Today I’m thrilled to be taking part in the Strange Gods Book Blitz presented by Storytellers On Tour! Author Alison Kimble was the winner of our Birthday Extravaganza Blitz Giveaway, and I’m so excited that the days have finally arrived! This event featuring her YA Fantasy novel, Strange Gods, kicked off yesterday and will run through tomorrow – but…TODAY IS PUBLICATION DAY, SO HAPPY BOOK DAY, ALISON! Be sure to keep an eye out throughout the next couple days for more featuring this unique story of hers. And if you missed yesterday, you can check out what went on on the Storytellers On Tour Twitter and Instagram pages!
Keep scrolling to learn more about the book and author, get a sneak peek at the first chapter of Strange Gods, and enter to win yourself a Fantasy Gift Box complete with a candle, mug, journal, and more!
Strange Gods by Alison Kimble
PUBLISHED: July 20, 2021 by Immortal Works
GENRE: Fantasy, Young Adult
Don’t get too close to the edges of the world. Gods and monsters are waiting.
Spooky arrives at a wilderness boot camp for troubled teens with two suitcases and an ultimatum: either she keeps her head down over the summer or she won’t be allowed home at the end of it. All she wants to do is survive the pyros, bullies, and power-tripping counselors, get through senior year, and start her life somewhere new.
But when an encounter with another camper goes awry and ends with Spooky hiding in the woods, something else finds her. Something ancient and powerful has sent out feelers, hoping to catch a human alone. For its purposes, even a delinquent teen will do.
If Spooky wants to survive to see any kind of future, she will have to figure out how to gain leverage over a god. And as if the one wasn’t bad enough, a pantheon of dark entities are lining up between her and the life she’s always wanted…
Chapter 1: Spooky
Up until this exact moment, Spooky hadn’t been sure whether or not Luke liked her. Now it seemed improbable there was any other reason he was holding her hand under the table. She stiffened as he curled his fingers around the edge of her palm. She wasn’t sure if she wanted his hand on hers, but she didn’t want to get caught with it there.
Then his touch was gone, and in its place, a piece of paper. Spooky shifted her eyes to the closest counselor, but no heads turned. No one had noticed the exchange.
She crinkled the contraband in her hand: a note. Pens were restricted-use items, so notes were rare. More importantly, notes were risky—you couldn’t change your story once it was in writing. She wanted to read Luke’s face as much as the words he had put on the paper, but she kept her chin pointed at the front of the cafeteria.
“Remember, there is no such thing as your true self, only unlimited potential for growth and change,” Izeah Dodgson continued into the mic. “I want you to reflect on those words when you’re tucked into your bunks tonight.” He scanned the room over the top of his glasses. His bald head shone in the fluorescent lighting. “To close us off, I have an announcement. Yesterday evening, patrol spotted a large animal inside the fence. Now, now.” Izeah put up his hands as if to quiet the room of silent campers. “I don’t want anyone to be alarmed. This is exactly why we have the fence in the first place.”
The fence wasn’t really designed to keep things out. Spooky had seen the exposed chain-link exterior when the cab dropped her off on orientation day. The plastic sheeting that made it impossible to climb only ran along the inside. But the illusion of trust was a core part of Izeah’s philosophy of rehabilitation, so he insisted the fence was keeping animals out rather than keeping two hundred delinquents in. The fence kept things out, just like the motion-activated floodlights “scared off raccoons,” and the foam spork she had just used to eat her runny chili “saved on dishwater.”
“A thorough search of the camp tells us our visitor didn’t stay, but we want to be cautious. If you see anything, anything at all, please alert a counselor.” The mic whined. “We are on the edge of a wilderness. We must respect that we aren’t the only ones out here.”
The second Izeah dismissed the crowd to their post-dinner duties, Spooky glanced down at the scrap of paper in her hand: Meet tonight.
There were no other instructions, but Spooky knew Luke’s plan. That didn’t mean she thought it was a good idea. She tried to make eye contact during post-dinner cleanup, but work duty ended before she could give Luke so much as a head shake.
He was going, whether she joined him or not.
When the last bell rang and the cabin lights went out, Spooky kept her eyes open and began counting. After she reached sixty for the fortieth time, she folded back the blanket, rolled off the bunk, and tucked the pillow in her place. With sneakers in hand, she crept past heavy-breathing campers to the entrance. Not a single floorboard creaked. She had earned her nickname, at least in part, because of her talent for passing through life quietly.
The trick to avoid the motion detectors, Luke had told her, was to do three things at once: jump the lower sensors, duck the upper sensors, and don’t set foot inside the circle. Spooky didn’t trust herself to jump and duck anything, so she squatted and swung a leg around the cabin’s open side. Izeah insisted a circle of open cabins inspired “community,” but the formation also ensured anyone could look out and see her dangling from the doorway. Gripping the wall for balance, she found the ground next to the cabin with her toe. Arms shaking, she transferred her weight and set both feet outside.
She crouched and scanned the night. Her sleep shirt was twisted and stuck to her body with sweat. Her heartbeat should have been loud enough to wake all ten cabins. But nothing stirred.
She had done it. She had snuck out. This was a teenage rite of passage. Even if someone had invited her, she wouldn’t have had the nerve to attempt this at home. She wasn’t sure she had the nerve for it now, but she certainly wasn’t ready to try to reverse the process and get back inside the cabin. Her hands quivered as she put on her sneakers. After a few more moments watching the silent dark, she started across the field toward the back of the main lodge.
Even though Spooky had been at Dodgson for over a month, she had never been outside after the last bell. It was like the world had flipped upside down; the field around her was flat black, while all the light and life played out in the sky above her. Bright points and brilliant clusters and tiny pinpricks twinkled. She had to rely on her feet more than her eyes to find each step.
She exhaled for the first time since she read the note, or maybe for the first time that summer. It was as if the darkness put her at an unreachable distance from the sleeping campers and counselors. Even her limbs felt far away.
Only now, in the quiet, did it occur to Spooky she might be walking into a trap.
Alison Kimble began writing because she loves stories and believes in their power to shape our world and ourselves. Her writing blends the real and the fantastical and crosses genres of horror, fantasy, and sci-fi. Now that her debut novel, Strange Gods, is in your hands, she is working on her next novel and a short story anthology. She lives in the Greater Seattle Area with her husband and spends her time walking in the woods, going to the movies, and seeking adventures large and small.
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