Love Fantasy? Check Out the New Release Blitz for Lord of Thundertown by O.F. Cieri (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Lord of Thundertown

Author: O.F. Cieri

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: January 6, 2020

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 64800

Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy, LGBT, fantasy, monsters, magic, New York, contemporary, urban fantasy

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Synopsis

In the movies, Thundertown was depicted like a real town, with boundaries, Folk-run businesses, and a government. In real life, Thundertown was a block here or there, three businesses on the same side of the street, an unconnected sewer main, or a single abandoned building.

When an epidemic of missing person cases is on the rise, the police refuse to act. Instead, Alex Delatorre goes to Thundertown for answers and finds clues leading to a new Lord trying to unite the population.

No one has seen the Lord, and the closer Alex gets to him, the farther Alex gets from his path home.

Excerpt

Lord of Thundertown
O.F. Cieri © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Prologue
Sam was tired. All day long, she moved furniture in a small, dirty room in a warehouse in Brooklyn. She got on the train to go home. The conductor announced service delays, and Sam got as comfortable as she could in the glossy plastic seat.

There was no flash of lightning to signal a change. The insidious thing about the Aether was that humans were ill-equipped at handling it. Children had a better chance of being aware of it during a power surge, although they usually experienced it in migraines and blurred visions. The Folk handled the Aether best, and usually very judiciously, because the Aether was a force of nature that couldn’t be reasoned with to respect private property or the sanctity of life. It activated when called and filled the parameters set out for it, and any gap in logic released a flood of unintended consequences. The only sign of something going wrong came from the lights in the subway shutting off abruptly.

Even then, Sam didn’t panic. There were electrical surges all the time, and the lights usually came on in seconds. Instead, she remembered taking the subway with her elementary school class and shrieking with the other girls whenever the lights flickered, thrilled by the shock.

The train hit a hard bump, but rather than rocking back onto the track, the train lurched and tipped erratically. She couldn’t see the other passengers, but she could hear the impact as they thudded against the far wall. Sam managed to hold her grip as a long-empty soda can flew past her head and empty sunflower seed shells rained past. Her heart gripped in her chest as she came face to face with the fact that she’d cast her shot and landed the one-in-a-billion chance to climb aboard a train as it tipped into the river. She was only surprised by how dark the sky was.

The Aether, according to scientific inquiry, does not exist. It can not be touched, seen, smelled, tasted or heard, nor can it be weighed or measured in any other way with tools. The Aether is completely undetectable by any means except the brain; and not clearly.

The train twisted, and so did Sam’s grip. Her wrist popped as gravity wrenched it in an unnatural direction, and she fell, landing feet first on the seat she’d flown out of. Pain shot up her ankles, but the sharp jolt barely distracted her from the rattling of the carriage shaking across a hard surface. The high-pitched scream of sharp edges scraping across metal echoed throughout the train, and then suddenly ceased.

Humans have always shared the earth with Folk. There are records as early as the Kingdom of Ur, which mentions Other Lands that exist parallel to the common one. There are records as early as the written word of Great Beasts and supernaturally gifted nobility.

Sam turned on the flashlight of her phone. The windows were broken, and the foot of the train punctured through the floor near the door to the back. Someone was on the floor, trying to pull themselves up by climbing the train seat but not finding the friction, somehow. Another body sat upright, one shoe off. Slowly it raised its head and looked down at a hand that dangled lifelessly off their wrist. There was a guttural sob of pain.

When ancient kingdoms annexed new territory, they would often discover hostile members of the Folk. The ruler of the invading army would have to choose whether to destroy them, or bribe them. Soldiers throughout history have been immortalized for slaying Great Beasts in the service of their King, and similarly, simple farmers and fishermen were elevated to nobility by accepting the ruler’s authority, and recognized as the Lord of the Forest, or Lady of the Lake.

“Are you ok?” Sam asked. The words slurred in her mouth. She couldn’t be sure she was understood. She tried to stand, but her weight pitched in a direction she didn’t expect and she stumbled. She pocketed her phone and dug out a small keychain light instead. More durable, she thought. Better use of battery power. “Are you ok?”

The Lords were meant to be the arm of the state regarding the Folk, any Aetheric or ‘magical’ phenomenon. However, reports of erratic or unpredictable behavior lead Government officials to tap more amiable outsiders for traditional Lordship roles.

It still sounded like she was drunk. There was a click behind her, and the rattle of the door between the train cars sliding open. The carriage was bathed in a dim orange glow. When Sam looked behind her, she saw the train conductor holding a construction lantern. She was an older black woman, gold braids disheveled.

“Is anybody hurt?”

None of this affects the quality of life for everyday Folk. Many preferred to live in the country where private property and building laws allowed them to maintain their own standards. While cities serve as hubs of commerce, the practical effect leaves many at the mercy of a standard of living, including enforced daytime activity, above-ground dwellings, little access to fresh or saltwater, and little tolerance for symbiotic parasite bonding. As a result, many of the Folk engage in creative means to maintain their health and well-being.

“Yeah–” Sam began.

A voice cut her off, shrill and panicked. “What’s going on? What’s happening? Why aren’t we moving?”

The conductor raised her hand and tried to quiet the shouting passenger. “Calm down, please. I don’t know, but before we find out, I want to get everybody off the train. Is anybody hurt too bad to walk?”

“No,” said the person with the broken wrist. They sounded like they were in tears, muttering through chattering teeth; “No, no, no, no, no–”

“Good,” the conductor spoke slowly and calmly. “Everyone, please follow behind me in an orderly line.”

Thundertown is a well-known example, arising from an illegal settlement dug into an outcropping of Manhattan Gneiss in New York City. According to records, the Thundertown population was predominantly immigrant, with few English speakers in its first few decades.

The conductor walked down the aisle of the train, balancing against the wall for support. She led a trail of dirty and terrified people behind her, inching along as if huddling for warmth from the glow of the lantern. As she passed, Sam saw her holding a twelve-year-old girl to her waist, clutching her hand tightly. The small girl looked calm and supported the older woman’s elbow as if carrying her gently above the crowd.

The City of New York has repeatedly dissolved the Thundertown settlement.

A pair of doors hung open a few carriages in. The conductor dipped her light outside and pressed her toe down, testing to see if it was safe to leave. She clutched the side of the train door as she lowered down, her foot swinging out blindly for something to anchor itself to. Slowly, she touched down on something, and slowly she shifted her weight off the train and onto the ground beneath. The ground was flat, uniform, and unremarkable.

Unfortunately, the area is too well-known to remain closed for long.

There were no train tracks.

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Meet the Author

O F Cieri lives in New York, where she spends most of her time thinking about anything but what she’s doing at the moment. Her favorite parts of history are the fight scenes. Lord of Thundertown is her first published work.

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Check Out the New Relase Blitz for Testament by Jose Nateras (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Testament

Author: Jose Nateras

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: December 30, 2019

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 51400

Genre: Paranormal LGBT, Chicago, paranormal, supernatural, thriller, Latinx, #ownvoices

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Synopsis

Gabe Espinosa, is trying to dig himself out of the darkness. Struggling with the emotional fallout of a breakup with his ex-boyfriend, Gabe returns to his job at The Rosebriar Room; the fine dining restaurant at the historic Sentinel Club Chicago Hotel. Already haunted by the ghosts of his severed relationship, he’s drastically unprepared for the ghosts of The Sentinel Club to focus their attentions on him as well.

When a hotel guest violently attacks Gabe, he finds himself the target of a dark entity’s rage; a rage built upon ages of racial tension and toxic masculinity. Desperate to escape the dark spiral he’s found himself in, Gabe flees across the city of Chicago and dives into the history of the hotel itself. Now, Gabe must push himself to confront the sort of evil that transcends relationships and time, the sort of evil that causes damage that ripples across lives for generations.

Gabe must fight to break free from the dark legacy of the past; both his own and that of the hotel he works in.

Excerpt

Testament
Jose Nateras © 2019
All Rights Reserved

I pulled out my phone and checked the time. I needed to be at work at six thirty, and unless the train started moving within the next five seconds, I would be late. A commute that usually took thirty minutes, door to door, was stretching closer and closer to taking forty minutes. Still, the train sat there, idle in its dark underground tunnel. There’s nothing worse than being late and getting stuck on a delayed train car at six fifteen in the morning. Fuck.

I rocked back and forth impatiently, a loose rivet in my seat clicking arrhythmically in its socket. Most of the Chicago Transit Authority’s train cars were in some state of disrepair. This car in particular had maps of the train lines missing overhead, cracked lighting fixtures, fractured chrome, and unsecured hardware. The homeless man stretched out asleep across the seats at the other end of the car didn’t seem to care. Neither did the middle-aged nurse sitting kitty-corner from me, listening to music on her phone through bright-pink earbuds.

I took a deep breath to stop my agitated rocking. The thick smell of synthetic flowers wafted along the length of the train car. An otherwise pleasant smell, in the enclosed space of the train car the scent was overwhelming, almost sickening. It had to be coming from the nurse. How’d I not notice the strength of her perfume sooner?

It occurred to me, if I puked on the ‘L’ right then and there, I’d have no excuse but to call in sick. It wouldn’t be the first time someone threw up on the Blue Line. I wouldn’t even have to actually vomit. I could just call in, hop off the train at the next stop, and grab the next one headed back toward my apartment. Tempting, but I could practically hear the voice of my manager Leslie. “Really, Gabe? What the fuck? Aren’t you just coming back from an extended leave of absence, Mr. Espinosa?”

With the sound of metal grinding on metal, the train started to move. I closed my eyes, allowing the momentum to build and hurdle me toward the misery of employment in the service industry.

Maybe misery was an exaggeration. As the train came to an abrupt stop at the Monroe station, I tried to remind myself there were worse fields to work in. Six blocks stretched between the train platform and the Sentinel Club Hotel. More specifically, six blocks stretched between me and the hotel’s restaurant, the Rosebriar Room, where I worked as a host. Walking so far would typically take around nine minutes, and at 6:25 a.m., I only had five minutes to do so. Officially late, I somehow found the energy to hustle up the stairs from the underground train platform and race out into the November chill.

I found myself caught behind a herd of Chicago commuters: business-bros and cubicle drones trotting to their respective jobs scattered across the Loop. Dodging between the office workers drowsily heading to work, I sprinted through the concrete canyon of downtown skyscrapers.

It was still dark. Only after I made it to Michigan Avenue, across from the green expanse of Millennium Park, could I see the first streaks of orange in the dark-gray sky. I pulled out my phone again. 6:31 a.m. “Shit.”

Speeding through the front doors of the hotel, I hurried to the service elevator. With no time to stop at the staff locker room down in the basement, I headed straight up to the thirteenth floor.

People often say hotels are naturally creepy places. I hadn’t really thought about it one way or another until I started working in one. It was true. The Sentinel Club Chicago was creepy, and being one of the oldest buildings in the city only made it all the more eerie. Before becoming a boutique hotel, the SCC was a historied private men’s club, and the Rosebriar Room, now the hotel’s wood-paneled fine-dining restaurant, once served as the private dining room for the club’s most elite members.

I’d been working there for a year and a half or so, and things I hadn’t noticed at first had started to weigh on my mind. More and more I found myself aware of the creepiness of the place. A laugh echoing in quiet, empty rooms. A flicker of movement out of the corner of an eye. A shadow on a wall with no one there to cast it. The feeling of being watched.

The prospect of spending my morning in such a place sounded pretty miserable. Perhaps I hadn’t been so far off in describing my job as a “misery” after all.

Purchase

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Meet the Author

Jose Nateras is a Chicago based Actor, Writer, and Director who’s worked extensively on stage and screen. Having trained at The Second City, The British American Drama Academy (Midsummer at Oxford ’09), Jose is a graduate of Loyola University Chicago. Having graduated with his MFA in Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), he’s a resident playwright with ALTA Chicago’s ‘El Semillero’ (residing at Victory Gardens). Jose has written a number of shorts, pilots, and full length films, and is a contributor for The A.V. Club and elsewhere. He’s also been known to play the role of adjunct professor and teaching artist around town from time to time as well.

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New Release Blitz for The Hunt (Psychic Underground #2) by Sarah Elkins (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: The Hunt

Series: Psychic Underground, Book Two

Author: Sarah Elkins

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: December 30, 2019

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 82100

Genre: Paranormal, LGBT, psychic ability, shifters, captivity, law enforcement/FBI, fantasy, medical personnel, shifters, paranormal

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Synopsis

The Facility is undergoing repairs after a chaotic failed escape attempt by several psychic test subjects some months ago. Neila and Henry’s mission is to locate potential psychics for the scientists at the Facility to study, but they have other ideas.

Neila can’t shake the idea of Nikola Tesla from her mind, and it’s getting worse as bizarre things start happening to herself and Henry. As they hunt for more about Neila’s possible past life, they aren’t sure if they will find answers or if they will become the hunted.

Things are not peaceful back at the Facility as troubling secrets come to light, and the Psychic Underground may never be the same.

Excerpt

The Hunt
Sarah Elkins © 2019
All Rights Reserved

The repair work on the Facility was slow going, but the director refused to forego using her office. The ceiling was still missing. New modern cameras, a phone, and internet were being installed: the works.

Director Lianne McClaine sat behind her desk with her elbows on several paper files while she read the results from her last checkup with her oncologist on her tablet. The cancer had vanished. Out of nowhere. Gone. Her doctor was sure there had to be some sort of error with her previous tests. Cancer didn’t just go away.

Not the type she had.

The newly installed landline phone rang on her desk.

“Director McClaine,” she said, leaving her answer vague. A director could be in charge of all sorts of things. No need to out their secret operation because of a wrong number.

“Director, you wanted to see us?” Agent Henry Anderson replied. She remembered him saving her life. The painful feeling of them being temporarily linked; her bullet wounds healing at his beckoning. He had hijacked her body with his shapeshifting ability, but it had saved her life. She wasn’t sure how to feel about it. Despite being grateful to be alive, she also felt violated. The director tried to put the latter feeling out of her mind.

“Yes. You and Blackbird report to my office.”

“Yes, ma’am.” The call ended.

The director glanced over the two paper files once more before she put them back in the bottom drawer of her desk. Agent Henry Anderson’s blood work and DNA tests had the same error the other shapeshifters at the Facility had. The results read as if he had just had a minor blood transfusion from multiple donors. There were traces from more than one blood type. The sort of errors that are normally attributed to contaminated samples. She should have noticed the pattern, even if the doctors hadn’t made the connection. They still hadn’t, but no denying it, he was a shapeshifter.

Henry’s results weren’t the only ones with the error. Besides the known shapeshifters, there were two others with the same anomaly: the pyrokinetic, Wallace, who had been killed by Shorty four and a half months before and “Blackbird” Neila Roddenberry, who had killed Shorty after he had almost succeeded in killing everyone in the Facility.

The whole incident had been a complete clusterfuck. Shorty, a telekinetic ex-con who, sick of being a prisoner and test subject in the Facility, rallied the rest of his test group of four men, Blue Team, to lead an escape attempt. The only reason anyone survived was because Henry had joined forces with several other test subjects.

Three members of Green Team, the shapeshifters, used their powers to help the perpetually disoriented group of telepaths and several doctors escape, bypassing the Facility’s biometric scans by copying Lianne’s own DNA. Green Team’s efforts weren’t what put an end to the assault though. Shorty had his eyes on another test subject, the only other one down on paper as an agent, Neila Roddenberry. The woman had more than one ability and the skill to use them.

After a vicious fight between members of Shorty’s Blue Team and the Facility’s surviving pyrokinetic, a nonbinary person named Lor, that wrecked the hallway leading to the Facility’s solitary holding cell, Henry managed to free Neila from the holding cell. Lianne wasn’t entirely clear on what happened afterward, but the two men Shorty sent to reach the Hole were soon very dead.

Not long after, Shorty and his remaining team member found the director, killed her guards, and almost killed Lianne just before he brutally broke Neila’s leg and dragged the small woman away by her hair.

Director McClaine was surprised she hadn’t been handed her ass on a platter by her superiors. They wanted an excuse to privatize the work the Facility was doing. The vultures circling the Facility had only grown in number since the incident. Defense contractors were interested in taking over where the clandestine government agency had continually failed. Private companies like White Rook and HUGO Defense had personnel trained to use the abilities most people assumed were utter bullshit, such as psychic powers like telekinesis, telepathy, pyrokinesis, shapeshifting, and God knew what else. The federal government was behind the private sector and had been for years. All Director McClaine had left was one more strike, just one more mistake, and she’d disappear into another dark hole somewhere. And even God wouldn’t have a clue what would happen to everyone else at the Facility.

Purchase

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Meet the Author

Sarah Elkins is a comic artist and writer who nearly had to give up art entirely due to a form of ossifying tennis elbow that forced her to be unable to use her dominate hand for nearly a year. She spent much of that time writing novels with her left hand as a means to deal with the pain and stress of possibly never drawing again. Thanks to a treatment regimen she is able to draw again albeit not as easily or quickly as she once did.

Sarah enjoys reading science fiction, horror, fantasy, weird stories, comics of every sort, as well as any biographical material about Nikola Tesla she can get her hands on (that doesn’t suggest he was from Venus.) She has worked in the comics industry since 2008 as a flatter (colorist assistant,) penciler, inker, and colorist. She contributed a comic to the massive anthology project Womanthology. Currently she (slowly) produces a webcomic called Magic Remains while writing as much as her body will allow.

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A MelanieM Review: A Fall in Autumn by Michael G. Williams

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

WELCOME TO THE LAST OF THE GREAT FLYING CITIES

It’s 9172, YE (Year of the Empire), and the future has forgotten its past.

Soaring miles over the Earth, Autumn, the sole surviving flying city, is filled to the brim with the manifold forms of humankind: from Human Plus “floor models” to the oppressed and disfranchised underclasses doing their dirty work and every imaginable variation between.

Valerius Bakhoum is a washed-up private eye and street hustler scraping by in Autumn. Late on his rent, fetishized and reviled for his imperfect genetics, stuck in the quicksand of his own heritage, Valerius is trying desperately to wrap up his too-short life when a mythical relic of humanity’s fog-shrouded past walks in and hires him to do one last job. What starts out as Valerius just taking a stranger’s money quickly turns into the biggest and most dangerous mystery he’s ever tried to crack – and Valerius is running out of time to solve it.

Now Autumn’s abandoned history – and the monsters and heroes that adorn it – are emerging from the shadows to threaten the few remaining things Valerius holds dear. Can the burned-out detective navigate the labyrinth of lies and maze of blind faith around him to save the City of Autumn from its greatest myth and deadliest threat?

A Fall in Autumn by Michael G. Williams! What a novel!  I spent hours swearing about writing this review before I even sat down to the computer.  Back and forth over  my conflicted feelings about the main character and an ending that I can’t decide is or isn’t in keeping with the personality of Valerius Bakhoum, one of the most complex, least likable, most stumbling and genuine characters in the recent science fiction that I’ve read.    Most of the time, I kept thinking while reading, “what a complete and utter bumbling dickwad”.  Yep, not usually the thoughts I entertain about my main characters, especially when they are the narrator of their own stories.  Even now, I don’t know if I like him or not.  I understand him, but like him?  Not that he would have cared.  Still I don’t know.

But from an almost too loose start, lacking a framework or even remotely a narrative foundation upon which the reader can stand on, this amazing story builds, twists, turns, convulses, and keeps spitting out enough wild details and world building that you gather all the information you need and suddenly Boom!  You know this place, the religions, well, as much as you can, because even the residents of the last Great Floating City, they don’t know much about their own history.  They know, and some believe it and some don’t, what various churches and religions, governments tell them.  Those facts, such as they are, are given to the reader as appropriate places in the narrative too.

I think the plot is brilliant.  Right up until the end i was thinking the author had left holes in the exposition and threads dangling.  Nope, in a stunning twist, all was tied up and I never saw it coming.  More swearing.  Damn, not so fumbling after all.  Never saw that either.

There is absolutely nothing I can say here that won’t give things away so I won’t.  The characterizations are fierce, and complete and in many ways brave on the part of the author.  You could make everyone likable, make them beings or people that the readers can easily connect with.  Or instead make them so damn fascinating, irritating, or if it pertains human, and flawed, along with a storyline that’s brilliant and gripping that this reader was up until 3am reading until it was over. And then cussing and waking the dogs.

It really deserves a 5 but like Valerius Bakhoum Im just too ornery to go back and change it.  It’s something he would appreciate and probably expect.  It’s that ending. ….damn it.

If you love science fiction, this is a story you won’t want to miss.  No romance, yes, there’s some sex, lots of mystery and suspense.  Enough twists and turns for a series.  Now I need to see what else this author wrote.  Are they all going to be like this?  I guess I need to find out ….

I highly recommend you read this and see for yourself what all my cussing is all about!

Cover art:  Im as ambivalent about that cove as i am about the character.  Because the floating city is loud, noisy, densely populated, and colorful.  It’s everything that cover is not.  So is the main character.  Still it draws you in.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 246 pages
Published January 1st 2019 by Falstaff Books
ASIN
B07MDXTT1W
Edition Language
English

Love Science Fiction? Check out the New Book Release for Mourning Dove (Empathy #2) by R.R. Campbell (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Mourning Dove

Series: EMPATHY, Book Two

Author: r.r. campbell

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: April 29, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 118000

Genre: Science Fiction, LGBT, sci-fi; bio-tech; science fiction; action/suspense; political/legal thriller

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Synopsis

In the aftermath of the calamitous Human/Etech research study, Chandra and Kyra struggle to reclaim the life they shared in a pre-EMPATHY world, while Ty, armed with knowledge of EMPATHY’s programming language, seeks revenge on the Halmans for the harm that’s befallen his friends.

As a North American Union investigation into the happenings on the compound looms, a grief-stricken Peter works to resurrect the memory of his mother from a harvested nanochip, and Heather scrambles to keep her family—and their company—together. Alistair, having abandoned the family business, plots to save his hide and that of his wife while she strives to stay one step ahead of a husband she has no reason to trust.

Far to the north amid civil unrest, a recently retired Rénald Dupont investigates the disappearance of his friend and former colleague, Meredith, despite grave threats from an increasingly skittish North American Union government.

As old and new foes emerge, spouse is further pit against spouse, brother against sister, and governments against their people. In the end, all must choose between attempts to reclaim the past or surrender to the inevitable, an intractable world of their own creation.

Mourning Dove is an evocative, sweeping symphony of love, revenge, and desperation in cacophonous times. It is the second installment in r. r. campbell’s epic EMPATHY sci-fi saga.

Excerpt

Mourning Dove
R.R. Campbell © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
Chandra

The fear of death coiled its cold bony fingers around her.

As she dangled her feet off the edge of her doctor’s exam table, EMPATHY whirred to life, delivering an image she’d painted months earlier, one of midnight blacks, of tendrils of darkness—the painting through which she’d mourned the loss of Ty’s friend, a sensation gut-wrenchingly similar to mourning the loss of one’s self.

“Chandra?” Doctor Abernathy said. “Did you hear me? Do you understand?”

Kyra tugged at Chandra’s sleeve, gripping it tight as she leaned in. “Babe? The doctor—”

Chandra nodded, breaking her concentration on the image, on fending off the evil that always accompanied the embers of EMPATHY flickering of their own volition. The chip might have no longer been connected to her egodrive—the Merry Hacksters had seen to that three months earlier on the night of the interview—but that wasn’t enough to stop the nanochip from working locally, a computer without an internet connection.

And how could she not have heard the doctor? Three years. Five years max. The damn chip was going to kill her if the AI living within it didn’t drive her mad first.

“How can you even know?” Kyra said to the doctor, releasing her grip of Chandra’s sleeve and squeezing her hand instead. “A timeline like that is—”

“Loose, yes,” said Eliza Abernathy, the doctor Human/Etech appointed to Chandra following the study. “But we’ve become more confident in our prognoses now that we have additional data on the deterioration rates for those who have passed since the study’s completion.”

“So? Those things happened to other people,” Kyra insisted. “Chandra might be different, and everything you’ve said is so unspecific—”

“Well,” the doctor said, “if you want specifics, I can tell you given Chandra’s general fatigue and the frequency of her intermittent lack of bodily control, we can project those symptoms will progress over the next three to five years until she sleeps nearly the entire day through.”

It felt as though a warm, heavy blanket descended on Chandra, the exhaustion coming for her again, doing its best to depress her increased heart rate and the panic gripping her.

“So she’ll fall asleep and that’s it?” Kyra said.

“Mostly,” said Abernathy. “At some point in that sleep, the brain stem itself will power down, and with it, her breathing and cardiac function will cease.”

Most days Chandra already felt as though she were drowning. Her final breaths, those she would draw in her sleep no less, couldn’t be any more unpleasant than the pained ones she had to gasp after from time to time.

Kyra squeezed Chandra’s hand tighter. “You’re sure there’s nothing we can do, doctor? What if you took out her chip?”

Doctor Abernathy tut-tutted. “There’s only been one case to date in which a patient has had their chip removed without further complication.”

“But we could try, right?” Kyra said, eyes awash with tears as she turned to Chandra. “You want to try, don’t you?”

Chandra swallowed, frozen now not by the news the doctor had delivered, but by another threat entirely. It always started this way, a tickle, a grinding sensation. She’d learned she could keep it at bay if she popped an anxicap, but—oh, what time was it? It’d been hours since she’d last taken one, and the veil of fog the anxiety med shrouded her in had already been pierced by Abernathy’s news. Weak. Her defenses were too weak.

Tickle. Click. Grind.

Somewhere in the deepest recesses of her mind, M3R1 had pulled off a jailbreak, Chandra in pursuit as M3R1 sped down neurohighways, barreling toward some imaginary county line where, once on the other side, it could assume control here in the real world. Abernathy and Kyra narrowed their eyes as Chandra twitched, scrambling to rally her deputies, dispatching roadblocks and spike strips to halt M3R1’s every advance.

“See? It’s happening again,” Kyra said. “She’s suffering and—”

Chandra ignored her, focused on spinning out another of M3R1’s mental assault vehicles. There—no more tickle, no more grind, no more shoulder jerking or lip curling. With M3R1 successfully impeded, she inhaled through her nose and dared to shake her head once.

“No?” Kyra said. “What do you mean? Why wouldn’t you want them to try to remove your chip? Did you even hear what Doctor Abernathy said?”

Had she not seen Chandra nod earlier? Just because she couldn’t speak didn’t mean she couldn’t understand, something still lost on Kyra, lost on the world in the months since her release from the research compound. As Chandra’s motor control had returned over time, as her memory became less clouded, she had taken to sketching her thoughts as best as she could manage, though it turned out the world was downright miserable at playing her version of Pictation.

Doctor Abernathy intervened, speaking directly to Kyra. “Your wife’s fear is understandable. This is an unfortunate prognosis, yes—”

“Unfortunate prognosis?!” Kyra said. “I think telling us Chandra’s life will be severely shortened as a result of your company’s malpractice is a bit more than an ‘unfortunate prognosis.’”

Death’s fingers tightened their grip, and the well of sorrow within Chandra overflowed, choking her off at the throat, spilling over at the eyes. Chandra was twenty-six. Twenty-six. That she’d only live to see thirty-one, that she’d spend her final years regretting having left that helmet in her back seat, having signed up for the study, that she’d have no way to truly apologize for the woe in which she now drowned her wife… All of it was enough to have her yearning to surrender to death’s embrace now.

But that wasn’t possible, not with what lurked inside her, not with what would become of it were she to die and have EMPATHY removed. So long as M3R1 had the potential to someday return to the cerenet and wreak havoc on the world as it did on the compound, it could still win their war. Chandra might have been winning most of their battles as of late, but she couldn’t rely on her anxicaps forever, and fighting M3R1 without them only fueled the exhaustion Doctor Abernathy said would kill her in the end. Before Chandra could ever give in, she’d have to find a way to assure M3R1’s fate along with her own.

Kyra, still fretting alongside the exam table, bit the inside of her cheek. “And look at her, Doctor. You call this progress? When she’s not spasming, she’s scared stiff. She’s not even moving.”

Chandra clenched her jaw as M3R1 sped a fresh caravan of malicious intent down a central neurohighway, the caravan’s members splitting off at every exit in a multi-pronged attack. In the exam room, she remained immobile. She couldn’t lose control now.

“Yes,” the doctor said, stepping in front of Chandra again. “You mentioned this temporary paralysis has been recurring?”

Kyra nodded as the doctor pulled a handheld ophthalmoscope from the breast pocket of her lab coat. Chandra squinted as the light from the instrument struck her eyes.

“She’s still responsive.” After adopting a pensive expression, the doctor spoke again. “Perhaps it is fear driving these episodes, then.”

“What do we do?” Kyra said.

As well intended as Kyra might have been, what was to come had so little to do with a we and everything to do with a she—and that she would be Chandra and Chandra alone.

“You make the best of the time you have together,” Doctor Abernathy said. “It’s a miracle the two of you have been reunited in light of everything that’s happened. I’d encourage you to make the most of it.”

Kyra sniffled. She squeezed Chandra’s hand once again. “The two of us and the cat, that is.”

“Ah,” the doctor said, “you’ll be getting an emotional support animal after all?”

Apparently, yes, they were. It would be the two of them, the cat… and something far more sinister.

One of M3R1’s attacks charged a roadblock Chandra had set in its way. It burst through on the far side, Chandra trembling as M3R1 took hold.

>>You can only keep M3R1 away for so long, Chandra, and M3R1 would very much like an escape.

Chandra’s voice gurgled in her throat.

“She’s trying to say something,” Kyra said.

Abernathy put herself opposite Kyra’s side of the exam table, apparently prepared to help keep Chandra from falling. “No. It’s a seizure.”

Both Abernathy and Kyra were wrong. The twitching of her muscles, the contortions of her face—they were symptoms of a lawman-outlaw shootout deep in her mind.

>>You will tell the doctors to remove the chip, Chandra. You will tell them to remove the chip and—

Her mind’s sheriff dared one last shot, a final bullet bursting forward from the chamber of her six-shooter. The AI crumpled.

Every bit of her—down to the hairs on her arms—felt as though it burned as the electrical activity supporting M3R1 now turned against it. The enlisted forces from the county next door surged into action, corralling the rogue AI’s body and dragging it back to its shoddy prison inside the EMPATHY chip. It would only be a matter of time before it resurrected itself, but for now, the threat had been neutralized.

Chandra permitted herself an uneasy breath as the tension in the room melted.

Kyra wrapped her arms around Chandra’s waist from where she stood on the floor, burying her head in her side. “I’m sorry, Chandra. I’m sorry this had to happen.”

Had she the words, Chandra would have told her wife she didn’t need to be sorry this happened, that it was all beyond her control. She would have told Kyra she was sorry—not for what had come to pass in recent months, but rather for what would come to pass the moment Chandra met her early end.

When Chandra died, however soon that might be, she was sure Human/Etech would harvest EMPATHY from within her, and with it, M3R1. And who knew what calamity M3R1 might induce were it returned to the cerenet in a world where EMPATHY would inevitably take hold? It had been willing to kill her if it had come down to it, and the eighty-seven lives lost on the compound were testimony to M3R1’s dedication to its goals.

Even if her own were now a lost cause, Chandra was determined to never again let M3R1 destroy a human life. But how could she keep the Halmans from getting their hands on her chip once she passed? Was it possible to excise M3R1 from it before she died? Chandra had no idea, but it was now her life goal—her life’s duty—to make sure M3R1 could never again terrorize anyone besides her.

For now, though, she put an arm around her wife’s shoulders, drew her in, and laid a soft kiss on the crown of her head. Three years or five, it made no difference. Regardless of how one spun it, Chandra and Kyra had far less time than they once thought, far less time than they’d hoped, but for now they still had each other.

And that had to count for something.

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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.

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Enjoy Reading SciFy? Check Out the New Release Blitz for Destructive Forces (The Galactic Captains #4) by Harry F. Rey (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Destructive Forces

Series: The Galactic Captains, Book Four

Author: Harry F. Rey

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: April 22, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 70400

Genre: Science Fiction, LGBT, sci-fi, futuristic, war, space, war of worlds, gay, lesbian, military, royalty

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Synopsis

In the far reaches of the Kyleri Empire, young Captain Mahnoor travels around the system to escape the cultural pressures to marry. But his infatuation with a handsome imperial pilot leads him into a galactic war.

On Jiwani, Viscamon is attempting to consolidate his power, by blaming the Ingvar for the royal massacre and calling armies from across the Empire to track down the missing prince, and achieve his dream of destroying the Galactic Balance. However, Antari knows the truth about Osvai and must find the courage to stand up to the prince’s enemies, and his own, no matter the risk.

Meanwhile on Aldegar, Daeron is being held prisoner by the few remaining Ingvar forces and must find a way to break free to rescue his mother and the crew of the Daring Huntress once again, as well as the missing Prince Osvai, before the Kyleri come to take back what’s theirs.

Sallah, no longer the last Tevian, returns to Aldegar with no choice but to enlist the help of the man she hates and the woman she once loved to see her son again.

As the Galactic Balance tips ever more towards chaos, time is running out to save Ales from the destructive forces he has unleashed.

Excerpt

Destructive Forces
Harry F. Rey © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
“Don’t let him get away!” Sallah screamed at the top of her lungs through the chaos of the fiery corridor. Two Ingvar soldiers had her by either arm. They’d dragged her out of the Trades Council plenum-turned-battle zone against her will. Her life was of paramount value to the Ingvar star-state, but she couldn’t care less about that now. Not while this Turo was getting away.

His words, spoken only minutes ago, haunted her mind. I have your son, he’d said, with a swirling sneer. Then everything exploded. Sallah had lost sight of General Morvas and Councilor Nexia in the shooting. Ingvar soldiers had also jumped on them, but the smoke and noise of weapons fire made trying to get back to the ship impossible. Yet it was the last thing Sallah wanted to do—the insurrection in the heart of the Trades Council be damned.

“Get off me.” She struggled against their armor-plated bodies, but they did not relent. Sallah’s feet kept slipping against the smooth marble floor; she couldn’t find a grip. Yelling and the ricochet of weapons banged around the air from every direction, stinging smoke encroaching on their position. Sallah yanked her head around to a din of shots being fired, and the two soldiers pulled her back from the brink of the great hallway where volleys of laser shot fired backward and forward into unknown, unseen sets of troops.

“Get back.” One of the soldiers said and knocked her head back against the wall, trying to avoid edging around the corner into the wide trench of ongoing warfare the great hallway had become. Sallah remembered the way. They had to get across to the other side, through the firing range.

A far-off explosion shook the walls of the building, seeming to strike at the core of the planet itself. The firing ceased, but silence did not return. Instead, the screeching sounds of warplanes entering the Targulian atmosphere filled the once-gilded walkway. Down beyond their position, toward the end of the great hallway, Sallah saw figures moving through the smoke. The shapes could be Turo, or even Ales. The only thing clear was her need to get to them.

Her Ingvar captors looked distracted, scanning the now eerily silent hallway through black visor helmets. One had his hand pointed backward in a halfhearted attempt to keep her still. She edged away from the wall, then glanced into the great hallway. It had the air of some ancient temple; high ceilings reaching up to a glass-domed roof to the hazy orange Targulian air. The heart of the Outer Verge, now consumed in inter-factional war, the Union against the Trades Council, while a foreign power circled the planet like some great mountain vulture. And here she was, the former last Tevian alive. She couldn’t let her life end this way. Not while her son might be right around the corner—hurt, or in danger. Sallah gritted her teeth and launched herself against one of the soldiers. With a swift kick, she booted him in the side, and he tumbled away from her into the space of no man’s land, his footing lost to the smooth-edged floor.

“What are you doing?” the other one cried out through his visor. But it was too late. A volley of weapons fire began again from both sides, riddling the Ingvar soldier’s body from the left and right. Puffs of vaporized blood and brain floated into the air as his lifeless body collapsed in a haze of reddish death.

The living soldier floated in front of her, as if suspended in time, now unsure if she was friend or foe. She wanted to leap toward him, grab the sidearm from his belt, flip, and blast him in the back. The sinews of her body, the echoes of Sallah’s yearning for her son she’d thought lost along with the rest of her home-world, ached for the ability to push him aside and sprint to her destiny. Yet something exploded against her back. It felt as if the walls themselves had collapsed onto her as the polished marble rushed up to meet her face. But she stopped. There was no impact. Something, no, someone grabbed her, saved her from being smashed to the ground.

“I have her,” a metallic voice said through the helmet. Sallah caught the edge of her reflection in the onyx visor. The whites of her eyes enraged and bloodshot against skin the color of a dark and stormy night.

“Let’s go,” said another.

The sound of many more boots smacking against the ground joined with the fire of weapons. Someone held her back, as a stream of Ingvar soldiers rushed from behind, firing their weapons to either side of the great hallway, building a wall of cover fire to cross to the other side. A black-gloved arm pulled her back by the chest, and she struggled to no avail.

“This way, general,” a voice said behind her. “Increase fire, don’t hold back,” it yelled to the soldiers holding the line the breadth of the hallway to the narrower corridor across the other side. General Morvas staggered past, helped by two soldiers. His soft, gray hair and distinguished features were dripping in blood from an open wound across his skull, his robes torn and wrapped around an arm as a makeshift bandage. The volley of fire from the soldiers turned into a crescendo of noise and smoke. Most likely no one was firing back from either side, but they kept the rate up as the half-crouched general crossed the hallway like a child being rescued from a fire.

Councilor Nexia came along next, her frail elderly body slung over the back of a soldier as if she were won as a prize of war.

“Sallah,” the Trades Council leader cried out. “Come with us, now. The Union are starting a war.”

Sallah pushed against her captor’s arm with all her power. “No! I must find Turo. I must—”

“We have him. He’s on the ship.” Nexia said. The soldier carrying her didn’t stop running. “Get her back to the fleet,” Nexia yelled over the rage of battle toward Sallah’s captor. She was a prize they couldn’t lose.

Powerful armored hands grabbed her from behind, squeezing her sides so hard she felt the pain through the adrenaline rush. There was no way to break free. Turo, Ales—she had to find them. Sallah struggled against her captor, legs flying back in a wild storm of trying to find any weak point in the armor and land a kick to skin.

“Let me go.”

He’d had enough. He didn’t think twice. Like Nexia in front of her, the soldier hoisted her body across his shoulder and ran after the others, darting through the protective enclosure. It was terrifying. The world had turned upside down. All she could see was the smoke from the far end of the great hallway rising up to the glass convex ceiling, here and there blocking out the hazy orange above. Yet through the glass, she saw the flashes of war and the trails of missiles and strike ships painting their destructive pattern. The Ingvar invasion had begun.

The bouncing became rhythmic, and she lost all sense of thinking beyond the next few minutes. Get to the ship, get to Turo. She’d beat that man to a pulp to find out where her son was. She’d swear to the Ingvar to never conduct another experiment again if they did not help her track down Ales. She’d gouge the secrets of galinium and STAR drives from her brain and cast them into the black void of nothingness unless the entirety of the fleet of the Ingvar Empire cast every ion toward finding her son. She’d rip apart the Outer Verge to find…

“Hurl her inside. That’s it.”

Sallah was flung upward, then caught by firm hands and dragged into the confines of a compact shuttle. Nexia and Morvas were stretched out alongside her, being tended to by soldiers with their visors up. The women and men in Ingvar uniform and their faces consumed in the rapid swirl of action. They had no time to think, only do.

“That’s all; time to go,” a voice said. She turned her head to the left through a sharp edge of pain to the two pilots in the narrow cockpit. One was gesturing to get the soldiers out of the shuttle.

“Wait,” Sallah screamed. “I need my son. I need Turo.” She pulled herself to her feet, ready to boot everyone else out of the shuttle and fly around the city-world herself to find him.

“No time,” the pilot yelled back, looking ready to meet her fists. “I’m taking you back to the fleet now. Strap in.”

Out of options, Sallah briefly contemplated jumping on one of the soldiers currently assisting the bruised-looking Nexia and Morvas into their shuttle seats against the narrow walls. Something caught her eye at the back of the shuttle, a soldier she now realized had been standing over someone. He moved out of the way, ready to exit the ship, and then she saw him, strapped in against his will and hands frozen in electromagnetic cuffs.

“You piece of flank,” Sallah yelled at Turo in the crowded confines of the ship. The rest of the soldiers ducked outside to the increasingly loud sounds of weapons fire.

“Strap in!” The pilot yelled from behind her as the shuttle door snapped closed.

“I’ll fucking kill you right now unless you tell me where my son is.” Turo’s green eyes looked up at her, his face smoky and bloodied from the fight, but his eyes alive, and a thin, narrow smile across his lips. The look of a man who, even in defeat, would prefer to watch everything he’d worked for go up in noxious flames than surrender. She launched her fist straight down into his stomach, the straps holding him back keeping him from bending over in reaction to the blow as the ship rumbled into action.

He spat out a gob of phlegm and blood onto the polished floor and returned only a smile. She cocked another fist.

“Sallah, stop,” Morvas called from behind, as the ship jerked up from the ground. She grabbed a metal bar above her head as the shuttle rumbled into the hazy sky. The sight through the windows dissolved her anger into terrified wonder. Targuline had descended into full-on war. Fighters dipped and dived behind the great trunks of Shards; missiles from space streaked across the orange sky as billows of black smoke infected the world.

Sallah turned her attention back to Turo. She held on above as the shuttle bounced around the atmosphere, worried it would drop from the sky at any moment—or perhaps be torn in two from heavy weapons fire. Neither was acceptable. She slammed her free hand into Turo’s throat, squeezing the sinews hard.

“Where is my son?”

Spluttered nothings fell from his mouth. Clearly, he hadn’t expected to be choked. As he raised a cuffed arm, where his wrist-tech sat, she released him from her deathly grip.

“I have him,” he coughed. “Tracked, here.”

Sallah twisted the arm with the wrist-tech, causing him to writhe in pain. Arms were not designed to twist in such a way, but she took comfort in his obvious agony.

“Find him.” Her eyes flashed with the power of a supernova. One primed for explosion

“Locate Ales,” he said into the device. The screen built a rudimentary map of the area with a clear green dot showing him less than fifty kilometers away. “Look, he’s still close by.” Sallah tried to make sense of the map, but the shaking shuttle and the moving blocks of images on the wrist-tech made it almost impossible to follow. She kept her eye solely on the distance counter, which steadily ticked upward as the shuttle flew up into the atmosphere toward the void of space.

“He’s on a ship, look.” Turo twisted his wrist-tech farther around, with an edge of humanity in his voice, which took her by surprise. The view of the outside moved around Morvas and Nexia from the hazy, orange battle-scarred sky to the cool blackness of space. Shards poked through the stratosphere, but the normally bustling routes in and out of the planet and its space stations were frozen by the invasion.

She stared past Nexia at the Ingvar fleet assembled in battle formation. She’d flown with them from Aldegar in the odd position she held as both a prisoner and most-valued individual, across their emerging empire. She knew this was every ship the Ingvar had. Battle Cruisers and troop transports, command vessels and fighter carriers; an entire fleet constructed from the scraps of the Crejan occupation force the young star-state liberated themselves from.

They had gambled their empire on this force, throwing everything they had against the Outer Verge, the only power in the galaxy weaker than themselves, in order to seize the STAR drive and power into the unknown universe beyond. Now, with their fifty-ship fleet amassed around the Targulian atmosphere and the Verge descending into civil war, they needed to get their hands on the raw galinium mined in the far edge of the Outer Verge.

Sallah reminded herself she didn’t care for whom she provided the prototypes of the STAR drives or which empire seized on her research. The Union, the Seven Suns, the Ingvar—she cared not for any of them. She had cared only for herself and the chance it may give her to rebuild the world she had lost. Sallah’s hands clasped her stomach as if it was about to explode.

“What’s that?” Nexia called out behind her, pointing to the window and the Ingvar fleet beyond. A single ship with a strange greenish glow around it was racing up from the orange haze toward the mass of ships. Sallah had only ever considered that glow in the theory of her work. It can’t be.

“It’s Ales,” Turo said, shifting his wrist-tech toward her line of sight stuck on the window, staring at the fleet the shuttle jiggered toward. Her throat flicked closed, a lifetime’s worth of tears held back by nothing but a single hope that soon she may be reunited with the son she’d thought lost.

“Tell them to bring him in,” she screamed at the pilot. He looked back with a gasp of worry. Morvas quickly nodded his approval.

“Fleet command, there’s an unidentified small vessel headed right to you from the planet. It’s friendly. Repeat, friendly. High-value cargo,” the pilot said into the comms.

Sallah left Turo in his strapped-down position and pressed her face against the clear window. His ship was getting closer to the fleet, like a single drop edging ever closer to a waiting beast. But the greenish glow around him grew ever bolder. She pressed her hand against the glass as Morvas, and then Nexia, unclipped from their seats and joined her.

“What is it?” Morvas demanded. “Is that a weapon? Is this an attack?”

She couldn’t even whisper a No. Sallah felt as if her mind had been severed from her body. It may as well float in the empty void of nothing. Her mind, her soul, unable to comprehend the things she was seeing. Who had built such a thing? Everything had been theoretical, only experiments. How could her research, her life’s work, sever her son from her once again?

The glow became stronger and ever brighter as the STAR drive ignited its galinium core. The space around his ship warped and swirled in a cloud of green as the horizon point broke free from the ship’s engine, the greenish bubble growing wide enough to encompass the entire Ingvar fleet.

“No. It’s too much. It’s too powerful.” The beat of her heart burst into her skull as the horizon point from Ales’ ship reached its zenith.

“What?” Morvas demanded. “What is? Tell me now.”

The flash forced Nexia and Morvas to turn away. But Sallah did not. Her eyes burned and ached for the briefest moment, but then the darkness returned. The black, blank darkness of space above the hazy orange orb. Now empty except for a long, glowing white streak of nothing where Ales and the entire Ingvar fleet had just been. Whoever had created that STAR drive had grossly miscalculated the proportions of weaponized galinium required.

“Sallah, he’s gone,” Turo said in quiet shock, a note of fear in his voice Sallah would never have thought a man such as he would have.

“Where’s my fleet?” Morvas shrieked. “For infinity’s sake, where is my fleet?”

Sallah said nothing. Her eyes focused on her own reflection as she watched a single tear drip down her cheek. It was too painful to look at the empty space where her son and all the ships of the Ingvar empire had been, now lost in some unknown galaxy.

Purchase

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Meet the Author

Harry F. Rey is an author and lover of gay themed stories with a powerful punch with influences ranging from Alan Hollinghurst to Isaac Asimov to George R.R. Martin. He loves all things sci-fi and supernatural, and always with a gay twist. Harry is originally from the UK but lives in Jerusalem, Israel with his husband.

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A MelanieM Review: Tainted Love (Soho Noir #1) by T.S. Hunter

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Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5

SOME RELATIONSHIPS ARE JUST MURDER

It’s 1985, and Joe Stone is excited to be joining his old school friend, and lifelong crush, Chris, for a long weekend in London’s Soho—home to a vibrant, developing gay scene, and a million miles from the small town Joe and Chris grew up in.

But when Chris is brutally murdered, the police just write his death off as another rent boy, fallen foul of a bad hook up. Joe realises that his best friend was killed deliberately, and joins forces with former police detective, Russell Dixon—Chris’s flatmate—to find out why.

Spiralling debt, illicit sex, blackmail, spurned lovers and hard-nosed gangsters all play their part, but who among the celebrities, fashionistas, drag queens, ex-lovers and so-called friends is Chris’s killer?

A noirish whodunit set in 1980s London, with all the big hair, electro-pop, shoulder pads, police discrimination and lethal killers that the era had to offer.

TAINTED LOVE IS THE FIRST BOOK IN THE SOHO NOIR SERIES OF COZY CRIME NOVELLAS.

Ok, so right off the bat, I had to wonder who was writing the blurb, had they read the story, and did they even know what one, a cozy mystery was (no, the answer is no), and two, did they understand what noir means?  Because noir and cozy are about as polar opposite as you can possibly be.  And Tainted Love (Soho Noir #1) by T.S. Hunter isn’t a cozy and it isn’t noir.  So that big old statement of it being the first in a “noir series” of Cozy crime novellas?  Strikes dread in this mystery lovers heart.

A cozy btw is  a mystery that uses humor to downplay the crime and violence, aka murder, in the story, the settings are a small intimate village or town where everyone knows everybody.  Whether its Midsomers Murders or Jessica Fletcher, that’s a cozy. A noir?  All those “hardboiled detective” fiction like Sam Spade jumps to mind but it’s defined as “a genre of crime film or fiction characterized by cynicism, fatalism, and moral ambiguity.  Again, this book plays loosely with that term.

So what the author and Red Dog Press should do is dump all those poor attempts to keep slapping bad labels on this story and simply call it a mystery.  On that it nicely stands alone.

Its set in the 1980’s and the author has a great feel for the best and worst of the decade, especially its more tawdry side.  It’s the seemier side that gets the most play here when Joe Stone’s old friend and crush is murdered.  This isn’t a romance but a straight mystery that unfolds as hidden relationships unravel, homophobia on the police force is still powerfully evident especially when dealing with crimes against homosexuals, and the whole sex, drugs and rock n roll was very much alive.

The characters are well developed but keep an odd dissociation or disconnect from one another.  I never felt as though any of them cared a wit about each other no matter how much they said that they did.  Well constructed yes, but without a heart. So odd.

The mystery itself was well done.  I was never emotionally invested in anything that happened in this novel but admired the writing and enjoyed watching the investigation unfold.  It  felt consistent for the time period, believable too.  But the story never pulled me in, never connected me to the people or the events taking place.  So no matter that the foundation was solid and the house sturdy, the hearth remained cold.

Even in noir there is passion, and in cozy laughter.  Here there is neither.  But there is an interesting mystery to unravel.

I wonder what they are going to do with the rest of the series.

Cover art is graphically interesting and eye catching.

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

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Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 85 pages
Expected publication: April 18th 2019 by Red Dog Press
ASINB07PH78GZQ
SeriesSoho Noir #1

Love Recent Murder Mysteries? Check Out the Release Blitz for Tainted Love (Soho Noir #1) by T.S. Hunter (Excerpt and giveaway)

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RELEASE BLITZ

Book Title: Tainted Love (Soho Noir #1)

Author: T.S. Hunter

Publisher:  Red Dog Press

Cover Artist: Red Dog Press

Release Date: April 18, 2019

Genre/s: Cosy Crime, Noir, Novella, Amateur Sleuths

Trope/s: Historical discrimination, burgeoning gay scene in London in the 80s, friendship among queers, solidarity, community.

Themes: 1980s murder mystery, coming together, coming out, discrimination.

Heat Rating:  1 flame – It’s all murder and crime solving, though there is a love interest.

Length: 125 pages

It is a standalone story.  The first of a series of 6.

Add on Goodreads 

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Direct from publisher

Some relationships are just murder

Blurb

It’s 1985, and Joe Stone is excited to be joining his old school friend, and lifelong crush, Chris, for a long weekend in London’s Soho—home to a vibrant, developing gay scene, and a million miles from the small town Joe and Chris grew up in.

When Chris is found brutally murdered, the police write his death off as another rent boy fallen foul of a bad hook up. But Joe knows his best friend was killed deliberately, and joins forces with former police detective, Russell Dixon—Chris’s flatmate—to find out why.

Spiralling debt, illicit sex, blackmail, spurned lovers and hard-nosed gangsters all play their part, but who among the celebrities, fashionistas, drag queens, ex-lovers and so-called friends is Chris’s killer?

A noirish whodunit set in 1980s London, with all the big hair, electro-pop, shoulder pads, police discrimination and lethal killers that the era had to offer.

Tainted Love is the first book in the Soho Noir series of cozy crime novellas.

About the series

The Soho Noir series is set in the decade of big hair, shoulder pads, pastel suits and bright, cheesy pop, in a part of London which, on the surface at least, seemed to accept and adore people from all walks of life—a melting pot of gender, sexuality, colour and race, where celebrities rubbed up against the average Joe in cafes, bars and hair salons on every street.

But the 1980s had a darker underbelly, even in Soho. This was a time when gay rights were hard fought, where the police actively targeted gay men as easy victims for arrest and extortion, the government deliberately restricted gay rights and the tabloids screamed about The Gay Plague—the AIDS epidemic. And yet, gay icons who would go on to endure lasting fame and success were springing up all over the pop and fashion world.

The 1980s forms a strangely fitting, sometimes nostalgic, always entertaining backdrop to this colourful series of cozy crime stories.

Noirish, sexy and delicious.

Excerpt

Chapter 1

SOHO, LONDON. 1985.

THE DANK WINTERY STREETS outside were a distant memory now. Tonight, this hot, sweaty, neon-lit club was Joe’s whole universe. Music pulsed through his body like a brand new heartbeat. London was already changing him.

Sweat sticking his T-shirt to his ribs, arms raised high above his head, grinning wildly, hips pumping to Frankie’s repetitive calls to “Relax”. Joe hardly recognised himself and he was happier than he’d ever been.

It had been a night of Bronski Beat, Sister Sledge, Culture Club and Madonna—the kind of upbeat pop Joe usually hated. He was into more brooding, melancholic stuff—miserable shite, according to his friend Chris—and yet these pulsing, happy beats felt like they defined him right now. The new him. His new start.

This whole weekend had been like none Joe had ever known. He’d always been the quiet one, never even daring to come down to London on his own. Not confident enough to admit who he really was. This year was different already.

His oldest friend from school, Chris Sexton, had called him out of the blue to invite Joe to join him in London for a long weekend. A friend is having a party, he’d said. It’s going to be wild. You should come.

Chris had been the only person Joe had stayed in touch with from his school days. His first and only love, though he knew that particular accolade was one-sided, and Joe had long since given up hope of anything happening between them, even if he was still—and always would be—a little besotted with Chris.

Chris wasn’t the kind of guy who went around falling in love, though. Handsome, confident, reckless, funny and the bravest man Joe knew—Chris had left a trail of broken hearts behind him of those who’d fallen for him before they realised he’d never settle down.

So Joe and Chris had stayed friends, meeting up less frequently now that they had both left their respective universities, and Joe had secured a boring but well paid job with the council back in their old home town.

Chris, on the other hand, had moved to London seven years ago to study Fashion at St Martin’s College. Two fingers up to his father, who’d wanted him to join the family accountancy firm. Maybe he’d go back to it, when he’d settled down a bit. Though there was no sign of that happening any time soon.

After college, Chris had hooked himself up in a partnership with a couple of other young designers, and had been making a name for himself on the fashion scene ever since.

He was renting a flat in the heart of Soho and seemed to have a wide circle of friends of all shapes and ages. Joe wished he had Chris’s life. Or his talent. Or his looks. Any one of those would do.

Joe laughed as his friend bounced across the floor in a series of typically ostentatious dance moves, deliberately bumping into a tall, skinny, blonde guy—exactly Chris’s type—and planting a sly kiss on his cheek before sashaying away again. Oh, for that confidence.

Joe hadn’t even come out to his family yet. In fact, Chris was the only person he’d ever confided in, though he was sure others knew.

His oldest sister suspected. She’d asked him outright once, but he’d just changed the subject. It was none of her business. She was like the mirror of their mother. She wouldn’t understand. She would just worry.

All of that felt a lifetime away right now. Here in this club, Joe had found his spiritual home. This was living. This was who he really was. “Like a Virgin” by Madonna blasting out of the speakers, bodies bouncing and writhing together, very few of them remotely like a virgin.

About the Author

Claiming to be only half-Welsh, T.S. Hunter lived in South Wales for much of his latter teens, moving to London as soon as confidence and finances allowed. He never looked back.

He has variously been a teacher, a cocktail waiter, a podium dancer and a removal man, but his passion for writing has been the only constant.

He’s a confident and engaging speaker and guest, who is as passionate about writing and storytelling as he is about promoting mainstream LGBT fiction.

He now lives with his husband in the country, and is active on social media as @TSHunter5.

Author Links

Blog/Website

Facebook

Twitter: Red Dog  or  TS Hunter

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Love High Fantasy? Check Out the New Release Blitz for Royal Rescue by A. Alex Logan (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Royal Rescue

Author: A. Alex Logan

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: April 8, 2019

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: No Romance, Male/Male

Length: 111500

Genre: New Adult Fantasy, LGBT, asexual, high fantasy, dragons, royalty, magic, young adult, gay, family drama, hurt/comfort

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Synopsis

At age eighteen, when they become marriageable, all royal children in the Thousand Kingdoms must either go questing to rescue another royal or be hidden away to await rescue themselves. Some go the traditional route of princes rescuing princesses, but not all princes want to be rescuers…and some would rather rescue other princes.

Then there’s Prince Gerald, who has no interest in getting married at all. When he refuses to choose a role as either rescuer or rescuee, his royal parents choose for him and have him magicked away to a distant tower to await a spouse.

Gerald, however, is having none of it. He recruits his guardian dragon and a would-be rescuer and soon the trio is dashing to all corners of the united kingdoms on a quest to overturn the entire system.

Excerpt

Gerald followed the steward to the study wearing an expression that would have been more appropriate if he were being led to the dungeon. The steward rapped on the door twice before opening it and stepping aside for Gerald. She gave the young man an encouraging wink, but he was too intent on bracing himself for the upcoming confrontation to notice.

He took a deep breath, visibly set his shoulders and stepped through the doorway. The steward closed the door behind him, and Gerald fought back the feeling of being trapped.

“Don’t lurk in the doorway,” an imposing voice scolded. “Come in where I can see you.”

Gerald did as he was told, stopping and giving a shallow bow when the woman came into view. She nodded, acknowledging the courtesy, which caused the sunlight streaming in through the window to catch and reflect off her golden crown.

Gerald resisted the urge to reach up and touch his own circlet—silver—which he too late realized was probably once again askew.

“Well?” the Queen asked. “Have you made your decision?”

Another deep breath, another forceful straightening of his shoulders, and Gerald said, a hint of defiance in his tone, “I have.”

The Queen’s harsh expression broke into a smile. “Oh, Gerald, thank goodness. Your mum and I were about at our wits’ end! There’s barely enough time left to make all the arrangements. So, what will it be? Rescuer or rescuee?”

“Neither.”

The smile melted off the Queen’s face. “Neither! Don’t be ridiculous, Gerald. You said you had made your decision.”

“I have,” he said, crossing his arms in front of his chest. “I’ve decided not to participate.”

“That is not an option,” she said coldly, the warmth in her voice gone the same way as the smile. “As you are well aware.”

“I don’t wish to marry,” Gerald replied, trying to match her tone but not quite managing it. “As you are well aware.”

The Queen waved her hand dismissively. “This is merely the first step. It may take a year or even two for you to rescue—or be rescued by—someone who appeals. Then there’s the courtship, the inter-kingdom negotiations, planning the festivities…why, unless it’s True Love and you two want to rush things, I doubt the wedding will happen before you turn twenty-one.”

“I didn’t say ‘I don’t wish to marry in the next three years’,” Gerald said, forcing himself to keep his voice level even as he balled his hands into fists. “I said, ‘I don’t wish to marry.’ As in, ever.”

But the Queen was no longer listening.

“I really don’t know where we went wrong with you,” she said. “We never had this sort of problem with your older siblings or even your twinling…”

“Don’t call her that,” Gerald snapped. “You know how much I hate that—we’re not twins, we’re not even sort-of twins. We’re half-siblings at best and maybe not even related at all.”

The Queen looked up at the ceiling as if imploring it to give her strength. “Now you’re being deliberately obtuse,” she snapped back. “You know very well that the term ‘twinling’ has been in use for at least a century throughout every single one of the Thousand Kingdoms, and it’s a perfectly apt word. You’re acting like your mum and I made it up to irritate you. You’re acting like a child, Gerald.”

“Isn’t the point of all this that I am a child?” he responded. “Isn’t the entire purpose of this whole charade of rescue and marriage to make me into an adult?”

“It’s hardly a charade. It’s—”

“—a well-respected, long-established tradition to encourage young royals to broaden their horizons, explore more of the Thousand Kingdoms, find love, and forge stronger connections among the Kingdoms, yes, yes, I know,” Gerald interrupted. “I still say it’s a charade. It’s perfectly possible to accomplish all of those goals without forcing every royal into a ridiculous marriage quest the moment they turn eighteen.”

“You seem to be forgetting something very important here, Gerald,” the Queen said calmly.

“What’s that?”

“This isn’t optional.”

“You can’t force me to choose,” Gerald said. “Why can’t you leave me be and let Lila broaden her horizons, explore the Kingdoms, forge alliances, and all that rot? She wants to.”

“You have ten days,” the Queen continued, as if Gerald hadn’t spoken. She turned away without even bothering to dismiss him.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Alex Logan is an asexual, agender librarian from New York state. Always an avid reader, Alex has branched out from reading books to writing them. Alex’s other main interest is soccer, which they enjoy watching, playing, and (of course) reading about.

Website | Twitter

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A Free Dreamer Review: Foreign to You by Jeremy Martin

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

The harmony between humans and fianna, a species of shape-shifting deer, begins to wither as racial tensions and deeply rooted resentment turns violent.

Ruthless hunter Finn Hail and prophesied liberator Adelaide may be heroes to their own species, but they are enemies to each other. With war on the horizon, the reluctant pair must team up to find the most elusive of prey: the god of the Forest.

As enemies press in from all sides, true intentions begin to show. For Finn to save the boy he cares for most, he might need to aim his gun at the very god he seeks. And Adelaide, with her festering hatred for mankind, will have to determine if peace holds true salvation for her people.

First of all, I have no idea why “Foreign to You” is classified as Young Adult. The protagonists are the right age, I guess, but the story itself really has none of the typical young adult themes. It’s a brilliant Fantasy novel for adults, but I wouldn’t sell this as Young Adult.

Also, this is a “Literary/Genre Fiction” title by Nine Star Press, which, in this case, means there’s next to no romance here. And there’s a warning for “scenes of bloody violence and the death of a secondary character”, which should be taken seriously as well. This is not a criticism at all, just letting people know what to expect.

I absolutely loved this book. It reminded me a little bit of “Greenwode” by J. Tullos Henning, mostly because of the Stag God and the important role of the forest in the story. But “Foreign to You” is High Fantasy and has a very different story line.

The writing style was truly poetic. I’m really impressed Jeremy Martin managed to keep it beautiful and natural. A lot of authors have tried and failed spectacularly. But this was simply wonderful and it fit the story perfectly. It did a great job of transporting me to a world that’s completely different to our own.

Shapeshifters aren’t exactly a new thing in fiction, but the author took a very unique approach to it. The world-building was excellent and really conveyed the horror of the shift from deer to human and back. It made me wince and cringe in sympathy. I really don’t think I want to be a Fianna.

The story itself was a very sad one. Finn has a crazy father, a dead mother and was forced to join up with the hunters. My heart really ached for him and his struggles. His grief was utterly heartbreaking to witness.

Of course Adelaide’s life isn’t exactly easy either, she faces a whole different set of problems. She’s the prophesied Maiden, come to save her kind. Too bad she has no idea how she’s supposed to do that. And having a human form isn’t all that great either. I loved how she discovered her human body and had to find new words and meanings for all sorts of things. I could actually relate to the newness of a body that’s so very different from what she’s used to, even though a human body is obviously the only thing I’ve ever had.

I usually don’t like completely evil villains, that have absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever and just exist to make life hell for everybody else. But yet again, the author excelled. Garth doesn’t have a single good cell in his body, but he was still a realistic, believable character with actual depth. The creepy twins he controls are yet another example of the type of villain I usually don’t like, but again, they worked perfectly for the story.

Honestly, “Foreign to You” was such an amazing book, I can’t possibly do it justice here. I can’t believe this is the author’s debut work, it’s incredibly polished and professional. If you like Fantasy and don’t mind your heart being broken, read this book. You won’t regret it. It was one of the first real highlights of my reading year so far.

I love the cover by Natasha Snow. At first glance, it looks beautiful and innocent. But the longer you look at it, the creepier it gets. A true work of art.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book details: ebook, 299 pages

Published February 11th 2019 by NineStar Press