Posted in Dystopian, excerpt, fiction, Guest Post, Science Fiction on June 19, 2017

Synopsis

In Christopher David Rosales’ first novel, ‘Silence the Bird, Silence the Keeper’, he creates a completely unique vision that seamlessly blends tropes of magical realism and dystopian fiction in a portrait of power in America that we’ve never seen before. Imagine it as the communal love child of Marquez, Bolaño, and Orwell, a child who inhabits an America that resembles Pinochet’s Chile, and yet feels uncannily (and frighteningly) familiar to present day Los Angeles. A world in which street assassin Tre, a young and much beloved brother and son, finds himself caught in a city where all its citizens, even its most dangerous, are potential targets in the on-going power struggle between an authoritarian military regime and a not-so-community friendly guerrilla force. As Percival Everett says, “This novel treats revolution, love, betrayal and magic with equal adeptness and intelligence. In a world that is at once ours and foreign Rosales makes characters that will be remembered when the novel is done.

Guest Post

Action & Suspense in Literary Fiction

I did not submit a whole chapter. It stops somewhere before we know the main character’s fate. Why?

In all of my stories and books I challenge myself to give my readers everything. You want love? You got it. Horror? Action? Crime? Yep. Even camp and melodrama, and especially sex. Who doesn’t want sex?

But this gets real messy, real fast. Not the sex; the writing.

Because readers approach reading with expectations, and much of the time those expectations are based on popular genres that are strictly defined. The hardboiled detective vs. the armchair detective. The mystery (whodunnit?) vs. the thriller (look at them doing it!) vs. the suspense (what are they going to do and when?!). There’s the chest-heaving romance that’s all passion and pecs and no penetration, and then there’s the quasi-eroticism in which the BDSM stands for Bored and Dying for Something to Masturbate to.

And let’s not forget self-serious: (she wasn’t sure why she did it, or even what exactly one could call what she did, and she never would be sure, would she? But surely she’d have to live through this day knowing she knew nothing. Or did she?).

None of what I’m saying about this balancing act we call writing and reading fiction is new. It remains, however, hard.

Brief interruption: I’m going to use the word literary soon.

When I write “literary,” I don’t use it as an evaluative word. It doesn’t mean better. It means I wasn’t relying on my own or a reader’s preconceived expectations for a popular genre, but rather was relying on character alone. Genre fiction often relies heavily on character–too–but it rarely relies on character–just. For a definition of “literary”-crap, see above: “self-serious”.

So how do we use elements of popular genre fiction, like Action and Suspense, in “literary” fiction. I chose today’s excerpt from my first novel, Silence the Bird, Silence the Keeper, because it is a chapter in the middle of a “literary” project in which I try to provide action and suspense. I want bullets to fly, sure, but I want hearts to pump out of sympathy instead of spectacle. So I do what Ron Carlson tells us all to do in Ron Carlson Writes a Story, a must-have craft book for every writer. I try to stay close to the character. I take inventory of the objects, people, and location, and stay close to them, return to them, round them out. What I don’t do is make the bad guys bad and the good guy good. The “good guy” has just stolen from these “bad guys” in my scene. His motorcycle isn’t great, it’s ragtag and rusty. There are civilians populating the scene by living everyday lives with each other; they’re not propped up to take a bloody shot to the gut to demonstrate the “bad guys” mean business. In fact, the scene doesn’t try to “mean” anything.

But by sticking to details, I hope to remind readers it’s in their nature to observe. As the main character rides his motorcycle in an attempt to escape, his spit hits his helmet’s visor, a stop sign takes a bullet, he hardly notices but can’t help notice the hot sun reflected in the puddle in the road. I don’t know what’s going to happen to him as I collect these details about his environment. And that means I am engaged in action and suspense.

That’s it, after all. Action is a collection of concrete definable terms happening to or being happened to by a character. Suspense is the delicate distance between our prediction of what will happen and our knowledge of what has. By writing in both those states, I hope my reader will read in both those states. By abandoning a preconceived notion of what should happen in a plot, I hope I give my reader something new. It’s unpredictable to them because it’s unpredictable to me.

Excerpt

Tre leaned his bike into the turn and wound his way through the frozen traffic. We always said he leaned into everything that way. He didn’t ever seem to be trying too hard at anything at all.

He flipped up the visor of his helmet and checked his watch. Tapped it once or twice. “Piece of shit.” When he flipped the visor down the sunset shimmered pink across it.

Slowing each time he passed a luxury sedan, he’d crane his neck to see the plates. He stopped behind a long brown car with dark windows, checked the license number scribbled on the back of his hand against the license plate on the sedan. The scribbles across his hand had smeared with sweat, but they were clear enough to see they didn’t match.  He rode on, calling different curses for each different rich man’s car he passed. Passat equaled pussy. Fiat equaled faggot. Benz equaled bends over and takes it in the ass. He laughed, fogging his visor, and relished the blindness. When the fog retreated and revealed the crowded street, he closed his eyes—his right elbow clipped hard against a sideview mirror but he kept them closed. Since his parents had begun to pawn the family keep-sakes he’d felt invincibly dead. Like the elimination of personal property was a slow and steady lowering of the coffin of their hope.

A horn honked twice and his eyes opened wide on a jeep changing lanes right in front of him. He swerved around it, barely, and a woman inside shouted, “You’re going to kill someone.”

“I hope so.” He shouted spit onto his visor, and flipped her off.

The traffic was heavy in the intersection, and everyone was honking but no one going anywhere. Thankfully, this included his target in the brown sedan. Using the balls of his feet, Tre stepped his bike up alongside the rear window, took the .38 from his waistband, and shot three times through the closed backseat passenger window.

Inside the white starburst of glass a bloody head slumped out of sight.

The driver kicked his door open and peeked his head out. Tre cut a mock salute across his helmet. The driver left the door open when he ran, looking back only once, and casually. He slowed to a jog, and then a walk three cars down.

Tre set the kickstand, left the bike running. He opened up the rear door and ducked inside over the dead man. He felt around for wallets. A lot of these guys kept two, one just for these sorts of occasions and a real one… here, right along the warm inner thigh. Something shiny caught Tre’s eye even through the dark visor. A wristwatch—Rolex—and he traded the man’s watch for his. He took the time to put his broken watch on the man’s wrist, laughing, and to adjust the thick-wristed man’s watch to his own. Then he removed all the cash from the wallets, but not the cards, and put them back too. It was important that the hit not look like a robbery. Whoever had hired him wanted to send some kind of message. But, still, all dude needed now was a coin on each eye—he wouldn’t miss the paper money.

Outside, the horns honked when he mounted the bike. No sirens yet. He heeled back the kickstand and lurched forward, then rolled, easing his way through the maze of metal. A few people inside the cars he passed ducked their heads. Most of them watched, heads tilted out their windows.

Tre lowered the kickstand, dropped the remaining cartridges into his pocket, took off his helmet, and tucked it with the pistol into his backpack. Then he made sure he’d brought the right romance flick. On the cover, a man and woman faced each other across a wide night sky, and a carrier pigeon hovered between them, pinching in its beak a bannered note reading the title.

He zipped up his backpack and went to the door of the girl’s house. There was no one around. And beside that, none of the streetlamps worked so no one could see him anyway. He checked the Rolex, pressed it to his ear and listened. He couldn’t hear the watch’s delicate turnings over the sounds of the naked-bellied children playing like faint shadows in the street, the neighborhood dogs whining from a safe distance for him to feed them, or the music on the radios inside all the windowless houses.

From the porch, he stared at his red motorbike parked alone in what was left of the street mostly dirt now. The occasional tuft of grass or chunk of asphalt. The bike looked strong on roads like this. Rode over them with ease, after the mods: the stolen tires, the halogen bulbs. Sure it was used up. Scratched. Frankensteined out of junkyard parts and spray-painted bright red to hide the bolts and stitches. Sure it had seen better days. Still, around here, Tre was somebody because of that thing.

She opened the door, wearing a peasant style blouse that made a wing of the arm blocking his entrance. Her pink tongue licked her lips, not horny but hungry. “You’re late.”

“So long as your period ain’t.”

“That might be how you talked to hoodrats before but that ain’t how you talk to me.”

“Okay, okay.” He kissed her dark cheek, unzipping the bag as he did so, and then tugged out the VHS tape. He’d got it out of someone’s house just this week. They’d had DVDs but no one he knew had a player, and he hadn’t had room on his bike for something that big. “I brought popcorn, too.”

She smiled, showing white teeth; rare, anymore. Kissed him again.

He licked his lips. She was wearing that peppermint lip-gloss he’d gotten her.

“Where’d you get the money for popcorn?” she asked.

“I got a job.” He knew she wanted to ask him for more details but would stop herself. Girls had to, around here. Love didn’t require good men and good women; just men, and just women. “Are you going to let me in, or what?”

“Where’d you get the money, I said.”

So this one was different.

“Give me a chance to explain?”

About the Author

Christopher David Rosales’ first novel, Silence the Bird, Silence the Keeper (Mixer Publishing, 2015) won the McNamara Creative Arts Grant. Previously he won the Center of the American West’s award for fiction three years in a row. He is a PhD candidate at University of Denver and has taught university level creative writing for 10 years.. Rosales’ second novel, Gods on the Lam releases in June, 2017 from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing and Word is Bone, his third novel, is forthcoming 2018 from Broken River Books.

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Posted in Science Fiction, Trailer on June 13, 2017

Synopsis

Dejected and left to die on a desolate planet, by a heartless filthy rich ex-employer Star-Bright; an unlikely trio consisting of, a skillful re-programed humanoid sexbot, a gung-ho, trigger-happy deranged nurse, and a strong-willed refinery grunt who is learning to tackle his fears, must ally to survive against all odds. Not only do they have to worry about the poisonous atmospheric conditions, but they also have to face corporate conspiracies, renegade mercenaries and worst of all giant insect monsters!

Free on Kindle Unlimited

Trailer

 

Posted in Cover Reveal, excerpt, Science Fiction on May 14, 2017

 

Synopsis

Lacy Dawn is a little girl who lives in a magical forest where all the trees love her and she has a space alien friend who adores her and wants to make her queen of the universe. What’s more, all the boys admire her for her beauty and brains. Mommy is very beautiful and Daddy is very smart, and Daddy’s boss loves them all.

Except.

Lacy Dawn, the eleven year old protagonist, perches precariously between the psychosis of childhood and the multiple neuroses of adolescence, buffeted by powerful gusts of budding sexuality and infused with a yearning to escape the grim and brutal life of a rural Appalachian existence. In this world, Daddy is a drunk with severe PTSD, and Mommy is an insecure wraith. The boss is a dodgy lecher, not above leering at the flat chest of an eleven-year-old girl.

Yes, all in one book.

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Praise for Rarity from the Hollow

As you know, the novel was found by the editor of Atomjack Science Fiction Magazine to be laugh-out-loud funny in some scenes. Long-time science fiction book critic, Barry Hunter, closed his review, “…good satire is hard to find and science fiction satire is even harder to find.” — http://thebaryonreview.blogspot.com/

A former Editor of Reader’s Digest found that, “Rarity from the Hollow is the most enjoyable science fiction that I’ve read in several years.” — http://warriorpatient.com/

Rarity from the Hollow was referred to as a hillbilly version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and awarded a Gold Medal by Awesome Indies: “…Tucked between the folds of humor are some profound observations on human nature and modern society that you have to read to appreciate…it’s a funny book that most fans of sci-fi will thoroughly enjoy.” http://awesomeindies.net/

With respect to the story’s treatment of tough social issues, this reviewer said: “If I could, I would give it all the stars in the universe…I was hesitant to accept. I usually do not read or review books that discuss child abuse or domestic violence; however, I was intrigued by the excerpt and decided to give it a shot. I am glad that I took a risk; otherwise, I would have missed out on a fantastic story with a bright, resourceful, and strong protagonist that grabbed my heart and did not let go.” — http://www.onmykindle.net/

Excerpt

Cozy in Cardboard

Inside her first clubhouse, Lacy Dawn glanced over fifth grade spelling words for tomorrow’s quiz at school.  She already knew all the words in the textbook and most others in any human language.

Nothing’s more important than an education.

The clubhouse was a cardboard box in the front yard that her grandmother’s new refrigerator had occupied until an hour before.  Her father brought it home for her to play in.

The nicest thing he’s ever done.

Faith lay beside her with a hand over the words and split fingers to cheat as they were called off.  She lived in the next house up the hollow.  Every other Wednesday for the last two months, the supervised child psychologist came to their school, pulled her out of class, and evaluated suspected learning disabilities.  Lacy Dawn underlined a word with a fingernail.

All she needs is a little motivation. 

Before they had crawled in, Lacy Dawn tapped the upper corner of the box with a flashlight and proclaimed, “The place of all things possible — especially you passing the fifth grade so we’ll be together in the sixth.”

Please concentrate, Faith.  Try this one.

“Armadillo.”

“A, R, M, … A … D, I, L, D, O,” Faith demonstrated her intellect.

“That’s weak.  This is a bonus word so you’ll get extra points.  Come on.”

Lacy Dawn nodded and looked for a new word.

I’ll trick her by going out of order – a word she can’t turn into another punch line. 

“Don’t talk about it and the image will go away.  Let’s get back to studying,” Lacy Dawn said.

My mommy don’t like sex.  It’s just her job and she told me so.

Faith turned her open spelling book over, which saved its page, and rolled onto her side.  Lacy Dawn did the same and snuggled her back against the paper wall.  Face to face — a foot of smoothness between — they took a break.  The outside was outside.

At their parents’ insistence, each wore play clothing — unisex hand-me-downs that didn’t fit as well as school clothing.  They’d been careful not to get muddy before crawling into the box.  They’d not played in the creek and both were cleaner than the usual evening.  The clubhouse floor remained an open invitation to anybody who had the opportunity to consider relief from daily stressors.

“How’d you get so smart, Lacy Dawn?  Your parents are dumb asses just like mine.”

“You ain’t no dumb ass and you’re going to pass the fifth grade.”

“Big deal — I’m still fat and ugly,” Faith said.

“I’m doing the best I can.  I figure by the time I turn eleven I can fix that too.  For now, just concentrate on passing and don’t become special education.  I need you.  You’re my best friend.”

“Ain’t no other girls our age close in the hollow.  That’s the only reason you like me.  Watch out.  There’s a pincher bug crawling in.”

Lacy Dawn sat almost upright because there was not quite enough headroom in the refrigerator box.  She scooted the bug out the opening.  Faith watched the bug attempt re-entry, picked it up, and threw it a yard away into the grass.  It didn’t get hurt.  Lacy Dawn smiled her approval.  The new clubhouse was a sacred place where nothing was supposed to hurt.

“Daddy said I can use the tarp whenever he finishes the overhaul on the car in the driveway.  That way, our clubhouse will last a long time,” Lacy Dawn said.

“Chewy, chewy tootsie roll.  Everything in this hollow rots, especially the people. You know that.”

“We ain’t rotten,” Lacy Dawn gestured with open palms. “There are a lot of good things here — like all the beautiful flowers.  Just focus on your spelling and I’ll fix everything else.  This time I want a 100% and a good letter to your mommy.”

“She won’t read it,” Faith said.

“Yes she will.  She loves you and it’ll make her feel good.  Besides, she has to or the teacher will call Welfare.  Your daddy would be investigated — unless you do decide to become special education.  That’s how parents get out of it.  The kid lets them off the hook by deciding to become a SPED.  Then there ain’t nothing Welfare can do about it because the kid is the problem and not the parents.”

“I ain’t got no problems,” Faith said.

“Then pass this spelling test.”

“I thought if I messed up long enough, eventually somebody would help me out.  I just need a place to live where people don’t argue all the time.  That ain’t much.”

“Maybe you are a SPED.  There’s always an argument in a family.  Pass the test you retard,” Lacy Dawn opened her spelling book.

Faith flipped her book over too, rolled onto her stomach and looked at the spelling words.  Lacy Dawn handed her the flashlight because it was getting dark and grinned when Faith’s lips started moving as she memorized.  Faith noticed and clamped her lips shut between thumb and index finger.

This is boring.  I learned all these words last year.

“Don’t use up the batteries or Daddy will know I took it,” Lacy Dawn said.

“Alright — I’ll pass the quiz, but just ’cause you told me to.  This is a gamble and you’d better come through if it backfires.  Ain’t nothing wrong with being a SPED.  The work is easier and the teacher lets you do puzzles.”

“You’re my best friend,” Lacy Dawn closed the book.

They rolled back on their sides to enjoy the smoothness.  The cricket chorus echoed throughout the hollow and the frogs peeped.  An ant attempted entry but changed its direction before either rescued it.  Unnoticed, Lacy Dawn’s father threw the tarp over the box and slid in the trouble light.  It was still on and hot.  The bulb burned Lacy Dawn’s calf.

He didn’t mean to hurt me — the second nicest thing he’s ever done.

“Test?” Lacy Dawn announced with the better light, and called off, “Poverty.”

“I love you,” Faith responded.

“Me too, but spell the word.”

“P is for poor.  O is for oranges from the Salvation Army Christmas basket. V is for varicose veins that Mommy has from getting pregnant every year. E is for everybody messes up sometimes — sorry.  R is for I’m always right about everything except when you tell me I’m wrong — like now.  T is for it’s too late for me to pass no matter what we do and Y is for you know it too.”

“Faith, it’s almost dark!  Go home before your mommy worries,” Lacy Dawn’s mother yelled from the front porch and stepped back into the house to finish supper.  The engine of the VW in the driveway cranked but wouldn’t start.  It turned slower as its battery died, too.

Faith slid out of the box with her spelling book in-hand.  She farted from the effort.  A clean breeze away, she squished a mosquito that had landed on her elbow and watched Lacy Dawn hold her breath as she scooted out of the clubhouse, pinching her nose with fingers of one hand, holding the trouble light with the other, and pushing her spelling book forward with her knees.  The moon was almost full.  There would be plenty of light to watch Faith walk up the gravel road.  Outside the clubhouse, they stood face to face and ready to hug.  It lasted a lightning bug statement until adult intrusion.

“Give it back.  This thing won’t start,” Lacy Dawn’s father grabbed the trouble light out of her hand and walked away.

“All we ever have is beans for supper.  Sorry about the fart.”

“Don’t complain. Complaining is like sitting in a rocking chair.  You can get lots of motion but you ain’t going anywhere,” Lacy Dawn said.

“Why didn’t you tell me that last year?”  Faith asked.  “I’ve wasted a lot of time.”

“I just now figured it out.  Sorry.”

“Some savior you are.  I put my whole life in your hands.   I’ll pass tomorrow’s spelling quiz and everything.  But you, my best friend who’s supposed to fix the world just now tell me that complaining won’t work and will probably get me switched.”

“You’re complaining again.”

“Oh yeah,” Faith said.

“Before you go home, I need to tell you something.”

To avoid Lacy Dawn’s father working in the driveway, Faith slid down the bank to the dirt road.  Her butt became too muddy to reenter the clubhouse regardless of need.  Lacy Dawn stayed in the yard, pulled the tarp taut over the cardboard, and waited for Faith to respond.

“I don’t need no more encouragement.  I’ll pass the spelling quiz tomorrow just for you, but I may miss armadillo for fun.  Our teacher deserves it,” Faith said.

“That joke’s too childish.  She won’t laugh.  Besides, dildos are serious business since she ain’t got no husband no more.  Make 100%.  That’s what I want.”

“Okay.  See you tomorrow.”  Faith took a step up the road.

“Wait.  I want to tell you something.  I’ve got another best friend.  That’s how I got so smart.  He teaches me stuff.”

“A boy?  You’ve got a boyfriend?”

“Not exactly,”

Lacy Dawn put a finger over her lips to silence Faith.  Her father was hooking up a battery charger.  She slid down the bank, too.

He probably couldn’t hear us, but why take the chance.

A minute later, hand in hand, they walked the road toward Faith’s house.

“Did you let him see your panties?” Faith asked.

“No.  I ain’t got no good pair.  Besides, he don’t like me that way.  He’s like a friend who’s a teacher — not a boyfriend.  I just wanted you to know that I get extra help learning stuff.”

“Where’s he live?”

Lacy Dawn pointed to the sky with her free hand.

“Jesus is everybody’s friend,” Faith said.

“It ain’t Jesus, you moron,” Lacy Dawn turned around to walk home.  “His name’s DotCom and….”

Her mother watched from the middle of the road until both children were safe.

About the Author

roberteggletonRobert Eggleton has served as a children’s advocate for over forty years. He is best known for his investigative reports about children’s programs, most of which were published by the West Virginia Supreme Court where he worked from 1982 through 1997. Today, he is a recently retired psychotherapist from the mental health center in Charleston, West Virginia. Rarity from the Hollow is his debut novel and its release followed publication of three short Lacy Dawn Adventures in magazines: Wingspan Quarterly, Beyond Centauri, and Atomjack Science Fiction. Author proceeds have been donated to a child abuse prevention program operated by Children’s Home Society of West Virginia.

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Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, romance, Science Fiction on April 21, 2017

Title: Wanted and Wired

Author: Vivien Jackson

Series: Tether, #1

ISBN: 9781492648161

Pubdate: April 4, 2017

Genre: Science Fiction Romance

Synopsis

A rip-roarin’ new snarky, sexy sci-fi paranormal romance series with the perfect balance of humor, heat, and heart. Now that Texas has seceded and the world is spiraling into chaos, good guys come in unlikely packages and love ignites in the most inconvenient places…

Rogue scientist • technologically enhanced • deliciously attractive

Heron Farad should be dead. But technology has made him the man he is today. Now he heads a crew of uniquely skilled outsiders who fight to salvage what’s left of humanity: art, artifacts, books, ideas—sometimes even people. People like Mari Vallejo.

Gun for hire • Texan rebel • always hits her mark

Mari has been lusting after her mysterious handler for months. But when a by-the-book hit goes horribly sideways, she and Heron land on the universal most wanted list. Someone set them up. Desperate and on the run, they must trust each other to survive, while hiding devastating secrets. As their explosive chemistry heats up, it’s the perfect storm…

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You might be a futuristic biohacked hottie if…

When dieting, you no longer weigh yourself. The mechanical augmentations in your body skew weight anyhow, and your health stats and biometrics are tracked on the cloud. Put down the artificially sweetened protein bar. Put it down.

Excerpt

She popped her bubble gum and leaned against a Plexiglas route map. Cool as a daiquiri was Mari.

He waited for the bus to pull away from the stop and then rolled his car to the curb, about a meter from her mud-caked wellies. Green ones, with tiny sunflowers on the pull loops. He moved one hand off the steering wheel, signed a command, and her door shished open.

She leaned in, twirling the parasol, flinging errant raindrops all over his contrast-piped leather interior. Cool sprinkles, like cupcake dusting. A dimple tucked itself next to her flirty smile. “Hey, stranger. Goin’ my way?”

Heron pressed his lips into a line. “No funning, please. Get in. Quickly.”

“No kiddin’ no fun,” she muttered under her breath, probably forgetting that her com was subvocal. Although she was sharp as a shiv when her hands were on a gun, she could forget crucial things on planning and extraction. Or she deliberately relied on him to keep all that sorted.

Either way, Heron didn’t mind. He reached through the wireless and shut down her com.

She closed the umbrella, tossed it to the floorboard, and folded herself into the passenger seat. Heron had the door down as soon as her skirt was clear of the seals.

He’d examined this sector extensively in planning and had every escape route timed down to the second. He hadn’t counted on the law enforcement response being so fast, though, almost instantaneous. Road blocks and drones were popping up like dandelions every time he polled the mirror, and he had no defenses set up to counter them.

He knew precisely the speed at which information flowed, and there was no way within normal parameters the authorities could know her identity and location this quickly. Clearly, Mari had been set up. He even had a good idea who’d done it. The cloud, with its delicious glut of information, hovered just beyond his vision, tempting. He could see her doom erupting, 33.3 milliseconds behind real time, and he couldn’t do a damn thing to stop it.

No, that wasn’t true. He had a range of options, but the only one he allowed himself, the only one that made sense, was to get her away from here. Get her somewhere safe. Hide her.

Traffic became a torment, not just because his escape was slowed or capture crept closer with each passing second, but also because…she was here. Close. Too close. Within touching distance close. He could practically feel her vibrating with postjob adrenaline. Just eight blocks to the expressway entrance ramp. He endured them. Every bloody inch. Every stroke of her naked hands on the cushion. Every drip of skin-warmed rainwater from her ponytail, teasing its way down between her shoulder blades and along the seatback. Every push of her breath against damp synthetic cashmere. Every distant siren, every rolling update from his mirror… Interpol had her bios now, but he suspected the UNAN agents would find her first.

No. Over his goddamned corpse they would.

He hit the entrance ramp at 120 and blew into the cruise lane. The wireless exchange with the bus earlier had reminded him of another closed system, off-cloud. A bigger one. Private. Safe.

“Thought our exit vector was south. Cabana down in Cabo San Lucas and an endless tab of mojitos? This ringing a bell, partner?” Mari craned to see a road sign too blurry to read with naked eyes.

Heron cataloged the sign, crossed three lanes, and slung the car onto a flyover, taking them decidedly not south.

“I told you our plans had changed. No cabana this time, but don’t worry. I’m taking you someplace safe.”

“What place? Your place?” She waggled her eyebrows.

He inhaled deliberately. She doesn’t mean it the way it sounds. It is not an invitation. You know how she is. Bald come-hithers and poor timing were typical of her postjob process. Everybody had a different way of ramping up and down for jobs like this, and hers was invariable. A peek at her biometrics showed elevated hormone levels in her blood. Flight or fight or f*, and Mari had an unnatural ability to suppress the first.

Any other job, he’d have her on a plane by now and off to the hired harem of cabana boys she needed to seduce to prove she was still alive. But this wasn’t any other job. This was a botch. On a contract held by Texas. She was in danger, and he didn’t have time to wrestle with her attempts to make him into another of her temporary playthings.

Temporary, because the only time she’d be able to stomach f*ing a post-human would be right after a job. And then she’d hate herself after. He knew what she thought about people with implanted tech. Cyborgs. No better than machines.

And he sported a metric shitload of implanted tech.

So he’d kept their relationship purely professional, and there had never been a reason to alter that structure. Until today. Now, to keep her safe, he was willing to suffer a lot more than her derision. He was willing to lay bare his most deeply held secrets and hope she didn’t heckle. Or worse, send him away.

He accelerated through fourth gear, and the car lowered, uncomplaining, hugging the asphalt.

F* it all—he was taking her home.

About the Author

VIVIEN JACKSON is still waiting for her Hogwarts letter. In the meantime, she writes, mostly fantastical or futuristic or kissing-related stories. When she isn’t writing, she’s performing a sacred duty nurturing the next generation of Whovian Browncoat Sindarin Jedi gamers, and their little dogs too. With her similarly geeky partner, she lives in Austin, Texas, and watches a lot of football.

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Posted in excerpt, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Spotlight on March 18, 2017

Synopsis

900 years ago, Dogane fell at the hands of Ubinion and Ramas. That day, the people rejoiced to the heavens, which had finally removed its dark veil and given them the warmth they deserved for so long. Since then, nearly everyone had forgotten the power that almost tore Agrathias apart.

But Ubinion and Ramas had always warned of the corruption they were never able to completely rid the world of. A corruption that now allows one sorcerer the chance to rule Agrathias…forever…

Excerpt

Pivincy didn’t move.  He wasn’t going to.  This town had been his life, and this town was one he’d sworn to protect when he took the sacred oath linking his fate to Terrifor’s.  And he would fulfill the oath today.

He withdrew from his lap a heavy, black sphere.  He cupped it in his hands and pressed on it tightly.  Black and white fog swirled within, and a slight hissing sound was heard.

Give the people one last chance at a better position.

He thought of all the people he’d met in his life.  He held onto each of their smiles as he thrust the sphere down.  A shriek sliced the air, one that went high and low, and this noise would drive the Arcams even crazier than they already were.

It didn’t take long for the stream of black to flow through the town and pound up against the gates to the manor house.  Arcams used themselves as rams as flesh met iron, and Pivincy accepted a fact before it even happened: the gates wouldn’t hold out.

He stood up and placed his sword out in front of him.  He remembered the first time he held it in his hands: his first battle over two decades ago.  A tear and a chuckle came to him as he remembered in that battle Lynn’s wide eyes as she struck the Arcam Pivincy failed to see rushing at him.  He hoped she was still alive somewhere in this town, and if she wasn’t, that she’d been able to die with friends rather than alone like him.

As the gate buckled in and crashed to the side, Pivincy drew in his last, long breath.  He was going to miss Terrifor; he was going to miss this life.  But before he died, by everything on this Earth, he was going to show what defending a home really looked like.

About the Author

I’m a graduate of The University of Notre Dame with a BA in Chemical Engineering.  I just really like writing on the side.  This book was started in middle school, and it was interesting seeing how the writing style and plot changed as I got older (although I made sure to keep the general story the same since that’s what I wanted in the first place).  I’m currently writing my second book, but now I’m just trying to get this first book out for anyone to read.

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Posted in Science Fiction, Spotlight on February 1, 2017

Science Fiction

ReAnimus Press

320 pages

February 1, 2017

Synopsis

The arrival of a moon-sized triggers an exploratory mission led by Alis, a cybernetically enhanced woman. The journey into the object allows Alis to explore herself as well as the new arrival.

About the Author

Science fiction and mystery author John E. Stith writes across many worlds. His books have been translated to French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese and Russian and are even available in braille for the sight-impaired.  His stories have been categorized as “Hard science fiction,” a label given to those stories thoroughly researched to play fair with the rules of science; something any die-hard SciFi fan can appreciate.

It was during the summer Science-Math Institute for High School Students at Cloud State College, John served as editor for the school paper, but several more years would pass before the urge to write, strengthened by years of loving to read, was too compelling to ignore.  His stories vary, but his books are packed with suspense, mystery, and humor.

Stith holds a B.A. in physics from the University of Minnesota, has served as an Air Force Officer, where he worked at NORAD Cheyenne Mountain Complex. The passion for science runs in his family, as his father George worked at the White Sands Missile Range on such projects like the rocket sled.

He has appeared on a live nationwide PBS broadcast or Science-Fiction Science-Fact (SF2) and his work has also been sold to film and television. His novel Reckoning Infinity was chosen as one of Science Fiction Chronicle’s Best Science Fiction Novels,  Redshift Rendezvous was picked as a Nebula Award nominee and Manhattan Transfer received an honorable mention from the Hugo Awards and a nomination from the Seiun Award in Japan.

Stith is a member of Science-Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), Mystery Writers of America (MWA), Writers Guild of America (WGA), International Thriller Writers, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (RMFW), Colorado Author’s League and Mensa.  He currently lives in Colorado Springs.

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Posted in excerpt, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Spotlight, Urban on January 29, 2017

Synopsis

Ian’s alliance with the rebels brings the wrath of the Pur army crashing down on them, but he is forced to abandon his new allies and travels to Earth’s alternate universe to rescue Rayne. As Ian combs the strange, desolate planet in search for her, he discovers the true story of the Weir and his connection to Earth’s imminent destruction.

Excerpt

Several miles later, and unsure if he could take much more, the current slowed and he leaned back in exhaustion. The boat glided into a wide cavern with a high-arched ceiling. A narrow ray of natural light streamed from a sizeable crevice overhead. The striations across the rock walls took Ian’s breath away and he yearned for better light to view them in all their splendor. The wall depicting the planet’s evolutionary story, displaying various crust layers rising high above his head.

Bump! One of the paddles slipped out of Ian’s hand and he scrambled to retrieve it before it floated away. He slid the handle back into the iron ring that rose from the side of the boat and breathed a sigh of relief. Droplets, either from sweat or from his wet hair, plopped onto his cheek, and he used his forearm to swipe his forehead. Bump!

The rowboat swished sideways in the water. It hadn’t been diverted by an underwater rock. The motion felt more like a nudge.

A water creature swam beneath him. Was it playing with him, or was the gesture a warning?

In order to conjure a core blast, Ian would have to let go of one of the oars. If he pulled it into the boat, he’d be unable to steer.

The creature’s back broke the surface on the port side. It was about seven feet long and covered in thick scales, each one the size of Ian’s hand. Phosphorescent algae grew between the curved scales, outlining them in an emerald glow. Ian leaned over the side of the boat as the creature dove beneath and disappeared into the murky depths. He had no idea how deep the water was in the cavern, but from what he could tell, it was enough deep for this creature to have grown to the size of a small car.

He searched for a ledge, anything he could paddle over to so he could be better prepared if the creature returned. Nothing but sheer rock walls surrounded him.

The sounds of the gentle lapping water kept his breaths company, yet were unable to sooth his pulse.

When the creature didn’t return after a couple of minutes, Ian dipped the oars into the water with the merest of sound and pulled back with gentle force, headed for the mouth of the cave several yards ahead. Ian passed under a stream of natural light, and was blinded for a few seconds.

He cocked his ear at a change in the surface of the water from behind. The creature was on a direct path toward him. Ian pulled the oar in his left hand with everything he had but it wasn’t enough to skirt the oncoming blitz. The creature lifted the back end of the boat out of the water and sent Ian lunging to the side.

He face-planted on the surface, and then was pulled under the water.

 

About the Author

sue duffSue Duff has dreamed of dragons and spaceships before she could even read, so it’s only natural that she now combines both fantasy and science fiction as her favorite genre. Having written since high school, Duff never took it seriously until a skiing accident laid her up for an entire summer and she turned on the word processor to combat the boredom. A couple years later, her first urban fantasy novel, Fade to Black , was one of five finalists in the RMFW Colorado Gold Writing Contest and in 2015, Duff’s writing earned her the PEN Award.

She is the second oldest of six girls with an avid reader mom and her dad, the family’s single drop of testosterone in a sea of estrogen.

By day, Duff is a dedicated speech-language therapist at an inner city school district, a career she pursued much in part to her aunt who got her hooked on stories of the profession when Duff was younger. She is passionate about the work she does and regularly works to help those students that need it the most.

Sue is a member of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and The Pikes Peak Writers.  She calls Colorado home and when not saving the world one page at a time, she can be found walking her great dane, getting her hands dirty in her garden, or creating something delicious in her kitchen.

Check out her blog, A Cook’s Guide to Writing and other musings on her website.

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Catch up on the series by reading Fade to BlackMasks and Mirrors and Sleight of Hand!

Love Audiobooks? You can also listen to Fade to Black through Audible.

Posted in Fantasy, Science Fiction, Spotlight on January 22, 2017

Synopsis

Quiti and the rest of the Hair Suits have just set up the Hair Suite, the embassy of the alien Hair Balls, when they learn they have competition. Alien cyborgs called Chip Monks want to win Earth for themselves. The two species must duel for control.

These rivals discover a third alien species that threatens to destroy Earth, and have to join up quickly in order to protect the planet they are both seeking to win. Along the way, they get swept up in a world of intergalactic politics, wormholes, and role-playing.

Will they be able to save Planet Earth in time?

About the Author

Piers Anthony, critically acclaimed author of the New York Times bestselling Xanth series, shows off his signature originality and wit in this entertaining and inventive sequel to Hair Power.

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Posted in Children, excerpt, Science Fiction, Young Adult on December 31, 2016

Synopsis

Fourteen-year-old Hannah Bradbury loved her father so much that she worried about him constantly. After all, he was a photographer who traveled to the most dangerous places in the world.

To allay her fears, each time he came home he brought her silly gifts, each one with supposed magical powers: the Seal of Solomon, the Ring of Gyges, even Aladdin’s Lamp. It was that lamp Hannah found the most unbelievable, for it looked like an ugly teapot. Nevertheless, her father assured her it was real, and made her promise to save her three wishes for something very special.

Then . . . six months later . . . the unthinkable happened. Her father was killed while on assignment to Baghdad. And so on the day of his funeral Hannah did something she never thought she would ever do.

She took out that teapot and gave it a rub . . .

The Ugly Teapot by Fred Holmes is a timeless tale, filled with magic and adventure. More importantly, it will make you believe in the overwhelming power of love.

Excerpt

Hannah Bradbury opened her eyes, feeling forty, not fourteen. Every part of her ached: head, stomach, neck, back—which was weird because she had felt perfectly fine two seconds ago. Plus now she was freezing. That part, at least, made some sense, for it was cold outside and she was lying next to her cupola window.

But the weird part? —the seriously bizarre, mind-blowing part? —two seconds ago she had been lying in her bed across the room.

She pulled her father’s shirt tighter around her narrow shoulders and sat up. Her dog, Griff, was still asleep in her bed, just as he had been two seconds ago. And her furniture looked fine—chest-of-drawers, study desk, nightstand—right where they should be. At least they hadn’t moved like last time.

The only thing that wasn’t where it should be—other than herself—was her clock. It was one of those old-fashioned analog clocks—brought to her from London by her father—and night before last it had been moved from her nightstand to her study desk. Now it was back on her nightstand. And the time had changed. She had checked it before closing her eyes, and it had said it was midnight. Now, two seconds later, the luminescent hands pointed to 6:15 a.m.

She shivered as she swung her legs off the love seat. Keeping her thigh muscles tensed in case someone grabbed her legs, she let the toe of her left foot touch the floor first. The wood felt buckled and splintery and colder than usual, but nothing grabbed her legs, so she stood up.

She hovered next to the love seat for a moment, her hand gripping the wall for balance, then wobbled unsteadily to a pile of dirty clothes on the floor of her closet. She rifled through them until she found a pair of jeans that didn’t smell too badly, slipped them on, then took one of her father’s sweaters off a hangar and pulled it over her nightshirt. It was thick and warm and still smelled like her father. Thinking of her father made her smile, but that smile disappeared when she saw her reflection in the mirror on the back of her closet door.

She looked horrible: pale skin, dead seaweed hair, dark circles around her eyes. Her skin used to be tan, her hair the color of burled walnut, and everyone used to compliment her eyes. Now everything about her looked dull and lifeless. And she was weary, dead tired. She would have loved to climb back in bed with Griff, but morning would be coming soon, and she didn’t want to miss anything.

She returned to her love seat and sat down with her legs crossed. The advantage to living on the second floor of a three-story house in Green Park, Tennessee, was that on a clear morning you could see for miles. The disadvantage was that there were very few clear mornings in the Great Smoky Mountains. They were usually—well, smoky—and it often took the anemic sun half a day to burn off the fog.

Fortunately, the mist was already starting to lift from the cemetery below. Soft, grey wisps still lingered lazily among the tombstones, but they would be gone soon. A dove was cooing, and that meant the sun was about to peek over the mountains.

She was starting to think they were going to be late, when she suddenly heard the deep rumble of an engine. Seconds later a pickup truck chugged through the cemetery’s wrought iron gate. Hannah followed it with her eyes as it came, fog swirling around its tires, engine sputtering, tailpipe coughing. It stopped beneath the gnarly branches of an arthritic oak tree not far from her house. She watched it shake off like a dog after a hard rain, then heard its motor shut down. All became quiet again.

Trailer

About the Author

THE UGLY TEAPOT is Fred Holmes’s first novel. He’s known primarily as a writer/director of television and films, specifically children’s television and family films. He’s worked on such TV shows as WISHBONE, BARNEY & FRIENDS, MARY LOU RETTON’S FLIP FLOP SHOP, IN SEARCH OF THE HEROES, HORSELAND, and many, many other shows. He’s written and/or directed over 250 episodes of television and has been nominated for Emmys five times and has won twice. He’s also won three CINE Golden Eagles, plus numerous other awards. Besides his work in TV, he’s directed three feature films: DAKOTA, starring Lou Diamond Phillips, for Miramax; HARLEY, starring Lou Diamond Phillips, for Lionsgate; and HEART LAND, a Bollywood feature film that he directed in India and starred Indian superstars Divya Dutta and Prem Chopra.

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Posted in Science Fiction, Spotlight on December 18, 2016

memory-blankISBN: 978-0-9672984-5-0

Paperback: $15.99

E-book: $4.99

Mystery, Science Fiction

ReAnimus Press

198 pages

December 15, 2016

Synopsis

Cal Donley wakes up covered with someone’s blood. He’s on the orbital colony Daedalus. And the last ten years are a total blank.

His wife, Nikki, is a tantalizing stranger. His only ally is Vincent, a wise-cracking, AI Smart Watch. As Cal tries to unscramble his missing memories, people around him begin to have fatal accidents.

What disaster has stripped away so much of his memory – and why? And what about the dried blood on his hands…?

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About the Author

Science fiction and mystery author John E. Stith writes across many worlds. His books have been translated to French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese and Russian and are even available in braille for the sight-impaired.  His stories have been categorized as “Hard science fiction,” a label given to those stories thoroughly researched to play fair with the rules of science; something any die-hard SciFi fan can appreciate.

It was during the summer Science-Math Institute for High School Students at Cloud State College, John served as editor for the school paper, but several more years would pass before the urge to write, strengthened by years of loving to read, was too compelling to ignore.  His stories vary, but his books are packed with suspense, mystery, and humor.

Stith holds a B.A. in physics from the University of Minnesota, has served as an Air Force Officer, where he worked at NORAD Cheyenne Mountain Complex. The passion for science runs in his family, as his father George worked at the White Sands Missile Range on such projects like the rocket sled.

He has appeared on a live nationwide PBS broadcast or Science-Fiction Science-Fact (SF2) and his work has also been sold to film and television. His novel Reckoning Infinity was chosen as one of Science Fiction Chronicle’s Best Science Fiction Novels,  Redshift Rendezvous was picked as a Nebula Award nominee and Manhattan Transfer received an honorable mention from the Hugo Awards and a nomination from the Seiun Award in Japan.

Stith is a member of Science-Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), Mystery Writers of America (MWA), Writers Guild of America (WGA), International Thriller Writers, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (RMFW), Colorado Author’s League and Mensa.  He currently lives in Colorado Springs.

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