Today we're spotlighting Meg Kassel's novel, Black Bird Of The Gallows!!
Read on for more about Meg, her novel, the first chapter reveal, and a giveaway!
Hello YABC readers!
So, right now I’m finishing the edits of BLACK BIRD OF THE GALLOWS, which comes out in Sept., and it feels like forever ago that I sat down and started rooting out the story of Angie and Reece. The book is about a girl who learns her new neighbors are harbingers of death and her town is destined for a disaster, but it’s also about music and friendship and bees and doomed love. This book and I have been through a lot of changes together, but nothing prepared me for the day I saw the cover for the first time. My publisher asked me about my vision for it. Visuals? Colors? Yeah, I had no idea, which is embarrassing because I have a degree in art and I STILL couldn’t offer one decent suggestion. But THIS, my friends, is what I would have described if I could have found the words. From the colors to the paint spatters to the honeycomb in the background, it captures the dark romance and mystery I tried to infuse in this book. I hope you enjoy BLACK BIRD OF THE GALLOWS. I loved spending time in Angie and Reece’s world and I hope you do to.
––Meg (Black Bird of the Gallows, Entangled TEEN)
Meet Meg Kassel!
Meg Kassel is an author of paranormal and speculative books for young adults. A New Jersey native, Meg graduated from Parson's School of Design and worked as a graphic designer before becoming a writer. She now lives in Maine with her husband and daughter and is busy at work on her next novel. She is the 2016 RWA Golden Heart© winner in YA. Her debut novel, Black Bird of the Gallows, releases fall of 2017.
Meet Black Bird Of The Gallows!
A simple but forgotten truth: Where harbingers of death appear, the morgues will soon be full.
Angie Dovage can tell there’s more to Reece Fernandez than just the tall, brooding athlete who has her classmates swooning, but she can’t imagine his presence signals a tragedy that will devastate her small town. When something supernatural tries to attack her, Angie is thrown into a battle between good and evil she never saw coming. Right in the center of it is Reece—and he’s not human.
What's more, she knows something most don't. That the secrets her town holds could kill them all. But that’s only half as dangerous as falling in love with a harbinger of death.
The Boy and the Bees
Somewhere in this house is a set of binoculars. I wish I could say I want them for nosebleed seats at a concert. Or for bird-watching. Either of those activities
would be more respectable than what I’m doing right now, which is peering out the window, trying to check out the new neighbors. Trying, because the crows perched in the cold, bare trees separating our houses are impeding my snooping efforts. Hunched and grim—and definitely not moving—they’re dark shapes, watchful and silent.
A musical female voice falters through the woods, directing the location of a leather sofa, asking to please be very careful with that painting. Through the screen of crows, I glimpse a woman directing a battalion of brawny movers. Even from a distance, she makes an impression. She’s all long, black hair and buff cashmere, and I completely forget about her the instant a boy with a backpack comes outside. He’s tall, about my age, and moves with a smooth, con dent stride. He looks good, from a distance. Nice shoulders. Okay, I’m curious. I shift for a better view. The woman hugs him. He kisses her cheek and starts down the driveway, out of sight. Not for long, maybe. He may be walking to the bus stop, where I am headed shortly.
“Morning, Angie.” My dad strides into the kitchen, followed closely by Roger, our dog. Dad is decked out for their morning run in designer sweatpants and one of his tight running shirts in a retina-piercing shade of highlighter yellow. Still, he manages to look dapper and sophisticated, even first thing in the morning and, well, in that shirt. Roger’s eyes are glued to him, as if the powers of his dog mind will make my dad pick up the leash faster.
“What are you doing?” Dad asks.
“Watching the new neighbors move in,” I reply. “Where are the binoculars?”
Dad joins me at the window. “In my bottom desk drawer.”
Eh. I’m not running upstairs for them. Especially now that the boy’s gone.
He shifts, tries to angle for a better view. “Binoculars won’t do you any good with all those crows in the way.”
“I know it,” I mutter. “So who are these people, anyway?”
“Fernandez, I think their name is,” Dad says. “I ran into the realtor a few days ago. She gave me the lowdown of the sale.” He scratches his freshly shaved cheek and squints harder. “The lady is from Spain. Bunch of kids. No Mr. Fernandez, it seems,” he adds. “Probably a good thing, considering what happened with Mr. Ortley. Sick bastard.”
What happened with Mr. Ortley is still a matter of distress to this neighborhood and this small, southwestern Pennsylvania town. It’s not every day a man returns home from a business trip and kills his family and then himself.
Although they kept to themselves, the Ortleys were our next- door neighbors, and we saw it all when the police arrived and the bodies were removed. The local news media didn’t linger on the incident—just a rich businessman who snapped. But the sprawling, Tudor-style home seems to hold on to the grisly events that happened there. It gives off a dark vibe. At least a dozen hopeful realtors had planted their signs over the past year and a half, hoping for a buyer. Weeds grew up around the three-car garage. Even priced rock-bottom cheap, no one wanted to live in that house. Potential buyers looked but left quickly. Some wouldn’t even go inside. I don’t believe in ghosts or hauntings or any of that, but even I have to agree that the house makes me twitchy. It’s as if some creepy melancholy had soaked into the bones of it, making it unnerving to be near. But maybe that would change with new owners.
Roger wags his thick yellow tail and lets out an impatient whine. It’s past morning run time and he doesn’t care for a delay in his favorite part of the day.
My dad rubs a hand over Roger’s blocky head. Our big, happy yellow lab wasn’t always ours. He’d belonged to the Ortleys. After their passing, Dad had offered to take Roger, and the police were only too happy to turn the orphaned dog over to the neighbor and his kid, rather than call animal control. It was one less hideous thing they had to do that day. And so, Roger became ours.
Dad ignores the whining that’s increasing in pitch and takes out a pitcher of lumpy, green liquid from the fridge. It smells faintly of parsley and strongly of garlic, but he pours a healthy glass and downs half of it in one chug. To his credit, he winces only a little. I don’t understand why he does this to himself.
“Okay, okay. We’re going,” he says to Roger, whose whine is now accompanied by a tap dance on the hardwood floors.
“You could try eating normal food.” I grin and put my breakfast dishes in the sink. “Lots of people do it. You might like it.”
“Working with doctors, you learn what ‘normal food’ does to the body. No thanks.”
It’s not easy being the offspring of a health fanatic. Last year, everything he—make that, we—ate was gluten-free. The currently banned food item is dairy. Living without pizza is miserable, but the milk thing is near unbearable. I dream about eating ice cream.
“I’ll see you tonight, Dad,” I say.
He points to his cheek. I give him a kiss and scoop my backpack off the counter. Weird food aside, living with my dad isn’t a hardship. I could have been dumped on a far worse doorstep five years ago.
I pull on wooly fingerless gloves and head out to catch the bus. Yes, the bus. For the record, I have a car—a ten- year-old Civic. It’s so generic, it’s virtually invisible, but I don’t drive it to school. There’s a cool, quirky explanation I hand out readily: I can do homework or study or fold paper cranes if I want to. I tell people it’s like having your own personal chauffeur. But the darker answer is, I worry obsessively that someone will break into my car sitting in the lot all day. Anyone could break into my car, steal it, or just do something to it, and yes, I’m familiar with the word “paranoia.” I come by it legitimately. A big chunk of my childhood was spent in an old VW Bus that was broken into All. The. Time. Occasionally, while my mom and I were sleeping in it.
So I ride the bus. Aside from the part about standing on the corner in bad weather, it’s not a bad way to start the day. I walk gingerly down our very long, very steep driveway,
crunching on the mix of salt and ice. Mount Franklin Estates, otherwise known as my neighborhood, was built into the side of Mount Franklin itself, in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains in southwestern Pennsylvania. As far as mountains go, Franklin is less of a “mount” and more of a pretty, wooded hill with some expensive houses on it. Still, the roads can be steep and, because I shun practical footwear in favor of aesthetics, I have to watch my step.
The bus will arrive in eight minutes. Mrs. Pierce is as exact as an atomic clock. I pick up the pace when I hit the sidewalk, which is scraped right to the concrete and gritty with sand.
Sure enough, the house next door is bustling with activity. The forlorn for sale sign is gone and a champagne Lexus SUV sits next to the moving truck. Hopefully they’ll be nice people who won’t go ballistic at the occasional doggie dump on their lawn. Roger sometimes forgets it’s not his lawn anymore.
I pass big, gracious trees, driveways twisting off toward large homes, until the bus stop comes into view. I slow down. I’ve had the corner to myself since sophomore year, so it’s jarring to see two boys standing there. One is backpack boy—my new neighbor—and a quick glance confirms that he is, indeed, binocular worthy. The other guy is... I can’t tell. At first, I think there’s something wrong with my eyes. He looks a little blurred, like I’m viewing him through a smeared lens. His lack of a bag of some sort tells me he’s not waiting for the bus. Also, his attire—wool cap and puffy coat—is ordinary enough, but not high school style. He holds himself in the way one would if he were about to bolt. Even from a distance, something about him sets off my finely tuned creep meter.
It’s obvious that backpack boy and creepy guy are not friends, although they appear to know each other. There’s tension in their stances, underlying the hum of their low- pitched voices—it’s like they’re squaring off. I slow my pace and look for something to duck behind, but their heads turn toward me at the same time. I falter, feeling like an intruder. Stupid, considering this is public space.
Puffy jacket takes a step backward. Closer up, he comes into clear focus, and I can see he’s young—twenties, with a hooked nose and thin lips that turn down at my approach. The inexplicable scent of warm honey cuts through the late February chill. It should be a pleasant smell, but there’s a sharpness to the aroma that makes the hair on my neck stand up.
I feel backpack boy’s gaze on me. I’m trying to gauge the other one when, impossibly, his face changes. Not his expression—his actual face. Instead of a hooknose and thin lips, wizened eyes peer back at me. His nose is small, almost feminine, and a mustache scruffs his upper lip. His gaze turns to mine with a cold ferocity that makes my footing falter. He pulls his lips back over clenched teeth in what is perhaps meant to be a smile, but it’s just not. My heart rate picks up. I drop my gaze, disturbed by what looked like hunger and menace and an unnatural familiarity in that strange guy’s face. Caution escalates to the first prickles of actual fear.
It’s okay. Don’t freak. Mrs. Pierce will be here in a few minutes, and that baseball bat she keeps next to her seat is not for an impromptu game. Puffy coat guy turns away, as if aware of my scrutiny. He mutters something to backpack boy and starts off down the street in the opposite direction. He looks perfectly normal from the back. Probably does from the front, too. Relief—that he’s leaving, that I don’t have to look at him anymore—eases my racing pulse, but already, I’m doubting what I saw. That couldn’t have been real. I mean, it’s impossible for a person’s face to take on a whole different set of features without a ton of plastic surgery. There’s a better explanation—deceptive lighting.
Sleep deprivation. Too much sugary cereal. Yeah. One of those things.
I turn my attention to backpack boy, whose face has not appeared to change, thankfully. My head is still a little fuddled, and I get stuck staring at him. Worse, I find it impossible to get unstuck. He’s got more than a nice walk. He’s got a nice everything—high cheekbones and expressive eyes to go with a tall, athletic body that just screams I play all the sports. Not my type, but the only thing I know about my “type” is that it hasn’t been any of the boys at Cadence High. Except for this new one, apparently. It’s irritating, because I could do without a hot neighbor. An attractive boy living next door adds a pointless layer of nerves, like stress about wearing my ratty sweatpants to the mailbox, and I don’t want to be tempted to spy on him with my dad’s binoculars. It’s an exercise in futility. A waste of perfectly good energy, as a boy like this will never ask me out. Ever.
An amused light sparks his dark eyes, as if he had heard those last few thoughts. “Hi.” One hand is wrapped around the strap of his backpack, the other is tucked in the pocket of his black wool coat. He wears cargos with a lot of pockets and black Chucks. His hair is a floppy chestnut mess. “I’m Reece Fernandez.” He nods in the general direction of our houses. “My family is moving in to number forty-one.”
I scrabble for something interesting to say. Maybe even something witty. “Yeah, I saw—” No! Do not admit you were peeping at him from your window. “The truck.” I clear my throat and shove my fidgeting hands in my pockets. “Moving day. Exciting.”
He laughs. “Exciting is one word for it.”
I nod and smile like I get why that’s funny. “I’m Angie Dovage,” I say. “My dad and I live next door to you. Number forty-three. I hope I didn’t...” stare at you like a brain-hungry zombie, “interrupt your conversation.”
Black Bird Of The Gallows
By: Meg Kassel
Release Date: September 5th, 2017
Publisher: Entangled Teen
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