Another short story

#SFWAPRO

Continuing my plan for the end of last year (if a little late) here is another short story. Let’s call it farcical fantasy. It’s dark, and loosely based on a similar encounter in I had in college, though in that case, the lich’s eyes burned purple, not blue.
You can read it in it’s entirety here (also linked below the sample), and view my other short story here. Enjoy.


Erstwhile Thaumatecnic University

By Bishop O’Connell

“What is that smell?” someone in line behind Walter asked.

He didn’t look up or acknowledge it. It might not be him. Sure, he was a shit farmer from a long line of shit farmers, but it could be someone wearing Battle Axe body spray.

“Yeah, something smells like shit,” someone else added.

It could still be Battle Axe.

“Next,” the kobold working the desk said.

Walter hurried forward and held out his class course selection parchment.

“Name,” the kobold said without looking up. A nametag on his tunic read “Marvin.”

“Walter,” he said and lowered his voice. “Dungharvester.”

“Dungha—” Marvin looked up, his yellow eyes going wide. He sniffed the air a couple times and leaned back.

Walter didn’t move, just held the parchment out. He’d prepared himself for this, though apparently washing all his robes and undergarments eight times, taking three showers, and loading up on deodorant didn’t do any good. He made a mental note to pick up some Celtic Spring body wash.

Marvin reached out, took the parchment between two claws as if it might explode and coat the room in a layer of crap. After a careful examination, Marvin reluctantly set the parchment on his table, well away from anything else.

“Student ID,” he said.

“What?” Walter asked.

“Student identification card,” Marvin said, as if to an idiot child. “It’s a little card with your name and picture on it.”

Walter reached into his bag and began fishing through it. “Sorry, I didn’t think I’d need it anymore.”

The kobold just sighed and rolled his eyes, hand still out as Walter removed items from his bag and set them on the table: registration paperwork, quills, ink, comic scrolls, dorm room key, student handbook—

He cleared his throat and gave an apologetic smile. “Sorry, I know it’s in here.” He pulled out the small checkbook—the account contained the princely sum of two copper phalluses, one of which would soon be claimed by the bank as a monthly low balance fee—and found the ID underneath the cover.

He sighed, handed it over, then set to shoving everything back into his bag.

Marvin checked the ID, handed it back, then opened a gigantic tome. He flipped through pages of remarkably small text, ticking marks every now and then.

“You’re lucky,” Marvin said, marking another tick. “‘Hexes, curses, and the unholy art of retributive magics’ is being taught by Dr. Heckel. She’s a great teacher, but watch out for her assistant. Mr. Jyde can be a monumental asshole. I suggest sitting near the back and try not to show any fear.”

“Thanks for the tip,” Walter said and peered at a line of ticks. “Did I get into ‘Necromantic studies in horde building’?”

“Second to last spot,” Marvin said.

“Yes!” Walter did a little happy dance.

Marvin drew in a breath. “However, I’m now required to point out that it’s horde building, with a ‘d’.”

Walter blinked. “I don’t follow. What else could it could—oh dear Gods!”

Marvin nodded. “Yeah, an undead brothel makes one hell of a mess. It’ll be another year before ‘Ratigan the Fleshy’ hall is cleaned up enough for anyone to stay there.”

Walter shuddered. He wasn’t a prude, but he’d never understood not-so-necrophilia.

“You do not want to meet the ghosts that haunt that place,” Marvin said as he resumed marking the tome. “Sorry, ‘Raining fire and destruction 101’ is full.”

Walter knew that’d been a long shot. “What about ‘Intro to outer-planar contracts’ instead?”

“It’s open,” Marvin said and made a mark. “But you’re still missing the required athletics and liberal arts courses.”

“Um, well,” Walter said, adjusting his robes, which reminded him they were secondhand and freshly mended, by his mother no less. “I’m either majoring in Applied Necromantic Arts or Thaumaturgic Annihilative Studies,” he shrugged, “maybe a double major I don’t know, so I—”

“Tough tinkles, Dungharvester,” Marvin said, giving him a flat look. “It’s required that all freshmeats take an athletic, and an arts course in their first two semesters—”

“Freshmen.”

“What?” Walter asked.

“You said freshmeat,” Walter said. “You meant freshmen, right?”

“No.”

Walter opened his mouth to question further, but decided against it. “What are my options for athletics and arts?”

Marvin flipped to another page. “For athletics we have openings in beginning jousting.” He smiled. “You know the Erstwhile Ents tourney and jousting team made it to the all kingdom finals last year.”

“Yeah, I know,” Walter said, “but, um, jousting isn’t really my thing.”

“You sure?” Marvin asked. “Coach Horzrath, eater of spleens, teaches the class himself. And we only had seven student deaths last year. That’s an all-time low.”

“Yeah, tempting, but I have really bad carpal tunnel syndrome,” Walter said.

Marvin shrugged. “Archery?”

Walter tapped his spectacles. “Far sighted.”

“Hammer throw?”

“Anything less, um,” Walter bounced his head from side to side. “Physical?”

“You do understand what the word athletic means, right?” Marvin asked.

Walter opened his mouth.

Walter glanced down then back up. “What about bowling?”

“Oh, I like bowling.”

“Huzzah, I’m sure we’ll have a festival to celebrate,” Marvin said in a flat tone. “For arts class we have—”

“I don’t want to be a bard, why do I—?”

“Because it’s the rules,” Marvin said and pointed across the room. “And the line for people who give two shits is over there. This is the line for people give a single shit, and I’m fresh out.”

“I see why they have you working the table.”

“Yeah, my people skills are the stuff of legend and song,” Marvin said. “You can take a philosophy course in lieu of art. What about ‘Discussions on Current Events’? It’s taught by Sarlakin the baby gnawer—”

“The ogre that invaded the kingdom a last year?” Walter asked. “He wasn’t list in the handbook.”

Marvin shrugged. “Part of the peace treaty granted him tenure. He also teaches ‘Human privilege and non-human studies’ as well as ‘Intro to interpretive dance.’”

“I’m from the Feculence Hills,” Walter said. “I’d rather not take a class taught by the ogre who slaughtered a third of my neighbors.”

“Typical human,” Marvin said. “There’s a spot in ‘Crumbling Towers: The Toxicity of damsel in distress stereotypes’?”

“Probably a lot of girls in that one,” Walter said to himself smiling.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Marvin asked.

“What? No! I didn’t mean, uh, I just—”

“I know what you ‘just,’” Marvin said. “You think the rampant sexism princesses have had to deal with all these years is some kind of joke? You don’t suppose they’d rather armor up and take on that dragon themselves instead of waiting for Sir Bro to rescue them?”

“No!” Walter said. “I mean yes! I’m sorry, I. Um.” Walter cleared his throat. “I guess, um, put me down for non-human studies?”

“Good choice,” Marvin said and marked the book. “I think you’ll find it quite enlightening.”

Walter nodded as the memory of his neighbors being pulled apart like string cheese flashed in his head.

Marvin marked up the parchment and thrust it at Walter. “Your required tome list is in the class catalog next to each course,” he said. “Orientation for freshmeats is in Lord Tautkeister the Frugal auditorium every three bells, starting at noon.” He looked at the line. “Next.”

A human girl dressed in all black, probably a student acolyte of the dark goddess Penelope, stepped around him, and handed her paperwork to Marvin.

Read the entire story here…

Author Visit: Terry Newman

Terry Newman is a brilliantly funny author, and he’s British. He has a new book out and he agreed to stop by and talk about it.

B: So, what are you drinking?

T: Mine’s a pint of Harvey’s best, which is brewed in Lewis, in East Sussex, which is where I live. It has a distinctive maltiness that produces a full rounded satisfying mouthful of pure beer joy. What are currently tippling?

B: I have huge respect for someone with an in depth knowledge of their beer. I’ll have to try that one. As for me, when I can find it, I’m fond of Theakston Old Peculiar. A blacksmith (half Guinness, half Smithwick’s) is my go to otherwise.

T:I knew that you’d had some time in the UK and I’d heard and you’d developed a liking for Theakstons. However, I’ve never heard of Smithwick’s or a ‘blacksmith’ before – he says to his consternation.

B: I spent over a year in Cumbria and adore the real ales, though Theakston was always my favorite. I really miss that stuff. BTW for those who don’t know, Terry and I met though the Harper Voyager Digital Initiative.

T: Yes – your book ‘The Stolen’ was the first by the HV writers that I read. I thoroughly enjoyed it to – even if I had to scrap something that I was writing!

B: What are friends for? Your book ‘Detective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf’ was a Kindle #1 Bestseller. I admit my deep and continuing jealously over that. You must have been delighted?

T: Absolutely! I’m not quite sure what it was doing in the Epic Fantasy category mind, as it’s ‘classic’ dwarf detective fantasy. But to see your book outselling Tolkien and Martin – albeit briefly – well it’s wonderful, not to mention a little surreal.

B: A well-deserved honor. I love how you blended noir, fantasy, and comedy together. Now, your latest book ‘The Resurrection Show’ is science fiction, a departure for you?

T: Not really. I have always written, and enjoyed, both. The two books have a lot in common mind, both having a degree of humour and satire to them. The main difference, as you will see on the cover, is that this is written by Dalter T Newman. My co-writer is David Alter, a wonderful composer and songwriter. The whole project is based upon a fantastic collection of songs written by David, and performed by an excellent band he put together, dealing with big subjects like religion, humanism and intolerance.

B: Sounds like a source of comedy gold to me?.

T: Exactly! My brief initially was to help develop these songs into a fully interactive, all singing and dancing (maybe), stage show – one with a satirical, funny Pythonesque flavour! Our baby just grew and grew though and forced its way out in this form first – in a totally non-alien way!

B: For the record, I’d buy tickets to that show. Are we going to get to hear the music?

T: I really hope so. All the tracks are recorded. It’s just a case of finding the right outlet – and then getting the stage show on.

B: There’s a stage show? Really?

T: Oh yes! Everybody just has to have a stage show these days! So it’s sort of the book of the stage show to be. It’s set 2099 where the world is one big reality show – jammed packed full of god-bots, prayer clones, singing ecologists, a confused New Puritan, and the technologically resurrected Messiah!

B: Seems a little on the nose. Clearly one for the Bible Belt then?

T: Absolutely! Anything you can tell us about your new book – I’ve seen some intriguing hints.

B: Well, this is supposed to be about you and your new book, but I’ll share some tidbits, since we’re friends. It’s fantasy western, set in the US right around the end of the American Civil War. Elves fought with some of the Native American Tribes (the Lakota specifically) against westward expansion. They were winning too. Until the humans hired the dwarves to help, and they brought along iron war machines (tanks). Not only did it turn the war, but the elves were almost entirely wiped out. The main character is a survivor of that battle, and as you can imagine she holds a bit of a grudge.

T: Elves and Native American’s fighting together! That is totally cool! Hopefully there is a good guy dwarf in there as well somewhere. Dwarves get a lot of bad press. I loved your recent Sarah and Bambi story btw. It reminded of some classic short stories of my youth – which is a good thing! Any more plans for these characters? I’d love to see a ‘Bambi and Sarah Save the World’.

B: Thanks! I’m trying my hand at stories that are absurd, but still make you have some feels. Yeah, I loved having a badass character named Bambi. I wasn’t planning on more stories with them, but I never rule anything out. What’s in your future? Any more science fiction or fantasy ahead?

T: I’ve just sold a science fiction audio play, which is rather cool. In the mean time I’m looking for a new home for the next two Detective Strongoak novels – both now written! And an exclusive for you, provisional title for book 2 is ‘The King of Elfland’s Little Sister’.

B: Congratulations! Let me know where to find that and when it’s available! I’m sure you’ll find a home for Nicely. You can’t keep a good dwarf down. In the mean time, good luck with ‘The Resurrection Show’ – great cover by the way.

T; I thank you. Yes, we managed to get hold of a top illustrator call Tom Morgan Jones (friend of a friend) and David and I both loved his slightly manic, inspired penmanship!

B: I understand you and David have something else in common.

T: Yes – he’s a cardiologist and my scientific area of research was cardiac function – you could say there’s ‘a lot of heart’ in this book.

B; You could, and I love a good pun, but it’s probably not a good idea.

T: Excellent point – my round I believe?

B: This is my imaginary pub, I have an imaginary bar hand to pour the pints and they’re all free!


You can find Detective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf here and The Resurrection Show here. If you want a good laugh and a good story, I highly recommend them. You can also follow Terry on Amazon, Twitter, and his website (which also includes his script work) at www.drtel.co.uk. All things Nicely Strongoak can be found at www.nicelystrongoak.com

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Author Visit: Liana Brooks

Liana isn’t just a fellow Harper author (Time and Shadows series), she’s also an incredibly skilled writer, and a very cool person to boot. That’s right, a triple threat! Well, while you wait for word about my next work (news coming soon!) she’s here to talk about her latest book, Bodies in Motion.


Newton’s First Law of Motion states “A body in motion will stay in motion until acted on by an outside force”. We usually think of this in terms of physics, physical objects, and friction but it applies to choices and lives too. Often a person will set their course and stay on it unless acted on by something external force, even if the destination is catastrophic. For Selena Caryll her course is a downward spiral, she’s lost everything and has no future to look forward to. For Titan Sciarra his life was headed for an early death until he was shot down in the war, the subsequent injuries and his absence from the battle lines allowed him to change direction.
In a world where two stagnant cultures are on a collision course with mutual destruction it will take something extraordinary to change the world. And what’s more extraordinary than love?

Why did you write this book?
Many, many years ago when I was trying to take a mental break from the Time and Shadows series I decided to try writing Harry Potter fanfic. I was fascinated by the isolation Hermione had at the end of the series, how she’d given up every aspect of her muggle life to become part of something else. And I wondered if she’d ever want to go back to MP3 players, smartphones, and democracy after fighting to live in the hyper-controlled world of the witches. Needless to say… I don’t appreciate Harry Potter well enough to write good fanfic in that universe and the idea quickly spun out of control. I kept thinking of magic in terms of science, implants for wands, crews instead of Hogwart’s houses.

I took the threads of the story and started to write NEWTON’S CRADLE, and realized I’d jumped too far ahead in the story for it to make sense. So, I went back and tried to figure out where I needed to start. Not with the war, because wars are boring, but with the fallout of the war. How do you rebuild cultures and trust and friendship after something as awful as a civil war?

How do you forgive someone who fought against you because they thought it was the only way to survive?

BODIES IN MOTION is the catalyst for change, it’s the pivot point where everyone in this universe gets a second chance at making the right choice.

Is BODIES IN MOTION a standalone book? BODIES IN MOTION is the first in a series of books about the Malik system. It can be read all on its own, and the other books will be written in a way that allows them to be read without the reader having read the other books, but it will have an over-arching storyline as well.

Why did you serialize the novel? I’ve wanted to serialize a novel for several years now. In part because I like the old-time serialized novels from magazines (think Sherlock Holmes) and in part because I wanted to see how modern readers would adapt to the format. This summer (2017) I realized that I was going to be traveling so much that I wouldn’t have time to blog regularly. A serialized novel seemed like the solution. It gave my readers something to check-in to see, and it served as an introduction to this new universe.

Would you serialize another novel? Maybe? There were some die-hard, “I will wait until the book is out!” readers who avoided my blog all summer because they didn’t want spoilers. And then there were readers emailing me from other countries saying they missed a train because they stopped to read the newest chapter. I probably won’t serialize the next book in this series (LAWS OF ATTRACTION coming 2018) but maybe the first book in a new series sometime later on.

For readers who enjoyed the Time and Shadows series, what does BODIES IN MOTION offer? The Time and Shadow series (The Day Before, Convergence Point, Decoherence) with Sam and Mac was SF-lite. Clones and the multiverse, but less high-tech space exploration. Still, it shares a theme of choices with BODIES IN MOTION. Sam realized she was an einselected node and that even her smallest choices affected the fate of the multiverse. In BODIES everything is post-war, people are dealing with the trauma of having lost people they loved, of having killed people they once considered friends, and there’s no one in Selena’s age group who wasn’t effected. They didn’t get to opt out of the war. When a society is that fragile, every choice matters. Every word, every action, every inaction has a long-term consequence. This is only the start of the series so we don’t get to see everything yet, but you get to see the start.

How would you describe the life of a writer? Imagine sitting in an overgrown cottage in the woods, bears trundling past as the snow falls on withered vines. Inside a woman sits over a magic tablet conjuring infinite worlds. She captures these worlds, presses them into a portable container, and distributes them around the world. When someone finds one, they enter another world.

That’s writing. It’s magic done with computers and inks and patience. It’s the ability to conjure best friends, vicious enemies, and infinite wonders out of nothingness. Everyone should try story-telling at least once.

What advice do you have for writers who aren’t published yet? Keep at it! Keep writing. If you want to publish keep writing, keep learning, keep trying. If a book isn’t working, write a new one. If you want to write but can’t figure out how to make the story in your head appear on the page take classes, meet with writing groups, check out online places like CritiqueCircle.com and give yourself space to learn. The only thing standing between a new author and publication is time. If you keep at it, you’ll get published someday.

Selena Caryll lost everything in the war: her ship, her crew, her family. The only thing keeping her going is the hope that somehow the feuding, ground-bound settlers and the fuelless space fleet can set aside their differences. But getting the politically-fractured fleet moving again is more than she can manage alone. For now, she has to settle for working undercover with the planetary police force.

When someone tries to reignite conflict between the planet-siders and the fleet, there’s only one person who has the rank and ability to help Selena protect the fleet: Titan Sciarra, Fleet Guardian—the one man she’s tried hardest to avoid since the war destroyed her life.

In a world where the stagnant weight of tradition can be as deadly as any knife, the only way to survive is to keep moving.

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You can also learn more about Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome in fiction HERE

And you can sign up for her newsletter (and get a free book!) HERE

Liana Brooks write sci-fi and crime fiction for people who like happy endings. She believes in time travel to the future, even if it takes a good book and all night to get there. When she isn’t writing, Liana hikes the mountains of Washington with her family and giant dog. Find her at LianaBrooks.com or on Twitter as @LianaBrooks

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The Bittersweet

In July, I wrote a guest piece for Katherine Harbour called, “The Awesomeness of The Bittersweet.” Recently, I was invited by Gail Martin to join in the #HoldOntoTheLight campaign. September/October are the months for Depression Awareness, Suicide Prevention, Bullying Prevention, Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness, World Mental Health Day and Domestic Violence Awareness. Several authors are participating, you can check out the Twitter Hashtag, or the Facebook page to see what others are sharing. I hope to post more, but this post seemed like a perfect way to start my participation.


The Awesomeness of The Bittersweet

As someone who has struggled on and off with depression since my adolescent years, it’s probably not a shock–and some would argue less than healthy–that I just love the bittersweet. Not the chocolate, though that isn’t bad. I’m talking about music, movies, books, and art in general. I love scenes, songs, or images that are sad, but filled with hope, and the promise of tomorrow, a new day where anything is possible. The power of the emotion, the magic and the power of it fuels me, both in my life and in my creative endeavors. Music, books, movies, every kind of art, it all serves to connect us. When the artist creates, that creation is imbued with some of their soul, an emotional snapshot of them at that moment in time. I can relate to the bittersweet moments. That’s probably why I love the songs of Sarah McLachlan, The Cowboy Junkies, and Tom Waits. Each of them excels at wrapping sadness around a glimmer of hope that can’t be extinguished.

Of course there are moments in life of pure, unbridled joy: hearing someone say they love you, the smile of your child when they look at you, or achieving a hard won success. Those moments are treasures to be sure, but rarely is bliss ever an immaculate conception. Often it’s born from hard work, pain, turmoil, sadness, or grief. Life tends to be complicated and messy, but there is beauty in that mess. And I think we all see it. I believe we all know that the pain will end, and in the ending there is a happiness all its own. There are all sorts of cliches, but the one that has stayed with me the longest is: if you weep because you miss the sun, you also miss the stars. Like all cliches, there is something profound in the simplicity.

When I was really struggling with my depression, I found a book titled Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl. It’s about his time at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. He is taken there, separated from his wife and sees the utter worst humanity has to offer, and I use the word humanity in its loosest possible sense. During his time there, never knowing the fate of his wife, parents, or siblings, he struggles to find meaning, a reason to continue on. After reading this book I knew that if this man could find purpose in a nightmarish place like that, surely I could as well. So I set to find happiness in the cracks and crevices of the everyday, and that became my purpose.

But as I matured I came to see that every emotion had value. They all could be debilitating if not tempered by another. Haven’t we all rolled our eyes at the sickly sweet, lovey-dovey couples of the world? We all know that past a certain age, there is no perpetual state of happiness, and those who seem to achieve it often come across as delusional. Sometimes it’s okay to be sad, to be angry, to grieve, to weep. And isn’t there a special kind of happiness in offering comfort to someone who needs it? The key is not to let those darker emotions overcome you, to slip from merely experiencing them into wallowing in them.

That’s why I love the bittersweet. It’s like an entire life experience all in one dose. I recently watched Inside Out with a friend, and we both got a little misty eyed when Bing-Bong fades away. Sorry, spoilers. It’s a sad moment, one we can all probably relate to. It’s a piece of childhood slipping away, losing a friend you know you’ll never see again for the first time. But there’s more to that scene. There is also the hope in the understanding that it’s also the beginning of another journey. That the sun might be setting, but it will rise again on a new world, and they will both be beautiful, filled with possibility.

We all listen to sad songs when we’re sad, at least everyone I know does. So often we chide ourselves for it, seeing it as wallowing in self-pity. But that’s not really what we’re doing. We’re grieving for something, or someone, lost; for a future we hoped for that won’t ever come to pass. More than that though, we’re remembering. So often we forget that, which is ironic really. When we listen to that same song, or watch that same movie, over and over, we’re reliving the joys of the past. We think we’re grieving for their loss, but we don’t lose them. What we’re really grieving is that there won’t be more like that. And we’re right, there won’t be, but there will be new joys.

It’s that feeling that I try to capture in my books. Each ends on a hint of sadness, but with the light of hope just visible on the horizon.If you finish one of my books and you’re crying, that’s okay, but I also hope you’re smiling as well. There is no darkness that won’t eventually end at sunrise. There is always hope. That’s what the bittersweet means to me. It is the happiness we find, that we hold on to, and carry with us for our entire lives. Sure, we might find some sadness and carry that for a time as well, but we have to eventually let it go. When we do, there is more room for new happiness. So listen to sad songs, watch sad movies, but always find the bliss behind that sorrow. Experience the latter because it reminds you of the former, and always be looking to the horizon for the rising sun of a new day.

#SFWAPro

Cover Reveal: Faithful by Michelle Hauck

Michelle Hauck is a fellow Harper author and today she’s revealing the cover of the second book in her Birth of Saints series, Faithful, and it’s an awesome cover. More than that, I’m sure the story will be even better! Her first book, Grudging, was an excellent read.
Added bonus, an exclusive excerpt and a chance to win a SIGNED copy of Grudging!
 
On to the reveal!

Title: FAITHFUL (Birth of Saints #2)
Author: Michelle Hauck
Pub. Date: November 15, 2016
Publisher: Harper Voyager Impulse
Formats: eBook
ISBN: 9780062447173
Find it: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Goodreads

Following Grudging–and with a mix of Terry Goodkind and Bernard Cornwall–religion, witchcraft, and chivalry war in Faithful, the exciting next chapter in Michelle Hauck’s Birth of Saints series!

A world of Fear and death…and those trying to save it.


Colina Hermosa has burned to the ground. The Northern invaders continue their assault on the ciudades-estados. Terror has taken hold, and those that should be allies betray each other in hopes of their own survival. As the realities of this devastating and unprovoked war settles in, what can they do to fight back?


On a mission of hope, an unlikely group sets out to find a teacher for Claire, and a new weapon to use against the Northerners and their swelling army.


What they find instead is an old woman.
But she’s not a random crone—she’s Claire’s grandmother. She’s also a Woman of the Song, and her music is both strong and horrible. And while Claire has already seen the power of her own Song, she is scared of her inability to control it, having seen how her magic has brought evil to the world, killing without reason or remorse. To preserve a life of honor and light, Ramiro and Claire will need to convince the old woman to teach them a way so that the power of the Song can be used for good. Otherwise, they’ll just be destroyers themselves, no better than the Northerners and their false god, Dal. With the annihilation their enemy has planned, though, they may not have a choice.

A tale of fear and tragedy, hope and redemption, Faithful is the harrowing second entry in the Birth of Saints trilogy.

Exclusive Excerpt!

 
Not for the first time, Claire reconsidered her decision to stay when Ramiro had asked her. She’d lingered out of curiosity—and truthfully because it felt good to be needed—but they didn’t need her now with the Northern army defeated. She could return to the swamp and away from so many people. Despite her hopes of friends and community, she felt awkward here. Reason said she’d get used to their ways, but being around so many folk made her want to hide. Everything pressed down. The walls of the tent shrunk, pinning her in, and smothering her. It became hard to breathe.
She reached for a fresh strip of cloth, only to have her hand shake. She snatched the material and began to roll it, trying to shut out everything else, including her own doubts.
Before she could find a semblance of peace, though, someone shouted. Ladies screamed. Claire looked over her shoulder at the noise. A brown-bearded man in a poncho and a floppy hat ran in her direction. “My family is dead, because of the evacuations. Because of you.”
Claire gasped. He seemed to be talking to Beatriz, then his gaze found Claire.
“Witch!” His outstretched hand suddenly held a long butcher knife. “Witch! Stay away from us! Murderer! Abomination! Die!”
Fronilde dropped to the ground, but Claire couldn’t move. Surprise robbed her brain of a Song to stop him. Even the words of the Hornet Tune, which she knew as well as her name, deserted her. The man closed as everyone scrambled out of his way. Then Beatriz sprang from her chair to stand over Claire, holding up her hand. The tall, black-lace mantilla atop her head waved like a flag. “Stop.”
Something about the authority in the First Wife’s voice—or maybe her simple resistance instead of cringing or scrambling away—brought the man up short, making him pause for a moment. Just the moment the bodyguard needed to crush the lunatic to the floor and overpower him, wrestling free the knife. More guards came running from outside.
Breath rushed back in Claire’s lungs. Beatriz sniffed and touched a spot on her chest over her heart and then her forehead and stomach areas. “Imbecile. He didn’t know who he was dealing with.”

About Michelle:

 

Michelle Hauck lives in the bustling
metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two teenagers. Two papillons
help balance out the teenage drama. Besides working with special needs children. By day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. A book worm, she passes up the darker vices in favor of chocolate and looks for any excuse to reward herself. Bio finished? Time for a sweet snack.
She is a co-host of the yearly contests Query Kombat and Nightmare on Query
Street, and Sun versus Snow.Her epic fantasy, Kindar’s Cure, is published by Divertir
Publishing. Her short story, Frost and Fog, is published by The
Elephant’s Bookshelf Press in their anthology, Summer’s Double Edge.
She’s repped by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary.

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Cover Reveal – Decoherence

Decoherence 1Samantha Rose and Linsey MacKenzie have established an idyllic life of married bliss in Australia, away from the Commonwealth Bureau of Investigation, away from mysterious corpses, and—most of all—away from Dr. Emir’s multiverse machine.

But Sam is a detective at heart, and even on the other side of the world, she can’t help wonder if a series of unsolved killings she reads about are related—not just to each other, but to the only unsolved case of her short career.

She knows Jane Doe’s true name, but Sam never discovered who killed the woman found in an empty Alabama field in spring of 2069. She doesn’t even know which version of herself she buried under a plain headstone.

When Mac suddenly disappears, Sam realizes she is going to once more be caught up in a silent war she still doesn’t fully understand. Every step she takes to save Mac puts the world she knows at risk, and moves her one step closer to becoming the girl in the grave.

 

 

Liana Brooks is a fellow Harper Voyager Impulse author, and a good writer to boot. Decoherence, is the third book in her Time & Shadows Mystery series. Its awesome, you should check it out. To tantalize you, here are the first two pages.


Decoherence (n): a period of time when all iterations collapse and there is only one possible reality.

~ Excerpt from Definitions of Time by Emmanuela Pine, I1

 

Day 247

Year 5 of Progress

Capitol Spire

Main Continent

Iteration 17—Fan 1

… three. Rose stood and peered through the frosted, warped glass of the conference room as the speaker turned away. It didn’t matter which iteration she was in, Emir was predictable. She had seven seconds to do a head count. She didn’t need that long.

A quick head count was all it took to confirm that the einselected nodes she’d been sent to assassinate were where they belonged.

Every iteration had nodes, people or events that kept that variation of human history from collapsing. Dr. Emir had created a machine that allowed people not only to move along their own timeline, but at critical convergence points, it allowed them to cross between realities. But the Mechanism for Iteration Alignment’s greatest ability was the one that allowed Dr. Emir and Central Command to steer history by erasing futures they didn’t want.

Rose knelt beside the door, did one final sweep for alarms, and nodded for her team to move in. It was her job to cross at convergence points, kill the nodes, and collapse the futures that no one wanted.

One look at the version of herself watching this iteration’s Emir with rapt fascination was enough to make Rose want to snip this future in the bud.

Chubby was the first thing that came to mind. Rose’s doppelganger was enjoying being at the top of the social pyramid and probably gorging on whatever passed as a delicacy here. The squared bangs with a streak of riotous red only accented the corpulence and lack of self-control the inferior other had.

Even with a heavy wood door between them, Rose could hear that this iteration’s Emir was hypothesizing things the MIA was never meant to do. Everyone with half a brain knew that decoherence didn’t combine iterations, it crushed them. Only the true timeline, the Prime, would survive decoherence. Planning to welcome and integrate doppelgangers into the society was pure idiocy.

The techs sealing the door shut gave her the high sign.

Rose nodded to her hacker.

“Cameras locked. Security is deaf and blind, ma’am” Logan’s voice was a soft whisper in her earpiece. He was a genius with computer systems, a fact that had saved him when they collapsed I-38 three years ago. “We have a fifteen-minute window.”

“Hall cleared,” reported Bennet. “Permission to move perimeter guard to the exit?”

Rose nodded. “Permission granted.” She waved for the soldiers to move out. There could be no risk of failure. No chance for the errant nodes to escape, and no risk that her team would get killed here.


Links:
Liana’s Website | GoodReads | Amazon Author Page | Liana’s Newsletter |
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Author Bio:

July_2014_1_cropped
Liana Brooks write sci-fi and crime fiction for people who like happy endings. She believes in time travel to the future, even if it takes a good book and all night to get there. When she isn’t writing, Liana hikes the mountains of Alaska with her family and giant dog. Find her at LianaBrooks.com or on Twitter as @LianaBrooks

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