Series: Fleet Eternal Story
Author: Stephen M.A.
Genre: Science Fiction, Space Opera
Length: Novel (351pgs)
Publisher: SMA Publishing (November 12, 2020)
Heat Level: Low – Moderate
Heart Rating: 💖💖💖💖 4 Hearts
Blurb: “I knew the Board’s worry wasn’t that thousands had died, but that they’d done it unprofitably.”
The Fiduciary Dominion has a problem. Seersa Kudaibergen, beloved Admiral of the Defense Corps, is suddenly faltering in battle, while whispers of conspiracy drift in orbit. Now The Interviewer, fussy ex-military investigator, must partner with Madame Zhou, cantankerous Ruby District doyenne, to unravel this string of increasingly pyrrhic victories over an undying alien armada.
A florid, sharply characterized exploration of one shadowed world, ruled by extravagant military contractors…falling to pieces under siege.
In the Unified Fiduciary Dominion, truth and revenue are often mutually exclusive. But when Crowley Vanderbilt, greedy corporate scion, starts meddling with battle plans that have staved off Fleet Eternal for decades, the entire planet might pay the price for his lies.
Now, Fleet Eternal’s next assault threatens to be the deadliest one yet. In a desperate bid to blow the whistle before it’s too late, The Interviewer enlists the help of Bartimus Caldwell, whiz kid sensor Scry, to issue a declassified public report that could rewrite military history forever…
Loved by fans of: Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries, Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit, Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch, and John Scalzi!.
Review: This is a story that is devastatingly sad yet filled with drama, humor and hope. The interviewer is tasked with getting to the bottom of things and the interviews at times are humorous to say the least. There is an underlying sense of desperation that leads to someone making plans of their own.
I loved the story with all it’s amazing well thought out characters that added depth and feelings to the story line. There is no shortage of mystery as the plot thickens. I was ready to help those in need and get to the bottom of things myself as the story progressed into a beautiful ending full of hope.
A lot happens throughout the book that had me on the edge of my seat waiting to see what happens. This story is well written and riveting to say the least.
Series: Liminal Sky: Oberon Cycles 01
Author: J. Scott Coatsworth
Genre: Science Fiction
Length: Novel (318 pages)
Publisher: Other Worlds Ink (10th October 2020)
Heat Level: Low – Moderate
Heart Rating: 💖💖💖💖💖 5 Hearts
Blurb: Jameson Havercamp, a psych from a conservative religious colony, has come to Oberon—unique among the Common Worlds—in search of a rare substance called pith. He’s guided through the wilds on his quest by Xander Kinnson, a handsome, cocky skythane with a troubled past.
Neither knows that Oberon is facing imminent destruction. Even as the world starts to fall apart around them, they have no idea what’s coming—or the bond that will develop between them as they race to avert a cataclysm.
Together, they will journey to uncover the secrets of this strange and singular world, even as it takes them beyond the bounds of reality itself to discover what truly binds them together..
Review: Two men taken to safety as children will come together twenty five years later to save the world. Xander is a Skythane. He’s had a hard life. Abused at the hands of a diabolical man’s hands he is saved one day by Alix who cherishes and nurtures him until Alix disappears.
Jameson grew up in a religious home and became a psych. He helps people as is what he’s always wanted to do. The time comes when he is tasked to find out where a drug called Pith comes from. It will be a journey fraught with revelations and danger, spanning decades of memories.
The twists and turns and the buried memories were spellbinding to witness. This book had it all. Drama, mystery, suspense, a corrupt corporation, a world on the brink of destruction, characters that added insight to the ever growing mystery as to what it going on, and two men who discover who they truly are and what they are destined for. Simply put this was a fascinating story that grabs your attention from the start.
I absolutely loved, loved, loved this story. If I could rate it more than a five I would.
The Skythane people were described beautifully as well as the worlds themselves. It was so elaborate that I felt as though I was there every step of the way. It was an amazing story from start to finish.
Highly recommended for all.
QSFer Stephen M.A. has a new diverse military space opera out:
Tiny Planet Filled With Liars.
And there’s a giveaway!
An armada that never dies. A society on the verge.
Every 30 days, Fleet Eternal arrives to surround the planet and lay siege to a complacent populace. Its armaments are unbeatable, its numbers uncountable, but the terrifying assault has one fatal flaw: a mere .01% loss in combat strength triggers automatic retreat and reset.
For decades, the Unified Fiduciary Dominion has relied on the Board and its military contractors to defend the planet and maintain the knife’s edge of survival. Now, riven by greed and false confidence, those corporate lords have abandoned their duty in pursuit of political power.
The tactics of the Alpha Vector Defense Corps have served for generations—so why are they suddenly faltering? And why do Board members seem increasingly unconcerned with the tenuous state of the system? Armed with the exclusive authority to investigate, one fussy ex-military reporter must partner with a generous Madame to chase down the story behind a string of failed battles—and pray they find answers before the districts are turned to ash.
As casualties rise, The Interviewer faces deadly resistance … and discovers a disturbing conspiracy at the highest ranks.
The world’s security is careening toward disaster, and this whistleblower is running out of time. But when every answer seems to bring more questions, one reminder guides the way:
Don’t come here looking for truth. This is just a pack of lies and the end of the world.
A genre-busting dramedy & political satire thriller in military sci-fi clothing.
Win a $20 Amazon gift card!
Interview with Stephen M.A.!
Who would you say your favorite character is? I’m presuming you won’t be pretending not to have one.
No, of course not. But actually, I think it was more a matter of having a particular favorite character at a particular point in the story. I think in the end it’s probably pretty obvious which character is my “hero” at any given section. The favorite.
But never me.
Well, no. Sorry.
I told you from the start you’d begin to hate me as soon as you let me start to get autobio—
It is NOT autobiographical—I mean, YOU are not autobiographical! You are NOT a stand-in for me! For crying out—
It’s Zhou, isn’t it.
Yes, it is. Of course it’s Zhou. She was the first, and the last. It could only ever have been her. She’s the only reason I turned this into an entire world.
Bless her mean and cranky heart.
We don’t have a drink. Quarantine, remember.
Yeah, I know. Also I don’t really drink.
Yeah, I know.
Can I be honest?
I don’t see why you’d bother starting at this point in the game, but sure, go ahead, it’s your word count.
I came into this with a firm concept, and a firm emotion. Mine. Anger. You know all the reasons.
But the only reason this is likely to become a series now is because Zhou is the story. I’ll be writing the next two books for her.
Aw, that’s sweet.
You’ll take a sandal to the throat if you say that to her face, though.
Well luckily you’re in there with her and I’m out here … uh … with you … you know what, let’s just wrap this up.
Probably for the best. Thanks so much to MM Good Book Reviews for having us! Grab Tiny Planet Filled With Liars on Kindle Unlimited today!
Onyx Hoteliers LTD., Suite 7382, Courtesy Level Omega Plus Royale
First, let me say welcome to the suite.
Uh. Thank you.
It’s courtesy level Omega Plus Royale, you know.
Uh, I mean, that’s great. Very impressive.
Thank you. You need to purchase 2,000 units of Class A shares just to get the invitation to apply for a reservation.
I’ll … uh … I’ll look into it, for sure, though I don’t know what I’d do with a room this fancy on my own.
You are Bartimus Caldwell.
Don’t call me that. I’ve been discharged for years.
I’m sorry, si—I mean, I’m sorry. I won’t.
State your position, rank, and assignment.
Yeoman Sensor Scry, Grade III, Alpha Vector Defense of the Unified Fiduciary Dominion.
State your duties, in the most simple and clear terms you are able to.
Uh … I coordinate the intake and regressive analysis of real-time sensor data to monitor the mid-threat-time development of incursions in the Alpha Vector, when under the command of UFD Central Board Oversight.
You’re a watchman and analyst.
Uh … correct, sir.
How long have you been enlisted?
I … was assigned commission four years ago.
You’re not volunteer enlisted?
Why are you even allowed in the Operations Center, in that case? Or have those regulations been changed?
I don’t—uh … I was not given such information, sir. Just the assignment.
I’ve been told my predecessor retired out of her indenture due to debilitating stress. Uh … several predecessors, actually. For the same reason.
Are you stressed, Bartimus?
Stop calling me sir.
Alpha Vector Operations Center
DURING incursions Bartimus Caldwell often feels chained to his desk.
Though incursion has initiated in the late afternoon (within a Unified Time Stamp of plus or minus 30 seconds) for the last twenty-six-and-one-half years, all personnel Grades V and below are still required to take stations no later than 0600 on the morning of.
Bartimus hates waking up so early, which may be why he avoided commission for so many years. It is to his great misfortune that he’s a whiz kid with sensor analysis, and inevitably discovered that Central Board Oversight had been made aware of his talents when he was abruptly recruited (then indentured) for a 20-year service stint four years ago, precisely two weeks after his 31st birthday. At the time he was gainfully (and happily) employed in the remote sexual screening industry, but that’s not relevant to this portion of his story.
Bartimus Caldwell’s desk, which binds him so readily, is located on the upper balcony of the Alpha Vector Operations Center, when under the command of Central Board Oversight.
This room represents the most exclusive and highly classified product catalogs of no less than three dozen military contractors. However, those who’ve bothered to learn as much know that in reality only two conglomerates perch atop the corporate meta-structure which hides its many tendrils behind each of those contractors.
In some professions, as you know, acknowledging this easily verifiable duopoly is quite literally illegal. For instance, service personnel are forbidden to acknowledge or discuss, in any capacity, any information that might insinuate that the dozens of military contractors working with Central Board Oversight are not in fact plucky small businesses that have been rightfully rewarded with thick and hefty revenue streams by virtue of patriotism and good old-fashioned UFD entrepreneurship.
Bartimus Caldwell adheres to this policy with unerring slavishness and would never even think of speaking ill toward the contractors. I know this because he has assured me of it several times.
When Alpha Vector Defense is not under the command of Central Board Oversight, Bartimus Caldwell’s desk is in the auxiliary hangar, packed in alongside the other 382 service members in the unit. In that venue, each such member enjoys no less than two square meters of personal space in which to perform their duties, of which their auxiliary desk takes up no more than one-point-two-five square meters.
Bartimus Caldwell bubbles with gratitude toward the military for providing this generously outfitted working space to its service members. I know this because he has assured me of it several times.
However, this was an incursion week, which meant that Board members would be in attendance for their usual round of post-contact media conferences and photo opportunities, which meant Bartimus Caldwell and his unit were stationed in the Alpha Vector Operations Center, showcasing the finest product catalogs of the military contractors owned by said members of the Board.
From his desk in the front ring on the upper balcony of the Alpha Vector Operations Center, Bartimus enjoys an unobstructed view of the entire room. Behind him on the octagonal balcony, which encircles the entire outer wall of the Operations Center, two more layers of desks and control consoles are laid out, fully staffed with unit members of Grades II and I.
The bidding wars to manufacture the desks used on the balcony have been quite fierce in recent years, and a new contract seems to be assigned every other month. Bartimus has grown quite used to arriving for OC duty and discovering a brand new desk in front of his seat, though thankfully, after one long stretch of genuine UX insanity, a regulatory design decree was issued that now ensures the general layout and functionality of each new desk model is largely the same as the last.
As a history scholar and courier for the secretive Circle of Thales, Rene Laurent is a man of many talents – none of them lending themselves much to a life of adventure.
But when a chance meeting with a young, idealistic Belligra priest drags him into a wild quest to keep a dangerous mutagen off the streets of Floor, his curiosity gets the better of him. Between monsters both human and man-made, he realises that maybe fieldwork is more of his game than he had ever thought possible…
Written by Rainbow-Award-winning authors Beryll and Osiris Brackhaus, ‘The PV-3 Mutagen’ is a colourful non-romance sci-fi adventure set in the wildly diverse ‘Virasana Empire’, and the first novel of the ‘Doctor Laurent’ series.
Warnings: Not a romance. Harsh setting, but hopeful.
The monofilament weaponry shop was located at one of the posher malls in the quadrant. One Rene had never visited before since it specialised in all sorts of combat equipment. That the shop ran holo ads at other malls pointed to them having a good marketing budget which in turn meant they must be profitable.
The security guards at this mall didn’t so much as blink at the Belligra coming in. After all, he had good reason to be here. When they walked in, the first thing they saw was a shiny, hulking hovertank on display in the ground floor foyer, setting the mood for the whole place.
Amusingly, the holo ads here were a whole lot less obnoxious, mostly confined to displays right outside the shop windows rather than following the customers around. It probably wasn’t a good idea to annoy people who were interested in buying weapons, heavily armed and aggressive as they were wont to be.
Rene nearly lost Riccardo while studying the floor plan for the monofil shop. He found the Belligra at a nearby store, longingly gazing at what was advertised as the latest model of personal energy shields. The ones on display were in the form of various types of belt buckles and ornamental brooches. Riccardo was watching the holo display showing the shields in action with rapt attention.
Rene took one look at the price tags and dismissed the notion of getting one for his Belligra friend. There was a reason the store was located in the prime spot, right at the entrance. It wasn’t meant for priests, or normal commoners. This was the turf of company bosses and minor nobles. Looking inside, Rene found a stylishly uniformed shop clerk glaring at him. He wasn’t making shooing gestures, after all, a Belligra was not someone to be trifled with, but he very much wanted them gone.
“Come on,” he told Riccardo and tried to gently herd him away, “the ‘Cutting Edge’ is on the third floor.”
That got Riccardo’s attention. “Cutting Edge? Seriously? They couldn’t come up with a more cliche name?”
Rene shrugged. “You have to give them that you know exactly what they are dealing in.”
Riccardo cast one last longing glance at the energy shield display but obediently followed Rene to the escalators. There were plenty of other distractions for someone interested in combat. On their ride up, they had a good view of the great variety of shops selling all manner of killing tools devised by humanity and as many to make sure you didn’t get killed by them. Riccardo kept craning his neck to take it all in. It was the first time Rene had seen him truly fascinated by the abundance of commerce Floor was famous for. So, the austere, disciplined Belligra had a weakness when it came to weaponry and armour. Rene was curious to see if he would be overwhelmed by it, but he kept his own weakness of curiosity in check and led Riccardo straight to the monofil store.
It was located between a dingy-looking ammunition shop, which advertised bulk sales, and a small workshop offering armour repair services. The Cutting Edge very much dominated the scene with a sleek, white and silver interior, looking very high-tech in a most pleasing, confidence-inspiring way. The displays in the windows showed only a handful, equally sleek weapons, with special lighting illuminating the edges in different colours.
Next to Rene, Riccardo made a small sound of joy. While before he had looked like a kid in a candy shop, he now seemed more like someone admiring a piece of art. Rene looked up at him, raising an eyebrow. In reaction, Riccardo managed to look embarrassed and righteous at the same time.
“What? They’re pretty. Can’t I appreciate that?”
Rene smiled at him. “Appreciate away. It’s nice to finally see you find something you like on Floor.”
“Hmm. Let’s call it reason number one why I don’t have to leave the planet as soon as possible, shall we?”
“Let’s.” Rene entered the store and was announced by a soft tinkling as he stepped through the door.
He half expected to be treated as unwelcome rabble here as well, so he was pleasantly surprised when, instead, a clerk dressed casually in cargo pants and a white t-shirt with the Cutting Edge logo approached them with a bright smile. No older than in his mid-twenties, his bright blue, spiky hair sparkled the same colour as some of the weapons’ edges.
“Welcome, gentlemen,” he greeted them, “I’m Gino. What can I do for you today?”
Polite customer service was what sold wares, and this franchise was well aware.
“We’ve seen an ad for your monofilament grenades,” Rene replied. “We have a bit of a vermin problem, and we think that your grenades are the way to go to get rid of it.”
“That must be some seriously bad vermin,” Gino joked.
Rene held out his hand at waist height. “This tall and armed with teeth and claws.”
“Oh.” Suddenly, the joke wasn’t that funny anymore and Gino switched gears with admirable speed. “Then I think you are in the right place. Our grenades were specifically designed for exactly these kinds of problems. If you will come with me, I can show you the options we offer.”
We are Beryll and Osiris Brackhaus, a couple currently living our happily ever after in the very heart of Germany, under the stern but loving surveillance of our cat.
Both of us are voracious but picky readers, we love telling stories and drinking tea, good food and the occasional violent movie. Together, we write novels of adventure and romance, hoping to share a little of our happiness with our readers.
An artist by heart, Beryll was writing stories even before she knew what letters were. As easily inspired as she is frustrated, her own work is never good enough (in her eyes). A perfectionist in the best and worst sense of the word at the same time and the driving creative force of our duo.
An entertainer and craftsman in his approach to writing, Osiris is the down-to-earth, practical part of our duo. Broadly interested in almost every subject and skill, with a sunny mood and caring personality, he strives to bring the human nature into focus of each of his stories.
Series: The Verge 01
Author: A.C. Thomas
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: November 2, 2020
Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex
Genre: Science Fiction, LGBTQIA+, sci-fi, pansexual, gay, nerd/scientist, pilot/space cowboy, space travel/road trip, space pirates, missing person, size difference, twins, virginity/loss of virginity, class difference
Dr. Aristotle Campbell is a desperate man. His twin brother has been abducted, and Ari will do anything to find him. Forced out of the comfortable solitude of his laboratory, Ari must leave their home world of Britannia and search the farthest reaches of space for his other half. He hastily equips himself with a flawlessly tied cravat, a handful of clues, and his small science vessel. Now, all he needs is a pilot to get him across the Verge, a barrier separating the civilized world from ungoverned space.
Pilot Orin Stone is a desperate man. No ship, no pay, no prospects. He spends his days barely scraping by in the rough colonies lining the Verge interior. When he gets an offer from a frantic, upper-crust professor in need of a pilot, he has no choice but to take the job. He just can’t believe it when the professor turns out to be the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen and that his offer includes a ship of Orin’s own. If Orin can keep his heart (and other portions of his anatomy) from leaping every time sweet, innocent Dr. Campbell looks at him, this should be his easiest job yet.
Rugged Orin and aristocratic Ari work together to navigate the lawless areas of space beyond the Verge, soon discovering that they work well together in all areas. Their immediate and intense attraction to one another is an obstacle to their plans that neither saw coming. More than sparks will fly when they break through the force field and enter restricted space, all alone together for the perilous journey, leaving barriers to their growing attachment far behind.
In their search across the stars, can two desperate men find their home in one another?
Restricted, A.C. Thomas © 2020. All Rights Reserved
“You want me to do what?”
Ari straightened his shoulders, hands folded together on the table between them, suppressing a wince as his skin stuck unpleasantly to a thick smear of residue best left uninvestigated.
Somewhere behind him the sound of glass breaking was followed by a bowel-shaking roar, a meaty impact, scuffling sounds, and hearty guffaws.
Definitively best left uninvestigated.
He sniffed quietly, regretting the action as the odor of stale beer and unwashed bodies assaulted his senses. Forcing himself to meet his companion’s bored regard, he cleared his throat before speaking in as firm a tone as he could manage.
“In the interest of saving both of our time, I’ll cut to the chase. I require a pilot capable of navigating uncharted areas with immediate availability and a willingness to negotiate a flexible pay schedule.”
Mr. “Call me Orin, honey” Stone slumped back in his seat with careless, sprawling grace, the edge of one enormous scuffed leather boot sliding across the floor to rest a millimeter away from the polished black toes of Ari’s spats.
“So, just so we’re clear— You’re asking me to find you a pilot ready to jump right across the Verge into the deepest, slimiest dark, for—and this is the bit that really sticks in my throat, pumpkin— You want me to find you some sap willing to do all that for, apparently, no pay.”
Keen bourbon eyes swept Ari from head to toe, that restless boot finally edging just close enough to touch.
“You’re cute, sugar. But you’re off your rocker.”
Ari’s chair scraped against the floor as he jolted forward in his seat, one hand closing around the fraying cuff of Orin’s greatcoat.
“This is a matter of utmost urgency. My brother is—” He paused to clear his throat after an embarrassing crack in his voice. “My brother is missing; he has been abducted by an Outlier fiend, and I am utilizing every resource at my disposal to ensure his safe return. My inquiries led me to you, with the assurance you could facilitate a jump with immediate effect. Now I demand that you either provide said assistance, or you cease wasting my time.”
Orin fixated on the white-knuckled grip holding his sleeve. The coiled strength of his thick forearm underscored Ari’s awareness that he could break free at a moment’s notice with very little energy expended.
“What kind of resources are we talking, here?” Orin’s eyes narrowed under a heavy brow, the sweep of space-black lashes unexpectedly elegant against his brutish visage.
Ari drew a long breath, attempting to steady his resolve.
“I possess a three-year-old Xalanthe Explorer model 953V. It is in exemplary condition, and I am prepared to offer it as payment upon my brother’s safe return to our home on Britannia.”
Before he finished speaking, Orin sat up in his chair, the full extent of his imposing size suddenly evident even while seated. He turned his hand in Ari’s grip, long fingers wrapping easily around his thin wrist.
“You’re trading your ship. A brand-new ship. To any asshole willing to fly it? Just to finish a little game of hide-and-seek with your brother who—no offense, Red—sounds like he ran off with a bit of strange?”
Aristotle bristled, slim shoulders rising to his ears as the heat of an angry flush spread from the unfortunate ginger of his precisely parted hairline down to the white of his starched collar points.
“He did not ‘run off’! He was abducted. I have no more time to waste with your nonsense, sir. Are you able to assist in my endeavor, or shall I continue pursuing a pilot on my own?”
A lopsided grin spread across his companion’s face, revealing a hint of prominent canine and a surprisingly charming set of dimples. Orin gave another insolent sweep of his gaze, ticking to the length of Ari’s throat rising above his cravat. The rumble of his voice dropped low enough that Ari had to strain to hear him above the surrounding chaos.
“Hmm, that depends, Red. That blush go all the way down?”
The clatter of the cheap aluminum chair against the cracking concrete floor was lost in the cacophony of raucous laughter, clinking glasses, and blaring synth music that characterized drinking establishments on the rough ring of colonies lining the Verge. Ari wrenched his arm away as he stood, breaking free.
He turned his back, adjusting his waistcoat with trembling fingers as he wracked his brain for alternative solutions. He had only taken a half step away from the table when a firm grip on his coattails wrenched him backward. He swung around, fists in a pugilist’s stance, raised to the smiling face of Mr. Stone.
“Whoa now, slow up there, professor. If you’re wanting to trade a whole damn ship for the temporary services of some sleazy sack of shit with a pilot’s license, I got just the guy you need.”
Knees weak with relief, Ari nearly attempted to sit before remembering he had overturned his chair, which was now likely glued to the filthy floor of the saloon.
“Excellent. Where can I find this person?”
That lopsided grin opened up into a full-blown smile, revealing rows of white, uneven teeth. “You’re looking at him, sweetheart.”
Ari twitched at the endearment, unaccustomed to the way they seemed to drip from the pilot’s every phrase like butter melting off the plate.
He turned fully to face him, coattails twining around his narrow hips as Orin maintained his grip, tugging once with a waggle of thick brows at Ari’s resulting unintentional pelvic thrust before releasing him with a flourish.
Orin pushed off from the table, broad shoulders rising up and up to just above Ari’s line of sight. Ari swallowed an obvious comment on the pilot’s intimidating height, realizing how much he’d underestimated the man’s size.
Ari stared straight ahead at the hollow of Mr. Stone’s throat, bronze skin left exposed by the open vee of his collarless shirt. A few dark, curling hairs peeked out of the opening, inches from Aristotle’s nose. A strange fluttering sensation swept through his abdomen at the sight.
Recognizing the sensation as inappropriate at best and disastrous at worst, Ari turned on stiff legs and led the way out of the saloon, doing his utmost to avoid brushing up against the rough clientele. Heads swiveled to follow Ari even as they ignored the much larger figure of Mr. Stone following close behind his every step.
Ari ducked his head as they emerged into the daylight, squinting against the intrusive brightness before heading off toward the nearest dry dock, zeroing in on his ship after a few minutes’ walk. Mr. Stone was a silent shadow at his back, footsteps shockingly light for a man of his size.
The small exploratory vessel stood out among the busted-up freighters and speeders cluttering the dock. Clean panels of riveted steel shaped the subtle curves framing the centerpiece—a large frontal view screen. The only unnecessary ornament was that of the exaggerated dorsal fin, the sight of which had caused Aristotle’s brother to laugh out loud when they first purchased the ship.
Ari’s back stiffened at a low whistle, two familiar notes usually directed with prurient interest.
Mr. Orin Stone was circling his ship, one hand, large and square as a shovel head, trailing long fingers over the surface with surprising reverence.
“What’s your name, beautiful?”
He directed his inquiry to the ship but turned to Aristotle as though expecting an answer.
Ari cleared his throat. “As I have previously mentioned, it is a Xalanthe—”
Orin cut him off with a rude sound pushed between full lips. “She.”
Ari opened his mouth to reply, mistaking a brief pause for the conclusion of the pilot’s statements.
“Ship’s a she. And she’s a pretty little thing, deserves a name. If you don’t have one for her yet, I can think of something fancy to call her. Something with a bit of glitter to it. Little lady like this one deserves to shine.”
His eyes in turn glittered at Ari, sparkling with amusement and apparent satisfaction upon viewing the small science vessel.
Without looking away, he spat into one rough palm before holding it out to Aristotle as if to shake.
“You’ve got yourself a deal, Red.”
Ari recoiled from the offered hand, curling his own into protective fists at the notion of sealing a verbal contract with an exchange of bodily fluids.
“That is the most disgusting thing I have ever seen.”
Orin’s throaty laughter rang out against the polished metal panels of the ship exterior, echoing across the shipyard.
“Is it now? Well, stick with me, sugar; I could really expand your horizons.”
Meet the Author
A.C. Thomas left the glamorous world of teaching preschool for the even more glamorous world of staying home with her toddler. Between the diaper changes and tea parties, she escapes into fantastical worlds, reading every romance available and even writing a few herself.
She devours books of every flavor—science fiction, historical, fantasy—but always with a touch of romance because she believes there is nothing more fantastical than the transformative power of love.
Hi guys, we have J. Scott Coatsworth stopping by today with the tour for his new release Skythane, we have a fantastic excerpt, a brilliant $25 Amazon GC giveaway and Shorty’s review, so check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Pixie~
J. Scott Coatsworth
Jameson Havercamp, a psych from a conservative religious colony, has come to Oberon—unique among the Common Worlds—in search of a rare substance called pith. He’s guided through the wilds on his quest by Xander Kinnson, a handsome, cocky skythane with a troubled past.
Neither knows that Oberon is facing imminent destruction. Even as the world starts to fall apart around them, they have no idea what’s coming—or the bond that will develop between them as they race to avert a cataclysm.
Together, they will journey to uncover the secrets of this strange and singular world, even as it takes them beyond the bounds of reality itself to discover what truly binds them.
The Door and Other Uncanny Tales
Author: Dmetri Kakmi
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: September 28, 2020
Heat Level: 1 – No Sex
Pairing: No Romance
Genre: Horror, LGBTQIA+, sci-fi/fantasy, paranormal, horror, family-drama, crime gay, lesbian, demisexual, asexual, art/visual, ghost, body horror, prostitution, murder, abortionist, ancient evil
Living paintings, spectral children, cannibal serial killers, lost souls, haunted houses, and ancient evil proliferate The Door and Other Uncanny Tales. Everywhere reality and fantasy collapse to create a new unstable world, even the body is not what it seems. Combined with Dmetri Kakmi’s gothic imagination and mordant humor, the result is fiction that is as memorable as it is unsettling.
This collection contains three new and three previously published stories, including the acclaimed Haunting Matilda, The Long Lonely Road and The Boy by the Gate.
The Door and Other Uncanny Tales, Dmetri Kakmi © 2020, All Rights Reserved
The Door: Chapter One
“There now,” Orestes said, standing back to admire the painting.
It hung before him from a sturdy hook on the landing of the staircase leading from the darker downstairs part of the house to the lighter upstairs, with rows of small windows and the French doors that opened on a balcony, overlooking narrow Transom Street. This had been after all, in other times, an industrial area, filled with factories, abattoirs, noise, and the stench of hard labor in the shadow of the nearby Convent of the Good Shepherd, by the river. Now the suburb was gentrified and provided accommodation for the likes of himself, Orestes Gallanos, and his partner Simon Cole, artists both, living the inner-city dream in lofty warehouse spaces.
“There now,” Orestes repeated, casting an eye over the artwork he had labored upon for almost five months, in the garage turned studio with its stuffy air and bad light. He folded his arms across a narrow chest, tilted his head to the side, and stepped back to admire the results of his efforts. Not too far back because the hardwood landing was small and he risked falling down the steps to the polished concrete floor below.
It was a splendid work, even if he thought so himself. Very effective. It achieved exactly the outcome he aimed to produce in its creation all along.
It was a door painted with oil on linen. A life-size door, seven feet in height and three feet wide, with an old-fashioned handle that gave off a pleasing brass gleam. The square frosted glass panel above complemented two vertical panels below, and he had found that working with oil allowed him to capture perfectly the desired grain and texture of wood.
He descended the stairs and studied the painting from the entrance hall. From there, should a guest visit, the painting looked like a real door, complete with architrave and wooden step to complete the illusion. Only Orestes knew that, if he should by a miracle manage to open it, there would be nothing on the other side except plasterboard. A guest ascending the stairs and brushing by the painting would assume it was a real door, leading to, presumably, a newly built room on the other side.
At that moment, the front door opened behind Orestes and Simon came in, bringing with him a cold gust of July wind. His hair was cut short and newly dyed blond to accentuate the navy in his deep-set eyes.
“Hello,” Simon said, removing the black plastic raincoat and hanging it with a sprinkle of rainwater on the coat rack. “Why are you in the dark?”
It was four-thirty in the afternoon and almost pitch-black in the hallway. Orestes pointed wordlessly at the painting; a smile played on his lips.
“Oh,” Simon uttered, coming to stand beside him. “It’s terrific. It really is.” He gave Orestes a peck on the proffered cheek. “Congratulations. Are you pleased?”
“I think so…” Orestes cupped his chin and stared at his work for a while.
Simon stepped forward, rested both forearms on the staircase handrail, and gazed at the painting with a contented sigh. Orestes bathed in the way Simon was always so genuinely enthusiastic and encouraging about his work. It gave him confidence, made him feel he was worthwhile after all.
The electric light from upstairs streamed down and fell on the painting with intensity, making it resemble a well-lit stage, set for a play.
“Any moment now the door will open,” Orestes whispered behind Simon, “and the actors will step forward to pronounce the made-up lines meant for made-up lives.”
Simon’s smile was warm when he said, “That’s what I was thinking.” Then he caught the expression on Orestes’s face. “Something’s bothering you.”
“I wondered if I should have the door slightly open.”
Simon was also a painter, of a more esoteric order, and, although slightly younger than Orestes, had strong opinions on this sort of thing.
“No,” he cried, shaking his head and glancing at the painting as if he might have to fight for its right to remain as it was. “That’d be overemphasizing it. Glass is a kind of opening for one’s perceptions even though one’s body remains shut out.”
Orestes considered. “You’re right,” he said finally. “Glass lets your eye enter the other side, but only partially, since it’s not clear glass.”
“Oh, baby,” Simon cried, coming up to Orestes and catching his wiry form in his arms. “This can be the centerpiece for a series of trompe l’oeil for your next exhibition. Imagine a whole room!” Simon twirled happily around the floor with Orestes in his arms, smiling and pressing him to his body. The room spun with them, the glass bricks of the bathroom at one end and the darkness of the garage-studio at the other. “This calls for a celebration.”
“There’s a bottle of Taittinger in the fridge,” Orestes offered.
They went upstairs. Orestes popped the champagne bottle and poured the amber liquid in tall crystal flutes inherited from Simon’s mother, Orestes’s side being poorer and lacking in luxuries and good taste. After watching Laura with Gene Tierney for the umpteenth time, they made quiet, habitual love on the couch and much later still, after watching Farewell, My Lovely for the sixth time, they crossed to the bedroom and slept soundly in their double bed, behind an elaborate wooden Japanese screen.
In the long winter’s night, the building settled with a sigh around them. It resolved its sound angles and determined lines into a world filled with peculiar, shifting disturbances, some fleeting and others lasting, deep in the mortar and concrete of the century-old foundations. The last train raced by unnoticed on the raised tracks a block away, the procession of near-empty windows piercing the night like accusations. In the early hours of the morning, when traffic slowed on nearby Hoddle Street, only the icy wind was left to prowl the empty streets. It slid past the grille pulled over the sturdy front entrance, passed through the barely discernible crack under the door, and set out feelers toward the stairs, from there to reach the painted door with the frosted glass panel and the glistening doorknob. The painting showed faint in the cold silver of a night-light left on halfway down the stairs. If there was anyone at the top of the stairs at that hour, one would have been forgiven for thinking the door looked forlorn on the landing, where people pass but rarely stop. An invitation.
Meet the Author
Dmetri Kakmi was born in Turkey to Greek parents. His fictionalized memoir Mother Land was shortlisted for the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards in Australia; and is published in England and Turkey. Dmetri also edited the acclaimed children’s anthology When We Were Young. His essays and short stories appear in anthologies. He lives in Melbourne, Australia.
Series: Out of Time, Book Two
Author: C.B. Lewis
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: September 7, 2020
Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex
Genre: Science Fiction, LGBTQIA+, science fiction, gay, British, detective/police officer, law enforcement, crime procedural, engineer, programmer/decoder, murder, mystery, age gap, interracial, dirty talk, spanking, outrageous flirtation
A dead intruder. A missing scientist. A terrified child.
No one wants a dramatic case first thing on a Monday morning, but that’s exactly what Detective Inspector Jacob Ofori got. It should be open and shut, but scientist Tom Sanders is nowhere to be found, a dead man seems to have appeared from thin air, and the Temporal Research Institute—Sanders’s company—is strangely uncooperative about assisting with the case.
Jacob’s only source is TRI engineer, Kit Rafferty. He clearly wants to help, but there’s only so much the man can and will tell him. As more and more impossible questions mount up, Jacob finds himself facing a reality that could change his world.
Time Lost, C.B. Lewis © 2020, All Rights Reserved
At first, everyone assumed it was a burglary.
The postman was the first on the scene. He’d arrived early in the morning to make a delivery to the house in question and found the front door wedged open. No one answered when he rang the bell, so he called the police. The two constables arrived to investigate, and they were the ones who found the body.
It escalated after that.
Not even noon, Jacob thought grimly. Hell of a way to start a Monday.
His autopod shuttled along, arcing off from the main highway. As much as he missed manual controls of old-fashioned cars and early autocars, he appreciated the driverless function of the pod because it gave him time to skim through the images from the crime scene en route.
He wouldn’t get a feel for the scene until he got there, but the images let him know what he was about to walk into. There were signs of a struggle in the room where the body was found, and plenty of blood, but the rest of the house seemed undisturbed.
“Control to Delta Seven. ETA to destination?”
Jacob leaned forward and cleared the images from the display on the windscreen, bringing up his location on the map. Beyond it, he could see the country roads through the glass.
“ETA fifteen minutes, Control,” he replied, then muttered under his breath, “Into the backside of nowhere.”
It was half an hour beyond the miles of sprawling suburbs of the city in the middle of green fields and close to a forest. The nearest amenities had to be at least four miles from the building. He shook his head. What kind of person chose to live all the way out there anymore? It wasn’t as if there were a shortage of housing in the city.
A chime indicated another image had been received.
Jacob opened it up and leaned forward, frowning.
A door, barely visible, blended into the pattern of the wall. No handle, no visible hinges.
“You seeing this, sir?” Constable Foley’s voice rang through the speaker.
“I am indeed, Foley,” he said, widening the image. “Is that a safe room?”
“Looks that way, sir,” the constable replied. “The dust in front of it suggests a box was moved and recently. Looks like someone might be in there.”
Smart girl, Jacob thought with approval.
“Not yet, sir, but if they were attacked—”
“They might not be capable of replying,” Jacob finished. “Keep trying.” He minimised the image and looked out through the windscreen. “I have visual on you, Foley. Be with you soon.”
Ahead of him, the house was visible between the trees. The red brick structure had to be at least two centuries old, but even from a distance, the modern touches were obvious. The windows were thick and secure. The roof had been replaced with faux slate.
The autopod purred to a halt beside the four other vehicles lining the gravel courtyard, and the door slid aside. Jacob stepped out and glanced at the other vehicles. He recognised the coroner’s transport pod, and the standard blue-and-white- patterned squad pod, but the other two were probably the homeowner’s.
Foley opened the front door to greet him.
Half his age, she hadn’t been with the force long enough to be as jaded as him yet. She smiled in greeting. “Morning, sir.”
He winced. “Say afternoon. It makes it a little more bearable.”
She laughed. “You want a summary, sir?”
“I read up on it on the way over. Any word on the owner?”
“Thomas Sanders,” Foley said, leading him toward the house. “Forty-eight. Widower with one young son. He’s a well-reputed scientist and engineer. High up in some kind of historical and scientific research program in the city, the Temporal Research Institution.”
“Have you been able to make contact with him?”
Foley shook her head, her sandy ponytail swinging. She offered him overalls to cover his suit. “We’ve tried his business and private numbers. His colleagues said he’s been on a leave of absence for health reasons for several weeks. Our best bet is the safe room.”
“Any sign of the son?”
“We assume he’s with his father,” Foley replied.
“Do we have an ID for the body yet?”
She hesitated in the hallway. “That’s the strange thing, sir. We can’t find anything on him. His prints aren’t in the system. No DNA trace either. We still need to run facial recognition, but so far, we’ve got nothing.”
“That’s not unusual.”
Foley looked at him. “There’s something off about it all. I’ll show you.”
The house was spacious inside. The lower level was split into four rooms, all branching off from a wide, sunlit hall. Foley led him down the hall and to one of the rooms at the back, her covered boots thumping on the wooden floors.
Jacob stopped in the doorway, taking a moment, then stepped across the threshold. The crime scene team was still at work.
The room appeared to be some kind of laboratory with workbenches running along one wall. Another wall was covered in old-fashioned whiteboards with all kinds of incomprehensible text and codes marked on them in half a dozen colours. Jacob studied all of it for a moment, but whatever Sanders was working on, it was far beyond Jacob’s barely adequate physics A level.
There were little machines here and there, suspended from the boards by wires. Spools of wire and gears were scattered across the floor. Several boxes had been upended from shelves and lay on their sides.
In the middle of it all, the body lay face down on the floor, a bloodied hammer close at hand.
Danni Michaels was working on the body and glanced up with a nod. “Sir.”
“Cause of death?” Jacob said, keeping his eyes off the dead man’s face.
“Looks like blunt force trauma,” Danni replied, nudging her magnifying glasses up her nose with her knuckles. “I don’t think it’s a wild guess to say the weapon was that hammer. It was a single blow, landed here.”
Jacob gritted his teeth and looked. The left side of the man’s forehead was ruptured. His eyes were open, and he had an expression of surprise on his rigid, bloody face. He was young. Maybe thirties. Dark-haired. His eyes were dark, the pupils flared wide open, but death sometimes did that. Blood had spread in a wide, sticky pool around his body. Jacob swallowed down the familiar rising acid.
Christ, he hated the messy ones.
He glanced around the room.
A pair of slippers, several steps away from the blood pool, had left bloody prints on the polished floor. The owner must have kicked them off, and they’d ended up at least three feet from each other. Not good shoes for running, slippers. If he—men’s slippers, size nine approximately—had already knocked down the man on the floor, then there had to be another assailant whom he was running from.
“Any sign of this man’s accomplice?”
“Accomplice?” Foley asked.
Jacob gestured to the slippers. It was easier than looking at the body. “You don’t try and run from an unconscious, nearly dead man. There was someone else here.”
“We haven’t seen any sign of anyone else,” Foley replied. “Sorry, sir. I didn’t even notice that.”
He offered her a brief smile. “That’s why I’m a DI, Foley.” He motioned to the body. “You said there was something off?”
Foley nodded, crouching by the body. “Take a look at his right eye.”
Jacob went down beside her, propping his forearms on his knees. It took him a moment, but then he saw what she was pointing out: The pupil wasn’t blown. There was no iris at all.
“What the hell…” He leaned closer. “Michaels, can I borrow your magnifiers?”
She handed them over and obligingly shone the torch over the man’s eyes. “Clever, isn’t it?”
Jacob peered down and frowned. “A synthetic bionic eyeball? Is that even possible?”
Michaels shook her head. “I’ve heard of people developing them, but I’ve never heard of any successful trials.” She squatted by the body and grinned. “I can’t wait to get it out and see what it’s made of.”
“And there’s one of those images I didn’t need,” Jacob murmured, peering through the magnifier again. The pupil seemed to be a focusing lens. High-quality, high-end technology. “Foley, have you checked anywhere that might carry tech this advanced?”
“We’re putting together a list,” she said. “But from what we’re hearing back, this is off the charts, sir. No one has heard of technology like this before, or if they have, they’re not telling us about it.”
He straightened up. “You said this Sanders was a scientist?”
“Doctor in physics and engineering,” she confirmed.
“Could he have made something like this?”
She hesitated. “From all accounts, he didn’t deal in human biology or bio-artificing.”
“Doesn’t mean he couldn’t.” Jacob ran a hand over his face. “Well, if we can’t find this man by standard identification, maybe we can find him by the eye he doesn’t have. Danni, we need all the information you can get us as soon as possible.”
“Sir,” Danni said at once.
Jacob turned to Foley. “Where’s Singh?”
“Still trying to get into the safe room.” She jerked her head. “This way.”
The safe room was up the stairs in what appeared to be a playroom. Windows lined one of the walls, the others covered in posters and drawings. Kids’ toys and games were scattered all over the place. Singh was working his way along the one blank wall with a scanner.
Jacob took in the mess. “You said Sanders has a son?”
“Ben,” Foley confirmed.
Foley looked at him in surprise. “Seven and a half. Is this another one of those detective things?”
Jacob chuckled. “This time, it’s one of those dad things.”
Singh glanced over his shoulder at them, sighing in frustration. “Foley, I know you said to scan for a high intensity of fingerprints on the wall, but this whole wall is fingerprints.” He nodded at Jacob. “Afternoon, sir.”
“Singh.” Jacob approached, studying the wall. “It’s very smoothly done, isn’t it?” He rubbed his short beard thoughtfully with his fingertips. “No visible buttons or latches anywhere?”
“None we could find,” Foley said. “I thought it might be a pressure-point system, but seems not. We requested an expert, but they’ve been delayed.”
“I think we need to un-delay them,” Jacob said, touching his earbud to activate it. “If Sanders is wounded and inside there, we need to get him out. If not, we need confirmation, because this could be an abduction.”
While they waited, Jacob had gone down to the laboratory to take another look at the whiteboards. He didn’t see what it had to do with Sanders’s work at the Temporal Research Institution. A quick search suggested the institution specialised in identifying historical discrepancies and confirming historical events. It could be something to do with locating old records and creating algorithms, he supposed. You would need a specialised engineer to do that.
Jacob turned. “Foley?”
“The smith is here. I thought you might want to be present if he can open the door.”
They headed back up the stairs to the playroom. The body had been removed in the hour before the locksmith arrived, the crime scene unit now working their way out from the house across the grounds, searching for trace evidence of the intruders.
The locksmith was already working on the wall with a scanning device.
“Apparently,” Singh said, joining them, “all safe room doors come installed with a registration chip, in case the mechanism needs to be deactivated in an emergency.”
“Not unlike this,” Jacob observed. “Useful.”
The locksmith glanced over. “It’s a recent make. Give me two minutes.”
In the end, he took less than thirty seconds, and the door swung outward.
Inside, there was a room big enough for a family, but only one person was there. A small tawny-haired boy shrank back into the corner of the room, his arms wrapped around his legs, his face bone-white.
Jacob motioned for the smith and the two constables to back off, and crouched a couple of feet away from the door.
“Hey,” he murmured.
The boy was shivering, and tears rolled down his face from swollen, red-rimmed eyes.
Jacob took out his badge, laid it on the floor, and slid it across to the boy. “It’s okay. I’m a policeman. My name’s Jacob.” He watched as the boy tentatively leaned forward and looked at the badge. “Are you Ben?”
The boy nodded. “Where’s my dad?” His voice shook as much as he was.
“We’re trying to find him now.” Jacob offered a hand. “Do you want to come out? You don’t need to stay in there.”
“Dad told me to stay here.” Ben wrapped his arms tighter around his legs. “He told me to, until he came to get me.”
“I know.” Jacob knelt and sat back on his heels. “We want him to come and get you, too, Ben, but right now, I think he’d want you to be safe, don’t you? How about we keep you safe?”
Jacob nodded. “Promise.”
Ben got unsteadily to his feet. His trousers were sodden, and there was vomit on the front of his shirt. The poor kid must have been terrified. Jacob knelt up, offering both his hands, and Ben’s icy fingers wrapped around his.
“There you go,” Jacob said as gently as he could, drawing Ben back out. “You’re safe now.”
The little boy gave a sob and stumbled forward and wrapped his arms around Jacob’s neck, clinging to him. Jacob scooped him up and rose to his feet with the boy in his arms. He rubbed his hand in circles on Ben’s back.
“You’re okay,” he murmured. “You’re okay.”
Meet the Author
C.B. Lewis has been making up nonsense since she was able to talk. Now, she puts it into computers and turns it into books. She is chuffed to bits to officially be yet another one of the collective of authors from Edinburgh. Find C.B. Lewis on Facebook.
Queer Sci Fi’s sixth annual flash fiction anthology is here
and there’s a giveaway too!
1) A new idea, method, or device.
2) The introduction of something new.
3) The application of better solutions to meet unarticulated needs.
Three definitions to inspire writers around the world and an unlimited number of possible stories to tell. Here are 120 of our favorites.
Migration features 300-word speculative flash fiction stories from across the rainbow spectrum, from the minds of the writers of Queer Sci Fi.
Queer Sci Fi is giving away your choice of a $20 Amazon gift card OR a print copy of four of the other five flash fiction books in the series – Flight, Renewal, Impact, and Migration (US only unless you are willing to pay the shipping outside the US) with this tour. Enter via Rafflecopter:
“No one in the village knew what the Change would bring. They never saw it happen. They only knew what they had been promised: the Change would bestow three gifts.” —A New Way, by Rory Ni Coileain
“The girl kissed her, hard. Then backed away, grinning, teasing, drawing her to the end of the hallway and a flight of stairs leading downward. She took two steps and gazed back up at Lilian, one hand outstretched. Her brilliant red lipstick wasn’t even smudged. Her skin glowed in the harsh white torchlight.” —The Thing With the Bats, by Mary Francis
“Interspecies sex is outlawed on the Freespec Interplanetary Space Station. Politicians call it a safety measure. But I’ve been in the Medical Corps for half my lifecycle, and I call it criminally negligent prudery. Leaders would rather let innocents die needlessly—punctured by sperm darts and dissolved in sacks of voltaic pleasure mucus—than give them the knowledge to express their feelings safely.” — Are My Underwater Sperm Darts Normal?, Brenna Harvey
“The bell’s brassy gong echoes through the flat; the walls blush crimson. See, see! He’s at my door. The live feed shows him sniff his armpit; cup his breath. He wants to impress, but I’m impressed already. His lips softly part; he brushes them with stubby fingers, as he waits. Ugly fingers. Ugly hands. Scrawny neck. Milky eyes. But those lips, see, they’re perfect, just perfect. Plump n’ pale, a slither of my future.” —Just perfect, by Redfern Jon Barrett
“Lekke looked down over the valley, First People’s home for as long as any tales or dreams could tell. Now only Spirit Dreamer Manoot, neither he nor she but both, and Lekke, elder healer, were left. Lifetimes of Long-legs’ raids had driven First People to their deaths—or, some few, to the Way. If there truly was a Way.” —Going Back,” by Sacchi Green
“Savinna limped into her lover’s workshop, her hip still sore from tangling with the marabbecca which had knocked her into its well before she managed to kill it. Such was the life of a monster hunter. Not at all surprised to see Larissa hunched over her bench, hard at work tinkering with something, Savinna ghosted her hand over Larissa’s back.” —Those Who Hunt Monsters, by Jana Denardo
“The baby cried as Freya lowered the bartering bucket into the wishing well. Many had come to the tree-shrouded clearing to make exchanges—a bushel of azure apples for a sword, a woven blanket for a day of rain. The well had been the final creation of a thousand-year-old inventor. But dead wizards often don’t anticipate how their gifts birth consequences.” —The Bartering Bucket, by Diane Callahan
by KA Masters
“You will never fit in.”
Tibullo flinched at his father-in-law’s words. Swallowing carefully, he replied, “I don’t care.”
The aged halfhart snorted, pawing the ground in frustration. “A Cerven and a centaur! It just doesn’t happen.”
“It does now,” he shrugged.
“You will trample him in your sleep, you brute!”
Tibullo rolled his eyes. “I am hardly a hand taller than your son, Pricket.”
“You will poison him with your damned Cold Iron horseshoes,” the halfhart added with a sneer.
The centaur raised a hoof in defiance. “The first day I met Luzio, I ripped them off. I only needed them to travel over the mountains to get here. I don’t need them anymore.”
Pricket swished his white tail in aggravation. “You will never give him fawns. His mother and I will never have grandchildren.”
“The forest is full of orphans. Luzio and I want to adopt,” Tibullo countered, waiting a moment before adding, “Whether you and Willow will accept them as grandchildren is up to you.”
“Do you think he will be happy with you?” Pricket asked quietly.
Tibullo’s breath hitched at the sincerity of the question. “He is my soulmate. I will do whatever it takes to make sure he is happy.”
“What about his family? His social status?”
“Whatever it takes,” Tibullo repeated.
Pricket shook his head. “You will never fit in, looking like that. So wear this,” the halfhart added, handing Tibullo a crown of antlers.
Tibullo gasped in surprise. His fingers shook as he fumbled with the knots and laces.
“Here,” Pricket grumbled. Tibullo knelt down so that his father-in-law could help him secure the gift to his temples.
“I…” Tibullo spluttered, undone.
“Everyone in our clan has antlers,” Pricket explained. “Now you do, too.”
120 authors contributed stories for this volume:
- Adrik Kemp
- Alex Silver
- Alex Stargazer
- Allan Dyen-Shapiro
- Andi Deacon
- Andrea Speed
- Andrew Vaillencourt
- Ava Kelly
- Barbara Johnson-Haddad
- Barbara Krasnoff
- Beáta Fülöp
- Benoit Lafortune
- Blaine D. Arden
- Bob Milne
- Brenna Harvey
- Brooke K. Bell
- L. McCartney
- Cassidy Frazee
- Chet Gottfried
- Chloe Spencer
- Chris Bannor
- Christine Wright
- Christopher Koehler
- Clare London
- J. Clarke
- M. Rasch
- David Gerrold
- Devon Widmer
- Diane Callahan
- L. Harrison
- D.E. Bell
- M. Hamill
- Edie Montreux
- Elaine Burnes
- Eloreen Moon
- Emilia Agrafojo
- Emma Johnson-Rivard
- Eric Warren
- Evelyn Benvie
- Gareth Worthington
- Ginger Streusel
- Howard V. Hendrix
- Zachary Pike
- S. Garner
- Jade Black
- James Alan Gardner
- Jamie Lackey
- Jana Denardo
- Jasie Gale
- Jeff Jacobson
- Jennie L. Morris
- Jet Lupin
- Jon Miller
- Jonathan Fesmire
- Joshua Ian
- Julian Maxwell
- L. Townsend
- S. Marsden
- KA Masters
- Katelyn Cameron
- Kellie Doherty
- Kevin Andrew Murphy
- Kevin Klehr
- Kim Fielding
- Kitt Harris
- Koji A. Dae
- S. Reinholt
- V. Lloyd
- LC Treeheart
- Lee Jordan
- Lee Soeburn
- Lou Sylvre
- X. Kelly
- Maria Zoccola
- Mary E. Lowd
- Mary Francis
- Mary Kuna
- Matt Doyle
- Mere Rain
- Milo Owen
- Minerva Cerridwen
- Naomi Tajedler
- Nathan Alling Long
- Nathaniel Taff
- Nicole Dennis
- Nina Kiriki Hoffman
- Noah K. Sturdevant
- Patricia Scott
- Paul Uebler
- E. Carr
- L. Merrill
- Raine Norman
- Ray Lidstone
- RE Andeen
- Redfern Jon Barrett
- Rory Eggleston
- Rory Ni Coileain
- Rosalie Wessel
- S S Long
- Sara Testarossa
- Sean Ian O’Meidhir
- Shannon Brady
- Shannon Yseult
- Skip J. Hanford
- Stephen B. Pearl
- Stephen J. Wolf
- Steve Carr
- Stone Franks
- Stuart Conover
- Susan James
- Sydney Blackburn
- T. Thomas
- W. Cox
- Tom Jolly
- Val Muller
- Warren Rochelle
- William Tate
Author: Skye Kilaen
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: August 3, 2020
Heat Level: 1 – No Sex
Genre: Science Fiction, LGBTQIA+, sci-fi, lesbian, bisexual, bodyguard, royalty, social unrest, disability, depression, power imbalance
Elsenna Hazen left spaceport security and ended up a royal bodyguard. She should have known better than to fall in love with a princess.
It’s been two years since one ill-advised kiss in the garden pulled them apart. With uprisings in the streets, the nervous princess transfers Elsenna back into her service. Her Highness has no idea Elsenna is leaking data to the revolutionaries bent on overthrowing the princess’s oppressive father.
Now Elsenna wakes up each day wondering what will happen first: her own execution, or that of the woman she could never stop loving. When rebel attacks escalate and the king plans retaliation, Elsenna discovers that the fights for her love and her life are one and the same.
Glorious Day, Skye Kilaen © 2020, All Rights Reserved
It had been difficult that morning to fit treason in around my duties as vice-captain of the castle complex’s security forces. Every professional conversation had taken twice as long as it should have. When His Majesty, the Most Victorious Born on the 24th Day of Winter, the King of Iospary, was finally overthrown for corruption and tyranny, I would not miss the part of my job where incompetent colleagues argued with me.
Of course I wouldn’t miss it because I’d be dead. With so much blood on my hands since the last change in rulers, I had no illusions. My acts of sedition over the last two years wouldn’t save my soul, let alone my head. Not after serving this king for so long.
By the time I won the latest personnel allotment struggle with my overly promoted counterpart in spaceport security, it was almost the middle of the day. I took a short walk outside. Anyone who saw me found somewhere else to be—a common reaction to the combination of my height and my uniform—so I had privacy to drop the latest data packet to the rebels. I used the comm behind my ear to access a secure channel I could only hope stayed that way. While the packet uploaded, I found a terrace where I could look down at the city. The apartment blocks were overcrowded, the hospitals neglected. Businesses paid extortionate taxes to fund the lavish lifestyles of the king and his favorites. Hopefully not for much longer.
Data sent, I returned to the security center, crowded with surveillance screens and too many desks for the small room, and settled down to work.
“Vice-Captain Hazen,” one of the guards said from behind me. “You have a call.”
“I’ll call them back.” Whoever it was, my patience for bullshit had run out, and the duty roster for this week needed finalizing.
“Ma’am,” the guard said again, nervous this time. “It’s the princess. She asked for you specifically.”
The security center went silent around me. Her Highness, the Most Glorious Born on the 13th Day of Spring, the Crown Princess of Iospary, did not personally call the security center. She had staff for making calls, and assigned bodyguards as well.
I’d been one of them once.
Lest anyone think I was hesitating, I transferred the call to my comm. “Your Highness, this is the vice-captain on duty. What may we do for you?”
“Hello, Elsen—Vice-Captain. Are you free for a short conversation? I hope I’m not interrupting anything crucial. I know you have many more responsibilities now.”
I’d thought to go the rest of my days without hearing that voice again. I was grateful I’d learned long ago not to show my emotions on my face. I couldn’t imagine what would be there now. Two guards near the door had gotten up, ready to move in case of an emergency. I signaled for them to stand down.
“Your Highness,” I replied. “Of course.”
“I wish to ask a favor of you, if I may,” the princess began. Then she paused so long I began to wonder if she was making this call in secret, and someone had walked into the room. Or maybe things were this awkward between us after more than two years with no direct contact. “I have heard rumors of disturbances. I hoped you might provide a briefing. In person.”
I needed a deep breath. I tried to take it silently. Here she was, speaking with me for the first time since our long-ago night in the garden, and she wanted news about the movement to bring her father down.
Not that I would want it to be a personal call. The further apart I kept memories of her from my current activities, the better. During my sleepless nights, I already struggled to avoid imagining what might befall her when the end came. That the rebels would distinguish her innocence from her father’s guilt was unlikely; the chance I would be in any position to change that even smaller.
“Your Highness,” I said once I’d composed myself. “I would be happy to arrange for the appropriate royal advisor—”
“No,” she interrupted, polite but firm. “Thank you, but I would prefer to hear from you. If you…would be so kind.”
All three guards were watching me now, curious.
“Immediately, Your Highness.”
She made a soft noise of disagreement, a sound so familiar, but one I hadn’t heard in what felt like a lifetime. “At your convenience. I have no plans outside my rooms until this evening. Please call when you’re on your way.”
“Yes, Your Highness.”
The call disconnected.
I stared down at my screen again, though the schedule I’d been preparing was now a blur. When those around me concluded they’d get no further entertainment, the regular sounds of the security center picked up again: chairs squeaking, guards talking with others in the castle or stationed around the sprawling royal complex, an occasional cough or frustrated mutter.
The king’s staff could advise his daughter in a way he’d find palatable. Surely the princess would have been steered in that direction if she’d expressed misgivings to her own people about whatever she’d overheard. There was no reason for her to call the security center—to call her former bodyguard—directly.
Unless she was in trouble.
The last time I’d seen her, in a corner of the Fall Gardens after her birthday dance, I’d let my heart get the better of me. I’d held her. Kissed her. Would have done more if not for the chasm between her station and mine.
I put away the unfinished guard duty schedule, stood, and pulled on my jacket.
“Vice-Captain,” Mbala said. “We have a vehicle fire in one of the garages near the outer wall. Fire suppressors are malfunctioning. A truck is on its way, but it’s drawing a crowd.”
I wished I could believe this was one of his practical jokes, but not with how this day had been going so far. “Have Proce take a team over.” My fellow vice-captain could stand to get his hands dirty for a change, even if he was off-shift.
“He’s across the river on a personal errand.”
Damn. We were stretched too thin for me to delegate this. I thought about letting the whole thing burn, but that would draw the wrong kind of attention. “I’m on it.”
If the princess was in trouble, hopefully it wouldn’t get worse over the next few hours.
Meet the Author
Skye started writing fiction in elementary school on a Smith Corona electric typewriter because that’s all people had back in the early 1980s. She didn’t realize she wanted to read and write romance until much later, when it finally dawned on her that she adored X-Men comics for the soap opera aspect as much as for the superpowers.
Now she writes queer romance, both contemporary and science fiction, that is mostly F/F and F/M with queer main characters. Her work is sometimes polyam and usually at least a bit geeky. After all, she does some of her writing in her local comic book shop.
She is bi, and she currently lives in Austin, Texas because of all the libraries and breakfast tacos.
Hiya peeps! We have Angel Martinez stopping by today with the tour for her new release A Fine Mess, we have a brilliant interview with Shax, a great excerpt, a fantastic $25 Mischief Corner Books GC giveaway and we also have Shorty’s review, so check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Mel~
A Fine Mess
Beware the demon prince who’s sick and tired of running.
Federico Duomo is dead, to begin with. But this is only the first bit of Shax’s problems resolved. Powerful crime lords and an obscenely wealthy oligarch are still determined to destroy him and his crew, and Fluffy’s original owner may be coming after the Brimstone now, too. It would be splendid to be able to take on one thing at a time.
Adding to the external conflicts, life on board the Brimstone has only grown increasingly stranger. Shax has no idea what to do with the seven partly human children that Heckle rescued from slavers. Heckle himself has grown short-tempered, even with Mac. Someone from Julian’s past catches up to them on Barbary. It’s enough to put a demon off his cinnamon buns.
Shax isn’t panicking, though. In fact he’s had it up to his handsome royal nose with the people he loves having to live in constant fear. The fox has turned at bay and the Brimstone’s enemies are in for a shock. The demon prince of thieves is coming for them.
Hi guys! We have Matthew J. Metzger stopping by today with his new release Supernova Soul, we have a great excerpt and a fantastic $10 NineStar GC giveaway so check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Mel~
Matthew J. Metzger
The Swift is gone.
Weeks after the catastrophic power failure that triggered the evacuation in the first place, the ship has powered up and taken flight, abandoning its jettisoned escape pods deep in uncharted space. Stranded with dwindling supplies and no way of calling for help, Hélène LeFebvre needs a plan. Or at least somewhere to bury the dead.
Hélène isn’t a people person at the best of times, and trying to build a new comms array on a hostile alien moon is definitely not the best of times. Her only help is a nurse who won’t stop praying, a pilot whose attitude adjustment could take several centuries, three maintenance crew gambling with coffee beans to pass the time, a homicidal cook, and a medical officer convinced that the unseen monsters that stalk their pods at night are there for him personally.
All too aware they’re running out of time, Hélène doesn’t have time for their flaws, or to examine her own. She can’t afford to be human if she’s going to save them.
But perhaps she needs to remember she’s human in order to save herself.
Warning: discussions of homophobia and transphobia, misgendering, a depiction of past child abuse, off-page suicides, and the deaths of side characters
Hi peeps! We have J. Scott Coatsworth visiting today with the tour for his brand new RE-release The Stark Divide, we have a brilliant unique excerpt, a fantastic $25 Amazon GC, & a signed paperback set of his Oberon Cycle trilogy giveaway and my review, so check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Pixie~
The Stark Divide
J. Scott Coatsworth
Some stories are epic.
The Earth is in a state of collapse, with wars breaking out over resources and an environment pushed to the edge by human greed.
Three living generation ships have been built with a combination of genetic mastery, artificial intelligence, technology, and raw materials harvested from the asteroid belt. This is the story of one of them—43 Ariadne, or Forever, as her inhabitants call her—a living world that carries the remaining hopes of humanity, and the three generations of scientists, engineers, and explorers working to colonize her.
From her humble beginnings as a seedling saved from disaster to the start of her journey across the void of space toward a new home for the human race, The Stark Divide tells the tales of the world, the people who made her, and the few who will become something altogether beyond human.
Humankind has just taken its first step toward the stars.
Hi guys! We have William C. Tracy stopping by today with the tour for his new release Facets of the Nether, we have a brilliant guest post, a great excerpt and a fantastic $10 Amazon GC giveaway so check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Pixie~
Facets of the Nether
William C. Tracy
Sam has saved the Assembly of Species, but at a terrible cost. Locked in his apartment, his memories gone and his best friend abducted, he is once again crippled with anxiety. Meanwhile, Enos struggles to free her brother from imprisonment, alone for the first time in her life. Her true species has been revealed, and there are hints the deadliest of her kind survived an ancient war.
But the Nether contains more secrets. A musical chime disrupts daily life, signaling changes to its very fabric. To solve this mystery, Sam must face his anxiety and confront truths about his memories and unique abilities. Only then can he save his friends from the machinations of the Life Coalition, by understanding the reality behind the Facets of the Nether.
Hi guys! We have Beryll & Osiris Brackhaus popping in today with the tour for their new release The Pet and his Duke, we have a fantastic exclusive excerpt and Shorty’s review so check out the post and enjoy! ❤️ ~Pixie~
The Pet and his Duke
Beryll & Osiris Brackhaus
Robert is a pet, a human pleasure slave, and well past his prime.
So when teenage Duke Thomar of Aylian buys him via mail order, Robert first suspects a dreadful misunderstanding. The duke is young, handsome and headstrong, and the very last thing he needs while struggling to secure his reign over his planet is an aging bargain bin pet by his side.
Only, the more time Robert spends with Thomar, the more he learns that the young duke rarely makes mistakes. Unless, of course, Thomar dashes off on one of his mad adventures, which Robert increasingly becomes a part of…
‘The Pet and his Duke’ is a standalone m/m romance novel in the ‘Virasana Empire’ universe. Written by Rainbow Book Award winners Beryll and Osiris Brackhaus, it is a story of self-determination and love, and Happily-Ever-Afters in the most unlikely places.
Shea Balik has a new MM paranormal dystopian romance out in eBook and audio formats:
Mating the Enemy.
Siberian Tiger shifter, Aleksi Rykov, is amused to watch the enemy chasing one of their own, psy, Seth Tilton, until he realizes it’s his mate. Rescuing his mate isn’t difficult for the powerful Alpha but keeping his mate safe from the war raging between their races may be more difficult.
Seth is taking a chance running to the one man he knows can keep him safe, Aleksi. Seth knows the psy’s secrets and the psy will do anything to get him back but with Aleksi’s help Seth can help turn the tide of the war and uncover the horrible truth. The question is will Aleksi be willing to help the enemy?
Both sides are against their mating and doing their best to tear the two apart but Aleksi and Seth are determined to stay together against all odds. Can Aleksi and Seth manage to find happiness by mating the enemy?
Shea is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour – enter via Rafflecopter:
Sure enough, after a few more minutes, Alek felt Seth’s body stiffen as he pulled away so fast, he almost fell on his ass. Not that Alek would have let that happen, but Seth seemed to be even more embarrassed at his clumsiness.
An adorable blush stained his mate’s face, which Alek was wise enough not to mention. Needing to reassure his mate, Alek reached out once more to Seth, but the man stepped back too quickly. A low growl from deep in his chest rumbled out.
The shocked look in Seth’s eyes tinged with fear pissed Alek’s tiger off. He’d already told the man he was safe. Then to see his mate back away from him set his tiger to pacing in anger. Who was he kidding? It wasn’t just his tiger that was ticked.
A steady sound of growls continued to come from Alek with each step Seth took.
“I di–didn’t mean to…” Seth audibly swallowed as his eyes darted around.
Alek didn’t know if he was looking for help or a way to escape, nor did he care. He stalked his mate, his strides much longer than the Psy’s.
When he stood just a hair’s breadth away, Seth said, “I didn’t mean to touch you. Please, I promise not to do it again.”
Alek felt like he’d been sucker punched as he stood there not sure what to say. Part of him was furious Seth could even say he’d never touch Alek again. But more importantly he felt the overwhelming need to prove to his mate just how wrong he was.
Before Seth knew what was happening Alek reached out and pulled Seth against him once again. He heard Seth gasp but before he could say anything, Alek’s mouth captured his, demanding entrance.
As Seth’s lips parted, Alek didn’t waste any time plunging his tongue deep within the recesses of his mouth, making sure the Psy understood who he belonged to. When he heard Seth’s moan of surrender, Alek’s beast nearly purred.
Heaven. This had to be what heaven was. Seth’s taste flooded his senses as he delved into each nook and cranny of his mate’s sweet mouth. Sweeping his tongue along Seth’s bottom lip he slowly pulled away but not letting more than an inch or two separate them, keeping his arms firmly locked around his mate.
“You are mine.” Alek nearly winced at how rough his voice sounded stating that. “And while I would never force you to touch me, I would be greatly disappointed if you didn’t.”
The dazed, confused look on Seth’s face had Alek smiling in pride. He didn’t know how he needed this man so quickly, but Alek wasn’t about to give him up now.
© 2020 Shea Balik
Whether at home or traveling she is usually in front of her computer writing or curled up with a good book. Find Shea at any of the links below!
Author Website: https://www.sheabalik.com
Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/sheabalikpage/
Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/BalikShea
Author Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sheabalik/
Author QueeRomance Ink: https://queeromaceink.com/author/sheabalik
Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Shea-Balik/e/B00LX82KHE
Valerie J. Mikles has a new queer sci fi book out:
The Qinali Virus
Rage. Poverty. Disease.
They’re gone. Every last one.
The cost was great. The population has been devastated. But for the survivors, utopia has arrived.
Then the suspicious death of a young person forces Amber to question her world like she never has before. The Contentedness Council is after her, determined to protect their perfect society. Now Amber must unbury her city’s repressed past, expose the crimes that led to their utopia, and find a way to stop the Council from killing the world… again.
Join astral-projecting asexual Amber and her telepathic sister as they fight to save the human race from extermination!
10 Random Things about Amber Delouise
1, Amber is the only person in her city who inherited the power of astral projection. Most of the previous generation who had the ability died in a war with astral beings, who then put up shields to prevent humans from getting to the astral plane. This is why Amber’s astral projections appear as physical bodies.
2, Amber is the oldest of six kids. Only two of her siblings have opted to use gendered pronouns. Amber sometimes wishes that she hadn’t switched to gendered pronouns.
3, Amber loves to read and learn new things. Her family calls her “Book Dragon” because she hoards books. She enjoys “library mining.”
4, Amber prefers eating lunch alone, but she appreciates that her friend Mara always invites her anyway.
5, Amber has realized that the therapy she was forced to go through after the death of her mother may have made her forget something important about her city’s history.
6, Amber has never had a crush.
7, Amber speaks math as a second language.
8, Amber prefers technologically advanced clothes called “basics.” They repel stains and sweat.
9, Amber compares her obliviousness to sexual and romantic signals to colorblindness. She doesn’t notice when people are flirting with her, even when they point it out. What were you doing? And What did you want?
10, Amber’s favorite science is astronomy. She’s happiest when she’s at the telescope, using it to uncover the secrets of the universe. She gets bored at her day job—using telescopes to track space debris.
Jenise gasped. “Don’t do it.”
“Don’t call for help?” Amber asked, setting the tablet aside. “This is an astral injury. Maybe someone back home can help you.”
“No, please,” Jenise whimpered.
Amber felt her body vibrating and heard a ringing in her ears. The world became hazy and she saw her physical body collapsed on the ground. She hadn’t moved, and when she reached to the side, her hands passed through everything. This was how her book had described the astral plane.
“I did it! I’m here,” she squealed. Then she saw Jenise lying on the ground. A needle-like splinter pierced Jenise’s brain, and her aura seemed to ooze from the wound.
“Oh, this… this is bad…” Amber stammered, gathering the oozing essence back toward Jenise. Her hand went right through the glowing ooze and Jenise’s body. “How can I help you if I can’t touch you? What did the book say?”
“She’s coming for me,” Jenise murmured. Her physical form twitched, the red welts spreading as the needle dug deeper into her brain. Amber tried to clamp Jenise’s chin, but Jenise’s body passed through hers, so she grabbed the needle, and suddenly Jenise went still. She saw the needle because Jenise had described the needle. It was a manifestation of an injury; not a physical injury.
“I can manipulate a manifestation,” Amber murmured. Moving gingerly, Amber extracted the needle from her sister’s brain, and Jenise started to scream.
“Do you want me to stop?” Amber asked. Jenise kept screaming, oblivious to the question.
Gritting her teeth, Amber removed more of the needle, and her sister’s essence gushed from the wound. Amber blew gently on the oozing liquid and it seemed to dissolve into her sister’s skin. Once the needle was out, she molded her hands around her sister’s head, trying to close the wound. Her hands kept passing through Jenise’s skull, making her twitch. Amber didn’t like astral surgery, and she hoped she was helping.
“They’re coming,” Jenise murmured, her hands flailing, passing through Amber’s astral body. She felt her form vibrate and a ringing sound filled her ears.
“No. No, I’m not finished!” Amber cried, feeling an anchor pulling her back to her physical form. She curled into a fetal position, fighting to get back to the astral plane.
Jenise rolled onto her side and spooned behind Amber. “We have to run,” she rasped. “Someone’s coming.”
“Who? Is it Parey? Someone from the Council?” Amber asked. Amber heard the truck now, its wheels crushing the dirt and gravel as it came down the road from Highmere.
“I can’t tell,” Jenise rasped. “Don’t give up, Amber. Don’t go back.”
Amber sensed Jenise’s urgency, but when she saw the truck, she felt relieved. Running meant more isolation and uncertainty. What if Jenise wasn’t really better? Going back to Highmere made sense.
“Let’s go home,” Amber said. “You were scared, Jenise. We were scared. We can say… I don’t know. They’ll give us counseling and then we can go back to our lives.”
“I don’t want to go to brainwashing therapy,” Jenise said.
“Stop calling it that,” Amber explained.
“You don’t even know, do you?” Jenise said. “You don’t remember how you were before Cenn died. What “therapy” did to you.”
“It helped,” Amber insisted, looking hopefully at the truck ambling toward them. “I was a mess. I needed to be able to talk to someone without dumping it on all of you.”
“But you stopped feeling,” Jenise argued. “Not just the grief; you stopped feeling joy. You used to make twittering noises when you read books. You used to get so excited about things that Cenn had to sit you down so you wouldn’t pass out.”
“I’ll be fine. I’ll be calm,” Amber said, fighting for a reason to trust her people. “They want the tablet with Chenna’s research. That’s all this is. A misunderstanding.”
“I was almost misunderstood to death!” Jenise cried, kicking at Amber, and rolling out of reach.
“Jenise, unless you can move, we can’t outrun them,” Amber said. “I am not leaving without you. I—oh, no.”
The stress of the argument made her dizzy and she dropped to her knees. A moment later, she was standing by the road, watching the truck roll by. Her voice caught in her throat, but she didn’t need to call out. The husky man in the passenger seat saw her and hollered, and the truck screeched to a stop. She recognized him from the Council—Tobin Wauld.
“I know we’re not supposed to be here. We’re scared. Can you take us home?” she asked. The weight of fear lifted for a moment, but then Wauld hoisted himself out the window, and drew a long-barreled weapon.
“Well, well, Discontent Delouise. This was too easy,” he smirked.
Amber’s lips quivered and her legs froze. She’d never seen a weapon like that in Highmere, but she’d seen them in that zombie movie. Run, you idiot, her brain shouted. She’d muttered it at the characters in the movies often enough.
He shot Amber with an orange-tipped weapon as he stalked past. She felt the sting of the puncture and a thin stream of liquid dripping into her astral form.
“Tobin, you shot her!” his companion cried.
“We came with tranqs for a reason. We don’t have time to argue with discontents,” Wauld said.
Amber still couldn’t believe a councilperson had shot her. Pretending to faint, she turned and dropped, rolling down the embankment. The moment the truck was out of sight, she willed herself back to her physical body.
“How’d it go?” Jenise asked.
“They shot me,” Amber said. Her whole body was trembling from adrenaline and she could feel the spread of the tranquilizer dart pushing against it.
“Misunderstanding?” Jenise taunted.
“Oh, no. Very clear,” Amber said, blinking away the spots in her vision. She had never experienced violence in Highmere, and she didn’t even know her people had dart guns. The feelings of shock and betrayal hit her in waves, as did a profound sense of loss. This wasn’t a short camping trip that ended with a meek return home anymore.
Although she has yet to get paid to eat grapes, she was delighted to learn that people would pay her to study black holes, and spent much of her twenties as a black hole hunter. She was rewarded with an astronomy PhD, which promptly inspired her to move to L.A. to be a screenwriter. How she ended up working on weather satellites for NOAA, we may never know.
Her passion for story-telling extends back to before she could write, and in fall 2017, she achieved a life dream and published her first book, “The Disappeared.” Valerie currently has six books published in her New Dawn series You can learn more about Valerie’s books on her website: http://www.valeriejmikles.com
An asexual activist, Valerie has written and produced a series of comedic short films featuring asexual characters. You can watch her films online at: http://www.aces-sitcom.com. Her third book ‘Trade Circle’ features an asexual protagonist, and interestingly, she created this character before she even knew there was a word to describe it. She is super-excited about the release of the Qinali Virus, featuring an asexual, aromantic astronomer (and a weather satellite for good measure).
Author Website: http://www.valeriejmikles.com
Author Facebook (Author Page): http://www.facebook.com/vjmikles
Author Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/valeriebean
Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16941635.Valerie_J_Mikles
Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Valerie-J-Mikles/e/B074K2QCHG
Author LibraryThing: https://www.librarything.com/author/miklesvaleriej
E.M. Hamill has a new queer sci fi book out, book two in the Dalí Tamareia series:
Third-gender operative Dalí Tamareia thought their life as an ambassador ended when they joined a galactic intelligence agency. When they’re yanked out of the field and tapped to negotiate the surrender of deadly bio-engineered warriors who crashed into hostile territory, Dalí is thrust headfirst back into the tumultuous world of galactic diplomacy.
Dalí has faced Shontavians before, but not like these. The stranded mercenaries are highly intelligent and have an agenda of their own. Dalí can’t afford to be distracted from the negotiations by their own demons or the presence of a charming diplomat with a mysterious past.
As a brewing civil war threatens to derail the entire mission, Dalí must use all their skills to bring this dangerous situation to a peaceful end—but the Shontavians may not be the biggest monsters at the table. Someone is determined to see Dalí and their team dead before they discover the brutal truth hiding in the wreckage.
The Music Behind Peacemaker: A Dalí Tamareia Mission
Because I live in a busy house with three other adults and two vocal pets, I often write with noise canceling headphones and some great, atmospheric music playing. I have to write to instrumental music, because words paint such vivid pictures for me they interfere in my creative process.
My son introduced me to trailer music a few years ago: short, intense pieces of music which create a stunning atmosphere and are often used in movie trailers before the actual soundtrack is written. Two Steps from Hell and Audiomachine provided a lot of inspiration for me for the first book; in fact, one particularly heartbreaking scene had a literal soundtrack in Audiomachine’s “Red Sorrow”. While this particular scene didn’t make its way intact into Dalí, there are many other moods and moments which found footing in some great music.
I listen to a lot of Pandora Journey playlists on YouTube, but these books are gritty and violent. Lovely music doesn’t always provide the right kind of inspiration. GRV MegaMix: Hybrid War was one of my absolute favorite playlists for writing violent battles and moments of tension in both books.
Some very important moments in Peacemaker were written to Immortals: Powerful Hybrid Music Mix. This one was in frequent rotation!
Last but not least, Gary Numan’s My Name is Ruin became my unofficial theme song for The Dalí Tamareia Missions. I actually paraphrased one of the chorus lyrics in the book because of the feeling it evoked…see if you can figure out which one. It happens in the most intense moment of the book.
My name is ruin, my name is vengeance
My name is no one, no one is calling
My name is ruin, my name is heartbreak
My name is loving, but sorrows and darkness
My name is ruin, my name is evil
My name’s a war song, I sing you a new one
My name is ruin, my name is broken
My name is shameless, I’ll tear you wide open
I hope some of the music helps inspire your own writing!
E.M. is giving away a $15 Amazon gift card with this tour. Enter via Rafflecopter:
Direct Link: hhttp://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d47116/?
I tamed my wavy brown mop as best I could, drawing it into a short, braided queue at the back of my neck before putting on the dress black uniform hanging in my quarters. The white starburst of diplomacy blazed in holographic relief on my left shoulder with the multiarmed spiral of the Remoliad’s sigil on the opposite sleeve.
To be back in the uniform of an ambassador felt strange. Transient reflections in the narrow window showed a me I hadn’t acknowledged in over two years. I barely recognized the echo of who I used to be, a transparent ghost against the stars outside.
The reason I had been pulled out of the field began to make sense, though I still didn’t know what the assignment entailed. Time to find out.
At the closed door of Sumner’s ready room, I tugged at the tunic’s high collar, squared my shoulders, and tapped on the panel to request entry.
“Commander. Permission to enter?”
“Granted.” The door slid aside with his verbal acknowledgment. I stepped through.
Silhouetted by the flicker of busy data screens behind the desk, Sumner wore a black uniform with insignias of diplomatic service similar to mine but without the starburst rank of ambassador. Instead, he wore the pips of an officer in the Remoliad Fleet on the high neck of his collar. He stared at the screen of a PDD, his expression dark and troubled.
Sumner glanced up and a crooked grin formed on his lips as he rose. “Ambassador Tamareia. I haven’t seen you in a while.”
His vocal inflections sounded almost normal, but his eyes still held frost. We were never this formal with each other, a sign of the tension between us.
“I haven’t seen me in a long time either. It feels very strange.” I took a deep breath. “I would like to apologize for my insubordination, especially for what I said in med bay, Commander. I was out of line.” Embarrassment burned in my cheeks, and I lowered my gaze. “I owe Melos and Ziggy more than an apology. I was under the influence on a mission, and I put the lives of my teammates in danger. I will accept the consequences of my actions as you deem appropriate.”
“Grab a chair.” He gestured opposite his desk, and I sat. “I think I owe you an apology as well. I’ve gotten used to autonomy. When some bureaucrat tells me to drop whatever I’m doing and pull my operatives in the middle of a potentially productive mission, it pisses me off. The order to recall you came from so far over my head I got vertigo. The rest is just the frost on the comet, and it pushed me over the line.” He cleared his throat. “I’m sorry for the vendetta remark.”
“No, you were right. I needed to be reminded why I’m here. You promised only that I will be involved when we take them down, not that I would be the instrument.” No matter how badly I wanted the privilege, I had a bigger job to do. “Who told you to recall me?”
His mouth twisted in an ironic smile. “The Remoliad security council.”
My eyebrows threatened to merge with my hairline. “The security council has authority over the Penumbra?”
“Technically. My superior answers to the secretary general, but it’s almost unheard of to receive a direct order from any office.”
“I don’t understand.” I frowned. “Did my mother have anything to do with this?”
“No, Ambassador Urquhart isn’t involved as far as we can tell. We checked since the order was so specific. But I just received more details.” He handed me the data device he’d been scowling at when I came in. “Against all previous declarations of disdain for galactic alliance, the Ursetu recently issued an emergency petition for their planet to become a member of the Remoliad.”
I narrowed my eyes at him and took the PDD. “I saw something about that in my debriefing file. The crown princess is dead?”
“Yes. The queen and her grandson, Prince Razaxha, are still alive.”
“What happened? Was the planet attacked?”
“Yes and no.” He swept his hand and a heads-up display swirled into view between us. “I’ll warn you up front, this is brutal.”
The wreck of some immense ship blighted the forested grounds of a ziggurat-like palace, silhouetted against the backdrop of a sharp black mountain. Columns of smoke and flames traced the outline of warped and twisted debris. The recording lens zoomed in on a section of the disaster where tiny flashes of light sparked and died. As the picture enlarged, I sat forward in shock.
“Enhance this area.” Sumner circled the spot on the heads-up and spread his fingers. The portion of the holovid expanded, grainy, blurred, and blocked by foliage, but I made it out plainly enough. Enormous, gray-skinned figures piled out of the wreckage.
The four-armed beings appeared unstoppable as they swatted aside the Ursetu and their guns, snatched up the soldiers with their sharp-taloned hands and—
A psychic memory of the taste of blood and entrails hit me so hard I fought the urge to vomit.
“Stop the playback!” I drew heavy breaths through my nose until the nausea passed and my heart stopped pounding. Sumner swept his hand over the enlarged holo, reducing details to a safe distance as my mind attempted to process what I’d seen.
A ship hadn’t crashed in the middle of an Ursetu city. It was the orbiting laboratory where Shontavians were engineered and kept isolated until their sale to whomever bought their mercenary services. It crashed into the planet or was deliberately brought down.
The Ursetu faced monsters of their own making—huge, intelligent creatures with the serrated teeth and claws of a predator, created solely for fighting wars. And they had a craving for sentient meat.
Elisabeth “E.M.” Hamill is a nurse by day, unabashed geek, chocoholic, sci fi and fantasy novelist by nights, weekends, and whenever she can steal quality time with her laptop. She lives with her family, a dog, and a cat in the wilds of eastern suburban Kansas, where they fend off flying monkey attacks and prep for the zombie apocalypse.
Her other books include the acclaimed sci fi novel Dalí, the snarky urban fantasy Nectar and Ambrosia, and several short works of fiction. Visit www.elisabethhamill.com for a full list of literary work.
Author Website: https://www.elisabethhamill.com
Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/EMHamill
Author Twitter: @songmagick
Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16592440.E_M_Hamill
Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/e-m-hamill/
Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00JY0FV8S
Series: A Dalí Tamareia Mission 02
Author: E.M. Hamill
Genre: Science Fiction
Length: Novel (284pgs)
Publisher: NineStar Press (2nd March 2020)
Heat Level: Moderate
Heart Rating: 💖💖💖💖💖 5 Hearts
Blurb: Third-gender operative Dalí Tamareia thought their life as an ambassador ended when they joined a galactic intelligence agency. When they’re yanked out of the field and tapped to negotiate the surrender of deadly bio-engineered warriors who crashed into hostile territory, Dalí is thrust headfirst back into the tumultuous world of galactic diplomacy.
Dalí has faced Shontavians before, but not like these. The stranded mercenaries are highly intelligent and have an agenda of their own. Dalí can’t afford to be distracted from the negotiations by their own demons or the presence of a charming diplomat with a mysterious past.
As a brewing civil war threatens to derail the entire mission, Dalí must use all their skills to bring this dangerous situation to a peaceful end—but the Shontavians may not be the biggest monsters at the table. Someone is determined to see Dalí and their team dead before they discover the brutal truth hidden in the wreckage.
Review: Well that ended with a cliff hanger to end all cliff hangers and totally mind blowing!
This is the second Dalí Tamareia and while they should be read in order I never read the first book and I didn’t feel like I’d missed anything that impacted this book, although I’m going to read it now as this story does hint at events in the first book and I want to know more.
Dalí is throwing themself into their work, taking chances and risking their life with a devil may care attitude. Their teammates straighten them out before they are thrown into a dangerous situation where only Dalí may be able to broker a peaceful resolution.
But as Dalí tries to negotiate with the Shontavians someone on the planet wants total control of the dangerous genetically engineered mercenaries and Dalí’s life hangs in the balance.
Well let me tell you I was hooked from the first chapter, the turmoil that Dalí is going through at the beginning of the book draws you in as you see him taking chances that they don’t need to take. Their attitude brings to mind someone who is close to the edge, dancing with death with the secret wish that death will strike them down.
We are drawn into an incredible story where Dalí is drawn back into their true calling of negotiation, and what a situation they are dropped into.
This is a fast paced story that has danger, intrigue, a dash of sex, and a hell of a twist. The world building is wonderful with richly described settings, we are thrown into situations that you can easily image, and with characters that come to life.
Dalí is third gendered so can switch genders, so male or female partners are both to be expected. There isn’t any romance as such, maybe a slight awakening of awareness of feelings.
Now the ending hits you from nowhere, I seriously didn’t see it coming; it was such a huge betrayal and such a slap in the face that I wanted to hunt the betrayer down myself. Many things are discovered during this story with some of them being tied in to what happened to Dalí’s spouses in book 1, another reason to read book 1 😉
All in all I loved this story and was fascinated with how the story unfolded and developed, I can’t wait for book 3 and look forward to what else E.M. Hamill has to entertain us.
I recommend this story to those who love science fiction, great storylines, and intriguing characters.
Like the First Moon Landing
Series: Roche Limit, Book One
Author: Matthew J. Metzger
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: April 13, 2020
Heat Level: 1 – No Sex
Genre: Science Fiction, LGBTQIA+, science fiction, lesbian, intersex, trans, discrimination, mystery
Stranded and injured in deep space, Maggie McLean has one chance at survival—the ship drifting off her starboard side, refusing to answer her distress calls. The ship the whole universe has been looking for.
Maggie most of all.
The Swift vanished without so much as a cry for help. There have been endless conspiracy theories, from aliens to government corruption to wormholes leading to other dimensions, but one thing was certain. She was gone, with all two hundred and thirty-six crew members on board. Including Maggie’s wife.
Maggie’s going to figure out what happened come hell or high water—but she might not like what she finds.
Like the First Moon Landing
Matthew J. Metzger © 2020
All Rights Reserved
It was the first thing Maggie knew. A dull throbbing, starting in the fat weight of her brain at the base of her skull and rippling outwards like stones into still water. There was a stabbing sensation in her shoulder, and when she opened up her lungs to breathe, they spasmed and choked.
But pain was good, as Ma used to say. Pain was proof of life.
“You and me, we’re like the first moon landing.”
Maggie ran through the rest of Ma’s wisdom. She flexed her toes in her boots. Fingers in her gloves. Gingerly tensed her neck, and roll—
She stopped dead at the wave of intense nausea and took a moment to just breathe through her nose. Don’t be sick. Don’t be sick. When her stomach eased from a violent jerking to a sluggish, sinister churn, she carefully eased her hips and chest over, perfectly in line with one another, and eased into a recovery position on the metal grating.
Urgh, no wonder she hurt. She’d been in the pilot’s seat when the asteroid—or whatever it was—had hit. And belted in too.
“You’ll touch down to feel a little rough ground…”
Her lungs still didn’t want to breathe. The band around her diaphragm was only getting tighter. There was nothing else for it—she needed the drugs. And her medical kit was in the top drawer under the console, so she’d have to get up. Sooner rather than later.
Maggie reached up with her left arm. It was like moving through water or sludge, and her body felt almost drunk on the chaos of clamouring nerves all bidding for her attention first. She didn’t dare open her eyes just yet, so groped blindly above her head. She found the bunk frame. Hell. She’d been thrown from the pilot’s chair to the gap under the bunk, and she was still alive to know it. Suddenly, the pain didn’t seem so bad. Better than a broken neck.
“Pain is proof of life.”
She grunted and turned her boots towards the wall. Braced her feet there and swallowed against the vomit rising up through her chest and neck.
The sound of her body sliding out from under the bunk was like a landslide off Mount Olympus. The nausea won out, and Maggie shoved herself up on shaking hands just in time to throw up a gutful of stringy, pink-tinged bile onto the grating. Her stomach punched into her diaphragm like a living thing, furious and intent on revenge, and her head burst like a firework.
The next thing she knew, the smell of sick was in her hair and nose, and there was a damp patch on her cheek.
“Fuck,” Maggie hissed and pushed away from the pool.
The blackout must have been a little while. The pain was worse, but the puddle of sick cold. The fog in her head had eased a little. She could think better. And breathe better too—mostly.
“Get it together,” she muttered and cracked open her eyes.
It was dark. Blissfully, soothingly dark. The emergency lighting was a low blur of soft blue, almost comfortable, like a hot-water bottle on cold winter nights. Maggie fought to control her quivering limbs and sat down on the bunk with a thump. It jarred, a shock of pain bouncing up her spine, and she leaned forward, opening her mouth, and spat another mouthful of pink vomit into the gap between her boots.
“And you’re out looking for worlds unseen.”
First things first.
She was injured. That much was obvious. But no broken limbs or ribs. There might be an internal bleed in her stomach, but if there was, there wasn’t anything Maggie could do about it. Her head felt like a mess though. Gingerly, she reached up and patted her hair. She had shaved her head when she’d gotten her first shutter job, and never grown it out to more than an inch or two of tight, springy curls since. Which made it easy to find the savage cut, the knotted wad of wet hair keeping a lid on it, and the near-dry fountain of blood that had gushed down the back of her neck and shoulders.
“Great,” she muttered, but at least it explained the pain. Her skull felt intact. Lucky, if she’d met the bulkhead head first.
Her neck was stiffening rapidly. Whiplash. A starburst of pain kept reappearing in her shoulder joint—she’d probably briefly dislocated it when the belt had snapped and flung her across the cockpit—and she could feel, even if she couldn’t see, the violent bruising all across her right side. But just bruises. A bit of bleeding. Nothing that wouldn’t fix itself, given enough time.
All in all, she’d live. Probably.
“You and me, we’re like the first moon landing.”
So, on to the second point. Would her ship live?
Maggie was a shutter. The space equivalent to long-haul truck drivers. She piloted single-crewed transport and haulage ships between stations and colonies, on the move for weeks at a time—but at least the antisocial lifestyle attracted good pay, especially for someone without the proper papers like Maggie. She only had a B license, so she wasn’t qualified to land on moons and planets yet, but she’d done her theory and was booked in for her tests on Barrane when she got back from this run. It was a lonely but very well-paid job—and lonely and well-paid was just what Maggie had wanted when she’d applied in the first place.
But lonely in space could be fatal.
Especially lonely in space on a shortcut.
If the ship was damaged beyond her ability to repair it, or she couldn’t get back to the proper trade route, then she would die out here. The delivery wasn’t due for another two months. And she’d been taking a shortcut through uncharted territory to make it in time after having to replace two of the solar batteries at Barrane. One more late delivery and Maggie would be fired. And she was a good pilot. She’d been flying for years on her own without any incidents at all. She could handle a measly shortcut, right?
Right now, going on the credit seemed like a much better idea than this stupid shortcut. Maggie had been regretting it from that first crackling comms call.
“You’ll touch down to feel a little rough ground…”
She squinted across the cockpit at her pilot’s chair. The top half of the belt was still attached, the bottom half missing. The chair was crooked, but upright. All the lights on the console were flashing in random patterns, and the viewscreen was out. The comms system was blinking, waiting for her reply.
Most insultingly, the fluffy dice Sam had bought her as a joke when she’d gotten her license were gone.
“Fix it. Fix it, then find the dice.”
She lurched up from the bed.
The grating spun underneath her. The cockpit was barely ten feet of space between bunk and chair, but she fell most of it. She caught at the chair with both hands, and her knees collapsed as the whiplash reminded her that falling in any way was an intolerably bad idea.
When she managed to open her eyes again, a red mist clouded her vision, and the sharp taste of iron lingered on her tongue. Her chest tightened, and the black spots of panic and oxygen deprivation clustered around the edges of her eyes.
The drawer was right there.
“…but I’m right here where I’ve always been…”
She dropped into the chair just as her fingers closed around the plastic tube on top of her medical kit, and that first spray in her mouth and throat tasted like foul ambrosia. At the second, she aspirated it properly and felt her chest beginning to open up again.
“…and you’re out looking for—”
With a smirk, Maggie cancelled the stereo. Silence swept in, as soothing as the low light. Trust the damn stereo to keep playing even through—whatever that had been.
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Meet the Author
Matthew J. Metzger is an ace, trans author posing as a functional human being in the wilds of Yorkshire, England. Although mainly a writer of contemporary, working-class romance, he also strays into fantasy when the mood strikes. Whatever the genre, the focus is inevitably on queer characters and their relationships, be they familial, platonic, sexual, or romantic.
When not crunching numbers at his day job, or writing books by night, Matthew can be found tweeting from the gym, being used as a pillow by his cat, or trying to keep his website in some semblance of order. You can find Matthew on Twitter.