Leopold – First story to latest release
Good day folks!
Thanks for joining me to celebrate my newest release, Leopold (Saga of the Bold People 1). It is an m/m romance sci-fi epic, and it’s the first book of a 6-book saga. I am super excited to finally release this bad boy that’s taken me around eight years to revise and edit.
Leopold might have been one of the first true stories I wrote and certainly my first novel. But he—obviously—wasn’t my first to be released. That honor goes to the novella, “A Giant’s Friend.” It was released by a publisher that has since shut down because of shady financial practices and shall remain nameless.
I’ll be honest and say that “A Giant’s Friend” wasn’t ready to be published. I was proud of it but it wasn’t up to snuff to be seen by the reading public. However, the publisher saw potential in it and released it anyway. Then some reviewer left a rather nasty review of it that was completely uncalled for—you’d think I had just personally insulted her or something—and it crushed me pretty hard. I kept publishing in spite of her and eventually had “A Giant’s Friend” removed with the intention on rewriting it and re-pubbing.
Years went by. Other books were released but I never forgot my first book. Then last year the time rolled around for me to yank it back out and read it over. Yeah, it was bad and could be so much better! I loved the characters, the setting, and the plot, so I rewrote it completely and it became the story it should have been in the first place. I released it in an anthology titled “Guardians of a Giant’s Treasure” along with two short stories that were a part of two other multi-author anthologies by the same nameless publisher.
It was amazing to realize how much I’ve grown as a writer since those early days. After re-reading “A Giant’s Friend” I was blown away how well I could fix and flesh out a story I thought was finished years earlier.
The same thing happened with Leopold. The first draft sucked. The second draft sucked. Every other subsequent drafts became slightly less sucky until finally, in the last two years, I mercilessly slashed and cut and burned and realigned many details and events until I pummeled out what is now available for purchase. I bit off more than I could chew years ago, yet now I feel far more able to handle this bad boy and the five books to come after it.
So there you have it, folks. You never stop learning. You shouldn’t stop learning. Every new book is an opportunity for me to flex my writing muscles and challenge myself. To risk. Sometimes you’ll go down in flames. Sometimes you’ll fly. Sometimes both. I truly hope Leopold will fly and that I can continue his story. Though it’s hard to give him up. I’ve been tweaking him for nearly a decade now. But no more. Now I need to move on.
I am currently working on four series simultaneously (because I am a glutton for punishment, apparently) and several stand-alones with plans for a couple of trilogies.
I have three stories contracted with Dreamspinner Press for 2019: a vampire story, the latest shifter book (#13), and the prequel to “On Wings of Thunder.”
Until next time,
May dragons guard your dreams,
M.D. Grimm has a new MM sci fi book out:
How does a human survive in an alien dominated InterGalactic Community? By becoming an assassin, of course.
At least, that’s what Leopold thought when he became an assassin for the elite. Pretending to be an alien known as Voidstriker, Leopold feeds his appetite for vengeance, killing aliens as well as taking their money. It's a win-win to his mind. That is, until a bounty is placed upon his head.
With his true identity now revealed to the IG Community, Leopold knows it's only a matter of time before the powerful family members of his victims come for blood. Far worse is the fact that the one who put the bounty on his head, is the one he most fears.
A routine job three cycles ago brought him face-to-face with Mastrodai, a prince of the powerful Mrrog Nation. Not only did Leopold—accidentally—destroy part of Mastrodai’s moon, but one glimpse of the mighty alien had him feeling desire for the first time in his life. He ran, and like predator after prey, Mastrodai never stopped hunting him.
Leopold is convinced that Mastrodai wants bloody revenge. But when he finally confronts the mrrog, he is stunned to realize Mastrodai wants something very different. Something surprisingly intimate—the one thing that scares Leopold more than torture.
M.D. is giving away one eBook copy of her book Ruby: Lost and Found with this tour. Enter via Rafflecopter:
I climbed out the broken window onto the platform and tried to activate my holo-cuffs again. After several failed attempts, I realized they weren’t going to help me. Damn things were shit! Swallowing my curses, I jammed on my helmet and started to climb down. By the third floor, the ladder had been broken. I would need to jump. Fantastic. Three levels down. If I landed slightly wrong I would at worst break something, at best sprain something. I had no choice. My helmet impeded by vision so I took it off. I dangled it from my fingertips for a moment before letting it drop. To me, the sound it made upon impact was like a crack of thunder, but it was merely a thud. I took a deep breath and crawled down as much of the ladder as I could, and hung there a moment, gauging my descent.
One, two... three.I let go and hit the ground on my feet and rolled, taking off most of the pressure. It jarred me, but nothing sprained or broke. Success!
I stood, about to grab my helmet, when I saw figures coming toward the mouth of the alley. I froze. I recognized them. They were mrrogs, and that meant he couldn’t be too far behind.
I shivered violently, demanding my legs to move. It took them a moment before they finally got the idea. I crouched slowly on the ground before moving silently backward. One foot, one hand, one foot... on and on until I reached the other end of the alley. I kept myself against the wall, in the shadows, and knew they hadn’t seen me. They were too busy contemplating my land cruiser. If they tried to deactivate the security system it would blow them up, along with the cruz. I would lose my baby, yes, but I would rather it be trash then have it in their hands.
I reached the end of the alley and continued to crouch until I turned the corner, and was out of their line of vision. My heart thundered annoyingly in my ears, and I bowed my head, steadying my breathing. Okay, my cruz was screwed. I couldn’t open fire on them without alerting everyone in the vicinity. I couldn’t run the distance to my ship and needed another way to get to it. I would have to steal a transport.
Great, I had a plan, such as it was. I stood, took two steps back for good measure, and ran into something. I stilled. It wasn’t a building and it wasn’t a transport as I was on the bloody sidewalk. No, it was a body. My heart fluttered, and I knew who it was without a doubt. My body knew, my damn, traitorous body. I could feel his heat pump against my own cold body, and I felt his chest move as he breathed. How did I not sense him behind me? My mouth opened in a silent scream because I knew this was it, I was caught. I shouted mentally at my legs to move but it was as if they were rooted to the blasted ground.
A small breeze blew from behind me, behind us, and I caught his scent. My stupid cock jumped to attention. Kill me now, please. He smelled wonderful. I wanted to close my eyes and wallow in it without any other thought in my head. I wanted to melt against him and have those strong arms--
My eyes had nearly closed when I popped them open. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something move. I tracked the large arm, covered in a black sleeve, and the golden hand as it lifted and came toward me. My legs finally kicked into action, and I ducked agilely and rolled under his raised arm before straightening, and running faster than I ever had in my life. I heard him shout out orders in a deep voice. I realized it was the first time I’d ever heard him speak. Despite the situation, I thought he had a lovely voice. I jerked out of that stupid thought when I heard rapid footsteps behind me. Was he chasingme?
I glanced behind, saw the truth in those blazing yellow eyes, in that golden face, and pumped my legs faster. I wove and dodged around large trash bins, unable to keep myself from glancing back. Mastrodai simply leapt overthe trash bins, landing on his hands, and continuing on all fours to chase me, quickly gaining ground.
Shit, shit, shit!
Clouds rolled in overhead, and the moon grew darker, mistier. I needed to lose him. How? His large nose indicated his overdeveloped scent glands, and the way his eyes glimmered in the dark, when I dared another look behind, told me he had no problem hunting in the shadows.
I was so dead.
Recognizing the buildings around me, I swerved sharply to my right and raced down several narrow alleyways. The confined spaces forced him to throttle his boosters. He was still way too damn agile for someone his size, but he couldn’t use his full speed in the alleys unless he wanted to run into a wall. The turns forced him to slow down just enough, and more and more I was starting to lose sight of him whenever I glanced back.
I let my own nose lead me to the large, festering trash pile set along a creek with questionable cleanliness. Trash was rarely collected this far out and, in this case, it would prove to be my savior. Granted, I enjoyed being clean, but survival called for disgusting measures, at times.
After a few more turns, I burst out in the opening and dashed to the trash. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and dove inside. Eewwww!I swam through the garbage and shut down my mind from speculating what it consisted of. After what felt like forever, I popped out the other end and sucked in a gigantic breath of the foulest air I’d ever tasted. That would kill his ability to track me, no matter how powerful his nose. Without stopping, I rolled forward and dropped to the ground. I didn’t look behind for Mastrodai before staggering toward the creek and jumping it. The water was swift and sure and carried me farther down the city.
I managed to lose him for now, but it wasn’t over, yet. Not even close.
The hunt was on.
M.D. Grimm has wanted to write stories since second grade (kind of young to make life decisions, but whatever) and nothing has changed since then (well, plenty of things actually, but not that!). Thankfully, she has indulgent parents who let her dream, but also made sure she understood she’d need a steady job to pay the bills (they never let her forget it!).
After graduating from the University of Oregon and majoring in English, (let’s be honest: useless degree, what else was she going to do with it?) she started on her writing career and couldn’t be happier.
Working by day and writing by night (or any spare time she can carve out), she enjoys embarking on romantic quests and daring adventures (living vicariously, you could say) and creating characters that always triumph against the villain, (or else what’s the point?) finding their soul mate in the process.
Author Website: https://www.mdgrimmwrites.com/
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Blaine D. Arden has a new MM sci fi book out:
“It’s not all about serving coffee and typing reports.”
Working for a secret organisation specialising in alien cover-ups, Connor Smith is no stranger to the abnormal or dangerous. His love life on the other hand… not so exciting. Until he reluctantly agrees to a blind date and meets the perfect bloke, Jason.
Things are finally falling into place for Connor, so of course that’s when he attracts an alien stalker.
Noah Jones, ex-alien, has been stranded on Earth and forced to live as a human since 1648. Alone and detached from the world around him, Noah has spent centuries observing and recording humankind. In all that time, he’s only experienced a connection with a human once… until he finds Connor.
Even knowing Connor is in a relationship, Noah can’t ignore their potential bond, or stay away.
While dealing with missing alien artefacts, a dangerous and shadowy group of collectors, and the ever-present Noah, Connor finds his orderly life crumbling around him. At least he still has the perfect boyfriend…
When Noah goes missing, Connor is forced to face the feelings growing between them and the mounting evidence that Jason isn’t who he says he is…
Blaine is giving away two sets of "A Triad in Three Acts" & "Oren's Right" with this tour – enter via Rafflecopter:
The Dross Woods, four-bloody-something in the morning, hunting for six-armed, two-legged white creatures.
Agent Connor Smith, personal assistant of Chief Security Lieutenant Natalie Tallis of Primrose UK, yawned. The lingering mist clung to his ankles as he tightened the straps of his field gear. He took his tranq out of its holster and flicked his torch on. The dense, tall trees hampered visibility, and the smattering of shrubs didn’t help, either. The path, at least, was wide enough for two.
“How many were there again?”Agent Simpson, team Alpha’s leader, asked. His dark, bald head gleamed in the early dawn as he moved to stand next to Connor.
“Ten, I think.”Or eleven. Connor hadn’t been awake enough to pick up everything during the interview with the Cleaton brothers, two aging sheep farmers, who had called it in. Why have a sheep farm so close to this vast and dense piece of forest? It was asking for trouble.
“They kept them in the stables, right? So, what happened?”
“Broke out,”Connor said as he trailed into the woods after Simpson. Though Connor outranked the stocky but agile team leader, Simpson had at least a decade of field experience on him. Simpson’s torch lit up the uneven, knobby-rooted ground, and Connor used his to search the shrubbery next to the path. He wished he’d brought an extra coffee, because he was not awake enough for this. Hopefully, the pale colour of the creatures made them easier to spot.
“So, broke out?”
“Have you seen the thing they called stables? It’s nothing more than a rickety old shed. Even one-armed creatures would have had no problem breaking out, let alone these... Noren, I think the brothers called them.”
“All I understood was that we’re here to catch us some aliens.”Simpson veered left, following the whimsical bend in the path, and looked back. “It was a late night.”
“Right, you were chasing another missing artefact. Lieutenant Tallis filled me in. File’s probably making its way to my desk as we speak.”Connor squinted, aiming his torch at the shrubbery to his left. A mix of red, yellow, and purple flowers brought some colour to the otherwise dreary looking forest. “It’s the eighth time this has happened. It’s becoming a problem.”
“Don’t I know it. So, did they say how big these fellas are?”
“Chest height or about. Why? Spot something?”Connor pointed his torch along Simpson’s.
The shrubs shuddered and shook until Simpson stepped forward. A twig snapped, followed by meowing. A cat. Just a cat.
Connor shrugged at Simpson and they moved forward again.
Somewhere a shout rang out: a high-pitched screech that caused goose bumps.
“One down!”someone called through the commlink—team Bravo’s Forente or Briers, Connor guessed. “There are at least two others here.”
“That way,”Simpson said, pointing to their right, onto a narrow path overgrown with creepers.
Connor nodded, but Simpson had already turned away.
Step by step, they followed the narrow path, the darkness only broken by the light of their torches. They were hampered by the creepers as they moved along—listening, stopping, and listening again—as well as having to push low branches out of their way every other step.
One by one, more teams called in their catches.
“They seem to like sheep,”Forente commented after his first catch. “I heard one bleat, and the next thing we know, one of those Noren is coming right at us.”
“Good to know,”Simpson said. “Keep up the good work.”
“How many is that now?”Connor eyed the shrubbery in front of him, squinting as he pointed the torch at it. Eerie how dark a forest could be at daybreak. He preferred the smell of fresh moss to the damp, woodsy smell that now hung around him.
“Seven. I think.”
So, three to go, and he and Simpson had yet to run into any.
Something rustled behind them, and Connor turned, aiming his tranq. He hoped it wasn’t another cat. More rustling, but no movement in the shrubs. The foliage was denser here—they must have reached the middle of the woods by now.
Satisfied a Noren wasn't stalking them, Connor went to catch up with Simpson. when a sudden crunching of leaves to his right stopped him again. Something whitish moved behind a tree, too large to be a rabbit. He wished he’d paid more attention when Tallis had told them what to look for. Not that she’d been any more awake than he was. Simpson wasn’t the only one who’d been working late. The--
Another crunch, nowhere near, though. If there were two Noren around, he'd need Simpson. He tapped the commlink. “Simpson?”
“That was me. The path circles back onto itself.”
That was a relief. “There’s one behind a tree in front of me.”
“Right. Want me to move around it?”
“Good idea.”Then he remembered the comment about the sheep. “Wait. You don’t have to. Draw it out, bleat if you have to. All I need is a clear shot. I can’t take a shot as long as it’s hiding behind that tree,”Connor said, keeping an eye on the tree the Noren hid behind. He hoped it was just the one, even though they didn’t seem violent towards humans.
Simpson’s imitation of a sheep sounded nothing like the real thing, yet the Noren thought it genuine enough, since it came out from behind the tree, straight into the dense shrubbery next to it.
“Bugger.”Connor tracked the movement, but the shrubbery blocked his view. “I don’t have a shot. It fled right into the bushes.”
Simpson didn’t reply. Instead, he made his way around Connor, judging from the flashes of torchlight jumping around, and repeated his sheep imitation.
The leaves shuddered, and Connor narrowed his eyes, hoping to get a clear shot.
Simpson bleated again, and this time the Noren came running out of the shrubbery. Connor aimed and pulled the trigger. The Noren went down hard. Hit in one. He knelt next to the creature, taking the cuffs out.
“Nice shot, Smith,”Simpson said when he reached them.
“Thanks.”Connor cuffed all three sets of arms. It seemed like overkill, but he knew better than to take any risks. He was about to activate his earpiece to ask how many were still on the loose when a shrill whistle sounded, calling them back.
“Well,”Simpson said as he helped Connor pick the Noren up, “I guess that’s that.”
“All in a day’s work, Simpson, all in a day’s work.”At least, for a personal assistant at Primrose.
Blaine D. Arden is a purple-haired, forty-something author of queer romance mixed with fantasy, magic, and suspense who sings her way through life in platform boots. She is an EPIC Award winning author, and her scifi romance “Aliens, Smith and Jones” received an Honourable Mention in the Best Gay Sci-Fi/Fantasy category of the Rainbow Awards 2012.
Born and raised in Zutphen, the Netherlands, Blaine spent many hours of her sheltered youth reading, day dreaming, making up stories and acting them out with her Barbies. After seeing the film “An Early Frost” as a teen in the mid-eighties, an idealistic Blaine wanted to do away with the negativity surrounding homosexuality and strove to show the world how beautiful love between men could be. Our difference is our strength, is Blaine’s motto, and her stories are often set in worlds where gender fluidity and sexual diversity are accepted as is.
Author Website: https://blainedarden.com
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QSFer Eric Alan Westfall has a new MM historical romance out:
It’s April of 1816 in Another England.
And Jeremy—a whore from the Dock—is living in a guest bedroom at the London home of the (in)famous Iron Marquess, with over fifteen days missing from his life.
For someone who remembers everything from his third birthday on, it’s unnerving not to know. Fine, fourteen days for the coma and the infection delirium. But those first thirty-six hours. Do they explain how he got hurt, how he got to Ireton House, and why his lordship’s mountain-sized valet is taking care of him? Or why his ironness looks at him with nothing iron at all in his eyes?
Jeremy and the Iron Marquess both have dark secrets. Forced engagements, an inheritance, a scheme to clap Jeremy in Bedlam, the revelation of the missing hours, a problem with plumage, some numbered accounts, and a long sea voyage, all seem to mean there’s no way out of the snares surrounding them. Or is the old saying true: where there’s a waltz, there’s a way?
All royalties will go to a local LGBT organization.
Eric is giving away two backlist eBooks (ePub or mobi) to one luck winner. Enter via Rafflecopter:
6 April 1816
Ireton House, London
no way out
The voice was back.
Inside my head.
Still I swiveled, twisting to look behind, knowing I would see what I always see when the words are said—nothing. The unpainted, scuffed wooden floor was empty. The door to second story elegance had not creaked since we passed through, shutting it behind us, moments ago. The stairs to lesser third-story elegance and fourth story no elegance at all were both bare of bodies who might whisper words only I could hear.
I turned forward again, teetered, and reaching out, slapped my palms flat against the walls of the narrow servants’ stairs. Pressing hard, I tilted back, but my socked foot slipped on the slick wooden edge. When I landed, the floor made known its displeasure with a sharp splinter through the rope-belted loose trousers, ill-fitting smalls, and into my bum. I yelped.
The cold voice of Thomas, the senior footman, rose up the stairwell from the landing below. “His lordship is waiting.”
I shifted my weight to my left hip, and rolled to my knees, giving him a fine view of my bottom if he was watching, which was by now instinctive. I made a point of lifting my left leg with great care, and with equal care placing my foot on the floor, again in case he was watching. A right foot repeat and then some clearly awkward struggling to get myself as upright on the landing as I could—although a boy with a twisted spine and a twisted leg can never be truly upright—followed by a shuffle-step away from the edge. I suppressed the temptation to rub my right arse cheek. Without turning around I called down, “Well, bugger ‘is bleedin’ lordship! Me feet ‘urt ‘n me arse ‘as been ‘urt, too.”
My feet didn’t hurt much any more. Though bandaged still, and covered with the thick wool stockings sagging around my ankles, they had almost healed. But the pretense might keep me here, with a comfortable bed, and good food, for just a while longer. I grinned a small, wicked grin to myself, and wiped it away as I turned to face the stairs. “Right, then. Shall I drop me britches, turn ‘n bend and you can see what’s stickin’ in me bum, ‘n maybe come up ‘n pull it out?”
It was amazing how much disdain could be contained in stare and stance. Thomas even managed to look down his nose while looking upthe stairs.
“Orright, orright. Jus’ wait a bleedin’ minute. ‘n you might want to close yer eyes so’s y’don’t see somethin’ what might ‘orrify you, just in case me grip slips, ‘cause I ain’t goin’ nowhere with somethin’ stickin’ in me arse.”
My hands were on the knot in the rope, and I grinned broadly when the footman closed his eyes, with a stern “Be quick about it then, boy.”
I untied the knot, loosening the waistband since whoever supplied the trousers was much thicker around the middle than me, using my left hand to hold the pants up. I reached behind, and working my right hand into my smalls and found the painful little bugger. With thumb and forefinger I wiggled it free, brought my hand round to the front, and looked at the bloody, bloody thing. I shouldn’t have, but I did. I lifted the three-quarter-inch sliver before my face. “Oi! Is this a dagger wot I see before me?”
Bloody hell. Bloody, bloody, bloodyhell. Maybe Thomas wouldn’t.... Well, bloodyhell all over again, he did. The footman was looking at me now, his eyes wide, his mouth open to say something, and then he slowly shut it.
It would only make it worse if I tried to cobble together an explanation of why, or how a sixteen-year-old street boy (the age I gave) could paraphrase The Scottish Play. I shut my own mouth, dropped the splinter, retied the knot, and began descending the stairs with care, one thumping step at a time. I braced one hand against the wall—his lordship did not believe in hand rails for his servants—in case of another slip. The footman waited until I was almost at the landing before turning away. Watching my downward struggle, he was unconcerned about the possibility of another fall, his expression informing me if I fell I was on my own. I followed in silence as we went through the halls of the first floor to the front of the house.
Ah, his lordship’s library. I stared at the door.
I’d been in there, just the once, when I shouldn’t have been. But then, I shouldn’t have been in the house in the first place, but I was, though I didn’t know why. Or how I came to be here. Both were part of what was missing. I could remember every...bloody...thingin my life up to the night before...whatever...happened. Remember the Dock on the 12th, the clock in my head saying it was ten thirty at night when I finished the last man. I remember the glint of the shilling as it spun through the air, making me get off my knees, bend and stretch to reach it in the muck. The feel of the metal between my fingertips as I picked it up. Then the twist and roll away, my back taking the brunt of the kick meant for my belly. The man was one of those who, once done, and eager to be tucked and buttoned away, feels guilty and lashes out at the one responsible for his sin. I remember his silhouette as I got to my feet, his realizing how much taller I was, and how the silhouette turned and hurried away.
Then nothing more until I woke up too damned many days later in a bloody nobleman’s house, in sobbing agony, weak, my feet, head and thigh throbbing with pain.
Eric is a Midwesterner, and as Lady Glenhaven might say, “His first sea voyage was with Noah.” He started reading at five with one of the Andrew Lang books (he thinks it was The Blue Fairy Book) and has been a science fiction/fantasy addict ever since. Most of his writing is in those (MM) genres.
The exceptions are his Another England (alternate history) series: The Rake, The Rogue and the Roué(Regency novel), Mr. Felcher’s Grand Emporium, or, The Adventures of a Pair of Spares in the Fine Art of Gentlemanly Portraiture(Victorian), with no way out(Regency) coming out a month after Of Princes.
Two more fairy tales are in progress: 3 Boars & A Wolf Walk Into A Bar(Eric is sure you can figure this one out), and The Truth About Them Damn Goats(of the gruff variety).
Now all he has to do is find the time to write the incomplete stuff! (The real world can be a real pain!)
Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/eawestfall43
Holden Bancroft was born with a better than average brain and not much else. Often described as strange and sickly, his attempts to conform only made him look foolish and a life-long diet of pills hasn’t provided a cure. Deciding to strengthen the only tool in his arsenal was liberating and learning became his greatest joy. But each episode is another reminder that his time is limited, and Holden intends to use everything he’s learned to help the small town of Hope before he dies.
Alpha Crowley Lomond, Zenith of the Americas, isn’t exactly happy with his ascension. Leading isn’t the problem, it’s acting like he’s somehow better than every other shifter that chafes. But while living and working beside them may seem noble, Crowley is more than just an alpha. As Zenith, he’s their example, their teacher and guide, and the one they will turn to when their way of life is threatened.
Meeting changes them in ways they never could have predicted and unveils a web of deceit that began long before they were born. Together, they will have to unravel the lies and reconcile the consequences if they are to protect the shifter way of life. Along the way, Crowley will become the Zenith his Kindred was born to love and their enemies will learn that there's nothing more dangerous than fated mates.
Meet Jessie G
Like many readers, I've dreamed of being a writer most of my life. Thanks to social media, I was able to follow my favorite authors and hoped to glean some words of wisdom as I pounded out half-formed ideas with alarming regularity. It isn’t always easy, but it’s definitely been worth it and with four series in the works and a full schedule of releases planned for the next two years, it's been amazing to have made this dream my reality.
I am a firm believer in marriage equality, love at first sight, power dynamics, and happily ever after. I'm a lover of strong secondary characters and series filled with families—biological or chosen. All are themes you'll find throughout my books.
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“Evolution of a Character: Julian “Blue” Iskafiin”
When I was in the ninth grade, the idea for grydscaen which had been floating around in my brain solidified and became a real story. The very first character created was a hacker named Rom but the first character with a back story was named “Blue.” At the time Blue did not have a real name. That came later along with the full backstory for him.
As I went to college and explored my own gender identity and sexual orientation I found that the character Blue changed with me. Blue evolved from a kid to a fully formed asexual and transgender clandestine psychic operative. As Blue grew on me, he gained a bigger part in the story and after having published multiple books in the grydscaen series, Blue became real to me. And that meant he needed to be more than just a government operative who had been trained since age five. He needed to be the 16 year old transgender teenager he really always was.
Blue likes punk and new wave music, he likes to ride his motorcycle, and he likes Faid Callen, the cyber terrorist hacker who had been captured and became his psi partner while they were both test subjects at the Psi Faction.
With non-binary and asexuality becoming more visible, I wanted Blue to be the showcase for non-binary. Blue is transgender and the government operated on him making him what they called “gender neutral” so it didn’t affect his psychic power. He is a damper which means he can absorb the power of other psychics and neutralize them. The government thought gender would affect his ability to follow orders and relate to those emotionally he was absorbing power from. With Blue having feelings for Faid more as a friend then sexually, I was able as a writer to explore Blue more and how he faces the world. The character Blue also brings up the rights to your body and the government mutilating him which harkens back to intersexed individuals “normalizing” surgeries against their consent as infants.
As Blue became closer to Faid after he escaped from government capture, it was only then that Blue started to have more volatile feelings in the story. Though he would never act on his feelings, he still had them and needed to channel that into his work as an operative and grow to understand himself. Since Blue is only 16 in the story, he is young and still finding his way. He is sheltered and has only known the home of the Psi Faction, the military organization. He identifies as non-binary and usually wears androgynous clothes but for work as an operative he goes on missions sometimes as a boy and sometimes as a girl. In later books in the series we see this behavior more on his missions, the government uses him because they can.
Blue grew on me as I matured as a writer and I wanted to explore a teenager’s wild emotional swings and his struggle with finding his identity. Blue is special to me because he is both someone who grew with me as I grew up and he matured as my writing matured. When Blue first showed up he was an operative with no emotions. Now, he has feelings, and wants and desires even though the only life he knows is the government-run Psi Faction.
Non-binary and asexual characters are important to showcase as they are sometimes marginalized or ignored. I wanted to make sure Blue had a voice, and a loud one that played a critical part in the grydscaen story.
Natsuya Uesugi has a new queer sci fi book out:
Faid Callen is tired of life on the run in the Echelons trying to keep his psychic power in check. He founds the Packrats, a group of cyberterrorist hackers. A young powerful Psi Faction operative, Lino Dejarre, is sent on a mission to capture Faid. Wanting to keep Lino under control, the Psi Faction kidnaps his half-brother, Riuho, and they take him prisoner, experiment on him, train him, and subject him to mind control.
When Lino is assigned to a high stakes diplomatic mission to reveal a traitor, he finds another psychic operative in play, causing him to question the Psi Faction’s motives. Can Lino rescue his brother before more blood is shed or will Faid step in and destroy the Psi Faction’s plans?
About the Series:
Lino just wanted peace. All he got was war.
In After Colony 2055, the Atlantea Federation, a draconian power had taken over 75% of the world’s territories and launched a nuclear attack, the Dionysis Effect against the insurgent Pacific Territories. In a single brave act, the Pacific Territories retaliated in a battle known as the Blood Red Incident. The untested weapon’s radioactive fallout created Codess which manifested as psychic powers.
After the initial destruction, people struggled to survive and some developed psychic powers as others fell to the pervasive radiation sickness. Civil war ripped at the heart of society with cyberterrorist hacker groups rising up to fight the government. The son of the Viceroy, Lino Dejarre had psychic power. He joined the Psi Faction as a clandestine psychic operative tasked to capture Faid Callen the leader of the Packrat hackers.
Separated at age nine and banished from the royal family, Riuho Dejarre’s hatred for his brother Lino grew as he tried to scrape out a life in the slum level Echelons. Stripped of his citizenship, Riuho vowed to get revenge and thwart Lino’s every move as the young operative tried to govern and keep his people safe. With Faid and Riuho using the Packrat cyberterrorist hackers to attack the government even as the Atlantea Federation increased the threat trying to destroy the remains of the Pacific Territories and their allies, the war took a dire turn.
The Atlantea Federation attacked brutally on the ground and threatened the Pacific Territories’ space colonies. Lino and his Psi Faction team were roped into global diplomacy, inter-colony politics, covert missions, battleship scurmishes, jet fighter sorties, and space battles facing the Atlantea Federation head on. When Riuho once more entered the fray, his high stakes game of manipulation and lies threatened to destroy everything for which Lino had worked.
With threats to the fragile Pacific Territories coalition and the fate of the world at stake, can Lino, the Viceroy of the City, the Echelons and the Zone lead the Pacific Territories to a victory? Intrigue, fast-paced action, clandestine psychic operatives, hackers, the oppressive Zone Police, and shadowy government conspiracies, the situation couldn’t be riskier. Will Lino ever see peace and an end to war? Find out in the dystopian grydscaen series. Whose side are you on?
Natsuya is giving away an eBook copy of his grydscaen: rogue book with this tour – enter via Rafflecopter:
“Why is there a child here?” asked Jai.
“He will be staying here now. He has psi potential. We are giving him to Dr. Ren as a test subject,” said Gailen as they walked down the hall to the Controlling Chambers in the Psi Faction building.
“Where did he come from?” asked Jai.
“His mother sold him to the Psi Faction for a cit card,” informed Gailen.
“People actually do that?” choked out Jai.
“His mother was a prostitute. She sold him and was paid a hefty sum and given a cit card. The child has very high psi potential. We would have requested him if she had not offered.”
There was a maintenance crew in the hall. They were fixing up a room in the back of the Controlling Chambers to make a day care center, a playroom. It was to ensure there was some age appropriate place for the child to be kept during the day. Dr. Ren was in the Controlling Chamber area when they got there.
“How is it going?” asked Gailen coming up to him.
“Oh Gailen. Come in. Come see. It is going rather well. I think this room will be adequate,” said Dr. Ren.
There was an electrician at the wall installing an electrical panel and he handed Dr. Ren a remote control. The electrician finished up and placed the face plate of the panel at the wall and told Dr. Ren the panel was all set.
“The room has a damper, a psi shield and other features that will help to control the child. He has been here for almost six weeks now. We have just started the first level of his psi conditioning. He has been very receptive so far. Would you like to see him?” said Dr. Ren.
Dr. Ren walked with Jai and Gailen to the living quarters. They went to the main observation room with four rooms along the wall with glass windows. Each room had a bed and a dresser and a chair. There was a child in one of the rooms sitting in a chair. Gailen, Dr. Ren and Jai came into the main room with the lights out. The child could not see them through the one way glass.
The child had dull ash brown hair that kind of looked like it was blue since the colour was washed out. The child was rocking back and forth in the chair with his hands on his head.
“What is he doing?” asked Jai.
“We gave him an initial dose of nanomachines to see how they would take. He is reacting to that,” said Dr. Ren.
“Is it a girl or a boy?” asked Gailen.
“It’s a girl. But when I ask her she says she is a boy,” said Dr. Ren.
“She is transgender then?” asked Gailen.
“Yes, that is what it looks like. I did a whole psychological work up on her. We should start calling her he and just get used to that. She also refuses to wear dresses. One of the nurses in the infirmary tried,” said Dr. Ren.
“What is her name? I mean his name,” said Jai.
“Julian Iskafiin,” said Dr. Ren. “But he said he wants to be called Blue.”
“He is only five. How does he know what he wants to be called?” asked Gailen.
“Julian said his mother called him Blue.”
Jai looked over at Blue in the chair. The child stood up and went to the wall and started banging his head on the wall. Dr. Ren lifted up his arm and tapped out some buttons on a metal arm band he had on. A nurse came into the room and started comforting Blue.
Natsuya Uesugi is a systems analyst and white hat hacker who has worked in the design of aerospace, semiconductor and financial systems. With an MBA in International Management and a minor in Japanese, Natsuya uses his Japanese, Black and Native American heritage to paint his stories, keeping an eye on diversity.
By night, Natsuya is an author and manga artist weaving stories in his cyberpunk grydscaen world, his dark fantasy universe The Seer of Grace and Fire, and his contemporary yaoi graphic noiz which takes place in New York City. He studied animation and game design at the Art Institute of Phoenix where he learned sequential art and traditional animation that fueled his childhood dream of creating manga and anime.
To date he has created four manga and two episodes of the short anime grydscaen: A Storm’s Coming based on the teenage hacker Rom. He enjoys skydiving, cosplay, manga, World Cup futbol, watching French news, eating ramen and anything with matcha, watching anime in Japanese, and writing poetry.
Author Website: http://www.grydscaen.com
Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/natsuya.uesugi
Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/Grydscaen/
Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/natsuya_uesugi
Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4558587.Natsuya_Uesugi
Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/natsuya-uesugi/
Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Natsuya-Uesugi/e/B00J6EDQQ6/
Hi! My name is Tucker McCallahan, and I'm the author of The Boys of Summer, the first book in the Dust & Ash Saga. I'm so grateful to Elizabeth Noble for hosting me today! Lead singer Ash Redvers needs a drummer. When Dustin Davis shows up, ready, willing, and able to play - not to mention gorgeous - Ash thinks it’s going to be the best season yet. But Ash has never had a boyfriend, and Dust isn’t willing to be a quick hook-up. As the summer heats up, they’ll have to decide whether all they can make together is music, or if there’s something more for them after the Boys of Summer are gone.
Of all the themes I used in writing this novel, I think my favorite is nostalgia for days gone by. Don Henley, who recorded the song "The Boys of Summer" in 1984, has spoken many times about that aspect of his lyrics. They evoke a time when things were new and fresh, and in reliving that memory, nostalgia for what was and what might've been saturates the song. My goal as I was writing the saga was to recreate a similar series of emotions. In order to accomplish that in the first book, I ended up focusing on a "first time" of sorts.
First love, and the stumbling, bumbling, awkward attempts at forging that first relationship, are pretty powerful memories for almost everyone. Simply stated: we all remember our first boyfriend or girlfriend. My two main characters have completely opposite experiences where first love is concerned. Dustin's had several serious relationships, while Ash has never had a relationship. It makes for some interesting situations.
From The Boys of Summer:
Practice continued until the set ended, and then the guys left and Dustin went up to shower. The new bed had been delivered that afternoon before practice, so when he got out of the shower, he went into his dark room, shut the door, and dropped his towel, ready to slide between the fresh sheets he’d put on the new bed.
I hope you enjoyed the excerpt. The Boys of Summer is the first book in the Dust & Ash Saga and is available now on Amazon and Smashwords. The second book is scheduled to come out in the spring; there are six books in all.
To celebrate the first release in the saga, I'm sponsoring a giveaway! There are three ways to enter: like my author page on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, or – if you're already following me on FB and Twitter – leave me a comment about your favorite music to listen to at a wedding reception. I'll be giving away three gift cards, and the winners will get to choose what they'd like to receive! Winners will be announced on my blog on September 30th.
Once again, I'd like to thank Elizabeth for hosting me and the Boys today. Turn on some music and enjoy the end of your summer!
About Tucker McCallahan:Tucker McCallahan has been lots of places, seen lots of things, and is still learning new stuff on the regular. Multi-published, bisexual, polyamorous, and slave to a big black cat named Emperor Inka, Tucker is also married, a parent, a long-time member of the LGBT community and a proud educator/activist.
Jayne Lockwood has a new queer sci fi book out:
It might take the arrival of an alien being to remind an isolated man what it means to be human.
With a stressful job, his boss breathing down his neck for profitable results, and an estranged wife and daughter, scientist Kurt Lomax doesn’t think life can get much harder. Until a nonbinary extraterrestrial with an otherworldly beauty, captivating elegance, and a wicked sense of humor inconveniently shows up at his apartment.
Vardam watched the destruction of their own world, and they don’t want to see the same thing happen on Earth. They are lonely, and feelings soon develop between them and the supposedly straight scientist—feelings Kurt reciprocates, much to his confusion.
The arrival of cheery interpreter Tom Soames—whose Goth appearance belies a gentle heart—is like a ray of sunshine in the somber lab. He acts as matchmaker for man and tentacled extraterrestrial, unwittingly instigating a national crisis when the news breaks out.
But will a misunderstanding ruin Kurt and Vardam’s chances for happiness together—along with the hope for peace between humanity and the Var?
Jayne is giving away a $10 Amazon gift card with this tour – enter via Rafflecopter for a chance to win.
Three hours later, they were still none the wiser.
“Any joy with communications?”
Nic shook her head. “None. They don’t seem to respond to any spoken language. I’ve tried binary code, sonar, whale music, radio waves. Not a flicker. I’m not sure how well they can see or hear. They won’t let me near enough to do any examinations. They just keep staring at me like I’m the one who isn’t getting it. It’s really frustrating.”
When Kurt looked again, Vardam was there. With a graceful tilt of the head, they watched him as he approached the glass.
“What about the forensics on that note?”
“Just got them,” Troy said, looking up from his computer. “The note was written with an old-style Bic ballpoint pen by a human female….”
“Human? Are you sure?”
“I can’t argue with the evidence. There was a trace of fingerprint on the paper but nothing I can analyze. The paper looks like any A4 copy from a twentiethcentury printer or photocopier. The only thing is, I think it might have been written by someone in distress. The handwriting is very jerky, like they weren’t sure what to write and then just dashed it down. But….” Troy shrugged his wide shoulders. “That last bit’s a hunch. Could be totally wrong. Still waiting on the DNA.”
“Thanks, Troy. Let me know as soon as you get it.”
He turned back to where Vardam was standing, staring at him with those unnerving gemstone eyes.
“Who are you?”
Vardam raised their hand, running the back of it down the glass close to Kurt’s face. He jerked away. It was too close for comfort, even with three inches of glass between them. Vardam backed away as well, as if alarmed by his sudden movement. For reasons he didn’t understand, he was irritated beyond measure by their wounded expression.
“Talk to me, damn it! What do you want with me?” He smacked his hand against the glass. The sharp slap shocked Vardam into stepping back. They bared gold teeth at him and made a gesture that looked almost obscene. Then they dropped into a crouch. Immediately, a smooth iridescent shell closed over their hunched body, covering it completely.
Kurt and Nic exchanged glances, then looked back at the pod. It was completely smooth, devoid of any seams or openings. Every few seconds it quivered. Kurt could almost feel the waves of disapproval emanating from the gleamingsurface.
“Well, that’s new,” Nic said. “Get some rest. I’ll babysit until ten. Troy will take the graveyard shift.”
Kurt tore his angry gaze away from the strange pod. The way it hunched reproachfully in the corner didn’t improve his mood one bit. He knew he was more than tired. He felt emotionally and physically drained and couldn’t remember the last time he had eaten a proper meal. Not that he was hungry. He just wanted sleep.
In his apartment, he lay naked in his wide bed. He was thinking about his continued feud with James Dyer. The issue dangled over his career like a sword of Damocles but all he could see was the beautiful creature. Those eyes, staring into his ragged soul. What did they want?
The telephone by his bed rang, waking him from an unnerving dream. Glancing at the clock, he saw it was 6:15. The last eight hours had passed frighteningly quickly.
“Hello?” His voice sounded faded.
“Sorry to wake you, Professor, but I’ve got the DNA results back. You need to see them.”
“I’ll be right down.”
He stumbled out of bed and into the shower. Twenty minutes later he was down in the lab, a fresh white coat over his shirt and tie.
In the isolation room, Vardam had emerged from their shell. The melon had been eaten, apart from the rinds, neatly scalloped with teeth marks.
“It was just as I thought it would be. There’s human DNA on that note. Female. I took the liberty of cross-checking it against the National DNA Database and found a match. Whoever wrote this note is related to you. Not just distantly, but directly of your bloodline.”
Kurt looked closer at the screen. It was policy to hold the medical details of everyone at the Bunker, including himself. Even so, he wondered why he wasn’t more surprised.
It was impossible but saying so would have been redundant. The evidence was right there in front of him. He walked over to the glass and beckoned to Vardam. They gave him a withering look and turned away, presenting a bony back to the window.
“I think we’re going to have to use the softly-softly approach,” Troy said. “They’re not going to tell us anything until they’re ready. And I’ve got another hunch. I think they’re using BSL.”
“British Sign Language?” Kurt was skeptical.
“I know it sounds weird, but there’s a guy who works at Tesco in Wycombe. He uses it with some of the customers. It looks the same. It’s worth a try, isn’t it?” Troy prodded buttons on his iPad. The official website came up with a finger-spelling option. “Not all words have signs, obviously, so each letter has a sign, right?”
“I know the principles of sign language,” Kurt said irritably. The alien was an inconvenience, however beautiful they were.
“You write in your name, and the finger shapes come up.” Troy typed rapidly. Kurt’s surname appeared on the screen in sign.
Troy gently tapped on the glass. “Hello?”
Vardam turned around, saw it was Troy, and ambled over. Troy showed them the diagrams on the iPad screen. The alien nodded, repeated the signs, and pointed at Kurt. Then it signed, “I am….”
“I can’t tell what they’re saying,” Troy said. “They’re too fast. Hang on.” He typed again. “I’ve found a YouTube video for learning phrases. Ah! This one is easy.” He put the iPad down and signed, making a sad face, swirling his fist on his stomach, then raising both hands over his head, shaking it at the same time.
“What are you doing?”
“Telling him I don’t understand. It’s ‘way over my head.’ Get it?”
Vardam seemed to. They signed “okay,” then turned to Kurt and made another gesture, flattening one hand and punching up into it with the other.
“My instincts are telling me that isn’t good,” Troy said. “Looks like we need to find ourselves a sign language expert.”
“We can’t bring anyone else in at the moment. Certainly not in a professional capacity. The government will be all over us before we know it.” As Kurt said it, the seed of an idea was forming in his mind. “Where did you say that BSL user worked again?”
Jayne Lockwood has always wanted to learn to fly. Spending free time honing her Peter Pan skills on an aerial hoop, she also creates flights of fancy in her books, mingling sex and romance with angst and a healthy dash of dark humor.
Since she was a small child, Jayne has always sympathized with the villain. It all began with Alice Cooper, even though she was banned from listening to his music by her mother. From wanting to sail away with Captain Hook or redeeming the Child Catcher, the antihero has been an enduring fascination ever since.
After a two-year sojourn in New Jersey and two decades of child-rearing, Jayne is an outwardly respectable member of an English village community. She also is one of the founder members of WROTE podcast, which is dedicated to showcasing LGBTQA authors and their work, and now writes book reviews as well as diverse fiction.
She is also in a sub/dom relationship with a cat called Keith.
Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/jayne.lockwood.71
Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/hollowhillspublishing/
QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/jayne-lockwood/
EUPHORIA BLOG TOUR – The birth of Euphoria (and a deleted snippet)
By Jayne Lockwood
Hi everyone, and very many thanks for letting me take over your blog for this post.
Have you ever read a book and wondered afterwards where the hell that idea came from in the first place? If you’ve ever thought about what an author’s mindset is like when they come up with storylines which seem completely leftfield, here is a bit of an insight.
I had no idea I was going to write Euphoria before I started. If someone had said to me “write a science fiction book,” I would have instantly forgotten my teenage enthusiasm and run away screaming about sci-fi geeks flaying me for incompetence. Yes there was also a nebulous idea of a setting. Where I live there are any number of weird and wonderful places begging to have stories written about them. Also, I wanted to give myself the challenge of writing a love story with tentacles, and make it relatable and romantic, rather than so niche only a handful of people would want to read it. Finally, the whole MPREG (male pregnancy) genre puzzled me. Having read three concurrent books of shifters getting knocked up, fade to black births and golden-haired, perfect off-spring, I felt a bit short-changed. I’m not talking about transmen here. I’m talking about human/wolf hybrids popping out Aryan offspring without any visible effort (what, no puppies? How so?) Where was the screaming, the terror, the blood and guts, hemorrhoids, wind, cankles, zero interest in sex and aversion to the smell of tuna? Nope. Something wasn’t right.
So I decided to do something about that, but as these things tend to do, it evolved.
Crucially, I didn’t put myself under pressure. I have three novels stewing in the background, but none of them were working for me right then. I badly needed to write something. Looking back, the first chapter of Euphoria I actually wrote was Kurt spinning out after overdosing on Vardanium, and that scene didn’t even make it into the final novel in the end! (I’ve added it below.) Because I began to write knowing I wouldn’t be showing it to anyone, the pressure to perform, to do things the “right” way, was absent. I could play with ideas, characters, concepts. The freedom allowed creativity to run riot. After all, no-one was going to read it.
I can honestly say I’ve never written a novel so fast before, and I think it was because of the lack of expectation. It taught me much for future work. The next novel is developing in the same sort of way, without constrictions of what is “right.” And again, this approach is gleaning surprising results. It’s worth saying that I could be dismissed as a “hobby” writer, one that doesn’t have to worry about deadlines from publishers. The only deadlines I have are the ones I set for myself, until a publisher takes an interest, that is. For people who rely on writing to put food on the table, it isn’t possible to just “see how it develops.” I appreciate that, but for me this isn’t a hobby. It’s a passion and one I take seriously, even when talking about tentacle sex.
Back to Euphoria, I’ve obviously polished it since the idea was put forward that I unleash it on the wider world. After I gave it to a friend (“read this. I’m not publishing. I’d be locked up…”) things began to happen rather fast. I have good, honest friends to thank for this (they are in the dedication at the front so I won’t embarrass them here.) and I appreciate their input more than they will ever know.
I guess the moral of this post is, don’t let anything stifle your creativity. Write that weird-ass book you thought of at 3am, then chickened out of in the cold light of day. See where it goes. It might turn into something strange and wonderful that people will want to read. Time will tell if that’s the case with Euphoria, but it’s worth free-wheeling it and seeing what you’re capable of. The results might surprise you.
Deleted Snippet from Euphoria
Kurt tried to focus on the face in front of him, but his eyes did not have the strength. Memories crept in, like spreading cracks on a windshield. His grandmother, scrubbing his hands until they were raw. Dirt is evil. Filth defies the Lord. Eating cold, tasteless broth. Meat is murder. Dairy is filthy. The body is a temple. To defile it is to burn in hell.
Pain shot through his limbs, making him gasp. The warmth had gone and it was cold. So very cold. He began to shiver as the golden light in his head began to dissipate, replaced with black, horrific images of his thoughts, skittering around in his brain like spiders, confusing his analytical mind and turning it into a jumble of short-circuiting wires.
Yet he was thirsty as if he had been crawling through the Sahara in the middle of the day, his hands shaking like that of an old man. His vision was edged with dark, a daguerrotype devoid of colour, the images morphing and shifting, making no sense.
Someone approached him, their eyes black, worms sliding out of their open mouth. He screamed and backed away as their face changed to a Día de Muertos grinning mask, teeth gnashing. He backed away, trembling, until he was caught in an iron vice.
“Vardanium. I need it,” he heard himself gasp.
“Get help!” Someone was yelling. Muscular arms closed around him. He wanted to struggle but he was too weak. He fell into their arms and let himself be carried away as the needle slipped into his vein.
Meet Asta Idonea
Asta Idonea (aka Nicki J. Markus) was born in England but now lives in Adelaide, South Australia. She has loved both reading and writing from a young age and is also a keen linguist, having studied several foreign languages.
Asta launched her writing career in 2011 and divides her efforts not only between MM and mainstream works but also between traditional and indie publishing. Her works span the genres, from paranormal to historical and from contemporary to fantasy. It just depends what story and which characters spring into her mind!
As a day job, Asta works as a freelance editor and proofreader, and in her spare time she enjoys music, theatre, cinema, photography, and sketching. She also loves history, folklore and mythology, pen-palling, and travel, all of which have provided plenty of inspiration for her writing.
Matt Doyle has a new lesbian sci fi book out:
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 sonot 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 notpositive,” 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.
By Matt Doyle
Whereas Addict saw PI Cassie Tam investigating the death of a virtual reality junkie, The Fox, The Dog, and The King deals with a very different case: a missing pet. Here, Cassie is hired by a touring performance artist named Kitsune to find their dog Fish. Fish is a white American Shepherd that Kitsune and their manager found abandoned during a previous tour. After making sure that the fuzzball was given proper medical treatment, they adopted him, and he’s been living with the pair ever since. Over the time that they’ve been together, Kitsune and Fish have become a bit a lifeline for each other too; Kitsune providing Fish with a stable home and comforts him when he’s upset, and Fish providing companionship for the lonely performer. Unfortunately, the man that stole Fish has dark intentions for the pooch: he’s setting up a dogfight.
Now, from here, I shall be providing some mild spoilers for part of the book. While I won’t be going into great detail about the overall mystery, I will be addressing the topic of dogfight itself. The thing with it is, dogfighting is frowned upon in New Hopeland City. Regular citizens and law enforcement view it as a deplorable act, as you would expect, but it goes further than that. The Criminal Underworld in New Hopeland doesn’t take too kindly to it either. This is perhaps best illustrated by Charlie Goldman, herself one of the most renowned drug dealers in the city. When she discovers what’s going on, she comments: “If he’s setting up dogfights, he’s going to be looking at repercussions from more people than he probably realizes. We don’t do animal cruelty.”
So that means that it’s not just law-abiding people that will be upset with the man in question, but groups of drug dealers, assassins, crime lords, and thieves alike. With that much at risk, you have to question why he’d set the thing up in the first place, especially as those that are set to attend aren’t too happy about being there either.
The answer is simple: he is employed by a member of the Criminal Underworld in a legal capacity and, after discovering something unexpected about his employer, has decided to set them up for a fall. He doesn’t just want to hurt them, he wants them taken out of the equation completely for his own gains. And what better way to do that than to set him up as the culprit behind an act so cruel that even his fellow criminals would turn on him?
Okay, so that probably sounds a little worrying, right? The truth is though, I’m an animal lover myself, and I could never write something like that actually coming to fruition. So, this is the biggest spoiler of the piece: the dogfight is stopped. Cassie turns up just as things are about to get started and, aided by her metallic gargoyle Bert, manages to disrupt proceedings before the dogs are made to fight. The police arrive shortly after, and Fish is given a happy reunion with his owner.
But the man responsible escapes. You don’t need to worry though, there is still plenty of the book left after this, and Cassie soon shifts from working a missing pet case to taking part in a manhunt for the culprit, with the ultimate goal of bringing him to justice.
Dragged Into Love (Þrymskviða)
When Theo’s landlord steals his guitar in lieu of overdue rent, he tells Theo he will only return the instrument if he can go on a date with Theo’s twin sister. With Fran less than willing to play along, Theo is left with one option: to go in her place.
Love’s Code (Ariadne and Theseus)
In order to keep his job, Andre must pass an examination. However, his unspoken love for fellow programmer Eren proves a constant distraction, as does the identity of a mysterious benefactor who offers helps along the way.
Guessing Games (Rumplestiltskin)
A little white lie, told in his job interview, won Sasha his dream role. Only now he faces a pile of work he doesn’t know how to complete. When someone comes along with a solution to his dilemma, he is thrilled. But what price will he have to pay
Assignations and Ultimatums (The Strange Elopement of Tinirau)
Hunter and Ross are deeply in love, but Ross’s father is intent on setting him up with undesirable, yet powerful, older men. That’s bad enough, but the situation worsens when the latest of these potential partners turns out to be Ross’s boss.
Lost and Found (Cinderella)
Attendance at the company’s masquerade ball is compulsory. Cillian intends a swift departure once his presence has been noted, but he changes his mind when a dashing stranger asks him to dance. Love is in the air…until he uncovers the man’s identity.
A Debt is a Debt (Beauty and the Beast)
Dunstan Griffin is not a man accustomed to letting a debt slide. Therefore, when Alfred Siskin offers the EA services of his son, Wynn, in lieu of payment, Dunstan accepts. He intends to make the most of his new worker, but soon his desires change.
Alexander Mitchell straightened his tie and ran a hand through thick curls that were bordering on unruly, despite the half hour he’d spent trying to tame them before leaving the house this morning. He approached the front entrance to DunGriffinCorp with a mixture of agonising trepidation and joyful anticipation. He advanced to the security gate and swiped his card, still not quite believing when the light flashed green and the barrier swung back to allow him ingress.
DunGriffinCorp was the pinnacle—a line on one’s résumé that would open every door, all but guaranteeing he’d never have to fight to find employment again. And it had been a fight. It had taken three long years of application after application, and yet here he was, successful at last, finally setting foot within the inner sanctum of financial investment, with career prospects of which even his hard-to-please father would have no choice but to be proud. Although he was entering on one of the lowest tiers, he was confident that hard work and dedication would see him quickly climb the corporate ladder.
He followed the directions on his letter of offer that would lead him to his new manager’s office to complete the last of the paperwork and be shown his desk and tasks. He reached the door with the shiny nameplate that declared Donald Thompson and gave a firm knock.
Meet the Author
Asta Idonea (aka Nicki J Markus) was born in England but now lives in Adelaide, South Australia. She has loved both reading and writing from a young age and is also a keen linguist, having studied several foreign languages.
Asta launched her writing career in 2011 and divides her efforts not only between MM and mainstream works but also between traditional and indie publishing. Her works span the genres, from paranormal to historical and from contemporary to fantasy. It just depends what story and which characters spring into her mind!
As a day job, Asta works as a freelance editor and proofreader, and in her spare time she enjoys music, theatre, cinema, photography, and sketching. She also loves history, folklore and mythology, pen-palling, and travel, all of which have provided plenty of inspiration for her writing.
Welcome to My World