New Release: Wonderland Academy & Paperback Giveaway

I'm delighted to share that the first book in my new Alice in Wonderland inspired Academy series is now available on Amazon! In my tale, Wonderland is a very real place. Those wishing to learn Wonderland style magic attend Wonderland Academy. But people from our world, which they call Overthere, are recruited. Alice "Lacey" Crane, my heroine, is the newest recruit. But there's one problem. In Wonderland, anyone named Alice is sentenced to death. Minor complication! Lacey will need to figure out why she's been recruited before it's too late.

Novel Description:
Welcome to Wonderland Academy. Don't lose your head.

Getting into Wonderland Academy is easy:
You must be a little mad.
You must follow the white rabbit.
You must find the key to enter Wonderland.
You must not be named Alice or risk being beheaded by order of the Queen of Hearts.

We might have an issue with that last one.

My name may be Alice, but Wonderland Academy is everything my real life isn't. Who wouldn't want to learn how to ride a jabberwocky, train with a vorpal sword, cast spells using a teacup, or shapeshift into a fairy? As long as no one figures out my real name, I should be fine.

The only problem? Aden, the Queen of Hearts' son, is quickly becoming my best friend. And then there's Corbin. Brooding, surly, tattooed, and definitely not my type, I can't stop thinking about him. But Corbin has secrets of his own, and Wonderland and secrets don't mix.

How I'm going to pass my classes and protect my secret like my life depends on it is beyond me. But I better find a way. Because in Wonderland, no Alice is safe.

* * *

Wonderland Academy re-imagines the fantastical world of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland for a fresh, new adventure. Combining whimsy, magic, and a splash of steampunk, New York Times best-selling author Melanie Karsak invites you into this beautifully re-envisioned fairy tale adventure.

* * *

Wonderland Academy is a college-level academy novel. It contains a slow-burn (not rh) romance. The novel is clean aside from mild language. This is Book 1 in a planned trilogy. Book 1 ends on a cliffhanger (Frodo didn't reach Mount Doom in a day, after all).

Trigger Warning: This novel also includes references to a school shooting.

To celebrate the release of Wonderland Academy, I am running a paperback giveaway!

Ready for a little taste of Wonderland Academy? Let's have a preview!

Chapter 1 Preview:

Once again, someone was explaining to me that I was crazy.
“I know you don’t want to hear it, Alice. This is just standard aftercare and discharge paperwork,” Nurse Gillman said, handing me a clipboard loaded down with papers. “You’ll have to follow up with a caseworker later this week.”
I stared across the wide room at the row of beds. On the other end of the room, a woman was hiding under her blankets. She’d cried all night, saying demons were floating around us. Apparently, I was surrounded by them. When I told her I could call the Winchester brothers, she’d screamed bloody murder and had to be tranquilized. Not a Supernatural fan, I guess. Passed out cold in the bed next to her was a junkie coming off a high so bad she was speaking in tongues. She’d been sedated that morning after she’d spit in the orderly’s face. The other beds were empty. Everyone else had already gone to group therapy.
 “I’m nineteen. Why do I still have a caseworker?” I took the paperwork from her, then set it on the bed beside me.
“Alice in court-ordered land,” Nurse Gilman said with a wry grin.
Was that supposed to be funny? I frowned at her.
“This is your second suicide attempt. After everything you’ve been through…we know you’re in a hard place. The state will recommend continued follow-up until your doctor gives the all-clear. It’s standard practice. People care about you, Alice. No one wants to see you back in here again.”
“Trust me, I don’t plan to be back. Ever. In fact, I shouldn’t be in here now,” I said, picking at my plastic hospital bracelet.
“Because it was an accident, right?” the nurse said, her tone clearly indicating that she definitely didn’t think so.
“It was an accident,” I retorted, feeling agitated. I knew I had no business taking Nan’s pills, but I couldn’t sleep. Like a time-lapse image, I couldn’t stop imagining Nicholas in his casket, his lips and eyes sewn shut, his body slowly rotting. The image replayed over and over again. I felt like I had rats inside my brain, chewing on the wires. It was too noisy. I just wanted things to be quiet. I wanted to sleep. I wanted to shut out the world for a little while. I wanted to forget. But I was so exhausted that I’d forgotten I’d already taken some of Nan’s pills. Twice. It was the third dose that earned me the ride in the ambulance.
Nurse Gilman raised an eyebrow at me. “You’d be surprised how many accidents we see in here. Was it an accident last time too?”
“No,” I said stiffly. Last time…no. That hadn’t been an accident. But watching someone you loved get murdered right in front of you would leave any normal person feeling decidedly not okay. I’d held on…for a while. Then I didn’t. “But I’m all good now. After all seventy-two hours of playing Uno and coloring with one crayon, I’m all set. And it was an accident this time.”
“If you say so.”
“Nurse Gilman?” a crackly voice called through the intercom. “Miss Crane’s ride is here.”
I looked through the narrow window of the door that led to the waiting area. Still wearing her jeans and black Nan’s Bar and Grill T-shirt with its distinctive pink neon star logo, Mom stood with her arms crossed as she stared at the door between us. She chewed worryingly on her lip.
“Go ahead and sign, please,” Nurse Gilman said, handing me a pen.
“What, no crayon?”
She laughed lightly. “No, I think you’re safe to be trusted with a pen now.”
Flipping through the papers, I signed them all—god only knows what they actually said—then handed them back to her.
“Here are your things.” Nurse Gilman handed me a clear plastic bag. The clothes I’d been wearing when I’d been admitted, the same uniform my mother was sporting, were balled up inside. My bra and underwear were clearly on display. Lovely. Thank god Mom had dropped off some fresh clothes. I hadn’t seen her, but nothing says love like a pair of yoga pants and a T-shirt.
I pulled my sneakers out of the bag and slipped them on.
Nurse Gilman motioned for me to follow her to the door. An orderly, whose job was to give everyone in the room side-eye, stood by the exit. He nodded to me then turned and punched in a code on the keypad by the door. A loud buzzer sounded then the door unlocked with a click. Nurse Gilman pushed the door open, and we headed to the waiting room on the other side.
“Lacey,” Mom said, a look of relief washing over her face. She rushed across the room, pulling me into her arms. Her auburn-colored hair still smelled like French fries.
My stomach growled embarrassingly loud. Hospital Jell-O eaten with a spork could only get you so far—and they wouldn’t give me any pipe cleaners to make a companion Forky. Unfair.
“Lacey?” Nurse Gilman asked.
I pulled back and looked at Mom. I had never been happier to see her in my entire life. “No one calls me Alice,” I told the nurse. “I go by my middle name, Lacey.”
“Oh. You could have told me that,” Nurse Gilman replied as she jotted down a note in my chart.
“Well, now you know for next time,” I retorted sarcastically.
Mom shook her head then smiled gently at me. “You ready? It’s raining. They let me leave the car out front.”
“Ali—Lacey, would you like a wheelchair? I can have an attendant wheel you out,” Nurse Gilman offered.
“As if I’m not modified enough? No thanks.”
“Here, take your coat,” Mom told me, shoving my old leather jacket my way. She turned to the nurse. “Does she have any new scripts? Anything I need to sign?”
“HIPPA. Sorry, Mrs. Crane. Lacey can tell you herself, if she wants.”
Setting my bag in a chair by the window, I pulled on my coat. It was pouring. Drops rolled down the windowpane, distorting the view of the sidewalk below. As I pulled my jacket on, however, I noticed someone on the sidewalk below. He was looking up at the window. I couldn’t make him out clearly, but from what I could see, he was wearing some kind of period costume and a top hat. He had long, pale blond hair that almost looked white.
“You all think I’m a lunatic? There’s some guy standing outside in the rain in a Victorian get-up and top hat.”
“What?” Mom asked. “What are you talking about?”
“I don’t know. Just some rando guy standing in the rain,” I said then turned, zipped up my coat, and grabbed the bag.
Nurse Gilman stepped to the window and looked outside. “It’s really coming down,” she said, eyeing the sky. She then strained her neck to the left and right. “Your mystery man must have gone back inside.”
“He was right there,” I said.
A sick feeling rocked my stomach. No, no, no. He was there. Dammit, he really was there. I edged toward the window and looked outside. I was right. The man was standing right there, looking up at the window.
He waved at me.
“Where?” Nurse Gilman asked, looking up and down the sidewalk.
“There,” I said, motioning hesitantly.
“I must have missed him,” Nurse Gilman said with a shrug.
I stared at the man.
He waved again.
Dammit. Dammit. Dammit.
“Yeah,” I said. “Maybe they’re doing a show in the children’s wing or something,” I muttered then turned from the window.
I didn’t want Nurse Gilman to see my face.
Mom, however, caught my eye. Her eyebrows scrunched together as she gave me a hard look.
I dropped her gaze.
I absolutely, positively, did not want to have that conversation on the way home.
“I’m ready,” I told Mom.
“Good. Let’s get you the hell out of here.”
“Be well,” Nurse Gilman said. She motioned to the nurses’ station. The door to the waiting room unlocked with a click. Nurse Gilman motioned to us that we were free to go.
Mom and I headed down the dim hallway of the fifth-floor psych ward. The narrow hall felt like it was a million miles long. It wasn’t until we were safely inside the elevator that I finally exhaled.
“Your phone,” Mom said, handing it to me.
I had a few missing calls, messages from old friends, but there wasn’t anyone I wanted to talk to anyway. I stared at the screensaver, which had a picture of Nicholas and me. The photo had been taken just before homecoming, before everything went to shit. We’d gone for a hike that day. The autumn leaves in the background were bright orange and burnt red. We were both bundled up, our cheeks red, faces pressed together. We’d spent the entire hike planning a future that would never come to pass.
I turned off my phone and stuck it in my pocket.
Mom punched the elevator button for the ground floor.
I kept my eyes on the lights above the door, praying Mom wouldn’t ask anything.
It wasn’t until we’d passed the second floor that Mom whispered, “Lacey, are you seeing—”
“I’m fine. Really. I’m fine.”
She didn’t answer, which told me she knew well-enough I was not fine.
They’d been popping up in my periphery more frequently for the last two weeks. I almost felt like someone was watching me. People who were there, and then not there. Flickers of light. Shadows that whispered. Otherworldy shapes. Their presence wasn’t anything new to me. While I was more prone to see them during times of stress, they’d been there all my life. I knew that if I really looked, I’d see them. It was better to ignore them.
A mermaid had taught me that.
Mom and I headed to the front of the hospital. I couldn’t wait to get away from the terrible hospital smell. A weird mix of the scents of bleach, chrysanthemums, green beans, and Band-Aids perfumed the place. It was enough to make a person gag.
Raining or not, I was relieved when the hospital doors opened. I inhaled the sweet scent of the rain-soaked air. Mom’s rusted-out Mustang sat waiting just outside.
“Okay. Let‘s run for it,” Mom called, and we sprinted to the car.
Holding my plastic bag above my head, I ran, flinging open the door of the vehicle. But just before I climbed inside, I cast a glance down the sidewalk.
The man was still standing there. He pulled something from his pocket and tapped on it. He waved to me, a broad smile on his face.
“Lacey, you’re letting the rain in,” Mom yelled.
I slipped into the car, slamming the door behind me.
Mom revved the engine then drove off, her nineties rock springing to life. I leaned forward and clicked off the music. The last thing I needed was the dulcet tones of Nirvana shouting at me post suicide watch.
Sighing, I leaned back into the seat and closed my eyes.
Why was I seeing them again?
The white-haired man had been pointing at a pocket watch. A pocket watch.
What in the hell did that mean?
I hadn’t meant to kill myself.
Not this time.
It figured. On the morning I’d been discharged from the psych ward, I was beginning to lose my mind.


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