#writephoto: Reunited

A not very hopeful story for Sue Vincent’s photo prompt. I could have written a bit of the WIP, the photo fits (as usual!) but don’t want to give the entire story away.

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The land had been forested once long ago, too long ago for anyone to remember, too long ago for anyone to believe in it. Forest was a myth, fabulous, like the stories of the beasts that lived there. I can see a vestige of it from here, though the light is never bright any more. I can see two tufts facing one another across an arm of the ocean, tiny remnants of woodland, not even very old, orphaned children of the great forests.

The world is almost all ocean now and the land piled a million high with people in boxes, like bees in a hive, but their industry is driving them further and further from a thriving community and closer to the precipice. Even the sun can’t find the energy to light and warm. Without the warmth, without the song of the birds in their leaves, the last trees are dying. I see them shrink day by day, the water creeping closer and closer to their roots as it rises, and in the flabby breeze, I hear their voices, so I know what will happen.

I watch because someone has to record it, even though it will be the saddest sight of all. One morning or evening soon, beneath the dull red glare of the dying sun, the last memories of the forest separated by water will rush in a cascade of earth, roots and shed leaves, to join their sister and brother trees in the icy grave of the ocean.

Cover reveal: Devastation

You probably already know that writing poetry and pieces of short fiction is not the be all and end all of my existence as a writer. I write novels too. They are unashamedly escapist, with elements of magic, fantasy and mythology, romance and humour, probably because that is how I would like life to be. The characters are young, full of energy, not little plaster saints, opinionated and courageous. I’ve come to like them as if they were not just my spiritual children, but flesh and blood.

The first series, The Green Woman, starts in a miserable, grey dystopia, violent and oppressive. You’d hardly expect it to be like Disney World, would you? It’s the story of Deborah’s journey to find herself, her mother and save the bit of the world that actually wants to be saved from itself. It ends in…well, you have to read the story to find out where it ends. Or if it even does.

The second series, The Pathfinders, is very different. Carla and Tully are caught in the Apocalypse. The story isn’t post-apocalyptic—the world is teetering on the brink waiting for the final act. Wormholes that loop through time and space run through the story like garlands on a Christmas tree but without the joyful connotations. Things travel through the wormholes, and most of them you wouldn’t want to meet, not even if you had a few anti-tank missiles handy.

The first volume, Abomination, was published in March by Finch Books. If you haven’t read it yet, you should. You’ll see why you should be preparing your plan B for the apocalypse right now.

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I have just received the cover art for the second volume, so I’ll post it here. If you thought things couldn’t get any worse than the Abomination, I’m afraid you’re in for a shock. Or maybe just a pleasant surprise. There are people like you, I know.

Devastation

Devastation will be available on early download from June 22. That gives you plenty of time to read Abomination first. If you like having the bejaysus scared out of you, of course. I’ve been told I write good horror stories. If you can stand the pace, you should look into this series.

You can find links, blurbs and extracts from all the novels here, or sign up for news about further publications here.

Microfiction: Fishing

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No waves on the sluggish river, like thick soup, green with algae. In the dawn that never breaks along the banks, the delicate tracery of fishing lines arcs into the silent waters. Hunched along the banks, left and right, an army of watchers sit hunched over slender rods, intent upon the least quiver, the slightest trembling of the lines. Behind them, the city rumble changes tempo. Never ceasing, it hums through the night, but in the grey hours of the dawn the pace changes to a relentless march. The fishermen shuffle uneasily, listening for the heavy tread of the patrols, rounding up shirkers, but the promise of something, anything to supplement the famine rations is too strong to keep them away.

A rod jerks. Along the bank, a score of pairs of eyes turn, fixed on the taut line. He hauls in his prize, quickly, his eyes restlessly moving from one hunched back to the next. Still listening for the patrol, he seizes the shapeless, colourless object he has hooked, and darts away with it up the bank, his teeth already tearing into it before he has even looks to see what it is. River slime and stifling algae coat the object that gives with the sickening soft sponginess of putrefaction beneath his teeth. The taste is foul and he gags.

The thud of pounding boots breaks into his consciousness. Still trying to swallow, he runs, making for the trees at the top of the valley. A rattle of gunshot rings out and he stumbles, falls, his back blossoming red, his arms outflung. The boots approach, kick him over onto his back. The putrid hand, missing several fingers, drops from his dead grip.

“Filthy cannibal,” the guard says and spits on the stricken face.

Last one on the shelf

There’s just one epub copy left of Abomination. Sorry there weren’t enough pdf copies to go round, but if anyone would like this, just leave a message below. Converting epub to pdf or mobi is quite easy using Calibre.

Thanks for the response and hope you all enjoy the book. And the series, of course.

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Microfiction: Of rats and men

Okay, this bit is less than 200 words, 199 to be precise, and it qualifies for Sacha Black’s writing challenge. The whole of Abomination is about struggle, and this scene shows some of Carla’s emotional struggle.

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Footsteps rang out on the walkway, echoing in the caverns of the empty boutiques. Carla stiffened and grabbed Kat’s arm.

“Ratmen?” she whispered.

Kat listened. The footsteps continued, lots of feet, stealthy almost, nervous.

“Maybe.”

They moved away from the yawning gap of the hall below, where pieces of safety rail swung free, into the squealing scuffling shadows… Carla shuddered at the memory, the long twitching nose, sloping forehead, the big ears and bristle-covered face. She shuddered at the terror in those mad eyes. Kat had killed it and it had screamed like a child.

The footsteps stopped. Ahead in the shadows, deeper shadows waited. Carla held her breath. A single shadow moved forward.

“Carla?”

Tully.

She forced herself not to run to him.

“Carla?”

She could see him now, his face, his eyes.

No! You don’t care!

She clenched her fists, clenched her eyes tight closed. But she still saw him, the gentle eyes full of…sorrow.

“Carla,” he whispered and she could feel his breath on her skin. “I’m so sorry.”

Tears squeezed from behind her lids. She sobbed as her clenched fists beat his chest then opened, pulling him towards her, his face, as damp as hers.

Time to jump down that wormhole again

Today, or rather sometime during the night, I received my first round of edits for the first volume of Wormholes. I’m still reeling from the shock of signing the contract. I had wanted to push on with my second Selkie story before I got sucked down the wormhole again, but Tara, Aidan, and Ronan are going to have to wait a while. It’s back to gang warfare in a crumbling shopping mall and the end of days for me for the rest of the summer. With temperatures on an average of 34/35° it’s going to be difficult writing about sub zero levels, but isn’t that what the imagination is for?

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A treat for fans of realistic, gritty dystopia

Big news for fans of Kate Wrath’s books—the third in the series, Eden, is released today. From Outpost Three, down the Mississippi, Eden has reached her journey’s end. Or has she?

Announcing the release of the third book in the E series, Eden, by Kate Wrath:

Cover of Eden

THE THIRD BOOK IN THE E SERIES

Both friends and enemies are keen to get their hands on the information inside Eden’s head—information that could take down the Sentries and change the world. But there are costs that no one realized, and Eden’s not so sure she’s willing to pay them. Refusing to do so could create dangerous problems within the tribe she’s only just come back to.

Eden has her own agenda for learning Lily’s secrets. With hope refusing to die, she’s spurred forward by memories of Oscar and thoughts of finding him again. But Lily’s hold on her is greater than she knows, compelling her to chase after strange clues and confusing visions. With love and longing weighing on her, Eden must determine the reality of her fractured identity in order to decide which path to take. The choices she makes could tear her away from Jonas and Apollon, from everything she’s ever known.

Eden’s future will not be determined solely by choices. Fate has her own cards to play, and they just might take the game.


A few words from Kate….

lint-711890_640Writing Eden was such a joy. I’m deep into this series now, and the main characters are familiar friends. I loved exploring their relationships even further, and also having the chance to bounce them off of new characters in a new setting. Bringing my dystopian world into a tropical climate was also fun, and I especially loved all the intricacies of the new city and the adventure of exploring and coming to understand it along with Eden, Apollon, and Jonas.

The story of the Sentries continues—how my characters have come to pit themselves against the unfeeling robots that enforce order within the dystopian world. But as always, the story is about people. Sure, giant killer robots are exciting, dystopian societies are intriguing, but none of it means anything without the human factor. So the story of The E Series is always about human relationships and how they affect the events. It’s about who we are as people, and how our weaknesses, our strengths, and our deepest desires control the course of human history.

I hope you find a little of yourself inside my stories.


An excerpt from Eden:

It seems unfair that everything I learn only makes me more confused. How do you reconcile these things? The world you knew—the world torn to pieces and reconstructed in a different shape. The self you knew, the torn self. What other things can we rip to pieces? What else can we destroy and recreate? This question weighs on me at so many levels. I’ve lost my place. I don’t know where to begin or end. I don’t even know what I want out of it all.

Morning is stretching through the window, yawning its light-filled mouth. Jonas rolls over onto his side and looks at me. Smiles gently. Touches my cheek. But it’s that smile like Poor thing. She’s so lost. And I am. How is he not lost? How did I whisper these revelations to him in the darkness, and by light, he’s the one who seems fine?

I push his hand away, close my eyes, and roll onto my back. My shirt sticks to my side, sweaty from being beneath me. I imagine drifts of snow, crisp air. My visible breath, like smoke from a fire. I never liked the cold, when I had it. Now I don’t like the heat either. I can’t even make up my mind about that.

Deep breaths. Ninety-nine. Ninety-eight. Ninety-seven. The numbers fall away, and I focus deep within myself. What do I want, when it comes down to it? A fraction of a dream interrupts my soul-searching. A flash of an alligator. It’s that damned alligator again. What the hell?

“Are you OK?” Jonas asks softly, and sighs when I don’t respond. He rolls over and gets up.

I cling to the reptilian vision. A flash of scaly green skin and the unsettling curve of a toothy smile. And nothing. Absolutely nothing. I sigh, too, but I don’t open my eyes. I frown and focus again. Deeper. What really matters?

There’s an easy answer. It’s been there all along. I want to find Oscar. Until I do, I won’t ever really be OK. I’ve been putting it off, wrapped up in so many insignificant things. Worried about pretending to be someone else—why? Worried about Jonas, and some incomprehensible future where Sentries don’t exist.

I have one thing I can hold onto. I fix it in my heart. I’m not going to let this go. Whatever I don’t know, whatever I may not understand, Oscar is real. Oscar matters. And right at this moment, he could be suffering, could be in danger. And I’m sitting around on my ass doing nothing to find him. Vacation. Over.

I open my eyes and climb out of bed. Jonas is in the kitchen, taking out his frustrations on an orange. Slicing it vehemently. I walk to his side and watch as he grabs another and attacks it like he’s cutting its throat. Then I squint at his face. “Are you mad at me?”

He glances at me, and there is definitely anger in his eyes. “No,” he says. “I’m just mad.”

I wait for a moment to see if he means to elaborate, but he doesn’t. So I guess I was wrong that he’s OK. “Do you want to talk about it?”

He stops suddenly and his eyes slice into me. He hesitates, obviously restraining himself. Jonas is always so restrained. Finally, he lets out a long breath and turns back to the orange, more gently. “We have to do this. We have to take them down.”

“…The Sentries?”

His jaw tightens when I say the word. He answers in a level but deadly voice. “Yes.”

I know that look of grim determination. I know how Jonas is when he makes up his mind. Cards begin to fall into place in my mind, a deck that tells our future. I see the beginning of the path. But I’m not sure I want to take it. Too many questions, not enough answers. I have only one answer, and for now, I’m sticking to it.

 

You can purchase Eden on Amazon.


About the Author:

Kate WrathKate Wrath lives in the Southwestern US. Much like other authors, she has both a [family] and a [pet].

[family = three crazy-but-lovable, exceedingly adorable people with longer eyelashes and better sense of humor than Kate]

[pet = lovable-but-crazy giant German Shepherd who seems to be able to read, but pretends not to understand when something is required of him]

Kate is the author of the E series: E (Book #1), Evolution (Book #2), Eden (Book #3, June 13, 2015), and Jason and Lily (prequel, July 23, 2015). She has also written two fantasy novels that are soon to be released.

Kate believes in literature as an art form, world peace, and animal rights, but aspires to write total trash that is full of senseless violence, with characters who eat house pets.

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Guest Author: Kate Wrath

You know Kate Wrath already. If you like dystopian fiction and you don’t know her, it’s about time you did.
And today you’re in luck, because the first volume of Kate’s series is free. Don’t miss it. That would be too silly.

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Welcome to Outpost Three: Cracked pavement, rusted metal, splintering boards.

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Slavers and starvation are only the beginning of Eden’s problems…chains-19176_1280

A devastating conflict is coming that threatens to tear her newfound family apart.

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Get your FREE COPY on Amazon April 14-18, 2015.

Chapter 1: Iron Womb

 

I wake up in a box of iron. I know nothing, remember nothing. There is one thought imprinted on my consciousness: You have been erased.

Disoriented, I’m swimming in warm darkness. Tepid air. Tepid metal. The inability to move. Limbs pressing outward, ineffective. My ribcage curled in on itself. No room to breathe. The back of my skull smashed against the box. Neck and spine aching. Heavy limbs. Not enough space. Not enough air. Suffocating. Dying.

Panic.

There’s no way out.

I scream. It’s a girl’s voice. Am I a girl?

Flailing. Pounding. Hot blood under torn nails. Dry, shredded throat. I scream until everything stops.

An eternity later, I awaken in the warm darkness.

It’s happened so many times, I’ve stopped counting. I’ve stopped asking why. Dry snot on my face. Hollow insides. Despair. I decided long ago to give up and die. But it continues. Now I lie still in the dark. Floating. Drifting. Time malfunctions. My body winds down. I’m fading.

 

***

Cold air wisps across my cheek. The touch of death? I open my eyes and shut them as the light skewers my brain. Tentatively, I crack my lids open again. The image sharpens with each blink, a water-blurred lens coming into focus. Brown dirt in a vertical plane bisecting my vision. Eventually I realize I’m laying on my side. My cheek presses into cold earth. My right shoulder is crushed under my body, my limbs sprawled haphazardly. Who knows how long I’ve been like this. I lay blinking, unable to move, strangely fascinated with the colors and textures of the ground. Small stones and twigs rise dramatically out of the landscape from this perspective. Beyond them, only a few paces away, is a concrete wall.

I struggle to upright myself. Three attempts later, I manage to sit up, which I immediately regret. Starbursts chase black spots across my eyeballs. My stomach turns over. Heaviness sits on my chest. Each breath takes the efforts of my entire body. I’m certain I’ll fall over, but it passes, resolving in a dizzy, drifting haze. I blink and cast my eyes around, wondering where I am and how I got here.

Dirty walls of buildings, rusted corrugated steel panels and splintered, rotting boards make up most of my surroundings. An alleyway leads away from this enclosed area. Trash whirls across its opening and collects in a huddle against one wall. More is piled against a building next to a dumpster. A few feet away from me, the bleak grey sky is reflected in a puddle, oily patches on the water’s surface obscuring the shapes of the clouds. I scramble for the puddle on hands and knees, moving faster than I imagined I’m capable of. Thrusting my hands into the dirty water, I scoop it up, and drink. Some of it runs down my chin and neck, soaking whatever garment I’m wearing. It tastes foul, smells of something wrong, but I don’t care. It’s liquid. I drink handful after handful, then sit back on my knees, my shoulders slumping, hands dropping slack to my sides. I pant, then take deeper breaths. I sigh, a long, trembling sigh that releases all the tension from my body. Tipping my face to the open sky– as dark and cold and uninviting as I can possibly imagine it– my heart embraces it as a thing of utmost beauty. Open air, the ability to move– I am utterly thankful for these things.

There’s a noise from down the alley. Fear coalesces out of nowhere, seizing hold of me, compelling my body to move despite its weakness, its stiff joints. I thrust my feet under me and will myself to standing. Reeling against the dizziness, I throw my arms out and widen my stance to keep from falling. I have to get out of here. Now.

I’m only beginning to move when my mind starts translating what I hear. Footsteps. Male voices, low and laughing. There is nowhere for me to go. I force down a scream. My eyes fall on the trash piled next to the dumpster. I hike up the brown shift I’m wearing and wade into the heap of boxes and rags, sharp-edged tin can lids, moldy coffee grounds, greasy bones, and other rotten, rancid things. Sinking down in the filth, I draw it over my head. Something cold and slippery hits the skin of my neck, its stench filling my nostrils. I make myself still, hold my breath. And then the voices are right there, a few paces away from me.

Their cheerful conversation ceases.

“Nothing again today,” one of them says.

There is the sound of a boot scuffing the pavement, then the faint splash of water as it hits the puddle.

A second voice answers darkly, “Matt’s gonna think we’re slacking or something. Take the loss out of our pay.”

What loss? In the silence that follows, I feel my face turning red, my lungs wanting to explode. The sensation of suffocating seizes me again, the sharp memory of metal walls closing me in. I need to breathe. Need to scream. I have to dig down into the fear and extract every drop of willpower to remain still and quiet. The beginnings of a whimper stir in my belly, but I shut them down. Only a moment more. Only a moment.

“Nah,” a third voice finally says. “He knows we don’t miss any. If they haven’t dropped here in two days, we’ll surely get something tomorrow.”

The others make noises of disgruntled agreement, and the footsteps move away, down the alley.

I try to last as long as I can after they’re gone, but they’ve barely left when I lose the ability. Gasping in air, I gag at the smell that assaults me. I launch to my feet, trash falling from my hair and shoulders. Scrambling from the pile, I press myself hard against the wall, farthest from the alley. The ragged breaths I rake in are thick with a stench that clings to me. My back is wet. My skin crawls at its own filthiness.

Forcing my disgust away, I plunge into the puzzle amassing in my mind. These men were looking for something that wasn’t here, though they expected it to be. Something that would be dropped here. Something that would profit them, or the man they work for. What could possibly be dropped in an alley? What kind of coincidence is it that I am suddenly here? Dropped here. Me. They’re looking for me. Slavers.

I repress another scream, clenching my fists, squeezing my eyes shut. The darkness sends my mind involuntarily back to the cube. My body convulses. As my eyes fly open, the words appear in my brain, burned there, like the ones before them: You have been warned. With them, a gate opens in my mind. I can place myself in this world. I know its laws. I know its ways. As for myself– everything that was me– it is gone. Forever. I have been erased.

I run my fingertips lightly over the center of my forehead, exploring the mark there, its edges swollen and raised, my skin tender and stinging with the newness of it. My hand trembles. I take it away from my face to look at it– long, slender fingers. Pale skin. Fingernails blackened with blood. My palms are blue and bruised from pounding against the metal. But it’s a young hand. That’s one strike against me. Please, please, don’t let me be pretty.

I tear into the pile of trash until I find a piece of broken glass. Wiping it with the hem of my shift, I notice my long, shapely legs. Does my face even matter? I tilt the glass in the grey light, repositioning until the surface collects my image. I stare at it– a transparent rendering of myself. Large, dark eyes. Clear skin. Full lips. I hurl the glass away from me with a cry of frustration. It splinters into a thousand shards against the concrete wall.

I’m shaking from my core. My body and mind want to collapse in on themselves. That is the last thing I can allow.

I find myself counting slowly backward from one hundred. Ninety-nine. Ninety-eight. I must calm myself. I must think. Ninety-five. Ninety-four. If I do something stupid now, I’ll regret it, probably for the rest of my life. Ninety-one. Ninety. Eighty-nine. I must form a plan. Eighty-seven. I need food, and shelter. A place to hide until I can regain my strength. Eighty-two. Eighty-one. Anyone who sees me could sell me out as likely as help me. Slavers reward handsomely for pretty girls like me. Seventy-two. Seventy-one. Seventy. Sixty-nine. I need to disguise myself. Need to make myself unappealing. More trouble than I’m worth. Sixty-five.

I stop counting and consider the pile of trash. Before I can balk at the idea, I begin pulling out any rags I can find. There’s a good mess of them, stained with things I’m sure I don’t want to identify. They are damp in places, stiff in others. I find a large piece– it looks like a torn and stained bed sheet– and make a sort of robe out of it. Smaller bits I wrap about my head, catching my hair up in them. As I do, my fingers pause, briefly rubbing one silky lock. It falls just below my shoulders. I hold it in front of my face. Dark brown, the color of coffee beans, or bitter chocolate. I wrap it up tightly in the piss-scented rags, carefully covering the mark on my forehead, then smear my face and pale arms with dirt. At the bottom of the pile I find something sticky and red. I paint blotches on my exposed skin. On my face. On my long fingers. There are slight calluses along my fingertips, running all the way down my pointer finger, and across the top ridge of my palm. I will never know how those calluses got there.

Grief hits me for the first time. But I cannot afford it now. Later, it can come, when I’m away from here. I’ll allow it then. The sorrow curls up inside me and settles down to sleep, waiting for its time. I focus on this moment, this task, checking myself. My brown shift is covered. I cannot see my face, but my hands look positively frightening. Small strips of rags are all that’s left in the pile, so I tie them around my legs, stacking them to make fake pant legs. I add dirt and gunk to my feet, then drape an extra piece of rag over my head like a hood to hide my face. Cocked head. Crooked posture. Surely anyone who looks twice at me will find themselves moving in the opposite direction. I practice a wet, throaty cough to go along with the blotches. When I’m happy with it, I steel myself to move on. I step toward the alley looking a hundred years old. I feel a hundred years old. Yet, I am born today from an iron womb.

 

Text Copyright © 2014 Kate Wrath . All Rights Reserved.

Connect with Kate on her website, Goodreads, Facebook, or Twitter.

 

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Book review: Second Chance by Dylan Hearn

Second Chance (The Transcendence Trilogy Book 1) by Dylan Hearn

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Second-Chance-Transcendence-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B00I0945TA/ref=pd_sim_kinc_3?ie=UTF8&refRID=1RXYBZMMPX0NV36MJGWN

Second Chance is thrilling and chilling. There is blood and gore, but it is the cold-blooded, or even bloodless aspect of British society that is really at the core of this story of a political system that controls everything even beyond the grave.
There are four distinct threads to the story as well as sub-stories, as murky as the crumbling cityscape. Each chapter adds a little more detail to one of the main threads, and as Dylan Hearn pulls in the threads, we begin to see through the murk to where they are all going. And it’s not a nice place, I can tell you.

The technical parts, the cloning and regeneration, the memories that are replaced in the new brain, or not, depending, seem perfectly feasible to a non-techy person like me. The idea of cheating death on the one hand, is balanced against the massacres committed by the forces of law and order on the other. Petty crime might have become rarer because of the intricate system of police surveillance and the instant data search system that has replaced the internet, but for those who can manipulate the cameras, the police, and the data collected and redisseminated, there are no limits to what horrors can be perpetrated and the evidence wiped out.

The pace is relentless, the tension maintained right the way through. I was completely caught up in the way Second Chance unfolded—expecting the worst each time I turned a page. Dylan Hearn plays with notions of morality and ethics as much as he does with science and technology and it soon becomes clear that our notions of right and wrong have become distinctly warped in this near future. The characters are real. They are in the main, not likeable, and of course, given the theme of the story, not necessarily even bona fide ‘real’ people.

If I were to compare Second Chance to another novel, I would choose PD James’ The Children of Men. This treats a similar theme, the world gone wrong, rotten and above all, insidiously untouchable at its centres of control. I highly recommend Second Chance as a thrilling and disturbing read. Sometimes it’s good to be disturbed.

Amazon.com link

Cover reveal: Evolution by Kate Wrath

If you’ve read E, the first book in Kate Wrath’s dystopian series, you’ll have been hoping she wasn’t going to keep us all waiting too long for the next installment. Well, it’s almost ready and here’s the proof.
I have to add that Kate sent me this post all ready to go, with all the links and the flashing lights and stuff. I salute her—that is some technical achievement 🙂
Best of luck with the preorders, Kate, and congratulations on your techy and business iniitiative!

Cover Reveal

Cover of Kate Wrath's Evolution

Outpost Three is still standing… barely. But the deadliest threat it has ever faced is on its way– a violent force that will annihilate every man, woman, and child.

With the Sentries under his control and Grey’s army defeated, Matt is more powerful than ever. Eden is little more than his prisoner, but that line is blurring as her affection for him grows. Now, as the Outpost faces total destruction, Matt must sacrifice the possibility of attaining Eden’s love in the vague hope that her past might hold the key to saving them all.

Eden’s journey will begin to unravel the mysteries of her previous life, reveal dangerous new questions, and change not only the future of Outpost Three, but shape the course of history.

This eagerly anticipated sequel to Kate Wrath’s E begins an epic quest into the dark, dystopian landscape of Eden’s world.

Click to preorder.Connect with Kate:

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