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Tag: science fiction (page 1 of 2)

After The Bubbles by Susan Berliner

One touch and you’re dead…

One minute, Erin Fredericks is daydreaming in geometry class. The next minute, she’s running for her life. Oddly shaped bubbles are falling from the sky all over the world, transforming everyone who comes into contact with them into extraordinary beings that are no longer human. And these monsters want to kill people, which they can do just by touching them.
Phone systems in the United States immediately fail, followed soon after by the collapse of the power grid. With communication impossible, society disintegrates into chaos as bubble-generated monsters prowl the streets, searching for human prey.
Erin, her family, and her neighbors are trapped in their houses by Cyndy Louise, one of the evolving creatures Erin calls “touchers.” As the situation worsens, Erin and the remaining residents of Walnut Lane—along with a handsome young stranger—must fight for their food, their homes, and their very lives. Facing a seemingly invincible foe, how will they manage to survive?

Many thanks to the author for this ARC!

AFTER THE BUBBLES has a unique science fiction flair to it. A quiet town is disrupted by floating bubbles that transform people into zombie-like creatures with a deadly secret – they can kill merely by touch. This twist provided a spine-chilling effect, sort of like a game of tag where you are no longer “it”, but “dead”. Think about all the close calls the characters have, doing their best to avoid the slightest pressure of the fingertips of these creatures.

Erin Fredericks and her family become trapped inside their house by a neighbor girl that was transformed into a zombie (or Toucher, as Erin names them). She marches up and down the block, effectively jailing people inside their homes. The only thing that affects Touchers is water – so when it rains the prisoners are happy to leave their house and seek food and other human interaction.

As Erin and her other neighbors explore their town, there is a great post-apocalyptic feel to the surroundings – there are dead bodies strewn about in the supermarket, starving dogs roam the streets, and houses are eerily devoid of occupants. Multiple Touchers attempt to stop Erin and the others from finding food or seeking other human contact. As the book progresses, the Touchers get smarter and stronger. The author does an excellent job of conveying the characters’ frustration of being cooped up inside the house, waiting for a rainy day so they can move about freely.

AFTER THE BUBBLES is written in a slightly different style than the author’s other books. It has a slightly YA flair to it, yet it will appeal to readers of all ages. Teen readers will especially identify with Erin’s melancholy, as she wonders if she will ever have a boyfriend or be able to hang out with girls her own age again. Her brother is too young to worry about anything other than video games, while Erin is of an age where she is thinking about more adult things.

The book’s story line alternates between suspense, as Touchers are dealt with, and waiting for rain. I felt that the book could have been trimmed down a bit by eliminating some of those scenes, since there were more than enough passages that conveyed that illustrated the plight of Erin and her family. That is the only issue I had while reading. Otherwise, I was engaged with the characters and hoped they would escape unscathed. The cover states that this story is “Book One” so I know there is more action to come in the future. I will definitely be looking for the second book in the series to find out what happened!

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

 

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!

R-Austin Dragon-_15 small

 

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!

 

MoonDust: Falling From Grace by Ton Inktail

moon-dust

Imogene never planned to become a lunar commando. Not before her ex broke her heart and left her jobless. Now she’d better learn fast.

Descended from animal-human hybrids built for war, combat should be in the young caribou’s genes. While Imogene is determined to master the moon’s harsh battlefield, war clouds are brewing on the planet below, and once the storm breaks no training can ever be enough.

A soldier’s first duty is to her country, but when black and white fade to dusty gray, the lines between friend and foe blur. As everything Imogene ever believed in crumbles, she must decide if some orders should never be obeyed.

 

Thanks to the author for gifting me this book in exchange for a review!

Part of the fun of being a reviewer is that I get exposure to books I never would have thought existed. MOONDUST is one of those books. The genre is called “Fuzzy Science Fiction” and deals with sentient, English speaking animals as main characters.

The main character is a transgenic caribou named Imogene, who finishes one stint in the military and re-enlists because she feels out of place at home. Imogene is extremely well developed and easy to become invested in. If it were not for the author’s noting of an ear flick, or a tapping hoof, I would have considered these characters fully human. I do wonder, however, if that is all you need to do for fuzzy fiction: switch one appendage for another and make mention of the species when the character first appears. In any case, I did enjoy reading about caribou and pandas, leopards and Labradors all playing together nicely. Well, almost. There is some rivalry between Imogene and another female due to the fact they are both crushing on the same guy, and there are some ethnic slurs pointed at the panda because his race is part of the creatures waging the war that is being fought.

The plot is extreme scifi/military fiction, which made things drag a bit for me. There is a lot of action and we see the characters being put in scary situations on the Moon, where they are fighting their battles. Animals get hurt, they die, the wonder at the futility of war just like humans do.

For anyone who loves military action, they will get a lot of enjoyment from MOONDUST. The science fiction is well written – I especially liked the scenes on the rocket as they were getting sent up to the Moon. Imogene’s thoughts and fears are those of Everyman and I could easily identify with them. As she was strapped in, preparing for takeoff, making nervous chatter with the soldier next to her – it all made sense to me, regardless of the fact that she was a fuzzy warrior.

The writing is smooth, with no awkwardness or loose ends. There are many plot twists and at times I wished the pace would have been quicker; but then again the author captures military life accurately with the alternating boredom and panic.

This was a fun departure for me, with the best part reading how these animals express themselves, with a wrinkle of a muzzle or a flick of a whisker. Excellent details that brought my senses back to the anthropomorphic characters!

Do the bad guys win? How many of Imogene’s crew perishes in battle? Is this a series? As usual, no spoilers here. Read it yourself – you can pick up your copy [easyazon_link identifier=”B018UTIBBM” 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.

CRIMINAL Excerpt/Author Interview/Giveaway!!!

Criminal-Low-Res-Cover

Following the horrors she discovered in the basement of Sanctuary at the end of Breeder, there is no longer any doubt in Pria’s mind that the Unified World Order is wicked. But convincing the rest of the world will be another story. When it’s revealed the files she’d stolen from Sanctuary are worthless, Pria and the other Free Patriots must scramble to come up with another way to convince everyone to rise up in open revolution before the UWO’s monsters destroy them all. But Pria’s tenuous grasp of human nature complicates her role in the rebellion as she finds herself torn between Pax, her ever-present protector, and Henri, her good-natured friend.

A new scheme to infiltrate the seemingly impregnable UWO machine places Pria once again at the centre of the plan. This time, though, she must be willing to erase her identity, It’s a sacrifice she thinks she’s ready to make, but she has no idea just how difficult it will be.

 

Welcome to the GTB blog tour of CRIMINAL by KB Hoyle. The title is actually an acrostic:

C is for Commune. Pria and some others go on a mission to Denver Commune.

R is for Remembrance. Pria struggles to remember who she is.

I is for Incriminating evidence. Pax goes to trial and Etienne stand trial.

M is for Making a move. The Free Patriots decide to make their move against the UWO.

I is for Illness. Pax hides a mystery illness.

N is for New friends. Pria makes a couple of new friends at Asylum.

A is for Awkward romantic tension between Pria and Pax, and Pria and Henri.

L is for Love. Pria learns what love is.


 

Here is an exclusive excerpt:

I wake confused and chilled to the bone. My blankets have slid to the floor off the side of the bed, and the air in the cave feels like it’s dropped ten degrees since the day before. I scoot to the edge of the bed to try to retrieve my blankets, but I hear a gravelly voice say, “I’ll get them. Don’t move.”

A moment later, Henri spreads them back over me, and I smile in gratitude. The lights are dim and everything is quiet, but I hear soft breathing on my other side as well. I look over to see Pax, fast asleep. They’ve both stayed the night.

“How are you feeling?” Henri asks in the same gravelly whisper. “Need more pain medication?”

“No,” I whisper back. Whatever they gave me, it must have been strong. I can feel only a dull ache beneath the fresh wrappings on my thigh and wrist. “What time is it?”

“Almost morning.” Henri rubs a hand over my buzzed hair. A smile tugs at the corners of his mouth. “You’re almost as bald as I am,” he says. “Still beautiful, though.” He leans down and presses his lips to my forehead.

I’m too stunned to say anything, but I shrink back slightly, into my pillow. His familiarity confuses me, sets me on edge, even as it also spreads warmth through me. I glance over at Pax, prompting Henri to do the same. He straightens and, without another word, returns to his chair. It’s identical to the one Pax is slumped in, asleep with his hand on his forehead.

I try to turn over onto my side and find I can’t. Movement in my injured leg is restricted and painful. I sigh in frustration. My back hurts from lying in one position for too long, and I’m certain I won’t be able to fall back asleep.

Henri said it’s almost morning. What will the morning hold? Release from the infirmary, hopefully. Holly’s test before Luther? Probably. If he didn’t see to that last night while I slept. I wonder if he’ll want Pax and me to participate in her interrogation.

I’m surprised Luther hasn’t come to see me yet. I would think he’d be interested in the intelligence he sent me into Sanctuary to retrieve. Maybe he’s too distracted with the files transferred via the hack.

Someone pushes a cart past the curtain of my room, and the wheels clatter over the uneven rocky floor. All I can see of it are the glinting silver spokes. Who else is here, injured, with me? What do these people do all the time?

It strikes me how little I actually know about the people with whom I’ve chosen to identify.

“Henri?” I whisper. “Are you still awake?”

“Hmmm.” He sounds just barely so.

“Did Holly get her wrist treated last night? She’s not in a holding cell, is she?”

“Probably, yeah. But don’t worry. They’ll have taken care of her wrist.”

I chew my lip, thinking, remembering what it was like for me when I first left Sanctuary. “She’s going to be confused, you know . . . scared. I hope I can see her today.”

There’s a rustle of clothing as Henri leans forward. “What makes you think you can trust her, Pria? Isn’t it kind of convenient that she just showed up right before you fled Sanctuary? How do you know she’s not a spy for the UWO?”

I wrinkle my nose. “Don’t do that.”

“Do what?”

“Try to make me doubt her. You weren’t there when we were trying to escape. I think she’s telling the truth.”

“If she’s not, we’re all screwed. There are any number of ways she could lead them right to us, and we’d never know it.”

“Stop.” I put my hands over my eyes. “You sound like Etienne.”

Another rustle of clothing and I feel Henri’s shadow fall over me. Then his cold hands touch mine, prying them away from my face. “Look at me, Pria.”

“No!” I struggle, but I don’t know why.

“Look at me!”

He wrenches my arms apart, and for a moment all I see is Henri’s friendly face twisted into an ugly grimace. Then he turns his head, and the dim light glints off a spot of gold in his ear.

Etienne.

I shriek and flail, but he’s holding my arms too tight for me to get away. I fling my head to the side, looking for Pax, but his chair is empty. The chill in the cave bites my skin, which is exposed. I’m dressed in only my undergarments.

“You can’t smuggle a bomb in here without my knowing it. There’s one easy way to find out if you’re a spy.” Etienne pins both my arms above my head with one hand and takes up a scalpel in the other. “I just have to perform a quick procedure.”

He draws the blade down my stomach, and the skin springs apart like a severed wire. The pain is excruciating, unbearable, beyond articulation. I watch in horror as he flings the blade aside, sending flecks of my blood flying across the room, and then digs his hand into the incision. He retracts his hand a moment later, holding a fist-sized metal contraption.

“See?” he shouts. “It’s a bomb! You were going to blow us all up!”

“No! I swear!”

A switch on the side of the bomb ticks up, and red lights start to blink. Faster, and faster, and faster.

“Now we’re all going to die,” Etienne says.

I scream. 


 

Below is an interview with the author, and at the end of the post there is a link to a GIVEAWAY!

kb_hoyle

 

 

 

 

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? 

There are several messages, really, in Criminal, that I want my readers to grasp, but as an author, I never want the message to overtake the primary function of the novel—which is to entertain the reader. So obviously first and foremost, I want to just tell a good story, and for my reader to be carried along by the story and to have a good time reading it. As far as the message/messages go, I’d say the primary one in Criminal has to do with identity. I sought to answer the question of what makes us human? The main character, Pria, is faced with this question over and over in the story, even to the point where, by the end, her entire reality is shaken by some presuppositions she has about this question. Pria has to discover her personal identity, but she also has to figure out what she believes about the identity of others, and what that means about the human race and her part in the rebellion against the Unified World Order. These are big issues, and things I think we should all think about, even though we’re not living in a dystopian society.

 

How much of the book is realistic? 

I’d say this book is about 50% realistic. Obviously all the characters and the plot are fictionalized (and the concept of the Golems), but I base my settings and my conceptions of the future society off research I did into real technologies, conspiracy theories, my own knowledge of Denver and its surrounding areas, and just basic knowledge of human nature and my thoughts on future trends in society. I could see some of the sorts of things I write about coming to pass. Actually, some of the things I have written about in my books have come to pass already in the years since I started researching them. It’s a little frightening.

 

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book? 

This is a difficult question! Because by the time you get a book all the way to publication—especially when it has taken a long time (as this book has)—you tend not to wish that you could go back and change things. And my editing team does such a fantastic job of helping me tweak things. Hmmm. I guess, maybe, if I could go back, I would make the first act of the book a little shorter (so as to get to the main action faster), and the last act longer (so as to draw out the finale).

 

Can you share a little of “Criminal” with us? 

Here’s a short excerpt from what was one of my absolute favorite scenes to write. It falls about mid-story, and I won’t say too much so as not to spoil things, but this is a scene where Pria and Pax and some others from the rebel Nest Asylum are being attacked by Golems. It’s absolute chaos, and in the midst of it all, Pax and Pria get separated from the others. 

My spine grates over hard rock, and then my breath whooshes out of me as we leave the ground. For a moment, I think a Golem has lifted us, but then I hit a patch of gravel, hard, and my head cracks against a stone. With Pax on top of me, I can hardly breathe, and starbursts fill my vision.

The forest lights up with more starbursts and the zip-zip-zip of energy guns.

“Pria!” Pax slaps my cheek. He rolls off me, and I can breathe again. “Are you hurt? Can you hear me?”

The trees are lighting up. It’s beautiful.

“Pria!”

I cough and rake air into my lungs. I cough again and nod. Nodding hurts.

Aircraft circle above the trees like birds of prey, firing down on the Golems. One flies low, and a Golem snatches it out of the air. With a roar and a vicious shake, it flings the craft to the ground. The craft explodes, and bits of burning metal and flesh scatter, some of it reaching Pax and me where we lie just below a shelf of rock. I raise my arms to cover my face, but Pax leans over me, taking the brunt of it. A piece of something red-hot lands on my calf, and I kick it off.

More shots echo through the woods, followed by bellows and crashes. The Golems are being taken out.

I struggle to sit up, and Pax pulls me to his chest. “It will be over soon,” he says in my ear. He sounds so assured.

 

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? 

I used to find it challenging to discipline myself to do the planning and research I needed to work out a novel before I started writing it, so that would have been my old answer to this question, but I’ve progressed enough in my career now (I’ve written 9 novels—8 published and 1 on deck) that I’ve found my writing rhythm. I know the drill. I know how to research and outline and plan. I actually really relish all those steps. And I know when to start writing. All of that is, quite frankly, more or less easy. What is particularly challenging is my schedule—finding the time and just fighting exhaustion to get it all done. With four small children to mother (all boys and all 9 and under), a day job as a teacher, my website and social media platforms to manage, trips and speaking engagements to manage, my house to (attempt to) keep clean, meals to cook, and just all the regular things in life to get around to, the challenges I face are never (or rarely) IN the actual writing. The challenges are external to the writing, but they affect the writing. Finding the right balance where I can get all the work done and still get sleep and maintain healthy relationships and good health is difficult.

 

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing “Criminal” to life?

Aside from the external challenges mentioned above, I didn’t have too many of these challenges in bringing Criminal to life. It did take me much longer to write Criminal than it usually takes me to write a book, but that’s because I had just had a baby and was nursing at the time. I also battled a bout of post-partum depression while trying to write the book, which didn’t help me to be very productive, but on the other hand, staying actively engaged in a creative project was good for me at the time in battling depression. I didn’t have too much extra research to do because I was just building on the research and world-building I had already done for Breeder. I’d spent about three years prepping this whole series, The Breeder Cycle, so writing Criminal was really just a matter of going back to my notes and making sure I was still on track and following the plan.


Click the link below to be entered in the GIVEAWAY! One lucky reader will win a print copy of Criminal and Breeder by K.B. Hoyle!! Good luck!

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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.

Pale Highway by Nicholas Conley

pale highway

Gabriel Schist is spending his remaining years at Bright New Day, a nursing home. He once won the Nobel Prize for inventing a vaccine for AIDS. But now, he has Alzheimer’s, and his mind is slowly slipping away.

When one of the residents comes down with a horrific virus, Gabriel realizes that he is the only one who can find a cure. Encouraged by Victor, an odd stranger, he convinces the administrator to allow him to study the virus. Soon, reality begins to shift, and Gabriel’s hallucinations interfere with his work.

As the death count mounts, Gabriel is in a race against the clock and his own mind. Can he find a cure before his brain deteriorates past the point of no return?

Thanks to the author for gifting me this book in exchange for a review!

This book was suggested to me as a combination of science fiction, surreal fantasy, and a literary commentary on aging. I can confidently say it covers all these genres and more.

What struck me first was the author’s adeptness in bringing the reader into the mind of an Alzheimer’s sufferer. Gabriel Schist, the main character, is frustrated with his lack of ability to remember simple things and care for himself. The utter lack of dignity and sense of self is explained beautifully by Conley, with poignant episodes showing Schist how helpless and dependent he is. His painful legs, his incontinence (he tries to hide it out of embarrassment) and photographs with names underneath them (so he can remember who they are) illustrate what an insidious disease Alzheimer’s is. He has flashes of brilliance, followed by blank moments where he wonders where he is and what day it is. Schist calms himself during these episodes by reciting the Fibonacci sequence, something I found oddly endearing and apropos to his backstory as a Nobel Prize winner.

We learn more about the younger Schist through chapters that highlight his days before he got into the nursing home. He is a flawed man with a kind and generous, if not stubborn, nature. He persists in his field, immunology, and eventually discovers a cure for AIDS. Suddenly the residents in his nursing home become ill with a horrific virus and he takes it upon himself to find a cure.

This is where the book turns into science fiction and surreal fantasy. Talking slugs, mysterious new residents in the nursing home, and black vomit with creatures crawling out of it are the norm. Schist isn’t sure if he’s finally gone over the edge  or not, and his kind and persistent personality demands that he try to save those who are suffering.

The old immunologist is a very sympathetic character. More than once he wishes for death to come and relieve his suffering. I couldn’t help but think of all the elderly in nursing homes, having the same thoughts, with no one to care for them or love them. The author has personal experience, having worked in a nursing home, and this is where he shines: showing younger people with healthy minds what it must be like to lose your sense of self and be betrayed by your mind.

As the talking slugs became more central to the story I cringed, hoping they were a hallucination. To me, it was a harsh transition from the familiarity of the nursing home. The final part of the story crashed full on into surrealness and wild action, with Schist willing to sacrifice his life to save the world. No spoilers here, as always –  read the book!

Conley does an excellent job with elements from multiple genres, as I mentioned before. There is something for everyone in PALE HIGHWAY, and it will absolutely leave you with sadness and respect for those abandoned in nursing homes.

Curious about those talking slugs? Want to know why everyone was vomiting black stuff? You can pick up your copy of PALE HIGHWAY [easyazon_link identifier=”1940215536″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

Q&A with Johan Twiss, author of I AM SLEEPLESS

I-AM-SLEEPLESS-SIM-299-smal

While the others slept, Aidan spent hours each night running sim after sim. Although he was only a twelve-year cadet, he had completed more simulations than any prime— ever.
“You are setting history,” General Estrago told him. “No one has ever made it to the current simulation you are attempting. The other Masters and I are eager to see what comes next.”
So was Aidan.

The planet Ethos is at war with a mysterious enemy known as the Splicers. Their only successful defense is the Prime Initiative. All newborns with the compatible genetic code are taken from their families and injected with the Prime Stimulus. Each child that survives the stimulus develops an extraordinary ability and is conscripted into the military for training.

After turning twelve, Aidan is moved to the upper-class at the Mount Fegorio training complex. His special gifts allow him unprecedented success in the virtual training simulations, advancing him further than any prime cadet in history. No one knows what lies after sim 299, not even Director Tuskin, the ruthless and reclusive ruler of their planet. But something, or someone, has been guiding Aidan there. If he can pass the final tests, he may discover the key to ending the Splicer War.

 

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We had the honor of speaking with author Johan Twiss about his new book, I AM SLEEPLESS. In this post he answers a few questions about himself and his work.

Johan Twiss - John Burger

 

 

 

 

Where did you get the idea for this book? (I AM SLEEPLESS: SIM 299)
Most of my book ideas come from dreams I have at night, which are a mashup of events that happen in my daily life combined with the books, shows and media I take in. So basically, my dreams are about me being a super hero and so are my books.

For I Am Sleepless, I had a dream about kids with super powers, but they had physical handicaps. Around that same time, I was also thinking a lot about how much I could accomplish in life if I never had to sleep. Mash those two ideas together and that’s where the idea for I Am Sleepless sprang from.

Will there be more books in the series? (I AM SLEEPLESS: SIM 299)
Yes, the series is a trilogy and I have two more books planned. Search for the Reader is next and The Splicer King is the final book.

What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on a mini novella series titled 4 YEARS TRAPPED IN MY MIND PALACE. I’m about 3/4 through the first draft and have a release date of May 2016.

You can download the first 5 chapter sampler (remember it’s a first draft) at my website http://iamsleepless.weebly.com/4-years-trapped-in-my-mind-palace.html​

4 YEARS TRAPPED IN MY MIND PALACE SYNOPSIS:
Diagnosed with a rare form of meningitis, eleven-year-old Aaron Greenburg is paralyzed from head-to-toe. He can’t move a muscle or any part of his body, including his eyes or his eyelids to blink. Although he is alive, his doctors believe he is brain dead and unaware of his surroundings. But Aaron is not brain dead. He is very much aware of everything, trapped in his own mind with no way to communicate with anyone, including his parents.

Placed in a rest home for full-time care, Aaron retreats into his mind to cope with his imprisonment. But after one year alone, Aaron receives a roommate in the form of an outspoken, old, Jewish jazz musician named Solomon. With the blanket diagnosis of dementia, everyone thinks Solomon is crazy, especially Aaron. But when Aaron talks to Solomon in his mind, carrying on the normal one-way conversations he has with all of his visitors, something strange and unexpected occurs.

If you had a superhuman ability, which one would you like?
Touch someone and take away their greed. Think of how much better this world would be if you could take away greed and selfishness. Say so long to wars, murder, broken families, etc…

Who is your favorite author?
Brandon Sanderson. I’ve been hooked to his books ever since I read his Mistborn series. I’m pretty sure I’ve read every book he’s published, some of them multiple times. The worlds he creates, the magic systems, and the intrigue/mysteries he has running in the background make amazing stories.

What do you do when you are not writing?
I love to play instruments and create music. I play/dabble in a number of instruments including guitar, bass, trombone, blues harmonica, piano and percussion. The best part is my kids are getting old enough that they are starting to make up songs on the piano and we have Family Jam Sessions. We also have Family Fight Nights. My oldest children take martial arts and we like to put on the sparring gear and go at it. The kids take turns coming at me two at a time, (even my 3-year old daughter), and they practice their strikes, kicks, blocks, etc… Basically, they get to hit dad and we have a lot of fun.

My wife and I also own and operate the online retail store www.playfullyeverafter.com. We sell toys, games, costumes and home décor items. It’s more than a full-time job, but luckily we have a handful of wonderful employees, (most of them family members), and we get to work from home. This gives me a little more flexibility to write.

When and why did you begin writing?
This writing journey started as I became more involved volunteering with Anti Human Trafficking non-profits. You can learn how I became involved in that work at my blog http://abolitionistjb.blogspot.com. As I researched, learned and met individuals who had been sold into slavery, I realized I wanted to tell these stories. But some of the stories are so raw and unnervingly sad that they are hard to read about and can send people into depression.

I’ve talked to some people who said they couldn’t handle how sad these tragedies made them and they didn’t want to learn anymore about it because it made them so depressed they couldn’t function.

So I set out with the goal to write a fictional story that gave the facts of human trafficking, showed you what was going on around the world, but gave hope through a hero, almost a super hero of sorts, that fought back. I wanted to make learning about these tragedies palpable to help spread awareness about what’s going on and what’s being done to combat modern slavery.

This became my first story, ABOLERE. Right now Abolere is a trunk novel. It was the first book and I learned a lot about writing in the process of creating the story, but it still needs some TLC to make it publishable. My goal is to finish it by Dec 2016. You can read the first chapter sampler on my website at http://iamsleepless.weebly.com/abolere.html.

What genre do you consider your book(s)?
This is tough because I have books planned for multiple genres including Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Fiction and Crime Fiction. I also have two non-fiction books I want to write.

That’s why I decided to create the pen name Johan Twiss. I plan to use the Johan Twiss pen name for all of my SciFi/Fantasy books and my real name, John Burger, for everything else.

The problem is I have a backlog of book ideas and I get more each week. My wife lovingly smiles and nods her head, sometimes rolls her eyes, every time I say, “So I had a dream last night and I’ve got this great idea for a book.” Maybe someday I will be a full-time writer and my writing will slowly catch up to my list of ideas.

Do you write an outline before you write?
Yes, but it’s very bare bones. I have a long list of book ideas that I let simmer in my mind. When one of them starts to combine enough “cool scenes” in my head, I move it to the outline stage. My outlines consist of a few bullet points, with very few details, and they are usually incomplete sentences. It’s basically a list of the scenes I’m excited to write about, put in order for the story to take place.

This is where my addiction to writing is fed. I love the discovery process of filling in the gaps and creating a story from these scenes. I’m always surprised and fascinated by the ideas that pop into my mind and exploring where those take the characters and plot. It gives me goosebumps. It’s the drug that keeps me writing.

Please fill in the blank:
Keep Calm and Eat Chocolate— unless you’re allergic, in which case I will eat your chocolate and mourn for you.

What advice would you have for writers?
As Dory says in Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” But in the case of writers it’s, “Just keep writing, just keep writing.” The more I write, the more I learn about writing. I have a couple of trunk novels that may never see the light of day, but I learned quite a bit from the discipline of writing them.

Tell us three things no one knows about you.
1.  I play a mean blues harmonica, along with guitar, bass, piano, a variety of hand drums, and the trombone.
2.  I once met the Yankee Hall of Famer Joe Dimaggio in a Martinez, California strip mall parking lot. I was an 8 year old kid and my dad pointed him out to me. So naturally,  I went up to Jumping Joe as he unlocked his car and asked for his autograph with my dad’s softball mitt that I snagged out of the back of our minivan. The signed softball mitt was later stolen. There went my college fund.
3.  I’m Batman- wait, I wasn’t supposed to tell you that.

What’s the best thing about being a writer?
Writing is an addiction for me, and it’s one that I wholeheartedly feed. I love the discovery process creating a story from scratch. I’m always surprised and fascinated by the ideas that pop into my mind and exploring where those take the characters and plot. It gives me goosebumps. It’s the drug that keeps me writing.


How do you deal with writer’s block?
Honestly, I have not experienced writer’s block yet. I’m sure I will at some point, but for now I have dozens of ideas for books and exciting scenes I want to write in my current works in progress. Right now I wonder if I will ever be able to write all the stories I want to tell.


 

We hope you enjoyed this Q&A session; now go out and buy his book! You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”1517166330″ 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].

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ultraxenopia by M.A. Phipps

 

ultraxenopia

 

In a society where oppression and conformity rule the masses and the slightest unusual behavior could be seen as treasonous, Wynter Reeves would do just about anything to ensure she isn’t noticed. However, when she begins to show symptoms of a rare and debilitating illness, she unwillingly attracts the attention of the State—in particular, the feared research facility known as the DSD. Through them she learns of the true nature of her condition, a disease known only as Ultraxenopia.

 

Thanks to the author for offering this book in exchange for a review!

This book is dark and unsettling, especially in the description of Wynter’s seizures and how much pain she is in during one of her episodes. She is kept unaware of what her true purpose is and used by the research facility to try to discover how the world ends.

When she ends up in the outside world, she is understandably naive and unsure of how she fits in. The author does a nice job of conveying her doubt and confusion, while painting a dystopian world with an underground community trying to fend for themselves. There is a love interest, which adds to Wynter’s dilemma but should be a big hit with the YA audience.

I found the medical and hospital settings the most interesting to me, as this is a new addition to the whole dystopian theme. Wynter is a strong girl and the author creates her character as one who develops character as the book goes on, with elements of suspense that will keep readers wondering what will happen next. Wynter has some hard choices to make and she struggles with them, just as an ordinary teen would. She experiences betrayal and hurt in some very well written scenes, and I felt my emotions stirred as I started to realize what was happening to her. So much responsibility heaped on a person!

This is book 1 of a trilogy, following the patterns of many dystopian works. The ending of the book is the obligatory cliffhanger, guaranteed to keep you waiting for book 2. I for one can’t believe what the author has Wynter do at the end….but that’s the idea. According to many positive reviews out there, a lot of people are invested in this series and are waiting anxiously for the next one. I’d love to see how Phipps can build on this popular story.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”0993217702″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

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