New Book Release Blitz for Imminent Dawn(Empathy #1) by R.R. Campbell

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Title: Imminent Dawn

Series: EMPATHY, Book One

Author: R.R. Campbell

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: January 28, 2019

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 120400

Genre: Science Fiction, LGBT, science fiction, technothriller, action/suspense, thriller, brain-computer interface, medical

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Synopsis

Art-school dropout Chandra would do anything to apologize for her role in her wife’s coma—including enroll in the first round of human trials for an internet-access brain implant.

At first, the secretive research compound is paradise, the perfect place to distract Chandra from her grief. But as she soon learns, the facility is more prison than resort, with its doctors, support staff, and her fellow patients all bent on hatching plots of their own, no matter how invested they might seem in helping her communicate with her wife.

Making matters worse, a dark wave of uncertainty crashes down on the compound, forcing Chandra to become an unlikely but pivotal player in conspiracies stretching from the highest levels of the North American Union government to the lowest dredges of its shadowy hacking collectives.

To save herself and her wife, Chandra and her newfound friends from the study will have to overcome the scheming of a ruthless tech magnate, the naïveté of an advancement-hungry administrative assistant, and the relentless pursuits of an investigative journalist, all of whom are determined to outpace the others in their own quests to resurrect lost love, cover their tracks, and uncover the truth.

A twistedly delightful clockwork of intrigue and suspense, Imminent Dawn is an electrifying sci-fi debut from author r. r. campbell.

Excerpt

Imminent Dawn
R.R. Campbell © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
CHANDRA

Chandra didn’t kill her wife, but she may as well have.

Now, as Chandra herself struggled against the darkness, against the paralysis that gripped her, she accepted no punishment was more fitting than the one that seemed to have found her on the far side of her install procedure.

“That’s what I heard,” said a man’s voice, quiet but tense. “Comas. Seizures. Electrocution. All of that.”

Chandra’s pulse blared in her ears, her throat. She tried to wiggle a finger, but it remained still.

“No way,” a different man responded. His voice thick, Chandra imagined him to be much larger than the first man who spoke. “If there were patients not waking up after the procedure—”

“Do you honestly think Halman would care?” said the first man. “Think about it. Would Wyatt Halman really put an end to this study over a couple of schmucks like you and me going brain dead after our installs?”

Brain dead. Chandra would have shivered were she able. But she couldn’t be brain dead, no—at least not in any way the doctors used the term. She could hear, understand. Her wife, for all Chandra knew, was no longer capable of even that—deaf even to Chandra’s whispers of apology.

Grief clutched Chandra as she tried to call out into the void. She managed only a gurgle.

“You hear that?” the larger man said. Bedsheets rustled against a symphony of beeping medical devices. “She’s coming to.”

Chandra’s eyes flashed open to a world of white.

She lurched forward, hands trembling. Across from her, the two men—patients like her if their lavender-colored scrubs were any indication—sat propped up on gurneys of their own. To the left, a doorway opened into a long, vacuous hall, a nurse’s station just visible at the end of it. To her right, a wall-length window opened to the colors of spring, to the pinks of blossoming cherry trees, and the brown branches of a twisted oak.

“Hey,” the larger man said. “What do you know?”

The terror that had launched Chandra forward subsided, the weight of the anesthesia claiming her once more. She settled back against her bed, the pillow now more reprieve than prison.

“Come on,” the first man said. “Leave her alone. She just woke up. Probably not thinking straight.”

Chandra forced a dry swallow, thankful she had at least survived the install procedure. With her EMPATHY nanochip now installed, all she had to do was wait for it to start working. Then Kyra could get hers, just like the ad promised all immediate family members of study participants. Only then would Chandra know whether Kyra could hear, could understand her apology through their direct internet connection. With any luck, EMPATHY might even bring Kyra completely back to her.

“That’s what I’m trying to tell you,” the smaller man said, apparently responding to some bickering Chandra missed. “The nanochip isn’t working for anyone yet. They’ve been doing these installs for months, and—”

“Wait,” the large man said. “How could you even know that?” He took the words from Chandra’s pasty mouth. “The compound has been on lock-down since the study started, and Wyatt Halman has been perfecting this technology for years.”

“Look, man,” the smaller of them said. “Believe me or don’t. That’s up to you. All I’m trying to say is even if the nurses come in here and tell us our installs were successful, that doesn’t mean EMPATHY will ever actually work for us.”

Chandra’s fingers coiled inward. If that were true, she’d given up being at her wife’s bedside every day only to get nothing but months of hopeless isolation in exchange. And to fail to return Kyra to something resembling consciousness via EMPATHY… no, Chandra couldn’t bear to think of what that might mean.

A dull throb took hold along where the surgeons made the incision near her temple. She raised her hand to massage the area, still unaccustomed to the lack of hair there—or anywhere on her head, for that matter.

“Don’t touch it,” the large man said. Chandra lowered her hand. “The nurses said so. That’s what they told us, anyway.”

Chandra managed to sit. She opened her mouth to thank him, but before she could respond, a nurse strolled into the room.

Her periwinkle scrubs matched those of every other nurse Chandra had seen since arriving on the compound yesterday. The woman looked hurried, haggard—as if she hadn’t slept in weeks. She leaned over the armrest on the side of the smaller man’s gurney and spoke in hushed, inaudible tones.

Even the most casual glance at the man’s drooping expression told Chandra everything. A failed install.

Without so much as a response from the patient, the nurse unlocked the brakes on his makeshift bed and wheeled him from the room.

The hospital equipment whimpered in three long, digital sighs before the man across the way finally spoke again. “I guess it’s just me and you now.”

The throbbing in Chandra’s temple accelerated, the pressure immense as it pressed against her left eye. Her hands gripped the railings on the side of her gurney as she collapsed back onto her sheets.

“You okay?” the man said. “Want me to get some help?”

She pulled in a breath between her teeth, bracing herself against a pain so fierce she sincerely wondered if someone was taking an ice cream scoop to her brain.

“All right,” the man said. “I’m calling a nurse.” A tinny-sounding buzzer hummed as he depressed the HELP button.

A new feeling gripped Chandra. Painless now, she felt as though she were outside her own body, rising from her own chest and drifting toward the ceiling.

Her trembling ceased, though her eyes danced beneath her eyelids. When she opened them, an awareness of the tangle of bedsheets now twisted around her settled in. She unsnarled herself and brought herself upright, resting her back against her pillows, her head against the wall.

A flash of white struck in and out of her vision. The quivering returned, the hair on the back of her neck rising.

Across the way, her fellow patient had gone paler than the wall behind him. “Lady, can you talk? What’s going on? Nurse!”

Chandra, too, meant to plead for help, to relay all she felt, but the flash crashed into her vision once more—and this time, it remained. When she dared lower the shield she’d created with her arm, the softness of the lingering light surprised her. It wasn’t a light at all. It was a rectangle. No, a perfect square.

It hovered before her, fixed in the center of her vision, stirring some familiarity, the alluring awe of a daydream, a memory. And there, in the upper-left-hand corner, a thin vertical line blinked on, blinked off. Blinked on. Blinked off.

Finally a nurse stumbled into the room, his cheeks red, his chest heaving.

“Something’s happening,” Chandra managed. “There’s this white thing floating here, hanging here.”

On the far side of the translucent sheet, the nurse scampered back into the hall, his voice echoing as he called for support.

Disbelief consumed Chandra. How to describe what hovered before her? She drafted a description to remember for later, but even her best attempt failed to do justice to the moment. She shook her head to clear her mind and typed a description of the image.

Typed. No, it couldn’t be.

The words crawled across the sheet of white, the cursor trailing her thoughts as they gathered on the screen. And as the textscape grew, so did her excitement—as well as her concern. She paused to calm herself, and the cursor halted in its march from left-to-right.

Her chest grew light, her skin tingling. It worked. EMPATHY was actually working. She wanted to leap from bed, to tell anyone, to tell the world, to tell Kyra most of all.

But before she could speak another word, the screen vanished into a single, impossibly distant point. All the same, something told her its contents had been saved forever.

Footsteps approached from the hall, the urgent pitter-patter of a herd of help on the way.

And help was on the way, all right—help for Chandra, yes, but more importantly, help for Kyra. Once the research team confirmed EMPATHY had taken for Chandra, they’d have to give Kyra the install they’d promised.

It would only be a matter of months, maybe even weeks before Chandra could apologize to her wife, could tell her she loved her again. They’d be back to squabbling over what to plant where in their garden, to bristling at bedtime ghost stories—even if Kyra’s coma only allowed her to do so over EMPATHY.

Then a memory of the rumors returned, the smaller man’s whispers of seizures and install recipients who themselves slipped into comas after their procedures. Chandra’s stomach clenched at the thought.

She supposed the man had also said that after months of install procedures EMPATHY still hadn’t taken for anyone, and Chandra had already disproven that rumor. Perhaps she was the exception. At least she hoped she was.

Her fate and that of her wife depended on it.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Meet the Author

Born Ryan Campbell, r. r. campbell is an author, editor, and host of the r. r. campbell writescast. His work has been featured in Five:2:One Magazine’s #thesideshow, Erotic Review, and with National Journal Writing Month. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin with his wife, Lacey, and their cats, Hashtag and Rhaegar.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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A VVivacious Release Day Review: Talking in Code by Ariel Tachna

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Rating: 4.5 Stars out of 5
 
talkingincodefs_v1Richard and Tim aka Dav met in the SEALs and have been in a relationship for around twenty years. Now they run their own paramilitary organization, Strike Force Omega where they meet Eric who rounds up their threesome.
 
Four months ago, Eric gets captured leading to months of torture and imprisonment. In a twist of fate his rescue coincides with Tim getting gravely injured in the field. With Tim unconscious in an ICU, for the first time Richard has to step up in a role that has always been Tim’s and help ease Eric back to life as they know it.
 
What Richard soon discovers is that Richard and Eric have no idea what their relationship is like without Tim acting as the intermediary. With Eric’s PTSD rearing its ugly head, will Richard and Eric make it through with two lives on the line?
 
Before I start this review I must say two things – Firstly, read the official blurb it is the best introduction to this book and it is spot on. Secondly, I have no idea what to write in this review so far, this book is amazing but I am finding it very hard to articulate my feelings on paper. So, if my review ends up making no sense just know that I loved the book, it is amazing and if you like the blurb then read it because the book delivers on everything that the blurb promises.
 
First I am not a very prolific reader when it comes to MMM romances, but on the other hand I also love MMM romances that are riddled with angst and problems as three men try to navigate their way through life together. For one I find happy MMM romances unreal because unless the threesome has been together for a long time I don’t understand how three men can just fit in like they were moulded together. Every couple has an adjustment period, so it stands to logic that a threesome would have triple the adjustment period because there are three couples in the mix and one relationship. This also happens to be one of the facts that made me love this book because even though Richard, Tim and Eric have been together for four years, they are still discovering new things in their relationship, like the fact that Richard and Eric have always had Tim and thus, kind of neglected finding their own equation with each other. Richard & Tim know where they stand with each other courtesy of the fact that they have been together for a long time and Tim & Eric are completely in sync especially when it comes to settling Eric back into routine life after he comes back from an op. But then there is Eric & Richard who love each other but have never really tried to figure out who and what they are to the other. This made for an interesting premise and it translated very well into the book.
 
Also I fell in love with both Richard and Eric. These two were on fire. They shared such a sensual intimacy that every scene that they share together in this book, including the sex scenes, reads like the most important thing to the story. In a way I feel like in every story sex while important to a relationship and in some relationships it can be the defining feature of the relationship does little for story progression and I mean the actual sex scene, not what comes of it but in this story I just felt like the sex between these two was writing the story, making it an absolute delight to read this book.
 
The half star deduction is actually for Tim, all this focus on Richard and Eric has the unfortunate side effect that we just don’t know Tim well enough. As far as I can tell this book is going to be a first in a series and I hope this means that we still have time to get to know Tim and work out who these three are together. But the story is complete in itself, so I have no idea if the next in this series will feature these three, if a sequel is in fact in the works. But one thing that I really liked with regards to Tim was the fact that Richard refers to Tim as Dav while Eric refers to him as Tim which kind of makes me feel that it is Richard & Dav and Eric & Tim, which kind of highlights the different equations he has with the two but I could be reading into things that aren’t there because it might just be because of the fact that Richard has nicknames for both of them and his nickname for Tim is Dav.
 
This story is a romance through and through, despite the fact that the story is set in a military/para-military background. I read this book in a single setting, I just couldn’t stop. I simply adored the book.
 
While this book is a MMM and the fact that this relationship is a threesome is absolutely essential for the premise to work, the fact is we only get to see Eric, Richard and Tim together in a sex scene only twice. Personally this wasn’t a problem for me because we do get a fair idea of how these three function together in their relationship through their conversations with each other which were priceless to me.
 
After all is said and done, I would just like to say, I loved this book. It was an amazing and delightful read that had me turning pages one after the other and I am completely in love with Richard and Eric.
 
This is my first book by this author but it definitely won’t be my last by her.
 
Cover Art by Paul Richmond. I liked the cover.
Sales Links
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Book Details:
ebook, 256 pages
Expected publication: March 6th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1635334438 (ISBN13: 9781635334432)
Edition Language English

Review: Darkest Knight (City Knight #5) by T.A. Webb

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Darkest KNight coverMarcus Prater and his lover Benjamin Danvers have never been happier.  Marcus has reconciled with his brother Frankie and now Frankie and Frankie’s kids are now frequent visitors to his home.  His own wounds have healed as has Ben’s and now they are preparing for their first Thanksgiving as a couple.  What could go wrong?

Well, that would be everything.  Wick Templeton is missing along with his boyfriend Ned.  Archer calls, asking if Marcus has read that morning’s paper. Young, gay men are still turning up tortured and dead, including the twins mentioned in the headlines this morning.  Twins wearing medallions that hold a special meaning for Archer, Marcus and, of course, the missing Wick.

And when one of Marcus’ old contacts on the street, an underage prostitute called Brady,appears bruised and bleeding before Marcus with a startling request, one connected to Ben’s dead friend Travis.  Well, Marcus can’t say no and ends up bringing Brady home with him to keep him safe and to attend to his wounds.   So many painful memories arising, so many hidden secrets starting to come out.  Where will it all end?  Will this truly be the darkest night for Marcus, Ben and all those they love?

Just when I think this series can’t get any better, it surges into a whole new realm, expanding the storyline to incorporate more mysteries, hidden depths to characters we have already met, and exploring the new connections in old established relationships, adding texture and layers to already terrific characters and their bonds with each other.   Of all the books, Darkest Knight is the one that brings all the other men and their lovers together in one place, all but one.

Everyone has gathered together at Marcus and Ben’s place for Thanksgiving.  It starts out as a time of joy and  reconciliation then it turns  painful and bitter with one phone call.  Every  the buried emotions and old pain rushes out, first in Marcus and then in the others, leaving the new lovers to handle the situation.  I loved how  the author brings Jeremiah, Rory, and Ben into their own in this story.  Each demonstrates a new found strength and depth of character that is not only surprising but disarming.  It’s unexpected and finally grounds each man not only in their relationships to their lovers but with each other as well.  It’s wonderful in so many ways.  It redefines how we look at all the relationships present, it exposes old past histories while providing a new avenue of thought with regard to the mysterious deaths of young rent boys in the city.

I loved that T.A. Webb chose Thanksgiving as the occasion to bring them all together.  Its our traditional family holiday and these men have been each other’s family for over 15 years.  And the fact that one of them is not only missing but has kept secrets from some of them all that time is doubling their feelings of hurt and betrayal.  It’s a marked contrast to the new found love that most of the original members  have now found, with those lovers present and now incorporated into that tight band of men.

Then Webb adds Brady, an resilient, underage rent boy and Frankie, Marcus’ brother, to the mix and things really start to bounce out of control.   Brady is a wonderful little portrait of a kid thrown away at a hauntingly young age but has who succeeded in surviving the streets and the predators that hunt there, if only just.  I love Brady and want more of this amazing kid.

Here is a small excerpt as Marcus comes across Brady on the street:

And in every face, every kid standing there with all the false bravado, in every potential target, he saw his love.

He had to focus on their job tonight, though. One young man hadn’t made it, and it broke something in Benjamin when Travis had been murdered. Oh, he still went to school, and made love with Marcus, and joked with Jeremiah. But he’d tried to help the boy and it blew up in his face. And Wick…he’d said he would help and the boy slipped away and now he was dead. Goddamn it, Marcus needed Wick and that crazy Bayou or Banyon or whatever the hell his name was to help him find Travis’s killer.

The feel of his heart racing in his chest and the tension in his jaw from grinding his teeth made him stop, close his eyes, and take a couple of deep breaths. Getting mad at Wick wouldn’t do him any good right now. Now, his Benjamin needed him. So fuck Wick, he’d deal with him later. But that made him feel guilty for being mad at his brother, and then he was right back in the same loop.

“Mister Marcus?” He almost didn’t hear the small voice and walked past the kid hanging outside the alleyway leading up to the Zesto’s and McDonald’s. Glancing around, Marcus stepped in the space and nodded for the young man to walk with him.

“Brady. It’s been a while since I’ve seen you. I was worried about you, son.” The boy—he was one of the younger ones Marcus had tried to keep his eye on before he’d been shot, and he’d lost track of him—was skinnier than he remembered, and his hair hung in greasy hanks around his face. He walked stiffly and slightly bent over, and all of Marcus’s red flags went off.

His head nodding as if he heard music no one else could hear, Marcus saw the sideways glance Brady gave him, and then looked around like he was scared of either being overheard or seen. Part of Brady’s twitches were affectations, so people would leave him alone or think him helpless. The fact of the matter was he’d been on the streets since he was twelve, and was alive now at the ripe old age of seventeen only by the grace of God and a buttload of tricks he’d learned over the years. If he was patient, Brady would tell him what he wanted or needed.

What happens next is both heartbreaking and startling in its intensity.  You really have to read it all to get the full benefit of Webb’s realistic descriptions and spot on dialog that brings this young man and his pain so vividly to life.  More than a few tissues will be needed before all the mysteries are solved and bonds can be knitted back together.

City Knight, of which Darkest Knight is the fifth book,  is one of four interconnected series.  The others are Triple Threat by LE Harner, Chances Are by Lee Brazil and Wicked’s Way by Havan Fellows.  You can read each series by themselves.  But read together, you will enter a rich world inhabited by strong, intelligent men, a gritty band of brothers and their lovers.  Grab them all up, and read them one after the other, starting with book one in each series.  Each is remarkable in their own right, but together form a Pulp Friction universe you will never want to leave.

Here are the books in the City Knight series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the men and their relationships and the events that occur:

City Knight (City Knight #1)
Knightmare (City Knight #2)
Starry Knight (City Knight #3)
Knights Out (City Knight #4)
Darkest Knight (City Knight #5)
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Book Details:

ebook, 60 pages
Published October 15th 2013 by A Bear on Books
edition language English

Review: Duplicity (Triple Threat #5) by Laura Harner

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Rating; 5 stars out of 5

Duplicity coverOn the surface, everything and everyone seems happy and settled in the home of Archer, Zachary and Jeremiah.  They have discarded Jeremiah’s contract and now have a loving threesome partnership. But only on the surface and when young, distraught Clarenda Harris enters their office to ask for their help, she triggers a set of events and emotions that none of them saw coming, not even Archer.

Clarenda Harris is the mother of twin baby boys and the father of her sons, wealthly Dwayne Cashman, is missing, presumed dead in a plane crash.  Dwayne Cashman, also a twin,and his brother were inseparable and now that brother is set to inherit all Dwayne’s money and estate, leaving nothing for Clarenda and her sons.  But Clarenda is certain something is fishy.  She thinks Dwayne is alive and wants Zachary, Archer and Jeremiah to prove it.  Usually, Zachary would turn to Wick Templeton for research and help but Wick has disappeared, leaving all Zachary’s phone calls unanswered.

Zachary is left to deal with his feelings of betrayal over Wick, Jeremiah is hiding his grief over the loss of a friend and Archer is trying to balance the needs of his men with his own feelings to master.  Duplicity is in the air and the tension is rising.  Everything is feeling unsettled.  Can Archer, Zachary and Jeremiah discover the truth behind Dwayne Cashman’s disappearance before the will is read and the estate settled?  Or will all the hidden feelings and complications cause a breakdown in communications and relations that will threaten their happiness and that of others close to them?

Duplicity is a perfect title for a story full of hidden agendas, false identities, and layers of deceit that cover the actions and events connected to Archer, Zachary and Jeremiah and their band of brothers.  It all starts with a case involving twins and more twins that causes reverberations through the closely bonded group of friends that includes Archer, Zachary, Wick, Marcus, Chance and their significant others, especially when  another set of twins turns up dead with connections to the missing Wick.   There are dangers and conflict doubled at every turn and Laura Harner does an excellent job of leading the reader through the maze of troubled relationships and past histories that have come back to upset all involved.

At the heart of the series is the loving menage of Archer, Zachary, and Jeremiah.  They are settling beautifully into a happy threesome and the sex scenes in this story are white hot and kinky.  There are elements of D/s and bdsm here but the manner in which Harner uses them to enhance and better understand her men and their needs makes not only for some very intense, loving sex but also makes their relationship understandable and accessible. This applies even to those readers who don’t normally read books with this content.

Harner also discloses aspects of the mens past, especially where it involves Wick Templeton, that starts to shed light on the origins of this band of brothers.  This provides us with a better understanding of the depth of Archer and Zachary’s feelings towards Wick.  It also gives Jeremiah a chance to step forward with his issues with Zachary’s dependance upon Wick and its intrusion into their relationship.  So many emotions in flux, including Jeremiah’s grief over the heinous torture and death of his friend, Nick.

Harner has created a story with all the right elements in play to create an atmosphere of suspense, mystery, angst that combined with the incendiary sexual and loving partnership of Archer, Zachary and Jeremiah makes Duplicity a must read for lovers of all genres.   Triple Threat is a dynamic, engrossing series, one of four interconnected series, that you should put on your lists of books needed for 2013 and every year after.

As with the others, if you are new to this series, go back and start with the first story, Triple Threat#1.  I have listed them all in the order they were written and should be read to understand the men, their relationships and the events as they occur.  Run, don’t walk, to grab them all up.

This is how it all starts:

“Nice to meet you, Clarenda. I’m Zack. If you’ll follow me, Archer and Jeremiah are waiting in the study.” As had become our custom, I greeted our newest prospective client at the door and used the opportunity to size up any potential threat. Although it was possible for a weapon to be hidden almost anywhere, it seemed unlikely that this harried-looking woman was armed with anything more dangerous than the sticky-looking Tickle Me Elmo that stuck out from the top of the oversized canvas bag slung over her shoulder. Standing not much more than five feet even, her long dirty-blonde hair pulled into a messy tail and dressed in khaki capris and a blue and white striped tee shirt, the woman could pass for a college student. Until you looked at her face. Dark circles under her eyes and hard lines etched into her cheeks added ten years to her looks.

Entering the study, I made the introductions and, after handshakes all around, led her to a wingback chair that faced the delicate looking couch Archer favored when we had a client. As usual, Archer got right to the point. “You understand how our business works, Miss Harris? You must have lost something of significant monetary value, and if we are successful, our fee is half of what we recover. Do you think what you’ve lost merits a fifty percent commission?”

“Is sixteen million dollars worth your time, Mr. Wilde? Because if I’m right, that’s what I estimate my former employer’s estate is set to pay to his twin brother in fourteen days.”

Triple Threat Series in order:

Triple Threat (Triple Threat #1)
Retribution (Triple Threat #2)
Defiance (Triple Threat, #3)
Crucify (Triple Threat, #4)
Duplicity (Triple Threat #5)

Cover art by Laura Harner is perfect for the story and the series.

Buy links:  All Romance EBook, Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 118 pages
Published September 27th 2013 by Hot Corner Press
ISBN13 9781937252601
edition language English
series Triple Threat

Book Contest and Guest Post by Laura Harner, Pulp Friction Author of Triple Threat series

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Pulp Friction 4 covers

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is so happy to have Laura Harner stopping by for a chat about the Pulp Friction series and how it alDuplicity coverl came about.  Remember, lovely readers, all you need to do to be entered into the contest, is leave a comment at the end of a author post or at the end of one of the Pulp Friction reviews.  Its that simple.  Now back to our guest this morning.

ST: Good morning, Laura, pull up a chair and make yourself comfortable.  Now, tell me how it all got started.

LH: Thank you Melanie!

It’s so wonderful that we are doing this blog in October, because it was a year ago this month that I took a nostalgic trip through an old Raymond Chandler book and decided I wanted to know more about the origins of pulp fiction. After a very little research, I knew I had to write short stories using the pulp fiction formula, with the hard-boiled attitudes and a down and dirty mystery. One of the key elements of pulp fiction was the “To be continued” nature of many of the stories, along with the rapid releases, so readers weren’t left hanging too long. Other PF books resolved the crime in every story, but gave the reader a relationship with the protagonist, revealing a little more with each subsequent installment. I loved the whole idea, but…

I realized there was no way I could manage serial fiction on my own…so I spent a long time thinking about who I might sucker into this crazy scheme.

0.237 seconds later, I had my answer. Havan Fellows, Lee Brazil, Tom Webb and I already had a permanent chat window open in Facebook anyway, and I couldn’t imagine better writing partners.

I gave them a very brief outline of what I was thinking, and for the next twenty minutes, I didn’t say a word as they took off and ran with the idea and made a vision we could all embrace. Four separate series, a new release every two weeks, and there would be crossovers between the series.

For those unfamiliar with the history of pulp fiction, the popularity of the genre ran from 1896 to approximately 1955, and you can read a history of pulp magazines here at the Pulp Magazines Project:

Excerpt: Originally, a pulp magazine was one that was printed on paper made directly from wood-pulp which rapidly yellows and becomes very brittle leaving a shower of confetti on the reader. …

…Another factor that distinguishes the pulps from other magazines was the lack of any bulk advertising. The pulps were produced cheaply and sold cheaply (initially 10 cents, occasionally only five cents, and seldom more than 25 cents, even in the later years) and relied wholly on revenue from sales. Another distinguishing feature is that the pulps ran almost entirely fiction.pulp_20

So Why Pulp Friction?

Why Pulp Friction? Why MM (or MMM-since I’m greedy)?

We wanted to pay homage to the golden days of story telling, when talk was cheap and so were the women…. Okay, not exactly, but close. We all loved the idea of telling a great story for a fair price. We also know that readers love a well-developed character, and when that character steps out of his own book and into another—double bonus.

The characters we created have taken over our stories, become good friends—no more than that—they’re family. With that comes the ability to love and to hurt each other in the way only family can. Havan, Lee, Tom and I have grown into that type of family, as well.
The one thing the characters know above all else, family keeps coming back. So while going into this last book, it may appear that certain relationships are broken, we all know—there are just some bonds that can’t be broken.

ST: What a great way to end this morning.  Thanks, Laura.  I can’t wait to find out what happens next with Pulp Friction.  I have grown to love all the characters and each series.  It’s lovely to see that the closely bonded group of characters is mirrored by their authors.

Thanks for stopping by today and I can’t wait for the final group post on Friday.

Laura Harner’s Triple Threat series in the order they were written and should be read are:

Triple Threat (Triple Threat #1)
Retribution (Triple Threat #2)
Defiance (Triple Threat, #3)
Crucify (Triple Threat, #4)
Duplicity (Triple Threat #5)

Review: The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari (The General #2) by Sarah Black

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

The General and the Elephant Clock coverGeneral John Mitchel and Gabriel Sanchez have finally begun to settle into their new lives as an couple and outwardly gay men when an old colleague calls with a request for help.  General David Painter, now CEO of a private security outfit, has two of his men, former Rangers, who have been captured and imprisoned in Tunisia. And they are being held in one of the most notorious prisons in the Middle East.  Painter wants John and Gabriel to get them out and safely home.

With problems on the home front with Kim, Abdullah, and Billy all involved in their own personal challenges, John and Gabriel knows its a tough time to leave but the alternative, leaving those boys to rot in prison or worse, is unthinkable.  The Arab Uprising has left the government unstable and the political climate rife for rebellion in Tunisia.  But liberating the men in only part of the mission, the other is to leave the country with every one involved safe and alive. An old enemy thwarts their every move, puting John and Gabriel in a dangerous position.  As the obstacles mount against them, John finds that one of the men’s obsession with the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari might not only be their ticket home but a way to heal some deep wounds as they go.

The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari is just spectacular!  I think it is the best book Sarah Black has written to date, a great book among many wonderful ones.  This book, the second in The General series, marks a departure from the original in so many ways. While that book, The General and the Horse-Lord, looked inward and focused on John and Gabriel as former Army officers now adjusting to civilian life and their status as out gay men and partners, this book takes all those elements (their  extended family, career adjustments, love for the Army and country,etc) and expands that view while placing the men back in their comfort zone of military action,hostiles, and hostage negotiations.  Its a brilliant move on the author’s part because now we get to see General John Mitchel (and Gabriel) in their element,. It is  here that we see their personalities, thoughts and actions shine and the depth of their partnership and love emerge to support their actions and the group they assemble.

This book is remarkable in that every aspect of this story is well constructed and beautifully implemented.  It has action scenes that will make you hold your breath in white knuckle anxiety yet scream in fear for those involved.  It has pathos and angst, especially in the form of Eli, the young, brilliant ex Ranger captured and abused.  It has the breadth of knowledge and admiration for a ancient rich culture and society now on the brink of meltdown while showing a sorrow for a people caught in the religious crossfires of zealotry and hatred. Black comments on the Arab uprising while bringing its reality to the reader in the scared visages and chaos that is every day life in Carthage and Tunisia.  There is scholarly references to Ibn Battuta’s Rihla, Al-Jazari’s book, The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices”as well as contemporary references to Star Wars, Spongebob Squarepants, and the lyrics of “Take It Easy” by the Eagles and Jackson Browne.   This book is bursting at the seams in an explosion of history, culture, pop society milestones and great characterizations that will cement themselves in your heart never to leave.

Existing on the same superior level as the action and plot are the characters created for this series.  Starting with John Mitchel, Gabriel Sanchez, Kim, Abdullah, Billy and even Juan, Gabriel’s confused and angry son, each and every one is a solid, believable, and often endearing personality that the reader will connect to easily.  John Mitchel, the warrior philosopher, is easily the strongest and probably most magnetic, along with Gabriel.  John is having the hardest time adjusting to civilian life, finding it boring and lacking the mental stimulation that he is used to.  He is also finding it hard to relinquish his role as the commander who sees to everyones safety and directing their safe passage through life.  Gabriel is also finding his new life harder than he thought it would be, with different demands as an ex husband and divorced family man whose kids are unhappy and angry over the destruction of their family unit to a law firm disintegrating under the load of needy cases and lack of revenue.  The pain and confusion of divorce and its effects upon a family are not glossed over but folded in as a matter of fact part of life that the men and Gabriel’s children and ex-wife must deal with.  It’s realistic, and recognizable in this day and age of multiple connected families.  I love these men and their relationship, a work still in progress throughout the story although their love is never to be doubted.

Swimming in the sea of John and Gabriel’s love and support is their wonderful extended family of Kim, John’s brilliant Korean nephew, Abdullah, his godson, and Billy, a young man recovering from a brutal attack on campus.  Now added to the fray are the men  and woman who make up the rescue unit in Carthage.  Eli and Daniel, Jen Painter, Sam Brightman, Wylie and Jackson, all memorable, each a living, breathing human being that will bring you to laughter and tears.  Eli and Jen have to be two of my favorites, Eli one of the young men captured and Jen, the resilient and courageous young woman fighting to empower the embattled women of Tunisia.  And then there is  the director of the Bardo Museum, Ibrahim ibn Saeed ibn Ahmad al-Aziz, old and wise, encapsulating the best combination of humanity, learning and wisdom.  There is a large cast here but each is necessary to the plot and to the group dynamic. You will fall in love with each and every one.  Here is an excerpt.  John is calling  home from Carthage and is met with the usual chaos of multiple voices before talking to Billy:

So how are you, son? I was craving some of your tea today, that one with the blood oranges and rose hips and hibiscus. I can’t believe I’m starting to like it.”

“That’s my favorite, too. I was thinking we could plant some blackberry and raspberry vines in the back yard, make some fresh teas. You think they would grow here?”

“Maybe. If we built them a deep planter that we sunk in the ground. I’ve heard there were some traditional ways to plant up in northern New Mexico where they dug shallow pits, lined them with rocks, and planted trees in them.”

“I read something about the Hopi, how they planted—I was thinking about waffles, or a grid? I can’t remember. I’ll have to look it up.”

“Billy, do you know anything about the museums in Carthage?”

“Not really. Want me to look them up?”

“I would. Just write me a brief and send it to me, okay? That would be a big help.”

“I looked up some pictures of Carthage. It looks so beautiful, with the Mediterranean right there, and the sky so blue. Sad, though. Like that poem, how does it go? Two vast and trunkless legs of stone….”

John concentrated hard, trying to remember. “Ozymandias, and it was Shelley, I think, or Keats. I used to know it. “I met a traveller from an antique land who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone stand in the desart. Near them, on the sand, half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown, and wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, tell that its sculptor well those passions read…. I can’t remember the rest. But you’re right, Billy. That poem looks like Carthage. I miss you, kiddo.”

“I miss you, too.”

Just look at the number of references in that short excerpt, from Hopi planting methods to Shelley’s Ozymandias overlaid with a man longing for home and the respect with which he treats the people who live under his roof. Black also demonstrates her knowledge and love of the military here.  Whether it is the Flying Stallions and the primal sound of the “rhythmic thump, then, the sound of a big helicopter’s rotors” to the pain and sorrow of a young injured soldier unable to fathom his doctor’s distant attitude, you will feel as though you have walked a short ways in a soldier’s shoes.

From vivid descriptions of far away places to the characters and the ever present love of the Army and its mission, The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari, is a must read for 2013 or any year.   Make sure you find a place for it on your bookshelf, digital or otherwise, with space for additional stories to come.  This is a universe that begs for more stories with its wealth of characters and various challenges ahead that each face.  I know at least one more is in the works, lets hope for an abundance.

This is how the story begins:

JOHN studied the candy-colored sky, raspberry pink edging to smudgy purple, the color of a grape lollipop. The colors reminded him of Turkish delight, a candy he’d been offered once in a Bedouin’s tent. He’d been there to negotiate passage for troops and troop trucks over the old man’s lands. It was rumored that the Bedouin was somehow involved in the nasty little conflict that had disrupted the flow of food aid to the region. John had been sent in to stomp on the sparks before civilian casualties escalated.

The old man’s grandson had filled two cups with mint tea so sweet John could smell the sugar over the dust and sun-warmed canvas of the tent. Then he’d offered the plate of Turkish delight with a flourish and a bow. The boy had black liquid eyes, long, thick lashes, and John had felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up. Eyes that beautiful and dark should have been filled with warmth, but the boy was young and didn’t know how to hide what was in his heart. John had watched the boy slide his hand down his leg, clutch the bronze dagger in the top of his boot and pull it free.

Then Gabriel was there, quiet as smoke, his rifle cradled in his arms, and the boy froze. John set his teacup down, refusing the Bedouin’s hospitality. It was an insult, a hard line drawn in the sand, nearly as hard a line as the one drawn when your grandson cut someone’s throat over a plateful of Turkish delight. The old man had eyes like the boy, a raptor’s eyes, cold and wet and black. John stood up, backed out of the tent without a word, and Gabriel spread his arms, the rifle in one big hand. No one could mistake the gesture. It said, No one touches him. You come through me to get to him.

SThe Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari 

Book Details:

ebook, 244 pages
Expected publication: October 25th 2013
ISBN13 9781627982085
edition language English
series The General

Review: Worlds Collide (Sanctuary #7) by R.J. Scott

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Worlds CollideDale MacIntyre, Sanctuary agent, is in charge of protecting Emily Bullen, wife of Senator Thomas Bullen, from her husband and the rest of the criminally inclined Bullen family. After turning states evidence, Emily is headed back to Albany on a jet.  Accompanied only by Dale, the pilot of the plane, and the copilot, she is horrified when word reaches them that a key player in the Bullen family crime syndicate was mistakenly freed from jail and is now able to hunt down the only person who can put him away for life.  That person is Emily Bullen.

Midflight, Dale realizes the extent that Ryland Griffin will go to in order to eliminate Emily Bullen. Dale reaches out immediately to the person he knows he can trust to have immediate answers, have his back and that of the person he is protecting. That person is his lover, Navy Seal Joseph Kinnon.  When Dale’s assignment gets more dangerous, Joseph and his Seal Team intervene and the resulting events bring about a serious introspective search for Dale and Joseph about where their relationship is headed.

I have been waiting for another Dale and Joseph book since they first appeared in The Only Easy Day (Sanctuary #2). In that story, Dale, an ex Seal and Joseph, current Navy Seal, meet, clash and lust as the investigation into the Bullen family crime syndicate is in its initial stages with Joseph’s murdered sister as one of Bullen family’s first known victims.  The start to their romance is white hot, primal and short lived.  Since then, R.J. Scott has kept the readers on high anticipation with teasers of the couple in book after book but nothing notable or even remotely satisfying.  This is how it all starts:

“It’s not too late, we can still get out of here,” Chief Petty Officer Joseph Kinnon said urgently. He pressed both hands to the glass and stared down at the street below. The city was a white, snowy landscape and at any other time would have been stunningly beautiful. They were ten stories up in a hotel in the heart of the historic district and the place had ledges at each level. As a team they’d dealt with worse. Assessing the situation, he considered the options.

“Fuentes, talk to me.”

Luca Fuentes, young, tall, and built like the side of barn with muscles on muscles, was the team’s resident hacker but was also a tactical genius. He joined Joseph at the window. “Chief,” he said formally. His green-eyed gaze unerringly focused in on the view that Joseph had. He frowned as he looked out.

“Can you find egress here?” Joseph asked.

Luca tapped the glass.

“Reinforced; we’d need some pretty heavy ordnance to get out—I can get Viktor on that—then zip wire. Get it hooked to the top of the plaza building.” Luca looked up and down, then turned to Joseph. “Forty degrees. We can get down to the roof and get out that way.”

“Assessment?” “Fifty-fifty. I think most of us will be okay, but one of our team is scared of heights,” Fuentes said seriously.

Joseph nodded in agreement. “You’re talking about Mike Dexter.”

“He’s a liability, sir,” Luca answered. “I’m not sure his underwear would remain unstained and survive the fall.”

Joseph and his Seal team are assembled for a very different type of mission, a personal one.  This is a funny and really moving introduction, just what I have come to expect from R.J. Scott.  Joseph and his team are truly a band of brothers,unchanging until now.  But the event they have gathered for marks the beginning of transitions for more than one member of the team.  We have not met Joseph’s team until now and what a diverse group they turn out to be.  I can easily see R.J. Scott building an entire new series around this team, especially the randy Viktor.  While Scott has let us see Joseph in action, this is the first time we get to see Joseph operating as a member of his Seal team.  By their interactions with each other and their dialog the author lets us feel why being a Seal and a part of this team is so important to  Joseph.  And it also lets us into the pain Dale felt when he was forced out.  Since being a Seal is fundamental to Joseph’s character, what plays out next highlights the importance of Dale and their relationship.

And that is really what Worlds Collide is all about, an internal shift in both men that will allow them to have a future with each other.  This is more a relationship book than any of the other stories in the series to date.  Yes, we are still dealing with the fallout from the Bullen family crime investigations.  One important criminal has escaped and Dale is in charge of getting Emily Bullen to safety so she can testify.  But this section is just the impetus for providing the platform for change in both men’s lives.  Here is Joseph with a note from Dale:

Just touching the note grounded Joseph in the here and now. Slowly, over the course of the last few months, the space in his life that had once been filled by the team he was with, by the job, by staying alive, had seen a full-frontal assault by the man he had fallen in love with.

This is a huge ground shift by a man who lived for the Seals alone.  Dale too has undergone his own emotional introspection about Joseph and their possible future ahead.  I love the way Scott has developed their story.  Our first meeting and theirs was explosive, a fight turned sexual.  It was incendiary.  But after that, something else occurred, they started to care about each other and so did the readers.  From time to time, we heard about each man and their tentative relationship in the other books. Nothing concrete for them or us, just tantalizing bits that kept us engaged in their future.  So this book was more than welcome, I am sure we felt it was long overdue after being teased through five books. And  the author doesn’t let us down.

We alternate perspective, from Dale to Joseph and back, as the events brought on by  Dale’s assignment, guarding Emily Bullen, brings out those determined to stop her at all costs.  We get to see the fluidity of motion and deadly competency of the Seal team in action, and the intrepidness of Dale’s Sanctuary training coming together to achieve one end.  But the highlight of the story must be the time that Joseph and Dale get to spend together after the mission is finished.  It’s heartwarming, it’s sexy and it fulfills most of the dreams we have had about this couple.  But of course, not all.

It’s all here. All the things that have made this series such a great one.  Realistic, fully rounded characters, a complicated criminal investigation that spreads through the series, and a narrative that moves the plot forward swiftly and smoothly.  I love that the Bullen investigation is still ongoing, with loose ends out there waiting to trip up Sanctuary and the other agencies. Just a terrific aspect of this series and beautifully plotted out. There are one or two small chinks in the armor here.  One small scene with the Seals and the criminal that I thought was unrealistic given their training and readiness. And then there is the ending.  Absolutely realistic as always. For those expecting a finality to Dale and Joseph’s romance, we haven’t gotten it …yet.  But you know that it is coming and this ending will leave you satisfied for now.

If you are  new to the series or Dale and Joseph’s romance, go back to the beginning.  An absolute must in order to understand the characters and the events as they play out.  Here are the books in the order they were written and must be read:

Guarding Morgan (Sanctuary #1)

The Only Easy Day (Sanctuary #2), Dale and Joseph’s romance begins

Face Value (Sanctuary, #3)

Still Waters (Sanctuary, #4)

Full Circle (Sanctuary, #5)

The Journal Of Sanctuary One (Sanctuary, #6)
]
Worlds Collide (Sanctuary #7)

Cover design by BitterGraceArt is lovely and in keeping with the characters.

Book Details:

ebook
Published June 28th 2013 by Love Lane Books (first published March 30th 2013)