I upgraded my computer recently. Yes, I know, I’ve told everybody in this world and three others about my new computer. That’s because I love it, and I’m proud as hell that I assembled the big beast without messing anything up. But I stuck my old drives in the new case, because there wasn’t anything wrong with them. And… about three weeks later, one of the big old monsters started groaning and complaining, acting like it was way too old to get up in the morning, and saying it wasn’t going to last much longer.
So I got a new drive. Took a chance this time on something new, which I usually don’t. I tend to wait for a new technology to be out in the world for a while before trying it, because it seems like tech companies are in such a rush to get something out there that they don’t neccessarily work out all the bugs first. But what the hell, life’s short. The drive I got is a hybrid between a normal drive and an SSD, called the Seagate Firecuda. And let me tell you, that thing is fast! I don’t regret trying something new this time, that’s for sure.
Which brings my rambling ass back around to the 3D stuff. Imagine that.
When I moved into the new system, it screwed up all my carefully sorted and organized 3D content. My categories didn’t work anymore, what with the new OS and the new SSD holding the new OS and having to re-install all my programs to work with the new OS and… You get the picture. I’d just barely begun getting the mountains of stuff organized when I had to put the new drive in, and move all my content. Again. Breaking all my categories. Again.
“Bugger” was the least of what I said, but I got everything onto the new drive.
I bought a product ages ago when it was on sale for about three bucks called Content Cataloger Easy. I wasn’t initially too impressed with it, because all it does is round up every thumbnail in the content directories and display each and every one of them. It makes a huge batch of images, stretching across many pages, without an easy way to navigate through the things. But I gave it another try out of sheer desperation. Yes, the thing is still a pain, with the endless scrolling through mountains of crap. But it’s also really nice, because it lays out pictures of everything, complete with the path to the whatever. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run across something I forgot I had, or I forgot just how cool it was.
Which brings me to my other problem. Please, people, don’t let me buy any more content! Holy crap, I’ve got enough stuff cluttering up my hard drive to last three lifetimes! If you catch me hinting that I’m looking for more, then please kick me right in the butt. Hard. Because I’ve got plenty.
I blame Daz for that. 😉 They’re the ones that have had some amazing sales right when I’ve had some bucks to spend. And it’s also my boss’s fault, too, because she gave me a nice shiny bonus check that coincided with one of those good sales.
And now, having sufficiently bored people with my randomness, I’m going to get back to sorting my big pile of stuff. Let the agony of sorting be a lesson to me for the future, one all about exercising self-control and using the bonus check for real world things like food, or clothes, or even vehicle repairs.
In case you don’t know this already, I love to bellydance. I’m out of practice now, because of that whole sick thing, but I’ll get back to it soon. Work’s far too crazy right now to allow much of anything.
Anyway, I was thinking today about my last public performance. I was up on stage, dancing with my veil. People were okay with it, but not going crazy or anything. The music changed, I let the second veil come out, the crowd went bonkers. Everyone loves double veil, after all.
One of my veils cut loose and fluttered down to the ground.
Super embarrassing! There I was, spinning like a crazy thing, wearing my “I’m performing” smile, with only one veil. Crappy. But I traveled towards it over three spins, then spun low and grabbed the sneaky bastard and got it going again. Decent enough recovery, but man, it sucked.
And you know what? Despite the embarrassment, I still love to dance. Maybe I’ll get back to performing again, maybe not, but either way I’m going to break those veils out again and let them fly.
This year has been a rough one for me and my family. Anyone who knows me knows I almost dropped dead several times in the last year. Well, I just found out my brother was in a horrible car crash last month and could have died very easily. He’s still alive, and one hundred percent as cantankerous as ever. Which means that my sister-in-law set up a GoFundMe account for him, but didn’t tell him, because he’d find a way to get up and kick her ass over asking for charity.
But dang it, everybody needs a bit of help sometimes, and being almost dead and unable to work certainly qualifies as a time to ask for help. My sister-in-law asked me to share this if I could. I had to think about it a bit, because if I post it to Facebook, well, my brother will see it and probably get ultra pissed.
So I’m posting here.
If there are any people out there who read this and also happen to be one of the super-nice people who occasionally donate some bucks to strangers in need, check out this GoFundMe. I know you awesome people exist, because I hear about you frequently from others talking about how some random stranger donates to a GoFundMe. Heck, when I was recovering from my surgery, I even got a couple people tossing a few bucks my way that I’ve never heard of.
So here you go. The picture of the smashed-up car is what they got my brother out of, and onto a helicopter in time to survive. (Um… edit. She changed the picture. It shows my brother and his wife now.)
And by the way, just to be clear, I don’t expect any random miraculous donations. I’m just sending this out to the world because there’s a slim chance, and because I am absolutely certain my brother doesn’t read my blog and therefore won’t cuss me out. Which he most assuredly would if he knew about this, know what I mean? So please don’t think I expect anyone who sees this to dig out bucks to support a total stranger.
Hey look, J. Scott Coatsworth is at it again!
Javier Fernandez is a climate scientist living in a research station near the South Pole. Since his husband was killed in a car crash, he’s preferred to be alone, and is less than thrilled to have a junior scientist thrust upon him by his rich patron.
Col Steele is a trans man fleeing a bad break-up, ready for the next step in his career, who is ready to spend Christmas anywhere but at home. When a crack in the ice separates the two men from safety, they are forced to come to terms with their own losses and each other.
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The rhythmic whomp whomp whompof the helicopter’s rotary blades matched the beating of his heart.
I’m here. I’m really here.
He pressed his face to the glass, eagerly taking in the landscape below, capturing the view in his phone. There was no cellular network here, of course, and he had his Sony A73 packed away for the real work, but his phone was good enough to record his own personal memories.
The sparkling blue and white of the Ross Ice Shelf spread out before him, almost indescribable in its frozen beauty. The ice seemed to stretch on forever here in the South, as they called it. On the ice.
The copter had left the Southern Explorer a few minutes earlier, taking off from the grey deck and passing over a span of cold ocean water where a waddle of penguins played in the Ross Sea.
The cliffs of The Ice were white enough—and tall enough—to put the cliffs of Dover to shame with their splendor.
Col checked the temperature gauge on the console. It was a relatively balmy Antarctic day, with the temperature hovering just below zero Fahrenheit.
“First time?” His pilot, Joseph, steered the copter over the ice field with practiced ease.
“Yes. Not yours, I assume?”
“Nope, I’ve done the run to Amundsen–Scott more than a dozen times, people and cargo. Been out to Bettancourt three times now.”
Col nodded. Paul Bettancourt was his benefactor—a billionaire who was keenly interested in the science and effects of global climate change.
He picked me.Out of more than two hundred research scientists, the man had chosen Col to be the next fellowship scientist to join Javier Fernandez at Bettancourt Station for a six-month internship.
It was still sinking in.
The timing couldn’t have been better. Col had no desire to be home for the holidays this year. After a bad breakup with David, he was nursing a broken heart, and was in no mood for Christmas trees and candy canes. Far better the frozen tundra of Antarctica, to match his frozen heart.
The Ross Shelf was much more varied a landscape than he’d expected. The smooth white ice near the shore gave way to a variety of landforms, the result of the ice being pushed and pulled around by gravity and shaped by wind and snow and rain for millennia.
There were mountains and valleys, the peaks white and the shadows a beautiful blue.
In other places, the wind-blown snow created long scallop shapes along the ice.
In at least one spot, a wide, shallow pool of melted water almost glowed turquoise in the sunlight. Not a good sign.
“You see a lot of melting out here?”
Joseph nodded. “More every year. It’s been a slow thaw, but every summer season it goes a bit faster. Lots more icebergs too. Seeing one of those calve off the main shelf is something else. Crack! Thunder!And a great splash of water as it hits the ocean.”
Col grinned. “I’ve seen it in the Arctic. I spent a year based out of Whitehorse, studying the ice sheets up north.”
“Never been. Though I hear the girls in the Yukon are wild.”
Col snorted. “I wouldn’t know.” What he didn’t say was that he’d been one of them, once. On the outside, at least.
That was a lifetime ago.
Now this new life was laid out before him, and he just wanted to move forward.
He captured as much of the landscape as he could manage with his phone, awed that he was finally here. Then he tucked it away to just take in the experience.
“Might wanna get your phone ready,” Joseph said at last. “We’re almost there.” The pilot pointed off to starboard, and a small speck appeared in the distance, alongside a long line in the ice.
“It’s bigger than I imagined.”
Joseph’s eyebrow went up. “Bettancourt?”
“No. The Giant Crack.”
Joseph laughed. “You scientists suffer from a sever lack of imagination.”
Col grinned. “It’s true.” He stared at the Crack. It stretched from one edge of the horizon to the other, a sign of things to come. He’d seen many pictures of it, of course, but seeing it in person. It was awe inspiring, and a little frightening. It had happened two years before, but since then, the shelf seemed to have stabilized again.
It was the reason he was here, as much as his break-up with David.
He snapped a few pics, then looked down at Bettancourt Station.
It was a modest place, maybe the size of a couple RV’s hooked together. It basically was—two modules built by Northrup-Grumann to Bettancourt’s specs, brought in by military copter and hooked together. One served as the laboratory, and the other as living quarters for the scientific team.
Fernandez was there now. His last lab partner, Astrid Danvers, had departed a few days earlier. It had all been in the briefing email.
Col whistled. It was going to be a tight space for his six-month rotation down there.
Still, it would be worth it. Careers were made by postings like this, and he’d have a chance to put his education and experience to work at something that might actually help the planet.
Fuck you, David.
He took a couple more shots, and then settled in for the landing.
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 gay 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.
Author Website: https://www.jscottcoatsworth.com/
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I did it! I finished my NaNoWriMo project today, at an officially verified wordcount of 50016. This, despite the moment of panic when I discovered the Scrivener wordcount does not, in fact, match up with the NaNo validator. In fact, it was off by about 250 words. That part sucked. “I’m done! I’m done! … oh shit. No I’m not.”
If all goes as planned, I will be editing/revising The Apex Mage in January. Ish. Who knows if I’ll get to it. Because I’ve got a guilty secret. The sales were just too good for my self-control, and I bought the Elder Scrolls Online. It’s a gorgeous world in there, and it may take me a while to come out of it…
Once again, as almost always, I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo. And again as usual, my plans got hijacked by a rogue idea.
So here I am at work, unable to get anywhere near my computer to write until way late tonight. And my head is exploding with ideas that will pop like soap bubbles as soon as I get home. Such is life…
I confess, I’ve been waiting quite eagerly for this one. And now it’s here, but I can’t get it yet until I recover from paying rent, so… I’ll advertise it instead. 😉
J. Scott Coatsworth has a new queer sci fi book out: “The Rising Tide.”
Earth is dead.
Five years later, the remnants of humanity travel through the stars inside Forever, a living, ever-evolving, self-contained generation ship. When Eddy Tremaine and Andy Hammond find a hidden world-within-a-world under the mountains, the discovery triggers a chain of events that could fundamentally alter or extinguish life as they know it, culminate in the takeover of the world mind, and end free will for humankind.
Control the AI, control the people.
Eddy, Andy, and a handful of other unlikely heroes—people of every race and identity, and some who aren’t even human—must find the courage and ingenuity to stand against the rising tide.
Otherwise they might be living through the end days of human history.
Series Blurb: Humankind is on its way to the stars, a journey that will change it forever. Each of the stories in Liminal Sky explores that future through the lens of a generation ship, where the line between science fiction and fantasy often blurs. At times both pessimistic and very hopeful, Liminal Sky thrusts you into a future few would ever have imagined.
Scott is giving away two prizes with this tour – a $25 Amazon gift card, and a signed copy of “The Stark Divide,” book one in the series (US winner only for the paperback). For a chance to win, enter via Rafflecopter:
Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d4734/?
Eddy Tremayne rode his horse, Cassiopeia, along the edge of the pastures that were the last official human habitations before the Anatov Mountains. Several ranchers along the Verge—the zone between the ranches and the foothills—had reported losses of sheep and cattle in the last few weeks.
As the elected sheriff of First District, which ran from Micavery and the South Pole to the mountains, it was Eddy’s responsibility to find out what was going on.
He had his crossbow strapped to his back and his long knife in a leather sheath at his waist. He’d been carrying them for long enough now—three years?—that they had started to feel natural, but the first time he’d worn the crossbow, he’d felt like a poor man’s Robin Hood.
He doubted he’d need them out here, but sheriffs were supposed to be armed.
He’d checked with Lex in the world mind via the South Pole terminal, but she’d reported nothing amiss. In the last few years, she had begun to deploy biodrones to keep an eye on the far-flung parts of the world, but they provided less than optimal coverage. One flyover of this part of the Verge had shown a peaceful flock of thirty sheep. The next showed eight.
The rancher, a former neurosurgeon from New Zealand named Gia Rand, waited for him on the top of a grassy hill. The grass and trees shone with bioluminescent light, and the afternoon sky lit the surrounding countryside with a golden glow. The spindle—the aggregation of energy and glowing pollen that stretched from pole to pole—sparkled in the middle of the sky.
The rancher pulled on her gray braid, staring angrily at something in the valley below. “Took you long enough to get here.”
“Sorry. The train was out of service again.” Technology was slowly failing them, and they had yet to come up with good replacements.
She snorted. “One helluva spaceship we have here.”
He grinned. “Preaching to the choir.” Forever didn’t have the manufacturing base yet to support anything close to the technology its inhabitants had grown used to on Earth. Which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, if you asked him. With technology came new and better ways to kill. He’d seen it often enough in the NAU Marines. “What did you find?”
“Look.” Her voice was almost a growl.
Eddy looked down where she was pointing. “Oh shit.” Her missing sheep were no longer missing. They had been slaughtered.
He urged Cassiopeia down the hillside to the rocky clearing. A small stream trickled down out of the mountains there. He counted ten carcasses, as near as he could tell from the skulls left behind. Someone had sheared a couple of them and given up. It looked like they had skinned and cut the rest up for meat, the skin and bones and extra bits discarded.
Gia rode down the hillside behind him.
“Didn’t you report twelve sheep missing?”
She nodded. “Bastards took the two lambs. Probably for breeding.”
“That actually might help us.”
He dismounted to take a closer look at the crime scene. “They’ll have to pasture them somewhere. May make it easier to track them down.”
“Maybe so.” She dismounted and joined him. “This was brutal work. Look here.” She picked up a bone. “Whatever cut this was sharp but uneven. It left scratch marks across the bone.”
“So not a metal knife.”
“I don’t think so. Maybe a stone knife?”
He laughed harshly. “Are we back to caveman days, then?” It wasn’t an unreasonable question.
She was silent for a moment, staring at the mountains. “Do you think they live up there?”
“Who?” He followed her gaze. Their highest peaks were wreathed in wisps of cloud.
The Ghosts had been a persistent myth on Forever since their abrupt departure from Earth. Some of the refugees had vanished right after the Collapse, and every now and then something would end up missing. Clothes off a line, food stocks, and the like.
People talked. The rumors had taken on a life of their own, and now whenever something went missing, people whispered, “It’s the Ghosts.”
Eddy didn’t believe in ghosts. He personally knew at least one refugee who had disappeared, his shipmate Davian. He guessed there must be others, though the record keeping from that time had been slipshod at best. He shrugged and looked at the sky. “Who knows?” It was likely to rain in the next day or so. Whoever had done this had left a trail, trampled into the grass. If he didn’t follow it now, it might be gone by the time he got back here with more resources.
Gia knelt by one of the ewes, staring at the remnants of the slaughter. “Could you get me some more breeding stock? This… incident put a big dent in my herd.”
“I’ll see what I can do.” He took one last look around the site. It had to have taken an hour or two to commit this crime, and yet the thieves had apparently done it in broad daylight. Why weren’t they afraid of being caught? “I’m going to follow the trail, see where it leads.”
Gia nodded. “Thanks. We’re taking the rest of the herd back to the barn until you get this all figured out.”
“Sounds prudent. I’ll let you know.”
Slipping on his hat, he climbed back up on Cassie and followed the trail across the stream toward the Anatov Mountains.
Scott lives between the here and now and the what could be. 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 the people like him were.
He decided it was time to create the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at Waldenbooks. If there weren’t gay characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.
His friends say Scott’s brain works a little differently – he sees relationships between things that others miss, and gets more done in a day than most folks manage in a week. He seeks to transform traditional sci fi, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something unexpected.
A Rainbow Award winning author, he runs Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark, sites that bring queer people together to promote and celebrate fiction reflecitng their own reality.
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Jeanne G’Fellers is has just released her new enby/pansexual queer paranormal fantasy book: Mama, Me, and the Holiday Tree.
A dozen handmade holiday ornaments, that’s all, but it might be an impossible task.
Centenary Rhodes and her mother are at constant odds. It’s one of the many reasons Cent left home when she was eighteen. Mama’s difficult for anyone to manage, but now that Cent’s back home, she has to try. Mama, however, won’t acknowledge who Cent’s become, even though she’s repeatedly been shown the truth.
It’ll take more than popcorn strings and paper snowflakes to heal the rift that’s formed between Cent and Mama. It’s going to take bushels of patience, heaps of magic, and assistance from everyone on both sides of Embreeville Mountain to reset the Balance between them.
But with Yule and Christmas just around the corner, it might already be too late.
Join Cent and her Mother for a heart-warming, magic-filled holiday tale of acceptance, family of choice, family of blood, love, magic, and patience all served with a queer Appalachian twist.
Warnings: This novella broaches the subject of mental illness, specifically Schizophrenia, within families and the relationships struggles therein.
About the Series:
Four elements plus one, four seasons, over a hundred lives – Centenary Rhodes has returned home to discover she isn’t who she thought. Join her on a journey through history, family of blood, family of choice, and love that renews. The mountains are alive, y’all, everything hinges on the Balance, and a little moonshine can cure what ails you in this identity-exploring, imaginative queer Contemporary Fantasy series steeped in Appalachian magic and folklore.
Jeanne is giving away two eBook copies of the first book in the series, Cleaning House, with this tour. Enter via Rafflecopter:
A Cedar in the Corner
December 19, 2017: 5:30 p.m.
This is what I get for marrying an earth elemental.I stare with dismay at the dirt trail leading across the porch and through the front door. I don’t get rare gems or sparkling geodes placed lovingly at my feet by my elemental spouse. No, I get a cedar tree, bare roots caked with half-frozen mud, wedged into the living room corner.
Stowne’s dragged a holiday tree into our home while I was at work today.
“No one saw you do this?” I scratch my head as I consider the leaning mass of fern-like, scaly, sticky needles. “And I thought we’d talked about getting a tree tomorrow.”
“No one was here.” Stowne’s grinning ear to sandy ear. “It is a surprise. You have worked so hard lately that you have forgotten how close it is to Yule.”
Yeah, Yule. About that.This is my first Yule with Stowne. No, let me correct that. This will be my first Yule celebration thislife, and they’re trying to make it special for me, so I can’t sound as upset as I’m feeling at present. “Two days. I know. Thanks, honey, but can we do something about the mess?”
“I’ve got it.” Stowne’s fire elemental friend, Pyre, rolls into the living room on a cloud of white smoke, and they’re holding the old half-barrel planter from beneath my Aunt Tess’ trailer’s back porch. “I found something to line it.” Pyre holds up a faded canvas tarp they’ve found Gods know where.
“Thank you.” Stowne’s smile still spans their face. They’re happy about this, about the tree in the corner, the leaky planter, and faded tarp, so I try my best to look happy too. “Go to the kitchen, relax, and drink some coffee, Centenary. Pyre and I will finish setting up the tree.”
“Sure.” I tuck my messenger bag under my arm and head to the kitchen, where Rayne is waiting for me, an earthenware mug of steaming coffee in their translucent, watery hands. Water elementals make wonderful coffee, by the way. Rayne claims the secret is spring water filtered through their form, and I’ve no reason to doubt them.
“Stowne’s really excited about the tree.” Rayne gives me the mug and takes my bag, setting it on the kitchen table. It’s a huge piece of well-loved furniture, a good eight-foot-long trestle, and handmade from American Chestnut, a species that’s widely considered extinct. “They’ve been looking for the perfect one since Samhain.”
“They have?” Who knew there was so much to Yule? Certainly not me, at least that I can remember. See, I’ve got this whole multiple-lives thing I’m sorting through. Most of those lives, I’ve been with Stowne, and I remember a lot, but some issues, like their excitement over holidays, have eluded me. I’ve been reading about different Yule traditions online and in the stack of magical books I left behind, but I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface, and I’ve been asking Stowne questions every night while we cuddle in bed. “They’ve gotten excited every sabbat and esbat since we’ve been together, but they seem even more excited about Yule. Why is that?”
“You don’t remember?” Rayne shifts the lower portion of their form to what resembles flowing blue pants, making it easier for them to sit. “You’ve celebrated Yule with Stowne for centuries, and during your last two lives, you actually let them bring in a tree every year as long as it could be replanted afterward.”
“Yeah, Stowne told me.” I sip my coffee then rise from the table in search of the quart of cream we keep in the homestead’s old Kelvinator fridge. “But that doesn’t explain why they’re so happy.” I add three heaping teaspoons of sugar to my cup, deep in thought as I stir. I remember that Stowne and I built this homestead together in the early nineteenth century. That version of me was Irish and desperate for a home that resembled Ireland, and this place certainly looks like pictures I’ve seen. My motivations might change each life, but I’m in many ways the same, and I always try to come here, to reach Stowne and this mountain. That’s what I’m told, anyway, but I don’t actually know.
My heart, however, says this is correct.
Here’s the thing about me and my memories. This life, I left Northeast Tennessee when I was eighteen years old. Actually, I didn’t just leave, I ran. I ran from my mother and her chronic mental illness, from everyone I thought wouldn’t accept me as genderqueer, from the magic I wasn’t ready to understand, from the looming pile of memories I’m now sorting through. But mostly, I ran from myself. Now I’m back, and I’m trying to cram three thousand years into my head, but I sometimes think space is running out.
“Stowne loves every sabbat, but especially Yule.” Rayne shrugs hard enough to fling water across the table top. “Oops.”
“It needs cleaned anyway.” I return with a dishrag, sitting across from Rayne as I wipe up. “Why Yule?”
“It represents rebirth.” Rayne stares at me with their blue eyes wide and one pale, translucent brow cocked, the look they always give me when I should be remembering something. “Re-birth.” Their stare becomes hard.
“Oh.” I bite my bottom lip to hide my embarrassment. Sure, rebirth. Myrebirth. Stowne sees Yule as a chance to celebrate my return to Embreeville Mountain. I’m almost thirty years old, a tiny blip in the grand scheme of time and infinitely younger than Stowne, even when you add all my lives together, but they want to celebrate like it’s something new. More so this year because it’s our first Yule together as eternal lovers.
Yeah, I’m immortal now too, but that’s a story for some other time.
“So…” I take a deep breath and scratch beneath my undercut at the stubbly hair that’s already growing back. “What do I need to do?”
“Act happy and don’t get in their way.” Rayne takes the dishrag to the old enamel sink, wrings it out, and drapes it over the side before turning to face me. “All elementals love the Winter Solstice, what you call Yule. Even death elementals like Exan. But you don’t remember that either, do you?”
“Afraid not.” I finish my coffee and go to the sink to stand beside Rayne, looking out the window to where the mountain rises behind the house in shades of tired brown splashed with winter evergreen. “I wish I did.” And I really do. It might help me to understand all this. “It’s like Christmas, isn’t it? I mean they’re similar, right?”
“In some ways, yes. But others…” Rayne shakes their head, this time slinging water from their deep blue locks. “Drains and dribbles. I’ll call it back.” They chant low, drawing the water to their form, smiling as it disappears into their bare, puddling feet. “I think you need a holiday refresher.”
“A refresher?” The house smells like cedar so I breathe deep. It’s not a bad smell. In fact, it’s fresh, clean, and familiar. Yes, I remember having a tree in this house before and Stowne’s joy each time. “Are you going to tell me about all those holidays?”
“You’ll do best to remember for yourself.” Rayne smiles as they glide toward the living room. “That tree needs water.”
Born and raised in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Science Fiction and Fantasy author Jeanne G’Fellers’ early memories include watching the original Star Trek series with her father and reading the books her librarian mother brought home. Jeanne’s writing influences include Anne McCaffrey, Ursula K. LeGuin, Octavia Butler, Isaac Asimov, and Frank Herbert.
Jeanne lives in Northeast Tennessee with her spouse and their five crazy felines. Their home is tucked against a small woodland where they regularly see deer, turkeys, raccoons, and experience the magic of the natural world.
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QSFer Amir Lane has a new queer/transgender paranormal book out: Panther Queen.
When cattle rancher Lenna Alvarez rescues a black jaguar, she discovers there’s more to the animal that meets the eye. Bonding with a centuries-old Aztec Warrior wasn’t part of her plans. Then again, neither was simultaneously facing off against an American businessman and poachers encroaching on her family lands.
With her newfound powers, Lenna is sure the poachers don’t stand a chance. Only, Lenna isn’t the only one bringing strange animal powers to the game. The poachers have them too, led by businessman Ansen Peters. Lenna is in over her head, and not even the jaguar can save her.
Ansen Peters doesn’t want the ranch. He wants the jaguar. And he’s willing to kill her for it.
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Night fell around Lenna, and her ass had long since gone numb. Her camera was full of new pictures but she didn’t have anything for night photography. The equipment was bulkier and heavier than she was willing to carry through the Pantanal.
As she prepared to dismount from her tree, she tried to see how awake her legs were. Not very, judging by the tingling in her feet. She scanned the riverbank for her boat while she kicked her heels against the tree trunk and spotted two others. That was odd. When had someone else shown up? Maybe it was Valente and Luciano looking for her. But she had taken their only boat, and they would never venture this deep into the Pantanal unless she’d been missing for at least a day, not just a few hours. They didn’t know their way around like she did.
It was probably just wildlife photographers trying to get shots of the nocturnal animals. Something made her feel uneasy, though. She looked around for the occupants of the boats and spotted them approaching her jaguar.
The two men were not wildlife photographers. She knew hunting equipment when she saw it. She also knew the hunting regulations for the area. The regulations were pretty simple: no fucking hunting.Which meant there was no way these men were allowed to be killing anything out here. Which meant they were poachers. Their faces were only just visible in her camera. She doubted anything would happen to them if she reported them. Nothing ever happened to poachers.
The poachers found a spot close enough to the jaguar to hit it, but not close enough to attract its attention. She had to do something before they fired. At this distance, they wouldn’t miss.
She thought of her own shotgun tucked uselessly in the back of Luciano’s truck. She’d never needed it before, and there didn’t seem to be any point lugging it with her. It would have done her a hell of a lot more good than the machete at her hip. It looked like she was going to have to get creative.
Her voice carried over the Pantanal, farther than she would have thought possible. The deep shout certainly got their attention. They shot at her, grazing the trees around her.
Lenna couldn’t stay up here. She’d be a sitting duck. She climbed down the top branches to avoid breaking her legs and jumped down from the tree. It was still too high, and she hit the dirt with bruising force. She pushed herself back up without a moment of hesitation. She could have lost them in the wooded area, easy. But the odds of getting lost or eaten by an anaconda were higher than the odds of getting shot before she made it to her boat.
Camera still in hand and binoculars thumping painfully against her tattooed chest, she took off across the grassy plains of the Pantanal. The silencers on the guns muffled the shots, making them sound more like thumps than bangs. Though, that might have been her heart pounding in her ears. The still-rational part of her brain that was still working told her to run in a zig-zag to make herself harder to hit. The animal part of her brain told her the shortest distance to her boat was a straight line run as fast as physically possible. She had no idea where the bullets were or whether or not they were even close to hitting her, and she sure as shit wasn’t going to stop to check.
A roar that sounded more like a throaty cough filled her ears. For a split half-second, she thought the jaguar was on her. But that wasn’t her screaming. No, it came from behind her. She didn’t dare look back, not even as she heard more gunshots, not even as she heard the jaguar cry out in pain.
They shot it! They shot her jaguar!
Rage filled her, and she had half a mind to turn around, but self-preservation won out. Her boat was right there. Right there, just eight, six, four feet away. Keys, where the hell where her keys? Where were her goddamn fucking—
Lenna shoved her keys into the ignition, her eyes scouring the Pantanal for the jaguar and the poachers. The jaguar was limping away, and the poachers’ bodies were lying on the grass. One was shifting, dragging itself away from the animal. The other was not. Lenna had no sympathy for them, and she wasn’t about to stick around to make sure they were okay. They could be eaten by caimans for all she gave a fuck.
The boat started without any issue. Though the poachers were down and the jaguar was obviously in no state to come after her, Lenna couldn’t wait to get as far away from here as possible.
She ran on foot through the brush, never wanting to leave her horse alone with the night predators, until she found her truck, the green paint chipping to show the silver metal underneath, in the same place she always left it. The roar of her engine drowned out the shriek of birds. Muscle memory alone guided her back to the ranch house. She practically threw herself through the front door and slammed her bedroom door hard enough to rattle the walls.
“Lenna?” Vidonia called.
Lenna leaned against the door. She knew Vidonia wouldn’t hurt her. Nobody in this house would, and not just because she could practically bench press one of their cows. She was safe here. So why did she feel the urge to push the dresser against the door and hide under the bed?
“Lenna? Honey are you okay?”
No, no she wasn’t.
She slumped down against the door and pressed her forehead to her knees. Exhaustion washed over her. This day suddenly felt so long. The solace she’d found watching the Pantanal was gone. She just wanted to curl up somewhere safe. Home should have been safe, but the memory of Ansen Peters’ standing just down the hall from her room with that sly smile made her shudder.
“Lenna, please talk to me. Did something happen? Luciano!”
There was panic in Vidonia’s voice. She was afraid for Lenna.
This place was safe, Lenna reminded herself. Nobody would get past Vidonia and Luciano. Nobody could hurt her here.
“I’m fine,” Lenna said, though her voice cracked and she wasn’t sure she believed herself. “I’m fine, I’m just tired.”
There was a long silence. Lenna struggled to keep her sobs quiet. She didn’t want them to know. She didn’t want to get in trouble.
“Are you sure?”
“I’m sure, auntie.” Her voice trembled, and cleared her throat. “I’m— I’m going to sleep. I have an early morning.”
She changed into a pair of boxers, crawled into bed, and pulled the pillow over her head to drown out the screams ringing in her ears.
Conversation was already in full swing when Lenna arrived at the kitchen table. She ruffled Cruz’s damp hair as she walked past him to help Vidonia with the food.
“Silvia said she spotted some tire treads cutting through their property,” Valente was saying, leaning to the side so she could drop the pan of scrambled eggs unceremoniously on the table. “Her fence is completely busted.”
“Teenagers,” Luciano grunted.
“She thinks poachers. She says the jaguars that usually show up in the morning haven’t been coming around lately.”
Lenna nearly dropped the jug of milk. Her stomach filled with ice. Without fully meaning to, she rubbed a hand over the knot of scar tissue on her stomach that seemed to disappear and reappear at will. She took her place between Valente and Cruz, setting the milk down in front of Cruz. He cracked the cap open and filled his glass.
“What are they going to do about it?”
Valente shrugged and stabbed his fork into the serving of eggs he’d taken for himself. “Not a whole lot they can do. She says they reported it, but it’s not like she can go after them. Don’t you start thinking about it either, Len,” Valente warned.
Lenna didn’t say anything. The warning came too late. Her thoughts had already drifted to the poachers she’d already faced, and the way Aldo had torn them apart. It was true, Silvia couldn’t go after them. But maybe she could.
Amir Lane is an LGBT+ supernatural and urban fantasy writer from Northern Ontario. Engineer by trade, they spend most of their writing time in a small home office or in front of the TV watching every cop procedural on Netflix. They live in a world where magic is an every day occurrence, and they strive to bring that world to paper.
When not trying to figure out what kind of day job an incubus would have or what a Necromancer would go to school for, Amir enjoys visiting the nearest Dairy Queen, getting killed in video games, absorbing the contents of comic books, and freaking out over how fluffy the neighbour’s dog is.
Author Website: http://www.amirlane.com
Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/amirlaneauthor/