.to/1noq6fE

Barnes & Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/breath-of-earth-beth-cato/1122785052

Beth Cato is the author of the Clockwork Dagger series from Harper Voyager, which includes her Nebula-nominated novella WINGS OF SORROW AND BONE. Her newest novel is BREATH OF EARTH. She’s a Hanford, California native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, son, and requisite cat. Follow her at BethCato.com and on Twitter at @BethCato.

BethCato-steampunk-headshot300x450

 

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Brooke Johnson’s THE GUILD CONSPIRACY

Posted at Aug 9, 2016 9:26 am

Brooke Johnson’s THE GUILD CONSPIRACY releases this week! Deets and an excerpt are below!

 

pre order press kit author photo TGC cover & blurb

 

THE GUILD CONSPIRACY:

In the face of impossible odds, can one girl stem the tides of war?

It has been six months since clockwork engineer Petra Wade destroyed an automaton designed for battle, narrowly escaping with her life. But her troubles are far from over. Her partner on the project, Emmerich Goss, has been sent away to France, and his father, Julian, is still determined that a war machine will be built. Forced to create a new device, Petra subtly sabotages the design in the hopes of delaying the war, but sabotage like this isn’t just risky: it’s treason. And with a soldier, Braith, assigned to watch her every move, it may not be long before Julian finds out what she’s done.
Now she just has to survive long enough to find another way to stop the war before her sabotage is discovered and she’s sentenced to hang for crimes against the empire. But Julian’s plans go far deeper than she ever realized … war is on the horizon, and it will take everything Petra has to stop it in this fast-paced, thrilling sequel to The Brass Giant.
Release Date: August 9, 2016.

 

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes | Google Play | HarperCollins

 

EXCERPT from Chapter 1 of THE GUILD CONSPIRACY:

 

“What do you want?” she spat.

 

Mr. Goss arched an eyebrow. “You would do well to show a little respect, Miss Wade,” he said, his usual honeyed voice carrying a hint of impatience. He gestured down the hall, away from the council chamber. “A quick word, if you please.”

 

She didn’t move. “I know what you’re going to say. You’re asking me to start a war.”

 

“No,” he said, forcibly taking her arm and leading her away from the council chambers. She tried to resist, but his fingers tightened like a vice. “I am asking you to keep your word. We had an agreement.”

 

He stopped at the end of the hall, far from the council chambers, and glared at her, his grip still tight on her arm. “I grow tired of this game of yours. This war will happen, and it will go far better for you if you cooperate.”

 

Petra raised her chin. “I will not.”

 

“You will,” he said, lowering his voice to a whisper. “I have been patient with you, Miss Wade. I have allowed you to study here, to inconvenience the council with your banal proposals and Guild applications. I have even allowed you to continue communications with my son . . . but my generosity is now at an end.”

 

He released her arm and gathered to his full height. “Understand me, Miss Wade. If your next project is not in line with our agreement, not only will I revoke your studentship and prevent further association with my son, I will repeal the council’s pardon of your crimes and deliver you to the Royal Forces as a traitor and a spy. You will be conscripted into the military as a prisoner of war, forced to build my war machines—or else hang for your crimes.”

 

She swallowed, her mouth dry. “You can’t.”

 

“I can, and I will.” Footsteps sounded down the hall, and Julian leaned close. “You will build a war machine for me. By choice or by force, I will have what I want. Make no mistake.”

 

One of the redcoats from the council meeting rounded the corner and spotted them. “Pardon the interruption, Minister,” he said crisply, “but you are needed back in the council chambers.”

 

Julian glared at the junior officer. “Very well. Inform them that I will return shortly.”

 

But the soldier made no motion to leave. “The vice-chancellor is expecting you now, sir.”

 

“Well, as you can see, I am presently occupied,” he said sharply. “The vice-chancellor can wait. I have important matters to discuss with Miss Wade, and I require a measure of privacy. Now go.”

 

The soldier hesitated, his gaze lingering a moment on Petra. “Of course, sir,” he said with a stiff bow. Then he strode away.

 

Julian waited until the officer was well out of earshot before turning back to Petra. “I leave the decision to you, Miss Wade,” he said. “You know the consequences should you refuse my request. However, if you cooperate, I give you my word that I will not question your studentship, I will continue to allow your relations with my son, and I will even offer you my recommendation for Guild placement. Help me, and I will help you. Do you understand?”

 

Petra glared at him. “Yes, sir,” she hissed.

 

“Good,” he said, his charismatic smile brightening his face with the same easy handsomeness as his son. “Then I expect your next proposal will be most satisfactory. Good day, Miss Wade.” With that, he turned on his heel and left.

 

His footsteps faded into silence, and Petra pressed against the wall with a shaky sigh, hands trembling. Damn him! Damn the Guild for giving him such power over her. He could do it. He could take away her freedoms and hand her over to the Royal Forces with a single order. He would, if given the chance.

 

If she defied him again, he would end her.

 

Slow footsteps approached, and Petra started, but it was only the Royal Forces officer again.

 

“Are you all right?” he asked, his voice kinder than she expected.

 

“I’m fine,” she said automatically.

 

“Are you sure?” he asked. “The minister seemed angry with you.”

 

A bitter laugh escaped her throat, Julian’s threats still fresh in her mind.

 

Forced conscription.

 

That was her punishment for her disobedience if she defied Julian again. She had delayed and resisted as long as she could, had pushed his patience to the brink, and now her choice was made for her—choose to build his war machine or lose everything she had left.

 

“For what it’s worth, I thought your project had merit,” he said. “Assuming you could achieve what you proposed.”

 

“Of course I could,” she snapped. She peered down the hall toward the council chambers. “Not that it matters to them.”

 

“Why not?”

 

“Why do you think? They want a war machine. Anything less isn’t worth their time.”

 

“Then why don’t you build one?”

 

She glanced sharply at the soldier.

 

“That’s what they want from you, isn’t it?” he went on. “Why the minister is so angry with you, why the council keeps rejecting your projects. I overheard them talking. You’ve applied to the Guild five times in the last six months, but none of your proposals were for war technology. Why not? If you built what they wanted, they’d accept you into the Guild, wouldn’t they?”

 

“Probably.”

 

“Then why don’t you?”

 

“Because becoming a Guild engineer isn’t worth that,” she said. “If I earn my certification, I want it to be on my own terms, not theirs.”

 

Not that she had a choice. Julian had made that very clear.

 

“Could you, though?” he asked, a hesitancy to his voice. “If you wanted to? Could you build a war machine?”

 

She dropped her gaze to the floor, thinking of the automaton she and Emmerich had built together the previous summer, how brilliant it had been when Emmerich powered it up for the first time, all its gears exposed, whirring and ticking with musical synchronicity. It had been a terrible, wonderful thing to behold, a beautiful monstrosity . . . capable of so much destruction.

 

Yes, she could build a war machine. She already had.

 

But she never wanted to build another like it, not for the rest of her life.

 

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