Excerpts Smugglerific Cover

Cover Reveal & Excerpt: A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney

Happy Tuesday! Today we are delighted to be hosting the cover reveal for the UK edition of L.L. McKinney’s debut novel A Blade So Black – a reimagining of Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland!

Without further ado, behold! The smugglerific cover!

The Cover:

About the book:

The first time the Nightmares came, it nearly cost Alice her life. Now she’s trained to battle monstrous creatures in the dark dream realm known as Wonderland with magic weapons and hardcore fighting skills. Yet even warriors have a curfew.

Life in real-world Atlanta isn’t always so simple, as Alice juggles an overprotective mom, a high-maintenance best friend, and a slipping GPA. Keeping the Nightmares at bay is turning into a full-time job. But when Alice’s handsome and mysterious mentor is poisoned, she has to find the antidote by venturing deeper into Wonderland than she’s ever gone before. And she’ll need to use everything she’s learned in both worlds to keep from losing her head… literally.

Debut author L.L. McKinney delivers an action-packed twist on an old classic, full of romance and otherworldly intrigue.

An excerpt of the novel:

Alice held to Addison, her eyes wide, her mouth open. He’d tried to describe Wonderland a few times, but always wound up saying it was like talking about a memory that was half-forgotten: a dream faded at the edges of your mind but somehow whole in your heart. None of it made sense until now.

He led her farther along, an amused twist to his lips. She didn’t walk so much as shuffle. Their steps stirred the mist creeping along the ground. It crawled over the white grass and hung just beneath the silver branches in a few places.

“Beautiful.” She looked to him, then to the forest again. Actually, she looked everywhere she could—this place was incredible.

“This is Wimble-Di’Glow Woods, though most just call it the Glow.” Squeezing her hand, he turned them around to face the pillared platform. “That’s the Gateway. It’s closed at the moment, and now you must defend it from Nightmares seeking to enter your world. With my help, of course.”

“Oh, right.” A shiver slid like an icy finger down the curve of her spine, banishing the joy that had been bubbling up. The mention of the monsters sunk like a stone in her gut. “Are we here to stop one?” She hated the slight tremble in her voice.

He nodded. “Small one. Not far. I said you were ready, and I meant it.”

Oh shit.

This was really happening. She was really here. There were going to do this.

This is what you wanted.

She cleared her throat and squared her shoulders.

This. Is. What. You. Wanted.

“Everything all right?” Addison watched her from nearby, a single eyebrow arched.

“Fine. I’m fine.” A deep breath helped calm the flurry of anxiety skittering through her. A little.

“We can go back if you don’t think—”

“I said I’m fine.” Though the fearful flutter in her chest was distracting.

His other brow shot up to join the first one. “Very well.”

She didn’t mean to put that much bass in her voice, but she had to hold on to this. But what if she didn’t come back? No. No, she had to do this. But her body wouldn’t listen to her. She just stood there, frozen.

“Do you remember why it’s best to slay a Nightmare before it crosses into your world?” Addison asked, those multicolored eyes still on her.

Alice nodded. Of course she knew. They’d gone over it a hundred times. Humans were the source of a Nightmare’s strength, and the closer the beasties get to people, the more powerful they became.

Humans were the source of everything, really. Wonderland was the literal world of dreams. Now-I-lay-me-down-to-sleep dreams. Good dreams made this world healthy. Bad dreams messed it up. Get enough bad in one place and poof ! Nightmare. Maybe not poof. And nightmares . . . affected people.

Folk might not see the monsters themselves, but they sure saw the end result. On the news, reports about someone snapping and killing their whole family, or shooting up their job for no reason? Yeah, people were still messed up, dudes not able to take no for an answer, KKK mofos, the ‘lone wolf’ bullshit, all that mess . . . but sometimes? Nightmare. And she was here to face one.

Oh god.

“Can you tell me?” Addison’s voice cut through her thoughts.

Alice swallowed thickly, her fingers twisting around each other. Something sour coated the back of her throat. “Um, s-so they don’t get bigger.”

“Good.” He tilted his head to one side then slowly to the other as he spoke. “And what it is that actually kills a Nightmare?” She pressed her shaky hand to one of the pommels at her side.
“That’s just part of the equation.” His fingers folded over hers, his touch light but warm. “Remember?”

Part of—? A combination of her growing fear and Addison being so closed filled her mind, but his words from earlier rang clear in her ears. “M-Muchness.”

“Right. What’s in here.” He gently tapped the tip of one ringed finger against her forehead, then her chest. “And in here. You are the one thing capable of ending a Nightmare’s terror for good, and now you stand between them and their goal. If there is anything to fear here, it’s you.”

As Addison’s words poured over her frenzied thoughts like water over coals, the pounding between her ears began to fade. “Me?”

“You.” His hands fell to her shoulders, squeezing gently. “But only if you believe you can do this. I think you’re ready, do you?”

Alice continued to breathe deep, in through her nose, out through her mouth. In and out, in and out. Seconds ticked by. She even counted a few in her head. Gradually, the pressure behind her eyes lessened. The wild dancing of her heart evened out. The buzzing in her limbs subsided, eventually fading completely.

“I can do this,” she whispered. “I can do this.” Louder this time.

Addison smiled, his eyes crinkling at the corners. “I know. Let’s go.” He turned to lead the way further into the bright haze of Glow.

With another deep breath she followed him, now able to fully concentrate on taking in the . . . well, the wonder of it all. Every so often, tiny, hazy arms and legs materialized in the branches, accompanied by bell-like laughter. She jumped a couple times, even took a swing at something bright blue that dipped in front of her face.

Addison laughed.

“Hey, it was a reflex.”

“Few things here will harm you.” He paused, tilting his head to the side. “Intentionally, that is.”

“So comforting.” Some of the tension melted from her muscles. She half listened to Addison’s tips as they went along. “Remember to keep your core tight when you move, especially when you jump or dodge.” Maintain your grip. Eyes on your opponent. All stuff she’d heard before.

“And, I haven’t mentioned this before, but you’ll need to adjust for your newfound speed and strength. It’ll be—”

“Wait, my what?” She blinked at him.

“When a trainee crosses the Veil for the first time, the same essence that feeds this place empowers them, enhancing their natural abilities and bestowing a few new ones.” Addison continued on, leaving Alice staring after him. “That’s when, and how, you become a Dreamwalker.”

“Wait, wait wait wait, wait.” She hurried to catch up with him. “You never said anything about superpowers.” She was hearing this right, right? That’s what he was talking about, right?

“It only happens if you cross the Veil, so there was no need to mention it before, in case you decided not to.”

“Uh, I kinda think superpowers are something you bring up when training to fight monsters.”

“I didn’t want to influence your decision in any way. Crossing was your choice to make.”

She looked to her hands as they moved along. “I don’t feel any different.”

“You will. Trust me.”


About the Author:

Leatrice “Elle” McKinney, writing as L.L. McKinney, is a poet and active member of the kidlit community. She’s an advocate for equality and inclusion in publishing, and the creator of the hashtag #WhatWoCWritersHear. She’s spent time in the slush by serving as a reader for agents and participating as a judge in various online writing contests.

Elle’s also a gamer, Blerd, and adamant Hei Hei stan, living in Kansas surrounded by more nieces and nephews than she knows what to do with. She’s @ElleOnWords on Twitter.

A BLADE SO BLACK is her debut novel.


A Black so Back will be published in the UK by Titan Books alongside the US edition on September 25th.


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