I don't have a long, fancy intro here. Have a deleted scene. It was fun but every book involves sacrifices. The Ruin of Snow went through a lot of changes throughout its many versions (more on that story later) so I have a lot of these sitting around.

I knew I was dreaming because it was summer. The snow was gone, replaced by grass waving in a breeze scented with flowers. Fat green leaves weighed down the branches, casting dappled shadows across the ground. Underbrush rustled with life. Birds sang.


And I knew I was dreaming because Kye walked beside me, sunlight turning them all gold. It was a false image, I knew, an imagining conjured up by my mind, but I couldn’t look away. They nearly glowed, and I silently vowed that I’d find a way to make this sight real.


But I tore my gaze away before they could make some comment about me staring, and we kept walking. Neither of us spoke. We didn’t hurry; I didn’t know where we were going, but I was alright with that in my strange half-lucid state. There was the sun beating down, and the brush of Kye’s fingers against my own whenever our hands swung close together, and all was well.


Finally we reached a clearing—maybe the clearing where we trained, but I couldn’t be sure. I saw no landmarks I knew from the waking world forest, but my head was just a bit too fuzzy to try to look. The clearing was as picturesque as the rest of this dream forest: long, soft grass, gently sloping trees, a few rocks and ancient logs around the edges. And in the center sat a mirror. Taller than I was, framed in silver and sapphires. Kye stopped, but my feet kept going, carrying me to it.


I just watched my reflection approach. Pretty, perfect Neyva in a sleeveless white gown, hair plaited in a crown around my head. I stopped a step away from the glass and met my reflection’s eyes. Behind her stretched the clearing, the forest. Empty and still.


I twisted to look over my shoulder, but Kye still stood behind me, at the edge of the trees, waiting. When I turned back to the mirror they spot where they stood held nothing but grass and air. I studied my reflection again.


Her feet were bare, as were mine, but blood spotted them. Little red flecks, half-dried. I looked down to mine. Clean.


When I raised my head my reflection kept looking down, and all I could do was stare.

A dream, the lucid half of my brain reminded me.


But was it?


I raised a hand and waved it, but my reflection never moved. My heart picked up at the base of my throat and I took a step back. Another wave, faster, the fear rooting itself into my chest making my movements quick and jerky. My reflection didn’t so much as twitch.


“Kye—” I started, not daring to look away from the mirror, but it was as far as I got before she finally looked up, slowly, like she’d just been delayed in following me.

But her eyes were cold, hard, watching me like a predator. My feet tripped over each other in my hurry to back up.


She stepped forward, feet sliding through the glass like it was water. Her gown stirred the grass as she walked, and where it touched green shriveled to dry brown. My throat closed; part of me wanted to scream, wanted to run, but I could only watch in horrible fascination as she passed me, as if I didn’t exist at all, and crossed the clearing to Kye. A trail of death spread in her wake.


I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t even hear my pounding heart as she stopped in front of them and lifted one hand, flat against their chest. They looked down at her with that barely-visible smile, golden eyes shining.


No.


I couldn’t hear my heart, but I could feel it, and it thundered against every inch of my skin, burning with rage, as she reached up on her toes to press her lips to Kye’s. Their arm slid around her waist. The sight freed my feet and I bolted to them, snatching my reflection’s slim shoulder and tearing her away from them. She swung to face me with a laugh like crackling autumn leaves and when she stilled her eyes locked on mine again. Shadows danced in them.


I knew those shadows, and I didn’t want to. I wanted to close my eyes and turn away, claw my way out of this dream, but she held my attention like a snake held a mouse. Her lips tugged into a cruel smile. “What are you waiting for, Neyva?” she asked. The wind swept loose wisps of hair around her face, spun itself into little songs between us. Fire curled at her fingertips. “Don’t you know you can have it all?”


Have it all. Kye, my power, my name, my family. Her green eyes bore into mine, piercing and prying, and I couldn’t look away.


There was a way to have it all, wasn’t there?




You can get The Ruin of Snow along with 19 other fairytale retellings in the Enchanted Kingdoms box set for a limited time--buy now!

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Looking for something new to read and short on money? You're in the right place, where I'll be featuring aspiring writers and their (free!) work!


This month I interviewed Isobel Metcalf, author of fantasy romance The Watcher.



He'll have to break all the rules to keep her, but first she has to break just one and let him in... It's taken four years, but Anna Fray has finally put the past behind her. Mostly. She fills her days working in a bar and her nights watching bad romantic comedies. She's managed to keep her distance from everyone around her by following one simple rule: don't trust anyone. Life is simple. Mundane, but simple. This all starts to change when a boy walks into the bar with a book and a smile. Soon Anna finds herself the centre of his attention, whether she likes it or not. The only problem is that the more time she spends around the boy with the book, the more she notices he's not like everyone else. It's not until one winter's night that she realises just how different he is. In that moment, the world as she knows it, is changed forever.



Meet Issy and read an excerpt from the book below:


Tell me a little bit about your writing journey. How long have you been writing, and how did you get started?


"I suppose I’ve never really thought of myself as having a writing journey. I always thought of the word ‘journey’ as heading towards a destination, whereas my history with writing is probably more like a blind stumble.

Like a lot of writers, I started with reading. I would spend days reading, devouring books, and getting lost in alternate worlds. With time, that love of reading slowly transitioned into a love of writing and imagining a world of my own in place of someone else’s.

That probably sounds really cliché and effortless, but I guess it was. I was ten when I wrote my first creative piece of writing and since then I’ve only ever written because it’s fun. I dabbled in fanfiction because I enjoyed playing around with someone else’s world; I wrote little poems for birthdays because they made people smile; and I started writing my own stories because I loved the intricacies of building a story from nothing. I’ve never had any expectations for my writing, so I’ve never worried about getting lost or making a wrong turn. I’ve just enjoyed stumbling my way through the endless possibilities writing brings."


Why fantasy specifically? Is it something you write often, or is this your first venture into the genre?


"I’m a scientist by day, and although a lot of my job revolves around knowing the facts, there is also a huge part which relies on acknowledging that even the most improbable things can be possible. I think that way of thinking has heavily influenced the stories I like to read and write. I’m particularly keen on stories which show fantasy within reality or take something innocuous and give it a fantastical edge."


What are your goals for your writing?


"I wouldn’t say I necessarily have goals. They’re more like musings. Those ‘wouldn’t it be cool if’ thoughts which change day to day. One day I’ll dream of book deals and a star-studded movie franchise. The next I’m just looking forward to ticking that ‘complete’ box and being proud of what I wrote. Somewhere in the middle of all that is the dream that one day I’ll finish my own piece of fiction and I’ll self-publish. I might not sell a single book, but it will feel amazing to have a copy sitting on my bookshelf.

Until that day, I just want to have fun writing and hopefully create something people enjoy reading. Because as much as I enjoy the writing process, it’s a unique experience to be able to share that with other people and build something they can get lost in."


What inspired the book?


"Lots of different things: TV shows, music, books, myths and legends. They all sort of merged in my head and somewhere amongst it all a story started to form. I started writing all the ideas down and before I knew it the characters and the world around them had started to take shape."


Who is your favorite character in it and why? Tell me a little about them.


"It’s hard to choose just one, but I would have to say Anna, my main character. Since the story is written in first person, I get to step into Anna’s shoes every time I write, and I really enjoy that process.

On the surface she’s sarcastic, aloof, but generally a normal girl. She works hard and is loyal to those she likes, but she has her issues, and she doesn’t handle them well. I can’t give away too much about her without spoiling the story, but I’ve written her in a very specific way which I hope will all make sense when the story comes to an end. Fingers crossed!"


What was the most challenging part about writing the story?


"By far the hardest part of the story is balancing the different elements. The focus of the story is Anna and Atticus, and their relationship, set against the backdrop that Atticus is a Watcher: a supernatural being who exists to follow mystical orders. It’s been really difficult trying to explain what the Watchers are in a natural way, while also keeping the development of their relationship authentic. I’m not 100% sure I’ve achieved the right balance yet but it’s something I’m constantly working on."


Do you have anything else you'd like to say to the readers?


"A massive thank you for taking the chance on the story, for continuing to read, and for all the encouragement and support they’ve given The Watcher over the past year. When I eventually tick that complete box, it will be as much the result of their support as it will be the hours spent in front of the laptop."


I knew I must be close.


"Alien?" I whispered as I rested against the serving counter. My hands flat against the metal.


"Why are you whispering?" he mouthed back, his eyes twinkling. He was enjoying this far too much.


"Well, they might be listening," I continued in my hushed tones.


"Who?"


"Your mothership," I hissed.


The hush was broken as he snickered. "But it would have been fine if someone else had heard you talking about werewolves and vampires?"


"A person might just think I'm mad but rubbing aliens up the wrong way... that kind of shit can get you abducted."


His smile was addictive.


"They have probes you know," I added, not because I believed it, but because the way his eyes crinkled in the corners, and his lips split into a wide grin, was enchanting. After weeks of blank mechanical expressions, it was hard not to be charmed by this rush of charisma.


"So, you're not a werewolf, a vampire, a zombie, or from out of space."


"Or a wizard," he said, matching my straight-talking tone.


I paused as I rifled through the pop culture encyclopaedia in my head. My teeth chewed on my lower lip.


"Is that the extent of your supernatural repertoire?" he taunted.


I rolled my eyes in response. "Oh, I apologise. Pop culture hasn't exactly trained me for this moment. There's not a course you can go on for this kind of thing. No 'supernatural beings and how to spot them' class."


He left me to stew as he got up from the stool and sauntered around the counter. I stiffened as I felt him pass behind me, crouching to rummage around in the cupboard. He stood and turned, peeling the lid off one of the tubs of sweets. A puff of sweetness filled the air, mingling with his own intoxicating scent.


Heavenly, I thought as I inhaled.


Like lightning, the idea struck me.


"Angel?" I asked with doubt in my voice.


There was a beat of silence, but just as I waited for him to mock me or tell me to give up, I felt his breath on the back on my neck. The muscles in my back twitched in trepidation.


His hands settled on the counter in front of me, his arms forming a cage from which I couldn't escape even if I wanted to.


I glanced at how his arms tensed as he held himself in place. His fingers spread wide against the steel, long thick fingers stretching to claim the space. Whether it was the enormity of our conversation, or the seductive influence of the whiskey, I felt my senses heighten. With them, I could feel the heat of him emanating from his chest, warming the space between us.


He was so close. The truth was so close. And in this moment, I wasn't sure which I wanted more.


"Some would say."


The three little words made my heart race and my palms sweat.


Just as the tension between us reached a precipice, he pushed away from the counter, and the pressure between us broke with the snap of an elastic band. With an arrogance that came with being the top of the food chain, he walked back to his stool with the whole tub of jellybeans clutched in his hand.


Read The Watcher for free or follow Issy on Wattpad!

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Hot off the Enchanted Kingdoms rush, I'm still in fairytale land with House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig--a Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling.


Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor with her sisters and their father and stepmother. Once there were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls' lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last--the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge--and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.


Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that her sister's deaths were no accidents. The girls have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn't sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who--or what--are they really dancing with?


When Annaleigh's involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it's a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family--before it claims her next. House of Salt and Sorrows is a spellbinding novel filled with magic and the rustle of gossamer skirts down long, dark hallways. Get ready to be swept away.


Review: I'm giving this book one of the highest honors I can give a book: I sat down to read one or two chapters before bed and accidentally read the whole book. It pulled me right in from the first page and didn't let go. Everything about it is just beautiful, from the writing to the world. House of Salt and Sorrows is a ghost story meets a fairytale, and it's perfectly lush, spooky, and magical. I was worried about the amount of characters to follow, with twelve sisters just to start, but they managed to each be important and distinct. The unusual family dynamic felt real, equally tense and loving, and I was on edge hoping the so-called Thaumas curse wouldn't strike again and take away a sister. Add in some absolutely insane twists, and this is a thrilling little story.


My one gripe? The romance. Protagonist Annaleigh and her love interest were just an little too insta-love-y for my tastes--while I appreciate the time and attention given to the family and mystery instead of the romance, more will-they-won't-they and deeper development of that relationship would have taken the story to the next level. Likewise I was disappointed by the lack of developmental arc on the love interest's part. I saw the seeds of potential for it but they were never realized, which kept him from growing at all as a character. He was fun to read and I was certainly rooting for him and Annaleigh, but he came across as just a little too perfect.


For those who want to focus on a fantastic, creepy murder mystery with a magical twist, House of Salt and Sorrows is for you. It stands out as one of the best fairytale retellings I've ever read, even with its romantic weak point. But if you're in search of a new book boyfriend who's more than the expected knight in shining armor, tread carefully.


Buy House of Salt and Sorrows

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