Thursday, February 25, 2016

Blog Tour: Contra by Andrea Murray


In the sequel to the young adult dystopian novel, Omni, one young couple will do anything to stay together, and one man will do anything to control them. 

After barely escaping death in Omni, eighteen-year-old Pierce has left behind his place in the Artist stratum in exchange for sanctuary with his family. However, when Harmony goes missing, he can’t help but think it’s just another ploy of the Omni government to force him to return. 

With Harmony on her own, the two must find a way back to each other while battling against the full might of the government, but one powerful official is determined to keep them apart. Bent on revenge, Pelagic will stop at nothing to expose the secret of Pierce’s parentage.

SNOW FELL IN THICK BLANKETS of cold against the backdrop of the Ural Mountains, five thousand miles from the capital of Omni. Inside their tents, groups of Artists, some of the highest-paid members of Omni society, huddled around steaming cups of coffee. The director and a cameraman argued over the fading light casting shadows on their “set”—ruins of a once-great temple abandoned long ago by the people who once lived nearby and who were still a mystery to scientists.
Swan Song would be Artist Harmony’s first starring role, and the studio had spared no expense. The performance stratum was the highest-grossing stratum in Omni, and the studio was hoping for a blockbuster turnout on this one. If Harmony could be established as a leading lady, their next films were sure to put them into the top spot in that stratum, making them unstoppable. They were betting heavy on the talent commodity of a teenager, especially after her recent media explosion with Drudge-turned-Artist Pierce. He’d saved her first from an aggressive fan, pulling her from the overzealous crowd gathered outside the Palace, where she was attending a sponsored event. Later, when Malice had tried to force her back to the party, Pierce had once again stepped in, taking more than one hit from the wide receiver while a reporter recorded the entire thing. After the video went viral, she and Pierce had been thrown together in the public spotlight.
As a result, Harmony’s career was launched to the stratosphere. Citizens couldn’t get enough of the diamond-in-the-rough Pierce; his seemingly fated love affair with one of the most popular young stars would be a gold mine. Today, Harmony’s blonde curls and pristine white coat made her seem almost angelic, like she belonged to the old temple, a conjured vision instead of a budding Artist.
Hidden near a boulder created by the set designer and not Mother Nature, Sovereign Acumen, sovereign of the Geek stratum—one of the four official strata in Omni—forced her fingers into her leather gloves. She still had no idea what any of this had to do with her. She adjusted the gray fur ushanka on her head, cramming in her auburn curls until the hat threatened to pop off her head. Her fur-lined coat couldn’t keep out the chill, and she wished again she’d set up a surveillance system from the warmth of her penthouse instead of in person. With all the advancements the Geeks had made in the last seventy years since the Omni party had replaced the United States’ government, she could have easily set up the system by tapping into the camera systems on set. As the sovereign, or supreme superior, of the Geeks, she had the full power of Omni’s technology behind her. Instead she and Pelagic, sovereign of Commerce, had traveled thousands of miles, flying outside of Omni’s normal control zone to freeze their butts off in Siberia. How had she let Pelagic talk her into this? He hadn’t explained why he’d wanted surveillance of a movie set in Siberia; he’d just promised her “a big payoff,” whatever that meant, and she’d blindly followed because she knew having someone as powerful as another sovereign owe her could come in handy. Where was the old reprobate anyway?
As if on cue, a tall figure in a vintage peacoat walked toward her. His white hair peeked from the bottom of a wool toboggan, and his navy eyes gleamed with mischief. Pelagic grinned. “You look like a Siberian vision, dear Acumen. Are you certain you aren’t in this movie instead of just spying on that Artist, dear Harmony?”
Her frozen cheeks refused to smile—the cold and his charm did little to cool her irritation. Despite how much she liked his disregard for authority and his easy nature, she was freezing. “I’m not spying. I’m meeting some old-school fool”—she poked his chest with her finger—“who doesn’t trust technology. Tell me again why we have to be here? Just because you seem to enjoy this wannabe spy game doesn’t mean I do.”
“I trust my eyes, not your clever fingers tapping on a keyboard thousands of miles away.” He craned his neck to better see Artist Harmony, who was standing about thirty feet away. Her blonde curls nearly blended in with the pristine surroundings.
“A keyboard? You have got to get off that boat more.” She shook her head, setting free several red curls.
“Nevertheless, we’re here now, and stop calling The Trident a boat. It’s a yacht, darling.” He edged farther into the shadows when a short man handed the young beauty a cup and squeezed her shoulders.
“Yeah, we definitely are, but why?” asked Acumen. “I could have tapped into the camera feeds downloading footage to a server back in Omni, and we could be watching all this from my couch”—she tugged at the hat—“where it’s warm. This is what I do, Pelagic. I’m the head of the most advanced stratum in Omni, arguably the most advanced society in the world.” She held up her finger when he opened his mouth. “Not only am I freezing, but you’re keeping me from doing my job. You said we had to be here in person to check on the girl, but I don’t get it. It’s obviously her; that smart-ass superior of hers hasn’t somehow pulled a switch or anything. If we monitor her position by tracking their communicators, we should—”
“I may be—What did you call me? Old school?—but old school will ensure we get the Drudge,” said Pelagic. “Do you see that ubiquitous little man?”
“Yeah, that’s Superior Galvan, right?” Acumen said. “Used to be an actor. He’s Artist Harmony’s mentor.” Acumen leaned into Pelagic to absorb what body heat she could.
So this was all about Pierce. His fame in the media had raised him almost overnight from a Drudge, the lowest class in Omni, to Artist after accepting the contract Sovereign Adora, supreme superior of the Artists, had offered him, a contract promising outrageous wealth and the promise Harmony could choose her future consort. Since his recent rise, he’d been the hottest thing in Omni—until he’d mysteriously disappeared after a fire in his cubicle. True to form, the reporters had inundated every news source with his image, cashing in again on the citizens’ fascination with the pauper-to-prince story. No one knew his whereabouts, and it looked like Pelagic wanted a piece of the action for some reason.
“Galvan is a bit of a problem,” said Pelagic. “He stands in our way now but could prove to be useful in the future.” Pelagic slipped his arm around Acumen’s shoulders, pulling her even closer. She could smell the sea, his days spent on the waves. “He’s her constant companion, her guardian as well as her weakness. If we’re going to get to her, we have to go through him.”
“But how does that help us? He’s just one old man.”
“No, he’s one experienced superior. He’s almost as important to the Artist stratum as you are to the Geeks.”
She smirked. “Doubtful.”
The tan skin around Pelagic’s eyes crinkled. “Nevertheless, we follow him until he gives us the key.”
“Enough double-talk, Pelagic. Why do we need him, either of them for that matter? Pierce made his choice, and now he’s vanished anyway.”
“I know you, Acumen. You’re too curious not to wonder why he disappeared, and you know very well that your novice Geek Hale was murdered by Superior Oesis. But you don’t know why. Well, I do. This story goes much deeper than one popular boy and his choice of strata.” He nodded toward Harmony. “This pretty Artist will lead us to the Drudge and the revenge I’ve sought for too long.”
The reminder of the death of her newest recruit at the hands of that odious man, Oesis, brought a spark of anger to Acumen. Hale had been a promising kid with a lot of ability and a compliant attitude, the best kind of addition to her stratum. Oesis, a superior in the Artist stratum, had hidden his hit-and-run from most of Omni but not to those who knew how to look. And revealing his guilt to Pierce, Hale’s closest friend, was just plain cruel.
Acumen still wasn’t completely clear on why Oesis had killed Hale. She only had the footage that showed the act, and until she knew all the details, she’d keep it close to her vest. In Omni, any advantage had to be guarded. Acumen would love to see Oesis get his due, and tagging along with Pelagic might be the best way to see that happen, but she’d be damned if she’d let him know that. Pelagic had been playing the politics game for more years than she’d been alive, but one thing she did understand was power, and giving away too much too soon showed weakness. She liked Pelagic’s easy nature but not enough to let him think he could control her. “Why would I help you?” She turned to face him, and he tapped her nose before cupping her cheek.
“Because, dear girl, you love a good challenge, and I can give you more power than you ever dreamed possible.”

Andrea Murray has been teaching English for longer than most of her students have been alive. She has taught everything from elementary reading groups to concurrent credit classes. She is currently teaching junior high language arts. She has a BSE and an MA in English. She lives in a very small town in Arkansas with her husband of nineteen years and their two children. In addition to teaching, she also blogs on Chick Lit Plus, writes young adult fiction, and recently completed her fourth novel, Omni, a YA dystopian based on the story of Paris and Helen. Andrea has also written The Vivid Trilogy, a YA paranormal romance. When she isn’t doing that, she’s probably reading or watching bad B movies.

February 22 – Around the World in Books – Excerpt

February 23 – Change the Word – Q&A

February 24 – Books and Ladders – Review

February 25 – Kelly’s Nerdy Obsession – Review & Excerpt

February 29 – Chick Lit Plus – Review


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