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Bloody Spade (Book #1 of the Cardplay Duology)
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Hello, hello!

Today I'm celebrating one year since publishing my anime-inspired urban fantasy novel Bloody Spade by running a free Kindle promotion on the ebook. The paperback is currently also on sale for a smidge over $5 USD! You can check out the description along with a short excerpt below. If it sounds like it might be up your alley, be sure to check out the content advisory in the Amazon description as well. And you can see what previous readers think over here on the book's Goodreads page!

Poster Font Movie Illustration Book cover



A girl full of heart
A thief touched by darkness
A boy with a fiery temper
An unwitting servant of evil


The era of magic was once thought to be a myth, but after the Reemergence ushered forces both dark and light into the mundane world, it has since become a harsh reality. Now those affected by this strange power—a specialized group of Empowered called Jokers, known collectively as Cardplay—must protect their world from the darkness that threatens to consume it, all the while fighting for equality in a society clinging to normalcy.

But the Reemergence was only the beginning.

When another influx occurs on the seventh anniversary of that fateful event, an unfortunate encounter at ground zero lands Iori Ryone, a teenage boy in possession of a corrupt and legendary magic, in the care of recent Joker graduate Ellen Amelia Jane. From him, she learns the Reemergence may not have been the inevitable natural disaster it first seemed.

Someone is trying to tear down the barrier that separates the magical realms from the mundane. The question is, can Cardplay stop them before it’s too late?

Bloody Spade is the first installment in an urban fantasy duology that follows a cat-eared thief and a spirited girl as they try to navigate his wild magic, her hotheaded brother, a sinister plot, and the feelings they're developing for each other.

EXCERPT
Magic was once a thing people yearned for. Dreamed of. People would pay large sums, even travel great distances, to be enthralled by a magician’s sleight of hand. Not true magic, of course, just a skillful form of deception that tricked them into believing. Gave them a taste of what could be. But when real magic erupted into the mundane world, that outlook changed.

Now people long for the card tricks and vanishing acts and never-ending handkerchiefs, the simplicity of nimble fingers misleading the eye. And who could blame them? Because these past few years have made one thing abundantly clear . . .

Magic isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.



Iori Ryone surveyed Hildegrand’s market square from the roof of one of the multistory structures that framed it, pondering which of the colorful stalls below offered the best pickings. Food stalls filled the air with scents of curry, barbecue sauce, and deep fryer fat; other vendors carried hand-crafted accessories and printed apparel. Nothing of significant value, but a pawnbroker might be interested in some of the finer jewelry pieces, and the crowd gathered for today’s event would provide ample distraction.

Iori crossed the rooftop, weather-worn shingles crackling under equally worn boots, and peered over the lip. Once he’d confirmed the rear alley was clear, he clicked his heels—a subtle ultrasonic vibration igniting underfoot—and jumped, landing weightlessly four stories down.

A few months ago, such a drop would’ve left him quaking from the adrenaline rush, and he would have hesitated before taking the plunge. Now it was no more a challenge than walking.

Hood hiked up to conceal the feline ears protruding from his tousled black hair, the matching tail tucked inside his jacket, Iori followed the stream of eventgoers into the square. From the roof, the buskers’ whimsical tunes had reigned over the crowd’s chatter. Down here, however, their voices dominated. Bubbly and tired, annoyed and content—all melding together in a dissonant racket.

The square hosted a number of events throughout the year. For the winter solstice in December, a giant pine adorned in tinsel and twinkling lights would stand at its center, and viewers would flock to it by the thousands. The Starlight Festival in January, meant to usher in the new year, boasted even greater attendance. And at the height of spring, when the cherry blossoms were in bloom, it played host to a more poignant affair.

Reemergence Day.

Today marked the seventh anniversary of the day magic returned to the mundane world. The day a centuries-old myth became reality. It came as shadow and light and fire and frost, and in a hundred other forms that manifested in the hands of children and adults alike. Empowered, they called them. Nobody could decide yet whether they were the heroes or the villains of this brave new world. Sinners or saints, a gift or a curse.

The way Iori saw it, they could be both and neither. Magic didn’t make good people bad, nor did it make bad people good. Then there were those who walked the line somewhere in between—people like Iori, who weren’t quite sure where they belonged. But in a society obsessed with black and white, gray didn’t fly.

Gray was unpredictable.

Gray was unreliable.

Gray was enigmatic.

Well, this gray just wanted to fetch a few bucks and a meal. He hadn’t eaten since yesterday morning—or was it the morning before?—and his stomach ached with hunger. Soup kitchens and shelters weren’t an option—those places had eyes. Cameras in every corner, guards at every door. Iori couldn’t chance being caught, so instead, he stole. And in order to keep his already dark shade from darkening further, he stuck by two simple rules:

1. Never take from the poor.

2. Take only what’s necessary.

The second rule had some leeway. Food and clothes were necessities, and money made obtaining both easier, so he allowed himself the occasional pilferage of non-vital goods to pawn off for cash.

This was one of those occasions.

He strolled around the market, seizing moments when vendors were busy with paying customers to pinch items from their stalls. A ring here, a gold brooch there, some collectible coins, a small but exorbitantly priced crystal. Anything that could be worth something that wouldn’t create a suspicious bulge in his pockets, he took, and this place was ripe for the picking. Too crowded, too noisy, low security. He kept going until he had no room for more, then shifted his focus to the food.

With his left eye, the right’s line of sight obscured by an eyepatch, Iori scanned the square for the most vulnerable target.

Tents were too exposed; he’d be noticed immediately, and most of the larger stalls and trucks were well fortified against the five-finger discount . . . except for a barbecue stand across the way, where stacks of completed orders had been left unattended on the back counter. They sat behind a row of grills, shrouded in smoke, almost as if asking to be—

“Hey!”

Iori turned to see a man plowing through the crowd toward him. Pierced brow, floral bandanna. It was the vendor from the antiques booth he’d swiped the ring from.

According to the info card on the table, the gaudy ring, currently digging into Iori’s thigh, had once belonged to a member of the royal family. True or not, it probably wasn’t worth whatever he decided to ask for it. The man was a swindler. Iori had watched from afar as he sized up the potential wealth of interested buyers and adjusted his prices accordingly.

“Is there a problem?” asked Iori, feigning innocence even as this mountain of a man towered over him—a whole two heads taller and at least twice as wide, with fists like melons at the ends of muscle-bound arms.

“Don’t play stupid with me, boy,” he warned. “Give me back my ring, or I’ll—”

“Do what,” Iori cut in, “call security?” He closed the gap between them, a casual swing to his step. The man would have to bring more than his mass and ire if he wanted to faze Iori. “Go ahead, call them. I’m sure they would love to hear how you’ve been defrauding your customers.”

The man’s nostrils flared and his eyes looked about ready to pop out of their sockets, but he said nothing. His lips were pressed into such a firm line that they’d gone white at the edges. Iori considered that a win.

“Let’s forget this happened. You return to your booth, and I’ll be on my way. Nobody gets in trouble. Sound good?” Still, the man said nothing. “Good.” Iori gave him a teasing, mildly condescending pat on the chest and went to walk away. He didn’t make it far before one of those melon-sized fists grabbed him by the shirt and spun him back around.

Half the crowd was oblivious to the altercation, half didn’t care. Some actually sped up as they passed, because god forbid anyone help a stranger.

The man wrenched Iori up to meet his bug-eyed glare and said in a low, measured growl, “It doesn’t belong to you.”

Normally, it would have been foolish for a boy of Iori’s stature to oppose a man who looked like he could crush a person’s skull with his bare hands. But Iori’s lips curled into a grin.

Very little was normal about him.
-------

Thank you so much for reading! If you pick up a copy of the book during the promotion, I hope you enjoy the read.
Book #2, Bleeding Heart, is also up for preorder and due out May 11th 2023.

Cheers,
Brittany M. Willows
 
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