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Questionable Minds by Fraser Sherman Blog Tour Blast

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Questionable Minds - Fraser Sherman

Fraser Sherman has a new steampunk mystery book out: Questionable Minds.

In Victorian England, 1888, there are those who say Sir Simon Taggart is under the punishment of God.

In an England swirling with mentalist powers — levitation, mesmerism, mind-to-mind telegraphy — the baronet is unique, possessed of mental shields that render him immune to any mental assault. Even his friends think it’s a curse, cutting him off from the next step in human mental and spiritual evolution. To Simon, it’s a blessing.

Four years ago, the Guv’nor, mystery overlord of the London underworld, arranged the murder of Simon’s wife Agnes. Obsessed with finding who hired the Guv’nor, Simon works alongside Inspector Hudnall and Miss Grey in Scotland Yard’s Mentalist Investigation Department. Immunity to mental telegraphy, clairvoyance and mesmerism are an asset in his work — but they may not be enough to crack the latest case.

A mysterious killer has begun butchering Whitechapel streetwalkers. With every killing, the man newspapers call “the Ripper” grows in mental power and in the brutality of his attacks. Is murder all that’s on his mind or does he have an endgame? And what plans do the Guv’nor and his army of agents have for Simon and the Whitechapel killer?

Questionable Minds is set in a Victorian England struggling to preserve the social hierarchy while mentalism threatens to overturn it. The cast of characters includes Dr. Henry Jekyll (and yes, his friend Edward Hyde too), Jack the Ripper, and multiple other figures from history and fiction.

Warnings: Graphic violence. Victorian sexism and imperialism.

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Excerpt

Simon Taggart’s plunge into the abyss happened in an instant.

Col. Moran, seated at the dining table on Simon’s left, had said something to the Duke of Falsworth about a fellow hunter Moran had known in India committing suicide. Falsworth snidely observed that given the man’s debts, hanging himself had been the only possible solution.

And suddenly Simon was standing in the drawing room again. Staring up at Agnes in her white nightgown, hanging from the ceiling with her tongue protruding, her face blackened. Rage consumed him at the memory, rage at the men who’d brought about his wife’s death. Pearson Bartlett, mesmerist. The Guvnor, who’d given Bartlett his orders. And behind them, the unknown man who’d paid to have Agnes slain.

It was the scent of mutton that snapped him back to the Montworths’ dining room, a scent rising from the porcelain serving platter levitating through the air before him. Steered by Amanda Montworth’s vril, the platter bore the roast saddle of mutton down the long dining-room table. Her grey eyes were fixed on the platter, of course, as levitators depended on sight to focus their vril. The eyes of her parents and eleven uneasy guests were also watchful as the dish approached the epergne, the massive candelabra at the table’s center. Simon knew he wasn’t the only guest imagining what a shower of spilled gravy would do to their formal black waistcoats, jackets and white gloves, or the women’s elegant dresses.

The platter clinked against the epergne and shuddered for a moment, but Amanda, brow furrowed, regained her mental grip. The platter ceased quivering, backed away and settled into the hands of one of the footmen, to be served a la russe, around the table. Amanda gasped slightly as she released control.

“There, isn’t that remarkable, Sir Simon?” Buxom Mrs. Montworth flashed a smile at Simon, the wealthiest of her guests. “I don’t know anyone with the strength of mind my Amanda has, do you? Well, not anyone who is anyone, shall we say?”

“Mother, please,” Amanda said. “This is embarrassing.”

“No, you did quite well.” Simon smiled politely, forbearing to point out that for all the money John Montworth’s ironworks brought in, in London society the Montworths were emphatically not anyone. Amanda performing a servant’s duties only confirmed that, as the poor girl undoubtedly knew. “A strong mind is—an asset to the Empire.”

“When the turtle soup comes out, Amanda,” Mrs. Montworth went on, “I think you should levitate—”

“Oh, no, my dear Mrs. Montworth,” Simon said quickly, remembering soup spurting from a shattered tureen at another dinner he’d attended. Besides, Amanda had been embarrassed enough. “A girl as lovely and delicate as Amanda, no matter how strong her vril, should be careful not to overexert herself.” As Mrs. Montworth simpered and nodded, Amanda, who looked as delicate as one of her father’s foundry workers, smiled her thanks at Simon.

“That’s enough entertainment for this evening,” John Montworth said in his north-country accent. “Carmody?” Carmody, the butler, gestured for the footmen to resume their duties; it was a faux pas for Montworth to address a servant during dinner, but the past few minutes had utterly nonplussed the staff.

Simon considered Amanda sensible and good-hearted. It wasn’t her fault her vril manifested as a crude, physical ability, nor that her mother was as blind to the social graces as some men to colors. Fortunately, with several months before the start of the Season, the guests had few people they could gossip with—and there’d be much better gossip by January, when the Montworths presented Amanda at court.

#

“‘Preciate your help, Sir Simon.” John Montworth said, clipping off the end of his cigar as a servant filled Simon’s glass. The women had left the room moments before, allowing the men a half-hour or so to indulge themselves. “Mrs. Montworth’s dreadful proud of our girl having vril, she is—I try to tell her to be more discreet but—”

“It’s been a new world these past eight years,” Simon said, savoring Montworth’s peerless port. “Too new to have all the polite niceties of psychic usage down pat.” A courteous lie; everyone knew physical manifestations of mentalist power were completely inappropriate in society.

“You mean like yourself assisting Scotland Yard?” Thin, pallid Ronald Carpenter, Duke of Falsworth, smirked and blew a plume of smoke. “A man of your impeccable pedigree, mingling with the lowest orders? Gilbert and Sullivan could make a wonderful comic opera out of it if you ask me.”

“I don’t believe I did.” Simon’s anger surged up again, but the smile beneath his thin mustache stayed coldly formal. “And there is nothing comical about the beasts who use vril to prey upon others.” Like Pearson Bartlett, who could mesmerize a woman to put a noose around her own neck. “I do my duty to England, nothing more.”

His Grace met Simon’s cold stare, then looked away with affected unconcern. Dukes far outranked baronets, but Falsworth’s title was new, and the man was still insecure. A Taggart was never insecure.

“Men like your Inspector Hudnall have my highest respect,” Moran said to Simon. As usual the colonel had stuck with whiskey instead of port. “In the jungle or the London streets, it takes a sharp man to hunt predators successfully. And who’s better suited than you, Sir Simon, to the sport of hunting mentalists?”

“Hardly sport.” Simon replied. “Unlike you, colonel, I consider hunting man-eaters a public service, not an adventure.”

“But men like that are evolutionary dead ends,” Montworth said. “Thanks to Lady Helena, all mankind—almost all—will ultimately be elevated to a higher plane.” His glance had lit upon Simon at the “almost.” “The murderers, the butchers, the Varneys of the present day will become fairytales, like ogres or Bluebeard, in the world that is to come.”

It was a typical Theosophist sentiment, but Simon found he was in no mood to argue with it.


Author Bio

Fraser ShermanBy the time Fraser Sherman graduated college he’d lost interest in his degree field. He tried writing and discovered he liked it. Since then he’s spent ten years as a journalist, sold two dozen short stories and five film reference books. His most recent book was the self-published Undead Sexist Cliches, about the stupidity of misogynist beliefs.

Although born in England, Fraser spent most of his life in Northwest Florida. He’d be there still if he hadn’t met his dream woman and moved to Durham NC to be with her. They’ve been married 11 years and are the proud parents of two small dogs and two half-domesticated cats.

Author Website: https://www.frasersherman.com

Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/fraser.sherman

Author Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/bogatyr5

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4103781.Fraser_Sherman

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Fraser-A-Sherman/e/B000APPPDW

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Blog Tour: Third Front by E.M. Hamill

Third Front - E.M. Hamill

E.M. Hamill has a new queer space opera out (non-binary, gender fluid, pansexual, gay), The Dalí Tamareia Missions book 3: Third Front. And there’s a giveaway.

Dalí Tamareia has the terrorist Skadi in their sights – but bringing her in may cost them everything.

Dalí’s role as an undercover operative is compromised, putting a target on their back and threatening the close-knit team aboard Thunder Child. A new lead on Miriam Skadi’s activities forces them back to Luna, where they must confront everything they tried to run from…including their changed relationship with Rion Sumner, who insists on backing up Dalí for this investigation.

But Dalí is not the only one searching for Skadi. An alien presence hunts the terrorist as well, taking over Sumner’s body to ensure Dalí’s cooperation. With their team on the other side of the solar system Dalí must depend on this questionable ally to complete the mission, which takes a deadly turn when an old nemesis resurfaces.

If there is any chance for a future with Sumner and their chosen family, Dalí must exorcise the demons haunting them, or they will burn in the heart of a star.

Warnings: graphic violence, grief, sexually explicit scenes

About the Series: A diplomat turned galactic operative risks everything to bring in the terrorist who shattered their life.

Get It At Amazon


Giveaway

E.M. is giving away a $10 Amazon gift card with this tour:

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Excerpt

Third Front meme - E.M. Hamill

The flint-blue curve of Earth filled the transparent alloy of the windshield. Even gravely wounded, humanity’s ancestral home was breathtaking. Phantoms of arid golden continents haunted breaks in the heavy cloud-cover; oceans glinted like winks of mercury in Sol’s light. The atmosphere was beginning to clear, but it would take the surface longer to purge the toxic aftermath of war and pollution from soil and sea

How in the seven hells did we manage to fuck up a whole planet?

“Prepare for drop,” Sumner murmured into his headset. I braced myself.

“In five. Four. Three. Two … “

The magnet released us. Sumner fired top thrusters to quickly maneuver the ship away from the hull and we floated free. “We’re clear.”

“See you soon,” Ozzie said. Thunder Child left us in her wake, heading off to complete the surveillance mission. Sumner throttled the little craft into motion and carved an arc in space, putting the planet behind us.

And there it was.

The moon’s disc swelled before us, painted in silver and ash. In the nightfall of Earth’s passing shadow, the lunar plains of Mare Nubium sparkled with lights, and at the southern horn of the penumbra’s crescent, where light and darkness embraced, lay the place I once called home.

“Have you ever been to Luna?” My uneven voice betrayed the winding tension inside me.

“No.” Sumner glanced at me, but I kept my gaze on the moon, unable to meet his eyes. “I’ve only been to the major space stations before Mars. Where did you live?”

“Kepler. You can just make out a hexagon of complexes north of the crater.”

“I see it.”

“The apex dome, Galileo, is where the Capitol is. The University is under Kepler, at the middle left. That’s where … where we … “

Memories lay bitter and sweet on my tongue, the ache in my throat a hot coal. Oh, coming back was such a bad idea.

“The—” I coughed to clear the suffocating thickness from my voice. “The old city is in the industrial complex at the bottom of Bullialdus Crater, that cluster of rectangular structures near the shuttle port.”

A sparkle of transparent alloy and steel caught my eye as we got closer. My palms grew damp.

Luna Terminal gleamed against the void of space. Intact, as if the explosion that shattered the Earthward docking arm and killed so many innocent people had never happened. As if my heart was still whole and strong, not the bruised piece of meat thudding too fast in my chest.

The restored line of windows where Gresh and ‘Sida once stood to bid me goodbye were blank and flawless. Empty.

The spring-coil of anxiety suddenly exploded into shards and hollowed out my insides. I forgot to breathe, my white-knuckled fingers clenching the edge of the jump seat.

Fuck Kiran Singh. No matter what Mother England wanted to tell me, I should never have agreed to come back.

My breath ran shallow in the heavy gravity of blind panic. I fumbled with the stiff buckle of the five-point harness.

“Dalí? You okay?” Sumner’s quiet voice cut through the noise in my head.

“I can’t … ” The clasp wouldn’t give, my sweat-slick fingers numb and buzzing. “God damn it! I need to get out of the cockpit.”

“Hey, hey.” He extended his right hand and gently laid it over mine where I scrabbled at the release. “We’re in Three. Where are you going to go?”

I gave up trying and gripped his hand, pressing it against my chest.

“I’m here,” he said, his voice low and soothing. “Breathe. A deep breath. Come on, you can do it.”

I drew in a shuddering gasp, filled my lungs with air, and just as unevenly let it out.

“Again.”

The second one was less painful. “I’m sorry,” I managed to wheeze. “I didn’t think it would hit me this hard.”

“You thought you were prepared. You weren’t. Not yet.”

His hand was warm, and I hugged it like an anchor against the free-fall of chaos. I didn’t let go until my breathing was closer to normal and I knew I wouldn’t fall apart. His touch calmed me, and at the same time it created a ripple of longing I wasn’t ready to deal with. That was finally what made me let go.

“Thank you,” I mumbled, releasing his hand with a sheepish press of gratitude, and scrubbed my wet eyes with my palms. It was the first episode in months since I’d started the meds. I was fiercely glad Thunder Child was out of our implanted coms’ range and my teammates had not been remote witnesses to this meltdown. “I feel ridiculous.”

“Never feel that way.” The gentle admonition made me glance up and meet his eyes. Aquamarine sparks snapped in the depths of his irises as he held my gaze. “What you witnessed can’t be processed all at once. It comes out in pieces because it’s too much.”

“That felt like a huge chunk.” But the empty space had begun to collapse on itself. The void softly filled with a new substrate and covered the scree of old trauma as we stared at each other. Once again, Rion Sumner showed me the side I wanted to know better, and I desperately wanted to know it when I wasn’t a fucking mess he had to prop up.

“Port Armstrong to approaching vessel.” Three’s com blared as Luna Station’s control center registered our presence. The emotionless mechanical voice in our headsets startled both of us. “Verify identity and destination.”

Sumner toggled his mic with what I swore was irritation. “Port Armstrong, Midak 3 requesting approach.”

“Midak 3, transmitting approach vectors,” the artificial controller’s voice replied.

The instrument panel came alive with lights and coordinates. Auto-piloting sequences blinked suggestively on the data screen. Of course, Sumner chose to pilot Three manually, our moment of connection sublimated into preparation to enter lunar airspace.

I silently cursed the cock-blocking AI running the tower and sat back to watch him guide our little craft into the deep well of Bullialdus Crater, a bright path of syncopated flashes leading us into the underground terminal. The small, rocking thump of landing sent a shiver through me.

Luna. The people who had made it my home no longer existed, yet here I was.


Author Bio

Elisabeth “E.M.” Hamill is a nurse by day, unabashed geek, chocoholic, sci fi and fantasy novelist by nights, weekends, and wherever she can steal quality time with her laptop.

She lives with her family in the wilds of eastern suburban Kansas, where they fend off flying monkey attacks and prep for the zombie apocalypse.

Author Website: https://emhamill.wordpress.com

Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/EMHamill

Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/songmagick

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16592440.E_M_Hamill

Author Liminal Fiction (LimFic.com): https://www.limfic.com/mbm-book-author/e-m-hamill/

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/~/e/B00JY0FV8S

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Blog Tour: Resurrection Men by Steven Harper

Resurrection Men - Steven Harperp

Steven Harper has a new MM historical romance out: Resurrection Men. And there’s a giveaway.

Arthur Tor steals the dead for a living. As a resurrection man, he creeps around graveyards with his shovel, hoping to dig up corpses so he can sell them to the local medical college and pay his tuition there. He also holds a strange position in underground society. If someone is dying a slow, painful death, the family members come to Arthur and beg him to end their loved one’s pain. Arthur can never refuse, and he helps the dying cross the threshold without more pain in a process he calls the Black Rounds. Unfortunately, the local judge has gotten wind of Arthur’s activities and has sworn to send him to prison—or the hangman’s noose.

Jesse Fair has fled his corrupt family in Baltimore and landed in Ypsilanti, Michigan, where he becomes the town gravedigger and, eventually, the undertaker. He works hard to help grieving families through their pain with warmth and compassion. Some of these families make odd requests for their dearly departed, and Jesse discovers that the undertaker often has to deal with the absurd side of death. But his nefarious family is still searching for him. Relentlessly. And once they find him, Jesse will have to make a terrible choice.

When Jesse catches Arthur in the act of robbing a grave, the two of them form a strange friendship and even stranger partnership that digs deep into social taboos—and into their own souls.

In his first book since his critically-acclaimed novel The Importance of Being Kevin, Steven Harper spins a heartfelt, uplifting story of suspense, life, and love against the backdrop of a Michigan town at the edge of the frontier.

Universal Buy Link


Giveaway

Steven is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card:

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Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d47262/?


Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

A resurrection man watched the funeral, and his expression was hungry. He stood behind the huddle of funeral-goers clustered around the grave and didn’t speak with anyone, which was how Jesse spotted him. Dead giveaway, so to say. Jesse stared at him from the corner of one dark eye. The resurrection man wasn’t yet twenty. Brown as a dead tree. Straight brown hair under a frayed brown cap, long nose, sharp jaw, long brown coat mended twice, worn brown shoes that were nonetheless carefully polished. Someone who was used to hiding who he was.

The resurrection man met Jesse’s eye for a flick. He had good eyes, that one—clear and blue and strong—and Jesse touched his cap in salute. Jesse had a gravedigger’s build, wiry and a little short, able to throw an eight-pound shovelful of dirt six feet toward heaven, and he could hold his own in a fight against two men half again his height. The resurrection man was taller, whipcord, and Jesse bet he wore gloves to keep his hands clean when he robbed night-time graves. No one who saw him by day would know what he did at night.

When their eyes met, blue on brown, it created something interesting and indefinable, like that boundary moment when water touches a burning coal, or warm ocean air brushes chilly shore. The resurrection man looked away. Jesse clicked his tongue in mischief—and the chance to make some money.

The coffin rested on a pair of beams set across the grave Jesse had dug only that morning. Jesse always put a scattering of sawdust and few pine branches in the bottom of his graves so the coffin wouldn’t rest on dirt. It made no difference to the deceased, mind you, but it made the family feel better. Two solemn boys pulled the beams away, and the pall bearers lowered the coffin with ropes braced around their necks like pulleys while the preacher said his final bit. While all this was going on, the resurrection man slipped away, confirming Jesse’s suspicions that the man was a grave robber who knew the best time to leave was when the family was occupied.

As the family drifted off, Jesse barely overheard a man and a woman in conversation. The woman murmured, “He won’t get up and come after us, do you? He’s stubborn enough to try.”

“Jesus, I hope not,” the man muttered back. “That copper-plated sumbitch was bad enough when he was alive. I can’t think what he’d be like lurching around dead.”

Death brought out the truth among the living. Jesse looked in the direction the resurrection man had taken and gave himself a private nod. It was going to be an interesting evening.

Jesse finished filling the grave of Mr. Elmer Pitt (b. 1803, d. 1889), then went home to the little shack he occupied at the edge of Highland Cemetery, made himself a pot of strong coffee on his bachelor stove, dropped a slug of Irish in it, and waited until sunset. When the early autumn night slid in cozy among the gravestones, Jesse put his shovel back over his shoulder and strolled toward the grave of Elmer Pitt. There was time to enjoy the walk and think about how to spend the money he would shake out of the resurrection man. It had been a while since he’d passed a good night’s drinking and fighting at a pool hall. Or maybe he’d buy a new pair of boots.

The trek was easy. Didn’t matter that it was dark. Jesse had dug plenty of graves in Highland Cemetery and knew the place like the end of his shovel. He even had a map of the place tacked to the wall of his shack, with every grave picked out in careful precision. People thought that graveyards laid out the dead in neat, cornfield rows, but Highland’s graves made a swirling mosaic that twisted around the hills and trees, creating stars and flowers and teardrops that only god and Jesse’s map could see. Jesse had taken over as the main gravedigger in Ypsilanti from Mr. Suggs two years ago. Mr. Suggs himself currently rested in a grave well back from the road that Jesse himself had dug with extra care. Jesse didn’t run the cemetery—that job belonged to the great and gloomy Frederick Huff, who issued daily orders from the caretaker’s house and only emerged to complain at Billy Cake and the other fellows who worked the cemetery. But it was Jesse who dug the graves.

Highland Cemetery had opened twenty-some years ago, a little ways before Jesse was born, and it had stolen away all the business from Prospect Cemetery. Didn’t seem to matter that Prospect was half a mile closer to downtown Ypsilanti, with its growing Normal School and expanding railroad system. Prospect still failed to prosper.

Problem was, Prospect had both proven too small, so the city had bought a big chunk of loamy hillside outside Ypsilanti and named it Highland Cemetery. The local Catholic community had been scandalized at the idea of sharing eternity with Protestants and even Lutherans, so they had bought a bit of land right across the road for their own dead, keeping Mr. Suggs, and now Jesse, busy digging graves for both. Meanwhile, the townsfolk stopped using Prospect Cemetery entire, and no one seemed interested in paying Jesse Fair or Billy Cake to even trim its trees, so these days the verge ran wild. The inhabitants didn’t complain.

It was a serpent night, with the chill breeze hissing in the leaves. Jesse wound through the stones until he came to the new grave of Elmer Pitt. The thin glow of a little lantern on the ground illuminated the markers from the bottom up, and the familiar quiet sound of a wooden shovel biting earth came to Jesse’s ears. Resurrection men always used wooden shovels. They made less noise. Jesse crept closer.

The resurrection man had already made good headway and was knee-deep in the ground at the head of the grave. Two canvas drop cloths lay beside him, one to catch the dirt, and the other to receive Elmer Pitt. Jesse noted the well-worn leather gloves covering the resurrection man’s hands. The man also had a crowbar and a length of rope.

“So you’re from the University Medical School,” Jesse said in the dark.


Author Bio

Steven Harper

Steven Harper Piziks was born with a last name no one can reliably spell or pronounce, so he usually writes under the name Steven Harper. He grew up on a farm in Michigan but has also lived in Wisconsin and Germany and spent extensive time in Ukraine.

So far, he’s written more than two dozen novels and over fifty short stories and essays. When not writing, he plays the folk harp, lifts weights, and spends more time on-line than is probably good for him. He teaches high school English in southeast Michigan, where he lives with his husband. His students think he’s hysterical, which isn’t the same as thinking he’s funny.

Author Website: http://www.stevenpiziks.com

Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/steven.piziks

Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/StevenPiziks

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/250784.Steven_Harper

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Blog Tour: Sigrid & Elyn: A Tale From Norvegr by Edale Lane

Sigrid & Elyn - Edale Lane

Edale Lane has a new FF alt history mystery romance book out: Sigrid & Elyn.

Attracted by passion, repelled by war. Can two shieldmaidens navigate battlegrounds of the sword and the heart?

Pre-Viking Scandinavia. Sigrid the Valiant is legendary throughout the kingdoms of Norvegr, along with her twin brother, for their many heroic deeds, but her heart has not found a home. Now, racing on the heels of their father’s murder, a neighboring kingdom’s raids threaten to cause an all-out war.

Elyn is a young shieldmaiden with a score to settle, fighting her own insecurities along with enemies who threaten her homeland, but she remains unconvinced all is as it seems.

When the two clash on opposite sides of their shield walls, sparks fly from both their swords and passions. But when they talk, the two fierce women discover an antagonist’s plot has pitted their kingdoms against each other.

Will Sigrid and Elyn move past their suspicions and differences to forge a relationship and foil the villain’s scheme, or will the enemy’s assassins end their search for the truth?

Action, adventure, and intrigue ride together with romance in this enemies-to-lovers saga from the pre-Viking land of Norvegr. Award-winning, best-selling author Edale Lane brings history to life in this fast-paced sapphic novel. Grab your ax and rönd and join the quest by clicking to buy now!

Warnings: violence, rape (in a memory), slavery as part of society.

Get It at Amazon


Giveaway

Edale is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card with this tour:

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Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d47260/?


Excerpt

Sigrid & Elyn meme

Elyn’s heart pounded in her chest as she weighed her options. Right here, right now, she could kill Jarl Sigrid the Valiant and gain great fame and renown. With no witnesses, she could concoct any story she liked about how the epic battle in the cave occurred… except without witnesses, people may say Sigrid died in the fall and all Elyn did was chop at her corpse making it appear she had been victorious. A further problem with that option was that the gods saw everything. To kill an unarmed, unconscious opponent was a dishonorable display of cowardice akin to murder.

What would Sigrid do? Elyn lifted her ax but hesitated. One so well respected would not slay an incapacitated foe, would she?

But what troubled Elyn the most was the true impetus behind her reluctance—she didn’t want to kill Sigrid. She wanted her to live. Lowering her weapon, she gazed at the fair legendary hero. Though caked in dust sticking to blood and sweat, her legs pinned under heavy jagged rocks, she was the most astounding human being Elyn had ever laid eyes on. Maybe it was not her beautiful face or toned body, but the songs and stories that hailed her victories over man and beast, that saluted her valor and generosity that most fueled Elyn’s imagination. Perhaps it was how Sigrid had saved her from a spear hurled on the battlefield when it had been against her own best interest. But maybe it was the strange energy that pulsed through Elyn’s sensations whenever they were near each other that compelled her to choose mercy. Then again, it could merely be her own sense of unworthiness.

I am nobody, she thought. I can’t kill a jarl, a female warrior jarl… a lovely, helpless woman of distinction. She needs my help.

Elyn shoved the ax back into her belt and lifted heavy stones off the fallen shieldmaiden, tossing them aside. As she worked, Sigrid awoke. Sky-blue eyes blinked and the trapped woman coughed away dust, soon becoming aware she was not alone.

With a startled expression, Sigrid grabbed her sword and swung it at Elyn, who had to jump to avoid its reach. “Do not think of crushing me with a slab of limestone!” she blasted with rage igniting in her glare. Sigrid’s voice was robust enough to overpower the burble of the waterfall. “I could carve you like a roasted pig even without the use of my legs.”

An admiring smile tugged at the corner of Elyn’s lips, and something sprang to life deep within her core. “I am certain that you could, Jarl Sigrid, but if you will notice, I am not attacking you, but digging you out of the rubble.”

“What happened?” Sigrid raised her left hand to the gash on her forehead.

“The ground gave way, and we fell into this pit chased by large rocks. I think a Jotnar is to blame,” Elyn replied in a placid tone that seemed to disarm Sigrid.

As her focus cleared, she aimed it on Elyn’s face. “I find myself at a disadvantage,” Sigrid admitted. “You know who I am, but I am not familiar with you. What is your name?”

Elyn heaved the last of the big rocks pinning Sigrid’s legs to the side and sat on it. “I am Elyn, a shieldmaiden of Firdafylke. I live in a village called Kaldrlogr. It would appear for the moment we are trapped in this crevice. Thus far, no one has appeared at the fissure above to lend aid, and I suspect the battle continues.”

Sigrid nodded. Elyn! So that is your name. Satisfaction nestled within Sigrid until she recalled why they were there. Feelings of languid infatuation evaporated, and vengeful wrath rushed in to seize their place. She pushed up on her sword, gathering her legs under her body, and struggled to her feet. She could tell her injuries were more than superficial, and she could not bear weight on her right leg, but she was determined. Mirroring her movement with caution, Elyn rose from her rock and shifted a hand to the ax on her belt.

Pinning the flame-haired shieldmaiden with a frigid glare, Sigrid snarled. “Why did your raiders attack our farms? It is fortunate you were not among their number as we left none alive.”

She cocked her sword arm for a swing, and in an instant, Elyn whipped out her ax to block the whirling blade. The motion of the stroke rendered Sigrid off balance, and she could have easily toppled over, but her opponent pushed against her steel with her weapon until she was upright and steady on her one good leg. Elyn’s action surprised Sigrid, though she was glad for it.

“We did no such thing!” her foe declared with heated conviction. She hoisted her ax, poised at the ready.

Sigrid realized she was in no condition to fight, so she had better rein in her temper. She glanced down at Elyn’s sturdy legs, shapely hips, rounded breasts, up to luscious full lips, and finally into stunning green eyes and held them.

“Several of my friends were killed,” Sigrid asserted, and she felt a quiver go through her body. “A dozen men under the banner of Firdafylke carrying shields with your colors,” she testified, motioning to Elyn’s rönd lying a few feet away, “attacked the outlying farms of my village, Gnóttdalr. They burned homes, slew livestock, murdered women and children, then tried to flee like cowardly rodents.”

Elyn’s brows knit together in concern. “When was this?”

“Less than two weeks ago,” Sigrid confirmed. With her shoulder stiff and in pain, she lowered her sword but kept a firm grip on its hilt. “Maybe a week and a day after the first time we fought.” Sigrid tried to calculate, but her head throbbed. Has it been three weeks I have spent dreaming of you?

“That is impossible!” Elyn’s declaration snapped Sigrid’s thoughts back into focus. “It wasn’t us. All of Jarl Njord’s warriors are accounted for at that time and none have gone missing,” the younger woman insisted.

Sigrid’s frown deepened. “I know about Jarl Njord and his intentions for the throne of Firdafylke. With King Tortryggr’s mind and strength failing, he supposes to increase his fame by defeating us, but it shan’t work.”

“What are you talking about?” Elyn fumed and tossed her empty hand into the air. “There is nothing wrong with King Tortryggr’s health, mental or otherwise. And while it is true Njord has ambitions, he is not a traitor. What about your King Grimolf? Greedy to the core! We know about his plans to take over our kingdom, how he has promised all you jarls will double your holdings.”

“Nothing but sheep dung!” Sigrid retorted. “That is the biggest load of shite I’ve ever heard.”

Elyn’s brows narrowed, and her scowl deepened. “What about the Svithjod raiders that attacked our farms? We had defenseless people killed by your warriors, too. Did they make sport of it? Was it a game to them?”

“We did no such thing!” Sigrid’s voice reverberated about the cavern, which only increased the throbbing in her head. “We supported you several years ago when Raumsdal assaulted your land. I personally led a team of wagons to reinforce your army with supplies, and my brother brought volunteers to join your defenses.”

“I know,” Elyn countered, “which is why we feel so betrayed that you have invaded now. Maybe the raiders did not come from your band, but they flew the raven flag and carried the yellow and black shields of Svithjod. Why do you lie?”

She raised her ax in a defiant motion and Sigrid reacted instantaneously, slamming her sword to bear against it. “I do not lie!”

The two shieldmaidens pressed closely together, hot with anger and confusion. Sigrid was not expecting the arousal she experienced at the proximity to her enemy, but her desire could not be denied. It was baffling and unacceptable. Only a handle of wood and a blade of steel stood between them. Sigrid kept her balance on her one good leg, but if Elyn pulled away, she would surely fall. She felt the heat of her breath, inhaled her intoxicating scent, and her body ached for a woman she should not want. Is this a trick? Have I been bewitched? A part of her wished to examine Elyn’s every feature in intricate detail, while reason ordered her emotions to stand down.

Elyn slowly backed away, almost as if she was being careful to not cause Sigrid to fall. “No, you do not lie.” The words rang with sincere belief and Sigrid eased her muscles as she mirrored her foe to relax. They lowered their weapons at the same time. “But neither do I.”


Author Bio

Edale Lane

Edale Lane is an award-winning author (Rainbow Awards, Imaginarium Awards, Lesfic Bard Awards) who is realizing her dream of being a full-time writer. She is the alter-ego of author Melodie Romeo, (Tribute in Blood, Terror in Time, and others) who founded Past and Prologue Press. Both identities are qualified to write historical fiction by virtue of an MA in History and 24 years spent as a teacher, along with skill and dedication regarding research. A native of Vicksburg, MS, Edale (or Melodie) is also a musician who loves animals, gardening, and nature. After driving an 18-wheeler cross-country for eight years, she now lives with her partner in beautiful Chilliwack, B.C. Canada.

Author Website: https://pastandprologuepress.lpages.co/

Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/melodie.romeo/

Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/groups/887028485401701

Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/EdaleLane

Author Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/edale_lane/

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15264354.Edale_Lane

Author Liminal Fiction (LimFic.com): https://www.limfic.com/mbm-book-author/edale-land/

Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/edale-land/

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Edale-Lane/e/B07GRFPDRZ/

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Parasite by Ridley Harker Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A teen boy will be forced to decide between the brewing romance he has found sanctuary in and the fate of the island he calls home when a mysterious illness striking the town is linked to the new boy he’s been seeing in author Ridley Harker’s “Parasite”.

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The Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Jack Ives is used to being unlucky. His only friend has just moved away to college, his parents are alcoholics, and he’s relentlessly bullied by the town psychopath. All that begins to change with the arrival of a handsome but quirky new student, Lucien, who wants to be more than friends.

Their newfound happiness doesn’t last, however, as a strange new illness strikes the island. Fishermen go missing, and the villagers left behind aren’t themselves anymore. When Lucien is suspected to be the cause of the outbreak, can Jack overcome his teenage hormones and save Eldrick Isle? Will he even want to?

The Review

This was a haunting and captivating horror read. The chilling nature of the narrative took readers by storm, revealing both the panic-inducing body horror that films like John Carpenter’s The Thing and modern-day indie horror film The Bay have become known for and the suspense that keeps readers invested in the narrative as the motivations and twists of the story keep the true “threat” facing the people in town and the protagonist under a shroud of mystery. The brilliant imagery the author utilizes brings the “jump-scare” effect to the narrative, keeping readers hooked on the author’s writing.

The character development and atmosphere were the best-developed aspects of this narrative. Between the strong LGBTQ character bonds that the main characters shared together and the scare-filled atmosphere that kept the reader engaged with this narrative, the book hooked me immediately. The balance between every day, haunted aspects of daily human life that brought the townspeople to the place they found themselves in at the start of the narrative and the more parasitic, horror-themed problems that they come face to face with will have readers immersed in this story.

The Verdict

Powerful, thrilling, and entertaining, author Ridley Harker’s “Parasite” is a must-read LGBTQ-driven body horror novel of 2022! The perfect fall read for horror fans, the story and atmosphere will hook readers immediately, but it is the well-developed characters that will have readers invested as the narrative comes to its chilling and climactic finale. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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Parasite - Ridley Harker

Ridley Harker has a new gay horror book out (with a romantic subplot): Parasite. And there’s a giveaway.

Seventeen-year-old Jack Ives is used to being unlucky. His only friend has just moved away to college, his parents are alcoholics, and he’s relentlessly bullied by the town psychopath. All that begins to change with the arrival of a handsome but quirky new student, Lucien, who wants to be more than friends.

Their newfound happiness doesn’t last, however, as a strange new illness strikes the island. Fishermen go missing, and the villagers left behind aren’t themselves anymore. When Lucien is suspected to be the cause of the outbreak, can Jack overcome his teenage hormones and save Eldrick Isle? Will he even want to?

Warnings: Abuse, alcoholism, animal death, bullying, graphic violence/gore, guns, homophobia, misgendering

Universal Buy Link | Goodreads


Giveaway

Ridley is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour:

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Excerpt

Lucien wanted to hit something. He wanted to lash out and make himself feel better by making someone else feel worse—Spencer, preferably, but Lucien was too upset even to fantasize. Something scuttled under the floorboards beneath him. Tiny claws on warped wood. A nearby hole in the floorboards… Vermin would have to do.

He brought his index finger to his mouth and bit down, worrying at the skin with his teeth until it broke. He tasted blood. The takeout bag sat beside him so he picked up a fry and, after seasoning it with blood, tossed it toward the hole. And then he waited.

A whiskered nose appeared first, followed by a furry brown face and black, beady eyes. A rat. The animal snatched the fry and disappeared back into the darkness. Lucien smirked and licked his finger clean. He absently probed the torn skin with his tongue until it was smooth again. Then he paused, momentarily forgetting about the rat. Something on his fingers tasted off.

Foreign.

Salty.

Some sort of grease.

He glanced dubiously down at the soggy french fries, holding his breath and waiting for disaster to strike. Nothing happened. His stomach rumbled. He licked his lips again. The scent of greasy, fried potatoes became too tantalizing to resist, and he reached into the bag and pulled out a fat, golden fry. He shouldn’t—years of lectures told him he shouldn’t—but a rebellion brewed deep inside him. He sniffed, and his stomach gurgled in approval.

Lucien popped the french fry into his mouth. It was cold. The texture was strange: crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. He had to chew before he could swallow. Grease coated his tongue.

His nutrient shakes were garbage.

Lucien scarfed down the entire bag of fries and then licked his fingers clean. Jack had left his milkshake behind, and Lucien drank that as well. The shake had a familiar texture, but the flavors… What would hamburgers taste like? He was going to find out.

An ear-piercing squeal erupted from beneath the floorboards. Lucien smirked into his straw and waited, listening. Judging from the sounds, more than one creature had taken his bait. The rat dragged itself out from the crevice. Little clawed toes curled in on themselves, and beady black eyes bulged out from their sockets. The bald tail became discolored, patchy and waxen. It flopped onto its side, its chest heaving madly as it labored to breathe. A black substance leaked out from its jaws, followed by a tiny, purpled tongue. It shuddered violently, and then it lay still.

Lucien didn’t notice. The paper cup crumpled in his grasp, and the remains of the strawberry shake dripped down his wrist. Behind his dry, irritating contact lenses, his pupils dilated. Lucien clutched at his belly, smearing milkshake across Jack’s borrowed shirt. It was like having shards of glass in his stomach, stabbing into his intestines. Ripping. Tearing. Sweat soaked his skin. He staggered to his feet and gagged. Waves of nausea threatened to bring him to his knees. His throat burned, and his stomach lurched.

He was going to be sick. Sick in the middle of Jack’s private sanctuary. Lucien clamped a hand over his mouth and stumbled toward the guest room. The door’s hinges screamed in protest when he fell against it. He landed heavily on his knees. The floorboards were wet and slimy, blackened with rot. They sloped toward the center of the room, where he saw the stony lip of the well peeking out from amidst the wreckage. The house was strange, but he had no time to explore, not when his stomach lining was burning its way up his esophagus.

Lucien dug his fingers into the moldering floorboards and dragged himself forward. Up close, the well stank. The putrid fumes of fetid water rising up to meet him suggested something had fallen in recently. Lucien leaned over the well’s side and vomited. The remains of french fries and strawberry milkshake hit the water below with a liquid slap. Strings of shredded tissue and dark, brackish blood soon followed.

Unbidden tears streamed down Lucien’s cheeks. He choked on a sob and then choked again as something elseslithered its way up his throat. The edge of the rotten boards gave beneath his clenched fingers, turning to splintery pulp. He tried to clamp a hand over his mouth, tried to keep it inside, but it was too late. Lucien curled in on himself, his mouth opened wide in a silent scream. His eyes rolled back behind his lids, and the world went dark.

It splattered onto the floor. It resembled a fattened leach, pulsating and slimy, and was the size of a large rat. It wriggled about, leaving behind a trail of black sludge. An alien kudzu sprung from the mess and cemented itself to the floor. Lucien opened his eyes, watching as the thing squirmed away from him. He felt a muted sense of alarm as it neared the edge. His head was foggy. He should grab it. Before it was too late, if it wasn’t too late already.

His fingertips scrabbled against the wood, mold and sludge filling the spaces beneath his nails, but his arms wouldn’t obey. He managed to brush the spongy tail of the creature before it tumbled over the edge and into the darkness below. It hit the water with a faint, echoing splash.

Lucien struggled to catch his breath. Empty and frail, his chest felt like a cage of papier-mâché. He rolled onto his back, panting. His eyes fluttered shut. Something moist crawled across his arms, up his ankles, under his jeans. It slithered through his hair. He was too tired to object. He wanted to sleep. He didn’t want to think about what could have happened if he had eaten in front of Jack. Or worse, if they had been in the middle of the crowded diner.

Inky blackness rose up to meet him, and Lucien didn’t resist.


Author Bio

Ridley Harker

Ridley Harker is an up-and-coming horror author who delights in all things gay and spooky. Influenced by Billy Martin (Poppy Z. Brite), Clive Barker, and Gemma Files, his favorite books are those with enemies to lovers, great villains, and queer main characters. Horror-romance is his favorite genre. He lives in the Middle of Nowhere with his two dogs, a grumpy old snake, and a host of pet tarantulas. Ridley is currently working on his MFA.

Author Website: https://www.ridleyharker.com

Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/ridley.harker

Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/HarkerRidley

Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/RidleyHarker

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16649258.Ridley_Harker

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/ridley_harker

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Herald’s Call by Jaymie Wagner Excerpt & Giveaway (OWI Blog Tours)

Herald's Call - Jaymie Wagner

Jaymie Wagner has a new FFF urban fantasy out, Sing For Me book 3: Herald’s Call. And there’s a giveaway.

Woe to the wolf who dares to call

With unworthy hearts lest darkness fall

Dour note this horn will play

The hounds shall rise and wolves shall bay

Through the horn Herne shall command

By blood of the Hunt and a worthy hand!

It is said that long ago Herne, the god of the Hunt, could use his Horn to make wolves obey his commands. A legend that Amy Oakley, Alpha of the Howlers pack, learned as a child and stopped believing in long before her first change beneath the full moon.

After spending three years fighting for her lovers and packmates’ right to live among the werewolves of Londinium, all she wants is a chance to breathe, go back to running her pub, and never see the manipulative Marcel Charron again.

As an ancient prophecy begins to unfold, can Amy and the Howlers find the Horn of Herne and keep it out of Marcel’s hands, or will his web of schemes and plots spell doom for their pack and the rest of London’s werewolves?

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About the Series:

When Leah Corbyn was bitten on her mail route by a dog, she expected to go to the hospital for some stitches, a few days of medical leave, and for life to go on.

She had no idea that two weeks later she would become a werewolf under the full moon, or spend the next year trying to hide her ‘condition’, but after meeting and dating fellow werewolf Amy Oakley, it wasn’t long before she started to find an entire community in the shadows of London.

Surrounded by unexpected friends and dangerous enemies, Amy, Leah, and their packmate Amélie must fight to make a place for themselves, unaware that the conditions of an ancient prophecy are being met…


Giveaway

Jaymie is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour:

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Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d47247/?


Excerpt

Herald's Call banner

Leah swallowed hard, and her voice was a hushed, raspy whisper. “Do you think…I mean…if my mum was a werewolf and she knew I wasn’t going to be. Could that be why she got rid of me?”

“Oh,” Amy breathed as she pulled Leah into a hug. “Oh, pup.”

“I mean…” Leah shook her head, tears starting to well in her eyes. “I never really knew anything. Where I came from. Why I was abandoned. Nobody even knows who gave me up. They just found me like a lost wallet!” She shuddered in Amy’s arms, tears running down her face.

“I finally learned something about where I came from and suddenly I wish I hadn’t!”

Abigail sat down slowly. “Leah,” she said in her most kind but firm doctor’s voice. “I can’t speak to why your parents made that decision. I wish I could. What I can tell you is that mitochondrial DNA takes a very long time to change from generation to generation, and the fact that you did not possess the full were sequences until you were turned suggests that it was a fairly distant ancestor. Five or six generations, easily.”

She waited for Leah to meet her eyes before she concluded: “Whatever their reasons, this was not one of them.”

Leah gave a sniff and dried her eyes with the back of her hand as she sat up. “That’s…that helps. Thanks, Abby.”

“Of course.” Abigail smiled at all of them before going back to the papers. “So – as I said, we don’t know as much, medically, as we would like about Turning. But this does suggest a few things to me. For one – it may explain part of why you survived the process, particularly with a diet that was…not terribly conducive to your new existence.”

That got a weak laugh out of Leah, and Amélie smiled with relief. If she could laugh…it was a good sign. “So – you think that explains my eyes, too?”

“It would seem so,” Abigail agreed with a nod. “I am not certain why it took so long to express, but my theory is that some of the latent werewolf traits you carry finally began to show through.”

Leah’s lips pulled into a slight frown. “Could that be part of why I’m a different sort of wolf than whoever turned me?”

Abigail nodded again. “Likely, yes.”

Amy reached up to lightly scratch at Leah’s scalp as she examined the different sets of results. “Does that explain Leah’s ear, too?”

Abigail shook her head and went back to the first chart. “The trait that affects the development of cartilage in the ear is an autosomal one. It most likely came from the were who bit you.”

Amélie looked down at the results again, and suddenly felt like she’d been given the last piece of a puzzle.

No one has been able to find the wolf who bit Leah…but they were assuming it was a were who lived in England.

Leah said the ‘dog’ who attacked her had a blonde and pale grey coat.

Marcel knew Leah was Turned.

Marcel knew Leah had no family.

Marcel knew where the Howl was.

Leah never spoke to Marcel at the trial, and Amy would not have told him anything about Leah or herself. If the records from Leah’s trial were sealed, there is no way he should have known any of the things he tried to use against us.

Marcel always said his ears drooped because of an old injury from a fight…but Marcel lied about almost everything.

Her chest felt tight as the facts began to add up.

Marcel…

Marcel is a liar.

Her mouth felt dry as she looked up. “Abigail?”

Everyone turned to look at her, and Amélie didn’t try to hide the dread and shock she felt.

“I know who Turned Leah.”


Author Bio

Herald's Call - Jaymie Wagner

Jaymie Wagner is a queer, trans, polyamorous author who lives in the Twin Cities with her cats and an alarming collection of tiny giant robots.

She has been published in several anthologies, short story collections, and posts her “Fractured Fantasies” twitter micro-stories where she explores different ideas and kinks.

Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/jaymie.wagner.98/

Author Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/JaymieDWagner

Author Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/JaymieDWagner

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21846389.Jaymie_Wagner

Author Liminal Fiction (LimFic.com): https://www.limfic.com/mbm-book-author/jaymie-wagner/

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/~/e/B09HF3P2ZC

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As Fast As She Can by E.F. Schraeder Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Two young women dive deeper and deeper down into a blood-soaked world of carnage as they give into their unquenchable new appetites in author E.F. Schraeder’s “As Fast As She Can”.

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The Synopsis

Living in a quiet house on the outskirts of town, Ginger isn’t like

the other girls.

When she wakes up and discovers the unthinkable about her

adoptive parents, she runs away and goes on a rampage straight

to the only friend she has. Can she control what they both become?

With a violent, growing hunger and more questions than answers,

Ginger has nowhere to turn.

The Review

This was a shocking, pleasantly campy horror read! The humor and dark comedy aspects of the narrative are felt instantly, as the protagonist joke and go out for a “night on the town” as they make their way through a barrage of victims to satiate their appetites. And yet the charm and heart of their bond are felt instantly, as is their surreal approach to their newfound status as a zombie…of sorts. 

The mythos and world-building that the author was able to put together in such a short amount of time made this such a powerful read. The theme and atmosphere the author crafted out of this novel made this story feel like a late ’80s era horror comedy with an LGBTQ twist. The story moves quickly, and as the characters and world expand, so does the mythology surrounding their hunger and status in the world of the living, making this a shockingly delightful read. 

The Verdict

Haunted, entertaining, and brilliantly written, author E.F. Schraeder’s “As Fast As She Can” is a must-read horror novel that cannot be missed. The dedication to the genre and the almost cinematic way the story is written will keep readers invested in this story until the bloody end. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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As Fast as She Can - E. F. Schraeder

E. F. Schraeder has a new lesbian horror / coming of age book out: As Fast As She Can.

Living in a quiet house on the outskirts of town, Ginger isn’t like the other girls.

When she wakes up and discovers the unthinkable about her adoptive parents, she runs away and goes on a rampage straight to the only friend she has. Can she control what they both become?

With a violent, growing hunger and more questions than answers, Ginger has nowhere to turn.

Universal Buy Link


Excerpt

As Fast as She Can meme - E. F. Schraeder

Two dozen camps dotted the acreage around the five-mile perimeter of the lake. The trails that linked the parcels were scarcely marked. Off season, only half of the cottages would have guests, and even fewer would have phones or cell coverage. The land was big enough and remote enough for the girls to stay lost.

Cory and Ginger approached the first camp they saw and crept outside, peering into the windows to see what awaited them. Cory tripped over a rusted canoe leaning against the side of the house. As it crashed to the ground, a light flared on in the back of the house, illuminating the fifteen feet to the shed behind the house.

Cory yelped. “Shit.”

“Shh,” Ginger whispered. She set a hand on Cory’s shoulder. “They’ll think it’s an animal.”

“It is.” Cory bared her teeth and snarled. Cory crouched, her small frame hunched against the peeling blue paint of the cottage. Her slender shoulders pulled up, and the heavy gray hood of her sweatshirt drooped over her head. A shadow across her face accentuated the wide-eyed expression.

“You’re sort of hot when you’re hunting,” Ginger said. She bit her lower lip, immediately regretting the admission. Urgent, warm hunger pressed in Ginger’s stomach. She returned a low growl. “Let’s go,” she whispered, her voice hoarse.

They crashed into the front door, lunged onto the scrawny old man in the kitchen before he had time to squeeze the trigger of his shotgun. They tore the patchy pajama shirt from his lean body and shredded him in seconds.

“That’s it?” Cory asked. A dribble of saliva clung to her mouth as she licked her lips.

“Guess he lives alone.” Ginger wiped her face clean on her sleeve. They kicked through the house, looking for anything interesting to take. “Need a flashlight?” Ginger swatted the heavy silver flashlight that swung from a looped handle on a nail.

“No, I can see in the dark.” Cory paused. “Hey, I can see in the dark. Is that, like, a thing for us?” She smiled, her pupils returned to normal now that she’d fed.

“I guess. I don’t know. Not like I had a course in zombification before I got to you.” Ginger laughed. “How many camps are up here?” she asked.

Cory shrugged. “Hope there’s a bigger family or something we can sink our teeth into.” She rummaged through the old man’s desk drawers. She tossed stacks of papers onto the floor, they scattered in heaps. “Ah ha!” She pulled out a slim, golden-handled hunting knife. “Now this, I like!”

Ginger grabbed the knife, sliced a ‘Z’ shape into the air. “Nice, but I don’t think we need weapons.”

“Whatever. It’s still badass.” Cory tucked the blade into its sheath and undid her belt, slipping the knife holster into position at her waist. “Cool, right?”

“Okay, it does look badass. You’ve got a whole burnout serial killer look happening now.” Ginger clicked off the back porch light. “It’s really working for you.” She opened the door and waved Cory ahead of her.

“Hot, huh?” Cory winked as she walked by, her arm brushed Ginger’s hip.

Ginger let out a quick gasp before she could stop herself. Embarrassed that Cory had heard her and a little curious. She sighed. She wondered if something was going on between them, something way better than eating campers. Ginger bit down on the inside of her mouth briefly and giggled.

“Still hungry?” Cory asked.

Somehow, the question struck Ginger as flirtatious. She didn’t know what to say. I’ve got to be imagining this, right? Ginger shrugged, chasing behind Cory as she ran ahead in search of the next cabin. I mean, we’re pretty messed up right now . . .

For three hours, Cory and Ginger ransacked camps, devouring everyone they found, dragging the residents into the moonlight one at a time. The small camps around the pond were spread out, sparse enough among the trees to conceal the screams. As they gorged they left only blood and destruction in their wake.

Crickets fell quiet as the girls ran over boulders along the water’s edge. Their movements were smooth and silent. Cory stopped abruptly, balancing on one leg in a karate pose.

“>Ginger, do ya’ think the cops are after us?”

“Duh, of course they are! Or will be. Why?”

“I don’t know. It’s kind of awesome, that’s all.”

“Which part?” Ginger smiled.

“Well, the whole ‘killed my mom and took to the woods’ part, mostly. You know? Or is that like total after school special bullshit?”

“No, it’s way worse than some crap about bulimia or underage drinking.” Ginger’s laughter came in spurts. She wiped her brow. “I mean, I think we’re in a whole different league of problem children.”

“Hey, Ginger,” Cory said after a few moments of silence. “Aren’t we supposed to be like, all ‘uugh, brains’ and shit?” She waved her arms in front of her in a classic Frankenstein pose.

Ginger chuckled. This is perfect. The two of us against the world. What could be better? “No, I mean, I don’t know. We’re pretty quick though, right?” She pushed her hair out of her face and smiled.

“Totally!” Cory squatted low on the stone and then sprang up, kicking out one leg. “I’m like, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Zombie.”

Ginger fell over laughing. It took her a minute to realize Cory had run ahead to another camp. She pushed herself up onto her elbows and ran to the house. Cory was already inside by the time Ginger arrived.

“Look at him!” Cory shrieked with pleasure tugging the long, wavy blonde hair of a thin teenage boy out the front door. He struggled while Cory dragged him easily into the grassy yard.

A motion activated security floodlight clicked on and shone white in their faces. The boy wiggled and winced, tried to yank himself away from her, but he only managed to rip the sleeve off his shirt. Cory sunk her fingers deep into the joint of his rotator cuff and pressed her face into the wound until she felt the dull thud of bone crack against her teeth. “He’s cute. Let’s keep him! Can we keep him?” she squealed.

The boy howled in agony, blood soaking his chest.

“He’s not a puppy, Cory. You can’t just decide to…” Ginger paused, watching Cory pull the boy back into her mouth. Ginger squinted at the boy and nodded. She pursed her lips like she was about to speak, but her expression went blank. She cocked her head to a distant noise. What was that? Voices? Ginger focused. There was nothing in the yard but corpses. Ginger tugged a tangle of auburn hair into a ponytail. She rested a hand on one hip then said, “If you like him, flip him.” She was surprised she felt so amicable to Cory’s idea, but maybe it made a certain sort of sense. Why not a third? Maybe three’s a charm.

The boy wriggled beneath Cory’s clutch for a few moments then the spasms settled. He groaned as if he knew the lucky ones died. Cory tore off the other sleeve of his blood-soaked shirt and gently wiped the mess from his shoulder.

Cory pulled out her hand from his shoulder muscles clenching a soft chunk of wet flesh. She lowered her lips to the fresh wound with a smile then pressed her teeth into him. A satisfying gush of blood spurted into her mouth. She moaned in satisfaction.

“Take it easy if you’re keeping him.” Ginger flung a dismembered hand from the boy’s father at Cory.


Author Bio

E. F. Schraeder

E.F. Schraeder is the author of the queer gothic novella Liar: Memoir of a Haunting (Omnium Gatherum, 2021), which was an Imadjinn Award finalist in 2022. Schraeder is also the author of a story collection and two poetry chapbooks.

Schraeder’s recent work has appeared in Lost Contact, Strange Horizons, The Feminist Wire, Birthing Monsters, Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, Mystery Weekly Magazine, Lavender Review, and other journals and anthologies. Schraeder’s nonfiction has been included in Vastarien: A Literary Journal; Radical Teacher; the American Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom blog, and elsewhere. Awarded first place in Crystal Lake Publishing’s 2021 Poetry Contest, E.F. Schraeder’s work also placed as a semi-finalist in Headmistress Press’ Charlotte Mew Contest (2019). Current creative projects a full length manuscript of poems and an unruly collection of essays. An ex-professor and youth librarian, Schraeder holds an interdisciplinary Ph.D. and advanced degree in Library Science. An Active Member in the Horror Writers Association and a Lifetime Member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, E. F. Schraeder believes in ghosts, magic, and dogs.

Author Website: https://www.efschraeder.com

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5989787.E_F_Schraeder?f

Author Liminal Fiction (LimFic.com): https://www.limfic.com/mbm-book-author/e-f-schraeder-2/

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/E-F-Schraeder/e/B014YYIOK0?

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Guest Blog Post and Blog Tour Blast For Author M.D. Grimm’s “Sapphire: Home and Abroad” with OWI Blog Tours

Hi everyone! Thank you for joining me today. I hope you’ll give author M.D. Grimm a warm welcome as we hear some fantastic insight into the development of “Sapphire: Home and Abroad”.


Good day lovely readers! Thank you for joining me. I am M.D. Grimm and I am here to promote my newest release, “Sapphire: Home and Abroad.” This is the latest entry in The Stones of Power. I am overjoyed and relieved to finally release a new book in this series. After re-publishing back titles, I can now work on new projects. So, if you like magic, surly, anti-hero mages (wizards), and a fun setting with quirky supporting characters, this series might be for you!

So… Morgorth. He’s a difficult character, isn’t he? I don’t think I quite knew what I was getting into when I wrote the first book over ten years ago. I have an affinity for dark and/or damaged characters. Their journey and trials as they become better people is something I never grow tired of either writing or reading. One of the worst things in the world is for a writer to be bored with a character and/or a story. And when it comes to series, I strive to have a character(s) that needs to overcome something as they evolve over the course of several books. If I’m not interested in their journey, then why would anyone else be?

“Ruby: Lost and Found” was the third book I ever published. It presented Morgorth in a time of his life where he was bored with being a villain. He’d embraced the label after his peers, fellow mages, decided he simply had to be one because of his birthright: being the seventh son of a seventh son, which they determined meant he was to be the Destroyer of their world. It is said that we often create our own monsters, and in this case, it was true. Morgorth became what his peers already thought he was. However, when Aishe crashes into his life, the desire to be something different awakens within him. In my opinion, he becomes an anti-hero. Or, as he would say, a dark mage. He’s not out to wreak havoc on the world but he’s certainly not going to play by the rules, either.

My initial goal for this series was to challenge myself to write an anti-hero. I’m not quite sure if I succeeded or not, but I can’t argue with the result. Morgorth is wonderfully flawed, his struggles are real, and his desire to be worthy of his mate, Aishe, pushes him into uncomfortable situations and makes his choices harder. What I love most about Morgorth is his refusal to surrender. Despite the abuse he survived as a child, the hatred from most of his peers, and the struggle with his own internal demons, he continues to fight. The closest he came to defeat was in the previous book, “Lapis Lazuli: Forgotten and Remembered,” but even then, even without Aishe kicking his butt into gear, I don’t doubt that after a bit of time in self-pity, he’d roll up his sleeves and start fighting again. It’s one of the things I love most about him: he continues to get up every time he’s knocked down.

Due to the abuse from his father, Morgorth has always carried a deep-seated rage inside him. Unfortunately, it led him to unleashing his pain on innocents until he made a promise to his mentor that he would stop perpetuating the cycle of abuse. Morgorth has grown a lot from book one to book eight, but the core of him hasn’t changed. He still carries the rage, only now he channels it into protecting those he loves. He still has a darkness inside him, a thirst to hurt others, and yet again, he targets it at other villains and in defense. I find that the hardest balance to strike with such a complex character is letting them evolve without changing who they are at their deepest core. I didn’t want Morgorth to lose his edge. I didn’t want it to seem as if he simply flicked off his past trauma and that it no longer affected him. That is unrealistic and an insult to folks who live with trauma. However, he did find the tools and the support to work through his trauma and to use his rage for good instead of evil.

And how did he do that? By finding a mate who accepted all of him. With Aishe, he found the motivation and the reason to work on himself. That’s what I love most about their partnership—they make each other better and stronger. 

The Stones of Power 1-8 are available for purchase at Amazon (also in print!) and Smashwords. I have a newsletter that I send out monthly with all the goodies you can expect in the future. That’s the best way to find out about my current and future projects.

For fans of the Saga of the Bold People series, I just finished the first draft of “Resistance,” book 3. I hope to release it October 2022, so keep your eyes peeled for that! I am also booked (pun intended) solid this year, working on the next shifter book, the next Stones of Power book, a couple single titles, and the next On Wings Saga book. Wish me luck!

More information on my catalog can be found at my website.

I hope you stay safe and healthy, and may dragons guard your dreams,

M.D. Grimm

Sapphire: Home and Abroad

M.D. Grimm has a new MM fantasy book out, Stones of Power book 8: Sapphire: Home and Abroad.

The Dark Mage, Lord Morgorth, and Aishe of the Ravena Tribe, are to become bondmates.

Morgorth is equal parts nervous and excited. He wants to unite with Aishe in the sacred dialen ceremony, to proclaim their devotion to the world, to show everyone that Aishe is his equal and deserving of respect. After all they’ve survived together, why shouldn’t they make the cosmic promise before friends and family? But duty must often come before pleasure. When Morgorth’s estranged mentor, Master Ulezander, comes to him with a time-sensitive mission involving a major stone of power, Morgorth has little choice but to acquiesce.

Aishe knows his mate struggles with the revelation of his true destiny, after a lifetime of defining himself as the future Destroyer of Karishian. All he can do is reassure Morgorth that being the Savior is a far better fate for both of them. But as Morgorth and Aishe leap through worlds and dimensions in pursuit of a stone of power, more pieces to the puzzle of Morgorth’s destiny are revealed. And they form an image of sacrifice and tragedy.

The dark cloud of an ancient enemy looms ever closer, and the path to becoming the Savior might prove more monstrous than that of the Destroyer.

About the Series:

Lord Morgorth is a dark mage on the planet Karishian. His peers consider him a villain, but there is more to him than they choose to understand. Cursed by a dark destiny and tormented by painful memories of the past, Morgorth struggles to find his place in the world. Far from innocent, Morgorth has teetered between embracing his destiny and fighting against it his entire life. A decision that is made easier when Aishe comes into his life. Aishe is a creature of the forest, a warrior and healer. He has the moral compass that Morgorth needs, and Morgorth gives Aishe the companionship he craves. Together, they forge ahead, weathering the storms and fighting the enemies fate puts into their paths.

However, their greatest enemy is not a living being, but gemstones infused with deadly power. They are addictive, seductive, and completely treacherous. Morgorth hates them and is determined to find and imprison all of them. But he soon realizes they are keys to a greater power. He learns his destiny is not all he thought it was. And an even greater enemy stirs in the darkness. Enter the world of “The Stones of Power.”

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Excerpt

Sapphire Home and Abroad meme

Morgorth stepped forward and stretched out his arms. He murmured a series of words under his breath and an opaque pinprick of light appeared. I stepped a bit closer, fascinated. The pinprick grew into a swirling, pulsing liquid silver gateway. It was beautiful and ominous. It made no sound, and yet gave off pressure that I felt against my body, and the hair on my arms stood on end.

The few trees bordering the clearing creaked and groaned as they bent away from the portal. I didn’t hear anything—not birds or squirrels, not deer. Nothing was near us, and the poor, stationary trees were doing their best to also get away.

Morgorth fisted his hands and widened his stance, still muttering. His skin glowed, and I silently shifted to his side. His eyes were a burning amber, his expression set in stubborn determination and intense concentration. Sweat slid down his face. The portal pulsed a bit faster, the beat knocking against my ribs. What was he doing?

Then the silver gained a bluish color before darkening to mossy green. Morgorth grunted and lowered his hands, though his magick still glowed.

“Take my hand,” he said in a stiff, strained voice. “And hold on tight, to both me and your bow.”

I swallowed hard and took a deep breath. I clung to my bow as I took his outstretched hand and pressed to his side. His skin was hot to the touch but not burning.

“What can I expect?” I asked.

“Discomfort and weirdness,” he said with a hint of a smile. “Just don’t let go.”

“Never.”

Then Morgorth ran and yanked me with him. We dove into the portal without hesitation, and he was right about the discomfort and weirdness. It wasn’t the emptiness of teleportation nor the whiplash of magickal speed. Morgorth charged through the swirling green, dragging me along. The green slipped over my skin and hair like cold putty and tried to capture my feet in its murk. It seemed to last forever but I was certain it was only a moment or two. Then we were somewhere else.

I caught my breath and stumbled forward, still clinging to Morgorth. He didn’t let go either, his magick still at the surface. He took a cloudy crystal from one of the many pouches at his waist and bent to place it at the base of the portal.

This time, I heard his word of magick.

“Lelleknau.”

Words of magick were supposed to be nonsensical, something each mage created for themselves. It was personal, each new word linked to a spell and used for nothing else. It took both words and hand flourishes for a mage to cast a spell or secure an enchantment. It was different for magick healers like myself. It wasn’t so much magickhealers used, it was our life essence, gifting a part of ourselves to our patients. Give too much and it could kill us. The missing part of our essence would replenish over time, faster if we were happy and balanced.

To open a portal and redirect it was remarkably heavy magick, and my mate never ceased to leave me in awe of his abilities and his continual growth in both strength and intelligence.

“Will the crystal leave the portal open?” I asked.

He nodded. “Only on this side, though. We don’t want anyone or anything following us.”

“I doubt any of Vorgoroth’s creatures want to follow.”

Morgorth shrugged and straightened. “I don’t want to take the chance. And I wasn’t just thinking of my minions.”

He was thinking of our guests. Probably about Lyli.

I sighed. Yes, that girl was fearless and far too curious for her own good. And wherever Lyli went, Olyvre wouldn’t be far behind. Then Elissya would also come.

“This will also prevent any of the creatures here of getting inside. The crystal is also a shield.”

“Clever.”

“Draining,” he said with a sheepish grin. His magick settled into his core, causing his eyes and skin to lose their glow. “It won’t hold for long. In and out, no sightseeing.”

I snorted and glanced at our surroundings. “I don’t think that will be a problem.”

A thick, dense jungle surrounded us, and I was only now noticing the oppressive heat. My skin broke out in sweat and my clothes soon stuck to me in the most uncomfortable way. I exhaled sharply and let go of Morgorth to wipe at my brow.

“Aye, in and out, please.”

Morgorth grimaced as well and readjusted the bag.

“I hope you can track the bloody thing.”

“I don’t sense magick like on Karishian so it shouldn’t be a problem to open my third eye and spot the box. And if for some reason that doesn’t work, I can always try to meditate and find its aura and track it back to its location.”

“Wouldn’t the box shield the stone’s power?”

“Its power but not its signature. According to Melondia, the box doesn’t have enough layers to truly block it. Think about the layers of Geheimnis. A mage could use their third eye but not spot the stones I have in the tower because the barriers are too thick.”

I nodded, and he closed his eyes. This place did feel… empty. Magick was everywhere in Karishian, in the land, the water, in the creatures. In the sky and in the clouds, and in the sun. In the air itself. I didn’t like it here. I shuddered and fingered my bow. The familiar texture of the wood soothed me just enough to unclench my muscles.

I kept an eye on our surroundings as Morgorth once again called to his magick.


Author Bio

M.D. Grimm Logo

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: http://www.mdgrimmwrites.com/

Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001710645622

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4574220.M_D_Grimm

Author Liminal Fiction (LimFic.com): https://www.limfic.com/mbm-book-author/m-d-grimm/

Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/m-d-grimm/

Author Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/M.D.-Grimm/e/B00I0KZMY6/

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Bed of Rose and Thorns by Lee Hunt Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A warrior returns to the Queendom he was banished from over a decade later to find the Queen he has dreamed of for years is isolated and alone, and the nation in rebellion as he searches for the truth and his Queen in author Lee Hunt’sBed of Rose and Thorns”.

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The Synopsis

Sir Ezra is an Elysian Bell; he has a frightening potential that he keeps hidden deep beneath tight layers of steel armor. He secretly loves a dark Queen whose touch would mean his death.

Banished for brutally slaughtering the Prince of Erle and husband to the Queen, Sir Ezra can only dream of seeing her again. Every night, his soul travels to distant lands, remembering the Queen, her deep convictions, brilliant mind, unending work, hidden loneliness, and a single night of horrific bloodshed.

Recalled to the Queendom after eleven years, Ezra hopes to catch at least a fleeting glimpse of the woman he was sacrificed for. Instead, he finds a nation in rebellion and the Queen to be an elusive phantom. His only friend, Sir Marigold, challenges his presence and tells him that he is not needed in the capitol. Looking for both the truth and the absent Queen, Ezra finds only more secrets and enemies.

Ezra’s armor is dented, scarred, and ruined by friend and enemy alike; his secret potential is about to become unbound.

The Review

This was such a fantastic read. The author did an amazing job of capturing the raw magic of the dark fantasy realm while also developing rich mythos for the narrative. The dark and tense tone the author instilled into the novel was felt early on, and the almost medieval-like setting came to life on the page and in the author’s mind through some pretty incredible imagery used by the author in their writing.

However, the heart and soul of this read was character growth, especially for the protagonist, Ezra. The tormented warrior finds his world flipped once more, and the staggering height of his passion and love for his Queen is phenomenal to read. The secrets and mystery that build as he searches for her and her evolution as a character became central to the mythology and narrative as a whole. 

The Verdict

Action-packed, dark, yet powerfully romantic, author Lee Hunt’s “Bed of Rose and Thorns” is a must-read dark fantasy and LGBTQ-driven novel of 2022. The captivating characters, blood-soaked battles, and intrigue the narrative sets up move the reader into the depths of the emotional pull of these characters, and the beautiful way the author incorporates poetry and an almost lyrical style of writing throughout the narrative will have readers invested into this darkly magical world. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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Bed of Rose and Thorns - Lee Hunt

Lee Hunt has a new dark fantasy/fairy tale out: Bed of Rose and Thorns. And there’s a giveaway!

Sir Ezra is an Elysian Bell; he has a frightening potential that he keeps hidden deep beneath tight layers of steel armor. He secretly loves a dark Queen whose touch would mean his death.

Banished for brutally slaughtering the Prince of Erle and husband to the Queen, Sir Ezra can only dream of seeing her again. Every night, his soul travels to distant lands, remembering the Queen, her deep convictions, brilliant mind, unending work, hidden loneliness, and a single night of horrific bloodshed.

Recalled to the Queendom after eleven years, Ezra hopes to catch at least a fleeting glimpse of the woman he was sacrificed for. Instead, he finds a nation in rebellion and the Queen to be an elusive phantom. His only friend, Sir Marigold, challenges his presence and tells him that he is not needed in the capitol. Looking for both the truth and the absent Queen, Ezra finds only more secrets and enemies.

Ezra’s armor is dented, scarred, and ruined by friend and enemy alike; his secret potential is about to become unbound.

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Giveaway

Lee is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour:

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Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d47240/?


Excerpt

Bed of Rose and Thorns meme

A man alone, thirsty, falls asleep.

***

“Where am I?” asks the man. He seems to be bobbing high in clear aquamarine water. All he can see is a vast expanse of ocean and a clear crystalline structure that floats nearby. Something seems familiar. He had been in a desert, travelling with friends, but now he swims upon an endless ocean.

“Have I been here before?” he asks. The tug of oceanic currents and the endless blue horizon pull on some memory . . . something important.

“You are in the sea of Eydos,” says the crystalline structure. It has been floating toward him, quietly, its approach, until then, unnoticed.

“And you are an iceberg,” the man says, smiling, unconcerned, unsurprised by the nearness of the mountainous structure. He does not know what Eydos is, but he thinks he may recognize this vast icy creature. Something tells him that he may have seen her before, though his memory is as difficult to make out as a words written on water.

The iceberg shakes from side to side, creating little ripples and dancing waves. “I suppose that I am.”

“Your sides are so smooth,” says the man. “I like you.”

The iceberg shakes again and glides right up beside the man. He floats high enough in the water that her ripples of laughter do not threaten to drown him. “You are brave, aren’t you?”

“I am not afraid to look upon that which I like. And say so.”

“Look down then, man, and tell me what you see.”

The man dives down a few body lengths, searching. When he resurfaces, he is smiling even more widely than before. “You go down and down, out of sight, beyond light and reckoning.” He shakes his head at her. “Most of you is down below, unknowable. How vast are you?”

“Never ask a lady her size,” the iceberg says, creating even bigger waves as she shakes the waters, laughing. “My size is my depth, and my depth is my size.”

“Well, I like it. I am just a man. Not vast or mysterious like an iceberg.”

“An amusing man, I think,” replies the berg.

The man asks, “Where are you going?”

“On currents that are my own, on purposes that are my own, for reasons that are my own.”

“I don’t know what I am doing here or where I am going,” says the man.

“Typical,” replies the iceberg lightly. “Most do not.”

The man, swimming hard beside her, says, “You are certainly moving fast through this ocean.”

“Indeed,” says the iceberg. “I am an agent of my own destiny.” After a moment, she adds, “If you come around back and swim in my eddy, you will be pulled along. You can rest while we talk.”

The man looks at the smooth surface of the iceberg. “Can I not just slide up onto you and rest there?”

“No!” says the iceberg, firm. “I am hard and cold. I would burn you. If you touch me, you will be undone.” Her voice softens as she adds, “It is nice in my eddy. Swim there, man.”

He shrugs and does as she says.

“Oh, this is nice,” says the man. “I can look at you and talk at the same time.”

“Glad to help you do two things at once,” giggles the iceberg, making tears of water jiggle and parade.

And they talk on through the day, the man endlessly curious about the magnificent creature of the waters.

***

“I love you, iceberg,” declares the man.

“That’s nice, but you don’t even know a tenth of me.”

“Good point,” laughs the man. “I need to dive deeper.” He takes a deep breath and dives into the dark again.

Missing completely the iceberg’s cry of “No!”

The water starts at a clear color, or is it green? Then it turns light blue, and then to deeper and darker shades. The man pushes and kicks, fighting his buoyancy, feeling the weight of water build and build, following the clean lines of ice down into oblivion.

Heavy, crushing pressure begins to squeeze him. It is like the weight of memory, everywhere pushing, everywhere trying to change and deform him from his human shape, trying to make his courage fail and shatter his hope. But he loves the iceberg and he needs to follow her down.

At the utmost point of indigo darkness, he finds a new light. It shines from a clear chamber in the ice where a figure waits. Lungs bursting, he pushes deeper, drawing level to the translucent walls and the woman who lies inside.

She is naked but for her long, tawny hair. Like a lion’s mane, it frames her long, pure face and spills over her delicate, perfect shoulders. She looks at peace. Her eyes are closed, but she is smiling.

This is the heart of the iceberg, the man thinks, in the crushing pressure of the deep. So beautiful.

Then he sees that she rests upon a bed of long, sharp thorns.


Author Bio

Lee Hunt

Born with only one working lung and having had the last rights read to him and dying of an influenza related viral pneumonia, 25-year-old geophysicist Lee Hunt experienced several near-death dreams. The power of communication and the need to both understand and be understood was at the heart of each. He had already found that nothing was more important than being able to cross the distance between people.

Lee’s interests are eclectic. He is an Ironman Triathlete, hiker, traveler, and an enthusiastic sport rock climber. Lee also continues to work as a geophysicist on Carbon Capture and Sequestration projects, and is a writer for BIG-Media.ca.

The dream of understanding and being understood has never left his mind, and Lee continues that in his works of fiction through metaphor. His works include The Dynamicist Trilogy, Last Worst Hopes and Bed of Rose and Thorns.

Author Website: https://www.leehunt.org/

Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100052376555360

Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/DynamicistAuthor

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1196106.Lee_Hunt

Author Liminal Fiction (LimFic.com): https://www.limfic.com/mbm-book-author/lee-hunt/

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Lee-Hunt/e/B082YFTMCK

 

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