Friday, August 30, 2013

End of Summer Giveaway

I know, I know, who wants to think about summer ending. But to put a bright spot on things how about another giveaway? That's right, just when you thought we were done with giveaways.

We do love to share, Sharing means Caring after all. And here are the ARCs up for grabs.

Independent Study (the sequel to The Testing) by Joelle Charbonneau

Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

Treasure Hunters by James Patterson

Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles

The Liberator by Victoria Scott

Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Entrants are limited to the United States and Canada and you have 10 days to enter!

Enjoy the rest of summer and Happy Labor Day weekend!

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Friday, August 23, 2013


I’ve always wondered what would happen if I stood in one spot at the beach for an entire day. With every wave that swallows my ankles, my feet slip a little deeper into the muddy sand, like the earth is trying to slowly devour me. I’m buried halfway up my calves now and I’ve only been standing here for an hour.

I stick my fingers into the pocket of my jeans to make sure the photo is still dry, even though I know I just checked it eleven and a half seconds ago. The feeling of the glossy paper against my fingertips makes my heartbeat falter.

I know the words that are written at the bottom by heart, but it makes me feel better to read them—to see his handwriting.

I pull the picture out of my pocket and unfold it. He gave it to me the day he left for college. It’s worn and tattered from being repeatedly unfolded and folded back again. Scrawled in tiny handwriting made messier by the fat-tipped black marker he’d used to write it, are the words, “I can always count on you, bud.”

I hate when he calls me that.

But I love it too. It’s a punch-in-the-gut reminder that he still thinks of me as a “little sister” type of friend, but it also makes me swell with pride to know I am the only person in the world that he has given a nickname.

The knot in my stomach rises and sticks in the base of my throat like a lump of biscuit dough. I want to keep my promise, but I’m not sure if I can.

I match the ends of the picture together and press my thumbs into the creases. I fold it into a tiny, neat square, and slip it back into my pocket before the ocean spray can stain his face.

I stare out at the ocean, my eyes not really focusing on anything in particular. Every now and then, the sun’s rays shine on the water just right, making it look like churning, liquid gold.

“Hey, bud!” calls the only voice in the world that can make my blood congeal in my veins. Another wave crashes into my legs, making me sink a tiny bit more. I try not to flinch when I hear two sets of feet tramping through the sand behind me.

He brought her.

I close my eyes for a second and focus on the feeling of the water pulling away from my skin. A line of tears catches in the clumps in my mascara, but I don’t want him to know that I’m upset. I trick my lips into curling into a smile and glance over my shoulder at him. I don’t bother looking at her. I know she’ll be gorgeous, as always, while I stand here, all freckled skin, and tattered jeans, and tangled hair, looking exactly like the reliable friend that I’ll always be.

I count how many steps it takes him to reach me as I stare out at the white caps on the waves. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…

Any distraction to keep myself crying.

It only takes him ten galloping steps to make it to me. He wraps an arm around my waist and pulls me in close for a hug. I hold my breath. I don’t want to smell the scent of his fabric softener mixed with his skin—that scent of his that always makes me forget how to put together sentences—that’ll only make this worse.

“Hey,” I say. I pull away from him and cross my arms, trying to keep my voice from breaking.
He sees the fear in my eyes, I can tell. But he doesn’t say anything. He’d never say anything in front of her.

“How have you been, bud?” he asks, stepping away from me.  I try not to notice how his body leans toward hers, or how they move in perfect sync with each other, like dancers. I also try not to remind myself that only people who are in love do that. I’ve yet to look her in the eyes, but I don’t really care what she thinks of me.

Especially not now.

“Can I talk to you for a second?” I say, finally really looking at him for the first time in six months. Big mistake. I instantly feel like five thousand little blades have sliced open every freckle on my body. Curse those stupid, stare-into-your-soul eyes of his. The picture folded inside my pocket does him absolutely no justice.

I shoot his girlfriend a glance, and it comes across more “if looks could kill” than I mean it to. Her blonde hair catches in the wind and I hate her for being so beautiful.

She smiles sweetly at me and tucks a curl behind her ear. “I’ll stay here,” she says, nodding. “You two go catch up.”

Dammit, why can’t she just be a bitch?

He links his arm through mine, pulling away my invisible armor.  We walk a little ways down the beach, neither of us saying anything until she’s out of earshot.

“What this about, Ellie?” he asks. My lungs crinkle like tissue paper at the sound of my name on his lips. He never calls me by my real name.

I lay my head on his shoulder and squeeze my eyes tight. The roar of the waves and the bantering of the seagulls and the sound of the kids laughing and his hand on my arm—that is how I’ll remember this day. Not what’s about to happen next.

“I can’t be your friend anymore.”

There. I said it. My voice sounds tiny and insignificant on the noisy beach, but I know he heard me. I thought I’d feel better once it was out, but I don’t. I don’t really feel worse, either. I just feel numb.
We both stop walking and he takes a deep breath. Neither of us says anything for a moment, and I don’t move my head from his shoulder. I’m going to miss the way my cheek fits right into the curve of his muscle. 

“But you promised,” he says softly.

I groan. How can he throw that in my face? Things were different then.

“Is it because of Annie?” he asks.

I only nod. He already knew this was coming. He knew I was in love with him a long time ago. He grabs me and crushes me to his chest.

“I can’t lose you, bud,” he whispers against my tangled hair. “I can’t lose her, and I can’t lose you. It’s two different kinds of love, Ellie. I wish I could change it, but that’s just the way it is.”

I make the mistake of drawing in a long breath. He smells like summer, and sugar, and pine straw, and too many other things that I never want to smell again, yet I know I can’t live without.

Who cares if it’s not the kind of love I want? At least it’s love, right?

I pull away from his grasp and look up at him. Those stupid eyes. Why do I look into his damn eyes?

“Okay,” I sigh. “Never mind.”

Because I can never truly be free of him.

And he can never be free of me.

It’s not what I want.

But it’s better than being alone.

Story By: Stefanie Marks

Friday, August 16, 2013


He's late.

 I can tell because the sun is cresting the waves, gilding them on its way into the sky. I kick my foot through the sand and water, sending both flying out in front of me. Just once I'd like to be the last one to show up--for him to have to wait on me. I pull at my jeans...well, not my jeans exactly, but my dad's. I always wear his old pair when I go shelling with Ryan. I like how loose they are on my legs and the swell of my hips when I kneel. Besides, they smell like motor oil and leather and this smell more than anything calms me. I need to be calm. If I seem nervous Ryan'll just laugh when I tell him what I want him to do.

I walk a little farther down the beach and towards Ryan's house. If I'm quiet maybe I can sneak around the side of it and tap on his window, make sure he's up. If he doesn't come soon I won't get to ask him anything at all. The sun'll be up and the beach crowds will slowly start to file in. I tug at the waistband of my jeans. I've got them rolled up past my knees to keep them dry, but pretty soon they'll be wet through. I can never seem to keep my clothes from drowning when I'm out here. Probably because I can't keep my feet from wandering farther and farther into the surf. The tide pulls me the same as it does the waves. I can feel it deep in my stomach, an invisible lead line pulling me out into colder waters.

I'm almost all the way to Ryan's when he trots out onto the sand. His hair is still ruffled from sleep and the skin under his eyes is puffy.

"Sorry," he mumbles in between yawns. "But tell me why it is that we always have to go shelling this early? There are still good ones out here for hours."

"So we can be alone," I say. I try to make my voice soft and sweet--laced with innocence and something quite the opposite. It's not an easy trick and so far this summer I haven't managed it, but today maybe I have because he smiles and the faintest hint of red colors the skin just above his shirt collar.

My stomach flutters a little, but I tamp it down. "So, I saw some cool ones down past the dunes," I say my voice dipping lower on the last word and almost shudder at how awkward the words seem coming out of my mouth. One look at me and anyone can see that I'm no seductress. Even if I'd worn a low necked top or tiny shorts--especially if I'd worn those.

"You want...the dunes, really?" Ryan looks skeptical, but also hopeful. It won't take much to tip him more firmly in the hopeful direction. So I do.

"Yeah, I think we should. You want to right?" I take his hand and pull him towards the dunes. There's no mistaking what I'm asking him to do. No one goes there for anything else.

We sit across from each other in the sand. I look up at him because he's looking at me, but I can't look at his eyes. In a weird way I think I might cry if I do, so I look just past his ear instead, at the thick black curl that hugs the curve of it. Sometimes people describe ears as shell-like. I think I read that in a book somewhere which always sort of made sense to me because the way they spiral inward toward the head...but wait, that doesn't matter right now. I shake my head and try to quiet the stream of random thoughts tumbling around my brain. We don't talk, we just stare each other down, both of us waiting for the other to take the lead. It should probably be me since I asked him over here, but I can't seem to make myself close the distance between us. I swallow and fidget onto my knees and then scootch forward an inch, hope that it's enough.

Ryan's hand goes up to my chin. His thumb strokes my cheek. He inches forward a little too. His hand hovers on my face and for a moment I'm sure that he's going to change his mind, stand up and start searching for the perfect Shark's Eye Moon Shell, but then he surprises me and leans closer instead. Our lips touch. This is not amazing or magical or new. We've kissed plenty of times, but never when we knew for sure it was leading to something more. The something more makes it feel more business-like to me. It's as if this moment is an obstacle we're both determined to conquer.

I like that his lips are soft. I don't like that his mouth always tastes like mint toothpaste. I hate mint. I'm a cinnamon all the way kind of girl. Still, even with the mint the kiss is pleasant enough and it isn't long before he's pulled me closer still until we're pressed together from forehead to thigh. I grip his arms with my hands and then sit back on my heels. Our teeth clack together a little as he comes with me, his hands digging into the sand by my shoulders as we lay down. I shiver, but it isn't nerves or lust. It's cold. The air is nippy and the sun isn't up enough yet to warm us. I open my eyes and stare at Ryan. His eyes are closed. This close, his face is comical, all eyebrows and pores and nose coming at me and I have to really concentrate so I don't laugh. I close my eyes again then wonder if he ever opens his and sees me the way I just saw him. I hope not.

I nestle into the sand and let Ryan's mouth move away from my lips to my neck and then farther down. I stare up at the sky and watch the clouds move across it. I watch as a particularly fat one morphs into different shapes. A rabbit. A dinosaur. I wait to feel...I don't know...the chills? Ripples of desire maybe? (this is how they describe passion in the books I pick up once a week from the rounder at the Quick Mart downtown and although the words always make me shudder, I still can't stop thinking of them as the truest description of what should be happening to me). I try to imagine them--the ripples--and hope that by doing this I will be able to create them inside of me. It doesn't work.

Ryan moans softly, his breath hot on my neck. He seems to have the ripples down pat. He settles more heavily on me and I can't breathe. This makes all my imagining even harder. Now I'm too aware of all the ways I'm uncomfortable--the sand slipping into my shirt and jeans, the gulls screaming so loud above us that my ears hurt and I can't do it.

"I can't," I say to the sky and to Ryan. He hesitates, is face over mine, hovering there, blocking out the shape shifting cloud. He waits for me to change my mind and pull him back down and I wait for him to accept that I won't. I want him to be right about what I'll do. I don't want to be this girl, the one who can't seem to feel anything past pleasant. I want to be reckless--like the ocean beside us, not over thinking every moment that we touch, but no matter how much I search or dig inside myself, I come up empty...just like the shells still littering the beach.

Story by: Amy Christine Parker
Picture by: Fadzly @ Shutterhack

Friday, August 9, 2013

Let Me Take a Moment

Let Me Take a Moment

Today is the last good day.

The sand creeps into my shorts, my underwear, scratching my skin and searing it at the same time. I’m sitting directly in the sun. It covers and coats me like melted butter on popcorn and I don’t want to move. The minute I do, it’s over. This moment will be gone.

My sister’s legs frame my view of the ocean. Mom and Dad are behind us. Derek is beside me. I feel his eyes on me wondering if I’ll move. Not knowing what to say. Trying to find the right thing to say himself but there’s nothing to say. There’s nothing to do but let this last as long as it can.

The waves start tumbling in on themselves and I between the crash and the air, the seagulls, and my sister’s giggles mixed with sighs at my little brother. I try to absorb every bit of it in my skin and hold on.

There’s salt in the air and a kind of cleanliness to the breeze, the scent of ocean you can only get from the beach that reminds me of when I was a kid. Reminds me of when I knew nothing about what Mom and Dad really did. Reminds me that Derek used to be my best friend, still is, but he wants something more I notice when his fingers creep in the sand to try and grab mine but then move away like a spider sensing something off. He kissed me yesterday. After I balled and told him everything about Mom and Dad.

“We’ll be leaving for sure now. We have to.” I’d told him and that’s when he kissed me. Put his lips on mine and I had no idea what to make of it but I let his kiss linger.

His mom came by soon enough and he pulled away. She looked at us both cautiously, or curiously. Usually she left us be but she searched me up and down before sucking her teeth and leaving without a word.

“Reg,” he said but I ran off.

Soon as I got up the road to our trailer Mom and Dad were packing things up. The evidence, the pilfered items, everything, leaving behind what we may have prized but what wasn’t going to give anyone a trace of where we’d gone and what they’d done.  

My sister and brother pushed into me in the backseat, luggage, bedspreads, food, and coolers bookending us on either side of the Caddy. Dad driving like a maniac and Mom fumbling and rustling the map in her lap. The two of them bickering at each other over how fast to go, when they thought they saw a patrol car, who should be on the look out, and whatnot. But at the same time they cooed to us like nothing was up when they heard my brother sniffle.

My sister begged for us to hit the beach. She went through her moods. Holding her breath until she got her way morphed into screaming so loud that she would’ve been backhanded had Mom and Dad not wanted to draw attention to themselves.

“We’ll stop at the goddamn beach. Pain in my...” Mom shushed Dad. So he went on slapping at the bugs flying into the cracked windows in the car.

My siblings and I practically burst out of the backseat, items toppling out and us falling over them. They ran. I walked. Wanting to experience every footprint in the sand. Every breath. Every free moment we had here thinking about Derek the whole time.

“Five minutes!” Dad screeched. He was practically hopping from foot to foot when Mom came around the car to him and put an arm that set him still.

I sat down and didn’t look back. Until he said my name.

“Hey Reg,” Derek said.

I won’t look at him. I won’t. Cause if I do, my heart will break.

“How’d you get here?”

“I kinda followed you.”

“Stalk much?” I didn’t mean it to be a joke but he laughed anyways. He planted his body in the sand.

“You can stay with me, with us.”

“Not all three of us.”

I heard the heaviness in his breath when he replied. “No, not all three.”

“I won’t leave them. And my parents...” They won’t give us up without a fight.

“I’m not judging anybody, Reg. I didn’t think you’d be going anywhere. I never said anything cause--”

I pinched his thigh but he kept going. “I’ve wanted to say something--”

“Shut up.


Now, my eyes are on the horizon, on the ground and the sky splitting itself into two different colors. The giggles pervade but so does something in the distance. A piercing that isn’t the seagulls above or my brother or sister nearby.

“Kids let’s go!” My mom shouts, shrill and loud the wind picks it up and carries it to me sending a shiver up and down me.

Derek finally grabs my hand. “You can stay,” he says.

The sirens start in. I hear feet sinking in sand, thumping as they run, the spraying of the wet sand on dry and car doors slamming open and shut. The scrape of items off the road and bodies shuffling themselves in and out.

“Reggie!” they yell behind me. “Reg,” Derek says beside me. And I’m torn. Not wanting to leave either of them, any of them. It’s the last good moment I have. The sirens get closer, soon there’ll be the wail and the lights, and it’ll all be done. Everything Mom and Dad did, their comeuppance, us separated. I see me with outstretched arms at my siblings crying for them, crying for my parents, crying for Derek. And no matter what I choose, I lose.

I suck up the tears and spit in the sand ready to stand, but my knees don’t straighten, my legs don’t move. I’m stuck wanting to absorb every last second until it’s too late. 

Story by: Jenn Baker
Photo by: Fadzly @ Shutterhack

Friday, August 2, 2013

Buried Treasure

by: Krystalyn

Whoever said magic don't exist ain't never been to that little coquina beach down past the harbor. Those shells spell out words ain't no one got an explanation for yet. Oh, they'll try to tell you that it's some kids playing a prank, but I know for certain kids don't mess with stuff like that. We follow the signs. We don't make 'em.

Just last week, I was waving my metal detector across the sand, looking for stray quarters. I use them to buy orange Nehis at the corner store cause my momma won't part with her money for what she calls liquid sugar. But they were my Pop's favorite. At least that's what she claimed. In sixteen years, I ain't never met him.

There was no one on the beach that early. The sand was nice and flat from the midnight tide. Not even a footprint from early morning joggers. That's how I knew nothing natural made what I saw. No footprints.

I was counting up my change to see if I had enough for a drink or two when a tiny ray of sunshine peeked over the edge of the world and showed me the glory. There, spread out for only me and God, were those tiny little white shells, thin as a pinky nail. They spelled out the words, “Follow the sun.” Now, I didn't claim to know what it meant. I just knew those coquinas had washed up with the surf and planted themselves in the sand for me to find. So I looked to the sun.

A few more rays rose up to claim the sky. They stretched long fingers across the water, across the sand, and up into the dunes. Little bursts of light danced between the sea oats.

“That's simply the sun reflecting off the sand,” our teacher would say. But I knew better.

Jimmy Dunston got a message one time, and he ignored it. The coquinas told him to “Dive deep.” He didn't, because he was late to his job at the Stop n' Go. If he'd just done what he was told, he would have been able to quit his job a thousand times over. That afternoon, a diver discovered fifteen gold doubloons just off our coast. They must have drifted there from some wreck. The guy sold them at auction for plum near a million. Jimmy tells that story every day while he's pumping gas for the tourists. I reckon he'll never get out of that job now, because if you ignore the coquinas once, they don't forget.

I shouldered my metal detector and hiked up to the dunes. The sparkles grew brighter. There were four of them, marking my destination like stars in the night. My heart thumped. I rubbed my palms against my Levis. It wouldn't do to dig with sweaty hands.

I pawed through the fine powder until my fingers touched metal. It weren't no quarters, and it weren't no gold doubloons neither. It was an old license plate with rusted letters and bent corners. 7W-76311.

I plopped myself down on the dune then and watched the sun come up. I squinted my eyes, and when the bottom of that orange ball cleared the horizon, I asked my question.

“Why'd you give me a license plate, dammit? I ain't got no car.” My momma would have slapped me good for speaking like that, but I figured I had a right to be angry. I did what I was told. Where was my treasure?

Of course, the sun didn't answer me. It wasn't live like them coquinas. And anyhow, it was too far away to hear me. So, I picked up my metal detector and my plate, and I headed toward the corner store for my Nehi.

Afterwards, I passed by Sal's Auto Parts Yard. I'd never had reason to go in there before, but seeing as how I didn't really need that license plate, I figured I might get a few cents for it. He greeted me with a two-fingered wave and spit some snuff out the side of his mouth before speaking to me.

“Whatcha got there?”

“Old plate.” I took a swig from my Nehi. “What you give me for it?”

“Well, I dunno. Lemme see.”

I handed it over. He tapped his fingers against the numbers.


“What?” I said.

“This here plate. It's mine. It disappeared off an old Chevy a few weeks back. You steal this, boy?”

“No, sir.”

“Then, where'd you get it?”

“Coquina Beach.”

Sal worked the snuff around in his mouth for a bit. There was a story going round that he found his dog on that beach, a dog that saved his life when a jack broke and landed a truck on his leg. He knew the power of them coquinas.

“I've only known one person who drank those things.” He pointed to my bottle.

I looked at the bottle myself. The white letters stood strong against the clear glass. “Habit I picked up from my Pop.”

“I see.” He folded his arms across his chest and thought for a minute as he blinked up toward the sun. He looked like he was deciding something. “Come with me,” he said.

I followed him to the back corner of the yard where the sun glinting off the windshields near blinded me. How he worked in that oven all day was beyond me.

He stopped at the Chevy he'd mentioned before and dropped the plate by one of the wheels. “Do you know this car, son?”

I didn't recall. “No, sir.”

“Well, take a look at this.” He popped open the trunk, and inside were bout a hundred Nehi bottles. A damn fine collection if you asked me. “What's your name, son?”

“Billy Lundley, sir.” I shook my head. “William. I was named after my Pop.”

“And what's your momma's name?”

“Susan Robinson.”

“Well, William. Does this make sense to you?” He slammed the trunk shut and bent down so his face was near the silver chrome bumper. He pointed two fingers to a pair of initials carved into the side.

W. L. + S. R.

I tilted my head, certain I hadn't seen it right. “How long have you had this?”

“Years. Probably got it around the time you was born. It had been in a terrible accident, but I fixed it up and waited for the right owner to come along. I figure you might be him.”

“But I ain't got no money. Not enough for this anyway.”

“Consider it a gift,” he said. “I know better than to go against them coquinas. And I figure you do too.”

“Yes, sir. I do.”

I stared at the plate. 7W-76311. Guess them coquinas sent me a treasure after all.

Thursday, August 1, 2013


It's here, it's here!! GATED's birthday month is officially here! I can't quite believe it, but I am over the moon excited. In honor of GATED's release into the wild I've got a giant book giveaway for you guys. I wanted to do something special and I thought what better way to celebrate my book's release than to celebrate other fellow Random House authors too? So I have collected eight recently released or about to release Random House books for you (along with some signed bookmarks)! One lucky winner will get the lot! And a few others will win signed bookmarks from Elsie Chapman, Gina Linko, and Tessa Gratton!!

The books:

1 signed hardcover of GATED filled with personalized comments from me about the writing process and inspirations for scenes.

A hardcover of THE TRAGEDY PAPER by Elizabeth LaBan
A hardcover of DUALED by Elsie Chapman
A hardcover of SCOWLER by Daniel Kraus
A hardcover of THE LOST SUN by Tessa Gratton
A hardcover of THE DARK BETWEEN by Sonia Gensler (It's the cover printed on white paper because it doesn't come out for a few more weeks)
A hardcover of BELLE EPOQUE by Elizabeth Ross
A hardcover of FLUTTER by Gina Linko

There is enough awesome reading here to keep you busy all fall! Unfortunately due to the size of this giveaway the main prize is limited to the USA and Canada, but you can still be considered for bookmarks if you are international and I promise there are other GATED giveaways coming that will be international so if you're not following me on Twitter ( @amychristinepar ), now would be a good time to start.

The contest will run from August 1 through the 23rd. There are several ways to enter and the only restriction is that your entry will not count if you create a Twitter account for the sole purpose of entering this contest. Enter as many times as you like.

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Good Luck!

August's Picture!!

It's a new month and you know what that means....a new inspiration picture! Here is our pick for August. Hope it inspires you. If it does, by all means send us a story so we can post it! We love reading your work. In the meantime, hold onto your hats because at noon today Amy's posting about a big GATED giveaway that you won't want to miss. Hint: This one will require a rather big box to send it off to the lucky winner!

The photo was taken by: Fadzly @ Shutterhack