Thursday, January 28, 2016

{Giveaway/Spotlight} NOBODY'S GODDESS by Amy McNulty and CROWN OF ICE by Vicki L. Weavil


Love fairy tales and mythology?
Fans of mermaids, dragons, unicorns, and other mythical creatures?
Enjoy when a beloved classic tale is retold?
A Twist in the Tail Thursdays features all this and more!
& 

 Present:.

 Two for Thursday!


Welcome to this week’s Two for Thursday! #T4T
presented by Month9books/Tantrum Books!

Today, we will be showcasing two titles that will tickle your fancy,
and we’ll share what readers have to say about these titles!

You just might find your next read!

I merged this into today's A Twist in the Tail feature because 
#mythology and #fairytales

Don't you love and want to win both!?

This week, #T4T presents to you:

Title: NOBODY'S GODDESS
Author: Amy McNulty
Pub. Date: April 21, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Pages: 274
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Find it: Goodreads| Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | TBD


In a village of masked men, magic compels each man to love only one woman and to follow the commands of his “goddess” without question. A woman may reject the only man who will love her if she pleases, but she will be alone forever. And a man must stay masked until his goddess returns his love—and if she can’t or won’t, he remains masked forever.

Seventeen-year-old Noll isn't in the mood to celebrate. Her childhood friends have paired off and her closest companion, Jurij, found his goddess in Noll’s own sister. Desperate to find a way to break this ancient spell, Noll instead discovers why no man has ever chosen her.

Thus begins a dangerous game between the choice of woman versus the magic of man. And the stakes are no less than freedom and happiness, life and death—and neither is willing to lose.

Praise for NOBODY’S GODDESS:

“There are many terrestrial qualities to this 16th-century village, such as mountains, meadows, forests, and lakes. But there are also hints of magic throughout . . . the story is fun and engaging, featuring a female protagonist who will resonate with young teens.”  —School Library Journal

"Wow. I appreciate this fantasy for what it is: detailed, unique, and just all round amazing. It's the kind of novel that keeps you guessing, and just when you think you've got the twist, something happens to throw you off course.."~ Melanie McFarlane author of the upcoming THERE ONCE WERE STARS & SUMMONER RISING.

WHAT READERS ARE SAYING:

"It was something so unique and different that I found myself really enthralled with the story. To the point that I almost had to blink myself out of a daze when I finished. "~ Jamie, Blogger @ Queen of The Bookshelves

"I would definitely recommend Nobody's Goddess to anybody looking for a great fantasy book with a plot that's unlike anything I've read before. The characters and the world are all done incredibly well, and Amy's talent with making words jump right off the page to tell the story is just fantastic. "~Ashley, Blogger @ The AP Book Club

"This book is different from any fantasy book I've read before in its concept. It treads the path less traveled, and manages to make a great story that readers can enjoy and love."~Bri, Blogger @ Books And Ashes



Amy McNulty is a freelance writer and editor from Wisconsin with an honors degree in English. She was first published in a national scholarly journal (The Concord Review) while in high school and currently spends her days alternatively writing on business and marketing topics and primarily crafting stories with dastardly villains and antiheroes set in fantastical medieval settings.
Connect with the Author:  Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads




Title: CROWN OF ICE
Publication date: September 9, 2014
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Vicki L. Weavil
ISBN: 978-1939765390
Find it: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo |TBD | iBooks

Thyra Winther’s seventeen, the Snow Queen, and immortal, but if she can’t reassemble a shattered enchanted mirror by her eighteenth birthday she’s doomed to spend eternity as a wraith.

Armed with magic granted by a ruthless wizard, Thyra schemes to survive with her mind and body intact. Unencumbered by kindness, she kidnaps local boy Kai Thorsen, whose mathematical skills rival her own. Two logical minds, Thyra calculates, are better than one. With time rapidly melting away she needs all the help she can steal.

A cruel lie ensnares Kai in her plan, but three missing mirror shards and Kai’s childhood friend, Gerda, present more formidable obstacles. Thyra’s willing to do anything – venture into uncharted lands, outwit sorcerers, or battle enchanted beasts — to reconstruct the mirror, yet her most dangerous adversary lies within her breast. Touched by the warmth of a wolf pup’s devotion and the fire of a young man’s desire, the thawing of Thyra’s frozen heart could be her ultimate undoing.

CROWN OF ICE is a YA Fantasy that reinvents Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” from the perspective of a young woman who discovers that the greatest threat to her survival may be her own humanity.

Praise for CROWN OF ICE:

“A re-imagining of The Snow Queen, moving and well written.” Sandra Waugh, Author of The Guardians of Tarnec Series.

“I admire the depiction of a young woman staying true to herself and not letting the pressures of love or expectations effect her choice. Thyra becomes an example that would do any woman proud.” Michelle Hauck, Author of Grudging.

“Weavil conducts a careful balancing act between loyalty to the original story and exploring new frontiers; I think she succeeds in this task, and fans of fairytale re-tellings will enjoy this one.” The Australia Times

WHAT READERS ARE SAYING:

"CROWN OF ICE offers so much more than just the tale of The Snow Queen with a change of perspective. A solid YA adventure with teenagers who learn so much about themselves, and each other. Even the expected happily ever after offers believable surprises that underscore the maturity and independence they each have gained.."~ Julia, Blogger @ All Things Urban Fantasy

“I was enchanted by this book from the opening paragraphs. The story is told from Thyra's point of view, making it very personal and conversational in tone. By using this method, the reader gets to know Thyra on a deeper level than normal.”~ Stephanie, Blogger @ A Dream Within A Dream

“CROWN OF ICE is such a fascinating fantasy, with love adventure and enjoyable characters. I recommend for all fans of fantasy!!” ~ Tonyalee, Blogger @ LilyBloomBooks

“This book was fantastic, and so different from anything that I have ever read. I loved every single page of this book, and I very much look forward to whatever comes next from this amazing author!.”~ Jaime, Blogger @ The Best Books Ever



Vicki Lemp Weavil was raised in a farming community in Virginia, where her life was shaped by a wonderful family, the culture of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and an obsession with reading. Since obtaining her undergraduate degree in Theatre from the University of Virginia, she’s gone on to acquire two masters degrees, living in places as diverse as New York City and rural North Carolina. She’s currently the library director for a performing an visual arts university.  Vicki loves good writing in any genre, and has been known to read seven books in as many days. She enjoys travel, gardening, and the arts. Vicki lives in North Carolina with her husband, son, and some very spoiled cats.

   

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

How Do You Follow Your Favorite Blogs? What Works Best...and What Fails the Most?

There are so many ways to follow blogs nowadays.

What are your favorite ways to keep up?

If you've been following me through the standard Follow button I've had up until now using Google Friend Connect, you might not be actively following me soon, since Google is taking away the ability to follow using GFC via anything except...well, a Google account. Twitter, Facebook, etc? Off the table. So if you follow ANYBODY using Blogger, you'll have to find a different way this month.

I've never put together a Subscribe Via Newsletter option because I know I hate having all that clutter up my inbox, and figure most of you do as well.

I like seeing all the blog headlines in one place at one time. I liked it when the Blogger Reader List came up when I logged into my blog. But it capped out at a certain number and wouldn't let you delete older inactive blogs. And it didn't load all the time. I needed a better option.

Personally, I found and use Feedly.

Feedly probably makes it harder for bloggers to track their numbers, but it's SO easy to use. I can make FOLDERS to throw blogs into. I have a folder for agent blogs, for author blogs, for book blogs, for nail polish blogs, etc.

If I'm looking for information about the new OPI Collection I just saw in an ad and haven't had time to keep up with the blogging world, I can go to my Nail Blogger Folder and see the headlines, then find who is swatching the new OPI Collection so I can see what colors I want to buy. Etc.

When you load up Feedly and enter the blog you want to follow, it will tell you how many other people follow through Feedly. I'm sure there are a lot of other blog feed sites similar to Feedly. Going forward, I think it will be very hard for bloggers to know their accurate follower stats because there are SO MANY ways to follow. I think that's also reflected in the fact that on Twitter, I have double the followers I do with my visible list of GFC followers.

If you're a blogger, how do you figure out your numbers when people ask? Or do you just not worry about it? I usually list my GFC AND my Twitter.

Is there a better widget to use on Blogger for Subscribers? Do you give subscribers options other than GFC that work?

I'd love to get a discussion going with some choices that will help Bloggers moving forward with this latest decision from Google!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

{Review} FROZEN by Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston



B O O K   T R A I L E R:



 
O P E N I N G   H O O K:


  THEY WERE COMING FOR HER. SHE could hear their heavy footsteps echoing in the concrete hallway. In a way, the sound was a relief. For days upon days she had been left in the room, alone, in total silence, with little food and water, the weight of solitude becoming ever more oppressive, the silence a heaviness that she could not shake, punishment for refusing to do as she was told, punishment for being what she was.
  She had forgotten how many days, how many months, she had been left here, alone with only her thoughts for company.
  But not quite alone.
  I warned you about waiting, rumbled the voice in her head. The voice that she heard in her dreams, whose words echoed like thunder, thunder and ash, smoke and flame. When it spoke, she saw a beast through the inferno, carrying her aloft on black wings through dark skies as it rained fire upon its enemies. The fire that raged within her. The fire that destroyed and consumed. The fire that would destroy and consume her if she let it.
  Her destiny. A destiny of rage and ruin.
(page 1, US Hardcover edition)


"The world was irretrievably broken, filled with refuse, from Garbage Country to the poisoned oceans, and the rest was an uninhabitable frozen nether land; what kind of place was this to grow up in? What kind of world had they been born into?"

~Nat, FROZEN


Do you like atmospheric reads? I do! I've been waiting two years to begin reading the Heart of Dread series by Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston. I was never home when it was snowing, or I was in the middle of something, or I was on a blog tour deadline or....SOMETHING. There was always SOMETHING. I've been a fan of atmospheric reads ever since accidentally reading THE NEAR WITCH by Victoria Schwab on an extremely windy day, and it added to my experience. When I was snowed in this past weekend during Winter Storm Jonas, Heart of Dread was my series of choice. I finished FROZEN with in a day, and am currently a good chunk of the way into the sequel, STOLEN. I'm excited that the final book in the trilogy, GOLDEN, comes out in April, so I don't have long to wait for a conclusion!

FROZEN is set in a chilly future where life as we know it has been destroyed and re-built as the RSA (Remaining States of America). There is nothing but snow and ice. Deserts and warmth are things of imagination. Genuine salt, natural water, and real meat cost a fortune. Nat lives in New Vegas, hiding from the government that captured her due to her dangerous abilities. Ever since the world changed, creatures such as humans with strange marks and mystical abilities--like Nat. Creatures such as sylth, smallmen, drau, thrillers...dangerous, deadly, beautiful, mythical creatures. There is a rumor that a place exists called the Blue, and that if you find this nirvana, you'll find green lands, warm days, and fresh water. Nat finds a stone containing a map to the Blue and hires a runner named Wes to sneak her out of the borders and across the sea. Wes, on the other hand, knows that Nat has the map and that if he can steal it and sell it to the highest bidder, he'll be set for life and his team will never go hungry again. Both Nat and Wes go into their deal planning to double-cross and manipulate one another, but find that they'll need to work together if they want to survive the dangerous journey lying ahead of them.

I've never read Melissa de la Cruz's well-known series Blue Bloods or Witches of East End, but I have read her historical fantasy THE RING AND THE CROWN and her Disney Descendants runaway middle-grade bestseller ISLE OF THE LOST. So far, the Heart of Dread series is my favorite read by her. I love the fast pace, the action, the romance, the intrigue, the FANTASY. I can't tell you how this series correlates to her other books, but I went into this with no expectations and  it was enjoyable to me! I really liked the dark future that the series is building, as well as the hint to change. I like the grittiness and the feeling that nowhere is safe. I liked discovering the fantasy creatures that have been given life with the world as we currently know it ending. Melissa de la Cruz takes the sometimes overdone post apocalyptic world sub-genre and twists it in new ways that always feel interesting. The series does take a while to get going, but once it does, it's hard to put down, and I immediately wanted to dive into the sequel and see what was up with our characters! I'm also excited to see what new mythology she'll bring into the series!
~*~
C O N T E N T R A T I N G S

Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: PG ( kissing )
Language:  PG13 ( There's a little bit of sexual discussion, such as the fact that couples can apply for day-long marriage passes if they want to go to a hotel together as opposed to a full-on marriage; there are a few innuendo asides from various supporting characters, but nothing avert. At one point, Nat and Wes do sleep in the same small bed on their ship, but nothing happens )
Violence: PG13 ( Non-graphic, but there are a lot of fight scenes, as well as a war scene. There is also a torture scene with slave traders. )
Other: PG ( Slave traders patrol the waters looking for people escaping to return them home or sell them to the market as food or workers )
~*~
C O V E R   D E S I G N: 

I really like the current paperback  cover!

The original hardcover cover looked like:



The new one is so much more fantasy oriented, don't you think?

 
The new covers are also REALLY shiny.

Look at the original hardcover side-by-side with the hardcover:



See how my camera is catching the shimmering light off of the sequel, STOLEN, while the first book, FROZEN, has more of a matte look?

I do like that they kept the cool circling dragon logo on both books. 

With the original cover, that was really the only hint at fantasy you got. I might have overlooked this on the shelves!

The new covers, however, are awesome and zing you with some adrenaline! DRAGONS. There are DRAGONS on the cover.

Doesn't it make you want to know more!?

I love how bright and shiny the new covers are, and how the new cover on book one is  a blue that still emulates a cold environment meant to give you goosebumps!
 
~*~
O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Title: FROZEN
Author: Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston
Release Date: September 17, 2013
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers  / Penguin
Received: For Review
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18755539-cutlass
SUMMARY:

From New York Times bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston comes this remarkable first book in a spellbinding new series about the dawn of a new kind of magic.

Welcome to New Vegas, a city once covered in bling, now blanketed in ice. Like much of the destroyed planet, the place knows only one temperature—freezing. But some things never change. The diamond in the ice desert is still a 24-hour hedonistic playground and nothing keeps the crowds away from the casino floors, never mind the rumors about sinister sorcery in its shadows.

At the heart of this city is Natasha Kestal, a young blackjack dealer looking for a way out. Like many, she's heard of a mythical land simply called “the Blue.” They say it’s a paradise, where the sun still shines and the waters are turquoise. More importantly, it’s a place where Nat won’t be persecuted, even if her darkest secret comes to light.

But passage to the Blue is treacherous, if not impossible, and her only shot is to bet on a ragtag crew of mercenaries led by a cocky runner named Ryan Wesson to take her there. Danger and deceit await on every corner, even as Nat and Wes find themselves inexorably drawn to each other. But can true love survive the lies? Fiery hearts collide in this fantastic tale of the evil men do and the awesome power within us all.



Friday, January 22, 2016

{Cover Reveal/Excerpt/Giveaway} GENESIS GIRL by Jennifer Bardsley



Today Jennifer Bardsley and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for GENESIS GIRL, which releases September 27, 2016! 

Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive a eGalley!!

A quick note from the author:

“The first time I saw the cover to Genesis Girl I got chills. Genesis Girl is a psychological, Sci-Fi thriller, and the blood-red cover conveys that perfectly.”--Jennifer Bardsley

Summary:
Fifty years ago cell phones unleashed a Brain Cancer Epidemic.
Terrified by technology, worried parents entrusted their children to a charismatic leader.
Barbelo promised to keep his Vestals safe from the Internet, hidden behind lead-lined walls.
Now, digital purity is valuable and a Vestal named Blanca is auctioned off to the highest bidder.
Blanca is the most obedient eighteen-year-old her purchasers have ever met.
She is a blank slate for the genesis of anything they want.
But too bad for Blanca.
Their new beginning could be her end.

On to the reveal!



Title: GENESIS GIRL
Author: Jennifer Bardsley
Pub. Date: September 27, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, &eBook
Find it: Amazon | Goodreads


Eighteen-year-old Blanca has lived a sheltered life. Her entire childhood has been spent at Tabula Rasa School where she’s been protected from the Internet. 

Blanca has never been online and doesn’t even know how to text. Her lack of a virtual footprint makes her extremely valuable, and upon graduation, Blanca and those like her are sold to the highest bidders.

Blanca is purchased by Cal McNeal, who uses her to achieve personal gain. But the McNeals are soon horrified by just how obedient and non-defiant Blanca is. All those mind-numbing years locked away from society have made her mind almost impenetrable. 

By the time Blanca is ready to think for herself, she is trapped. Her only chance of escape is to go online. 



Exclusive Excerpt
Chapter One
My boot hits him in the nuts at the same time as the flash goes off, but it’s too late. The Virus has already taken my picture. He was aiming for Fatima, but I pushed her away just in time. I sideswipe his legs and topple the Virus over while he moans in agony from my kick to his groin.
“Nobody takes my picture, you freak!” I stare at his tattooed face. There’s something familiar about the snake inked around his eyebrow, but I can’t quite place it. We’re in the underground parking garage at school, and the fluorescent lights shade everything ugly. I crouch down and flip the Virus onto his stomach, bashing his nose against the pavement.
Ever since I was little, teachers have warned me about Viruses. They’re paparazzi scumbags whose sole purpose in life is to destroy privacy and expose secrets. I’ve never seen one in person until today.
“Hand me your belt,” I tell Fatima. I hold the Virus in place by grinding my knee into his back while Fatima slips off the cinch from her black spandex uniform. I wrestle the man’s arms behind me with both hands. Surprise, surprise—security doesn’t show up until I’m already hog-tying the bastard.
“You’re not so special now, Vestal!” the Virus says as they haul him off.
He’s right.
Until about two minutes ago, I was a Vestal postulant. A blank slate. An Internet virgin. There were no images of my moniker floating around cyberspace. My parents had never blogged about my every poop. It had been planned that way from the beginning. They had castrated my virtual identity for the promise of a better life.
In one week I’m graduating from Tabula Rasa. Today was my chance to shine while I’m interviewed by companies. Only nobody will want me now.
With one flash of his thumb camera, that jerk destroyed my life.
“Don’t worry,” Fatima says, helping me to my feet. “You’ve still got a face that can sell soap. I knew it the first time I saw you. Your skin’s your best feature, and that hasn’t changed.”
The sound of the security gate opening drowns Fatima out. We watch as a white car enters the Tabula Rasa garage. A flash of sunlight taunts me before the gate closes. All my life I’ve lived in this twenty-story fortress of protection. Today was going to be my first day in sunshine, being interviewed by bidders.
But that Virus ruined it all. How the hell he snuck in, I’ll never know.
“You’re the girl next door,” Fatima says, a bit louder. “Couture might not want you, but the average American will.”
I nod because I’ve heard it all before. Not everyone can be the seductress. I’ll never be like Fatima, I don’t begrudge her that. A clear face, green eyes, and brown hair are what I have to work with, and that’s fine. But there’s no fixing a picture of me on the Internet.
“It’ll be okay, Blanca,” Fatima says again.
But we both know that isn’t true.
For a Vestal, a clear Internet history is the most important thing. Without that I’m nothing. Our elusive privacy is what makes us valuable.
I’ve watched our class shrink from two hundred eager postulants to a graduating group of ten. The infractions were usually unavoidable: their memory was spotty, their temperament was bad, or worst of all, they turned out ugly. But once in a while, somebody was thrown out because of an online transgression.
Everyone left is bankable. Ten perfect human specimens who could sell you anything.
Even Ethan, with his poufy hair and scrawny build, is a sure thing. He wears glasses now despite his perfect vision, and goes around in bow ties and suspenders. “Nerdy but in a good way,” the teachers say. “This one’s going high-tech.”
Beau can write his own ticket too. He’s six feet tall and can out bench-press every other guy in the group. America will drool.
And then there’s Fatima standing next to me. With her dark eyes and svelte figure, she’ll have her choice of any fashion house.
I had been hoping to sell cosmetics. That’s prestigious too, and I really had a chance. But nobody will bid on me now. The auction is a week away, and I’m ruined!
“Blanca?” A woman approaches us right as a dark black limousine pulls through the gate. “That car isn’t for you. Good luck with your interviews, Fatima.”
Fatima waves at me sadly and slides into the vehicle.
“Let’s get this disaster under control,” says the woman as the limo drives away. Her billowing skirt makes her look ethereal in the shadows of the parking garage. I have never seen her before. But she’s wearing white like our teachers and has a platinum cuff, so of course, I follow her.
She takes me to a room on the twentieth floor of Tabula Rasa that boasts a wall of windows. “Darkened for privacy,” says the woman when she sees my apprehension.
I approach them hesitantly, unaccustomed to the glass. I see a tiny patch of sky surrounded by glowing billboards. On every rooftop is an advertisement featuring a face I already know. Vestals stare down at me from all vantage point, hawking perfumes, cars, and weight-loss supplements.
“You’ll be up there too, Blanca. There’s still hope.” The woman stands at my elbow. I peek and study her this time. She’s fortyish with blue eyes and a heart-shaped face. I know she’s a Vestal because of her white outfit, but I don’t recognize her.
Weird. I know all the Vestals. Everyone does.
The hydraulic doors hiss open, and we both turn to look. The Tabula Rasa headmaster enters in a swirl of white cloak.
“Blanca,” he says, “you have a problem.”
“Yes, Headmaster Russell. I’m sorry, Headmaster Russell.”
“I don’t know how you let this happen.” He strides to the enormous windows, holding a manila file folder. None of the Tabula Rasa faculty are permitted computers, including Headmaster Russell.
“You mean you don’t know how you let this happen, Russell.”
I brace for impact. Nobody talks to Headmaster Russell that way and gets away with it. I know that better than anyone. He grits his teeth. “Security is being questioned as we speak. Sit down, Ms. Lydia. Please.”
“I will not sit down.” Ms. Lydia’s stare could cut glass. “Not until you apologize to Blanca. She deserves better, and you know it.”
There is audible silence. Headmaster Russell rubs the golden cuff on his wrist. “Blanca, I’m sorry that this happened to you.” His eyes don’t meet mine.
Ms. Lydia snaps her fingers.
Headmaster Russell clears his throat and tries again, this time meeting my gaze. “I’m sorry that I let this happen to you. I should have protected you better. I will do everything in my power to make sure you are still harvested at the auction.” Then he turns to Ms. Lydia who stands resolute and icy. “Are you satisfied?”
“Perhaps.” She shrugs. “Let’s see what’s in the folder.”
A few moments later we are seated at the table in the center of the room. Headmaster Russell shows us the picture of me that is now plastered all over cyberspace. I fight back tears.
first look at newest vestal, the caption reads. Then there’s me executing a roundhouse kick, my hair flying back, and my face a perfect mask of rage.
“This is what we are dealing with,” says Headmaster Russell.
“It could be worse.” Ms. Lydia presses her lips together. Right then an old-fashioned phone hanging on the wall rings. “Well, Russ? Aren’t you going to answer that?”
Headmaster Russell jumps to answer the phone. I can hear him say “Blanca” and “photograph,” but that’s it. My future is muffled as he whispers into the receiver.
Ms. Lydia extends her hand to me. Her touch is very cold, but her shake is firm. “My name is Lydia. I’m the elected agent of all Vestal graduates. I lead the Tabula Rasa board of directors.”
“What was your company?” I ask. I still don’t recognize her. But I notice her platinum cuff. That means she was top pick.
“I didn’t have a company. I went Geisha.”
I try to keep my face blank. Really, I do. But what she said is so shocking that my eyes widen for an instant. Ms. Lydia notices.
“It’s not as bad as you think,” she says. “Maybe it’s better. There are many ways to be a Vestal, and they all have honor.”
“Of course,” I answer. “It says so right in the Vestal Code of Ethics.”
Most Vestals leave Tabula Rasa with major corporations, but on rare occasions they enter contracts with private individuals as Geishas.
Nobody wants to go Geisha. Giving up privacy for another person’s pleasure is creepy. Selling out to a company is so much better.
Headmaster Russell hangs up the phone with a loud click. He smoothes his cloak over his barrel chest. “Blanca has five bidders,” he says. “That picture has whipped up a frenzy."
“Good,” says Ms. Lydia. “You’re redeemed.”
I’m not sure who she’s talking to, but I brave a smile anyway.
***
Barbelo Nemo founded the Vestals fifty years ago after the Brain Cancer Epidemic rotted humankind via cell phones. Bluetooth scanned sensitive neurons. Wi-Fi washed over weakened gray matter. Before the medical community realized what was happening, millions of people were dead.
Scientists promised finger-chips were the solution, but Barbelo forged a different path. Why risk another tech-induced health crisis? Barbelo set Vestals apart and kept us safe. Eighteen years of schooling at Tabula Rasa behind lead-lined walls, and then twenty-five years of service to the Brethren. We have a sacred duty to remain digitally pure.
If it weren’t for Tabula Rasa, I’d be tech-addicted like everyone else. I’d expose my private thoughts to total strangers. I’d be too engrossed in my finger-chips to pay attention to my friends. I’d judge people by scanning their profile before I met them in person. I wouldn’t buy anything or go anywhere unless the Internet told me it was a good idea. I would let my finger-chips rob me of forming real relationships with the actual people who matter in my life. What’s worse, I wouldn’t know I was ruined. I’d willingly give up my humanity one byte at a time.
But as a Vestal postulant, I’m sheltered from that. Chaos swirls around us, but Vestals are constant. We are loyal. We keep secrets. We remind the world there is a better way to live. Because we are so trustworthy, the public buys anything we sell.
No wonder corporations lust for us.
It’s been seven days since the Virus stole my picture, and I’ve made it to the auction after all. I’m sitting on stage with the other Tabula Rasa graduates, safe inside the lead-lined walls of school. The Harvest is minutes away. We’re about to auction our purity to the highest bidder. In front of us are Silicon Valley elite. Many of them are flexing their palms, frustrated that their finger-chip connections won’t work.
Fatima’s hand is on my thigh, and my hand covers hers. Sweat trickles down my back, tracing the curve of my spine as I arch my shoulders in perfect posture. I curl my toes inside their black leather boots, trying to release the pressure.
My whole education, my entire existence, has led up to now.
This morning I woke up in the metal bunk bed of my cloister. In a few days I’ll move to my new home, the Vestal quarters of my business sponsor. I’ll represent a company, a product, and a lifestyle. The world will follow my life through carefully released images. Whatever my company chooses to share will become my new identity.
Where I eat, who I date, what I do. It will all be for one purpose— to sell my company’s products.
I’ll never beg my friends to like my pictures. Total strangers will hang on my every word. I’ll be a Vestal, and millions of people will care about who I am.
Even better, I’ll have a family. Older Vestals will be my mentors. I’ll join their manufactured family in print, media, and billboard campaigns across America.
If I’m lucky, the company will have at least one Vestal in their roster close to me in age. Hopefully a guy. Preferably one who looks more like Beau and less like Ethan. I’ve been waiting eighteen years for a boyfriend, and he had better be good.
“Fatima,” the announcer says. My best friend squeezes my hand and winks at me. Then she walks to the stage. She’s gorgeous, like always. Ever since we were little, I always knew Fatima would be the top pick. Fatima has a body that can sell anything. She’s smart too. It will say that in her portfolio.
But when Fatima stands up there at the podium next to Headmaster Russell, there is only a shuffle of papers in the audience. Heads are bent over still placards. Fatima glances back at me with panic.
No one is bidding.
A woman wearing a white suit scrambles on stage and grabs Headmaster Russell’s arm, whispering into his ear. It’s Ms. Corina, from charm and deportment. She doesn’t appear so polished now.
Ms. Corina points to me, and Headmaster Russell looks too. Then he cringes.
“There has been a change of plans,” he announces to the audience. “Bidding on Miss Fatima will wait. Bidding on Miss Blanca will begin.”
Fatima gazes at me from across the stage. I know what she’s thinking without her saying one word. Fatima’s the seductress, and I’m the girl-next-door. She’s the one people drool for, not me.
I try to smile placidly, like Charming Corina taught us. But watching the audience freaks me out. I’m used to the black uniforms of students and the white robes of teachers. Now all I see is the ambiguity of color.
I try to focus as Headmaster Russell says something about my education.
“Poetry, literature, music,” he says. “Blanca is the perfect package. She’s well versed in the seven liberal arts and entirely ignorant about science and technology. A Vestal Virgin for the modern age.”
Headmaster Russell regards me with dark eyes. Then he turns back to the sea of faces. “Blanca’s the perfect image for your company. Born and bred in Nevada and groomed right here at Tabula Rasa. Let’s start the bidding at five million dollars.”
A deep breath. I fight to be calm when I see arms shoot up and numbers wave. But I don’t think about the auction or my impending future. I think about my past.
Until now, I had no idea I came from Nevada.
Were my parents still in Nevada? Were they scanning the news feed on their palms at this very second? Were they trying to guess which name was mine, eagerly anticipating their cut from my sale? My parents were going to make a lot of money off me.
But my so-called parents aren’t important. All that matters is right now: the bidding war. So many people shout that Headmaster Russell appears stressed. He uses the sleeve of his cloak to wipe sweat off his forehead.
“Thirty million? Do I hear thirty-one?” he asks. That’s when I feel the skin on my arms prickle. Companies won’t pay that much for a Vestal. But private individuals do.
“Thirty-one-and-a-half?” Headmaster Russell asks loudly. Another arm goes up. Then another. “Thirty-two? Thirty-two going once? Going twice? Sold,” says Headmaster Russell, banging the gavel. “Sold for the highest price ever paid in Vestal history. Sold to Mr. Calum McNeal for thirty-two million dollars.”
And just like that I’ve gone Geisha.
A middle-aged man stands. His hair is brown but graying and longish around the ears. He’s smiling so hard, it looks like he’s going to burst.
***
I’m finally wearing white, but I don’t feel like I deserve it. Instead I feel dirty inside as I stand with my fellow graduates around the Pool of Purity. My unlit candle weighs heavy in my hand, and I nervously finger its waxy edge. Everyone has been sold to a company but me. Fatima won’t make eye contact.
“On this the most private of nights,” Headmaster Russell says, “we celebrate the blessing of one more class of Tabula Rasa graduates. The brothers and sisters who came before you surround you with their guidance and welcome you to our ranks.”
I feel their presence before I see them. Older, experienced Vestals step from the shadows and flank us in a larger ring. Together we form two concentric circles, our billowing white robes hovering over the pavement, reflected in the water.
“The candle please.” Headmaster Russell turns to look at Ms. Lydia, who stands nearby.
She is beautiful in the moonlight, her heart-shaped face a mask of serenity. When she reaches out her candle to touch his, the sleeve of her gown slips down below her elbow, exposing her platinum cuff against creamy skin. “The beacon of light,” she says. “We are a sacred fire that will not burn out. Those who came before you welcome you into our Brethren.”
Soon the flame is passed from candle to candle. The dark circle of Tabula Rasa graduates illuminates in a warm glow. When Fatima tips her candle to mine, she struggles to smile. She hasn’t spoken one word to me since the auction. My harvest price was double hers. But I know that’s not the real problem between us. It’s because I’ve gone Geisha.
Headmaster Russell’s voice is solemn. “Vestals are a beacon in a dark world. We alone stand together. We are living sacrifices for all that is pure and all that is sacred.”
An older Vestal steps forward with a silver tray. Nine golden cuffs sparkle in the candlelight. The single platinum cuff beckons to me. I am the top pick.
Ms. Lydia selects a golden cuff. “It is time for the vows. Master Ethan, do you solemnly swear to uphold the Vestal order?”
“I do,” says Ethan, stepping forward.
“Will you consecrate your body? Will you promise to never be marked by ink, stain, piercing, or technology? Will you give your highest self to our cause?”
“I promise,” says Ethan, holding out his arm.
Ms. Lydia snaps the golden cuff on his wrist.
“And now, for the sealing,” says Headmaster Russell, who approaches with a small blue flame. There is total and utter silence for this, the most sacred part of the ceremony. Headmaster Russell singes the metal, searing it shut. Ethan’s golden cuff now marks him for life. The whole world will forever know he is a Vestal.
The sealing happens eight more times until finally, I am the only graduate who remains.
Ms. Lydia picks up the platinum cuff and holds it to the light. “There are many paths a Vestal can take, but one thing is constant. The world relies on us. We are the last guardians of private living. When we sell our reputation, it is with purpose and thought. We do not give it away freely like the masses of humanity. To be purchased privately is a holy act within itself.”
My tears start when she says this. They roll down my cheeks, washing away the shame. It’s like a window has opened in my heart, releasing all the pressure. I feel joy again. Joy and pride for being a Vestal, no matter what.
This is my time. This is what I have lived for. When Ms. Lydia snaps the platinum cuff on my wrist, it is the happiest moment of my life.




Jennifer Bardsley writes the parenting column “I Brake for Moms” for the Sunday edition of The Everett Daily HeraldShe also blogs at Teaching My Baby to Read with the mission of sparking a national debate on the important roll parents play in education. Jennifer is a graduate of Stanford University and a member of SCBWI. She lives with her husband and two children in Edmonds, WA.
GENESIS GIRL will release in 2016 and is about an 18 year-old girl whose lack of a virtual footprint makes her so valuable that she is auctioned off to the highest bidder, the sequel  will come out in 2017. Jennifer is represented by Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Literary AgencyLLC.
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