Frost is finished, uploaded, and finally available!
I am so thrilled to present to you my newest baby. Frost is a YA fantasy with dystopian elements, available in both ebook and print formats.
You can add the book on Goodreads, or snag a copy in these places:
(The paperback is also available on Amazon)
The lovely and extremely hardworking Julie from A Tale of Many Reviews is hosting my launch day party, so you might see some posts, interviews, excerpts, and swag giveaways around the blogosphere today! I'll try to do an update or separate post with some links later.
You can read the first chapter below!
IT WAS COLD, the kind of cold that made bones feel brittle and hands ache. My breath streamed from my lips like smoke, and my feet made wet, crunching sounds in the snow as I slipped through the forest. As I ran, my lungs ached and my sack of yarn thumped against my back. My cloak tangled around my ankles, but I yanked it free without stopping.
It was quota day in the village, and I was going to be late if I didn’t hurry.
The path stretched ahead in a white trail of unbroken snow, and on either side the ice-covered limbs of the trees hemmed me in with walls of frosty green. Even the light took on a grim, almost gray-blue quality here, and the world was blank with silence. I could hear only the ragged noise of my own breathing and my own footsteps. I felt like an interloper—too loud, too clumsy, too disruptive.
The Frost was always like that. The snow-covered trees had a deadening effect. They absorbed everything—animal calls, voices, even screams for help. Something could come from behind without warning, and you wouldn’t hear anything until it was right upon you. Until it was almost too late.
A branch snapped in the woods to my left. I flinched, turning my head in an effort to locate the source of the sound.
But silence wrapped the world once more. The shadows lay still and gray across the snow. Empty.
“It’s still light,” I whispered aloud, trying to reassure myself. In the light, I was safe. Even the smallest child knew that much.
The monsters didn’t come out until after dark.
I moved faster anyway, spooked by that branch snap even though a blue-gray gloom still illuminated the path. A shiver ran down my spine. Despite our often-repeated mantras about the safety of the light, nothing was certain in the Frost. My parents had always been careful. They had always been prepared. And yet, two months ago they went out into the Frost in the daylight and never returned.
They’d been found days later, dead.
They’d been killed by the monsters that lurked deep in the Frost, monsters that barely anyone ever saw except for tracks in the snow, or the glow of their red eyes in the darkness.
My people called them Watchers.
Color danced at the edges of my vision as I passed the winter-defying snow blossoms, their long sky-blue petals drooping with ice as they dangled from the bushes that lined the path. They were everywhere here, spilling across the snow, drawing a line of demarcation between me and the woods. Every winter, the snows came and the cold killed everything, but these flowers lived. We planted them everywhere—on the paths and around our houses—because the Watchers rarely crossed a fallen snow blossom. For some reason, the flowers turned them away.
I touched the bunch that dangled from my throat with one finger. My parents’ snow blossom necklaces had been missing from their bodies when they were found. Had the monsters torn the flowers off before killing them, or had they even been wearing them at all?
Another branch snapped behind me, the crack loud as a shout in the stillness.
I hurried faster.
Sometimes we found tracks across the paths despite the blossoms. Sometimes nothing kept the Watchers out.
My foot caught a root, and I stumbled.
The bushes rustled behind me.
Panic clawed at my throat. I dropped my sack, fumbling at my belt for the knife I carried even though I knew it would do no good against the monsters because no weapons stopped them. I turned, ready to defend myself.
The branches parted, and a figure stepped onto the path.
It was only Cole, one of the village boys.
“Cole,” I snapped, sheathing the knife. “Are you trying to kill me with fright?”
He flashed me a sheepish smile. “Did you think I was a Watcher, Lia?”
I threw a glance at the sky as I snatched up my sack and flung it over my shoulder once more. Clouds were rolling in, blocking out the sun. The light around us was growing dimmer, filling the path with a premature twilight. A storm was coming.
His smile faded a little at my expression. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I should have called out to warn you.”
“We’re supposed to stay on the paths,” I growled, brushing snow from my skirt. I didn’t want to discuss my irrational panic. I’d been walking the paths through the Frost my entire life. I shouldn’t be jumping at every stray sound like some five-year-old child.
Cole pointed at two squirrel pelts dangling from his belt. “Quota,” he said simply, adjusting the bow hanging on his back. He moved past me and onto the path. “Speaking of which, we’re going to be late for the counting.”
“You’re a Carver,” I said, falling into step beside him. “Not a Hunter.”
“And you’re a Weaver, not a Farmer, but you still keep horses and chickens,” he said.
I shrugged, still annoyed with him for startling me. “My parents took that farm because no one else wanted it. It’s too far from the village, too isolated. We keep animals because we have room. I don’t bring them into the village on quota day.”
“The quota master gives my family a little extra flour if I slip him a pelt,” Cole said. He glanced down at me, his smile mysterious. “Besides, the forest isn’t dangerous this close to the village, not in daylight.”
“The Frost is always dangerous,” I said firmly.
Cole tipped his head to one side and smiled. He refrained from disagreeing outright out of politeness, I supposed. Having dead parents usually evoked that response from people. “I can take care of myself,” he said.
I looked him over. He was tall, and he carried the bow like he knew how to use it. He might be called handsome by some, but he was too lean and foxlike for my taste. He had a daring streak a mile wide, and his eyes always seemed to hold some secret. His mouth slid into a smirk between every word he spoke.
Our gazes held a moment, and his eyes narrowed with sudden decision. For some reason, his expression unnerved me.
“We’re going to be late,” I said, dodging, and hurried ahead.
I could hear him jogging to catch up as I rounded the curve. Here the path crawled beneath a leaning pair of massive boulders and alongside a stream of dark, turbulent water. I scrambled around the first rock, but then what I saw on the other side of the river made me freeze.
Shadowy figures in gray uniforms slipped through the trees, rifles in their hands. There were two of them, sharp-eyed and dark-haired. Bandoleers glittered across their chests.
Cole caught up with me. I put up a hand to quiet him, and together we watched.
“Farthers,” I whispered.
“What are they doing this close to the Frost?” Cole muttered.
I just shook my head as a shiver descended my spine. Farthers—the people from farther than the Frost—rarely ventured beyond the place where the snow and ice began. They had their own country, a grim and gray place called Aeralis, and we knew only rumors of it, but those rumors were enough to inspire fear in us all. I’d been as far as the roads that ringed their land once. I’d seen the horse-drawn wagons filled with prisoners, and the sharp metal fences that marred the fields like stitches across a pale white cheek.
The men crept down to the bank and stared at the dark water. They hadn’t seen us. One gestured at the river, and another pointed at the sky and the approaching storm clouds that were visible through the break in the trees. They appeared to be arguing.
“They won’t cross the river,” I said, confident of it despite my fear. “They never do.”
“They’re afraid of Watchers,” Cole said.
I laughed under my breath at the irony of it. The monsters in the woods protected us as much as they endangered us.
After another moment, the Farthers went back up the bank and vanished into the trees. Like I’d predicted, they didn’t cross the river into our lands. I sighed.
Cole spat at the ground in disgust. “Those Farther scum.”
I didn’t reply. Another glance at the sky confirmed that the storm was fast approaching with the night, and our time was dwindling. We still had to deliver our quota.
I turned back to the path and ran for the village.
Happy release day, everybody!!!