“You can't have pride without humility. Aggression without tolerance. Strength without compassion. Power without restraint.”
Mark of Favor Plot
After seventeen-year-old Ember Lockley moves to Japan with her family because of her father's job, she braces for all kinds of changes: a language barrier, making new friends, even adjusting to a new sleep schedule. She's no stranger to moving around, and at least in Japan she can embrace a culture she's already obsessed with.
What she doesn't expect is that when she rescues a weasel from getting trampled at her school, and gives it the name Sakuya, she enters into a binding contract. And not just any contract. By saving the animal, she earns a mark of favor, which she discovers is a marriage proposal from a powerful Yokai.
Unwillingly, Ember is whisked away and thrust into the Spirit Realm, a supposed myth of Japanese Folklore. If she hopes to survive and see her family again, she'll have to adapt--not only to her new relationship, but to the overall role she plays in the world of Yokai.
At the base of the wooden door was a small weasel, the length of a ruler—including the bushy tail. Fur the same brilliance as fresh, powdery snow enrobed its slender body. With beady black eyes and a pinkish-brown nose the same size as a pencil eraser, there was only one word that jumped to mind: regal. The second was adorable.
Figures they’d cringe at such an elegant creature. Girls never like animals that aren’t cats or dogs.
The weasel didn’t hiss or stand on its hind legs. It just cocked its head, staring at the girls, a mere two inches from the tip of Keiko’s shoe.
A soft smile cradled my lips. “It’s a weasel. Practically harmless if you leave it alone.”
“Make it leave,” Keiko whined. “Don’t you know that weasels are an omen of bad luck?”
I put a hand on my hip, noticing two of the boys from class lingering in the doorway.
Oh yeah. Everyone here is superstitious.
YA Japanese Folklore
Recommended for ages 12+
As twenty-three-year old Mackenzie Foster wakes up in Kurat Manor, she finds herself captive to a sadistic stranger who relishes in experimenting on his victims. Instead of cowering in a corner, Mackenzie utilizes her skills and knowledge from playing video games to help herself--and timid school teacher, Ezra--survive the night.
Eerie, muffled screams echoing through the halls and macabre messages written in blood on the stone walls are only the beginning. As they navigate the labyrinthine layout, Mackenzie discovers her abductor knows the dark secrets of her past--a past plagued with guilt that she's tried relentlessly to run from.
They have until sunrise to find a way out, otherwise a hoard of ravenous Splitters--faceless creatures devoid of humanity--will be unleashed into the manor. They will hunt. They will devour. And they won't rest until their prey is dead.
He’s done it. He’s taken man and stripped him of humanity. Made him bleed until every ripple of skin looked like plaster, cracked and dry. Slicing through the flesh of the innocent, he’s carved grins so wide and upturned that it nearly unhinges the jaw. He’s removed the eyes from their sockets and smoothed over their faces to resemble the shell of a hardboiled egg.
A perfect creation, he called it.
I’m sitting in my own vomit and feces, waiting for the moment when my mind turns off and gives in to the insanity lurking outside the door. I can hear it laughing, taunting me to come closer and embrace its madness.
But I can’t. I won’t. He may have broken the others, but he will not break me. I can hear the voice calling louder now, thriving in the dark like festering, slimy mold. The voice invites me to the sweet surrender of insanity.
New Adult Horror
Recommended for ages 15+
Running with Shadows
RUNNING WITH SHADOWS
Ribbons of blood and fire scorched the horizon, granting the menial village of Eastmarsh a symbol of death. Like the final breath of life receding into the endless peril of night, sunset was a time of great change and even greater tragedy. I embraced every minute of it, knowing it came to an end too quickly.
Dodging through the thick pine trees on the northwest side, I watched the fragments of sunlight scream for life. They flashed on the blades of grass under my shoes and the crisp, stringy bark of the trees. Soon enough, the night would snuff out every last bit of the chipper color, enveloping everything into plunging silence.
I didn’t make a sound as I approached the edge of the forest. My still footsteps kept me hidden from unwanted eyes. I knew how to be invisible.
The small, mundane village didn’t look like any place worth living. It wasn’t next to the ocean. It wasn’t nestled beside the mountain, offering a wintery getaway. It was a rural, bland dot on the map, where the houses and buildings tried in vain to be different from each other. So much so, in fact, that it was pathetic.
Some buildings were compromised of a more reddish wood, while others kept with the more traditional brown. Some had two levels, others just one. A couple houses had their own fence, which contained cattle or chickens, while others had fields of crops that grew up toward the heavens. Blobs of shiny roofs, made mostly from some kind of metal, added an unnecessary ostentatious-ness.
I rolled my eyes.
YA Dark Fantasy
Recommended for ages 13+
Walking with Strangers
In the rural countryside of Eastmarsh, nineteen-year-old Lucy Aims witnesses a fire that consumes her village, taking her family and everyone she knows with it. Racing down to search for survivors through the spreading flames, she finds Genesis--a group of five societal outcasts wanted by every guard unit in the realm.
Thus begins Lucy's journey with Genesis, discovering that her village was only one in a series of seemingly untraceable fires rippling through the lands, leaving death and chaos in their wake. Lucy is determined to get answers, but to do that she must compromise her ethical compass and work with Genesis.
If she stays to uncover the truth about the fires though, Lucy runs the risk of becoming morally corrupt, or worse dead! The closer she gets to the truth, the more she realizes that good and evil isn't always black and white.
WALKING WITH STRANGERS
I inhaled, letting the sharp, oppressive air fill my lungs. Then I pushed myself to my feet, dusted off my pants, and turned to face Eastmarsh again.
“Sleep well tonight, Dad,” I whispered. “I miss you.”
Fireflies dotted my vision as I blinked the moisture away. A swarm of yellowish-green lit up the trees, grass, and air around me, performing a dance with nature as its music. I could feel the presence of my father embrace me, his hushed voice wrapped up in the coolness of the dropping temperature. I went to close my eyes and get lost in the moment, when a blaze of color assaulted the canopy of silence where Eastmarsh lay.
My head whipped to the right. I watched as an ignition of flames swallowed the perimeter of my village.
YA Dark Fantasy
Recommended for ages 13+