Centenary Rhodes is an old soul with a well-traveled name, but she doesn’t know this yet.
Growing up in southern Appalachia wasn’t easy, so Cent left home as soon as she could, but the post-collegiate happiness she’d expected has never occurred. She can’t find a decent date, much less find that special someone and, after losing her job in a corporate downsize, she’s struggling to meet her most basic needs. Her car has been repossessed, her bills are piling up, and her questionable North Chicago neighborhood is dangerous to navigate.
Returning home to Hare Creek, Tennessee, never crosses Cent’s mind until her Great Aunt Tess contacts her with an offer she can’t refuse. The family’s southern Appalachian homestead must be sold, and Aunt Tess needs someone to clean it up. Cent will have access to Aunt Tess’ garden and truck and can live on the homestead rent-free for as long as it takes. A part-time job is waiting for her as well.
It’s a chance to solve some of Cent’s financial woes, but will her return be enough when evil sets its sights on Embreeville Mountain and the homestead?
Cleaning House is a carefully woven Appalachian tapestry of granny magic, haints, elementals, and the fantastic diversity of the human condition – served with a delicious side of fries and a generous quart of peach moonshine.
“Of all the— here!” Cent dropped her pack of Lucky Strikes onto the floor and kicked them under the outhouse door to Pyre. They’re almost gone anyway.It was the middle of the night, and she’d gone to the outhouse to sneak a smoke. One, that was all, and the rush felt so good. It was the best she’d felt in days, and—
“Drop that lit cigarette down the hole. Stowne’s on their way.”
“Dangit.” Cent took a long drag, exhaling as she rose. She couldn’t hide that she’d been smoking again, and—
“Centenary, please come out.” Stowne knocked on the outhouse door.
“We must discuss this.”
“I was just going,” Pyre’s light drifted away.
Coward. Cent tied her robe and stepped out the door. Fall had rolled in early and wet, setting her up for a rough bout of bronchitis that wouldn’t go away. “Fancy meeting you here at two in the morning.” She cleared her throat to stifle its perpetual tickle.
“Centenary.” Stowne folded their arms across their chest. “You should not be out here this time of night, especially in these cooler temperatures.” Stowne held out the quilt from their bed. “You should be inside where it is warm and dry.”
“I had to pee. It’s something Humans need to do regular.”
“There is a night bucket beneath our bed for you to use when the weather is bad.” Stowne caught her before she moved away, wrapping her in the blanket. “You gave Pyre the cigarettes, but where are the matches?”
“You already took my lighter.”
“And I am removing every pack of matches from the homestead.”
“But what if we need to light a new fire?”
“Centenary!” Stowne pointed to where Pyre hovered on the porch. “That is not a legitimate argument.” They lifted her into their arms.
“Put me down.”
“Please see reason.” They turned toward the house.
“Put. Me. Down!” Cent all but fell from Stowne’s arms before they turned her straight. “You and me, we gotta talk about this.”
“About what?” Stowne towered over her. “Your refusal to care for yourself?”
“About the elephant in the dang room!”
“El-e-phant?” Water ran off Stowne’s head as they stared at her. “Those large gray mammals you told me about? There is one in the house? Brownie or Birdie surely would have sounded the alarm if—”
“No, honey. I…” Cent shivered as the rain began falling harder. “Let’s go inside and talk.”
“That is what I wanted when we began this elephant-filled argument.” Stowne walked beside her up the hill, helping her at the slick spots until she was inside the door. “There. Safe and warm.” Stowne unwrapped her blanket and pulled off her rain boots. “Sit. I will stoke the fire and heat water for your tea.”
“Chamomile, please.” Nothing else agreed with her stomach anymore. “And do it over the fire so I can watch. Pretty please?”
“Such simple things bring you pleasure.” Stowne set her favorite earthenware mug on the table beside her chair and another blanket across her lap.
“Tell me a story from our pastlives together.” She watched as Stowne talked and worked, admiring the ever-changing lines of their body. Larger or smaller depending on what was needed, delicate as they poured water over the tea strainer but strong in the way they held the steaming cast-iron kettle without using a potholder.
“Cream and sugar?” Stowne peered up at her.
“Sugar, yes. But cream?” Cent blanched. “But I used to like it, didn’t I?”
“Until this life, yes. And you like it in your coffee now, along with lots of sugar.” Stowne slipped into the kitchen to get the sugar bowl and a spoon from the table, dropping three heaping teaspoons into Cent’s mug and stirring. “There. Now we discuss this elephant.”
“Sit down first, honey. You’re pacing.”
“I cannot help it. I worry.” Stowne turned their rocker to face her. “Tell me why you do not care for yourself like you should.”
“It’s hit the point of why bother.” Cent pointed to the medication bottles beside her. “I take something to sleep. Something for pain. Something for my stomach. Something for— Smoking calms me, all right? It helps with the— I’m afraid.”
“What are you afraid of?” Stowne seemed genuinely puzzled.
“This ain’t about dyingif that’s what you’re thinking.” She pulled the blanket higher on her chest and reached for her tea, cursing softly when her hands shook too hard to lift it without spilling it. “I’m afraid of hurting more, of leaving you with horrid memories before I go. Lung cancer is an ugly death.”
“What about the radiation your doctor spoke about?”
“It’ll only delay the inevitable and make me nasty-sick until then.” Cent smiled when Stowne lifted the mug to her mouth. “Thank you.”
“That is why I am here. Never forget that.” Stowne knelt before her. “I will be here the entire time.”
“You’ve never seen me like this.”
“I have watched you die from battle wounds, from Small Pox, and countless other ways. None were attractive, but I have been there every time to walk you across the veil. This will be no different.”
“But I don’t want to leave you alone.” She reached out to stroke Stowne’s face.
“I will wait for your return, same as always.”
“But this land…”
“Yes, there is that.” Stowne kissed her palm. “It must be handed down correctly.”
“I know.” Cent took Stowne’s face into her hands, pulling them up to kiss them firmly on the mouth. “All right. I’ll think on it.”
“Thank you. Does this mean the elephant is gone?”
“Not gone, but it certainly shrank. Take me to bed, baby.”
Writing Fantasy is a hard turn when you consider that I’ve been a LGBTQIA+ Science Fiction author for over a decade. Sure, Fantasy has its place in my reading life… J. R. R. Tolkien, Anne McCaffrey and Stephen R. Donaldson are among the authors I grew up reading, but I’d never attempted to write inside the Fantasy genre until last year because my mind didn’t run that direction.
It does now.
What prompted the change? Experience, returning home, road signs, and being queer, though not necessarily in that order.
Experience – I’ve experienced paranormal events and seen things I probably shouldn’t have, among them an elemental like being crossing the road as I was driving home after teaching a night class. I’ve also heard fae speak to me, telling me not to pick flowers from the garden of a property we rented (the entire property was magical, and all our images of the house show what’s called spirit smoke no matter the time or day or level of sun). And I experienced an active haunting when we lived in West Virginia. He wasn’t an evil haint. In fact, he was mischievous in a flipping on the overhead light at three AM sort of way, until we accidentally ticked him off. Even then he wasn’t bad, but he was certainly insistent. Perhaps my nature-based spiritual path has led to these experiences. Maybe it helped me see when others couldn’t. Whatever the reason, they happened, and those around me shared the experiences. The sight (intuition, ESP… call it what you will) runs in my family, and I know I have a bit, as does my mother. We know people, generally family, have died before we otherwise hear about it. We’ve dreamed of things that have happened soon after. I can tell if a house is haunted by looking at interior pictures. I’ve been inside a home and known for certain that it didn’t like my presence, an experience so unsettling that I immediately left. It wasn’t someone there (a ghost) or other sort of spirit. It was the house.
A good smudging was in order that day.
Returning Home – I’m from the Appalachian foothills of Northeast Tennessee, and there’s some ancient magic here. You’ll find fossilized shells on the mountain tops, bibliomancy and cartomancy are still being practiced (as is snake-handling, but I’ll not go there), and granny magic is on the resurgence (though in a modern context). These mountains hold 400 million-year-old secrets. I’ve lived other places – Connecticut, The Texas Panhandle, Charlotte, and Chicago among them, but none of those felt like the Appalachians. This is home. I’m bound here by my history and my blood, and now I’m hearing stories from the mountains in the form of delightful characters that I simply must share.
Road signs – Seriously, a road sign prompted the start of the Appalachian Elementals series. When I first taught in rural West Virginia, I drove back-and-forth to my home in Tennessee on a weekly basis. Each trip, I passed a sign for Centenary Road. I thought it’d be a great character name, and it is. Centenary Rhodes (Cent) is the protagonist of the Appalachian Elementals series and one of my favorite character creations.
Writers find inspiration in the strangest places.
On Being Queer – I am. I always have been, but Appalachia was a place where the term still meant odd or strange when I was young. Words like gay and lesbian were spoken in hushed voices and accompanied by the word “them.” I didn’t want to be a “them.” Who would? So I wondered through life, depressed, discouraged, and making a lot of mistakes until I reached my thirties, returned to college, and woke up to who I am. There’s comfort in knowing your identity and place in the world. I’m a queer Appalachian, a pansexual, a bit genderqueer (though not enough to prompt me to change my pronouns of she/her), an author, and a differently-abled woman married to another queer woman – a retired USMC Gunny who now calls Northeast Tennessee home.
And there’s nothing wrong with any of that.
Born and raised in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Science Fiction and Fantasy author Jeanne G’Fellers’ early memories include watching the original Star Trek series with her father and reading the books her librarian mother brought home. Jeanne’s writing influences include Anne McCaffrey, Ursula K. LeGuin, Octavia Butler, Isaac Asimov, and Frank Herbert.
Jeanne lives in Northeast Tennesee with her spouse, Anna, and their five crazy felines. Their home is tucked against a small woodland where they regularly see deer, turkeys, raccoons, and experience the magic of the natural world.
New Hopeland City may have been built to be the centerpiece of the technological age, but some remnants of the old world still linger. The tools of the trade have changed, but the corruption remains the same, even in the criminal underworld …
When PI Cassie Tam and her girlfriend Lori try to make up for their recent busy schedules with a night out at the theatre to watch the Tech Shift performer Kitsune, the last thing they expected was for Cassie to get a job offer. But some people are never off the clock, and by the end of the evening, Cassie has been drawn into a mundane but highly paid missing pet case. Unfortunately, in New Hopeland City, even something as simple as little lost dog can lead you down some dark paths.
Until now, Cassie wasn’t aware that there even was a rabbit hole, let alone how far down it goes.
“I’m sorry, but did you want to get changed before we speak? We’d be happy to leave the room while you get ready. It must be hard work performing in both the TS gear and a kimono thick enough to house projectors without them moving out of line with each other, even if they are the smaller, lightweight models.”
“You don’t know the half of it,” Kitsune sighs. “There’s a wireless motion detection system in each hand too,” they add, waving two metallic, clawed paws. “You’ll note that my tails are missing. They don’t yet make multi-tailed suits, you see, and the number is important within the folklore, so we had to find other solutions. The projector tucked under the obi sash keeps the back open nicely, and it allows movement, both in animation and in the actual device, but it’s a bit stronger than the main ones.”
“Meaning that it’s heavier,” I reply.
“Indeed. The way the system works is identical to the tail guidance in regular suits though.”
I frown and Lori clarifies, “Regular Tech Shift gear uses two small wireless touchpads to control tails, one for the bottom half, and one for the top half. They’re embedded in the hand rest of Ink’s front legs. For hybrid-style gear, they usually sit inside the thumb of each hand. It’s the same concept in each one, but animal-style gear allows for bigger movements, while hybrid gear measures micro movements.”
“Which would be rather fiddly, given the level of movement that I require. These are built into the paw pads and are set to register larger movements so that the tails can move in time with the different dance routines and my more flamboyant gestures,” Kitsune explains, demonstrating one of the hand flourishes from the show. They pause then and chuckle. “Ah, but I’m rambling. I am afraid that changing is, contractually speaking, impossible. Will my appearance be a problem?”
“No, I’m used to Tech Shifters…”
Lori laughs and cuts in with, “You are so not used to us yet.”
I laugh quietly, despite myself. The miserable old loner that still lives in my head says I should be angry about that; I’m working after all. But the part of me that was enjoying the evening is far more prominent and reminds me that this was supposed to be Lori’s evening too. I can allow her a small jab or two on that basis. “My early experiences with Tech Shifters were not positive,” I say, addressing Kitsune. “I’m getting better, though. What do you mean by ‘contractually speaking,’ if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Not at all. It is essentially as it sounds. The Kitsune brand is a joint venture between myself and Kevin, and there is a lot of paperwork involved dealing with how the whole thing is to be played out in every mundane situation that you could imagine. What it means is that I can boss Kevin about and make him my dogsbody as much as is required, but at the same time, I must respect his rather brilliant marketing strategies. Part of that means that the mystery of the Kitsune’s true identity is to be protected at all times. As such, I do not meet with anyone without my professionalface on. It seems a little strange, I know, but he was previously a historian of certain old-world sporting brands by trade and thought that applying a degree of what he called kayfabewould help give the whole thing a new edge. I can’t say that he was wrong.”
“So, are you Kitsune when you’re around family too?” Lori asks. “Or partners?”
“Oh, I have no time for partners, not with mytouring schedule. With family, I can be myself, though Kevin did insist upon them signing a gagging order to prevent them from revealing my identity to anyone who hadn’t signed a similar contract. You should have seen my mother’s face when he brought that up. I honestly thought that the rolling pin she was holding was going to be put to nefarious use. Outside Kevin, even my oldest friends do not know who resides beneath the mask.”
“That must be hard to maintain,” I say.
“Oh yes, I have cover stories and everything. It’s somewhat akin to witness protection if television is to be believed. As far as most know, I am simply a touring stagehand for the great performing fox spirit.”
I nod. “Kitsune, as pleasant as this is, I assume there was a reason that you wanted to see me?”
“Oh yes, of course. I saw the news coverage of your recent success with that Gary Locke character,” they say, and Lori flinches slightly. “As far as local detectives go, there are plenty of them about, but you are certainly the most well regarded. I have actually been in town for a week now, and I am due to remain here for a further two. I am afraid that, over that initial period, I was subject to a crime of the nature I am led to believe the police do not take overly seriously.”
“The police wouldn’t be happy about not knowing your identity, regardless of the crime. If it’s one that they won’t usually touch, that doesn’t leave many possibilities. What are we talking about?”
“It is rather lonely on the road,” they sigh wistfully. “A few months ago, we stopped in Toledo, and I was awoken from a post-performance nap by a clattering outside the tour bus. I wandered out, expecting to find a fan or two hunting autographs, and instead found this charming little thing skulking around the bins. I named him Fish.”
Kitsune produces a phone from their kimono, loads up a photo, and passes it over. It shows a snow white American Shepherd dog sitting on one of the tour bus seats and giving the camera a suspicious look. It’s too big to be a puppy, but certainly not big enough to be fully grown.
“You named your dog Fish?”
“It seems strange, doesn’t it?” Kitsune laughs. “There’s a reason, though.” They take the phone back and enlarge the picture, revealing that the dog’s tail is about half the length it should be. It was easy to miss at normal size because the single colouring made it seem like it was tucked under its legs. “When I was young, my parents had some rosetail betta fish. One of them was pure white, and it had a habit of nibbling through its tail fin. When we took Fish to the vet, they said that the tail damage, judging by the angle of the marks, was likely self-inflicted. I couldn’t remember what my parents called the fish, so I just stuck with Fish.”
I nod. “And I assume that Fish is now missing?”
“I am afraid so. It happened yesterday, during the early hours. I was woken by a loud bang and found that Fish was gone, and the tour bus door was open.”
“Could Fish have run away?”
“It would have been difficult for him to open the door, but not impossible. I don’t think that he would have run, though. We were lifelines for each other, you see. He kept me company during the day, and when he had nightmares, I comforted him. If he was spooked, he would usually run and hide near my bed. I heard something else too, a van door being slammed shut maybe? And then an engine.”
“So you’re thinking that he was stolen.”
“Honestly? I don’t know. Do you think that you could take the case? How much would it cost?”
Matt Doyle lives in the South East of England and shares his home with a wide variety of people and animals, as well as a fine selection of teas. He has spent his life chasing dreams, a habit which has seen him gain success in a great number of fields. To date, this has included spending ten years as a professional wrestler, completing a range of cosplay projects, and publishing multiple works of fiction.
These days, Matt can be found working on far too many novels at once, blogging about anime, comics, and games, and plotting and planning what other things he’ll be doing to take up what little free time he has.
“There is such a beauty about the way Lou Sylvre writes these characters. A pureness. A sort of reverence. If I had my way, there would be new Vasquez & James books until the end of time.—Jules at The Novel Approach”
All ebooks on sale $1 at all retailers through August 14! Here’s a few links for starters:
Today, Romance Across the Rainbow is happy to host the Blackwood Series Tour.Mary Rundle has a new MM paranormal mpreg book out in her Blackwood Pack series:
About the Series:
Join the journey of the Blackwood Pack, seven brothers who are gay wolf shifters in search of their fated mates – stories about love at first sight with twists and turns, angst and humor, romance and adventure. Each book has two main characters who meet, fall in love, mate and achieve an HEA but the stories also chronicle the continuing saga of the Blackwood Pack. The series is best appreciated by reading the books in order.
Mary is giving away a $15 Amazon gift certificate with this tour – for a chance to win, enter via Rafflecopter:
Steel, one of the last Dire Wolves on earth, has searched more than 100 years for the special mate promised by the Fates. Discouraged after meeting his latest prospect, he sees a naked hitchhiker on his way home who’s everything he’d envisioned the man of his dreams would be. His wolf and body tell him he’s found his fated mate but why can’t he pick up his scent?
Robbed of his car, clothes and money, Jackson, Alpha of the Blackwood Pack has no choice but to thumb a lift, frantic to get home to his six brothers. He’s been protecting them from a rival pack who massacred most of his family and wants to finish off the rest. When Steel rolls down his window, Jackson knows he also has found his fated mate but it would be too dangerous to claim him with his pack under attack.
After the intervention of an Oracle and a Witch, Jackson discovers why the Fates made him unique-just for Steel. Navigating the mine field this revelation brings, Jackson and Steel must figure out how to make their relationship work while dealing with forces determined to kill the Blackwood pack – and them.
Steel’s wolf was snarling and snapping as he drove away from Jimmy’s after leaving Jackson behind. He just couldn’t understand his wolf. What am I missing here? Jackson is not my mate.His mate had to be a wolf—he knew it because he’d been told not only by his mother who was an Oracle but by no less than three other Oracles. His mate would help save his species of wolves.
The importance of this was impressed upon him throughout his life. He stepped on the gas, eager to get home to do some research. He needed answers because he had a feeling of foreboding about what was going to happen to Jackson and that was driving his wolf crazy.
Finally arriving home, he stopped at the fifteen foot high gates, keyed in his passcode and then drove up the long driveway to his sprawling house, nestled among the trees on the knob of a small mountain. Although there were taller mountains to roam on his 200,000 acres of land, this spot spoke to his wolf spirit. He inhaled deeply as he got out of the truck, feeling his body reacting to the sights and smells around him.
Looking around, he wondered if Jackson would like this spot as much as he did. And that did it—his cock hardened in a second and his blood started to heat up. What the fuck? He drove the image of Jackson’s firm body from his mind and thumped his cock several times to get it to go down.
Hmmm, what to do first?Decision made, he stripped out of his clothes and stood still for a second before he called on his wolf and shifted. Birds scattered as the noise of bones cracking and stretching filled the air. When the sound faded away, Steel stood in his wolf form, shaking out his fur and scenting the air. Deer to the east, a small black bear and her cub ambling along the trail to the south and, yes there it was, a path that was free of any animal—Steel knew it wouldn’t be a good day to engage in a sparring match. His wolf was too unsettled for that.
He struck out at a full run for the trail leading north to one of the tallest mountains on his land. His large paws made no sound on the thickly carpeted forest floor. Steel had gotten so many mixed signals from his wolf today he needed this time to figure out what was happening. He knew his wolf needed it also. While he was running, Steel examined his wolf’s feelings regarding Jackson because it was much easier to understand his wolf when they were one, especially now, since he hadn’t understood his wolf’s reaction to a man who had no scent. Taking in the smells and sounds of his forest, his mind searched and filtered through his wolf’s feelings.
Dr. Ian Wallace, a rare Scottish Wolf, has dedicated his life to saving and healing wolf shifters by joining Frontline Doctors. Determined never to take a mate, he avoids relationships and is content to live a nomadic life, taking assignments to wild and remote places. That is, until an old friend asks him for a favor which Ian’s wolf will not let him refuse. Now on his way to the Blackwood Pack compound, his wolf becomes frantic and Ian learns not only that he has a Fated Mate, but that his Fated Mate is in danger.
Colton was forced to give up his dreams of becoming a nurse and joining Frontline Doctors when tragedy befell his family. Instead, he healed sick animals around his home while hiding from a pack who wanted him dead. Given the chance to use his skills, Colton seizes it and embarks on a journey that will reveal just how special he is.
A kidnapping, slave auction, revelations of long-kept family secrets and a rare, powerful gift from the gods are some of the surprises in store for both of them until they finally find their way into each other’s hearts after discovering neither is who the other thought he was.
His wolf surged forth, claws grew, teeth dropped, fur sprouted and he vibrated in Colton’s arms trying to fight the shift. But did he want to? Ian wasn’t sure. He and his wolf needed to avenge the wrong done to their mate. If Colton wasn’t going to kill Pablo, Ian’s wolf would. Then, mind made up, he pushed out of the arms holding him and landed with all fours on the floor. Snarling and growling, Ian’s wolf wanted his prey—to kill him and remove any threat to his mate. He lifted his head, opened his mouth and issued his challenge. Howling loud and long his wolf wasn’t going to quit until his mate was safe.
Stunned, Colton looked at the small yet fierce wolf in front of him—a rare golden-tipped, white wolf with deep golden eyes—the stuff of legends. Holy Shit! Before he could do anything, the room was filled with six, very large bodies, ready to handle the threat of Ian’s howls. In a blink of an eye, Ian’s wolf turned, facing the perceived threat against Colton. Hackles raised, saliva dripping, he looked as if he’d take on everyone now crowding the space.
Colton knew this had the makings of a disaster; he needed to calm his mate so he could shift back. Slowly he slid off the loveseat and knelt next to his mate. “Ian, please babe, stop. I’m safe. These are my brothers and Steel. You know them, please babe.” Colton put his arms around the neck and buried his hands in the soft fur. Rubbing his face against his mate, Colton inhaled deeply, marveling again at the scent. He felt Ian’s wolf slowly relax as he reassessed the situation. That was, until Colton heard Jackson.
Jackson waddled into the room, bellowing, “What the fuck is going on?”
And just like that, Ian’s wolf turned to face the new threat, growling, tensing, ready to spring. Colton saw Steel move in front of Jackson, the rest of his brothers moved and stood in front of Steel, forming a wall of muscled bodies, intent on protecting Jackson and his unborn pup.
Colton panicked. He jumped up and moved in front of Ian’s wolf. Nobody was going to touch his mate. Now Colton was the one fighting a shift as he listened to his mate issue howls and growls, warning everyone he was ready to fight. Colton knew everything was going to hell in a handbasket but he didn’t know what to do. He needed help to defuse this right now—but who?
Suddenly, he heard an Alpha voice so powerful and overwhelming that Colton immediately tilted his neck in submission as did all in the room. Maximus, in Dire Wolf Alpha mode, strode into the room, immediately sussed out the situation, and commanded, “Stand Down! Now!!” he roared those words, enveloping the room in his Alpha power.
Enforcer Dylon Royd worked for the notorious Silver Point Pack until they accused him of disloyalty. Imprisoned and beaten to within an inch of his life, he’s dumped at the side of a road and left for dead. Waking up in the Blackwood Pack’s hospital, he’s shocked to discover his Fated Mate is one of the pack’s members he’d been ordered to kill.
Cody is a seer and has grappled with visions all his life, but after most of his family is massacred they have intensified so fiercely he begins to make plans to escape his pain and suffering. Thinking no one wants a freak for a Fated Mate, he tries to reject Dylon until he realizes his salvation depends on accepting him.
A life or death situation for Cody, a rare gift to both from the Fates, a dangerous mission, and an unexpected surprise are some of the challenges they face. Together they begin a journey to save Cody’s life while forging a partnership that requires absolute trust for both to survive.
Low hanging, heavy, cloud cover. A pitch-black night in the Tajikistan mountains. It were as if the gods were blessing his commitment to stop the bloodshed so many of his people had experienced over these long years. Ulfric tried to recall a time in his life that was free of the beatings and killings that Arald had inflicted on his pack. But he could not remember such a time. Now his wife was expecting their first pup, and as much as he was excited about it, he dreaded it just as much. So, when this chance arose, he had to try, for the sake of his family.
After telling his wife he was leaving, Ulfric slipped out the back door and paused. Lifting his nose, he sniffed but found no other wolf nearby. Sticking to the shadows, he quietly made his way out of town, hoping his luck held. Right now, Arald was meeting with the representative of Dire Enterprises in a pre-conference meeting. He hadn’t wanted to wait this long but it was impossible to even contact the other pack Alpha until today.
As he saw it, this was his final chance to stop the tyranny he and his pack lived under. But he couldn’t stand alone. He needed the other pack to join with him during the conference if there was ever a chance his pack would be free of Arald and his goons. Pausing often to check for anyone following him, he crept down to the mountain waterfall where they could talk where not even wolf hearing could distinguish spoken words.
Apologizing to Arald and Slate Valentin for his need to get home to help his wife, Ordovic left the building, nodding to the guards who stood outside the meeting room. He wasn’t sure why his presence was required since nothing would change for his pack. No, Arald controlled this land—something even a young shifter knew. And even though he tried to tell himself there wasn’t anything he could do about it, Ordovic hoped that this time might be different.
That was the reason he gave himself for heading to the agreed meeting place instead of home where his wife and children slept. But he wanted a better life for his children. A place they could grow up and not fear being attacked every time they left home. And as the leader of his pack, he owed it to his pack members to at least try to free them from the oppression they now lived under.
Fading back into the shadows at the top of the mountain path, he waited to see if anyone had followed him. His ability at camouflage was superb, though it was a well-guarded secret. After a few minutes he continued down the path. At least he didn’t have to worry about being attacked—killed, yes—but the guy from Dire Enterprises made the three leaders sign a contract agreeing to not attack another pack while the peace conference was in session.
Kieran was sold into slavery where he was forced to care for other prisoners held by a shifter trafficking ring. But that changed when a Blackwood brother freed him and the others. Now for the first time in his life, the world beckons and he can plan his future. That is, until he discovers why the Fates brought him to the Blackwood Pack.
Logan, one of the brothers, has become a virtual recluse, spending hours at his design table, unable to shake the horrible memories of his family’s massacre and an unhappy childhood under the fist of his father, a dictatorial and abusive Alpha.
When Kieran appears, Logan is smitten with this pink-loving twink who tries to use his sassy and irrepressible wit to win his heart. After Logan claims Kieran, he finds keeping him is not easy. When both realize Logan can’t give himself completely to his Fated Mate, Kieran takes off but tells no one where.
A frantic search, rejection, dark secrets revealed, ghosts exorcised- these are just some of the obstacles Kieran and Logan must overcome as they embark on a mission of discovery that will make their love for each other stronger. Only then, will these two unique wolves fulfill their destinies decreed by the Fates and gods and prove worthy of the powerful gifts bestowed on them.
Kieran saw Lizzie coming in from the kitchen and said to her, “Miss L, what fantastic taste you have. I’m so glad they have you supervising their clothing choices otherwise, who knows what they would learn from their daddies?” Then, turning back to Dylon and Cody, “No offense big guys, but you really should let Miss L do some shopping for you, too. I mean, I know you are mated—I mean Fated Mated—so there isn’t going to be anyone else for you but still, you should look good for each other. Hey Miss L, do you think Dylon could use a facial mask? Maybe something to soften his skin so Cody will want to kiss him more? You know, that’s the first thing to go when you have kids. No time to take care of yourself. But I bet with a little help from Miss L and me, we could have you looking like you did before you had kids. Do you take bubble baths? You know, they’re great for softening all parts of your body, well maybe not all parts, if you catch my drift. That’s another side benefit for new parents who aren’t getting all they want in the sex department. Maybe Miss L and I …”
“Stop!” yelled Dylon, startling Jessica who let out a wail while most everyone else was doubled over with laughter. “Now, look what you did!”
“Don’t you blame Kieran, Dylon. You yelled, causing your daughter to cry,” Lizzie scolded, taking Jessica from her son’s arms, “Shush there, sweetie, grandma has you.”
“But did you hear what he was saying to us? He said we had sex problems!” complained Dylon, handing Jessica’s bottle to Lizzie.
“Kieran was only trying to help, weren’t you honey?” Lizzie asked Kieran. “All new parents can do with a little help.”
“That’s right, Miss L. I have some ideas to spice up their sex life I can run past you, and if you agree, then I can find out where to buy the items online—you know since they are new parents and all.”
Growling, Dylon spat, “You are not going to discuss my sex life with my mother—do you understand? No way! No how! Never! Kieran, am I making myself clear?” Then turning to his mother, he said, “Mother, don’t, just don’t. This is embarrassing me and my mate.”
Holding up his hands, Kieran said, “Whoa, big guy! If you don’t want my help, then no problemo. I’m sure Jackson or Colton will appreciate my help in getting their sex life back on track. If you want to suffer, then who am I to interfere? But you really ought to think about Cody before you go issuing your orders. Right Miss L? It takes two to tango.”
Handing Jake to Dylon, Cody said, “Kieran, that’s enough. While I appreciate your offer to help us, there’s no need as we’re very happy with our ‘sex life’. You and I are going to have a talk later about boundaries, or the lack of them, in this case.”
Author’s Note: Oh my gosh! I am so excited to be here and thank you for hosting my blog tour. The Blackwood Pack series tells the story of seven brothers meeting their Fated Mates and so much more. Each book has HEA for the mated pair but it also brings the reader along as they find out what happens to the whole pack. The exclusive excerpt I have for you today is from Raphael’s Power, Book 2 and tells the love story of Colton and Ian. I hope you enjoy it!
Colton heard a soft knock and then smelled food. Oh my gods! Just what the doctor ordered. He snickered and carefully slipped out of bed. Pulling on jeans, he walked barefoot to the door so as not to wake Ian. Quietly opening it, he saw Dakota behind a serving cart covered an array of mouth-watering dishes. His stomach grumbled loudly as he smiled at his brother. Holding a finger to his lips, Colton whispered, “Shh, Ian’s still sleeping. Let’s take this into the sitting room.”
He wondered where Dakota had gotten the serving cart with the quiet rubber wheels as they stealthily rolled it into the next room. Colton turned to Dakota. “Thanks, bro. You have no idea how hungry I am.”
Dakota slapped his brother’s hand away from the bacon. “Hands off. This isn’t just for you, dumbass. It’s my mating gift to you and Ian. You wait until he wakes up.”
“Oh, my gods, did you make this for us Dakota?” Ian asked, standing in the doorway with a sheet wrapped around him.
Dakota smirked at Colton before turning to Ian. “Yes, it’s my mating gift to you and Colton. I hope you enjoy it and if there’s anything else you want, just let me know.”
“That is so sweet, isn’t it Colton? What a great present. Thank you. I know I’ll enjoy it,” Ian said as he wandered over to the cart. “Wow, everything smells so good.” He then reached over and gave Dakota a hug.
Colton’s wolf growled. He didn’t care if Dakota was his brother. All of Ian’s hugs belonged to him. Grabbing Dakota’s arm, Colton yanked his brother away from his mate and shoved him towards the door. “Thanks for your gift,” he growled, “But I’ll take it from here.”
“Stop it Colton,” cried Ian. “That’s no way to treat your brother who spent his time making us something special to eat.” He marched over to Dakota and said, “Regardless of the brutish behavior of my mate, I really appreciate your thoughtfulness. I’m starved and I know Colton hasn’t eaten either.” Then he looked at his mate and said “Well?”
Colton sighed. “I’m sorry brother. Please chalk my behavior up to my lack of food.”
Dakota chuckled and said, “Sure bro, lack of food…uh huh.” His chuckle morphed into loud endless laughter as he left their suite.
Ian stared for a few minutes at the door before turning to his mate. “I think it’s time you and I have a chat. That display of possessiveness doesn’t work for me. I’m a doctor and I touch many wolves each day while I’m treating them. I receive thanks and sometimes hugs from the patients and their family. If you plan on going all-Alpha on me every time it happens, you better rethink it. Practicing medicine is important to me not only because I help people but because it makes me happy. And from what I’ve heard, it’s the same for you.”
Colton’s jaw dropped at Ian’s tirade. Holy Crap! What the fuck has happened to me! Taking Ian’s hand, he tugged at it a little before his mate gave in and followed him to the love seat. After sitting down, he looked up at Ian and said, “Will you join me so we can talk? I’m really very sorry about my reaction. This is all so new to me and I think you’re right, we need to clear the air.”
Ian looked at his mate, searching his face to see the truth of the words and, finding them, he sat facing Colton. He regretted his outburst not because of what he said—as it was the truth—but for the way he said it. Medicine was his life and when he discovered his fated mate was also in medicine, he was overjoyed. Being a doctor or a nurse was a hard life—it meant long hours, roller coaster emotions at successes or failures and devotion to your patient even if it meant personal sacrifice. That’s why he never wanted a mate.
“Ian, I’m truly sorry. I know you’re right. The only explanation I can offer is that my wolf is so dammed possessive right now. I’m hoping he’ll settle down after awhile. I’m going to talk to Jackson or maybe Steel, about how they handled it and get some suggestions. I absolutely will never stand in your way of practicing medicine. Being a doctor is part of you and I love all of you.”
Colton’s declaration of love brought tears to Ian’s eyes. He was loved—something he never realized was missing from his life. Looking back, he clearly saw how lonely his world had been. His parents loved him, but his wolf was right all along, he was alone in the world. Finding Colton changed him—and his world—in ways he was still discovering.
Ian launched himself into Colton’s lap. “I love you so much. I never knew what I was missing until I found you. You complete me and make me so happy. You’re my world!” he said, nestling into his mate’s arms, kissing his chest, while grinding his ass into his mate’s groin. “I’m sorry I was angry before. This is all new to me, too, and I growled in Mexico when you were hugged as you said good-bye. I never thought I’d have a mate and now I do and I’m all mixed up trying to sort out my feelings.”
I never went to school to learn writing nor attended a writing workshop, but it didn’t stop me from entering a writing contest and from that came my first book, Dire Warning. Readers loved it and I was on my way to chronicling the Blackwood Pack, seven brothers who are gay wolf shifters in search of their fated mates– stories about love at first sight with twists and turns, angst and humor, romance and adventure and, of course, happy endings.
My stories come to me as if they were being channeled by my characters, all of whom I love (except for a few villains). They are eager to recount their lives, loves and adventures and are not inhibited when it comes to revealing steamy details. I love the M/M paranormal genre because it gives my imagination a lot of territory in which to roam. My mind can really run wild and come up with some amazing stuff when it doesn’t have to stay inside the box. Although my writing is sometimes raw—that’s the way I like to tell my stories—readers love it and are clamoring for more. I currently live in the Northeast and love the beautiful change of seasons, my husband, and our quirky calico cat, though not necessarily in that order.
Wow, I’m impressed. Not only with the fabulous trailer above—with the way news has spread about QSF’s Impact flash fiction anthology released yesterday. It’s on fire! It hit the top of the Amazon charts for LGBT science fiction the same day. It’s no wonder! I’ve read only ten or so of the 300 word micro-stories, and so far they all seem to be my favorite. I mean, they’re different, they’re interesting, they’re well-written worlds, and how can one choose? It’s like comparing apples and oranges (and avocados and peaches and grapes and tomatoes…).
Luccan, future Suth Chiell of the Ethran Sunlands, also known as Lucky, has just completed a harrowing quest, but his adventures and hardships are only beginning. There’s little time to rest before his mother’s ghostly specter attacks, drowning Lucky in horrible nightmares that drain his life and nearly kill him. Only through the power of his enchanted obsidian blade, Ciarrah, can Lucky claw his way out of the shadowy visions and back to daylight. But further horrors await him when he wakes up, and his country needs him—their Sun Child—more than ever.
Unstoppable wraiths—products of an advanced but dying alien world called Terrathia—are attacking, and swords and arrows cannot stop them. Fortunately Ciarrah’s magical light can, and with his dragon-kin uncle Han, his winged horse, a horde of shifters from Earth, and the wizard Thurlock at his back, Lucky faces the enemy, determined to put an end to his mother’s destructive evil once and for all. But will stopping her end the horrors facing his world?
About Lou Hoffmann
LLou Hoffmann, a mother and grandmother now, has carried on her love affair with books for more than half a century, and she hasn’t even made a dent in the list of books she’d love to read—partly because the list keeps growing. She reads factual things—books about physics and history and fractal chaos, but when she wants truth, she looks for it in quality fiction. She loves all sorts of wonderful things: music and silence, laughter and tears, youth and age, sunshine and storms, forests and fields, flora and fauna, rivers and seas. Even good movies and popcorn! Those things help her breathe, and everyone she knows helps her write. (Special mention goes to (1) George the Lady Cat and (2) readers.) Proud to be a bisexual, biracial (European and Native American) woman, Lou considers every person a treasure not to be taken for granted. In her life, she’s seen the world’s willingness to embrace differences change, change back, and change again in dozens of ways, but she has great hope for the world the youth of today will create. She writes for readers who find themselves anywhere on the spectrums of age and gender, aiming to create characters that live not only in their stories, but always in your imagination and your heart.
Facebook: Lou Hoffmann Books
Blog: Stories With Pride
Chenu stood while six Superior Commons heard his probation report.
“Replicator, male, 863. Bioengineered 2813, born 2814. Training 2829 – 2833, Polity Specials Institute.”
He withheld a smirk while the virtual voice summarized his education: behavior “poor”—meaning I dared have sex with Common men; training missions “excellent”—meaning I survived.
He listened to his distilled life while memories assaulted him. At auction, High-Corporate hadn’t cared about transgressions, only proven ability to traverse the Shatterwall…
It’s hard to believe the above snippet is just about a quarter of the whole story, but “Shatter” is the shortest piece I’ve ever written for publication—only 300 words! Small as the story is, it’s a feather in my cap. Not only did it receive an honorable mention, but it was given the special honor of being chosen as one of six judges’ picks out of over 100 stories included in QSF’s Impact anthology. If that wasn’t enough to put a smile on my face, here’s a little of what judge Carole Cummings said:
“… You built a full, vivid world in just 300 words, communicated its oppressiveness and questionable humanity, and compelled the reader to observe it, analyze it, and outwit it right along with Chenu. … The characterization was pretty damned adept. You managed to show the reader that Chenu isn’t much for exhibiting feelings—indeed, that Chenu is best off not having any—and yet at the same time, exposed him in a brilliant subtle fashion as someone who *does* feel and deeply, who deserves better, and man oh man, I for one was so glad he was going for it. The story was engaging, intelligent, and written beautifully. … Altogether, this story is quite an accomplishment… and I hope you take pride in it.”
(Thank you Carol, and yes, I do.)
And in more good news, the anthology is now available for preorder in paperback and ebook! Here’s the link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1732307520/
I’m looking forward to getting my copy and indulging in a lot of quick but excellent reads. Let’s see… I could read one while my coffee warms up in the micro… while I’m waiting for a science video to load… while I’m waiting for my phone to buzz announcing a Pokémon… while I’m in the checkout line… while I’m on the john… What? It’s the perfect place for a little ‘little’ sci-fi.
Today Romance Across the Rainbow hosts the Impact Anthology cover reveal with a little extra excitement, as a Lou Sylvre ficlet, “Shatter,” will appear in the antho, scheduled for release on July 25, 2018.
Queer Sci Fi is releasing its fourth flash fiction anthology: Impact. We have the cover reveal here today!
IM * PACT
1) One object colliding with another
2) An impinging of something upon something else
3) An influence or effect on something or someone
4) The force of a new idea, concept, technology or ideology
Four definitions to inspire writers around the world, and an unlimited number of possible stories to tell, but only 110 made the final cut.
A difficult choice to be made. An object hurtling recklessly through space. A new invention that will change the world. So many things can impact a life, a society, or a planet.
Impact features 300 word speculative fiction ficlets from across the queer spectrum from the minds of the writers of Queer Sci Fi.
Welcome to Impact.
About the Series:
It’s hard to tell a story in just 300 words. Each year we ask writers to take the challenge, turning in stories across the queer spectrum. The rules are simple. Write a complete sci fi, fantasy, paranormal or horror story, include LGBTIQA characters, and do it all with just 300 carefully chosen words.
Since this book is composed of stories of no more than 300 words, we can’t really do a standard excerpt, so we’re offering you the teaser first lines from a number of stories.
“She’d needed new oil. She felt her joints grow stiff, her muscles grow tight, her follicles thickening. If she didn’t get fresh quarts soon, people she passed would start calling her sir, asking, Where’s your gun?” —Crossville Station, by Nathan Alling Long
“The mallet’s impact on the hard, bright disk shattered the silence in the talking chamber. The resulting deep tone reverberated through the vault, through Saskia, as she fidgeted beside her lover.” —Settled, by Aidee Ladnier
“This is how the world ends, or so they say. From where I’m standing, it simply looks like a rolling darkness as distant lights flicker and die.” —Visitors, by LJ Phillips
“’What have you done?’ The mechanical eyes came to rest on his face, the droning beep sounding loud in the small room.” —Identity and Change, by Jo Tannah
“’Once upon a world, we were the same,’ he said, lifting my hand to his lips; the ground shaking beneath us.” —Impact, by Jack Ladd
“I been a tinker and soothsayer long enough to know this country’s at the cusp of war. They stir up hate easy as breath. And, oh, it pains my soul to see it. “ —Impact of Intervention, by Patricia Scott
“All lives begin with a messy impact of some kind. The crash of zygotes and gametes. Splats of silica gel between cybernetic synapses. Two women slam into each other carrying full cups of coffee.” —Quintessence, by E.M. Hammill
“If I venture far enough into the house, I’ll find my closet.” —The Closet, by K.S. Trenten
“It touched Ligaya when she was a child. Or she touched it. A half-glimpsed shape under her bed.” Mas Mabuti An Answang, by Foster Bridget Cassidy
“Jam zipped down the neon track, feather-light in low gravity. She rocketed forward, a glowing haze in her starred helmet, and shot past the pack. ‘Space Jammer!’ echoed as she neared the line. Time to rack up the points.” —First Bout: Andromedolls Vs. Crotch Rockets, by Ginger Streusel
About Queer Sci Fi:
At Queer Sci Fi, we’re building a community of sci fi, fantasy, paranormal and horror writers and readers who want a little rainbow in their speculative fiction. We run a great discussion group on Facebook, a twitter feed, and have a website full of useful materials, news, and announcements for readers and writers of queer speculative fiction.
Romance Across the Rainbow is pleased to host Natsuya Uesugi, author of the cyberpunkgrydscaen series. Enjoy the fine cover, blurb, excerpt. Find out how to enter the giveaway, and scroll down to read an exclusive article from the author.
Natsuya Uesugi has a new book out in his dystopian sci fi series grydscaen:
A clandestine meet occurs in the Echelons under cover of darkness where Top Secret intel on the stock market changes hands. The insider tip gets the gothic hacker Jester engaged in a high tech game. Parliament votes to lower harsh stock market regulations fueling the Corporation’s bottom line, a payoff from ministers who were propped up by illegal corporate campaign donations. Ordered by Jester, the teenage hacker Rom infiltrates the largest high volume brokerage house causing wild gyrations in trading. When Jester triggers an insidious stock market payload, all hell breaks loose threatening the pristine City. Will Zoon, the leader of the Triumvirate, get roped into the fray? Can Raven, the government hacker, put the cryptic clues together before the market crashes? Find out in grydscaen:dark. Whose side are you on?
Lino just wanted peace. All he got was war.
In the year After Colony 2055 there was the Great War. SenseNet government scientists harnessed their knowledge of nuclear weapons and created a new form of energy. This kedek energy was a natural found occurrence that existed in pools far inside the planet. Harnessing this energy into weapons called kedek bombs, scientists warned these weapons were unsafe and should never be used.
The draconian Atlantea Federation conquered more than half of the world’s territories. A group of islands and nation states formed the Pacific Territories and in a single brave act retaliated in a battle known as the Blood Red Incident. The Atlantea Federation responded with wrath releasing the kedek-based Dionysis Effect nuclear bomb stolen from the SenseNet. The untested weapon’s radioactive fallout created Codesswhich manifested as psychic powers.
Pacific Territories’ society was segregated into citizens and non-citizens. Only citizens could reside in the pristine City. Non-citizens were left with poverty and strife in the Zone where the bomb had gone off, or in the Echelons with the Red Light District, drugs, and crime.
A group of hackers rose up to combat government oppression and injustice by the Zone Police. Enforcement squads rounded up psychics nightly taking them to work camps in the toxic kedek mines. The Terror Hack used guerrilla warfare to fight the Elite government. The Packrats, a cyber terrorist organization vowed to regain control and free society through cyber revolution. Run by the elite hacker Faid Callen, he created the Packrat Sprawl and set up the Runners, Wastes, Acolytes, Hosts, Prophets and Mobile Command. Each faction possessed deadly skills and laws in the Packrat Code that ruled their actions. Civil war ripped at the heart of society.
The son of the Viceroy, Lino Dejarre had psychic power. All he wanted was peace. He joined the Psi Faction as a clandestine psychic operative and was tasked to capture Faid Callen and quell the violence. When the Atlantea Federation attacked the City, Lino found himself once more answering the royal edict and forced to become Sub Viceroy and rule as war raged around him.
Separated at age nine and banished from the royal family, Riuho Dejarre’s hatred for Lino grew as he tried to scrape out a life in the slum level Echelons while Lino lived in the pristine City. Stripped of his citizenship, Riuho vowed he would get revenge and did everything in his power to thwart Lino’s every move. From his first encounter with the Atlantea Federation, Riuho found his place and the resources to get what he desired.
The Atlantea Federation attacked brutally on the ground and also threatened the Pacific Territories’ space colonies. Lino and his Psi Faction team were roped into global diplomacy, inter-colony politics, covert missions, battleships, and space battles where they encounter the Atlantea Federation head on. When Riuho once more enters the fray, the high stakes game threatens to destroy everything for which Lino has worked.
Intrigue, psychic powers, clandestine operations, treaties, politics and a hacker revolution. From space battles, to kidnappings and assassinations, and battleships off the coast, grydscaenis filled with in depth characters and richly detailed storylines that peak your interest and keep you coming back for more.
“Not here. Hide the data till we are off the street. This way,” Toapfyl hurriedly motioned to the data messenger in the blue military coat, dark cargo pants and combat boots who followed him off the sidewalk and down another alley. He was wearing the typical garb for a data messenger which made Toapfyl comfortable when he met the stranger in the alley leaning against the wall, easily identifiable.
Toapfyl, a Level 3 hacker, was wearing maroon jeans and a zippered black hoodie pulled over his ebony half shaved head, exposing a slap of dirty brown dreadlocks gathered in a ponytail at his forehead hiding his right eye.
A prostitute wearing a pink miniskirt and fishnet stockings kissed a businessman in a black suit under a sickly yellow streetlight. Toapfyl and the data messenger were once again shrouded in shadow by the derelict buildings as they passed leaving the two to their pleasure.
Toapfyl pushed in a dilapidated door at the end of the alley, grime from the street creating a dusty haze in the air leaving a putrid stink. They entered a staircase. There was no light as they descended. Toapfyl sparked up his aegis to his hand, the manifestation of his psychic power, and lit a path to the basement.
He pushed in the door onto a dimly lit room and revealed Jester, the leader of the Jester hacker guild sitting in a rickety folding chair in the center of the empty room smoking a cigarette from a long black holder. A soft haze filtered over him from a light fixture dangling precariously from ceiling wires, the glass cover filled with dead moths that had happened their way inside and lived out their final days circling the artificial sun. The wan flickering light cast shadows that danced at the corners, the bulb swinging back and forth, moved by the basement door opening.
Legs crossed, Jester was wearing black patent leather platform boots, a shiny mahogany lace skirt, skintight black denim jeans, and a slick dark vinyl blouse with embroidered crimson roses, He sported an elaborate olive short coat with a high collar and dark cuffs and epaulets. A monocle optical sensor over his right eye, he was wearing a green top hat with a scarlet rose perched at the brim. His pink straight, shoulder length hair shined in the light.
He made an irritated gesture with his hand. “Don’t keep me waiting. Where is it?” Jester took a long drag from the cigarette and blew out a puff of smoke. He waved as Toapfyl closed the door.
“Not until I get paid.” The shocked data messenger prompted pulling out a red etched credit sized data card shaking it.
“Do the needful,” ordered Jester raising an eyebrow. He turned his back to them as he continued to smoke his cigarette taking a long drag.
Toapfyl pulled a platinum credit card out of his back pocket. The data messenger pulled his. They locked the two cards at the long end, pins embedded in the technology. Toapfyl typed out the amount of 55,000 credits on the virtual keyboard appearing on the face of his card. The cards chimed signaling the encryption key matched and the credits transferred from Toapfyl’s account.
The data messenger released his card and ran it through a handheld confirming the amount. He nodded stashing the handheld in his chest pocket.
“Done,” responded Toapfyl.
Jester turned back around not witnessing the exchange purposefully and stuck out his hand with his black lacquered fingernails in the knitted fingerless gloves. The stitching was coming apart at the seams on the thumb and index finger, the gloves covered in little white pills. Where everything about Jester’s appearance was immaculate, the gloves gave away an underlying confusion or sloppy disregard for his perfect veneer.
Jester was one of the hacker guild leaders who almost never showed his face in public. It was well known that Jester did not make meetings with data messengers or low level hackers, like a Level 3. He couldn’t be bothered with them. The fact that the data messenger insisted, and that Toapfyl made it happen, kept the data messenger on guard. He placed the red card in Jester’s palm and turned to leave.
Toapfyl jerked raising a gun to the data messenger’s temple. He touched skin. “No one leaves until the data is confirmed.”
Rom, the teenage Level 9 hacker, emerged from the shadows behind Jester. Eyebrow raised, he was annoyed with Toapfyl. Rom pulled a handheld out of his tan trench coat as he came into the dim light. His dull blonde unkempt hair gleamed with a blue streak at the front. He took the data card from Jester and swiped it in the port on the handheld reading the file as the system ran the security check. He typed on the deck triggering an encryption key prompt as the handheld’s computerized female voice spoke the request.
“The data is encrypted? Why didn’t you mention that?” questioned Toapfyl suspicious. He pushed the gun barrel closer taking a step in and made the data messenger move his head back.
“No problem,” interrupted Rom. “Most data messengers are Packrat Runners smuggling data from the City into the Echelons. It should take a Packrat decrypt key. I have access to the Packrats’ archive of one-time, pre-shared obscure keys. What I need for this, right?”
“That is why I wanted Jester at the meet. Toapfyl, all data messengers use encryption. If you don’t know that, you are an idiot. No self-respecting hacker attached to Jester would even ask the question you did just now. Only a Level 9 can penetrate. Jester would know a Level 9. Rom is one of the best in the business,” the data messenger revealed his disgust with Toapfyl and yanked the gun out of his hand pointing it back at the hacker.
Toapfyl blanched confused how he had been disarmed and lowered his eyebrows at the disrespect. Rom shot him an angry glare silencing him.
Jester smirked giving Rom permission to engage and waved the data messenger off. The messenger lowered the gun handing it back to Toapfyl.
Toapfyl opened the basement door and motioned the data messenger out accompanying him up the stairs leaving Jester in the room with Rom.
Natsuya Uesugi is a systems analyst and ethical hacker by day and a manga artist and a writer by night. With an MBA in International Management and a minor in Japanese, Natsuya insists on showcasing diversity in his writing using his Japanese, Native American and African American heritage.
He studied animation and game design in art school and has published the grydscaen manga “A Storm’s Coming” which features the LGBT teen Rom from “grydscaen: dark,” and two manga in the yaoi series “graphic noiz.” Two episodes of the short anime “A Storm’s Coming” is available with a third episode planned. Four counseling centers are currently using the “A Storm’s Coming” novelette to help LGBT homeless youth and troubled teens with self esteem.
He is author of the dystopian cyberpunk “grydscaen” series, the dark fantasy trilogy “”The Seer of Grace and Fire,” and the yaoi novels and manga “graphic noiz.” He enjoys skydiving, cosplay, watching anime in Japanese, watching French news, World Cub futbol, eating ramen and anything with matcha, and writing poetry.
So that is it, it is over. Net Neutrality is dead. The era of a free and open Internet for all has been threatened with a corporate hijacking of the liberty and right for free information. Will this spell doom for regular main street or will it just blow over and have no impact? Let’s look at what it is, look at what might happen and tie it in to the new book grydscaen: dark and how that relates.
Net neutrality is basically the fact that Internet Service Providers must treat all data on the Internet equally and not discriminate against users or charge different users different prices for content, websites, applications, equipment or method of communication. They cannot intentionally block, slow down or charge money for online content or specific websites and information. This had been enforced through government laws prior to it being repealed recently.
In the past broadband was possibly regulated as a utility which would have to follow rules and not treat customers differently or discriminate. The end of Net Neutrality causes a potential rift in this space. There are other principals like “discrimination by protocol” blocking based on the communication protocol, or “discrimination by IP address” which was to be likened to Internet censorship. Favoring private networks, peer discrimination and favoring fast loading websites over slower content are also items that need to be reviewed.
Proponents of Net Neutrality are consumer advocates, human rights organizations and online and technology companies. Supporters of Net Neutrality want to designate cable companies as common carriers which would allow them free access to cable lines the same aspect as seen in dial-up. They want to see that cable companies do not screen, censor or control Internet content. Rights and freedoms are on the line and some say that Net Neutrality supports free speech and information access which can make more informed consumers.
The FCC and the government repealed the rules that they deemed “unnecessary and heavy handed,” and will now make way for investment and broadband access. Technology companies are still pressing to save the Net Neutrality rules. The repeal means that the FCC will hand over control to the Federal Trade Commission which will only step in if there is unfair blocking and that companies must disclose throttling. This gives free reign for broadband provides to block or throttle sites with no one looking over their shoulder to make sure they are not being discriminatory. The change could also modify how content is billed and how slower and smaller providers will not be able to compete with large scale companies that have a monopoly like Netflix and Comcast.
Many states in the USA have filed lawsuits to keep the Net Neutrality rules and as of this week Washington state on its own is the only state in the USA at this time to have Net Neutrality. The FCC warns that they will go after states that try to enforce laws not in accord with the Net Neutrality repeal.
So, with all that said let’s look at how grydscaen predicted this would happen and how it plays out in the grydscaen series. The “gridscan” is the network of everything in the grydscaen series, the term “grydscaen” is the same word for network written in Packrat hacker code. The network is everywhere and we see Jazz on a jock rig when Rom is hacking accessing the network and getting in deep so they can hack the stock market. The Elite government in the grydscaen series controls everything in the Pacific Territories and there are government organizations like the SenseNet and the Corporation that oversee censorship and control of what information people have access to. The government also releases propaganda like the Facebook Newsfeed stacking we have seen recently and many have commented on about false and skewed news with Russia and influencing the Presidential election.
In grydscaen the Parliament votes to control rules and in grydscaen: dark we see the Parliament repeal a critical stock market regulation that basically allows hackers like Jester and Rom to infiltrate and take control of the stock market causing it to plunge hundreds of points in seconds. grydscaen: dark makes a commentary about the role of big government and corporate greed and how this basically enables hackers and those who want control to affect markets and consumers and in the case destroy the economy in the Echelons.
In grydscaen the Newsfeed never goes off the air, this is because they have a monopoly over the air and the government props them up. Even when hackers and cyber terrorists attack the infrastructure the Newsfeed continues to broadcast. In regards to Net Neutrality the Newsfeed’s control over what people see, when and where on the various gridscan channels or on handhelds and TVs means they can sway the popular opinion. In grydscaen this starts riots in the Echelons once the hackers take control.
We will see how Net Neutrality plays out and if the cable companies and Internet Service Providers will take advantage of regular consumers. Hopefully it will not pan out like grydscaen predicts.
Thanks to the author and Other Worlds Ink for letting Romance Across the Rainbow be part of the tour!
Lexi Ander is revealing the cover for her new MM historical fantasy/paranormal book, Caledonia Destiny – due out on July 9th:
A twist of fate changed both their destinies.
The wyrbears, once a long-lived species, were being lost to the forest in their prime. A people borne of a curse, their abilities not a gift but something wrongly taken, they nonetheless live in harmony with their animal spirits. But over time the curse they lived under changed, mutated, and now what once was a refuge from the world when they became too weary is culling mathan in their prime.
Ewen mhic Friscalach, the leader of his peoples, lost his father too early and is now a widower with four children. The vow he made as a youth to break the curse afflicting wyrbears has been buried by grief and responsibility.
Roi mhic Alric, a priest of Cerridwen and seer, watched his fellow priests slaughtered and his temple desecrated. The only thing that kept him going the last three horror-filled years was the vision Cerridwen had granted him of his emancipation. If freedom came at the cost of his life, well, he was more than ready for the Otherworld.
A fated meeting upon a bloody field of battle. A wrong done long ago. Their choices could save a people… or send them into extinction. Either way, their love will be legend.
Caledonia Destiny started out as 31k short story that had a happy for now ending. Now, years later, I have rewritten and expanded the original to 111k.
Buy Links Coming Soon
The next morn Ewen rose early and stoked the fire. Roi wandered into the forest to release his water. When he returned, Ewen bade him sit atop the furs. With an unsure countenance, Roi sat and watched Ewen approach with a wary eye. Ewen took Roi’s hand and used the warm, wet linen to wash it. He rinsed the cloth in the crock of water and repeated the motions with the other hand, gently touching the abraded flesh and each of the scabs where Roi had injured himself climbing the tree.
The camp was utterly quiet as he administered to Roi afore the gazes of his kin. He did not glance into Roi’s eyes until he took the cloth to Roi’s face, cleansing the dust of the road from Roi’s forehead and cheeks. Roi’s eyes were large and round with his confusion, but he did not stay Ewen’s hand which gave Ewen hope. He unlaced Roi’s boots and pulled them from his feet and began to wash them as well. He had not imagined he would be so nervous declaring his intentions in front of his kinsmen, but this moment was important, mayhap the most important declaration Ewen would make in his lifetime.
“Roi mhic Alric, I, Ewen mhic Friscalach, would have it known that I hereby put forth afore my kinsmen my petition to court you. I humbly ask that you consider my request and if you accept, allow no other to court you until the time you decide either to accept my hand or decline it.”
Roi turned pale as milk. Apprehension pooled in Ewen’s gut as he awaited for Roi to shun him. He deserved no less for what he had done, avoiding Roi only to succumb to his desires, waking Roi from sleep to beg Roi to touch him. Whilst Roi spoke truth, Ewen had bestowed upon him harsh words instead of Ewen’s own truth in return. He should have confided in Roi, given him the story of his people’s lineage. Roi’s lack of faith in Ewen might yet be Ewen’s own doing.
Roi placed his hand over Ewen’s where he washed the dirt from Roi’s feet. “Ye be of noble blood, ye do not have to do this.”
He captured Roi’s hand betwixt his palms. “Then tell me how to win back your trust.” Roi’s visage hardened, but not afore Ewen beheld the brief flame of longing in Roi’s eyes. “I shall find a way back into your confidence, Roi, and when I do, you shall never have reason to throw me out again.”
After placing Roi’s hand in his lap, Ewen returned to cleansing his feet, then slipped his boots over his calves and carefully laced them up. Ewen had brought over a square of knotted linen, which he gave to Roi afore he rose to his feet with the crock of dirty water. Roi untied the cloth and stared down at the food Ewen had gathered for him. The offering was not much: the last piece of flat bread, some pine nuts, and the best slices of their dried meat.
Donn grinned and nodded as Ewen passed by on his way to the stream to rinse out the crock. Kneeling at the edge of the water, Ewen then splashed the cold water onto his face, growling at the way his hands trembled.
Bear chuffed with mirth. “Good.”
With that one single word, Bear soothed Ewen’s frayed nerves. For the first time that he could recall, Bear rubbed gently against his skin as if to console him. Crouched at the water’s edge, Ewen held still in shock, able to sense Bear’s emotions without Bear saying the words. When Roi was with them, Bear came alive, naught showing of the violent creature Granda had warned Ewen of. Bear now spoke to, and even interacted with Ewen, all thanks to Roi. Ewen wiped the dripping water from his face with a new clarity.
“Ewen.” He glanced over his shoulder to behold Roi standing at the edge of the trees. Anger still pinched the corners of Roi’s lips but his hands twisted with uncertainty. “I shall not allow another to court—” his brows dipped into a hard V as if he could hardly believe his own words “—me until I either decline or accept yer… yer…” He huffed. “I know not what ye be thinking courting a man, Ewen. Everything ye do confounds me no end, and my mind counsels me to leave ye be but—” Roi rubbed at his left breast, his palm pressing into his chest as if he attempted to soothe an ache “—I find I cannot deny yer request, regardless of how unseemly it be. I never thought ye to be a daft man afore.” The last was said under Roi’s breath.
“I thought you would deny me,” Ewen confessed.
“Yer declaration caught me off guard, and when ye walked away without waiting for my answer I found meself at the mercy of others who vied for my attention. Ye have much to explain, Ewen. No others be as accepting as yer people.” Roi shook his head in a disbelieving manner afore turning to leave, moving around the four men who had followed him to the stream.
Donn, Arailt, and two other cousins watched Roi go. Bear and Ewen growled. “You heard him. He has agreed to my courtship.” Ewen’s kinsmen dispersed, Donn chuckling into his fist but hurrying away afore Ewen caught him.
Lexi is giving away three $10 Amazon gift cards with this tour – for a chance to win, enter via Rafflecopter:
Lexi has always been an avid reader, and at a young age started reading (secretly) her mother’s romances (the ones she was told not to touch). She was the only teenager she knew of who would be grounded from reading. Later, with a pencil and a note book, she wrote her own stories and shared them with friends because she loved to see their reactions. A Texas transplant, Lexi now kicks her boots up in the Midwest with her Yankee husband and her eighty-pound puppies named after vacuum cleaners.
Donations to date: $500 to Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center!Thank you, readers! I hope Yes touched your hearts. I know our donation will touch peoples lives--in a small way perhaps, but every little bit helps.
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