Dahlia Donovan has a new MF bi/ace cozy mystery romance out: "Poisoned Primrose."
Meet Motts and the quirky cast of characters in her world. Poisoned Primrose is a quintessential cosy British mystery and an all-round fun story to throw yourself into.
Autistic, asexual, and almost forty, Pineapple “Motts” Mottley flees London with her cat and turtle to a quaint cottage in Cornwall. She craves the peace of life in a small village. The dead body buried in her garden isn’t quite what she had in mind, though.
Unable to resist her curiosity, she falls directly into a mess of trouble and runs head-first into the attractive detective inspector, Teo Herceg. She tries to balance her business with the investigation, but as the killer focuses on her, staying alive becomes trickier than advanced origami.
Will Motts survive the onslaught of murderously bad luck?
Can she solve the mystery before it all spins out of control and off a cliff?
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A cat, a turtle, and a Pineapple walk into a cottage…. That’s it. That’s the punch line of my life choices.
“Well, here we are.” Motts closed the solid wooden front door to her new cottage, leaning back against it and releasing a pent-up sigh. She opened her bluish-grey eyes to stare at all the boxes, plastic bins, and bags. “Bugger. You’ve no one to blame but yourself for this, Pineapple Mottley.”
Pineapple Meg Mottley had been so named because her mother had craved nothing but the tropical fruit during her one and only pregnancy. There’d only been one issue. No one ever called her Pineapple; her uncle had nicknamed her Motts as an infant, and it stuck.
The plaintive cry came from behind one of the boxes. Motts moved quickly to lift up her precious cat. Cactus was a tortoiseshell Sphynx cat; she’d found the poor dear at a shelter and fallen head-over-sneakers in love. He buried his head in her shoulder-length brown hair, purring his little heart out.
She stroked the suede-like downy fuzz covering his wrinkly body. “What are we going to do about this mess? Want to help me unpack? No?”
What have I gotten myself into?
When her auntie Daisy had passed away, Motts had taken the inherited cottage as a sign. London had always been overwhelming to her senses. Polperro was a much quieter place with a slower pace suited for her autistic needs.
She loved Polperro. Her parents were both originally from Cornwall. A lot of her family lived in the area, as did her ex-girlfriend.
Despite having spent many a holiday with family at the cottage, Motts found herself overwhelmed by the sudden change. This was a terrible idea. I should’ve sold the house. I am such a silly fool.
Take a few deep breaths.
Match Cactus’s purring.
You’re going to be okay.
“Ahh!” She jumped when a rapid knocking on the door jolted her. “For goodness sake.”
“Motts? You okay?”
She spun around and yanked the door open to find the welcome sight of her ex-girlfriend, Pravina Griffin, and Vina’s twin brother, Nish. “I’m….”
How do I finish the sentence?
In the middle of the biggest mistake I’ve ever made?
Just slightly overcome by irrational fear?
Nish moved forward to take Cactus from her arms while Vina led her inside. “Amma is bringing over supper. She wanted to let the sambar simmer a little longer. She even made your favourite kind of rice.”
The Griffin twins took after their Tamil mother, Leena, who’d been a Bollywood star before falling in love with Cadan Griffin, a Cornish-Indian cricket player. They’d settled in Polperro to run a coffee shop and bakery. Griffin Brews had been around for thirty-plus years, and now their children managed it, allowing their parents to retire early.
Leena and Cadan had welcomed Motts with open arms even before she’d briefly dated their daughter. Motts and Vina had realised over the years that their close bond felt more like that of siblings. They’d dumped each other but remained the best of friends, where they’d started in the first place.
“Let’s talk about something less daunting than unpacking. How goes the dating life? Did you fill out a dating profile on the site I emailed you?” Vina plucked Moss, Motts’s turtle, out of his travel terrarium. “Well?”
“No, I didn’t. There’s no box to check for asexual, biromantic autistic.” Motts gently took Moss to return her to a safer place. “No touching the turtle.”
Dahlia Donovan wrote her first romance series after a crazy dream about shifters and damsels in distress. She prefers irreverent humour and unconventional characters. An autistic and occasional hermit, her life wouldn’t be complete without her husband and her massive collection of books and video games.
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Angel Martinez has a new queer space opera comedy out, book seven in her Brimstone series: "A Fine Mess." And there's a giveaway!
Beware the demon prince who's sick and tired of running.
Federico Duomo is dead, to begin with. But this is only the first bit of Shax's problems resolved. Powerful crime lords and an obscenely wealthy oligarch are still determined to destroy him and his crew, and Fluffy's original owner may be coming after the Brimstone now, too. It would be splendid to be able to take on one thing at a time.
Adding to the external conflicts, life on board the Brimstone has only grown increasingly stranger. Shax has no idea what to do with the seven partly human children that Heckle rescued from slavers. Heckle himself has grown short-tempered, even with Mac. Someone from Julian's past catches up to them on Barbary. It's enough to put a demon off his cinnamon buns.
Shax isn't panicking, though. In fact he's had it up to his handsome royal nose with the people he loves having to live in constant fear. The fox has turned at bay and the Brimstone's enemies are in for a shock. The demon prince of thieves is coming for them.
About the Series:
Due to circumstances completely within his control, Shax, the Demon Prince of Thieves, has fled, er, emigrated from Earth to seek his fortunes out in the galaxy. Who said Science Fiction always has to be serious?
Angel is giving away a $25 Mischief Corner Books Gift Card with this tour. Enter via Rafflecopter:
"Captain Cream Puff, Glkix is on the line for you." Ms. Ivana kept her voice to a throaty purr, probably in deference to the early hour.
While Shax had been expecting the call, he would've preferred at least one more cup of coffee beforehand. "Thank you, my dear. Put her through to my comm, please."
He arranged himself in his desk chair to appear calm and unaffected, coffee mug in one hand for any necessary sardonic or thoughtful sipping. A brief flicker through the relays, and Glkix's image hovered above the holo plate on his desk. Her blue-black hair swept up and pinned with obsidian, her gray-green face smooth and serene, his mother's personal assistant was as elegant as ever. Few people would have picked up the tightness around her eyes, and only if they'd known her as long as Shax had. Not good news, then.
"Good morning, highness. Your royal mother sends greetings."
"Thank you, Glkix. Please convey my filial greetings in return." Shax's nerves got the better of him. He sipped. "You have something for me?"
Incomprehensible data flowed across the screen as Glkix typed. "We were able to track her genetic material through registered bloodlines and make discreet inquiries regarding missing stock. Her lineage is well-documented and highly prized among certain demon lords, highness."
Is this flattery or an explanation of methodology? Sometimes it's so hard to tell. "Yes? Do you have an answer, or is this just an update on progress?"
Glkix cleared her throat, eyes glued to the data stream. "An answer, highness. Your hellcat belongs to Baphomet, Lord of Beasts."
Hell's shiny, pointy gates. Inside, Shax ran in little circles screaming. Outwardly, he sipped. "I see. Does he know I have her?"
"Abject apologies, highness. I've little data on that." Glkix ducked in a strange sort of seated bow. "We know that Lord Baphomet was visiting a forested moon near Opal when the hellcat in question—"
Though he knew she'd never approved of his names for his pets, he persisted. "My hellcat's name is Fluffy."
Glkix cringed. "Er. Yes. When Fluffy was stolen from her pride."
"Do we know by whom?"
"No, highness. Not yet."
Shax drummed his fingers on his mug and forced himself not to sip. Control. Control. "And m'lord of beasts? Where is he now?"
"Hunting, highness. In his ship, Cornuta." Glkix shook her head. "We are trying to redirect wherever possible, Prince Shax."
"Understood." All too well. "Thank you for the information. Mother can't possibly be paying you enough."
"I live to serve, highness." She executed her seated bow again, and Shax cut the connection.
Carefully, he placed his mug on the desk. Pushed back his chair. Bent over his knees and screamed into his hands for a solid forty-five seconds.
Of course, he should have known better. Boots pounded down the corridor almost before he'd stopped, and his door whooshed open. Through his fingers, he spotted Ness in the doorway with his wings mantled in a fierce defensive position and his plasma pistol drawn. Julian, knives out, slid in under Ness's wing and dove behind the trunk Shax had pulled from the closet earlier.
"Shax? Everything all right?" Ness ventured after a stunned and puzzled silence.
Julian vaulted the trunk to sit on its lid. "We thought something was murdering you."
"No murders." Shax sat up and forced himself to draw in a slow breath. "Not yet, at any rate."
Instead of acknowledging him, Ness turned to Julian. "I don't think it was an angry scream."
"Right." Julian nodded. "No prince-in-a-snit smoke. I'd say frustration, except there was definitely a squeaky note to it."
"You're both vastly entertaining and should consider taking this on the road." Shax scowled at each in turn. "But this is serious."
Ness flipped and reflipped his wings as he folded them before sitting on the bunk. "Perhaps you could enlighten us, love."
"Fluffy…" Shax paused as the hellcat in question trotted through the open door to butt her head against him almost hard enough to knock him from his chair. "Yes, you’re a good girl. Who's the best Fluffums? Ahem. Fluffy was stolen from Baphomet."
"I'm gathering that's not good." Ness let her waving tail run through his hand, careful of the sickle blade on the end, his expression unreadable.
"ISE lists Lord Baphomet as a class IV demon lord. Not of the highest rank, so he's able to leave Sol system," Julian offered softly. "Unpredictable, motivations unclear; do not, under any circumstances, engage."
"While Enforcement and I disagree on many things, that's a frighteningly apt assessment." Mug back in hand, Shax took a fortifying sip. "He may be hunting us and, I'll be honest, this is definitely cause for alarm. Mum and Glkix have apparently been sending him off in various directions, but he will find us at some point."
The crinkle in Ness's forehead showed the first sign of real concern. "Is he family? Do you know him well?"
Shax waved a hand at the universe. "All demon lords are family in a sense. I don't believe we're directly related, mind you. And Mum would never allow association with the more, ah, nature-oriented demons. Mud and dust and sticks in your hair…"
"That's a no, then," Julian drawled. "This may sound absurd to you, our lovely prince, but could you contact him? Let him know what happened?"
A cold iron weight lodged in Shax's stomach and the backs of his eyes burned as he choked out, "But he'll want Fluffy back."
Everyone lunged toward him with huffs and other distressed sounds, and he found himself surrounded by arms and wings, with a huge hellcat head in his lap.
"Shax. I'm so sorry," Julian whispered. "Please don't cry."
"I most certainly am not." Of course, a hot teardrop chose that moment to splash onto Julian's hand.
Ness stroked his hair. "We know you love her. But she had a pride once, didn't she? Maybe a family?"
"Of course." Shax shook himself and swiped at his eyes. Part of him wanted to collapse against them and howl like a six-year-old demon, but he was the captain, and there was such a thing as dignity. "Of course. And better to inform him than to have him come after us in a rage. I'll… send the message."
Angel Martinez is the pen name of a writer of several genres who writes both kinds of queer fiction – Science Fiction and Fantasy. (What? There are others?) Currently living part time in the hectic sprawl of northern Delaware, (and full time inside the author's head) Angel has one husband, one son, at least one cat at any given time, a changing variety of other furred and scaled companions, a love of all things beautiful and a terrible addiction to the consumption of both knowledge and chocolate.
Author Website: https://angelmartinezauthor.weebly.com/
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Pat Henshaw has a new Contemporary MM romance out, book one in the Foothills pride series: "What's In a Name?"
On his 30th birthday, barista Jimmy Patterson decides to get rip-roaring drunk after his roommate-boyfriend abandons him at a bar in the tiny California foothills town of Stone Acres where they have relocated from San Francisco. Jimmy is immediately rescued by the burly owner of Stonewall Saloon, who has had his eye on Jimmy since the first time he came in months before.
Jimmy’s fine with being saved but wants to know the bartender’s real name since the guy has worn name tags with an assortment of names every time Jimmy has spoken to him. After Jimmy nicknames him Guy, the bartender decides to turn guessing his first name into a game, giving Jimmy a guess a day for a week and promising to wine and dine him during that time. If Jimmy’s guess is wrong, he owes Guy a zing-zow, knock-your-socks-off kiss. Jimmy agrees since this sounds like a slam-dunk, win-win deal.
While he searches for cringe-worthy given names, Jimmy is distracted by the destruction of his shopping mall coffee shop. He is also beset by the town council that doesn’t want him to buy an historic bank building in Old Town Stone Acres to set up another coffee shop. The celestial high of being romanced by Guy and the abyss of business worries don’t seem like the road to happily ever after. However, Jimmy and Guy might be in for a big surprise.
About the Series:
After housing prices rose to unbelievable heights in the San Francisco metropolitan area at the turn of the current century, gay men headed for the Sierra Nevada foothills. The historic former mining town of Stone Acres with its gay sheriff seemed like the perfect place to settle. But the conservative white descendants of the early town fathers seem ready to fight back. Is a move East the solution the gay men are looking for?
Pat is giving away a $10 Amazon Giftcard with this blog tour. Enter via Rafflecopter:
Is there anything worse than waking up with a really bad hangover? The answer, I found out that morning, was a solid yes. My particular hell was waking up in a strange bed with someone lying next to me, who’s snoring away so loud I was surprised the neighbors weren’t complaining. What made it all worse was I had to pee really, really bad, and I didn’t have a clue where the bathroom was.
I lay on my back taking stock. I was naked, covered with a beige sheet and navy blue comforter in a huge bed, my head taking up most of the California king space.
Where the heck was I? I had no clue. I really didn’t care because I was hurting so badly it’d probably be better if whoever lived here would just shoot me and put me out of my misery.
Still, I had to pee, so I slowly swam to the edge of the bed, trying not to move any body parts. Which was a complete failure. I ached all over. Had someone beaten me up?
As I reached the side of the bed and peered over the edge at the floor a few stories below, I groaned. Where was the ladder to climb down to the carpeting? I clutched the edge of the bed with one hand and rolled to my side.
“Hey, where you going, Jimmy?”
I hadn’t noticed the snoring had stopped until the voice boomed in my ear.
Carefully, I turned my head.
The Stonewall Saloon bartender with the nametag of Alex last night was peering at me over his chest of hair. His eyes were squinted. A slender beam of light from a gap in the curtains was aimed at his face.
“Bathroom. Pee.” I sighed. “Gotta pee.”
“Right.” He groaned and caused a tidal wave on the mattress even though it wasn’t a water bed.
My body reacted with the seismic quake and my stomach protested. I swallowed back the rising pain even though I knew my gut had nothing left in it to come up.
I felt large hands under my arms.
“Right this way.”
His voice clanged from one of my ears to the other.
He turned me, and we marched to a doorway and into the bathroom. Carefully, he lowered my nude body down onto the toilet.
“No spilling.” He turned away and walked into the hallway.
I pushed my limp dick between my legs and did my thing, not spilling a drop on the bathroom floor or the toilet seat. Then I rested my arm on the sink counter next to the toilet and put my head on my arm.
“Nope, no snoozing here.” His voice boomed. “C’mon. It’s way too early for this shit.”
Again arms lifted me. After I balanced myself, one hand left. The toilet roiled. The hand returned.
“We’d usually wash our hands,” the voice murmured through me, “but I think we’ll skip it this time.”
Back in bed, covered, dry mouthed, I decided it was again nap time.
THE NEXT time I woke, I was awake. Awake awake. Oh my God, where in the hell am I awake. Shit, I’m in big trouble awake. Where are my clothes awake.
I took inventory. No pain in the ass. That was a relief. No smell of semen. Check, and another sigh. No aches and pains that weren’t directly related to way, way too many shots and beers, check. No clothes. No clothes?
I was okay, pretty much, other than naked, hungover, and in a stranger’s house.
Damn it, I was thirty years old, naked in a stranger’s bed, with only a hazy recollection of what happened after my now former boyfriend Alex stranded me at the Stone Acres’ historic saloon.
I had a hazy memory of the bartender helping me to the bar bathroom the night before and this morning. So was I at his house? If so, how’d I get here?
“Um,” I tried to say, but my mouth was glued shut.
I reached over to feel the side of the bed. Still there. Then I reached over to the other side. Nothing. No one.
Okay, I was alone in a strange bed as my memory filtered back online. I had been an ass, and the bartender with the faux name of Alex had taken care of me anyway. I owed him my firstborn child, should such a thing happen to me now in my boyfriendless state. I owed Alex the bartender everything, including my pride and gratitude.
What I really needed to do was apologize for causing him so much trouble.
Slowly I sat up and then stood. My knees protested, so I sat back down and then tried again. This time my knees cooperated.
Pat Henshaw, born and raised in Nebraska, has lived on the U. S.’s three coasts, in Texas, Virginia, and now California. Before she retired, she held a number of jobs, including theatrical costumer, newspaper features reporter and movie reviewer, librarian, junior college English instructor, and publicist. She also loves to travel and has visited Canada, Mexico, Europe, Egypt, and Central America as well as almost all fifty U. S. states.
Now retired, she enjoys reading and writing as well as visiting her older daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren on the East Coast and playing havoc with her younger daughter’s life in NorCal.
She thanks you for reading her books and wants you to remember that Every day is a good day for romance.
Author Website: https://www.pathenshaw.com/
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''That's one small step for mankind, one giant leap for mankind."
I get thrills whenever I hear that quote. I'm a big astronomy geek, so the moon landing was very exciting for me. I watched it on TV! It was one of a few events when I was young that sparked my love of scifi and science.
The boys are back!
Sara Codair has a new queer supernatural/urban fantasy book out, Evanstar Chronicles book two: 'Power Inversion." And there's a giveaway!
Do you have to be a monster to fight one?
Erin Evanstar is a demon hunter, a protector of humanity from nightmarish predators that feed on people's fears and flesh. They are settling into their dual life of being a teen and hunting demons.
When a tentacled horror abducts Erin's partner, José, Erin and their family go on the hunt to get him back. But Erin gets an ultimatum: help the Fallen Angels bring on the apocalypse or watch José die. Erin will do anything to save José, but fighting monsters comes with a grim price--becoming one themselves.
Warnings: Violence, Death, Death of a Minor Character, Temporary Death of a Main Character, Mention of Past Abuse, Mention of Miscarriage, Pregnancy of Side Character, Self-harm, Suicidal Ideation, Guns, Grief, Kidnapping/abduction, alcohol use, brief depiction of humans enslaved by a supernatural creature
Sara is giving away a $10 Amazon gift card with this blog tour. Enter via Rafflecopter:
White graduation caps fell from the sky like flakes of vaporized Demon. High school was a beast, and I’d vanquished it like every monster I’d fought, with one exception—myself.
This moment deserved savoring.
Breathing deliberately, I slowed my perception of time until the caps seemed as if they were falling through cold honey on their way to the ground.
The late-spring sun beat down on me, but a breeze kept the temperature bearable. Some tassels lilted southeast—away from the towering clouds bruising the northwest sky. The weather wasn’t going to hold much longer, but I was okay with that. Thunderstorms awoke something wild in me—a pulse-racing, dance-around-like-no-one-can-see-you kind of wild—a rush of adrenaline almost as good as what I’d get from battling a Troll or sparring with Mel.
With my sense of time slowed down, the distant thunder sounded like a lion purring. The clouds glowed purple as lightning forked through them like an X-ray, temporarily revealing a mass of tentacles undulating in the clouds.
Mel, did you see that? I thought as loudly as I could, hoping my telepathic cousin would hear me.
I’d seen a lot of different Demons in the three months I’d been hunting them, but based on the stories and the Lexicon, the massive tentacled ones only materialized in oceans, and they certainly could not fly. Yet, every time lightning flashed, there they were, waving as if violent updrafts were a gentle breeze.
My heart sped up. My hands closed into fists. Mel didn’t reply.
I shut my eyes, opening my mind so I could feel all the energy around me. Most humans were blobs of buzzing heat, but Mel, a hybrid of human, Angel, and Elf, had a hotter, more intense aura with a spritz of simultaneously depressed and optimistically peppy texture. I found her near my Elven grandmother, who felt like a condensed thunderstorm.
Mel? Niben? Can you hear me? Did you see that?
Of course, there was a good chance they were both shielding. What telepath would have their mind open to other people’s thoughts when there were so many other people around?
One who hasn’t been able to properly shield in months. Mel’s melodic yet squeaky voice was a welcome presence in my mind. Shut down the hyper drive. You’re giving me a headache.
I exhaled over the course of ten seconds, willing my sense of time back to normal.
A garbled din of stretched-out voices morphed to something more akin to a clattering avalanche of pots and pans. A shoulder jostled mine. The corner of a graduation cap crashed into my head.
Erin? What had you wanted to tell me?
There were tentacles in the clouds, I thought at Mel, turning in the general direction I sensed her in.
I crashed into José, who, of course, stood right next to me.
“You okay?” he asked. Tears glistened in his midnight eyes and trickled down his sun-kissed cheeks. One snagged on the crooked tip of his nose. He clutched two graduation caps, his and mine, so tight that the scars on his knuckles were visibly stretched.
“Yeah. Are you?” I wondered if I should tell him what I’d seen. He’d been hunting Demons longer than me, but he also thrived on keeping school and the supernatural as two separate entities. And what if they hadn’t been tentacles? What if the storm had just appeared that way with the lightning in slow motion? I didn’t want to ruin his day if there wasn’t an actual threat.
“I’ll miss everyone.” He stuffed the caps under his arms and hugged me. While I wanted to celebrate because I’d made it out alive, he mourned the loss of a place that had been a haven to him for four years.
I leaned my head on his shoulder, listening to his heartbeat, trying to let his steady warmth calm the worry growing in my mind. José’s body was a rock in the sense that it was hard and athletic, but also because it anchored me when I felt as if my mind was running away.
Have you ever watched a storm with time slowed that much? asked Mel.
I shook my head before I remembered there were dozens of people between her and me. No. Do storm clouds in slow motion look like tentacles?
José kissed my hair and whispered, “Are you talking to Mel?”
“Is she okay?”
“She’s having trouble shielding. We should go meet up with her and the others anyway.” I stepped away from him and walked uphill.
Students, who wore white graduation robes, and their parents, who were dressed mostly in summer dresses, slacks, and collared shirts, were clumped all over Saint Patrick’s sprawling lawn.
José draped his arm over my shoulder as I wove around groups of people. The pressure was calming, lulling panic monsters back to sleep with its warm weight. I glanced up at the clouds. They were closer and darker. The wind sped up, stealing programs from a dozen people’s hands. The clouds lit up with lightning, but I didn’t see any tentacles.
Mel’s voice popped back into my head. I don’t sense anything in the clouds, and neither does Niben. I guess she’s been restraining the storm for half the ceremony. Perhaps you were seeing her power mingled with it?
Maybe. Some tension unraveled from my chest. I’d heard stories about my grandmother, Niben, controlling storms, but I’d never seen her do it. In fact, I’d never witnessed her do any magic unless she was modeling something she wanted me to try. She’d come on a few hunts, but she’d just watched with her unblinking feline eyes and later quizzed me on what I did right and wrong. For all I knew, her fabled storm magic could resemble tentacles.
Sara Codair is an author of short stories and novels, which are packed with action, adventure, magic, and the bizarre. They partially owe their success to their faithful feline writing partner, Goose the Meowditor-In-Chief, who likes to “edit” their work by deleting entire pages.
If Sara isn’t writing, they’re probably teaching, swimming in the lake, reading fantasy, or walking their dog.
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J. Scott Coatsworth has a new queer sci fi book out book one in the Ariadne Cycle: "The Stark Divide." This is a re-release.
Some stories are epic.
The Earth is in a state of collapse, with wars breaking out over resources and an environment pushed to the edge by human greed.
Three living generation ships have been built with a combination of genetic mastery, artificial intelligence, technology, and raw materials harvested from the asteroid belt. This is the story of one of them—43 Ariadne, or Forever, as her inhabitants call her—a living world that carries the remaining hopes of humanity, and the three generations of scientists, engineers, and explorers working to colonize her.
From her humble beginnings as a seedling saved from disaster to the start of her journey across the void of space toward a new home for the human race, The Stark Divide tells the tales of the world, the people who made her, and the few who will become something altogether beyond human.
Humankind has just taken its first step toward the stars.
Scott is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card with this tour, and a signed paperback trilogy of the Oberon Cycle (Skythane, Lander and Ithani) – two winners! Enter via Rafflecopter for a chance to win.
“Dressler, schematic,” Colin McAvery, ship’s captain and a third of the crew, called out to the ship-mind.
A three-dimensional image of the ship appeared above the smooth console. Her five living arms, reaching out from her central core, were lit with a golden glow, and the mechanical bits of instrumentation shone in red. In real life, she was almost two hundred meters from tip to tip.
Between those arms stretched her solar wings, a ghostly green film like the sails of the Flying Dutchman.
“You’re a pretty thing,” he said softly. He loved these ships, their delicate beauty as they floated through the starry void.
“Thank you, Captain.” The ship-mind sounded happy with the compliment—his imagination running wild. Minds didn’t have real emotions, though they sometimes approximated them.
He cross-checked the heading to be sure they remained on course to deliver their payload, the man-sized seed that was being dragged on a tether behind the ship. Humanity’s ticket to the stars at a time when life on Earth was getting rapidly worse.
All of space was spread out before him, seen through the clear expanse of plasform set into the ship’s living walls. His own face, trimmed blond hair, and deep brown eyes, stared back at him, superimposed over the vivid starscape.
At thirty, Colin was in the prime of his career. He was a starship captain, and yet sometimes he felt like little more than a bus driver. After this run… well, he’d have to see what other opportunities might be awaiting him. Maybe the doc was right, and this was the start of a whole new chapter for mankind. They might need a guy like him.
The walls of the bridge emitted a faint but healthy golden glow, providing light for his work at the curved mechanical console that filled half the room. He traced out the T-Line to their destination. “Dressler, we’re looking a little wobbly.” Colin frowned. Some irregularity in the course was common—the ship was constantly adjusting its trajectory—but she usually corrected it before he noticed.
“Affirmative, Captain.” The ship-mind’s miniature chosen likeness appeared above the touch board. She was all professional today, dressed in a standard AmSplor uniform, dark hair pulled back in a bun, and about a third life-sized.
The image was nothing more than a projection of the ship-mind, a fairy tale, but Colin appreciated the effort she took to humanize her appearance. Artificial mind or not, he always treated minds with respect.
“There’s a blockage in arm four. I’ve sent out a scout to correct it.”
The Dressler was well into slowdown now, her pre-arrival phase as she bled off her speed, and they expected to reach 43 Ariadne in another fifteen hours.
Pity no one had yet cracked the whole hyperspace thing. Colin chuckled. Asimov would be disappointed. “Dressler, show me Earth, please.”
A small blue dot appeared in the middle of his screen.
“Dressler, three dimensions, a bit larger, please.” The beautiful blue-green world spun before him in all its glory.
Appearances could be deceiving. Even with scrubbers working tirelessly night and day to clean the excess carbon dioxide from the air, the home world was still running dangerously warm.
He watched the image in front of him as the East Coast of the North American Union spun slowly into view. Florida was a sliver of its former self, and where New York City’s lights had once shone, there was now only blue. If it had been night, Fargo, the capital of the Northern States, would have outshone most of the other cities below. The floods that had wiped out many of the world’s coastal cities had also knocked down Earth’s population, which was only now reaching the levels it had seen in the early twenty-first century.
All those new souls had been born into a warm, arid world.
We did it to ourselves. Colin, who had known nothing besides the hot planet he called home, wondered what it had been like those many years before the Heat.
Anastasia Anatov leafed through her father, Dimitri’s, old paper journal. She liked to look through it once a day, to see his spidery handwriting and remember what he had been like. It was a bit old and dusty now, but it was one of her most cherished possessions.
She sighed and put it away in a storage nook in her lab.
She left the room and pulled herself gracefully along the runway, the central corridor of the ship, using the metal rungs embedded in the walls. She was much more comfortable in low or zero g than she was in Earth normal, where her tall, lanky form made her feel awkward around others. She was a loner at heart, and the emptiness of space appealed to her.
Her father had designed the Mission-class ships. It was something she rarely spoke of, but she was intensely proud of him. These ships were still imperfect, the combination of a hellishly complicated genetic code and after-the-fact fittings of mechanical parts, like the rungs she used now to move through the weightless environment.
Ana wondered if it hurt when someone drilled into the living tissue to install the mechanics, living quarters, and observation blisters that made the ship habitable. Her father had always maintained that the ship-minds felt no pain.
She wasn’t so sure. Men were often dismissive of the things they didn’t understand.
Either way, she was stuck on the small ship for the duration with two men, neither of whom were interested in her. The captain was gay, and Jackson was married.
Too bad the ship roster hadn’t included another woman or two.
She placed her hand on a hardened sensor callus next to the door valve and the ship obliged, recognizing her. The door spiraled open to show the viewport beyond.
She pulled herself into the room and floated before the wide expanse of transparent plasform, staring out at the seed being hauled behind them.
Nothing else mattered. Whatever she had to do to get this project launched, she would do it. She’d already made some morally questionable choices along the way—including looking the other way when a bundle of cash had changed hands at the Institute.
She was so close now, and she couldn’t let anything get in the way.
Earth was a lost cause. It was only a matter of time before the world imploded. Only the seeds could give mankind a fighting chance to go on.
From the viewport, there was little to see. The seed was a two-meter-long brown ovoid, made of a hard, dark organic material, scarred and pitted by the continual abrasion of the dust that escaped the great sails. So cold out there, but the seed was dormant, unfeeling.
The cold would keep it that way until the time came for its seedling stage.
She’d created three of the seeds with her funding. This one, bound for the asteroid 43 Ariadne, was the first. It was the next step in evolution beyond the Dressler and carried with it the hopes of all humankind.
It also represented ten years of her life and work.
Maybe, just maybe, we’re ready for the next step.
The crew’s third and final member, Jackson Hammond, hung upside down in the ship’s hold, grunting as he refit one of the feed pipes that carried the ship’s electronics through the bowels of this weird animal-mechanical hybrid. Although “up” and “down” were slight on a ship where the centrifugal force created a “gravity” only a fraction of what it was on Earth.
As the ship’s engineer, Jackson was responsible for keeping the mechanics functioning—a challenge in a living organism like the Dressler.
With cold, hard metal, one dealt with the occasional metal fatigue, poor workmanship, and at times just ass-backward reality. But the parts didn’t regularly grow or shrink, and it wasn’t always necessary to rejigger the ones that had fit perfectly just the day before. Even after ten years in these things, he still found it a little creepy to be riding inside the belly of the beast. It was too Jonah and the Whale for his taste.
Jackson rubbed the sweat away from his eyes with the back of his arm. As he shaved down the end of a pipe to make it fit more snugly against the small orifice in the ship’s wall, he touched the little silver cross that hung around his neck. It had been a present from his priest, Father Vincenzo, at his son Aaron’s First Communion in the Reformed Catholic Evangelical Church.
The boy was seven years old now, with a shock of red hair and green eyes like his dad, and his mother’s beautiful skin. He’d spent months preparing for his Communion Day, and Jackson remembered fondly the moment when his son had taken the Body and Blood of Christ for the first time, surprise registering on his little face at the strange taste of the wine.
Aaron’s Communion Day had been a high point for Jackson, just a week before his current mission. He was so proud of his two boys. Miss you guys. I’ll be home soon.
Lately he hadn’t been sleeping well, his dreams filled with a dark-haired, blue-eyed vixen. He was happily married. He shouldn’t be having such dreams.
Jackson shook his head. Being locked up in a tin can in space did strange things to a person sometimes. I should be home with Glory and the boys.
One way or another, this mission would be his last.
He’d been recruited as a teen.
At thirteen, Jackson had learned the basics of engineering doing black-tech work for the gangs that ran what was left of the Big Apple after the Rise—a warren of interconnected skyrises, linked mostly by boats and ropes and makeshift bridges.
Everything north of Twenty-Third was controlled by the Hex, a black-tech co-op that specialized in bootlegged dreamcasts, including modified versions that catered to some of the more questionable tastes of the North American States. South of Twenty-Third belonged to the Red Badge, a lawless group of technophiles involved in domestic espionage and wetware arts.
Jackson had grown up in the drowned city, abandoned by his mother and forced to rely on his own intelligence and instincts to survive in a rapidly changing world.
He’d found his way to the Red Badge and discovered a talent for ecosystem work, taking over and soon expanding one of the rooftop farms that supplied the drowned city with a subsistence diet. An illegal wetware upgrade let him tap directly into the systems he worked on, seeing the circuits and pathways in his head.
He increased the Badge’s food production fivefold and branched out beyond the nearly tasteless molds and edible fungi that thrived in the warm, humid environment.
It was on one of his rooftop “gardens” that his life had changed one warm summer evening.
He was underneath one of the condenser units that pulled water from the air for irrigation. All of eighteen years old, he was responsible for the food production for the entire Red Badge.
He’d run through the unit’s diagnostics app to no avail. Damned piece of shit couldn’t find a thing wrong.
In the end, it had come down to something purely physical—tightening down a pipe bolt where the condenser interfaced with the irrigation system.
Satisfied with the work, he stood, wiping the sweat off his bare chest, and glared into the setting sun out over the East River. It was more an inland sea now, but the old names still stuck.
There was a faint whirring behind him, and he spun around. A bug drone hovered about a foot away, glistening in the sun. He stared at it for a moment, then reached out to swat it down. Probably from the Hex.
It evaded his grasp, and he felt a sharp pain in his neck.
He went limp, and everything turned black as he tumbled into one of his garden beds.
He awoke in Fargo, recruited by AmSplor to serve in the space agency’s Frontier Station, his life changed irrevocably.
A strange sensation brought him back to the present.
His right hand was wet. Startled, he looked down. It was covered with blood.
Dressler, we have a problem, he said through his private affinity-link with the ship-mind.”
Scott lives with his husband Mark in a yellow bungalow in Sacramento. He was indoctrinated into fantasy and sci fi by his mother at the tender age of nine. He devoured her library, but as he grew up, he wondered where all the people like him were.
He decided that if there weren’t queer characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.
A Rainbow Award winning and runs Queer Sci Fi, QueeRomance Ink, Liminal Fiction, and Other Worlds Ink with Mark, sites that celebrate fiction reflecting queer reality, and is a full member member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).
Author Website: https://www.jscottcoatsworth.com/
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How's everyone doing? Are you all staying safe and taking care of yourselves and families? Don't forget to take time to look up at the sky or read a good book.
Did any of you get to see it live?
The most recent solar eclipse was one of my favorite types. A Ring of Fire. I'm sure everyone knows a solar eclipse happens when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun,. Our most recent one was an annular eclipse. Meaning the Moon was close enough to the Earth that it didn't block out the Sun completely, leaving a thin ring visible. A Ring of Fire.
I live in northern Ohio, and my part of world wasn't able to see this event. The great thing about living in this time is thanks to the miracle that is the internet I was able to see this eclipse. It's a lot safer that way too, watching the Sun without the proper optical equipment can cause damage. The camera protects our eyes.
The sky is pretty amazing, whether we watch at night or during the day. The best part? It's free.
Lots of good stuff going on this week!
I have Whiskey and Moonshine on sale for $3.99 for the eBook. That price won't last long!
Big, BIG announcement!
Anne Barwell and I are re-releasing The Sleepless City series.
Book 1: Shades of Sepia is available for pre-order on Amazon. For anyone who doesn't want to wait, or wants a different format it's also on PayHip until July 9.
Release day is July 11, 2020 at which point it'll be in Kindle Unlimited.
I'm so excited to announce that I'm part of A Decade of Gay Romance celebration on JMS Books. My short, Home Coming, is in an anthology released with one bestseller from each year included. My year was 2019.
Want to know about releases and sales first? Stop by (and join) my private Facebook group, On the Patio with Elizabeth Noble and/or sign up for my newsletter, it comes out every two weeks.
Like to shop on Smashwords?
It's that time again. Their 50% off sale is underway. For the whole month of July all of my titles there will be 50% off the regular price.
Until next time, stay safe and happy reading,
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