Thursday, June 13, 2019

Guest Post with Katie McGarry - Only a Breath Apart

Photo Content from Katie McGarry

Katie McGarry was a teenager during the age of grunge and boy bands and remembers those years as the best and worst of her life. She is a lover of music, happy endings, reality television, and is a secret University of Kentucky basketball fan. She is the author of the Pushing the Limits and Thunder Road series.


Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Tor Teen (January 22, 2019)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1250193850
ISBN-13: 978-1250193858


“Katie McGarry knows what YA is, how it works, and what it can do better than anyone, but she always takes it one step further.” ―Hypable

"Fair warning: Picture-perfect Scarlett and misunderstood Jesse will have you in your feels." ―Girls' Life Magazine

“Beyond a haunted teen romance is a beautiful, moving exploration of domestic violence, forgiveness, and self-love. ...Simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming.” ―Kirkus, starred review

“McGarry ably captures the feeling of desperately wanting to come home to a friendship that has radically changed. The novel manages to tackle domestic violence in a way that never feels clich├ęd, and the romance is sure to win over even the most cynical reader. This is a story you’ll want to read slowly, just to be able to stay with the characters for a moment longer.” ―Booklist

“A gorgeous, heartfelt journey of redemption and love.” ―Wendy Higgins, New York Times bestselling author

“Powerful, emotional, and ultimately hopeful. An unforgettable story that will leave its mark on your heart.” ―C. J. Redwine, New York Times bestselling author

“Gritty and real, Only a Breath Apart is a story of hope conjured from pain, strength drawn from innocence, and love earned from self-respect. Beautiful, poignant, and fierce.” ―Kristen Simmons, critically acclaimed author of the Article 5 series

“Meticulously weaves a fragile love story through a minefield of loss, broken trust, and familial curses both real and imagined. Haunting, authentic, and ultimately hopeful.” ―Tammara Webber, New York Times bestselling author

“A painful, beautiful, and utterly magical story about the family you’re born into versus the family you choose.” ―Trish Doller, author of In a Perfect World

“A touching tale of love and fate straight from the heartland.” ―Mindy McGinnis, author of The Female of the Species

“Scarlett and Jesse’s story will stay in your heart long after you finish the book.” ―Simone Elkeles, New York Times bestselling author

“Southern Gothic at its finest, this is Katie McGarry’s best book to date!” ―Miranda Kenneally, author of Catching Jordan and Breathe, Annie, Breathe

This was the original opening of Only a Breath Apart. I absolutely loved and adored it, but I was concerned that the beginning was moving slowly so I cut this. Some parts of this chapter made its way to other chapters in the book.

The shadows that cling to the wall move with the limbs of the tree outside, giving the shadows the appearance that they’re alive—poltergeists, ghosts. I’m a realist so I don’t believe in spirits beyond the grave, but I do believe in memories. Some memories are so real that they’re overpowering. That’s the black hole I’m floundering in tonight— memories come back to life.

Except for the soft light from the lamp next to my grandmother’s bed, the trailer is dark. Rain taps against the tin roof, and the last song on the record that’s been playing for the past twenty minutes ends, filling the blank space with dead air and static.

Gran loves listening to records, and that record player has been in her room for as long as I can remember. No matter how many times I tried to bring her musical tastes into this century, she refused.

“Nothing sounds as good as it does playing from a vinyl,” she chided. “Stop trying to change me, Jesse. I like who I am just fine.”

It’s three in the morning. I rolled in around midnight, half drunk, half sober and something in how she dreamed kept me from going in my room across the hall. Gran had been in a restless, wrestling match, and she had appeared to be on the losing end. But I came in, started playing her favorite albums on low and she’s eased into a better sense of peace.

Everything seems normal again, except for her breathing. It’s shallow, labored, a wheeze. Her chest moves up and then down, but I don’t like the feel of it. The doctor told her in April that her heart wouldn’t make it past July. It’s August, and the eerie sensation running along my skin informs me that she’s out of borrowed time.

From the wooden chair I dragged in from the kitchen, I reach over, place the needle back onto the groove and Johnny Cash sings, once again. His voice is deep, the lyrics heavy and the crazy growling in my brain becomes harder to ignore.

I’m slowly losing my mind.

“You can feel it, can’t you, Jesse?” Like a damn ghost herself, Glory’s pale face is the first part of her I see before she enters the light of Gran’s room. Her wild, wet blond hair sticks to her face, and water drips onto the worn carpet from the hem of her long flowing dress. “The air surrounding your home is different, weighted. The doors between this world and the next are converging here—ready to take another soul.”

Glory is full of crap. She was born in the wrong era, wrong generation, or maybe she drank too much or smoked too much weed when she was my age of seventeen. Any way I look at it, her forty year old mind is shot. There isn’t some magical, mystical realm full of fairies and unicorns. There’s the real world and real problems. I can’t help it if Glory can’t deal with reality. “I don’t remember inviting you.”

“I have an extended invitation,” she says.

“Three in the morning is beyond visiting hours.”

“Visiting hours are for conventional people, and there’s nothing conventional about any of us.” Glory float-walks to the other side of Gran, sits on the edge of the bed and gently takes her hand. “She’s going to pass tonight.”

“You don’t know that,” I snap.

She flips Gran’s hand over, traces her fingers over Gran’s palm and concentrates as she silently does a “reading.” I don’t bother to hide the roll of my eyes as I cross my arms over my chest. I lean back in the wooden chair as if I’m cool and calm instead of seconds away from losing my temper. If Gran didn’t love Glory so much, I’d kick her ass out.

Glory is family in the eighteenth-cousin-twice-removed way, and because of that, Gran has permitted Glory to live rent-free in the rundown house at the other side of the five hundred acres Gran owns. There, Glory-the-Con-Artist runs her tarot card/palm reading business. People pay her money so she can scam them and tell them lies.

There are only three Lachlin’s left in this world: me, Glory and Gran. Glory possesses a hint of the Lachlin bloodline, but Gran and I are the last full blood heirs. This meant so much to my Gran and my mom that they refused to give me my father’s last name. Instead, they gave me my grandmother’s maiden name: Lachlin.

According to my great grandfather’s last will and testament, the land can only be passed down to a direct Lachlin descendant. Gran and I are the last of a dying breed. After me, the Lachlin’s will be extinct.

Glory’s shoulders drop with a long exhale as if holding the palm of a weak woman is exhausting. She then lovingly rolls Gran’s fingers into a fist. “Yes, she’ll be crossing over soon.”

A muscle in my jaw twitches, and as I open my mouth to tell Glory she’s no longer welcomed, Gran’s eyes flutter open. “I want her here.”

I can’t figure out if I’m annoyed Gran’s been lying there listening or relieved she’s still coherent. Gran looks frail tonight, and if my grandmother has been known for anything it’s not for being frail. She has a reputation in this town as a kick-ass type of woman. She’s also known as eccentric. That’s a nice word for weird. Kick-ass, eccentric, and weird. Describes her well and it hurts bad in the chest that her body hasn’t kept up with her mind.

Glory leans over the bed and with a gentle hand, brushes Gran’s short, white hair away from her forehead. “I brought saffron to make tea. It will help clear all your centers and connect you better with the universe. Would you like some?”

Gran agrees, and I’m grateful Glory leaves the room. Once she’s down the hall, I scoot to the edge of my seat and readjust Gran’s favorite crocheted blanket so that it covers her better. “Are you doing okay?”

She rolls her head in my direction, and I hate how much effort it takes. This isn’t my grandmother. My gran is a woman who laughs too loud, speaks even louder and who loves me when no one else does. She took me in when I was thrown away, and she’s the only person over the past couple of years I have allowed myself to love.

My throat burns, and I clear it. Crying’s not my thing, but this is my gran and without her, I’m nothing. Thunder rumbles in the distance.

“Don’t be scared, Jesse,” her voice cracks on my name.

“I’m too old to be scared of the dark.” I’m teasing her, a reminder of when I was younger and how she would sit up with me on nights when the thunder and lightning felt too close and too dangerous.

Her forehead furrows. “There are different types of fear.”

That I know.

“I was a child when your great-grandma died,” she says. “She died in her bed, in our house, and it scared me, but Daddy told me to not be frightened because with her dying in the house meant I wasn’t alone.”

Good thing we don’t live in her childhood home, the condemned and falling apart building next to our trailer. Otherwise, I would have grown up with one more ghost rattling around in mind. There’s enough annoying spirits in there already and the ones I do have own loud voices and strong opinions. Most of them telling me each time I look in the mirror how I’m doing everything wrong.

“Don’t be scared of death.”

I say nothing because I don’t want to talk about her dying. Death doesn’t bother me. Her dying does.

“I love this land. Almost as much as I love you.” Gran reaches out, a silent request for me to take her hand, and without thought, I do. Her skin is cold and translucent, her grip too weak, and I hold on for more than what I’m worth. “Scatter my ashes on my land next to where your mom is buried.”

My eyes snap closed. Gran doesn’t understand how I’m walking the line of crazy. I can’t comprehend a world where she isn’t here when I return home. A click of her tongue when I showed past curfew, a knowing and proud smile when I came in covered in mud after working on our land, a hot oatmeal cookie after a long, hard day…

“Your uncle doesn’t think you’re responsible enough to own the land,” she says, and a muscle in my jaw ticks. My non-blood, married-into-the-family uncle and I share an unusual amount of hate. He doesn’t trust me, I don’t trust him and he’s made it his full time job to make my life a living hell. We have to deal with each other because he’s Gran’s power of attorney.

“He’s wrong.”

“He says he thinks you’re more interested in the money than in the legacy. He thinks you’ll sell the land the moment I pass and spend the money within the year.”

“He’s wrong again.” And he needs to keep his mouth shut.

“I know he is,” she says softly then gasps for air. It’s such a tight wheeze that I breathe in for her and wish that her lungs would fully fill the same way mine do. “He doesn’t understand how you love this land. I doubt even I fully understand. There’s a connection between you and it. I see it in your eyes every time you come in from walking through it. With that said, I want you to be happy. ”

“I am happy,” I say, and the sad flash in her eyes tells me she thinks that’s a lie. “You know this land brings me peace.” And that’s the truth.

When everything in my life has gone to hell, I’ve had this land and Gran, and when she passes, the land is all I’ll have left. People look at this sod and see trees, grass and fields. They see what they think is nothing. They see a backwards life in a technology driven future. I see my only shot at happiness.

I see something that’s alive, that breathes and is as much a part of me as my arms and legs. The land doesn’t judge. It doesn’t put expectations upon me that I’ll never meet. It accepts.

I see a place where when I work hard then life is created. Seeds grow into plants, and plants into fruit. I’ve seen horses and cows carry babies in their bellies, and I’ve experienced quiet and intense moments where all my problems become insignificant in the glory and awe of new life.

This land takes me as I am, and whenever the demons from my past ride me to hard, I walk this land and find peace. My soul and the land’s soul is intertwined. What happens to it, happens to me. We aren’t separate. We’re one.

“Don’t talk, Gran. You’ll feel better after some sleep, and in the morning, I’ll make you a hot breakfast.”

She studies me, and when she looks at me like that I’m afraid of what she sees. “I know what the people in town say. I know what some people in our family have said. I’ve told you this for years, but I need you to hear it again: there’s no curse.”

My eyes dart to hers, and then I lower my head. She squeezes my hand, but I can’t speak. Gran being so weak is already bringing up too many memories of Mom, and the pain in my chest is so intense that a part of me wishes I was the one close to death.

“If there was a curse,” she says, “then you wouldn’t be here. You’ve brought me more joy than I should have ever been allowed.”

I lightly chuckle. “You weren’t saying that when Uncle Marshall bailed me out of jail a couple of months ago.”

She laughs and squeezes my hand again. “You’re a challenge, but most things worth loving are.” Her smile fades. “That’s what I want for you. I don’t want you to be scared to love.”

Footsteps down the hallway and Gloria enters with a steaming China teacup and saucer. I move to help prop Gran up so she can drink, but she shakes her head. “Let Glory read your palm.”

“You don’t believe there’s a curse, yet you believe she can talk to dead people and see the future?” I tip the wooden chair I’m in so that the back of it leans against the wall.

“Yes,” Gran says without blinking. “So give her your hand. I want to know your future.”

“I don’t.” I have no interest in knowing anything beyond today.

“That sounds like you believe I have the gift.” Glory sets the teacup on the bedside table then peels a lock of her wet hair off her face. “And you’re scared of what I’ll tell you.”

“I believe you’re a hustler who makes a buck off people who are easy reads.”

“Nothing about you is easy. In fact, everything about you, including reading you, is very difficult.”

“Let me guess, I’m a tortured soul, and next week I’m going to see a blue bird and that blue bird’s going to represent a dead family member of mine who is there to tell me to be at peace with my soul.”

The ends of Glory’s mouth edge up—sarcastic and dry. “It’ll be a black bird, actually, and the bird will not bring peace to your soul. The sight of it will trouble you.”

Another keen observation based on things every person in town already knows—my soul is always troubled.

“You believe you are cursed.” Glory watches me as if she sees more than what exists. “Is it so hard to stretch your belief in the Lachlin curse to thinking there are those of us who possess a supernatural gift?”

“I’m cursed,” I say, “because I have to listen to you day in and day out spew lies about spirts beyond the grave.”

While Gran isn’t paying attention, Glory has the balls to smirk at me.

“Give her your hand,” Gran presses.

“Gran,” I start to protest, but she holds up her hand, stopping me.

“I did something, Jesse, to help you,” Gran whispers, and my heart stops beating. “And I want to make sure I made the right decision.”

I push off the wall, and the front legs of the chair hits the floor with a crack. “What did you do?”

“Let her read your palm,” Gran says, and as I open my mouth to argue, she raises her voice to a tone I haven’t heard in months. “Let her read your palm!”

I put out my hand, palm up, forcing Glory to come to me. Glory crosses the cramped room that’s small enough to hold Gran’s twin bed, her nightstand, a dresser and my chair. I can’t maneuver without my body ramming into a piece of furniture, but Glory breezes past it all and takes my hand in her smaller one.

“What’s his future?” Gran asks.

“This is ridiculous.”

“Any more ridiculous than the curse?” Glory whispers so only I can hear. “I know what you really believe, and I know how you believe you can break the curse.”

“You know nothing about me.” I go to snatch my hand back, but Glory keeps a firm grip. Plus Gran’s watching us intently. To appease her, I stay still. Glory’s painted blood red fingernail lightly follows a long line at the center of my palm then along the dissecting smaller ones.

“He will be tested,” Glory says in a far off voice. The perfected one she does for affect.

“Yeah. I start my senior year of high school next week. Tests happen.”

Glory and Gran ignore me, and Gran coughs, the rasping sound scraping the inside of my skull. “I know this. Tell me what I want to know.”

“This is more. The universe has decided to take advantage of your plan.”

A sickness sloshes around in my stomach. “What did you do, Gran?”

My uncle has been here more than normal. Paperwork in his hands each and every time. Gran told me she was updating her will. She told me she and my uncle were protecting me. I assumed it was to close some legal loopholes about me being a minor and inheriting the land. I silently curse because I should have been smarter. I should have asked for specifics.

Glory’s eyebrows knit together as she narrows her gaze on my palm.

“Trying to see what I had for dinner?” I mumble.

“Jesse’s future is unclear, Suzanne.”

“Because you’re a fake,” I whisper, but I give her credit. She never loses her “focus.”

“Jesse is a volatile soul. You know this. Unless he has a clear understanding of who he is, I can’t see what his choices will be.” Her forehead worries now as if watching my palm is causing her pain. All of which, I don’t buy.

“Did I make a mistake?” Gran asks as a wheeze. “Will he lose the land?”

“I don’t know. I can’t tell.”

My entire body jolts as if struck by electricity. I yank my hand away from Glory’s grip and turn my attention to Gran. “Why are you asking about the land? Why would I lose it?”

Gran’s chest rises, and then she blows out a breath. A breath that’s too long. A breath that feels too final. Johnny Cash begins the chorus of her favorite song, and that craziness in my head becomes a scream in my ears as I wait for her to inhale again.

Johnny Cash’s deep voice croons about sunshine, and as if in slow motion, Gran’s eyelids shut.

Bestselling author Katie McGarry’s trademark wrong-side-of-the-tracks romance is given a new twist in the gritty YA contemporary novel, Only a Breath Apart. 

Jesse Lachlin is cursed.

So the town folklore says, but while Jesse’s had his fair share of tragedy, the only curse he believes is in his grandmother’s will: in order to inherit his family farm he must win the approval of his childhood best friend, the girl he froze out his freshman year, Scarlett Copeland.

Scarlett Copeland is psychic.

Glory Gardner tells Scarlett she has hidden psychic abilities, but Scarlett thinks Glory is delusional. What is real is Scarlett’s father’s irrational fears, controlling attitude, and the dark secrets at home. Scarlett may have a way to escape, but there’s a hitch: she’ll have to rely on the one person she used to trust, the same boy who broke her heart, Jesse Lachlin.

Each midnight meeting pushes Jesse and Scarlett to confront their secrets and their feelings for each other. But as love blooms, the curse rears its ugly head…

You can purchase Only a Breath Apart at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you KATIE MCGARRY for making this giveaway possible.
5 Winners will receive a Copy of ONLY A BREATH APART by Katie McGarry.
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