BLITZ Tour for Beneath the Surface (The Outsider Project #1) by Rebecca Langham (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Beneath the Surface

Series: The Outsider Project, Book One

Author: Rebecca Langham

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: January 15, 2018

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 93700

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Sci Fi, interspecies, captivity, teacher, politics

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Synopsis

When a change in collective conscious sends the Outsiders, a group of aliens, to the shadows below the city, humans reason that the demonization of their peers is simply more “humane.” There’s no question, nor doubt. Just acceptance.

Lydia had embraced that sense of “truth” for as long as she can remember. The daughter of a powerful governor, she has been able to live her life with more comforts than most. Comforts can be suffocating, though, and when the opportunity to teach Outsider children in their private, “humane” community becomes available, she takes it.

What she finds beneath the city is far from the truth she had grown to know. There she meets Alessia, an Outsider with the knowledge and will to shake the foundation of all those who walk above ground. The two find a new and unexpected connection despite a complete disconnect from the technological world. Or perhaps in spite of it.

Still, it takes a lot more than an immutable connection to change the world. Lydia, Alessia, and a small group of Outsiders must navigate a system of corruption, falsehoods, and twists none of them ever saw coming, all while holding on to the hope to come out alive in the end. But it’s a risk worth taking, and a future worth fighting for.

Excerpt

Beneath the Surface
Rebecca Langham © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Prologue
Alessia’s mother roused her from a peaceful sleep. “Darling,” Rey whispered. “They’re coming for us. We need to move.”

Alessia blinked several times, forcing the tiredness from her eyes as she looked about the dimly lit cave. Outside, an owl hooted and tree branches fought back against a gust of wind, but she heard nothing else.

“We’ve talked about this,” her mother said, guiding her up from a nest of blankets and cushions. Alessia had never heard Rey so concerned. “You need to get moving.”

“But I want to stay with you,” Alessia replied. Her mother, and the reality of the situation, were coming into focus.

“I know, Lessi. But if you do, it’s more likely they’ll track us all down. Start down the eastern tunnel. Go carefully and try to stay as quiet as possible. You know where to meet us when they’ve left.”

Living in a cave may not have been especially comfortable, but at least they knew their way around in the area closer to the cave mouth. Within minutes of leaving her mother’s side, she felt lost, having no experience of navigating this area of the system.

Alessia slid a hand along the smooth, slime-covered rock of the cave wall. Shuffling along at a snail’s pace, she played a life-threatening game of hide-and-seek. The edge of her shoe acted as a poor guide, but it was all she had to help her avoid any sudden drop-offs. A depression in the stone could be anything from a small trench to a gaping hole one could fall through for hundreds of metres. Caves were like wild animals. They could protect you, take small bites out of you, or swallow you whole. For a moment, she wasn’t sure what was more terrifying: being captured, or trying to find a place to hide.

She inched along the wall as quietly as possible, until the echo of hurried footsteps brought her to a halt. Her legs felt like hollow reeds, liable to snap at any moment. Be calm. It’s just how sound works down here. The humans could be anywhere. You’re safe, she told herself, it’ll be all right.

The footsteps faded, leaving only the steady dripping of water from stalactites. Alessia put a hand to her chest and willed her heart to slow its exhausting pace. She didn’t want to pass out before she had moved deep enough to avoid detection. It took all her strength not to call out for her parents, to see if they had been rounded up, or if they’d managed to find somewhere to hide.

Get moving. She probed forwards with her foot once more.

No matter how many times she blinked, Alessia’s eyes would not adjust to such thick darkness. Her family rarely ventured so deep underground, and for good reason. Supplies were scarce, reserved for passages closer to the surface, and not to be wasted in such labyrinthine zones. With no food, water, or even so much as a torch, she had to move far enough into the tunnels to hide, but not far enough to lose all hope of finding a way back out.

The ground gave way, and her leg plunged through the earth, taking her courage with it. Her arms flailed as she fell, seeking something to stop her fall, but they found no purchase. Alessia cried out as her backside hit the wet rock, her leg lodged in the hole she had fallen through.

An icy sense of fear stabbed at her chest. They’d probably heard her. With eyes clenched shut, she forced herself to take slower, deeper breaths. One. Two. Three…she counted to twenty before she let herself believe no one was running towards the sound she’d sent reverberating through the space.

Finding the ground, she pushed herself up. A bolt of pain shot through her thigh. The unpleasant sound of fabric tearing frightened her more than the warm blood gushing over her knee. Alessia bit her lip to hold in another cry.

Damn it to hell! The thought screamed its way through her body. She felt the waxy indignation of it in every muscle. She pictured her mother’s face, paler than ever, as she had pulled Alessia to her just before they parted ways; a tight hug goodbye before tossing their wrist-lights to the ground. Alessia shook her head, banishing the image. Rey, her mother, was fighting her own battle somewhere else. She couldn’t even hazard a guess as to why her father wasn’t there when she’d been roused. She was on her own.

Alessia needed to focus on reality. It was pointless to wish they’d stayed together.

Trying to pull her leg out again might cause more damage, and then she might be unable to walk, which meant death. If she didn’t, though, she would be trapped in that spot, left to her own thoughts until her body gave out. There wasn’t a choice. She had to free herself and it was going to hurt.

A flash of light swept across the wall in front of her. The sudden severity of it burned her eyes and she clenched them shut. When she opened them again, two more beams of light joined the first. She had been walking towards a dead end draped in sand-coloured sulphurous flowstone. And now they’d cornered her. It was over.

“Boss! I’ve found one!” came a bombastic voice. “Down there. Looks like a teenager.”

Heavy footsteps moved closer, dashing through puddles and navigating uneven ground. They’d found her. The human government had changed its mind about her family’s freedom, as they’d been bound to do eventually, and they’d hunted them down. Her fear evaporated with each outward breath, with each jump or sweep of the torchlights. The terrifying darkness that enveloped her had been broken, and for the moment, that was all that mattered.

“It’s the daughter,” said another voice, more mature than the first. Alessia glanced at the dancing beams of light, two of them growing larger and rounder as the United Earth Alliance’s bounty hunters closed in on her.

Alessia’s leg throbbed. She bent her elbows, leaning back to rest on her forearms. Tightness had taken hold of her body, and it brought on a manic kind of exhaustion. Two men approached and stood before her. The older of the two, a sweaty beast of a man, took another step forwards. He bent down and examined what could be seen of her leg before dimming the light and turning it towards her. After the dense darkness, it was too bright, and she turned away.

“Well, then. Premier Abel will be pleased we found you all alive, Alessia.” His voice dripped with pleasure at his own achievement. She released a soft sigh. The UEA had gone back on its promise to her family. They’d get nothing from her.

Dropping the light between his legs, he leaned forwards and rocked on the balls of his feet. Stale remnants of musky cologne made Alessia’s stomach clench, but she kept her face as still as she could. Her discomfort belonged to her alone.

“It’s for the best, girl,” he told her. “This isn’t exactly an ideal way to live, is it? In the dark. Now, let’s see about getting you out of this hole.” The man stood, removed a handkerchief from his pocket, and then wiped the condensation from his glistening forehead.

“You’re not going to kill me?” Alessia asked, her mouth dry.

“Kill you?” he laughed. “Of course not! We’re not monsters.” He faced the other man. “Spray the wound and get her out of there, Mick. Let’s see about taking these people somewhere safe and protected.”

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Rebecca Langham lives in the Blue Mountains (Australia) with her partner, three children, and menagerie of pets. A Xenite, a Whovian and all-round general nerd, she’s a lover of science fiction, comic books, and caffeine. When she isn’t teaching History to high schoolers or wrangling children, Rebecca enjoys playing broomball and reading.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

 

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A Julia Review: Ardulum: first Don by J.S. Fields

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Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Ardulum. The planet that vanishes. The planet that sleeps.

Neek makes a living piloting the dilapidated tramp transport, Mercy’s Pledge, and smuggling questionable goods across systems blessed with peace and prosperity. She gets by—but only just. In her dreams, she is still haunted by thoughts of Ardulum, the traveling planet that, long ago, visited her homeworld. The Ardulans brought with them agriculture, art, interstellar technology…and then disappeared without a trace, leaving Neek’s people to worship them as gods.

Neek does not believe—and has paid dearly for it with an exile from her home for her heretical views.

Yet, when the crew stumbles into an armed confrontation between the sheriffs of the Charted Systems and an unknown species, fate deals Neek an unexpected hand in the form of a slave girl—a child whose ability to telepathically manipulate cellulose is reminiscent of that of an Ardulan god. Forced to reconcile her beliefs, Neek chooses to protect her, but is the child the key to her salvation, or will she lead them all to their deaths?

Ardulum: First Don by J. S. Fields is the first entry in the “Ardulum”-series. Though I must say that I’m in general not a big reader of sci-fi, the plot for this caught my interest and in the end found myself rather enjoying this novel.

It is not difficult to see that quite a lot of work and thought went into world building here. The book features a wide diversity of different alien races all with their own very unique customs and habits, a well-thought-out system of political structures and quite creative but in the context of the story plausible technologies.

The characters and their plights easily grab your attention right away as well. For one there is Neek who is the only exile from her home planet in the entire galaxy. Torn between the wish to see her family again and the rejection of her government’s policies, her internal struggle becomes even worse when she comes face to face with living proof that there might be some truth to those myths she has been fighting against after all. Still, you get the feeling that despite her conflicts, she still holds on to a certain kindness and compassion that motivates her to protect an innocent child despite the ramifications for her own position and believes.

And then there is Emn, a slave girl who has been put through a lot of pain and trauma. I was rather intrigued by following events from her point of view and how she sees the world around her. The bond that forms between Neek and Emn feels very natural and real in my opinion. I especially loved their telepathic communications which at first consisted mainly of mental images before including words as well. Characters’ relationships in general were portrayed in a rather organic, relatable way. I also liked Neek’s interactions with others like her captain or her uncle.

The author really took the job of presenting different species on their own terms very seriously. For example, she uses unique pronouns when talking from the perspective of a certain species. Though it took some getting used to in the beginning, it soon wasn’t a problem anymore and it served to give the character a more distinct voice.

I would definitely recommend this series to fans of sci-fi and just anyone who enjoys a good read filled with issues of race and religion, political confrontations and some well-developed characters. If you are only looking for some hot and fast f/f-action though, this might not be for you. It takes quite a bit for the romance to pick up but what you get instead is well-worth it in my eyes.

The cover art by Natasha Snow is very beautiful. I especially like the colour composition and how the woman harmonizes lovely with the planets and stars.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 248 pages

Published February 27, 2017

by NineStar Press

ISBN: 978-1-945952-64-7

Edition Language: English

Liv Olteano on Characters, Books and her latest story ‘Thirteen Mercies, Three Kills’ out on Harmony Ink Press (author interview, excerpt and giveaway)

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Thirteen Mercies, Three Kills by Liv Olteano
Harmony Ink Press
Cover Art : Catt Ford

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Liv Olteano here today talking about books, writing and her latest Harmony Ink story, Thirteen Mercies, Three Kills by Liv Olteano. Welcome, Liv.

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with Liv Olteano

 

Q: How much of yourself goes into a character?

I often ask myself that question. The truthful answer is I think there’s something of the creator in whatever they create. Just like there’s something of parents in their children, without them being an exact replica of the parents, I believe as writers we put something of ourselves in every story and character we come up with.

Without them being any sort of mirrored image, I believe characters do say something about their writer.

Q: Do you feel there’s a tight line between Mary Sue or should I say Gary Stu and using your own experiences to create a character?

I believe that if a writer uses their own experiences only to create characters, then the results end up feeling stunted, incomplete, and terribly repetitive.

What we do is use everything around us, every moment of our lives and of those around, every melody we ever hear, every feeling anyone has ever expressed in some way that has reached us. There’s a sort of primordial soup bubbling in a writer’s mind and heart, I think. Everything that person has ever experienced, thought, heard, and in any way came into contact with goes into the soup.

It can lead to the creation of countless worlds and characters, and some can have traits or present ideas that are very much connected to their creator; and sometimes the worlds and characters we come up with are shocking to those around us, because they can’t reconcile what they know of us as people with what we create.

I’m not sure if the “perfect” creation would reflect enough of the creator, or of it should reflect nothing of them. What do you think?

Q: Does research play a role into choosing which genre you write?  Do you enjoy research or prefer making up your worlds and cultures?

I’m a geek at heart, truth be told. I’m also a sociologist by training and have studied various cultures and cultural patterns. I love reading about different societies and belief systems, and am fascinated both by what they all have in common, and what sets each one apart. There’s a wealth of information out there, more than any one person can ever hope to have the time and resources to access and understand. But what we do manage to find out and experience goes into that creative primordial soup.

When a story comes to me, it comes with its setting and world traits, as well as its characters. I do research on whatever I feel can strengthen what came to mind at that point – cities, cultures, folklore, anything and everything. I love the research stage of the process. It’s when that primordial soup is at its finest, shaping up clear directions and solidifying in what later becomes that story.

I love the freedom of creating something of my own and including facts or aspects of the real world – it’s the mix of things that is interesting, after all. Always much more interesting than each element on its own, right?

Q: Do you like HFN or HEA? And why?

As a reader, I can enjoy either – it really depends on the writing, on how invested I am in the characters and the story itself. I find I enjoy the ‘falling for’ bit of the story the most, in fact. All that tension, all the uncertainty. I’m a very evil reader, lol. I love tormented characters and love to see them squirm, haha. Once that part of their interaction is over things can still be fun, but the most fun for me is when it’s the toughest for the characters, mwahaha.

As a writer, I generally go where the story wants me to – I don’t like putting pressure on my characters to interact in a certain way so it would lead to a certain ending.

Blurb

Watching her father’s termination, twenty-year-old Cristina Mera Richards decides to kill the reaper Edgar Verner. Verner is the resident alkemist of New Bayou, though, and since alkemists are immortal, killing him won’t be easy. But the harvesters are destroying the hovertown one citizen at a time. Edgar Verner must be stopped.

Cristina Mera has a gift for seeing and hearing ghosts. She escorts souls out of bodies ravaged by the withering sickness, taking away their pain. Her gifts are unique. Once it’s clear she’s a changeling, Verner becomes more than interested in having her by his side.

Mysterious Wanderer Alkemist Nikola Skazat is the solution to Cristina Mera’s problems—a delightful and charming one, since Nikola is a woman unlike any Cristina Mera has ever met. Becoming Nikola’s apprentice instead of Verner’s finally gives Cristina Mera the opportunity she needs to save her hovertown. It also puts her heart in high gear, gives her butterflies, and just might get her killed.

 

Excerpt

Chapter 1

“It was night. It was always night.

Since the Final War, the skies had been covered in thick clouds that allowed no light to pass through. The Outside air was poisoned. The Old World was covered in a thick layer of soot. A dead world rotting away under a coat of darkness. And we had killed it, history said. Now we were dying too. Or would have been were it not for alkemists and their hovering platforms that housed us and filtered the air that we breathed. The alkemists had saved us, the story went. But in order to be saved, people had to make sacrifices.

In our town, New Bayou, the sacrifices consisted of terminations, soul extractions, becoming golems, paying fines for negative float factors, and allowing the hover platform resident alkemist to be our lord and ruler. Our resident alkemist had declared that civilized towns had to have a mayor, senators, and policemen. But what our authorities did was anything but civilized.

We had traditional times of day and night that followed the cycles we were told existed back when the sun rose and set. Clocks told us what time it was, and we used terms like “day” and “night” for the endless darkness of the skies. We separated time into hours, weeks, months, and years, though nothing much ever changed except for the citizens of each platform. Or at least on ours. We didn’t travel often between platforms. It was too risky to try.

Today was a termination day. It was staged as a grand event, always. People gathered in the town hall, in the terminations room, specifically, to witness the sacrifice citizens were making for the greater good. Or the punishment inflicted on those found guilty of a crime. At least once a week, a dozen citizens at a time were terminated. Sometimes the authorities required more or settled for less—it all depended on how much float fuel the engines needed.

Death lounged against the window frame. It seemed eager to pick up the dozen souls still residing in the bodies lined up. Max Richards—my father—was among them. The sacrifices stood proud and brave, condemned while their runes shone in bright colors nobody besides me and Death itself seemed to see. The rune tattoos were supposed to give them strength, courage, and quiet of the mind while they waited. Nobody wanted to have a restless soul right before termination. It might change the float factor of their soul and make their sacrifice futile. Of course no one wanted those dozen souls to have anything but positive float factors.

I thought those runes were simply signs of condemnation. Death was death, as far as I was concerned. It wasn’t a brave sacrifice or a glorious gesture. It was simply the parting of the soul from the body. And regardless of the runes, that parting was a painful event.

This batch of terminations was a strange mix of criminals and volunteers. Strangest of all was the fourth volunteer from the right—my father. My heart beat violently, and I looked him straight in the eye. There should have been some sort of emotion in those beautiful gray eyes, but they looked blank. He stared back at me, unreachable, as much a stranger now as he’d been for too much of my life. It made sense, after all, that he’d be a stranger in the hour of his death too. I loved my father the way one loves art: as a concept, for its execution, and from afar. My love for him was a cold kind of love that unsettled the heart, neither tender nor comforting. I liked to think he loved me the same way. It was better than the alternative… that he didn’t love at all.

Edgar Verner—our resident alkemist—walked around the flock of victims, thick-lens goggles hiding his eyes. His presence was insulting in a way I wasn’t allowed by law to even contemplate, but I did contemplate it, felt it and fully embraced it in my heart. I hated Verner because I saw so many of his victims’ ghosts still ambling about the hovertown. Sometimes he deemed souls as having negative float factor after having extracted them from the body, so he didn’t consume them. He simply freed them, left them to wander, lost and terrified, without a body. Once extracted by the alkemic device, a soul was stuck among the living. Nobody had told me so, and I had no way of asking, but I was sure the cupola under which we lived also kept souls within. It seemed to me releasing those extracted souls was an act of pure malice. He had to know they suffered once released in such a manner. I knew they suffered. I heard their wails of fear and despair. And I hated him for it. I hated him even more for having consumed some of the souls himself. He was a reaper, a soul eater, a monster. The town could sing his praises all it wanted. It was easy to. The town couldn’t hear the wails of the ghosts still around. And they wailed on and on, seeming to have no notion of time or place, and no consolation.

I glanced at Death as it sat there and I wondered how it felt about the competition. It stared back at me like we were old friends. In fact we were acquaintances, if I had to find a word for it. We’d seen each other over the last ten years on multiple occasions—never chatted, though. Death never had a thing to say. Perhaps it knew no language, and little need did it have to use one. Its actions spoke loud enough. Just like Verner’s, I thought bitterly, though he chose to speak.

In the crowd of witnesses, I stood numb, oddly detached from the moment. Every now and then my gaze slid back to Death as it lazed against the window. Hair tumbled from its head like a tangled river of blood. Its face, hair, and attire flickered in and out of view. When it grinned, a void opened up on the brink of its lips. It regarded me with holes for eyes.

Silence reigned like a curse over the room, thick enough to choke. Verner pointed slowly to the first victim in the row. The young girl was probably no older than me—I thought she was too young to be terminated. But then again, there never was a good time to die. Was she a volunteer at such a young age? Perhaps a criminal? My stomach seemed to crawl up into my chest.

Death chuckled and took a step closer. The alkemic device in Verner’s palm looked deceptively delicate and beautiful. The thin iridium spokes, nicely held together by a matching iridium frame, held a crystal in place. It was quite a tiny, lovely thing—lovely and deadly. It shone with a rainbow of colors as it began to suck out the girl’s soul. A mirroring pull in my own heart made my skin crawl. My soul seemed eager to abandon ship.

Death frowned and wagged a finger at me like a mother chastising her child. I swallowed thickly as black-cherry hair overlapped the rivers of blood gurgling from Death’s head. Its eyes seemed green for one terrible moment. The face cut my breath short. Of all the times it could have done so, it chose this particular moment to flash at me an image of my dead mother. Was it a twisted sort of kindness on its part to show me the one I’d loved the most and whom it had taken away?

Verner sucked in the young soul through his mouth like a mist of colors that he breathed in. The device in his palm slowly shut down, the crystal’s eerie glow dying out. He licked his lips and grinned.”

Want to read Chapter 1 entirely? Visit Thirteen Mercies, Three Kills on Harmony Ink and click Show Excerpt to read it!

 

About Liv Olteano

Liv Olteano is a voracious reader, music lover, and coffee addict extraordinaire. And occasional geek. Okay, more than occasional.

She believes stories are the best kind of magic there is. And life would be horrible without magic. Her hobbies include losing herself in the minds and souls of characters, giving up countless nights of sleep to get to know said characters, and trying to introduce them to the world. Sometimes they appreciate her efforts. The process would probably go quicker if they’d bring her a cup of coffee now and then when stopping by. Characters—what can you do, right?

Liv has a penchant for quirky stories and is a reverent lover of diversity. She can be found loitering around the Internet at odd hours and being generally awkward and goofy at all times.

Links:

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Tour Giveaway Open: International
Prize: a $15 Harmony Ink giftcard – winner must have a free account at the Harmony Ink store, and $15 will magically appear in that account 😀
To get an account: https://www.harmonyinkpress.com/login
Winner: will be contact by the author when the giveaway is over
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A Julia Review: Addict (The Cassie Tam Files #1) by Matt Doyle

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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

New Hopeland was built to be the centre of the technological age, but like everywhere else, it has its dark side. Assassins, drug dealers and crooked businessmen form a vital part of the city’s make-up, and sometimes, the police are in too deep themselves to be effective. But hey, there are always other options …

For P.I. Cassie Tam, business has been slow. So, when she’s hired to investigate the death of a local VR addict named Eddie Redwood, she thinks it’ll be easy money. All she has to do is prove to the deceased’s sister Lori that the local P.D. were right to call it an accidental overdose. The more she digs though, the more things don’t seem to sit right, and soon, Cassie finds herself knee deep in a murder investigation. But that’s just the start of her problems.

When the case forces Cassie to make contact with her drug dealing ex-girlfriend, Charlie Goldman, she’s left with a whole lot of long buried personal issues to deal with. Then there’s her client. Lori Redwood is a Tech Shifter, someone who uses a metal exoskeleton to roleplay as an animal. Cassie isn’t one to judge, but the Tech Shifting community has always left her a bit nervous. That wouldn’t be a problem if Lori wasn’t fast becoming the first person that she’s been genuinely attracted to since splitting with Charlie. Oh, and then there’s the small matter of the police wanting her to back off the case.

Easy money, huh? Yeah, right.

Addict by Matt Doyle is going to be the first volume in a series about P.I. Cassie Tam and the cases she will find herself confronted with. I was especially curious to see how the author would handle the mixing between Sci-Fi and Fantasy elements. As it turns out, I was not going to be disappointed.

The story takes place in a not-too-distant-future-version of our world where technology has advanced to play an even more prominent role in people’s everyday lives. I very much appreciated the approach the author has taken to introduce the reader to his world: by show, not tell. For the most part we simply get to witness how the characters interact with the technology that surrounds them. Here and there the protagonist Cassie Tam, from whose perspective the story is told, will offer an explanation as to how and why certain technological as well societal developments have taken place. The world-building is pretty solid and one can see that the author put a lot of thought into creating a sensible connection between the past (in other words our current time period) and the present in which the novel takes place. It was interesting to discover the numerous and imaginative ways humans have attempted to improve their lifestyles through various gadgets and applications – some with rather questionable success.

I took a liking to Cassie from the beginning because of her direct, nonchalant attitude and demeanour. She is not some kind of newbie but has already a number of successful cases under her belt at this point and it shows. Therefore, she has confidence in her abilities and methods to get things done while on the other hand, there is the occasional blast from the past Cassie is forced to deal with.

Lori (or Ink as she is known in her animal form) is a Tech Shifter who can take on the shape of a panther. I found it very interesting to learn about this more recently emerged group of individuals that have formed their own kind of subculture at this point. The author did a good job in giving the reader some insight into their historical development, technological workings and position within current society. Lori herself is a woman of strong character and conviction who nonetheless needs a way from time to time to escape the harsh and corrupt reality that simmers beneath the surface of New Hopeland. She finds this kind of comfort by changing into her animal form and I appreciated how honestly she admits as much.

The two women play well off each other and the ever so playful, slightly cynical way the two interact with one another was fun to witness as well as the gradual development of their relationship amidst the dangerous events unfolding around them. 

The crime story itself is well-paced and not lacking in suspenseful moments as well as peculiar and interesting individuals that Cassie has to deal with in one way or another. Sometimes I might have liked even a bit more details on characters, their looks and living conditions. All in all, this novel represented an enjoyable read and solid start for a new series and I am looking forward to reading about Cassie’s next case.

The cover art by Natasha Snow is not mind-blowing but it still looks nice and since this volume is intended to be the first in a series focusing on Cassie Tam, it seems appropriate to display her on the cover itself. Nevertheless, I would have very much enjoyed seeing a drawing of Ink or another Tech Shifter.

Sales Links

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

aBook Details:

ebook, 149 pages

Published May 8, 2017

by NineStar Press

ISBN: 978-1-947139-03-9

Edition Language: English

Matt Doyle Talks Play Lists and his latest release ‘Addict’ (guest post, excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Addict

Series: The Cassie Tam Files, book 1

Author: Matt Doyle

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: May 8, 2017

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 56000

Genre: science fiction, Sci-fi, futuristic, addiction, friends to lovers, private detective, lesbian

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Book Playlist by Matt Doyle

So, when I wrote Addict, I had a lot of different songs playing in the background, and each one played for different reasons. In fact, there were times that I was playing one or two songs on loop while writing certain scenes because they just felt ‘right’ for that moment. I’ll put a link to the list at the bottom of the post, but in the meantime, these are the songs that I was using:

New Hopeland City Themes

These are the songs that resonated with me in terms of reminding me of the book’s setting. New Hopeland was built to be a sign of hope for the future, but it fell into corruption quite quickly. That being the case, two songs by Canada’s The Tea Party spring to mind. Both Babylon and Temptation offer a good representation of how the city is for those that live there. Musically, they have a tech infused industrial feel to them, and they lyrically deal with the things that New Hopeland’s darker underbelly thrives on: tempting and seducing others, and the idea of falling low. If I was writing a scene that specifically dealt with glimpses into this side of the city, then these were my go to tracks. At the same time though, the city was always intended to be a positive, and many still try to make it as good as it can be. There hits a point for all of them where they need to decide whether to give in to the corruption or say, “Hey, I’m doing things my way.” In terms of that lingering feeling of hope and trying to be what they want to be rather than what the city wants them to be, I always hear Round Here by Counting Crows, in particular the extended live versions. There’s just something about Adam Duritz’s voice when he performs this live that really takes you on a journey and sucks you into it all.

Cassie Tam Themes

Cassie is such a joy to write because there are a lot of layers to her. Depending on who she’s speaking to or what she’s set out to achieve at any given time, there’s just so much to her, and I love that. Part of her character has been shaped by various tragic events, both in her distant and recent past. Being a Chinese-Canadian, I found that I stuck with The Tea Party for representation of that, in particular the track Walking Wounded, as I felt that Cassie really was walking wounded at times, especially in terms of letting people get close to her. Next is Second Chance by Shinedown. This one really plays into Cassie’s distant past and in particular her relationship with her mother and how that was affected by the way that she lives her life, at least in terms of her approach to her job. Shinedown are actually a band that gets mentioned directly by Cassie as one of her favourites too, and that is because she remains hopeful that she can be a good person. Shinedown’s lyrics here really encompass that. The other band that she mentions is The Wildhearts and I often turned to Geordie in Wonderland by them as a Cassie Song. Again, the song deals with taking the good and the bad, and there’s something wonderfully endearing about this live version with the crowd taking the lead.

Lori Redwood Themes

At the start of the book, Lori is confused by her brother’s death. She’s hurting, but she’s reaching out and trying to uncover the truth and to understand what happened. Alone You Breathe by Savatage always put me in this frame of mind when I needed to deal with Lori’s views in that regard. In sticking with the same band, Back To A Reason actually felt very representative of Cassie’s journey with Lori for me, from the giving what she could with the case, to the questioning of herself that Lori caused, and in the end the resolution of the heavier themes into admitting what you feel. By the end of the book, I see Lori as a character in Heal My Wounds by Poets of the Fall. She’s in a delicate state, and everything is teetering on the edge, but she can heal her wounds if she wants to try.

General Songs

Finally, there were a couple of tracks that I listened to a lot while writing the book, each far different reasons. Last Ride Of The Day by Nightwish was a constant favourite because it summed up part of the story for me. The idea of life being a bit of Carnival with so many acts going on, but trying to find ways to enjoy it and embracing what you can in it. Also by the Finnish rockers, was Storytime, a song about discovering yourself and what is important to you through the stories that you read. In the same way, Cassie has to discover what matter to her through the story that she’s living by investigating Lori’s case.

So, there you have it: The music that helped shape Cassie Tam and her world. If you want to check the songs out, then you can find the playlist here:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL1P5KltuBriLysLz7hPmsIm57QZ9I7AqL

Synopsis

New Hopeland was built to be the centre of the technological age, but like everywhere else, it has its dark side. Assassins, drug dealers and crooked businessmen form a vital part of the city’s make-up, and sometimes, the police are in too deep themselves to be effective. But hey, there are always other options …

For P.I. Cassie Tam, business has been slow. So, when she’s hired to investigate the death of a local VR addict named Eddie Redwood, she thinks it’ll be easy money. All she has to do is prove to the deceased’s sister Lori that the local P.D. were right to call it an accidental overdose. The more she digs though, the more things don’t seem to sit right, and soon, Cassie finds herself knee deep in a murder investigation. But that’s just the start of her problems.

When the case forces Cassie to make contact with her drug dealing ex-girlfriend, Charlie Goldman, she’s left with a whole lot of long buried personal issues to deal with. Then there’s her client. Lori Redwood is a Tech Shifter, someone who uses a metal exoskeleton to roleplay as an animal. Cassie isn’t one to judge, but the Tech Shifting community has always left her a bit nervous. That wouldn’t be a problem if Lori wasn’t fast becoming the first person that she’s been genuinely attracted to since splitting with Charlie. Oh, and then there’s the small matter of the police wanting her to back off the case.

Easy money, huh? Yeah, right.

Excerpt

Addict
Matt Doyle © 2017
All Rights Reserved

I always did like Venetian blinds. There’s something quaint about them in a retro-tacky kinda way. Plus, they’re pretty useful for sneaking a peek out the front of the building if I feel the need. That’s something that you just can’t do with the solid, immovable metal slats that come as a standard in buildings these days. That said, a thick sheet of steel is gonna offer you a damn sight more security than thin, bendable vinyl, so I keep mine installed. Just in case.

Another round of knocking rattles the front door, louder this time than the one that woke me.

The clock says 23:47, and the unfamiliar low-end car out front screams “Don’t notice me, I’m not worth your time,” which makes for the perfect combo to stir up the paranoia that the evening’s beer and horror-film session left behind. This is my own fault. My adverts are pretty descriptive in terms of telling what I do: lost pets, cheating partners, theft, protection, retrieval of people and items, other odds and sods that the city’s finest won’t touch…I’ve got ways to deal with it all. That’s right, I’m a real odd-job gal. The one thing that I don’t put in there are business hours. The way I see it, even the missing pet cases usually leave me wandering the streets at half-past reasonable, so what’s the point in asking people to call between certain hours?

More knocking, followed this time by the squeak of my letter box and a voice. “Hello? Cassandra Tam?”

It’s funny, really. For all the tech advances that the world has made, no one has been able to improve upon the simple open-and-shut letter box. I stumble my way through the dark and wave dismissively at the frosted glass. The light switch and the keypad for the door lock are conveniently placed right next to each other on the wall to the right of the door, so welcoming my apparent guest is a nice, easy affair. The lock clicks a moment after the lights flood the room, and I pull the door open.

“Cassie,” I say, turning and skulking my way back into the room. “Or Caz. Drop the Tam.”

I hear a sniff behind me, and the lady from the letter box asks, “Are you drunk?”

“If I pass out in the next five minutes, then yes,” I reply, turning the kettle on. I’d left it full, ready for the morning, but I guess this is close enough. “Take a seat at the table. Would you prefer tea or coffee? I’d offer beer, but since I reek of it, I guess I must’ve finished it.”

Footsteps creep unapologetically across the room, and a chair squeaks on the floor. Good. If you can’t deal with a snarky response to something, don’t say it all, and if you can deal with it, then as far as I’m concerned you don’t need to apologise.

“Coffee,” the lady says. “So, do you always see potential clients in your underwear, or is it just my lucky day?” Her voice has a slightly playful edge to it, but with a sarcastic kick to round it off.

The business portion of my apartment comprises entirely of a small open-plan room separating my kitchen from my living room. And by open plan, I mean an allotted space that encroaches on both territories but is conveniently large enough to house what I need. Or, in other words, a table, four chairs, and nothing else. Since filing went near entirely digital, filing cabinets have pretty much become obsolete, so the two that I found dumped outside the building when I bought the place currently live in my bedroom, and contain a mix of quick access work stuff and personal files I’d rather not have floating on the net. Most things, though, I store electronically, the same as everything else.

I rarely use the business table to eat, read, or any of that junk, so until this evening it’s been entirely empty for a good few weeks. The lady sitting there now is studying me, I can see, and probably wondering if this was a mistake. Whatever she may have expected, a Chinese-Canadian gal of average height in a cami top and a loose pair of sleep shorts most likely wasn’t it. For what it’s worth, though, I’m studying her just the same. She’s a lithe-looking thing, dressed in a casual pair of jeans and a plain black fitted top under a leather jacket. If the metal plugs running down her shaven head like a shiny, rubber-tipped Mohawk weren’t a giveaway for what she is, the light scarring punctuating the outer edges of her pale blue eyes certainly would be. She’s a Tech Shifter, and like most of her ilk, she looks like a punk rocker gone cyborg.

Purchase

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Meet the Author

Matt Doyle lives in the South East of England and shares his home with a wide variety of people and animals, as well as a fine selection of teas. He has spent his life chasing dreams, a habit which has seen him gain success in a great number of fields. To date, this has included spending ten years as a professional wrestler, completing a range of cosplay projects, and publishing multiple works of fiction.

These days, Matt can be found working on far too many novels at once, blogging about anime, comics, and games, and plotting and planning what other things he’ll be doing to take up what little free time he has.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | eMail

Tour Schedule

5/8 – Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

5/8 – Queer Sci Fi

5/9 – Oh My Shelves

5/10 – Booklover Sue

5/11 – The Novel Approach

5/12 – love bytes reviews

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In the Science Fiction Spotlight: Ardulum: First Don by J.S. Fields (exclusive excerpt)

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Ardulum: First Don by J.S. Fields
Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: February 27
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34109678-ardulum

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host J.S. Fields today on tour with Ardulum: First Don.

Synopsis

 

Ardulum. The planet that vanishes. The planet that sleeps.

Neek makes a living piloting the dilapidated tramp transport, Mercy’s Pledge, and smuggling questionable goods across systems blessed with peace and prosperity. She gets by—but only just. In her dreams, she is still haunted by thoughts of Ardulum, the traveling planet that, long ago, visited her homeworld. The Ardulans brought with them agriculture, art, interstellar technology…and then disappeared without a trace, leaving Neek’s people to worship them as gods.

Neek does not believe—and has paid dearly for it with an exile from her home for her heretical views.

Yet, when the crew stumbles into an armed confrontation between the sheriffs of the Charted Systems and an unknown species, fate deals Neek an unexpected hand in the form of a slave girl—a child whose ability to telepathically manipulate cellulose is reminiscent of that of an Ardulan god. Forced to reconcile her beliefs, Neek chooses to protect her, but is the child the key to her salvation, or will she lead them all to their deaths?

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex
Pairing: Female/Female
Length: 83500

Genre: Literary Fiction, Science Fiction, NineStar Press, LGBT, lesbian, bisexual, space opera, aliens, bonded, captivity, coming of age, criminals, kidnapping, pilot, religion, science, slow burn, smugglers, space, spaceships, telekinesis, telepathyExcerpt

 

Ardulum: First Don
J.S. Fields © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

 

Exclusive Excerpt

In this excerpt, Neek, the pilot of the tramp transport Mercy’s Pledge, stumbles into a battle between the supposed sheriffs of the Charted Systems, and an unknown alien species. This is a significant event, because the Systems have been at peace, absolute peace, for years, so conflict of this magnitude is unheard of. Something is clearly of value on the Risalian ship, and crew of the Pledge are about to have that ‘something’ dumped into their laps.

“Get those skiffs off our tail!” Captain Yorden Kuebrich yelled as Neek rounded the corner.

She looked out the viewscreen just in time to see the Pledge—her engines dead—exit the Callis Wormhole into the middle of a much-unexpected dogfight. A wedge-shaped Risalian skiff zipped past the Pledge, catching the edge of the ship on its wing, and started her into a slow spin. A pod, deep purple and about half the size of the skiff, chased the skiff and grazed their starboard flank. Neek braced herself against the console and heard Yorden tumble into the wall behind her, his substantial girth denting the aluminum.

Mentally cursing the ship’s poor artificial gravity, Neek launched herself into the pilot’s chair, grabbed the yoke, and scoured the latest damage report. “Aft stabilizer is shot,” she called out after checking the computer. Other skiffs near them suddenly swooped back into a larger group, and the Pledge was, for the moment, left alone. Neek released the yoke and let her fingers move deftly over the interface. “Those new spray-on cellulose binders for the hull are holding, but only just. What’s left of the Minoran armor plating is now officially cracked beyond repair.”

She swiveled to see the captain buckling himself into a much larger version of her own chair. His brown hair puffed about his head, per usual, but his body language spoke of surprise and tension. That concerned Neek because Yorden was old enough to have lived through actual conflicts. If anyone knew how to react in a situation like this, it was him.

“Were we just attacked?” she asked incredulously. Neek took a closer look out the viewscreen. The rectangular cutter that sparkled with pinpricks of light and the wedge-shaped, agile skiffs were Risalian. The pods—both the smaller purple ones and the frigate-sized, maroon ones—were unfamiliar. Their formations were just as strange, stacked in columns like stones on a riverbank instead of in pyrimidal and spherical formations like Systems ships would. “Are those all Charted Systems ships?”

Yorden threw up his hands in disgust. “They’re not just Charted Systems ships—they’re Risalian ships. The cutter and skiffs are, anyway. No clue on the pods. What those blue-skinned bastards are doing out here with fully weaponized ships, I can only guess. However, they’re firing lasers. If we lose our armor and take a hit from any of those, we are space dust.”

“Comforting,” Neek mumbled. She hadn’t noticed the laser ports on any of the ships, but now that she looked closer, all of the vessels were covered with armor plating and had at least two laser turrets each.

Neek continued to watch as the pods begin to cluster around a Risalian cutter. A pod ship zipped beneath the cutter, firing wildly at its underside, before making a quick right turn and heading back to a larger pod. Five others followed suit. The cutter’s shielding began to splinter, but the ship remained where it was.

Neek leaned towards the viewscreen, still unsure what she was seeing. “The Risalian ships aren’t chasing, they’re just defending. What is going on? If they’re going to appoint themselves sheriffs of the Charted Systems, they could at least fight back.”

Yorden smacked his hand against the wall, loosing a shower of dust. “Something on that Risalian ship is holding their attention. Get us out of here, before either of them gets any closer.” He pointed to a cluster of ships to Neek’s right, and her eyes followed. Little flashes of bright light sparked and then died intermittently as ships were destroyed, their flotsam creating an ever-expanding ring. A large piece of metal plating floated past the Pledge’s port window. The edge caught and left a thin scratch in the fiberglass as it slid off.

“What are they protecting that is so damn important?” Neek wondered out loud and then snorted. “Something worth more than our hold full of diamond rounds and cellulose-laced textiles?” she added cheekily.

Scowling, Yorden pushed Neek’s hand away from the computer and began his own scan of the Pledge’s systems. “Communications are still up, but I don’t think either party is listening right now.” Frustrated, he kicked the underside of the console. “Try one of them. Better than being crushed.”

“Captain, come on. We are dead in space. If another one comes at us, why don’t we just fire at it? It’s better than being rammed.” She pointed upwards at a circular hole in the ceiling. “What’s the benefit of flying a ship so ancient it falls apart if you’re not taking advantage of the grandfathered weapons system?”

 

Meet the Author

 

Author Links

 

Website: http://www.chlorociboria.com/

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/galactoglucoman

eMail: chlorociboria@gmail.com

 

Tour Schedule

 

2/27 – Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews – http://wickedfaeriesreviews.blogspot.com

2/27 – Books,Dreams,Life – http://staceyschneller06.wordpress.com

2/28 – Molly Lolly; Reader, Reviewer, Lover of Words – https://mollylollyauthor.wordpress.com

3/1 – Queer Sci Fi – https://queerscifi.com/

3/1 – Celticlady’s Reviews – http://www.celticladysreviews.blogspot.com

3/2 – Fangirl Moments and My Two Cent – http://fangirlmomentsandmytwocents.blogspot.com

3/3 – Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words – https://scatteredthoughtsandroguewords.com/

3/4 – Love Bytes Reviews – http://lovebytesreviews.com/

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