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Four years ago, while my brain was still in shock from the shocking US election results, I took a picture of the Rocky Mountains with the intention of taking another one from pretty much the same spot after four years of official climate change denial. What did I expect to see? A return of the brown cloud. Back in the eighties, Denver had an ugly greenish-brown haze of pollution hanging over it. Pretty nasty. One of the first things I noticed when I came back to the state in 2005 for a visit was that it was gone, and the air was really nice. Living here now I know from long experience that it comes and goes with the weather, but that’s still a vast improvement over the constant stinkiness of before. Now it’s mostly from high ozone days, not emissions from dirty industries.
Anyway, what I didn’t expect was three years of what they call “exceptional drought,” an insanely rapid expansion of new subdivisions in the area once contaminated by Rocky Flats, and some absolutely epic wildfires. I wound up taking several pictures from good old Highway 128, most of them downright shocking. I’ll grant you no individual human is responsible for drought and wildfires. But policies, people! Policies. The ones that say “extract every bit of resource from every source imaginable at as fast a pace as possible with no regard for the future” and other stupid crap like that. I can definitely blame that sort of policy for accelerating the pace of climate change.
So here you go, a series of Rocky Mountain photos taken from the same general area of Colorado. And yes, I swear, the mountains are really there. Take my word for it. They’re too dang big to pick up and move, they don’t have feet, so they are actually still there.
M.D. Grimm has a new MMF sci fi romance out, Saga of the Bold People Book 2: “Legacy.” And there’s a giveaway!
What does a former assassin do when he’s not out there… well… assassinating? Saving his species from extinction, of course.
At least, that’s what Leopold wants to do with every molecule in his body. But the task won’t be fast or easy, and he can’t do it alone. Enter Mastrodai—a mrrog prince who has absolutely no desire to rule, much to his father’s exasperation. He craves the ability to prove his worth as a mate and to somehow atone for his actions that led to Leopold’s torture at the hands of an enemy. Making humans official would be a good start.
But politics rule no matter what the species, and Mastrodai has to maneuver carefully and risk what he has built to give his mate what he deserves. And when he realizes both he and Leopold have deeper feelings for Alex, one of Mastrodai’s human slave women, he knows his future is out among the stars with his humans, not planet-bound with his kin.
Unfortunately, before they can set their plan into motion, Leopold receives a vision that sends him reeling and questioning everything he knows about himself. A vision he must investigate, back to where he began—Lex, the backwater planet where he spent his early years, and where he swore never to return.
About the Series:
Leopold is a human in an alien-dominated InterGalactic Community. He gained a reputation as the assassin Voidstriker, until his identity was revealed. He soon finds himself reassessing his life, his mission, and his own identity. Having spent his entire life driven by hate and fear, he soon finds himself motivated by hope and love. He decides on a new mission in life: freeing the human species. It will be a long, hard road, and one he can’t walk alone.
Even as his allies grow in number, he will most depend on his mates–Mastrodai, the mrrog prince, and Alexandra, a fellow human, his best friend, and their lover. Along with Sasha, a young girl with extraordinary abilities. Leopold is no stranger to challenges but this might be his greatest trial yet.
M.D. is giving away a $10 Amazon gift card with this tour:
The explosion thundered against my eardrums, cutting off my conversation with a large group of crop tenders. All of us flinched and I spun around as the boom thrummed through the air, and every mouth gaped, even mine, when the enormous fireball shot into the sky. Flaming debris rained down on the dry stalks, reaping chaos in seconds.
“Save what you can!” I said in Veruvian, the official intergalactic language. I ordered my bodyguards to split up and keep their eyes peeled. Then I sped toward the origin of the explosion, quickly outpacing Wekladai, my chief bodyguard. I lowered to all fours and raced into the danger zone, dodging and weaving around scalded metal and open flame. A growl sat contained in my chest, vibrating against my lungs. I bared my teeth, blood and death on my mind. Who would dare?
Who would dare?
Smoky hot air burned my nostrils and irritated my throat. I narrowed my eyes in deference to the discomfort, shrugging it off. I’d felt worse. The mrrog academy and my rite of passage had beaten weakness out of me. Not to mention my father’s lessons. I reached the epicenter to find that nothing but rubble and blackened ground remained of the supply building in that quadrant of the moon. I recognized a couple of corpses in the mess as I picked my way through.
My growl finally loosened, and I resisted panting to save my throat and nose. I would personally slice apart the culprit. It could only be sabotage. A competitor, perhaps, angered that I’d received the contract from the InterGalactic Council instead of them.
I straightened and stared in disbelief. Was my security so lax as to allow an enemy to saunter right in? I walked over to the top of a shallow rise to stare out at the acres of crops set in quadrant EC-1. The fire was out of control all around me, the smoke and heat flaming my rage deeper.
Wind rose up and blew away much of the smoke. Movement caught my eye, and I looked down the incline. I froze, staring at the creature standing not far away, next to an old, unused shack. A strange land cruiser sat right next to him. It was a male; of that I was certain. And… could he be… a human?
Yes, he was a human. And a thief. Familiar rejlfei hung from his shoulders and arms, the straps straining against the weight. Did he merely come to steal from me?
Hair as black as the void covered most of his pale face, and brilliant blue eyes reflected the distant sun’s light, reminding me of stars. He was tall for a human, with broad shoulders, and a lean body clothed in a black bodysuit. His face was sharply angled, and yet everything was well-placed, coming together in harmonious union. His expression was stony, and his posture spoke of confidence and strength. The aeunn in his hand never wavered as he kept it aimed at me.
Standing before me was no cowed human afraid of his own shadow. No. He was a predator, one made of grace and purpose and a formidable persistence. Why he was on my moon I couldn’t say, but he wasn’t leaving it. He wasn’t getting away.
I crouched slowly, not wanting to startle him. One good leap and I would be on him. Even as the human must have guessed my intent, because his eyes abruptly shot wide, the wind blew again, hurling his scent into my face. I took a deep breath. His aroma was dense and organic with metallic and synthetic undertones along with a masculine musk that caused me to salivate. It made me think of thunderous nights when electricity charged the air, where passion danced between lovers, a wild and furious battle of wills and the need to dominate. It was violent and edgy, tense and defiant. Alive. Real.
My vengeful rage morphed into a sharp, all-consuming need, and it nearly knocked me on my ass. The wind brought his scent to me once more, and one word repeated again and again in my mind.
My body responded in a way it hadn’t in years. Not since Nandeely. Every lover after her had been an itch to scratch. But this human? I had to possess him. I had to claim him now, before he got away. Before another dared touch him. Images of what I’d do once he was under my control caused my cock to slip out of its sheath. I growled at myself. It had been a long while since such control was beyond me. And I needed it now more than ever.
“Mastrodai! What did you find?”
I startled at Wekladai’s voice as he joined me on the hill. Only then did I realize that the human was on his land cruiser and speeding away, clearly determined to escape.
“Come!” I charged after the human with Wekladai on my heels. My hesitation and the human’s distracting scent had cost me. I snarled and leapt, landing right where the human had once stood. I raced after him but it was no use. I wouldn’t catch him. Despite my speed, his cruiser was just too damn fast. He tore up more crops on his reckless ride, and I took another deep breath, focusing on his vibrant aroma instead of the smoke and burnt metal. Unfortunately, he was soon out of sight but I couldn’t stop running.
“Contact Jauntai!” I snarled at Wekladai. He stopped and I continued on. I followed the human’s trail, easily distinguishing his fragrance amid the acrid burning of the crops. It was a warmth in my blood, a song in my head. I couldn’t analyze the effect he had on me, not yet. I was hunting, and I needed to focus.
The fire swept across the land far too rapidly for me to compete with. The trail was gone in an instant, his scent taken away, only smoke and heat in its place. I stood and growled, frustrated and angry at myself. Surprise had slowed my reactions and now my prey was gone. Prey that should not have found his way on my moon in the first place.
Unacceptable. All of it.
The obvious failure on all fronts burned my pride, and I dragged a hand over my hair. I turned around and huffed a deep breath at the wreckage. Duty first. Always duty first.
I will find you, human.
I hurried back, wary of becoming trapped by the flames. I resigned myself to an unpleasant call to my emperor. I met Wekladai on the way back, and from the look on his face, I rightly surmised the human had slipped through Jauntai’s fingers.
“Why did you hesitate?” Wekladai asked.
I growled. He wasn’t impressed. He was much older than me, about the age of my father, and had known me all my life. He used to be a compatriot with my father before I asked him to head my bodyguard team. He was the only one I allowed to be familiar with me. But right then I wanted to claw his face.
I turned away. “I must find him. Now. Immediately. Send probes. Look at the satellites and see if they caught anything. I want that blasted human!”
He blinked and tilted his head, ears straight and pointed forward. “Why do I sense more than anger in your urgency? Why do I smell your arousal?”
I spun around and gripped his throat, baring my teeth. He gripped my arm and bared his own, daring me to start something. Our claws slid out, and I was seconds away from brawling.
“Do not question me, Wekladai,” I said. “Not now. Not in this. Find. Him.”
Wekladai growled and covered his teeth. I let go and stalked back to the spot I’d first seen him. It didn’t take me long to find an aeunn that was clearly not one of mine. I carefully picked it up, trying not to handle it too much. I sniffed it. Oh, yes, that was him.
Why hadn’t he shot me? He wouldn’t have missed.
“Jauntai is looking over the recordings now.”
I nodded. Without a word, I walked away, holding the aeunn delicately.
Good day lovely readers! Thank you for joining me. I am M.D. Grimm and I am here to promote my newest release, “Legacy.” This is book two in my “Saga of the Bold People” 6-book sci-fi/romance series, and the follow-up to my amazingly popular “Leopold.” I am thrilled to finally be able to present it, and I can say that much sweat, blood, and toil went into this one. While “Leopold” took me nearly a decade to finish, “Legacy” was about a year. I think. Hard to keep track sometimes. And they are basically the same length! Whew.
To celebrate my newest release, I thought I’d share a bit about me. Namely, answering the question: if you had the opportunity to live one year of your life over again, which year would you choose, and why?
Hands down, it would be 2010. Specifically, that summer. Why?
Ireland. ‘Nuff said.
Kidding. I had the wonderful chance during my Junior year of college to study abroad in July in Galway with an optional week before that in Dublin. Of course, I took that option as well. I learned about the opportunity during my Sophomore year when a professor of Irish Studies visited my English Lit class. In fact, he was the one to start the program and was, in fact, from Ireland. His family moved to the US when he was a child. However, he doesn’t have an accent. He said, and I quote, “Kids can be mean.”
I made sure to take one of the professor’s classes so I could get to know him and pick his brain about the program. He’d been running it for years with another Irish counterpart in Ireland. I had the choice of taking two classes out of five at Galway University. I chose Irish music and Irish Gaelic. The others were Irish history, Irish literature, and another option I don’t remember.
And then it happened. For someone who’d never even been in an airport before, I decided to take a plane over the Atlantic Ocean to another country. Sure, I had a slight panic attack before even getting on the plane but… I got over it. Heh.
Both of the flights to Ireland were delayed so I was hours later than my planned landing time. I ended up being the last person to arrive in Dublin. Thankfully, my professor was there to greet me at the airport. He also paid for our cab to the hotel. He is such a classy man.
The week in Dublin was packed full of events and wonderful moments. I had the foresight to bring a journal to write down everything at the end of every day. I didn’t want to forget a single moment.
When we hopped over to Galway, we started classes, and I managed to squeeze in a couple of independent tours for myself in combination with the two official tours. I visited Inis Mór, the largest of the three Aran Islands, and the Cliffs of Mohr. Independently, I visited the Giant’s Causeway with a four other people and also visited the town of Tuam twice by myself.
Unfortunately, I somehow missed visiting Blarney Castle and the Blarney Stone. Oh no. Now I have to go back. *snort* One of these days, I plan on returning and fixing that monumental error.
Certainly, I have a few regrets, mostly in not packing every day with new experiences. Sure, I paced myself but I also could have upped the speed a time or two.
I have to say that what struck me the most during my trip to the Giant’s Causeway was that moment we crossed from the Republic of Ireland into Northern Ireland. All the Irish flags turned into British flags. Talk about whiplash. And we needed to exchange our Euros for pounds. Same island, completely different atmosphere. Oh! And you know those stone walls that cut across all the green green fields? No gates. You just knock down a section of the wall, step through, and then build it back up again. The cultural difference (from US) is amazing.
The tour guides we had were great. Sociable, amusing. They probably said the same stuff several times a day and hundreds of times a month, and yet they still injected enthusiasm and encouraged questions. One of the nights, after class, I stayed at the university bar with a fellow student and we had some drinks and chatted up the bartender. He closed the bar around ten but the three of us stayed talking until after midnight. Had a Guinness… of course.
Gosh, there are just too many stories to tell. That trip absolutely blew my mind in the best ways. I highly recommend that if anyone gets the opportunity, to take that leap and visit Ireland.
After it’s safe, of course.
Enjoy the pic!
Glendalough – You see that hole in the stone? That’s not a window. That’s a doorway. This is where monks brewed Jameson whiskey!
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I plan on republishing my entire Shifter Chronicles, On Wings Saga, and Eye of the Beholder in 2021, with updated and expanded text for most of them. Keep your eyes peeled for those!
I hope you stay safe and healthy, and may dragons guard your dreams,
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: www.mdgrimmwrites.com
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Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/m-d-grimm/
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Nicholas McIntire has a new queer fantasy book out, The Archanium Codex book 1: “The Hunter’s Gambit.”
Aleksei Drago never expected an easy life, but he never expected what he got. Growing up amongst the Ri-Vhan of Seil Wood, losing his mother and just as suddenly being torn from the forest folk, Aleksei had no choice but to make the best of the unpredictable path in life.
But what happens when the monsters and figures of fiction become horrifyingly real? Can Aleksei find the right path? When his life and the lives of his family and friends are at stake will he fight, reforging himself into the man Prophecy demands he become? In a world of magic and Magi, of Angels and Demons alike, how will a simple farm boy survive his own contorted destiny?
This is the story of a seemingly-simple world gone mad, and the reality that every action, no matter how apparently benign, can serve to unravel terrifying truths. This is the story of Aleksei Drago, farmer, Hunter, and so much more.
Nicholas McIntire is giving away two $20 Amazon gift cards with this tour – enter via Rafflecopter:
Henry spent the rest of the day watching his son closely. Something was undeniably troubling him, but until Aleksei decided to open up to him there was nothing he could do.
“He’ll tell you in his own time, Henry.” he muttered under his breath.
So he waited. Every now and then he would engage his son in conversation, but every time he thought Aleksei might be on the brink of telling him something, the conversation fled to some superficial topic. Did he think it would rain by Market Day? Who did he think would bring the biggest pig to the Harvest Festival? Did he think Mother Margareta would come to bless their fields before the first frost?
Henry answered each question as though it was the direction he meant to steer the conversation, and refused to allow his frustration to surface. But by the end of the evening, he was no closer to understanding his son’s troubles than he’d been that morning.
Finally Aleksei rose from his seat before the fire, put his book away, and went to bed. Henry watched him go, more troubled than ever. The boy had never gone to bed without a word before. He always had some last comment to make, even if it was just to wonder at the next day’s activities.
Henry sat before the dying embers of the fire well into the night, thinking. He didn’t remember falling asleep, so when the voice woke him his eyes started open.
He looked around, trying to get his bearings.
Gone was the heat of the hearth, the comfort of his chair. Instead he stood in an enveloping fog of shimmering gold.
He could see no one.
“Where am I?” Henry demanded.
A dream, Henry. This is merely an illusion. I apologize that I cannot offer you more comfortable surroundings at the moment.
“Who are you?” Henry called, feeling a touch foolish, shouting at phantoms.
His question went unanswered.
Henry, I’ve come to ask a favor.
“Who are you?” Henry repeated flatly.
There was a moment of hesitation before the voice responded. A man much like yourself, Henry Drago. One who only wants what’s best for your son.
When the favor was uttered, Henry blinked in confusion. A thousand questions bubbled to the surface, yet he found that he only possessed the strength to ask one.
“Why?” he choked, surprised by the weakness in his own voice.
The air before his face shimmered and distorted, as though he were looking through intense heat. Slowly, images formed. Images of Aleksei. An Aleksei he didn’t recognize.
“Why are you showing me this?” Henry managed.
Because I want you to see what your son could become. The man he could be, if you’d only let him. If you just do as I say.
“I don’t trust you.” Henry barked back. “I can’t even see your face.”
Another image shimmered into being. A man, though Henry saw nothing remarkable about him. The man leaned forward and whispered in his ear, and Henry heard the unmistakable ring of truth.
In that moment he thought he might have preferred a dagger to the heart. It would have been far less painful to simply die at the end of a highwayman’s blade than to agree to this. Either way, he would lose the most precious thing he had.
“Bargain struck.” Henry whispered bitterly, a tear winding its way down his cheek.
You’re doing your son a great service, Henry Drago.
The man even sounded earnest.
Henry started to say something, but even as he opened his mouth, darkness swirled around him. He slipped back into the empty chasms of sleep.
Morning greeted Aleksei gently, rousing him from a dreamless oblivion. It had taken him hours to finally find some rest, and his relief was immeasurable when he woke without encountering the specter of the green-eyed man. His wish had been granted. The man was gone.
He made his way down the narrow stairway and walked into the kitchen, frowning at what greeted him. Their rough wooden table was laid out with provisions for what Aleksei could only guess was a journey.
But a journey where? His father hadn’t said anything about travel. There was still wood to chop and hay to store. The first snow might be weeks away, but there was no telling when the winds would usher in the chill of Northern air. Working outside in the cold was not something he, nor any farmer, relished.
“I see you’re up.” Henry said from behind. Aleksei jumped.
He turned, “Da, where are we going? I thought we were going to finish the hay this morning.”
His father shook his head and smiled, though Aleksei caught the deep sadness in Henry’s eyes. “We aren’t going anywhere, Son. You are.”
Aleksei frowned, “Me? But I thought—”
His father tried to hold the smile, but it was forced, “You’re needed, Son. In the North.”
Aleksei thought his heart would stop. He forgot to breathe. He could hardly process what his father had just said.
You know the truth he speaks, Aleksei.
Aleksei fought back a sob of frustration. He thought he’d freed himself of the damned voice, but now he knew the truth. He would never be free from it. It would hound him until the end of his days, or until it drove him mad, whichever came first.
Or until you simply do as I ask.
“Why?” he finally managed.
His father looked out the kitchen window, and Aleksei followed his gaze. Dash waited patiently outside, a saddle fitted snugly about his muscular frame.
“Because you’re needed, Son. It’s the only answer I can give you.”
“I’m not needed here, Da? Don’t you need me?”
Henry bit back the pain in his voice, “You are more of a help than I can say, Aleksei, and I love you dearly. But no, I don’t need you. Not like this. If you stayed here, you’d be wasting something…extraordinary. And honestly, I think you’d know it too. They need you in the North, Son. And their need is much more important than mine.”
Aleksei stood there, stunned by what his father was saying to him. And then the questions came pouring forth. What did Henry mean by ‘extraordinary’? What had his father learned? What was still being kept from him?
“And I’m sorry I can’t give you the answers you want, Son. But I think you know who can. Find him.”
“But how can I….” Aleksei began, fighting back the tears springing into his eyes.
“You’re strong, Aleksei. You’ve always been strong. That won’t fail you now.”
Henry swallowed back his own tears and tried to smile again, “Now you’d better get on the road. The sooner you get beyond the Southern Plain, the better. You don’t want to be riding under the Harvest sun too long if you can help it.”
“But where am I going?” Aleksei cried, his voice breaking. It was happening too fast. His life was slipping through his fingers moment by moment and there was nothing he could do about it.
“North, Son. North. You’ll know where you’re headed as you get closer. That’s all I know to tell you.”
Aleksei looked into his father’s eyes and saw the sadness, the regret that burned within him. His father wanted to know just as badly as he, to know just what sort of place he was so blindly sending his son.
Finally, after a long silence, Aleksei nodded. “Alright, Da. If you want me to go, then I’ll go.”
“I’ll never want you to go, Son.” Henry whispered, his face contorting with pain. He had already lost his wife, and now he was losing his son, too. Aleksei would still be alive, but he would be so far away.
“But promise me something, Aleksei.”
Aleksei nodded, “Anything, Da.”
“If you find this place and if it’s not what you want, what you need, promise me you’ll come back. Even if this isn’t what you want either, at least we can figure that out together.”
Aleksei finally allowed a tear to wind its way down his cheek, “I promise, Da.”
Henry stepped forward and wrapped his arms tightly around his son, hugging him as close as he could, as though any moment Aleksei might turn to mist and vanish forever. Henry stepped back and managed a sardonic smile. Aleksei might remain solid as stone, but surely enough he was about to vanish.
Henry didn’t watch his son ride away. In truth, he couldn’t bear it. As long as he’d never seen Aleksei leave he could always pretend the boy was out in the barn, or by the pond he’d swum in as a child. It was a good hour before Henry allowed himself to sit down in his chair and sob.
Critically-acclaimed author Nicholas McIntire has been writing fantasy since he was 8 years old. The bones of the Archanium Codex were first created when he was 16, and in the past 20 years, he has taken that initially simple idea and crafted it into a fully realized world, finished the sequel, earned three degrees (one in Russian, Eastern European Studies, two in Nursing), and lived life to its fullest. Now writing full-time, Nicholas is ready for share is vision of the Archanium Codex, a 10 book series. The first book of the series being The Hunter’s Gambit.
Nicholas, lives in Fort Worth, Texas, but writes in both Fort Worth and Fort Davis, TX, where his family has a small place situated at 5200 feet in the Davis Mountains – and, yes, Texas does have mountains.
Author Website: https://www.nickmcintire.com/
Author Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NGMcIntire/
Author Twitter: @nickmcintire
Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17088295.Nicholas_McIntire
Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Nicholas-McIntire/e/B07X7D7CH6
Colin D. Vaughn has a new queer multi-racial sci fi book out: “Expression: Telepaths Rising.” And there’s a giveaway!
It’s the year 2113. Telepaths are real. They’re exalted. Feared. Hunters. Hunted. Kingmakers and slaves. With his expression, Ken is catapulted into the ranks of a tiny elite. With immense telepathic potential, he will have to learn how to use his powers and whom to trust. And quickly. Because there are enemies, both within and without, and they’re not going to wait.
Colin is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour:
Tarrington placed his datapad on the table. “This begins the psychic assessment of Kenneth Jared Kawashima. Nigel Tarrington, Authorized Facilitator of the Ministry of Citizen Services and Mauricio Vargas, an Authorized MCS Liaison from the Ministry of Psychic Affairs, presiding. Also in attendance are the subject’s father, Takahiro Kawashima; mother, Claire Alma Reed; and sister of minor age, Stephanie Fusako Kawashima.”
Tarrington turned to me: “Kenneth, pursuant to the Telepath Registration Act, as a suspected telepath you are required to undergo psychic assessment. You may not decline, delay or obstruct this hearing in any way. You may, however, have the presence of counsel at this proceeding. If you do not have one available to attend within 24 hours, one will be provided to you by the Ministry. Please touch the datapad and state whether you request or waive counsel.”
All of this was rather pro forma – I was surrounded by my family and it wasn’t as if a lawyer could stop or save me from this process. Not that I wanted it to stop. I touched the pad. “I waive counsel.”
The datapad chirped: “Identity confirmed. Waiver of counsel acknowledged.”
Tarrington turned to my parents. “Please touch the datapad to confirm that you have no objection to this proceeding, its recordation, or your son’s waiver of counsel.”
My parents touched the pad and it chirped: “Identities confirmed. Acknowledgements confirmed.”
Tarrington smiled, “Well, now that all that fussy business is complete. I will turn things over to Mr. Vargas.”
Vargas smiled at me, and then, clear as a bell in my head, I heard him sing a jaunty tune: I am the very model of a modern major general. I am the very model of a modern major general.
I laughed and asked him, “So you’re a general, eh?”
He smiled: No, more like a lowly foot soldier, little brother. Ask me a question. In your head – look into my eyes and say the words of your question one at a time. Remember, don’t speak.
I looked him straight in the eyes and thought: Where. Are. You. From?
Honduras. Suddenly I could see a wide stretch of forest, leading to deeply forested mountains, their tops veiled in low-lying clouds. Though I knew I was still crouched on the floor of our living room, I cool also feel moist spongy earth under my feet, a cool breeze across my cheek. This is my home. Well, actually, my hometown is the metropolis of Gracias a Dios, but the rainforests on the outskirts are what I think of as “home.”
For a moment, I almost felt like it was my home, too. I, who had only ever left Tennessee for our family’s annual trip to the Japan Territory, almost ached to return and hike those forests. Gracias a Dios. Thank you.
It wasn’t until Vargas smiled and said aloud: “My pleasure” that I realized that I had spoken to him mind-to-mind again, but in a natural, almost instinctual, way.
Was this what it meant to be a telepath? This incredible sharing, this intimacy? I felt as if Vargas – no, Mauricio– was some long-lost friend. Could he sense the same about me? I was just about to ask him for more when Tarrington clapped his hands once and said, “I take it that it was a success? He’s a true expressive?” I came to and looked around. My family was just staring at me. At me and Mauricio.
Mauricio nodded, then reached and touched the datapad: “Confirmed that subject’s telepathic gene has expressed, as verified through the receipt and transmission of audio, visual and tactile stimuli between subject and myself.”
Tarrington said: “Excellent! Now, Ken… I may call you ‘Ken,’ yes? . . . You understand that you will be more fully and properly assessed by the Psych Ministry at a later point?” I nodded. He then continued, “However, for myMinistry’s purposes an initial, somewhat rough assessment is necessary. Mr. Vargas will perform this. I am sorry for any discomfort.”
Mauricio then said aloud: “Ken, I will now force myself onto you” – at my sister’s gasp, he addressed everyone and continued – “in a very safe and controlled way, I assure you all. Though unpleasant, I will not harm Ken, I promise you.” Then turning to me: “Ken, what you must do is push me away. Pretend there’s a door that you’re trying to push closed. Or pretend there’s a pot on a heating unit bubbling over that you need to slam a lid onto. Or think of it however you think right – trust your instincts. OK, here goes.”
Then, before I could even begin to ponder what Mauricio was getting at, I saw his green light brighten and felt him touch me as he did before, but somehow both heavier and louder than before. Where before I felt like I was sharing with Mauricio, walking in his shoes, I now felt like he was walking on me. Instead of beautiful forests, I saw a man wielding a leather strap. The man – Father! – started hitting me over and over with the strap, shouting. It hurt! God, had this really happened to Mauricio? Or was this all part of the test? I couldn’t imagine my own gentle father or mother (however strict) ever acting so. But – ow! – the bastard kept hitting me! And I felt so angry, that he was hitting me, that he might possibly once have beaten my friend this way. I jumped up and yanked the strap from him. I then pushed him and lashed the strap across his face. He started to back away and I lunged after him hitting him again and again with the strap…”
Colin is a Midwesterner by birth who lives in Washington, D.C. with his husband. Lawyer by day and aspiring writer by night (and lunch break). Since discovering Asimov and Tolkien as a child, he’s had a lifelong love of science-fiction and fantasy. And he has enjoyed the explosion of wonderful stories featuring fellow LGBT and people of color.
But the more he read, the more he realized that he had his own tales he wanted to tell. And themes he wanted to explore – power and temptation, social progress, the fall of civilizations, ways to love, futurism, beloved community, and many more.
He very much hopes you enjoy his story!
Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/colin.vaughn.5203
Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Colin-D.-Vaughn/e/B08FJBW69M/
Hurri Cosmo has a new MM paranormal romance out, The Oletti Shifters Book 2: “Graham’s Rescue.”
“You’re pregnant, Graham.”
Wow. Life has tossed Graham a lot of curveballs, but he never expected to hear those words. Then, just as Graham and his fated mate, Hyden, are getting used to that amazing news, someone from Graham’s past returns and kidnaps him, threatening the very future they want to build. Talk about curveballs! Graham is an Oletti, a bloodline of wolf shifters that seems to be part of an ancient prophecy, one that speaks of a hidden magical spring of water that can restore the earth and all that is in it. A power some would kill to possess. Except, in the wrong hands, it can also turn humans and shifters totally away from what, and who, they truly love, tearing families and even fated mates apart.
Unfortunately, Hyden has been forced to drink this water so no one is coming to rescue Graham. It’s now up to him to not only save himself, his unborn child and his fated mate, but very possibly the world. Except superhero capes are hard to come by and he never liked himself much in tights. Still, with the help of his Oletti powers, this should be something he could do, right? Oh, Great Wolf, let this be something I can do…
Graham’s Rescue (Book 2)
Hyden’s Law (Book 1)
Mates, Inc (Book 1.5 – short story)
Hurri is giving away a $20 Amazon Gift Card with this tour. Enter via Rafflecopter:
Dreven shuffled to stand before Hyden and Graham and Graham couldn’t help but gaze up at the man. Oh! Such a kind face. Plus, he was beaming ear to ear. But even bent over, this old man was taller, wider, broader built than Graham. He was quite impressive. However, that huge smile faded as he studied Graham. After a few moments Dreven sighed and shook his head. Graham shot a wide-eyed glance up at Hyden who frowned deeply. What was going on? Was there a problem? Was that problem Graham? Oh damn, were they not fated mates after all? Had that been a lie too? He tried to pull away from Hyden but Hyden just tightened his grip. “Hang on, pup,” he whispered.
The spiritual leader leaned over to kiss Graham’s forehead. Reaching up, he brought Hyden’s face down to kiss his forehead as well. Immediately, Hyden let out a breath and relaxed beside Graham which allowed him to breathe again. Evidently, it was some sort of ritual for accepting Graham into the pack, maybe announcing a mating. Whatever it was sent the room into a low roar of mutterings. The older man held up a hand then turned back to Graham when the room once again was quiet.
“Oh, little one, for most of us life consists of choosing paths. We are tasked with making many decisions every day that affect what we do and where we go. Some are obvious choices, like the jobs we are meant to do. Others not so clear, like who we are to mate with. Still others of us,” he glanced up at Hyden, “make choices that affect us all and we are glad for it.” He nodded at Hyden before returning his attention back to Graham. “For every path we take, many others continue to open to us. Paths of glorious joy, love, a chance at dreams. And sometimes deception and perhaps betrayal. And so it goes all of our lives.” The older man sucked in a breath and let it out slowly as he touched Graham’s stomach. “But for a few there is an ancient calling that will allow only one path.” He gazed into Graham’s eyes. “You, my pup, are about to witness greatness.” He glanced up at Hyden. “Take good care of them, Alpha. The child he carries will change our world. And… I see great trouble ahead.”
There were gasps all around the room, the questioning whispered words of ‘child’ and ‘could he be pregnant’ flowed like a gentle wave.
Dreven’s smile, although a bit sad now, resumed as he stepped back and turned to the crowd. “We are in the presence of a pivotal moment in the lives of shifters. This” – he gestured back at Hyden and Graham – “is a true fated, destiny-bound mating between our great leader, Hyden, and this young man, Graham. A mating, of which, I can do nothing but approve.”
There was a moment of hesitation but then a cheer rose loudly from the gathered pack members. Finally, Hyden raised his hand for silence. When the noise died down, he spoke. “I did not need for the Shaman to confirm that Graham and I are fated mates. But it is good that he sees it. Thank you, Dreven, and,” he bowed slightly toward the older man. “we obviously need to talk later?” The older man nodded once and stepped back into the crowd while Hyden spoke again. “I now want to introduce to you my fated mate, Graham, soon to be Solfang. Yes, he is one of the rare Oletti and he carries my child.” He gazed down at Graham. “No one was as surprised or pleased as I was to learn that very thing just this morning.” He returned his attention to the crowd. “That is the reason I wanted this meeting. I wanted to announce Graham and I will be joined as one under the next Mating Moon a month from tonight.”
The cheer that went up was wild and the pack crowded in around Hyden and Graham. Hyden held Graham tightly to his side as congratulations and slaps on the back and handshakes rocked them both.
Suddenly there was a shout from the living room and all attention turned to Myrk, who was standing on top of one of Hyden’s beautiful coffee tables.
And he was very obviously pissed.
“You!” he pointed at Graham. “You husband stealer!” Myrk glanced around the room and then down to the elders who were sitting, stunned, on the couches. “You all know Hyden was to mate with me. And not this… this… imposter who somehow bewitched Hyden into believing he’s an Oletti. He’s no Oletti! He only claims that because he knows that’s what I am, and he thinks to trap Hyden with his fantasy of being pregnant. You can’t let this happen. You just can’t. Hyden is mine. He said so. You have to make him honor that.”
Hi, my name is Hurri Cosmo. I live in Minnesota where I hold tight to the idea that here, where it’s cold a good part of the year, I won’t age as fast. Yep, I avoid the truth as much as I avoid mirrors. But one of the reasons I love writing is reality doesn’t always offer up a “happily ever after” and being able to take control of that is a powerful lure. Being a happy ending junkie, writing just makes them easier to find.
Oh, I don’t mind “real life” and I do try to at least keep it in mind when I write my stories, but I truly love creating a wonderful couple, knowing they will fall in love and have their HEA every ―single ― time. And, of course, that is exactly the reason I love writing this genre, too.
Give me a glass of red wine, some dark chocolate, and my computer, whether I am reading or writing, and I can entertain myself for hours. The fact that I actually get paid to do it is Snicker bars on the frosting on the cake.
Author Website: https://www.hurricosmo.com
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Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Hurri-Cosmo/e/B00IZNFSXS
J. Scott Coatsworth has a new queer sci fi book out, Liminal Sky: Oberon Cycle Book 1: “Skythane.”
Jameson Havercamp, a psych from a conservative religious colony, has come to Oberon—unique among the Common Worlds—in search of a rare substance called pith. He’s guided through the wilds on his quest by Xander Kinnson, a handsome, cocky skythane with a troubled past.
Neither knows that Oberon is facing imminent destruction. Even as the world starts to fall apart around them, they have no idea what’s coming—or the bond that will develop between them as they race to avert a cataclysm.
Together, they will journey to uncover the secrets of this strange and singular world, even as it takes them beyond the bounds of reality itself to discover what truly binds them.
Scott is giving away your choice of a $25 Amazon Gift Certificate or a signed first edition of the Liminal Sky: Ariadne Cycle Trilogy (USA only). Enter via Rafflecopter:
And we fairies, that do run
By the triple Hecate’s team,
From the presence of the sun,
Following darkness like a dream.
–William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Quince sat at her desk by the window of her flat, staring off into the distance through the floor-to-ceiling plas window.
Outside, the storm was coming. It had roared out of the Pyramus Mountains that morning, causing flooding all the way down to the Gildensea, and now the vast tempest was approaching Oberon City. The angry purple clouds stretched up to at least 30,000 feet above sea level, and great multiforked lightning bolts lanced down from the sky.
She was tired of everything—the city, the attitudes. A winged skythane woman among all these wingless lander men.
The streetscape of the city lay spread out below her, thousands of amber lights running in strings along the main roadways where the ground transportation rumbled among the mostly industrial buildings.
In the distance beneath the clouds, she could just make out the blue shadow of the Pyramus Mountains, their peaks a sharp-toothed wall of darkness along the eastern edge of the world. Above them, in a break in the clouds, the stars swam in the deepest night, thickest overhead.
Neither Hermia nor Lysander, Oberon’s two moons, was up to challenge the stellar dominance of the night sky. Somewhere out there, Titan Station tracked slowly across the heavens.
She watched it all from her small apartment, perched halfway up one of Oberon’s great arcos—ten two-hundred-story residential-commercial habitats that housed most of the population of the city.
In her mind’s eye, she could see the waters of the Argent Sea on another world, lapping at the rocks far below her bedroom window, half a lifetime ago.
She closed her eyes and remembered the day it had all begun.
Quince was all alone in the forest just outside Ballifor, searching for hoarberries to take back home to her uncle’s house. She walked under the great redoak trees, the sunlight filtering pink through the branches and leafy canopies down to the forest floor.
Something cracked behind her, and she spun around, catching her foot on a root and falling hard to the ground. When she looked up, winded by the fall, the most beautiful creature stood there, looking down on her.
It was a nimfeach. She… or was it a he? It, she decided. It looked like a luminescent butterfly as tall as a human being, its gossamer wings trailing off into a shower of soft sparks, golden in the darkness under the trees. Its features were humanoid, but its eyes were far larger, and its face was heart shaped.
The nimfeach had existed here for as long as humanity. There were legends about them going back to the first skythane settlers. Some said they brought luck; others that they were tricksters.
Quince was unafraid. She stood and approached the creature. Its large eyes regarded her with what she could only interpret as curiosity.
It held out a glowing hand with three fingers, and she lifted up her own so that they met.
I have come to find you.
Quince broke contact, surprised. How could such a beautiful creature know someone as lowly as she, let alone want to speak with her?
The voice persisted. There is a task we must ask you to perform. It will not be easy, and it will profoundly change your life.
Quince considered. Her life was dull beyond words, living here in a small village away from Gaelan and the Court. Maybe it was time it changed for the better. She nodded. “What do you want me to do?”
The creature smiled, and Quince was flooded with warmth. When the Queen of the Gaelani calls for you, you must go. She has borne a child….
Shortly after, she had been summoned by the Queen. Apparently Robyn had gotten a visitor too.
A loud crack of thunder startled her out of her reverie. She had been so young then. Sometimes she felt she’d lived a century in these past twenty-five years.
These storms had grown worse these last few months. Her time here was growing short.
The last message from Robyn had arrived in a tube tied to the scaled leg of an imprean along with a vial of pith, a delivery method so antiquated it made her smile.
The news inside had not.
The King was dead. Whether by natural causes or the machinations of the invaders, it wasn’t clear. But what was clear was that their quarter-century wait was at an end.
Coincidental or not, the crisis they had anticipated was upon them.
With luck, they would be reunited soon, and the years-long occupation of Gaelan would come to an end. All their carefully laid plans were coming to fruition at last, but there were so many things that could still go wrong.
She tapped the side of her head, activating her cirq. “Ari, where is Davyn?” she asked quietly. It had taken Quince a long time to get used to the tech of the Common Worlds, so different from how simple things had been back home, so inherently invasive, and yet, so convenient.
Her personal assistant responded immediately. “Xander is at home. All vital signs seem normal, though he does appear to be in a state of some excitement.” The voice was warm and professional.
Quince chuckled. I’ll bet he is. “And Lyrin?” He’s finally coming home.
This time it took longer.
While she waited, Quince went over her contingency plans. She had to get the two of them together, and soon. The fate of both worlds depended on it.
She recited Elyra’s prophecy—written seven hundred and fifty years before—that she had long ago committed to memory:
Tempest comes with clash and thunder,
Skies alight with rainbow’s blood,
When the sunlight runs to red,
Comes the reaper for the dead.
One with wings as black as night
One with wings of golden light
Spin the worlds back into one
To save them from the murdering sun.
It looked like the end time was finally here.
Ari broke into her reverie. “Jameson is on approach—he has arrived at Titan Station and is expected in Oberon City by shuttle this afternoon at 13:20.”
“Thank you, Ari.” Everyone said personal assistants were just bioware, that they had no true feelings, but it cost her nothing to be polite. One never knew.
“You’re welcome, Quince.” Ari sounded satisfied.
Quince closed her eyes and sat back, thinking about all the things that could’ve gone wrong up to this point. Thinking about Robyn with her long dark hair, her eyes alight with mischief….
She shook her head. This was no time for fanciful daydreams. “Ari, access protocol ‘clear screen.’”
There was a slight pause. “Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure. Please run the protocol.”
“Running protocol ‘clear screen.’”
In five minutes, all record of her time here would be erased from Oberon’s grid. Even in the virtual jungle, it was best to cover one’s tracks.
She stared off toward the edge of Oberon City for a moment longer. Beneath the approaching storm, the neat, geometric lines of the city scrambled and snarled in the Slander, where the Syndicate held sway.
Quince stood and took one last look around the small, sparsely furnished room. It wasn’t much. She had chosen it mostly for the view, which had astonished her when she had first arrived in this thriving, decadent metropolis so many years before. The room held a bed, a small writing desk by the window, and a couple chairs.
There was an open carry sack on the mattress, filled with the few possessions she cared to take with her.
The apartment was impersonal, and yet it had been hers for these twenty-five long years.
She closed her eyes. She was tired of fighting. So tired. She sighed, resigned to the fact that her life was about to change once again, but soon enough it would all be over.
She checked the contents of her carry sack once more, then ran her hand over the edge of the bag to seal it seamlessly. She snapped the straps over her shoulders, letting the sack rest between her white-feathered wings.
She closed the door closed behind her, leaving the place empty.
As if she had never been there at all.
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 author, he runs Queer Sci Fi, QueeRomance Ink, 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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Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/J.-Scott-Coatsworth/e/B011AFO4OQ
Well, would you look at that! I finally did something.
The Apex Mage is now live on Smashwords, and “in review” over at Amazon! They always take their own sweet time about setting a new release loose in the world.
Talisha Eldridge, mercenary mage of the Concordance School. For over twenty years she earned her living through fighting in the Central Lands, watching humanity’s best attempts to destroy itself after the extinction of its Elmothran overlords. Tired now, Talisha longed to put away her armor and spell shards and find the comfort of a home. A peaceful place, where war need not touch her. A place big enough to bring her dearest dream to life and found a mage school.
When the approaching winter ended the year’s fighting, Talisha yielded to an impulse and rode north for the first time in her adult life. Curious about the Highland region since childhood, she had the chance to investigate it, and the money to hold her over the cold season. Besides, she’d heard rumors of trouble, hints of a conflict brewing. Conflict, in her world, meant the certainty of employment come spring.
Talisha never expected to find her heart’s desire up in the frigid Highlands. Much less did she expect a dark mage, holding a terrifying and impossible power, to snatch it away from her again.
But who better than a lifelong mercenary to take on an ancient evil in a struggle where the fate of the world hangs in the balance? And perhaps more important, Talisha’s chance for a home and family.
Who ever said retirement would be easy?
Talisha found the Captain up on the battlements again. This time she called for him to come down. She’d gotten plenty of exercise on this day, damned if she’d go trotting up there to see a man that had a problem with her authority.
“Yes, Fuguarrain?” Captain Ludec asked. His tone was polite, if rather distant, but his expression still had that hint of distaste. Damn the man’s prejudice, anyway.
“You and I need to question our captive mage,” she said, “and discuss plans for bandit hunting. Those bastards are raiding in the town, and I’ll not have it.”
“We have a captive mage?”
“Taken in battle while you were away. Let’s go.”
The cell down on the third sub-level was about what she expected of a castle holding cell. Deep underground, dark, damp on the walls, and plenty of rats. Nasty. The front of it was open bars, though, letting in light and warmth from the fireplace set up for whichever unfortunate fucker had the watch.
Talisha looked over the watchman with a combination of curiosity and dismay. The poor fellow was ancient! What was he doing down in this pit, rather than enjoying a warm pensioner’s apartment?
“Who are you?” she demanded. The old man looked at her, sharp blue eyes out of place in the age-spotted, wrinkled face. He sat in a wooden chair by the fire, leaning on a table, reading a book by the light of an oil lamp.
“I had a name, but I forgot it,” he wheezed, then chuckled at her expression.
“That’s Alfrecht, Fuguarrain,” Ludec said, a note of respect in his voice she hadn’t heard yet. “Now let him be. If you want to question this mage, we should get to it.”
Talisha gave Alfrecht another disbelieving look. Surely he was old enough to have seen Them in person!
“Fuguarrain, are you?” the old man said. “May you be better than the last.”
She let Ludec divert her to the mage, who sat on the hard, narrow cot pushed hard against the wall. The scorched and somewhat tattered robe still gleamed a bit in the firelight.
“Who are you?” Talisha demanded again, this time of the mage. It was a man, rumor had gotten that much right. And he had brown skin. A southlander!
Not that it came as a surprise. The southlands held no prejudice against mages, and the training was easy to pick up for anyone with the aptitude.
“If you think I’m going to tell you everything just because southlanders should stick together in these barbarian wilds, think again.”
“Huh,” Talisha said. “Nice accent. How long’s it been since you left Brieland?”
The mage responded only with a sneer.
“We need to know where your base is,” she said. “Talk, and I’ll see you across the Vialy.”
“You think I want to go back there? You’re crazy.”
Talisha stepped close to the bars of the cell, peering into the dimly lit space. Neither fire nor oil lamp could compete with the stygian hole. She made a gesture at Ludec, hoping he would understand it was his turn. The mage inside gave her a dismissive glance, turning his attention to the firelight flickering on the wall.
Ludec got the keys to the cell from the old man. “I suggest you speak, Brielander,” he said, approaching the cell door. His decent, careworn face looked odd in the flickering firelight, settled into menacing lines.
“Or what, you’ll hurt me?”
“No, not I.” The Captain nodded at Talisha, who placed her hand ostentatiously on her belt with its crystal armament. “Her. I’ll let her use her magic on you.”
“If you want to threaten me, find something else,” the mage said, sounding bored. “No proper little southern mage with props and incantations can scare me, not after seeing the glory that is my Master.”
“What do you mean?” Talisha demanded. “What Master?”
Ludec opened the cell door and stepped inside. Quick as a flash, the mage made a fireball, and Talisha slapped up a spellwall before the ball could leave his hand. If nothing else, her reflexes were faster than his. But…
The man hadn’t used a spell-shard, or a crystal.
“Where is your camp?” Ludec asked.
He hadn’t used anything but his will.
Talisha flicked little sparks at the mage’s feet, trying to irritate him into throwing another fireball. She did it the only way she knew, the only way any human mage knew. She focused her will on a specific, tuned crystal shard, with a mental command word to release the energy from the glowing red fragment tucked into her belt. Part of her wished she had her full arsenal, most of which sat safely in a chest upstairs. But she didn’t really want to kill the man, just make him talk.
“Out with it, Brielander. What Master?”
The enemy mage backed away from the sparks. His robe smoldered in several places, sending up thin threads of smoke before going out.
“You’ll find out soon enough,” he sneered. “The Apex Mage will rule the world.”
Talisha pushed her spellwall forward, flattening the man up against the wall. She stroked another crystal, this one much larger. “Want to live? Then you’d better tell us everything. Who are you, where is your camp, who is your Master?”
How the fuck did you throw fire like that?
The spell nested in the thick, smoky crystal wasn’t a particularly nice one, but it got results when interrogating prisoners. It created a vise of air, slowly tightening around the entire body of the mage.
Unexpectedly, he laughed.
She would never forget the sight, and she suspected Ludec wouldn’t, either. Flickering firelight. Smoky air. Mage, face twisted in pain, cackling like a madman.
Then his eyes flew open, and another intelligence looked out of them.
“Fool,” he said, voice somehow echoing hollowly. “You will know pain and death before I am through with you.“
“Master!” he screeched in his own voice, then burst into flames.
After much fuss and ado about nothing, I have finally gotten myself organized enough to have a genuine release date for my new novel The Apex Mage.
Hold on to your socks, world. The Apex Mage is coming for you on Saturday, 10/10/2020!
The book will make its appearance on Amazon, Smashwords, and an assortment of other ebook retailers. Get ready for a wild ride!
I mentioned a bit ago that I got the Bastion Sanguinaris vampire house in ESO. Not because I like vampires, which I don’t, but because the thing is located in Blackreach. That’s right, glowing mushroom-covered Blackreach, one of my favorite places in Tamriel. It was huge, and empty, and rather gloomy, but I had a notion to turn it into a pretty and glowy place.
Well, I did. I ran around to all my other houses and scooped up pretty much every statue I could find, bought mountains of glowing plants from the luxury vendor–or at least, decent-sized anthills of them. Those things are expensive!–and decorated at high speed to get ready for a guild housing tour. Then I put many of the statues back where they came from, without remembering to take any pictures of the shiny tour version of the place. Oops!
But now I’ve got the place pretty much the way I want it, and I actually remembered to take pictures. So here they come. I’m pretty sure in the future there will be more plants, but when I tried to put more plants in, my brain froze up and couldn’t decide what went where. At the moment, though, everything is shiny, bright, and pretty, in a most un-vampiric way.
A word about the giant walkways in there: I thought it would be cool to build kind of garden paths up in the air. I put a couple of platforms on them, where I’ll eventually have chairs to sit on and look out over all the glowing things. But I discovered that I fall off them all the dang time. Even though I know it’s a game and therefor not real, the walkways still give me vertigo. Crazy, right? But true. I’m getting better at staying on the stairs and not falling off, but wow, it’s wild going out there.
And I got another house. Don’t roll your eyes at me, this one was free! Everybody with Greymoor got the Antiquarian’s Alpine Gallery. I’ll be posting pics of it sometime.
Eric Alan Westfall has a new queer fairy tale out: Prince Ivan, “A. Wolfe & A Firebird.” And there’s a giveaway!
What do you get when you combine a greedy Great Tsar, his two cheating, bullying older sons, his youngest esser (shh! no saying that aloud) son, stolen gold apples, a Firebird quest, A. Wolfe who has the power t’assume a pleasing shape, a magickal sandstorm, as well as two bands and a full Symphony of Gipsumies?
A rollicking, roisterous Russian Fairy Tale, with vigorous esser activities in tents, halls, bedrooms and alcoves, with and without the assistance of PSTs. Plus princely parades, a duel over Gus, new lyrics to an old drinking song, and the possibility of bits of blood, gobs of gore or moments of mayhem. As required by CORA (the Code of RFT Authors), should these occur, your author will give you timely warning.
Ah. Still not ready to part with your kopek-equivalent? Consider the fun you’ll have reading chapters like:
- “To Kvetch, Or Not To Kvetch? A Reader’s Choice”
- “Ivan Has A Close Encounter Of The F-Word Kind”
- “Second Direction Questers vs. The Caliph’s Sayer Of Sooths”
- “Will Sasha Succeed In Seducing Prince Ivan?”
- “Bad Prince Ivan! No Touch Cage!”
- “A Travel Pause For Gratuitous Sex In The Tent—Which Does Not Advance The Plot—At The Insistence Of The Characters”
- “A Necessary Interlude To Consider The Age-Old Questing Question: What The [Expletive Of Your Choice, Dear Reader] Do We Do Next?”
If you buy it and try it, you’ll like it, or so says your most talen…er…humble author.
p.s. If Karrie Jax and I have covered you and blurbed you to buy, look for “Dear Reader, Along The Way, Did You Happen To See The Allusion To Olivier?” in the TOC. It’s a spot-the-allusions chance at gift cards of $25, $15, or $10.
166,000 words of story fun and frolic, plus a 2160-word teaser from another MM fairytale: The Tinderbox.
Eric is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour. Enter via rafflecopter:
IVAN PUTS HIS HORSE AT RISK, AND MEETS A. WOLFE
“A wolf who talks,” Ivan said, his voice all full of surprise.
“I am not a wolf, Prince Ivan, I am A. Wolfe.”
Ivan lifted an eyebrow, in his long-perfected “inquiring princes want to know what you mean” mode, while wondering what effect it might have on such an enormous beast. Well, not a beast, exactly, since it could talk.
No reaction, except the bright gold eyes—so like one of his father’s apples, well-polished after plucking, or the gold circles in the Firebird’s tail—stared back, unblinking.
Since his eyebrow inquiry failed to a verbal response, it was Ivan’s turn to talk. Politeness had worked with the Firebird, when used in place of “I am royal, hear me roar” arrogance, and might be best for Ivan’s well-being in the current situation, conversing with a wolf, the top of whose head was above Gus’ shoulder.
“‘A wolf who talks,’” yes. My exact words, Sir Wolf.”
The wolf opened his mouth. Wide. No mere flash this time. Ivan was fully fanged. As they had only just met, he could not tell whether he was being fang-grinned for a reason he could not fathom, or fierce-fanged to frighten him. If it was the latter, there was a glimmer of starting-to-work happening.
But the wolf’s voice was neither fierce nor fun-filled when he hid most of his fangs and talked again. His tone was a goblet of great size, filled not just to the brim but overflowing—with more coming from somewhere so the over kept on flowing—with…patience. The kind of patience you use for, with, and on, those who are not very bright. Indeed, those who are so dim that if their brains were used to provide light for reading at night they’d be as effective as an inch-tall stub of a quarter-inch wide candle, set in a candlestick in the bowels of a cavern on the far side of a mountain range five-and-a-half eighths of a continent away.
“When you bathe, do you clean your ears, Prince Ivan?” [See above for how he said it.]
A sigh was heard.
Ivan wished he’d brought along a sigh that big, but then, since it was a large wolf letting it loose, accompanied by, Ivan was almost sure, a hint of a scent of pasta, pesto, garlic and butter, Ivan might not have been able to use it with the same effect. The sigh might almost have been designed to complement the show-patience-to-the-afflicted voice.
“Do. You. Clean—”
“I heard you the first time, Sir Wolf. I just don’t understa—”
It was the wolf’s turn to interrupt. “It’s clear you don’t understand, young prince. I was trying to ascertain whether your inability to understand plain Russian was based on a physical defect—stuffed ears, whether unclean or for another reason, bad hearing, something of that sort—and if not, on some mental lack which in theory requires me to be considerate and gentle.”
There was a tiny pause, so infinitesimal Ivan would have had no chance to get a syllable of a word in edgewise, sidewise, upwise, or downwise, even had he tried. “You do understand kindness and gentleness are not traits associated with a wolf, and especially not A. Wolfe?”
At the end of this series of insults, the Great Tsar would have raged, calling on his ever-present Imperial Guards to “Rid me of this wolf!”
Anatol would have ranted about the presumptuousness of peasants who did not know or stay in their proper place, probably forgetting who had just offended his sense of propriety.
Vlad would have grabbed his sword, and whether from horseback, or following a grandiose leap to the ground which displayed his awesome athleticism for the admiration of any viewers lurking in the vicinity—it was his policy to always act as if he was being viewed with admiration—would have started hewing and hacking away.
In part because Ivan suspected the outcome would have been the same with all three of those scenes—dead soldiers, dead royal family, likely including bystander youngest prince—Ivan chose the fourth door…and laughed.
He couldn’t say why he saw—thought he saw—a twinkle of humor in the great golden eyes. But he must have been right, because the wolf didn’t leap up, all howling, growling and slavering, and drag him off Gus before doing the devouring which would logically follow offending laughter.
Ivan forced a halt to his own humor. With gasps interrupting his initial words, he said, “My apologies, Sir Wolf. I was not laughing at you. It was an image in my head of my family’s reactions to your words, and yours to theirs. However, with all the respect to which you are entitled, which seems to be at least a reasonable amount”—Ivan was willing to be reasonable, but not obsequious—“I have no mental or physical defect which interferes with my hearing or my understanding. Perhaps the, ah, flaw lies in your explanation of what you mean? Or, you might consider, the lack of one?”
Ivan gave the wolf a princely grin of satisfaction with his response.
Wolfe gave the prince back a wolfeish huff. “I’ll entertain the possibility you might be right, if you’ll entertain the possibility you are not listening as well as you should.”
“Very well. Repeat after me, ‘A wolf is not the same as A. Wolfe.’”
“A wolf is not the same as a wolf.”
Wolfe sighed again. He apparently had an inexhaustible supply, in a wide range of sizes.
“A wolf is an animal, Prince Ivan. It resembles me, but is far smaller, roams the forest, howls from time to time for various reasons, and at times for no reason at all. Perhaps because it doesn’t reason. I am a wolfe—with an ‘e’ at the end. Which means I have magickal skills. My name is: A…full stop…Wolfe.”
Ivan grinned again. “Your first name is Afullstop? What an unusual name. Not Russian, is it?”
“No. Not an ‘uh’ sound, but a long a-sound, which rhym… You’re teasing.”
Ivan learned another lesson in wolfe-prince relations. A wolf-with-an-e-at-the-end could grin, without his fangs looking all fearsome.
Ivan widened his own grin. “I am. So what does long-A stand for?”
“A handsome name for a handsome wolf-with-an-e.”
Ivan paused. He shouldn’t, he really shouldn’t, but he decided he would, anyway. “Sir Wolfe, now that I know your name is A. Wolfe, and since we are being so precise with our pronunciations, are you really quite certain I shouldn’t call you ‘A. Wolfie?’ To be sure the final ‘e’ gets its just and proper due?”
Ah. So that’s what a Wolfeish glare looked like with a fillip of fang.
A Pause to Provide a Reassuring Response for the Horse Kvetchers in the Crowd
The author extends his apologies, dear reader, for this interruption. But the kvetchers in the crowd, whinging on and on about the horses, are a probable distraction for other readers who, unlike you, are incapable of fully focusing on the tale while extraneous noise is being made. So, if you will be so kind as to bear wi—
The horses belonging to the princes. As you will recall, the horses were…
Oh. You don’t.
Well, in that case, this interruption will serve as a reminder for those who perhaps don’t care as much as they should about tales which seem to include the abandonment of two fine animals to an unknown, and potentially dire fate, given the RFTness going on. This will also be a reassurance for those more vocal in their concerns over the possibility of off-page horse endangerment.
As it so happened—and as you know, you may trust the author to true-tell all this tale’s events occurring on and off the pages—not long after the brothers were swept up and swirled away by the sandst…
No. There has not been a precise allocation of the passage of a particular amount of time sufficient to serve as a definition of “not long.” Suffice it to say—and with all the authorial respect appropriately due to the kvetchers in the crowd, when this author decides something sufficeth, more than a mere sufficiency of sufficing has thereby been accomplished—the not-longness was not short enough to make subsequent events even more improbable than they already are because of the fairy taleness occurring, but also not long enough for the horses to experience more the mildest need for something to eat or drink.
If the author may now proceed?
As the author was saying, not long after the brothers were swept up and swirled away by the sandstorm, a band of Gipsumies happened by.
A happenstance of any form, of course, is by its very nature naturally nothing more than an alternative form of coincidence, but one which carries with it far less sheerness.
The Gipsumies—sometimes referred to by the ignorant as Roaminies, which they find offensive—were experienced travelers and well aware they were well beyond the far edge of All The Russias in the third direction.
Their band arrived at the site of the happenstance—the location of two saddled, bridled, Imperial warhorses—with all its instruments in tune, and being played with vigor, especially the violins, and with the men, women, and other genders, dancing with spectacular (of the non-Russian-axe variety) leaps and bounds, swirls and twirls and intricate steps. The perfect-pitch singers sang a series of songs during the course of the happening-by arrival, with also-perfect timing so they all finished simultaneously with a final stamp of the dancers’ feet, and a long-lasting high or low note from the singers.
No. There is no definition of how long the last notes lasted.
Great Tsar’s War Hammer, as named by Vlad—the horse much preferred his actual name, Nikki, but he answered to the other one because he had no choice—had seen a Gipsumy arrival before in Moscow and was impressed. Unaware this was only a rehearsal, he rose a bit on his back legs, and slammed his front feet down, giving them his stamp of approval.
Gleb, who answered to Anatol’s choice of Imperial Storm Racer, had seen that Moscow arrival alongside Nikki, but was less impressed with this one. He gave it only a modest half-stamp of a left foreleg of approval.
Rehearsal and arrival complete, the members of the band swiftly put their instruments away, stripped off their costumes and handed them over to the cleaners, and donned working garb in dull, drab colors, designed to make them easily overlookable in civilized circumstances. That done, the pre-selected men and women—it was the other genders’ turn for a day off from this task—spread out to investigate this most excellent finding in many a happening-by.
What the surroundings said to the Gipsumy investigators in subtle signs was threefold.
First fold, “There’s no one anywhere around who might claim to be the owner of the horses.”
Second fold, “There are some owner-type footsteps leading from the horses to the edge of the desert, but there are no steps indicating an owner’s desire to return to two valuable horses before anyone happens upon them and concludes they were abandoned. There are no signs of steps to the right of the desert line, nor steps to the left, or steps out into the desert. Therefore, the only conclusion to a reasonable degree of Gipsumy investigatorial certainty, is that the owners stepped out onto the sand and were likely sucked down.” (One lithe, elegant, more fey than the Fae, Gipsumy man sighed at the thought of such a sad ending to a sucking.)
Third fold, “Inasmuch as horse abandonment is a clear sign of intent to relinquish ownership thereof to anyone who thereafter happens by, and we, having thereafter happened by, it unquestionably follows the horses, and everything on them, are ours.”
Experienced in avoiding ownership confusions caused by returning persons denying horsical abandonment, the members of the band took the time for a brief meal and taking care of those needs which cannot be mentioned. After hitching Nikki and Gleb to the back of the chief’s caravan, and storing the saddles, bridles, saddlebags, and everything else in secret compartments scattered throughout the rest of the band’s caravans, they left the scene of the happenstance.
Some time later—
they reached actual civilization, and thanks in part to the parchment provenance carefully crafted on the way, the Gipsumies made a more than healthy profit off an investment of the few rubles spent keeping the horses healthy and happy on the journey.
As paid-up members of GAPCHBOP—the Gipsumy Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Happened-By Beasts and Other Property—this band took more than the minimum amount of time mandated by GAPCHBOP rules to ensure that the new owner of both horses would treat them with love, care, and good food, water and grooming.
The author adds his personal assurances that many years after the events in this tale were concluded, Nikki and Gleb died of comfortable old age, surrounded by several herds’ worth of horsical friends, acquaintances and a great many descendants, the pair having been most active in their post-prince years.
Moving along, dear readers, moving along…
Eric is an American Midwesterner, and as Lady Glenhaven might say, “He’s old enough to have sailed with Noah.” In the real world he writes for a living, with those who would claim what he writes is fiction. His partner of thirty years—who died unexpectedly in 1995—enthusiastically encouraged him to try to get his writing published (mostly poetry back then, plus some short stories), but he didn’t have the guts to do so until 2013. At this point he’s not sure which was officially first, The Song, or Like a Mountain, Waiting.
Starting then, he’s published 13 novels and novellas, 1 poetry collection, 2 short story collections, and 3 short stories. God willin’ and the crick don’t rise, 2020 will also see The Tinderbox out and about. But since real life is, as we all know, a pain in the (anatomical site of your choice)…no guarantees.
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