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Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Category: Fantasy

Guest Post – Liquid Cool by Austin Dragon PLUS GIVEAWAY

liquid cool

 

Liquid Cool: The Cyberpunk Detective Series

Science fiction is a popular genre and it has dozens of sub-genres. Cyberpunk is one of them—dystopian fiction succinctly described as “low life meets high tech.” Often, it’s a bleak future involving computers, virtual reality, hackers, and computer-human hybrids. Ironically, the genre came and went back in the 80s, launched by authors such as William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, but books in the sub-genre still sell today. From a literary standpoint, most books that claim to be cyberpunk—are not, and my cyberpunk detective series, Liquid Cool, is no different. For the general public, you say “cyberpunk” and they think of the classic Ridley Scott film Blade Runner or The Matrix.

My reason for creating my Liquid Cool series was quite simple: I wanted to write a fun science fiction series that is ongoing—each novel is a new case for our hero detective. Through it, I can explore a different issue or issues without having to create a whole series. It is the mirror opposite of my After Eden science fiction series, which is not devoid of humor, but it is very much not fun—it is after all the events leading up to, and including, World War III.

Liquid Cool is a wild and crazy detective series with hovercars, cyborgs, two-hundred-plus monolith skyscrapers, and people have not only colonized the moon, but Mars. It is my version of cyberpunk. The original cyberpunk of the 1980s envisioned a future (now) where corporations subplanted governments and ran society—well, we know better now. Despite, the propaganda of some, the exact opposite is true—government is bigger and more intrusive than any could have predicted. However, this science fiction series is set centuries in the future. In the Liquid Cool world, I replace the détente of the U.S. versus the Old Soviet Union, with a détente of governments and megacorporations, with we, the people, caught in between—and then we have the crime world. This is the serious setting of the world of Liquid Cool, but again we have the fun —action, laughs, more action, and more craziness.

Here are some early 5-star reviews:

  • “Lots of shooting, lots of crazy maniacs, lots of action and fun!”
  • “I loved this book. It takes place in the future, and what a weird future.”
  • “A funny, intelligent (and sometimes crazy) main character…playing detective.”
  • “Cool and Smooth.”
  • “I had a hard time putting this book down to do things like sleeping and eating.”

Want a free copy of the prequel? You can get it here. Liquid Cool, Blade Gunner, and NeuroDancer are all out now, too, so prepare to be thrilled with mystery, action, and laughs! But, don’t get shot by a laser-pistol-packing cyber-punk on your way to the digital store. Enjoy!

Let’s not forget this awesome GIVEAWAY! Click here to enter – you can win a Kindle Paperwhite, a Kindle Fire, or a 10-book bundle! Be cool – enter the giveaway!

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Author Bio

Austin Dragon is the author of the epic After Eden Series, the classic Sleepy Hollow Horrors, and the new cyberpunk detective series, Liquid Cool. He is a native New Yorker but has called Los Angeles, California home for more than twenty years. Words to describe him, in no particular order: U.S. Army, English teacher, one-time resident of Paris, political junkie, movie buff, campaign manager and staffer of presidential and gubernatorial campaigns, Fortune 500 corporate recruiter, renaissance man, and dreamer.

 

He is currently working on new books and series in science fiction, fantasy, and classic horror!

 

The Automation by Anonymous

automation

The capital-A Automatons of Greco-Roman myth aren’t clockwork. Their design is much more divine. They’re more intricate than robots or androids or anything else mortal humans could invent. Their windup keys are their human Masters. They aren’t mindless; they have infinite storage space. And, because they have more than one form, they’re more versatile and portable than, say, your cell phone—and much more useful too. The only thing these god-forged beings share in common with those lowercase-A automatons is their pre-programmed existence. They have a function—a function their creator put into place—a function that was questionable from the start…

Odys (no, not short for Odysseus, thank you) finds his hermetic lifestyle falling apart after a stranger commits suicide to free his soul-attached Automaton slave. The humanoid Automaton uses Odys’s soul to “reactivate” herself. Odys must learn to accept that the female Automaton is an extension of his body—that they are the same person—and that her creator-god is forging a new purpose for all with Automatons…

The novel calls itself a “Prose Epic,” but is otherwise a purposeful implosion of literary clichés and gimmicks: A Narrator and an Editor (named Gabbler) frame the novel. Gabbler’s pompous commentary (as footnotes) on the nameless Narrator’s story grounds the novel in reality. Gabbler is a stereotypical academic who likes the story only for its so-called “literary” qualities, but otherwise contradicts the Narrator’s claim that the story is true.
THE AUTOMATION is a this-world fantasy that reboots mythical characters and alchemical concepts. Its ideal place would be on the same bookshelf as Wilson’s ALIF THE UNSEEN and Gaiman’s AMERICAN GODS—though it wouldn’t mind bookending Homer, Virgil, and Milton, to be specific.
And, yes, “B.L.A. and G.B. Gabbler” are really just a pen name.

Thanks to the author for providing this review copy!

THE AUTOMATION will polarize its readers. Those who expect their books to deliver a story with a plot, who enjoy stories and plots, and who believe that novels ought to be constructed of stories and plots – those people will be repelled by THE AUTOMATION. Yes, the book does have a story to tell. There are plot lines. However, the plot lines are layered on top of one-another, and not side-by-side. The “author” is an unreliable narrator named B.L.A.. The story B.L.A. tells is contradicted throughout by annotations provided by an editor named “GB Gabbler,” who invites the reader to doubt the truthfulness of B.L.A.’s story with annotations that correct B.L.A.’s statements. GB often invites the reader to interpret the elements of the story as allegory, as symbolism, as anything but literal.

The two editorial forces at work in this title (both, for clarity’s sake, produced by the same anonymous author), will quickly leave many readers confused. Some will complain that they’ve read 100 pages, and not knowing what the facts are, can’t follow the story. The story itself, however, is not really the point. Just as the automaton around which the story revolves hoists an unfair responsibility on its human, and complicates its human’s ability to reckon with his own identity by complicating his ability to make an account of himself, the editorial voice in THE AUTOMATION hoists the very same responsibility upon its storytelling voice. B.L.A. could not share this story but for the existence of the editor, but this dependence complicates the very act of constructing that story. What the deity is for the humans and their automata, you become for the author and editor.

The point is not for you to enjoy a story. The point is for you to come out the other end of this book finding yourself in a unique position to consider questions about the ethics of editorial authority, the ethics of literary criticism, and the deep connection between our identities and our ability to make an account of our existence, and how that accounting is at the mercy of influences outside of our control. The allegory of author and editor, which asks you to consider that the story itself may be only an allegory, is itself the allegory.

As I suggested before, this book will not be a way for your mind to escape from the rigors of life. If taken seriously, it will thrust your mind more deeply into them, and then far below them, down to where lots of uncomfortable questions linger. The anonymous author leaves it to the reader to answer them.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”0692259716″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here/easyazon_link].

 

Rarity From The Hollow by Robert Eggleton

Rarity Cover with rocket

Lacy Dawn’s father relives the Gulf War, her mother’s teeth are rotting out, and her best friend is murdered by the meanest daddy on Earth. Life in The Hollow isn’t great. But Lacy has one advantage — she’s been befriended by a semi-organic, semi-robot who works with her to cure her parents. He wants something in exchange, though. It’s up to her to save the Universe.
To prepare Lacy for her coming task, she is being schooled daily via direct downloads into her brain. She doesn’t mind saving the universe, but her own family and friends come first.
Will Lacy Dawn’s predisposition, education, and magic be enough for her to save the Universe, Earth, and, most importantly, protect her own family?

Rarity from the Hollow is adult literary science fiction filled with tragedy, comedy and satire. It is a children’s story for adults, not for the prudish, faint of heart, or easily offended.

The original, uncut version is available in all formats and can be ordered from anyplace that sells books. The second edition is scheduled for release on September 30, 2016.

Many thanks to the author for providing this guest post! Here is some important information:

Robert Eggleton has served as a children’s advocate in an impoverished state for over forty years. He is best known for his investigative reports about children’s programs, most of which were published by the West Virginia Supreme Court where he worked from 1982 through 1997, and which also included publication of models of serving disadvantaged and homeless children in the community instead of in large institutions, research into foster care drift involving children bouncing from one home to the next — never finding a permanent loving family, and statistical reports on the occurrence and correlates of child abuse and delinquency.

Today, he is a recently retired children’s psychotherapist from the mental health center in Charleston, West Virginia, where he specialized in helping victims cope with and overcome physical and sexual abuse, and other mental health concerns. Rarity from the Hollow is his debut novel and its release followed publication of three short Lacy Dawn Adventures in magazines: Wingspan Quarterly, Beyond Centauri, and Atomjack Science Fiction. Author proceeds have been donated to a child abuse prevention program operated by Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. http://www.childhswv.org/ Robert continues to write fiction with new adventures based on a protagonist that is a composite character of children that he met when delivering group therapy services. The overall theme of his stories remains victimization to empowerment.

Purchase links:

http://www.amazon.com/Rarity-Hollow-Robert-Eggleton-ebook/dp/B017REIA44/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Rarity-From-Hollow-Robert-Eggleton/dp/1907133062

http://www.doghornpublishing.com/wordpress/books/rarity-from-the-hollow 

Author Contacts:

http://www.lacydawnadventures.com

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13603677-rarity-from-the-hollow 

https://www.facebook.com/robert.eggleton2 

 

Author Interview – The Child Victim in Fiction

I’ve worked in the field of children’s advocacy for over forty years. Last year, I retired from my job as a children’s psychotherapist for an intensive mental health, day treatment program. Many of the kids in the program had been abused, some sexually. Part of my job was to facilitate group therapy sessions.

One day in 2006 during a group therapy session, I was sitting around a table used for written therapeutic exercises, and a little girl with stringy, brown hair sat a few feet away. Instead of just disclosing the horrors of her abuse at the hands of the meanest daddy on Earth, she also spoke of her hopes and dreams for the future: finding a loving family that would protect her.

This girl was inspiring. She got me thinking again about my own hopes and dreams of writing fiction, an aspiration that I’d held since I was twelve years old. My protagonist was born that day – an empowered victim who takes on the evils of the universe: Lacy Dawn. I began to write fiction in the evenings and sometimes went to work the next day without enough sleep. My fantasy of becoming the next Charles Dickens had awakened. Every time that I would feel discouraged, when I felt like giving up, I would imagine Lacy Dawn speaking honestly about the barriers that she faced in pursuit of her dream of finding a permanent and loving home.

Charles Dickens may not have been the first novelist to address the evils of child victimization, but his work has certainly had an impact on the consciousness of us all. Every Christmas, Tiny Tim pulls at our heart strings, now by cable and satellite, and stirs the emotions of masses. In another Dickens novel, after finally getting adopted into a loving home as millions of today’s homeless children also dream about, Oliver eventually made it to Broadway well over a century later. Oliver Twist may be the best example of Dickens’ belief that a novel should do much more than merely entertain, but entertain they did, very well.

My wife and I talked it over and decided that author proceeds, if any, should be donated to the prevention of child abuse. Three short Lacy Dawn Adventures were subsequently published in magazines. Rarity from the Hollow is my debut novel. The second edition is scheduled for release on September 30, 2016. At least half of author proceeds have been donated to Children’s Home Society of West Virginia, a nonprofit child welfare agency where I used to work in the early ‘80s. It was established in 1893 and now serves over 13,000 families and children each year. childhswv.org.

During my career, many emotionally charged situations have tugged my heart strings so hard that child welfare became more than my job, more than a cause. It became a calling. Rarity from the Hollow fictionalized some of my true-life experiences and includes elements of poverty, domestic violence, child maltreatment, substance abuse and mental health problems. I wrote what I know best. My characters are more real than not, even though the backdrop of my stories have been science fiction.

I modeled the flow of stories after a mental health treatment episode: harsh and difficult to read scenes in the beginning are similar to how, in treatment, therapeutic relationships must first be established before very difficult disclosures are made; cathartic and more relaxed scenes in middle chapters as detailed disclosures are less painful; and, increasingly satiric and comical toward the end through an understanding that it is “silly” to live in the past, that demons, no matter how scary, can be evicted, and that nothing controls our lives more so than the decisions that we make ourselves.

When writing Rarity from the Hollow, and I know that this sounds weird, but I imagined victims benefiting from having read a science fiction story. Maybe I was trying to rationalize a balance between these two competing interests – writing fiction and my interests in child welfare. I felt a little guilty about retiring from work. The decision to donate author proceeds to child abuse prevention helped resolve some of my guilty feelings.

In hindsight, maybe my idea that victims of childhood maltreatment could benefit from reading Rarity from the Hollow wasn’t so off-base after all. Six book reviewers have privately disclosed to me that they were victims of childhood maltreatment, like me, and that they had benefited from having read the story. One of them publicly disclosed that she was a survivor of rape as part of her review: “…soon I found myself immersed in the bizarre world… weeping for the victim and standing up to the oppressor…solace and healing in the power of love, laughing at the often comical thoughts… marveling at ancient alien encounters… As a rape survivor… found myself relating easily to Lacy Dawn… style of writing which I would describe as beautifully honest. Rarity from the Hollow is different from anything I have ever read, and in today’s world of cookie-cutter cloned books, that’s pretty refreshing… whimsical and endearing world of Appalachian Science Fiction, taking you on a wild ride you won’t soon forget….” http://kyliejude.com/2015/11/book-review-rarity-from-the-hollow/

I wanted Rarity from the Hollow to be a tribute to the concept of victimization to empowerment. Many abused kids have demonstrated resilience that, for me, has been amazing. I wanted parents who read my story to understand that child victims, more than anything in the world, want to love their parents, and that, while the damage done may not be forgotten or forgiven, that children are strong and can not only survive, but can become empowered.

If you or one of your readers has experienced childhood violence and your emotions are easily triggered, please exercise caution before deciding whether or not to read Rarity from the Hollow. While there is only one violent scene, the third, it is intense and there are mature references in the story. Subsequent chapters become increasingly satiric and comical, and may even seem silly if the political metaphors are missed: “…The author has managed to do what I would have thought impossible; taken serious subjects like poverty, ignorance, abuse, and written about them with tongue-in-cheek humor without trivializing them. In fact, the rustic humor and often graphic language employed by Lacy Dawn and her compatriots only serve to highlight their desperate lives, and their essential toughness and resilience…it’s a funny book that most sci-fi fans will thoroughly enjoy.” http://awesomeindies.net/ai-approved-review-of-rarity-from-the-holly-by-robert-eggleton/

The novel won a second Gold Medal and an excerpt from that review is also apt to the prevention of child abuse: “…Full of cranky characters and crazy situations, Rarity from the Hollow sneaks up you and, before you know it, you are either laughing like crazy or crying in despair, but the one thing you won’t be is unmoved….” https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/rarity-from-the-hollow The intent was to sensitize people to the issue of maltreated children the way that Charles Dickens’ Tiny Tim worked his way into the hearts of millions of fans.

However, if your readers are looking for an exposé or a memoir on child victimization, they may not appreciate this story: “…It is funny and irreverent but beneath the hallucinatory story of visits to shopping planets and interstellar shopping games, there is a profound critique of social problems, substance abuse, child sexual abuse and child murder that is quite eye opening… Rarity from the Hollow is very, very good…I’d recommend Rarity From the Hollow to anybody who likes a side helping of the lunatic with their science fiction and fantasy.” http://www.addictedtomedia.net/2016/03/rarity-from-hollow-robert-eggleton.html

No book is for everybody. If Rarity from the Hollow is not your cup of tea, but you want to help victims of child maltreatment, there are lots of ways to help. It is a world-wide problem that exists in your own community, everybody’s community. For example, there are thousands of underfunded emergency children’s shelters all over the United States. You could send an anonymous gift with a note addressed to the shelter director to give it to a needy child. If it’s clothing, any size will do because maltreatment comes in all colors, shapes, and sizes.

 


Excerpt from RARITY IN THE HOLLOW:

Cozy in Cardboard

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

Nothing’s more important than an education.

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

The nicest thing he’s ever done.

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

All she needs is a little motivation.

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

Please concentrate, Faith. Try this one.

“Armadillo.”

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

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

Lacy Dawn nodded and looked for a new word.

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

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

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

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

At their parents’ insistence each wore play clothing—unisex hand-me-downs that didn’t fit as well as school clothing. They’d been careful not to get

muddy before crawling into the box. They’d not played in the creek and both were cleaner than on the usual evening. The clubhouse floor remained an open invitation to anybody who had the opportunity to consider relief from daily stressors.

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

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

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

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

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

Lacy Dawn sat almost upright because there was not quite enough headroom in the refrigerator box. She scooted the bug out the opening. The clubhouse door faced downhill—the best choice since nothing natural was flat in the hollow. If it had sloped uphill, too much blood in the brain would have been detrimental to studying spelling or any other higher calling like changing Faith’s future. Faith watched the bug attempt re-entry, picked it up, and threw it a yard away into the grass. It didn’t get hurt. Lacy Dawn smiled her approval. The new clubhouse was a sacred place where nothing was supposed to hurt.

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

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

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

“She won’t read it,” Faith said.

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

6

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

“Then pass this spelling test.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I love you,” Faith responded.

“Me too, but spell the word.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I just now figured it out. Sorry.”

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

“You’re complaining again.”

“Oh yeah,” Faith said.

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

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

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

“That joke’s too childish. She won’t laugh. Make 100%. That’s what I want.”

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

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

“A boy? You’ve got a boyfriend?”

“Not exactly,” Lacy Dawn put a finger over her lips to silence Faith. Her father was hooking up a battery charger. She slid down the bank, too.

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

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

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

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

“Where’s he live?”

Lacy Dawn pointed to the sky with her free hand.

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

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

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


Please let me know your thoughts on this powerful, unique story and Robert Eggleton’s mission. These children need your support.

Cast Adrift by Mannah Pierce – Guest Post PLUS excerpt

CastAdrift_FrontCover

 

 

 

Cast Adrift is the first part of a science fiction saga set in an interstellar world of the far future where Earth is merely a myth. Ean is queen of the Willow, a small ship with a Traditional crew who live in space and trade between the stars. Suddenly Tre, the laid back crew enforcer, is demanding that they dash to one system to pick up cabin boys and then divert to another to recruit an adolescent who is utterly unsuited to spacer life. Who is Jax? What is Rae? Why is the most powerful individual in Known Space interested in Kip? Most importantly, what is Tre up to?

 

Many thanks to Publishing Push and Mannah Pierce for this guest post! Here, the author gives us an in depth view of her novel.

    Love between the stars by Mannah Pierce

In my interstellar world of the far future, spacer crews travel along the shipping routes that link occupied solar systems, earning their living by trading.

Most spacers are male, because there are many planets that offer no future to adolescent males with limited education and no connections to the local elite. This means that the majority of spacer crews are all-male.

Faced with this ‘reality’, what would spacer crews be like? As an author, my mind went to similar, Earth-bound, situations: prisons; gangs; schools; the military; Ancient Greeks; the Spartans. Then my mind settled on the crews of the tall sailing ships that crossed the great oceans, including pirates.

Then I took it a step further. For some crews, their spaceship would be their home. They would be true nomads.

In this way, Traditional spacer crews were born.

A Traditional spacer crew is associated with a specific ship. Each ship, in my novel Cast Adrift it is the Willow, has existed for centuries. The components making up the ship have changed, like the individuals making up her crew have come and gone, but the Willow continues. It is like a family home or a genealogical tree.

It is somewhere for those discarded, future-less adolescent males to settle, to belong and to grow.

A ship, a spacer crew, must have a captain. In a Traditional spacer crew the captain must stand apart so that he has authority. Space is intrinsically dangerous. A good captain has to be objective enough to take the hard, split-moment, life-and-death decisions. Captain Mel of the Willow is in his fifties. He has put aside the passions of his youth and stepped up. He knows that Tre picked out the Willow and its crew because of its quality as well as its traditions.

A spacer crew also needs a queen. In everyday matters the queen’s word is law. The queen is the heart of the crew. Ean, the queen of the Willow, is atypical. He is very young. He does not use his looks and his power as weapons. He is subtle, kind, patient and persistent. Tre needed a queen of unparalleled quality and Ean has the potential to be just that.

Conflict between spacer crews has to be managed. When a spaceship is lost, the whole crew dies. Space battles are to be avoided. Traditional crews settle their disputes through ritualised combat. The enforcer of one crew fights the enforcer of the other; hand-to-hand with standard knives as the only weapon. The consequences of victory and defeat are negotiated before the combat begins. Tre is the Willow’s enforcer. As a cyborg, only another cyborg or a highly trained hybrid fighter can defeat him.

Other than the captain, the queen and the enforcer, there is the senior crew. Senior crew members have their knives; they can hold their own in a fight. They fulfil the other roles in the crew: navigator; pilot; engineer; medico; technician; cook. The Willow usually only has a navigator, a pilot and an engineer. Then there are the junior crew; older apprentices who have their knives but are still learning the skills they will need. Finally there are the cats and the cabin boys. Cats should be over fourteen. Cabin boys are between twelve and fourteen. Junior and senior crew members can buy into a crew. Cats and cabin boys are adopted.

I know that some readers baulk at the idea of cats, which is short for catamite. I refer you to those Earth-bound, all-male examples. What would happen when you put a group of human males, mostly in their teens and their twenties, in a metal box (the space ship) with no exits (only vacuum outside) for long periods of time?

The answer is that they would end up having sex with each other; it would happen even if they thought they were heterosexual before they joined the crew.

Traditional crews have rules to manage sex, like they have rules to manage disputes between crews. Joining a spacer crew is like entering into a group marriage. The default setting is that everyone will share sex with everyone else. The exceptions are the captain, who must keep a professional distance, and the cabin boys, because the age of consent among spacers is fourteen.

So far it sounds fair, but in reality that is not always the case. Some members of the crew form stronger relationships, mostly pairs but some trios, and opt out. They announce their exclusive status with love rings. This threatens the cohesion of the crew. The solution is that cats are not allowed to opt out; that way no member of the crew ends up isolated.

Some Traditional crews do not allow love rings and the exclusivity they represent.

Others, like the Willow, protect their cats by restricting the sexual acts they are allowed to perform.

If the Traditional crew is sound, it works. Lost boys join a crew. Cabin boys are cosseted. Cats are loved. They grow up and enter a profession where their backgrounds no longer matter. If space does not kill them, they end up with enough funds to make choices about their future.

And sometime they fall in love.


 

Excerpt from CAST ADRIFT:

Jax had to trot to keep up with his escort. The big man’s stride was smooth and effortless but deceptively quick. Jax recognised it as one of the many features that dissuaded the honourable from challenging and the dishonourable from attacking.

Other, equally intimidating, characteristics were his height, his muscular bulk and the knife scar that ran down his left cheek.

He wondered what the man’s name was. He would not ask, just as he had not asked the other five men who had escorted him over the last three days. They would not remember him; the forgetting pills would see to that.

 

So this was Carrefour Station. Jax recalled the models of spacestations that his tutor had insisted he study. This type of corridor, ten paces wide with its walls lined with advertisements, was typical of throughways in residential sectors. They passed a media screen. On it was displayed the person Jax used to be; a towheaded, green eyed boy in a velvet jacket. It was a shock. None of the simulations had suggested that his uncle would throw the net this wide this soon.

The reward for useful information had been raised to five thousand credits and the cover story of a kidnapping would be more believable out here than at home.

 

Suddenly the corridor was wider and lined with shops. Jax realised that they were closing on their destination; the margins of the spacer quarter were where residents sold and spacers bought. Reflected in one of the shop windows was a small, cloaked figure trotting beside a large spacer. Peering out from inside the hood were dark eyes and Jax could see wisps of brown hair.

His eyes and his hair; his mother had made temporary changes and then reprogrammed his nanobots to maintain them.

He blinked back tears. He would never again hear her voice or feel her touch.

 

There was no time for such sentiment. As his mother had made him promise; he would escape and survive until he could challenge the usurper and reclaim his inheritance.

This day was critical; he had to go through an open recruitment fair and yet end up with the correct crew.

They slowed. The change in pace refocused Jax on his surroundings. The shops had gone, replaced by stalls. Now almost everyone around them was a spacer, identified by their long hair, short jackets and tall boots. Instead of their path being direct, it swerved this way and that; residents scuttled out of a spacer’s way but spacers avoided each other.

Then their route was blocked by people standing with their backs to them; the rear of a crowd.

His escort’s hand grasped his shoulder and pulled him close. It was a shock to be manhandled; Jax had to stop himself twisting away. No one other than his mother, his father or his trainer had been allowed within touching distance for as long as he could remember.

 

The crowd was not uniform; it was made up of groups with gaps between them. Jax realised the groups were crews and that they must weave their way carefully between them. Touching a spacer without permission was dangerous; it could easily precipitate a challenge.

His escort made Jax walk before him, a large hand on either shoulder.

Then they were out the other side of the crowd and into the Killing Square. Jax’s eyes went immediately to the empty floor around the cross.

It was clean; no blood had been shed since it had been scrubbed at station’s dawn.

 

They joined the queue that contained the younger boys; a few were alone but most had adults with them.

These were those wishing to be cabin boys. Most crews did not recruit cabin boys; they were considered more trouble than they were worth. It made more sense to stick to cats, who were bigger, stronger and old enough to help relieve sexual tensions amongst the crew.

That was how his tutor had put it; relieving sexual tensions. The other men in the household had been much blunter; cats sucked rod and, once they were old enough, spread their rear cheeks for anyone who was interested in poking a hole.

Jax would not think about that.  He was pretending to be twelve, which was too young. He would be a cabin boy and not a cat.

 

Two ahead of him in the queue was a very small boy.

“Age?” asked one of the two recruiters seated at the table.

“Twelve,” the boy squeaked.

“Not a chance,” the other man said. “Be off with you.”

“I’m a hybrid,” the boy replied. “It’s not my fault I’m this size.”

 

Jax was intrigued. He had never seen a hybrid close up; his father disapproved of them. He moved so he had a better view between the adults in front of him. The boy did not seem to have a tail, which was a disappointment.

He did, however, have whiskers. He also had fangs, which he was displaying to the recruiters.

“You been tested?” the first recruiter asked.

“No,” the boy admitted, “but I’ve got the fee.”

 

Jax wondered where the boy had got the gold credit that he put on the table. There was a silence; apparently the recruiters were similarly surprised.

“Fine,” the second recruiter decided. “Name?”

“Ray,” the boy replied.

“How do you spell that?” the recruiter asked.

Jax doubted the boy could spell but he answered, “R, A, E,” and the man tapped the information into the tablet strapped to his forearm.

Then the gold credit was exchanged for a token and the boy was directed to one of the booths at the side of the square.

 

The next boy, like Jax, had his test results. The man with him, maybe his father, passed a tape to the first recruiter, who checked it in a portable viewer before taking the boy’s details, giving him a token and directing him to the pen.

They suggested that the adult accompanying the boy wait in the crowd until the end of the fair, which was worrying. Jax had thought the adults handed the boys over and left. Certainly his escort would not stay.

 

Jax was next. His escort pulled down his hood as they reached the table. The two men looked at him with approval, which was more than they had done when faced with the previous two boys.

“Age?”

“Twelve,” Jax answered. Neither man queried it. It was as his mother had said; a well-nourished boy of eleven could easily pass for twelve.

“Name?”

“Jax.”

“Test?”

He handed over the tape and watched, heart thumping, as they checked it. The last thing he wanted was for them to insist on a retest; the data on the tape had been heavily edited.

 

“Fine.” The second recruiter turned his attention to Jax’s escort. “We accept responsibility for the boy Jax until he becomes a member of a certified Traditional crew.”

Jax realised it was a compliment. It meant that they were certain he would be placed with a crew.

Then his escort was gone and Jax was walking towards the indicated pen clutching his token.

 

When he got there he took off his cloak, folded it carefully and strapped it to the outside of his pack. Once he had slung his pack across his back, he stood up straight and risked looking at the crews, hoping that one of the men would give him a signal he recognised.

 

Jax was accustomed to being the sole focus of attention. This time was different. He wished the crews were paying attention to the other boys.

None of the men gathered around the pen, nor any one of those he could see in the crowd, had offered the prearranged signal.

The queens of three of the crews were well into a ruthless negotiation with one of the recruiters over who should claim him. In a bizarre way they reminded him of his mother, which was crazy because they were male and ugly while his mother was female and beautiful.

 

Perhaps not ugly; different. All three were thin. Their long hair was dyed, their jackets embellished and their faces painted. To Jax’s eyes, their pants were too tight, their heels too high and their chests too exposed.

If no one gave the signal, he would end up going with one of these men.

“It’s up to you,” a voice whispered.

It was the hybrid boy. Jax twisted around and looked at him.

“The recruiter gets a cut, so he wants them to bid each other up, but the rules say you choose. That’s why you have the token.”

Jax had forgotten that. He looked back at the three queens. He didn’t want to go with any of them. He scanned the crowd around him, his gaze darted from man to man, hoping to see the signal.

 

Another voice, this time soft and pleasant. “My name is Ean; I am queen of the Willow.”

Jax looked around and up. It was a young man with kind brown eyes.

“What’s your name?”

Jax knew it was in the information on the tablet but the young man, Ean, was not holding one. “Jax,” he replied.

Ean smiled and Jax felt himself smiling back.

“Excuse me,” one of the queens interrupted in a tone that said, “Get away from him.”

The recruiter was beginning to look anxious. “Please stay away from the boys unless you are serious about making an offer.”

Ean turned to face the queens rather than the recruiter. “I am Ean. I am queen of the Willow. We are interested in the boy Jax.”

“You are too late,” one of the other queens hissed.

“Have you registered an interest?” the recruiter asked, much more politely.

 

Someone walked up behind Ean and handed him a tablet. Jax moved a little so he could see better; it was an older man with a captain’s insignia.

“Yes,” Ean replied. He turned back to Jax. “The Willow is a small, strictly Traditional crew. Our song goes back centuries. Over a thousand spacers have begun their new lives with us. With us you will learn what it means to be a spacer.”

“Six thousand credits,” squawked one of the other queens.

The sheer magnitude of the offer stunned the other queens into silence.

Ean recovered first. “It is not about credit,” he continued, still only speaking to Jax. “I know that you get three-quarters of the fee, I know that four and a half thousand credits seems a lot, but what you could get from being cabin boy and cat on the Willow is beyond price.”

One of the other queens snorted with derision and another laughed outright.

 

Jax had already decided. Something had gone wrong. The man he was meant to be meeting was not here. He either chose a crew or walked away with his test tape and his token. The latter was not an option. A boy of eleven would not last a single night in a spacestation without protection.

If he was going with a crew, he preferred Ean’s.

“Can I meet the rest of your crew first?” he asked Ean.

Ean smiled again. “Of course you can.”

 

One of the other queens groaned, turned and walked away. The other two were slower to accept they had lost but they faded into the background when Ean’s crew came to stand around him.

There were Ean, the captain and five others: four with knives and a cat.

Then another man appeared at Ean’s side and, suddenly, Jax could not look anywhere else.

 

He was a cyborg. Jax had been trained to recognise them. What was a cyborg doing spacing? Converting a man into a functional cyborg cost…Jax discovered that he did not know how much; enough that even his father could afford only a few of them.

Then the cyborg’s fingers were moving and Jax recognised the signal.

 

It all fell into place. This was the man: the one his father had ordered to prepare a crew for him; the one who had held him as a newborn and pledged his life to him.

That his father should allocate one of his precious cyborgs to the task was unexpected. Perhaps his father had cared more about him than he had ever shown. Jax’s eyes prickled with tears but he willed them away. He would not cry. Only the weak cried.

 

Ean was introducing the crew. “…Captain Mel. This is Vic, our engineer, Art our navigator, Ben our pilot and this is Cas.” He did not introduce the cat, which Jax recognised as proper space etiquette. Then he turned to the cyborg. “This is Tre.”

Jax held out his token.

“I see you have worked your usual magic, Ean,” the engineer, Vic, commented. He was the oldest other than the captain. Of course the cyborg could be older; if you were paying for cybernetic enhancements you would not skimp on nanobots and age retard.

The captain looked towards the recruiter. “We will give you an honorarium of two hundred credits.”

The recruiter managed to look grateful for the payment, even though it was scant compensation for missing out on over seven times as much commission.

Ean’s fingers closed on the token and Jax gave it to him.

 

It was over. He was safe. Jax had thought he would feel better than this. Instead, he was convinced he had missed something important.

He found himself looking back, toward the hybrid boy. What was his name? Rae.

The boy gave a grin, which showed his fangs and lifted his whiskers.

He seemed more pleased that Jax had found a crew than he was worried about no one showing the least interest in him.

“Is that your friend?” Ean asked.

One of the crew, Jax thought it was Vic, groaned.

“Yes,” Jax heard himself answer, which was weird because he didn’t have any friends. Neither his father nor his mother approved of friendship.

“Ean,” the captain warned.

“But…” Ean began.

“One is more than enough,” Art complained. “Let’s go.”

“Wait,” the cyborg, Tre, ordered. He was looking at the tablet; presumably at Rae’s details. “You, Rae, come here.”

 

Rae came over. Suddenly Jax was aware that the boy was grubby and probably stank. Worse, he was a hybrid. What had possessed Jax to claim him as a friend?

“Put your hands this far apart,” Tre instructed him.

Rae’s whiskers twitched in what Jax guessed was suspicion but he did what he was told.

“I’m going to drop a coin. I want you to catch it. No moving your hands until you see it drop.”

Jax squirmed. It was impossible; Rae was being set up to fail. His hands were too far apart; no one’s reaction time was that good.

 

The coin dropped but there was no clink of the coin on the metal floor. Rae’s left hand had moved so fast that all Jax had seen was a blur.

“By the Lady,” Ben murmured.

“We’ll take this one too,” the captain said immediately.

The recruiter looked over. He obviously had not seen the outcome of Tre’s test. “The hybrid?”

“Rae,” the captain clarified.

 

Rae’s chin came up. “Maybe I don’t want to go with you.”

Ean frowned slightly. “We are a good choice, Rae. If…”

“As if you have anywhere else to go,” Art interrupted, which Jax thought was rude. Ean was queen; Art should be treating him with more respect.

“I’ve survived on my own this long,” Rae replied. “I’ve a choice. It’s up to me.”

“Yes, it is,” the captain agreed.

Rae paused for a moment and then held out his token and the coin to Tre. “I’ll join because you thought I would pass your test. No one ever thought I could do anything before.”

Tre nodded and took both. He handed the token to Ean and the coin back to Rae. “You won it.”

Rae pocketed the coin and grinned.

Jax got his first close-up look at Rae’s fangs. They were long and impressively pointy.

What had he done?

 

Learn more about the author’s imaginary world of the far future at www.mannahpierce.com . Read more about the crew of the Willow in Cast Adrift,  its sequel Foothold and her upcoming novel, Homeward.

Q&A with FAIRMIST author, Todd Fahnestock

Fairmist website

The Debt of the Blessed:

Within the Thiaran Empire, citizens put on jeweled masks and turn away from those who are taken. As long as one child is sacrificed each month to the Slinks and nobody interferes, their society will thrive.

But seventeen-year-old Grei’s mind is alive with treason, and he plunges into the heart of a prophecy that will drive the Slinks back to their fiery dimension. All he must do is travel to the capitol city and sacrifice one last innocent. As Grei wrestles with the prophecy and battles those who would kill him, he hurtles toward his final decision: save the empire, or save his own soul.

 

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GTB was lucky enough to score an exclusive Q&A with author Todd Fahnestock! Here, he talks with us about his latest novel, FAIRMIST.

How did you come up with the idea for Fairmist?

Because of a girl. (Ain’t that always the way?) Back when I thought up the concept for Fairmist, most things were driven by a girl or the thought of a girl. Love lost. Or love that was never had in the first place. Fairmist was about the latter. I was enthralled with this amazing, sensual woman when I was in college. We had a smattering of passionate nights, but never officially dated. And so I thought up the idea: What if this mystical woman really did want to be with me but couldn’t because of a world-destroying prophecy that held her back? No spoilers here, as that’s not how the prophecy ended up working in the later drafts of the novel, but it was what precipitated the story.

 

Why Fairmist? Why not some other book?

The theme of the book is so applicable to our current world. And I love the medium of fantasy to give larger-than-life examples of our modern day troubles. Fairmist is all about lies and deception, and there are so many lies in our society. Some of them we swallow whole without ever questioning them. We accept the reality that is presented to us, go along with it just as long as it’s familiar, even if it’s terrible. It makes me think of that scene from the Batman movie The Dark Knight, where the Joker is talking about how people don’t freak out if things go to plan, even if the plan is horrifying.

 

Tell me about the Ringblades.

The Ringblades were a surprise to me. There is a cadre of swordsmen/policemen in the story called the Highblades that are ubiquitous in the story. Highblades are all men, and one day while rough drafting in my friend’s basement, the Ringblades popped up in the story as a counterpoint to the Highblades: an imperial cadre of assassins who are all women. Initially, I intended them to be cold-hearted and ruthless. In the end, they morphed into this wonderfully vulnerable and utterly badass group who care for each other and believe wholeheartedly in their mission in the world. They became integral to the story.

 

Who was the hardest character to write?

Grei, the protagonist, was by far the most difficult. In the early drafts, the side characters hijacked the novel. They were colorful and compelling and they stole the show. They drove all the action, which caused the novel to sag because the protagonist was just along for the ride. It put me in a pickle that took me fourteen drafts to fix. It was a growth moment for me as a writer. These days, I keep a close eye on my side characters. If they start taking over I either lash them to the novel’s purpose or thrust them into the protagonist role to see how they like it.

 

Who was the easiest character to write?

Blevins leapt off the page from the start. He wrote himself, with his angry, uncaring attitude, his mystery, and his ultra competence. He would be the type of friend that would frustrate me to have, as he’d never commit to helping you with anything, but when you were totally in over your head, he would be the one to save you.

 

Who is your favorite author?

When I was a teenager, all I read was fantasy. Piers Anthony, Terry Brooks and Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman were my favorites. These days, I have favorites for different genres. George R. R. Martin is obviously a master storyteller. I’m in awe of what he has done with Game of Thrones…assuming he brings it to a satisfying conclusion. It is going to be an amazing trick if he pulls all of those epic storylines together. Of course, he might solve that problem by just killing off all the characters until he’s down to one and stick their banner in the Iron Throne. I’d have to say, though, that the writer I admire most right now is John Hart. I enjoyed his first two novels, King of Lies and Down River. They were top notch. But his third novel, The Last Child, transcended the genre. It blew me away. I was in such awe of this masterpiece that I dreaded his fourth novel coming out. I was sure it couldn’t possibly stack up to The Last Child, and I didn’t want John Hart to fall from the pedestal upon which I’d put him. But I was wrong. Iron House was even better. That is an incredible feat to achieve. Now I dread his fifth novel coming out.

 

If you had a million dollars and had to spend it, what would you buy?

Ha ha! Wow. Well, I’m a Dad, so my first thought is to set up robust college funds for my kids. Boring, I know. But that’s what I’d do first. Second, I’d take my wife to a tropical island for a month, if I could pull her away from her job, which she loves. Third, I’d reward my amazing friends for their contributions to Fairmist and my forthcoming middle-grade book, The Wishing World (Starscape, fall of 2016). I’d hire my Creative Diplomat/PR Manager, Jaclyn McDonald, full time and hopefully entice Liana Holmberg, the freelance editor who worked on The Wishing World with me to work on all my projects with me. She’s just flat-out amazing. I attribute the Starscape purchase of The Wishing World directly to her artful handling of me and my writing. I’m a writer who needs an editor, and editors who can provide Liana’s kind of creative, novel-elevating work are rare.

So where does that put us? That’s half a million at most. I can’t put any in the bank? I think then I’d buy an enormous house in the mountains and rent our current house for an alternate stream of income. Then I’d buy a 1969 Camaro because I’ve always wanted one.

 

Where do you get your ideas?

These days, many of them come from my children. My upcoming middle-grade novel, The Wishing World, comes straight from them, either from my inspiration just watching and interacting with them, or actually from the ideas they have contributed to the story. They’re both insanely creative, and it makes me grin every day. Also, I watch a lot of movies and almost always go off into a daydream when something vivid strikes me. I’ll sit there in the movie theater creating a different story idea or a powerful scene in a book while I’m watching the movie’s story play out on the screen.

 

Describe a writing routine.

My ideal writing routine: Get up, go for a 5 mile run. Shower. Rough draft for four hours per day for four days each week, generating 1,000 to 3,000 words each day. Aim to have 10,000 each week. On the fifth day, do marketing, correspondence, etc. Book signings or conferences on Saturday. Writers group and more rough drafting on Sunday.

My actual writing routine: Get up, sometimes go for a 3 mile run. Get back, think about writing. Shower. Go to work. Come home at 5:30. Go to Tae Kwon Do. Eat. Argue with children about homework. Put them to bed. Put myself to sleep watching The Big Bang Theory or Agents of Shield, Jessica Jones or Daredevil, or any of the amazing Marvel movies. Get up in the morning and wonder when I’m going to write. Reach the weekend with a gasp and start writing at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday. Have a flurry of rough drafting and cap off the weekend with 5,000 words. I’m fortunate to be prolific, otherwise I could never do this, have a day job, be a father and stay sane. (The sanity thing, of course, is still in question).

 

What are you working on next?

The Wishing World will come out from Starscape Books this fall, and I’m super-excited about it. It’s a middle-grade novel about a whimsical, imaginative world where children transform into their ideal hero. The main character, Lorelei, is based on my daughter and her voice just flows out. She’s driven, snarky and hilarious. When I go back over the story for editing purposes or just to review, I’ll bust out laughing at things she says. I love Lorelei. I can’t wait for the world to meet her.

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Thanks to Todd Fahnestock for an awesome interview! Check out his website!

Want your own copy of FAIRMIST? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”B00T0GQ64Y” locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

Daimones (Daimones Trilogy, Vol. 1) by Massimo Marino

 

daimones

“Nothing prepared us for the last day.”

Death has swept away the lives of billions of people, but Dan and his family were spared. By whom, and why?
Surviving, to give meaning to their lives, and looking for other survivors lead Dan to discover the truth about the extermination of the human race.
The encounter with Laura, a young and sexy girl of Italian origin, raises ethical and moral questions that had never touched the Amentas family before.
Other survivors force Dan to confront his past to find answers to the many questions.
The past and the present come together and upset the fragile balance, physical and mental, which allowed the Amentas to find a new meaning to their existence.
Dan discovers his final role in a plan with a million years of roots, and survivors have to choose a future that has no past, or remain in a past with no future.

Many thanks to the author for gifting me this book in exchange for a review.

DAIMONES is unusual because it’s a thinking man’s science fiction story. The plot is familiar; aliens annhilating the population of Earth, save a few chosen ones. The difference here is that the main characters realize the implications of why it occurred and understand that they need to adapt.

Marino’s writing style is descriptive and puts you directly into the deserted world. Familiar landmarks such as the CERN building fall silent as they are devoid of human life. Nature slowly takes over, as weeds and animal life proliferate, even as Dan and his family despair of ever coming in contact with another human.

This strength is also his weakness. In Book One, most of the first half is taken up by more of the same: empty malls, stores, roads without traffic, and many conversations between the survivors about “why did this happen” and “what can we do”. I grew weary of the minimal action and navel gazing. Yes, it is an apocalyptic event, but the pace was quite slow until Laura was discovered and welcomed into the family. Perhaps Marino spent so much detail on the abandoned Earth because he really wanted to drive the point home of how it would be if everyone vanished. He firmly establishes the POV of the novel as a lonely, eerie, and hushed place to be. The world struck dumb is not an easy thing to imagine, especially if you live in a crowded area. As I read, I certainly felt the sense of alone-ness growing around me, as I simultaneously felt cut off from the planet yet annoyed that the book wasn’t moving forward fast enough for me.

When things do start happening, everything speeds up all at once. Dan and his wife encounter a moral dilemma, daughter Annah is going through her young adult years realizing she may never have someone to love, and Dan starts to experience vague “feelings” that they are not alone anymore. Annah’s plight resonated deeply with me; I can’t even imagine being a teen, cut off from friends and Facebook, wondering if the future holds anything promising. Excellent touch by the author!

The final section of the book is where Marino uses his alien characters to wax poetic about the future of the Earth and its population. One speech in particular is a kind of soapbox that will resonate with those who care about the prevalence of man’s hubris and over-reaching grasp. The cause of the mass kill off is explained, with the caveat that it can be prevented again with the proper actions. I liked how history was tied in with the narrative; it made it believeable  and relevant.

DAIMONES is not a book to quickly read and put aside. The author wants to call attention to man’s actions and reactions, and the effects they have upon our life. Those readers who like a little brain stimulation with their sci-fi will have something to ponder as they get through this book.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”B0134E5Q0M” locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alice of the Rocks by E. Graziani PLUS GIVEAWAY!

 

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“Promise that you will come back.”

Born in 1495 and raised in 2012, Alice Ferro’s life has been anything but normal. The only problem is, she doesn’t know it. As a 17-year-old in 2029, she has an ideal life, complete with loving parents, the latest technical gadgets, and a summer vacation in Italy. Upon arriving in Florence, sensations of surreal memories begin to surface, leaving her puzzled and confused.

Knowing that reconnecting with his lost love could be dangerous for both of them, but willing to take the risk, Claudio Moro seeks out Alice in her new world. His very existence in 1512 is at stake! Having been accused of both treason and murder, he needs Alice to help clear his name and redeem his family’s honour. The question is, will Alice remember their love and care enough to leave her perfect future to redirect his doomed past?

 

 

Many thanks to the author for gifting me this book for an honest review and a giveaway. The link to enter the giveaway is at the bottom of this post.

ALICE OF THE ROCKS is many books at once: it’s a romance novel with time travel, with some history and suspense thrown in for good measure. We are thrown into the world of Leonardo Da Vinci and the grasping and evil Medici empire, mixed with present day Italy as Alice enjoys a summer vacation. The two worlds collide when Alice becomes enamored of a hotel employee. Her strong feelings confuse her, and when she learns she is just a scullery maid, running for her life in 1512, she is forced to make a decision that will not only affect her, but many other lives–both in 2029 AND in 1512. Lots of responsibility for a teenage girl!

Alice is mature for her age, even as she is thinking about where to go to college and how to tell her guy back home the relationship isn’t doing anything for her. All she’s trying to do is enjoy her time in Italy this summer with her parents and aunt and uncle. When she meets a boy her own age, and she starts feeling deja vu, she wonders what is happening. They get a bit closer, and promise to spend more time together. As she and the handsome Claudio tour Italy and see the sights, the truth becomes revealed to her slowly, and she is then given an opportunity to set things right in 1515.

The character of Alice is a strong one, and I enjoyed that. She is a girl with emotions, yes, but she is also imbued with a sense of responsibility and the desire to consider other’s feelings as well. She’snot your typical spoiled rich girl. In fact, her sense of justice is what makes the ending of this book so heart rending. The author paints a picture of two star crossed lovers, with time running out on them (both in the past and in the present). The emotion between them is strong, yet chaste–there are no awkward scenes between them to slow the action down.

Graziani’s knowledge and description of Italy, then and now, is superb. I could see the countryside before me, smell the air, taste the wine. She outdoes herself with the story of Da Vinci and Claudio Moro—there is intrigue, lust, and gossip going on behind those castle walls! Claudio’s relationship with his mother is delightfully familiar, and the manipulative Clarice is well written. She is my favorite “evil” ingenue.

The story moves back and forth from the past to the present, and after a few chapters I found the transition to be fluid and appropriate. The story builds and builds, and then at last Alice is empowered to make things happen. Time seems to speed up, and the suspense and action multiplies. This is the bast part of the book, when things come together and then the ending is dropped on you like a ton of bricks.

The author told me she is working on a sequel–and I’m happy to hear that. I really need to know what the future holds for Alice!

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”B00NMNQNOO” locale=”US” nw=”y” nf=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

Here is the link to the giveaway: there is a signed hard copy and an ePub version–so–TWO winners for this one! Good  luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goddess by Callista Hunter

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Olivia is a sixteen-year-old Vestal Virgin, a happy devotee of her beloved goddess Vesta in her home nation of Parcae. But when her faith in Vesta is shaken, Olivia illegally experiments with her own divine power, making a discovery that could save her country from war – if she’s brave enough to share it.

After an accidental revelation proves Vesta is fake, Olivia and her fellow Virgins are tempted by a charismatic academy boy, Cassius, to invoke the real gods. Although they risk death if they are discovered, Olivia and her friends test their skills in secret experiments. But their games take an unexpected turn when flighty blonde Lucia reveals surprisingly deadly powers.

Gaius, a brilliant military student, must protect the girls and plan for war against an enemy nation while ignoring his growing attachment to Olivia. As a Vestal Virgin she has taken a holy vow of chastity, and the consequences of breaking it are severe…

 

I received this book from the author in exchange for this honest review.

The plot is fairly simple, with a crisis of faith coming in the early chapters. Apparently the flame of Vesta is encouraged to burn with the addition of lamp oil. This upsets Olivia, and her friends Cassius and Gaius try to soothe her mind. One of the things they do is get her involved in a secret project: invoking the gods (which is illegal for women) to make plants grow taller. Lucia, Olivia’s schoolmate, proves to be a natural, and this sets the course for the girls to help aid the army against invaders. There is family drama, teenage crushes, and lots of chatter between Oliva, Lucia, and Marta, a third classmate who seems to be cranky all of the time.

The writing is wonderfully descriptive, with details like clothing and living arrangements artfully detailed. Conversations between the teenagers sound correct, and Olivia’s crisis of faith is handled well. The only thing I had an issue with, and it may be my own, is manipulating my mindset to believe that these girls could summon up gods like Neptune and Diana to do their bidding. There is plenty of Latin phrases and some animal sacrifices as well, (no gore!) to set the tone, but I did have a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that some of the girls could do it and the men could not. There is much talk of “summoning the gods” by the men, but no information on whether it worked every time or not.

The three Vestal Virgins discover more about themselves and their character as their country goes to war and they come under fire for being allowed to develop power and independence. I did like the fact that there were strong female characters that didn’t have their head in the clouds all the time, dreaming about a husband. Heck–these girls are VIRGINS–there’s no  way for them to even GET a husband without being “bought out” of the cult of Vesta; and the price is so high that it almost never happens.

There are a few twists at the end, and I was encouraged to find that the girls weren’t content to put their head back in the sand once the war came to an end. I’d love to read more about Olivia and Lucia. Their friendship grew stronger as the book went on, and by the end, all five characters were tightly bonded. The author could definitely make this a series, bringing some of the lesser characters to the front so we could learn more about them. Perhaps a prequel with a backstory of Olivia and her brother might be in order.

If you are a YA fan that also loves an ancient Roman setting, you will delight in this easy and uplifting read. Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link asin=”B00S6T3E50″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”yes” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]here[/easyazon_link].

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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