Who else is so ready for The Ruin of Snow to be out already? (I'm hoping it's not just me...)

As you all probably know, The Ruin of Snow is my twist on a Snow White retelling, and any retelling has to have the elements of the original. This month I'm introducing you all to my stand-ins for the seven dwarves

Though not technically dwarves, Neyva's ragtag allies do provide her help, shelter, and protection during her journey. Once a band of wandering outcasts making their way with any odd job that would hire them, the seven were cursed by a witch to take the form of animals when in sunlight and are now trapped in the wilds, awaiting either the day they lose their human forms forever or the chance to break their curse and regain their freedom. Their relationship with Neyva may begin as just mutually helpful, but the more they go through the together the more the

dynamic between them changes, and I loved writing it. Juggling such a large cast of characters living together had definite challenges, and there were more than a few times I had to go back and rework my plans to make sure they all got the attention they deserved. But the seven of them are like my babies, and I wish I had more time with them.

So who are the "dwarves"?

Idris: Idris is the unofficial leader of the group, a former noble guard turned disgraced bandit. As sly and clever as the fox he takes the form of, he takes on strategy and planning with ease--but also takes on the safety of his makeshift family and the responsibility of protecting them from even more than they know.

Rayick: Runaway noble Rayick may be an intimidating sight, but beneath it he's really just a big teddy bear. He's everybody's well-meaning big brother, but misfortune seems to follow him wherever he goes.

Wesley: A street rat turned jewel thief, Wesley provided all stealth operations prior to the curse, and still entertains himself by nabbing whatever shiny things he can find. He puts up a sarcastic and guarded shell, but the others know what's hidden beneath.

Enaelle: Enaelle is the sweetheart, in some ways the obligatory "Team Mom" I love to write. After leaving behind her comfortable life in favor of adventure--and maybe something more--Enaelle ensures her new family don't give up hope, or their appreciation for what they have.

Tamsin: The baby of the group, Tamsin and Wesley found comradery in their childhoods on the streets, but unlike the others the boy can't seem to shake the scars he escaped with.

Aurynn: Rough around the edges and willing to do whatever it takes for her found family, Aurynn keeps her past carefully hidden and her heart guarded. But she can't deny that she and Neyva may be more similar than she wants to believe.

Kye: Softspoken and airy, Kye seems to belong alone with their beloved ink and wind--but one should never forget they're a finely-tuned weapon. After running from a violent past that still haunts them, they've made a new life in a new land, but the curse threatens to take all of that away. Neyva may be their only salvation, but trusting doesn't come easily.

I choked out the spell, spitting blood to the ground with every word, and ducked my head against the light that flared. Bright enough to chase away the night as it fell, roaring and crackling like fire, so loud it drowned out the yelps and growls and pounding footsteps. The taste of magic changed to the taste of ash.

“What the hell?”

I yanked my head to the sound of another voice, but I didn’t have time to blink past the magic storm to see who was there when a hand closed around my arm and hauled me to my feet. Then we were stumbling through the storm, blind, gasping for breath. I clung to the hand that found mine, tripping every step but still going. One foot in front of the other.

The storm faded, but it left behind a dark so pressing I couldn’t see any easier. I ran through it, like running through an abyss, branches snatching at my cloak and dress and hair, freezing blood dripping, and the heat of that hand the one signal I was alive. By the time my eyes adjusted I was lost, with no idea how far we’d come or in what direction. I could make out a towering form in front of me, and blinked until it became a man, long hair flying as we ran and blood spreading over one shoulder.

“Wolf!” Somebody to my other side shouted—another male voice, the same as before. I twisted to look but saw a dark cloak bolting out of the way. “Rayick, wolf!”

Rayick, if that was the man who had helped me, dropped my hand and whirled in the fluid, practiced motion of a fighter, drawing a knife from his belt. I staggered to a stop, leaning against a tree, gulping lung-fulls of icy air, and watched as a slip of shadow darted from the trees toward Rayick, snarling. Starlight caught on singed fur red with fresh blood, and eyes shot with bloodlust. It snapped, but that was all the time it had. Rayick drove the knife into its throat as it lunged, and then there was a simple whine as it stumbled to the ground.

Rayick withdrew, flicking blood from the blade, and the world stilled. My pounding heart was all I could hear as the two men looked to one another, and then to me, and my gaze bounced between them.

Rayick might have been thirty, though in the dark it was hard to pinpoint. He was no stranger to a fight; the ease with which he moved and his broad, muscled build, I could easily see him as a guard or knight, if not for his worn and dirty clothes. His square jaw was dotted with dark stubble, his hair falling past his shoulders, halfway tied out of his face. He watched me not as if he was watching a threat, but as if waiting for me to bolt from fear. Cautious but gentle.

His companion was young, shorter and slighter in build, pale, thin planes and rumpled dark hair beneath his askew cloak, but eyes wide and startled. He shifted half a step when I looked to him and spoke first, murmuring, “Witch.”

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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 writers and their (free!) work! This month meet Apple Brooklyn, author of The Great Escape.

Year 1885 “Magic is not good or bad. Its wielder is.” Paranoid and frightened, Ada finds herself cornered as she is left among cruel strangers. Bearing the scars of her past on her charred skin and tortured mind, she struggles with hiding who she is, while fending off for herself as a string of deaths ties itself to the Monroe Mansion like a noose around a neck. Amidst these hopeless times, kindness is finally bestowed upon her. But for how long will these fleeting moments of solace postpone the impending disaster?

Meet Apple Brooklyn and read an excerpt of The Great Escape below!

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

"I have been writing for a long time. Can’t remember exactly when I started writing but yes, my parents, especially my father, had been one of the major reason I started. It was mainly small poems in my native language at the beginning and I was encouraged enough by my teachers to write more. Then I slowly started translating them in English for fun. Wasn’t until some years ago I actually started thinking of posting them somewhere other than showing my friend the novellas I wrote in some worn out diaries."

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

"I used to write mystery/thriller or a bit of horror previously. So yes, this is my first venture into this genre. As to answer why this genre specifically- it was because I wanted toy with some ideas I had when first thought of the core idea of the story. Fantasy is a wide range and it gives so much space to entertain several ideas simultaneously."

What are your goals for your writing?

"That’s a tricky one. I don’t believe I have any goals- except getting better at writing. I don’t expect much and this is a very dear hobby of mine, so improvising at it will give me satisfaction."

What inspired the book?

"Bebe Rexha’s “You can’t stop the girl” from the movie “Maleficent”. It’s ironical that I am yet to watch the movie but the song inspired the basic idea of the story."

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

"My favorite character? Um, it’s a tough question. I guess it will be a tie between Ada and Lady Kiara but Marquess Edith is the second runner up sweats and laughs. The three of them are completely different people with different backgrounds and have little to nothing in common if you look at it. I won’t know which one to point out but I will go for Ada Blak, maybe because I relate a bit more to her.

Ada is a witch in hiding, working as a maid in the Count’s mansion. She is constantly on edge, fearing someone would find out that she is a witch. Rooting from her disfigured face, various rumors and theories revolve around her among the working class of the mansion so no one really gets close to her except some few. Traumatized yet willing to hope for a better life, she is subdued in the beginning of the book, only reacting to the things thrown her way. As the storyline evolves, she slowly sheds away her passiveness, much courtesy of Lady Kiara, realizing that letting her paranoia hold her back will do nothing good to her or her loved ones. Ada is a careful character, with enough strength and ferocity she is yet to explore."

Historical fantasy is one of the less common subgenres. What made you choose to tackle it, and what were the challenges of it?

"Historical settings has always attracted me. And for the story that I wanted to write, historical setting seemed to provide the best atmosphere.

Talking about challenges, I wouldn’t call them challenges but yes, most of the time I have to research something about the medieval era. It’s a small things which won’t require more then ten minutes to look up but suddenly, an hour has passed and hundred and ten tabs are opened- none of them related to the thing I wanted to look up. I won’t say it’s the genres fault, but the genre has amplified the amount of things I need to search."

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

"(Don’t mind me, I am a very awkward person) Thank you very much who read me rant up until this point lol. I am a very uninteresting person who rarely know what to say and shies away from social interaction as much as possible. I have much to say but I do not possess the ability and guts to write or speak that as it is, so I find my way of expression in prose and poetry. Given that, my prose is not proper as I am still learning to weave my thoughts into words but I am, very steadily, making a progress and I really hope anyone who reads my book is able to see that. I also want to express my gratitude to my readers, ghost or vocal, who have been my constant driving force, pushing me towards evolving into a better writer, and have been a part of my writing journey. I hope we bond over this story or anything else that we might have in common. I might be awkward but I don’t bite and I have been told that I am a great listener.

Lastly, I would like to thank Lacy for this interview. It was a pleasure to be able to do this. Thank you so much for providing me this opportunity❤️"

Ada clenched the handle of the bucket in her hand, took in a sharp breath, closed her eyes. It was silence. Deafening silence. And then she heard it. Breathing. Soft breathing. And there it was. A sound which alerted her. Hisses. Soft, inaudible hisses. Blood. Strong stench of fresh blood. Whirling in the air. Covert. Deadly. Her eyes shot open. Breath shortened. Heart thumped. Her free hand shot up to take a hold of Misty’s arm and pulled her back, almost throwing her across the width of the hallway. She could hear Misty questioning her from behind as Ada slammed open the door of the Lady Kiara’s room, rushing inside. But none of that mattered. Danger. Danger. Danger! Danger was all she could think about. Ada rushed inside and then, fumbled right away as she stepped onto the shadowy tendrils of the creature. A creature. Blood hued eyes. Foreboding presence. A cadence of warning in it’s hisses. A lilt of death in it’s eyes. Ada’s breath labored. Death. Death. Death. Read The Great Escape for free, and follow and support Apple Brooklyn on Wattpad!

Check out my other featured authors and their free-to-read works!

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I'll admit, it took me longer than I intended to get to this book, between writing The Ruin of Snow, and then moving on short notice and losing the book itself halfway through reading. But the concept of royal necromancers and a kingdom ruled by the undead is just too cool not to finish even with a several month gap in the middle, so I've been bingeing my way through the rest of Reign of the Fallen over the last week or so.

Without the dead, she'd be no one.

Odessa is one of Karthia's master necromancers, catering to the kingdom's ruling Dead. Whenever a noble dies, it's Odessa's job to raise them by retrieving their soul from a dreamy and dangerous shadow world called the Deadlands. But there is a cost to being raised: the Dead must remain shrouded. If even a hint of flesh is exposed, a grotesque transformation begins, turning the Dead into terrifying, bloodthirsty Shades.

A dramatic uptick in Shade attacks raises suspicions and fears around the kingdom. Soon, a crushing loss of one of her closest companions leaves Odessa shattered, and reveals a disturbing conspiracy in Karthia: Someone is intentionally creating Shades by tearing shrouds from the Dead--and training them to attack. Odessa is forced to contemplate a terrifying question: What if her magic is the weapon that brings the kingdom to its knees?

Fighting alongside her fellow mages--and a powerful girl as enthralling as she is infuriating--Odessa must untangle the gruesome plot to destroy Karthia before the Shades take everything she loves.

Review: The first thing that struck me about this book was the world it's set in. Karthia is a kingdom that avoids the rest of the world, and while that's not a new concept, its reasoning is: Karthia is ruled by an undead king and fears the change the living bring. With necromancers serving the nobility--raising them from the dead for payment, while the poor must say goodbye permanently--and a fascinating magic system where eye color determines one's magical ability, I was hooked in on setting alone. The plot is thrilling from the start, unafraid to tackle gruesome and heartbreaking moments right in with victories as the conspiracy Odessa is working to unravel gets increasingly more dangerous and complicated. It's helped along by Marsh's writing, which beautifully brings to life and explores the power and nuances of grief, vengeance, fear, and guilt. I'll be honest, I'm jotting down a few notes on how to pull off grief for a project of my own. While some of the characters came off a little flat and underdeveloped at times and I wish I knew more about them, I'm giving it some leeway, as this is book 1 of a series and I see the potential to fully embrace them in later books.

Unfortunately, the thing that ruined the book for me was the romance. I love a good ship, but it felt incredibly forced and rushed to me. It didn't fit with the rest of Odessa's character or her arc throughout the story, and it sort of came across to me like Marsh felt the need to insert a romance for the sake of romance, so did when the story didn't actually need one. It seriously detracted from what was otherwise a fantastic story and made it harder for me to look forward to what would happen next. I loved the inclusion of an openly bisexual protagonist without the story focusing around her sexuality--and I have absolutely no problem with a same-sex ship, bring it on--but in a way that became a crutch to justify the relationship that didn't really have believable chemistry and almost edged into bisexual stereotype category. This book leaves me worried that it'll go fully in that direction through the rest of the series, but I haven't read further so I can't say it does. The platonic relationships in this book are the ones that shine, and I wish the author had stuck to exploring those in more depth.

Will I read Book 2? I haven't decided yet. I'd love to learn more about the world and see where things go from the (honestly pretty awesome, in a lot of ways) ending, so maybe I'll cautiously continue. But we'll see.

Buy Reign of the Fallen

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