GUEST BLOG: Jonah Bergans on Anonymity Online | BOOK GIVEAWAY

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In the Time Magazine feature “question everything,” (Sept 21st 2015, Pg 66), the question was posed “Should we let ourselves be anonymous online?”  The responders, Ellen Pao  (former CEO of Reddit) indicated “yes,” and Jonathan Taplan, (Director of USC’s Annenberg Innovation Lab)indicated “no.” Their arguments were both sound but as is all too common in news media today, neither was able to provide a satisfying answer. It was a sound byte of a question, a sound byte of a feature and what they were able to provide was little more than a sound byte of an answer—leaving us with the sense that there is no answer—as if all thought is merely opinion. I disagree. There is an answer, but it cannot be found with the question asked. It is too great a topic for a sound byte of a question. It is not a philosophic question—it is not one of life’s imponderables, but rather it is a question of social responsibility and a question with a direct and immediate bearing on liberty and freedom of speech, and the free exchange of ideas that makes any society great.

Pau, being an entrepreneur and having had personal experience with innovative technologies answered “yes,” in favor of anonymity, and citied the personal stories of growth and the benefit of the open communication that often times does result from anonymity. “More voices expressing more ideas with more openness is a wonderful ideal,” Pao says.  She’s right of course—it is. She goes on to indicate that there are dangers, down-sides and the potential for misuse and so on, and she’s right about that too. But it isn’t a matter of personal stories, it’s a social matter. It is matter that effects the whole society—many societies, all of them and then every one of us within that society.

Taplan, an academic, cites Plato: “If we were shielded from the consequences of our actions, how would that change the way we act?” He insists, that as a result of anonymity online, we now know the answer, and he goes on to make some very solid arguments, including the argument that undermines the sense of any potential benefit from anonymity—that oppressive regimes can and likely do trace even anonymous users.  It’s a strong argument—rather, it is a strong response to an argument, and yet it fails to recognize that an oppressive regime is not necessary to silence a voice. A community standard can silence a voice. A commonly held belief can silence a voice. A belief that blacks should not marry whites can silence a voice. A belief that gay men are pedophiles and perverts can silence a voice.

As authors we all share in a long standing professional tradition of anonymity. Many of us use pseudonyms.  Some do this based on the tradition itself, while others use pseudonyms to shelter family and friends from the consequences of publishing what might be construed as controversial in their own local communities. We know that an oppressive regime is not the only reason anonymity is important and even necessary. We have, for the most part, learned the importance of using anonymity to introduce ideas into the public discussion, and those of us who have succumbed to sensationalism have suffered the consequences of doing so. Can you name a single author who supported slavery? Nazism?  No, it is not the anonymity itself that presents a social danger, but what we do with it, that determines its value to ourselves and to our society. Authors have learned to act responsibly even though many of us publish anonymously, and now so must the rest of the people in our society.

“Should we let ourselves be anonymous online? “  It’s a weak question. It’s a question with a faulty premise.  Recently, Facebook has begun banning authors who operate under a pseudonym. These are not authors of hate, but rather targets of hate. It works like this: Authors of LGBT fiction are sought out by the hateful and reported to Facebook for using “a false name.” They are banned. There is no recourse, no appeals process. Their access to what is arguably a public media is simply denied. Their access to their fans, coworkers and editors and to the public itself is eliminated as easily as that. Imagine the delight on those hateful faces as they take down (in their opinion) yet another pervert. Facebook, like a monolith of corporate indifference, does not respond to the emails, the pleas for assistance or even some reasonable accommodation. A voice is silenced. Then another. Then another. Do we “let ourselves” be anonymous? Ask these authors.

No, a better question might be:”What are your rights and responsibilities in a free society?”  We might ask that same question of a monolithic corporation (like Facebook) too. For the same reasons that we must tolerate Klan marches, for the same reason Tenure exists, for the same reason freedom of the press and freedom of speech exists in our country, anonymity online must exist—it must be permitted to exist. It is not a new question or a new argument. We must tolerate the Klan so the NAACP can gather and march—so gay people and all people with a less than majority voice can gather and march. We must have Tenure so a teacher can teach—even those subjects which are unpopular in a local community. We must tolerate the hateful and endure the tiny voices of hate and shame who may also act anonymously, so that the greater louder and enduring voices can speak. Anonymity allows that to happen, not just under oppressive dictators, but right here in America, and right now in our local communities. Maybe the question should have been, “If we silence the hateful, will we silence everyone?”

I am Jonah Bergan.

AboutTheBook

Off-World-Full-Front-CoverTitle: Off World

Author: Jonah Bergan

Publisher: Booktrope Publishing

Cover Artist: Michelle Fairbanks

Length: 240 Pages

Release Date: August 22, 2015

Blurb: What really brought Taine to that backwater little world? Taine’s a hunter. He’s a red-skinned, black-eyed Lowman by nature, and a hunter by trade. Some hunters work in flesh, others in secrets, and some few work to set right what’s been set wrong. It’s a big galaxy and there’s always plenty of work for a hunter like Taine, so you got to wonder, what with all that at his feet, what really brought Taine to that backwater little world?

Off-World is a M/M science fiction action/adventure set in F/M dominated space. The story takes place in an arm of the galaxy where slavery (sexual and otherwise) is legal and commonplace. Strictly speaking, it is not a BDSM novel in that consent is not a matter of concern for the characters, but those with an interest in BDSM should enjoy the story. Due to explicit content, Off-World is not recommended to readers under eighteen years of age.

CommonExcerpt

“You his father?” Taine asked.

“Uncle,” the man said, glancing toward his wife. She looked away, a terse expression on her face. He looked back at Taine, bringing his chin up defiantly. “By marriage,” he said. “I did right by the boy.”

Taine shrugged. It made no difference—these backwater worlds, with their backwater cultures, none of that mattered to him. It was bad enough he had to ride in from the starport on horseback. Bad enough he had to dress the humble part just to avoid offending these rubes. Still, if he’d come blasting into town in his Hover, he’d have found half the doors shut to him, and the other half damned slow to open. Taine was a hunter, a Lowman—a red-skinned and black-eyed alien, and his kind wasn’t welcome everywhere, no matter how much they paid for what they bought. No point in making things worse by flaunting wealth in a place of such poverty.

Taine turned his attention back to the human he was here to inspect. He took a quick inventory of the boy. Pretty face, decent frame, all good starts, but the boy was un-groomed, pale and too lean for his age. Malnourished, Taine thought. Most likely in body and mind both. That might be correctable, might not. Sometimes that kind of damage can’t be undone no matter how much you pay to fix it. Still, the boy looked appealing enough despite the slight frame—long legs, long arms and a pretty face with a halo of wild blond hair like the rays of some golden sun. He’s young, but not under, Taine thought. Taine checked the boy’s teeth, running his finger under the boy’s lips and along the gums. He tugged a tooth or two—still solid.

“How old?” Taine asked.

“Nineteen now,” the boy’s uncle said. “Twenty soon. Been here more’n half that time.”

“Lazy?”

“Hard worker,” the man snapped. “Wouldn’t have lasted otherwise.”

“So why are you selling?”

“Hard times,” the uncle said, “and harder coming.” This brought a scowl from the missus, but she didn’t say a word. She’d had enough of the gambling, and the drinking, and she’d said so often enough that the words seemed to have lost all meaning. If her husband had saved his earnings, instead of squandering them, none of this would have been necessary. When he said, “It’s him or me,” she didn’t argue. After all, it wasn’t an ultimatum, it was simply true. She consoled herself by thinking about the money. It would help them get off-world before the aftermath of the war came upon them like some kind of tidal wave, and swept both of them away from her. Choose one or lose both, bane or burden. It had been an easy choice, at least until now.

Taine slipped his middle finger deep into the boy’s mouth. The boy closed his eyes, and his face blushed red, but he yielded, relaxing his jaw and taking the finger as though it were a cock. Taine moved his finger in and out, fucking the boy’s face, watching him blush and tear up. Taine had good reason for doing it, but he earned a sharp look from the missus anyhow. She nudged her husband and glared at him. He scowled, and turned back toward Taine.

“You buying or not?” he snapped.

“Maybe,” Taine said. “Hard to tell with him all covered up.”

The uncle grunted and stepped forward. He tugged at the waist of the home weave the boy wore. The coarse trousers loosened and then slid down the boy’s long legs. A gentle tug and the shirt came loose in front. The uncle slipped it over the boy’s shoulders and let it fall the floor.

“There,” he said. “No need to make a show of it. Buy, or get out.”

Taine felt the boy’s tongue start moving against his finger. It surprised him, and he drew his finger back, but the boy sucked at it, trying to keep it in him. Taine obliged the boy, sliding it in and out a few more times and smiling as he felt the boy’s tongue bobbing and dancing beneath his finger. The boy wouldn’t speak, wouldn’t make eye contact either. His uncle had taught him that well enough, but the boy doing what he was doing with his tongue spoke volumes. That’s him just about pleading, Taine thought. What must life in this little hell be like, for the boy to yearn for a sale off into the unknown?

Taine leaned forward, drawing in just a taste of the boy from the air around him. He sampled the first scents of the boy’s essence. Sweet, Taine thought. Like honey must taste. It was a thick and golden flavor, and it made Taine smile. That’s all he needed to know to buy any boy—that there was something either savory or sweet in them that was still strong enough to reach the surface. The rest would be up to the trainers—the professionals back at the Temple on Taine’s home-world. But the boy’s dancing tongue sparked Taine’s curiosity, and he wanted to know more.

He reached up with his free hand, taking hold of the boy at the back of the head and began slowly moving his finger in and out. He knew he was humiliating the boy before his family, but Taine closed his eyes, and drove his awareness deeper. There were other ways to open a human. Most of those were forceful, and some were downright violent. The uncle and aunt might not understand, but for a Lowman, this was an act of kindness. It was the gentlest way to break through to the only thing a Lowman truly valued.

Taine pressed his awareness into the boy, moving through the ebb and flow of the boy’s many complex flavors. He was careful not to feed, not to take any of it in. As was so with most humans, the boy was a stormy wash of conflict within. Taine found urges and desires and regrets, a mind in constant turmoil, and rife with fear—predominantly fear. Some of that fear had been earned, and some had been instilled and it lurked in the boy, like shadows in some dark wood. Taine pressed forward beyond all that and went deeper, reaching toward the source of the boy. Taine found his way blocked. It was expected, a barrier—an obstacle to turn him back. It had a scent and a flavor—something akin to the bitterness of burned toast, but its aspect was like a sharp blade bearing a dark stain, it stabbed at him, threatening him and warning him to turn back. Taine instinctively flinched away from it, slipping around and behind it, evading it, and driving himself closer to the wellspring. He found and followed the predominant scents—that of seaweed, dark and rich, and the flavor of saltwater, and he found himself standing on hot sand, feeling the sensations of an empty beach, and the heat of a brilliant and golden sun. It was a rich and delicate feeling, and a smell, and a taste—the smell and taste of sunshine. Yes, Taine thought. That is who he is. Sunshine.

Taine slowly opened his eyes and withdrew his finger. He wondered then, and not for the first time, why humans waste their children so, as though darkening them would brighten the world. Didn’t they know the world would be less hard with fewer hard people in it? It’s not an easy thing to change, it takes some real effort, but didn’t they know it could be changed? Didn’t they know those dark urges could be controlled and even used?

The boy had given him nothing but the idea of burnt toast between him and the seashore. Not much to glean from that, Taine thought. To learn more he’d have to feed, and that wasn’t something he’d be doing, not with an uncultivated and feral human. Still, he was curious.

“You about done?” asked the uncle. The aunt had turned away, and the uncle was glowering.

“Not by a long measure,” Taine said.

The uncle shook his head and waved Taine on. “Just get it over with,” he said.

Taine ran his hands across the boy’s chest and down his flat stomach. The boy’s breathing quickened as Taine fondled his cock, teasing it to life. It responded by thickening and rising, though maybe not as fast as it should. The boy never raised his head, never moved a muscle, he just stood there like Taine had every right to touch and use his body. Taine gave the balls a firm squeeze, and the boy tensed, rising on his toes a little, but he never once raised his arms, never once tried to defend himself. Good submissive spirit, Taine thought, that’ll be important if we’re gonna heal him up.

Taine took the boy by the shoulders and turned him around. He meant to plunge his finger into the boy, just to check for damages, and maybe make the boy’s cock grow up full-sized, but the two cheeks were crossed with welts, some fresh and still white where the switch had marked him recently. Maybe not born to it after all, Taine thought. Maybe all that submission was just beaten into him. No way they nurtured it, no way they cultivated it, not the way the Lowmen would have with such a delicate specimen as this one.

Taine considered the welts across the boy’s ass. There were older ones across his back, a few sores, in-growns and pimples across his shoulders; nothing that couldn’t be tended to, and probably should have been before they offered him. These people had no idea what they were doing, but that wasn’t a surprise either, was it?

Taine would’ve slipped his finger in right then, but by the scent of things they hadn’t cleaned him, so he traced his fingers along the welts on the boy’s ass instead, and then looked up at the uncle.

“Trouble maker?” Taine asked.

“No,” he said. “That’s just from his dailies.”

Taine nodded. “So, what’s your price?”

“Sixty,” the uncle said.

“Waste of time,” Taine said. He snorted and turned for the door.

“Sixty’s fair,” the uncle said, raising his chin. “More’-n-fair.”

“Yeah,” Taine said, “Not for that.”

“Now, don’t be disrespectful,” he said. “The boy’s family after all.”

Taine turned and looked the man squarely in the eyes.

“I’m interested, so you name me a real price and I’ll consider it,” Taine snapped, “but sixty is just plain fantasy.”

The man stepped close. That was a brave act, or maybe just a desperate one. Not many people dared approach a Lowman hunter, not with their alien looks and their reputation for violence. The solid black eyes and all that red flesh intimidated humans—something about their ancient myths. Still, Taine had gone to a great deal of trouble to make himself approachable to these backwaters, and now he wondered if maybe he’d done that a little too well.

“Boy sucks cock good as any,” the uncle said, keeping his voice low, as if keeping it from his wife.”He’s a good earner, and that backside’s got years of action left to it. I wouldn’t be selling if I didn’t need to, and I know you got your own expenses, so you tell me what’s fair.”

“Ten,” Taine said.

The man grimaced.

“Ten and you’re lucky to get it,” Taine said. “He’s nineteen, nearly twenty, easily a year past prime, and by my guess, he’s spent that time squaring up plenty of your debts. You’ve done nothing to develop him. By the time I’m done fixing what you’ve botched, I’ll be lucky to clear a slender profit. So that’s my offer, ten, or I’ll head over to Jenkins Creek where I hear there are a set of twins coming up prime.”

“I can’t take ten,” the man said, shaking his head. “I gotta have fifteen, and that’s a loss for me, Mister. I had him ten years under my roof. Fifteen don’t half cover it, but I’m willin’ to concede some, if you are. So there we are, it’s fifteen, or I’ll wish you a safe trip over to Jenkins Creek.”

Taine reached for the door handle, but hesitated. He thought about Shilandra, and what he had done to her. The memory returned, unbidden and heavy, like betrayal. He still had some of the boy’s scent with him, so he turned and looked back. The boy was standing there just about trembling—his head down, and face red, and his cock still jutting up. Would she even accept this one? He thought.

The boy was as lean a colt as Taine had ever seen, but the flavor of him showed promise. It’d take some work, bringing this one up, but there was something alluring about him—a hint of what might be found in him by skilled hands. He’d already found the boy’s name: Sunshine, and that was no small thing. Making him live up to that name, that’d be some hard work, and some expensive work as well, but if he did, if the boy did live up to that name, he’d be valuable well beyond his family’s reckoning of wealth, and well worth Taine’s time and investment. She’d recognize that at least, Taine thought.She’d see the value in him, wouldn’t she?

“I know I’m going to regret this,” Taine muttered. “You got his papers drawn up?”

“All but the price and date,” the man said smiling.

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AboutTheAuthor

Jonah Bergan is a freelance writer living in New England. His publishing credits include a ten part serial, multiple short stories, and a collection of anecdotal humor. He has also published MMORPG game reviews and content, hypnosis scripts, online user manuals, and advertising texts. Please visit jonahbergan.com to learn more about him.

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Winner’s Prize: A Paperback copy of “Off-World”.

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I AM HOPE OUT NOW!

ES_IAmHope

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Topher, Jesse, and Sawyer thought their greatest threats were the Infected and Mutated that roam the world. As they struggle to reach the Concentration Center in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina they discover that the monstrous mutations of the undead are the least of their problems. Something else, something far more intelligent and lethal, is hunting them.

Topher knows that the only way humanity will survive is to find a cure for the strange infection that’s ravaged civilization. He’s on the brink of discovering it, but the further his research goes, the more he realizes that curing the world may mean losing Sawyer.

In order to stay together, all three men will have to battle for their lives and Topher will have to make the ultimate choice: cure the world or save his lover?

EXCERPT

“You stupid bitch!” Richey shouted. Chloe was hitting him, throwing everything she had into her punches and slaps. Richey punched her in the face, and Chloe fell limply to the side.

Reality snapped back.

Nash scrambled for the fallen gun. I dived for another. I grabbed the shotgun and fired a shot at Stu, hitting him in the stomach. He dropped the AK-47 with a scream.

Jane’s gun went off. I craned to look. Jesse had her hand raised in the air, twisting her wrist so that she dropped the pistol. He slammed his knee into her gut. She collapsed to her knees with a groan.

I climbed to my feet and grabbed the AK-47 from Stu, keeping my shotgun aimed at his head. He lay on the ground, clutching his stomach. There was a dampness that seeped through his fingers. Stu stared up at me, but it was too dark to read his expression.

“Help over here!” Nash shouted.

I jerked my head up. Nash was on the ground, struggling with Richey. There was a flash of silver mixed in the tussle, and then a succession of gunshots. Nash and Richey froze, and my heart leaped into my throat. Nash shoved Richey, who fell back lifelessly.

“Bastard,” Nash spat. He stood, holding the gun.

A hand locked on my ankle and pulled my foot out from under me. The world tipped sideways; all the stars spilled out of the galaxy. My head slammed into the ground. I dropped the guns. The grass smelled damp and musky. I groaned and dug my fingers into the dirt. When I looked up, Stu had a gun pointed at my head. Blood poured from his mouth. He didn’t have long. A few minutes, maybe only seconds.

I tipped my head back and looked over at Jesse. At some point, the tables had flipped again. More of Jane’s guards had come, corralling Jesse, Sawyer, and Rio over with Chloe, who lay motionless on the ground. Jaden clung to her. His tiny whimpers punctuated the night.

Nash stood off to the side, his newly proffered gun pointed down. He glared mutinously at Jane.

“Enough games,” Jane said viciously.

I inched my fingers toward the AK-47. Stu kicked the gun out of my reach. “Don’t move,” he wheezed and then coughed wetly.

“You’re going to die,” I whispered. “Do you want these to be your last moments of humanity? Killing innocent people?”

“Shut up!” Stu roared. He towered over me, all muscle and rage.

I closed my eyes. A cool breeze stirred through the grass and kissed my face. I opened my eyes and looked back at Jane.

“Abominations must be destroyed,” Jane said, as if it were a mantra. If she said it enough times, would it make everything that happened here okay?

“Do it,” Jesse challenged. “Kill us. It won’t make a difference.”

Jane took a gun from one of the guards and aimed it straight at Jesse.

My eyes widened. I clawed at the grass, trying to compel my body to move. Jane’s arm trembled. Her convictions shook.

“Please,” I croaked. Her head snapped in my direction. “Don’t. This isn’t the answer. This isn’t the way to save the world. You do this, and you destroy all hope of ever stopping the infection.”

“What do you know?” she sneered, her teeth dark with blood.

“I know that if we kill one another, we’re no better than the Infected.” I pushed up on unsteady arms. “Life isn’t over. It’s only evolving—”

Jane scoffed. “Blasphemy.”

“No, reality. The ability to adapt, to expand, it exists inside us. We can overcome this, but we have to stop killing one another first.”

Her gun turned on me.

“You think we can overcome this? This hell on earth?”

“Do you think this is the first time we’ve faced extinction?” I rose to my knees. Icy fingers of fear inched down my spine. My blood pounded between my ears. I had to force myself not to look away. Somewhere, deep inside Jane, was a little girl scared of the monsters. I had to find her and show her that we had hope. “I know how to save us, but if you kill us, then you destroy any chance of stopping this.”

“Liar,” Jane said. “How could you know?”

“Just kill them!” Stu shouted.

“Jane, please,” I whispered.

Beyond her, a crowd huddled together. A few guards had been left to keep watch. Past them was the tree line, which was nothing more than a formless shadow stretched across the horizon. The world continued on, beyond this camp, beyond any other camp that struggled to get by.

From the trees, shapes emerged, black figures that staggered and stumbled toward our camp. They pressed into the perimeter, a deluge of undead that would soon wash over us.

A gunshot cracked open the night with a thundering clap. I caught the glimmer of blood spray before Jane fell forward and face-planted the ground. Bruce stood behind her, a revolver aimed at where she’d stood.

It was like a bomb went off. The three guards who stood by Jane began to fire. I lunged for the shotgun and turned around, shooting Stu before he could get off a round. His head exploded into a congealed mess of blood. I scrambled to my feet.

Three guards lay on the ground with head wounds. The wall collapsed, toppling over as easily as a house of cards, and the Infected flooded in.

Bruce stood over Jane, chest heaving. “I… She… This wasn’t what was supposed to happen. I…”

“We don’t have time—” I was cut off by the foghorn bellow of an Infected.

They were right on us. Their rotting shapes grew solid. I pumped the shotgun and fired off a shot at the barreling Infected, hitting him in the shoulder. The Infected’s body twisted, and he staggered, but he didn’t stop. He came, ravenous and wild.

Bruce craned his head around. He started to scream, but it was knocked out of him as the Infected tackled him. I lunged for Bruce, but someone caught me around the waist.

“Let him go,” Jesse shouted. “Grab the guns, and let’s go!”

“You can’t— He’s—” What? Dead. Bruce’s screams grew wet and gurgled, like so many others we heard all around us. I pushed off Jesse and collected Stu’s weapon.

Everyone grabbed what guns they could. Screams erupted in the distance. The purging was over, and all that was left was another broken camp. Nash carried Chloe into the RV with Jaden following behind. I shoved some guns into the front of the truck. Rio climbed into the driver’s seat of the pickup and started it up.

I glanced toward the Infected. They were running for us, closing in fast. I spared Bruce one final look and then rushed into the RV. Sawyer started her up, and we peeled around the church, barreling through the rest of the flimsy perimeter.

I shoved past Jesse and ran into the bedroom, where I raised the blinds on the single window. I watched as people scrambled to pull themselves together and escape. Now, with death pressing in, it didn’t matter who was a sinner and who was a saint. We were all food.

Time and time again, we watched civilization fall, and it always felt like a bitch slap. I bit back the misery, told myself to move on, but how long would we keep going? I pressed a hand against the window. The Infected came down on the fence, the numbers too great for the plywood and sheet metal to hold. They slammed into the barricade, and like the rest of the world, it fell.

I swore Bruce looked up and watched us as we drove away. Impossible, I knew. He was lost to the infection and to the inevitable fate of mankind. But in the thickness of the night, I saw a faint glimmer. Most likely it was my mind playing tricks on me, but there was a small part of me that saw moonlight reflecting off his eyes.

A hand slid over my shoulder. I turned to Jesse and pressed my face into his shoulder with a shudder.

“I…” What? I hated this? So did he. I didn’t finish the sentence. I wrapped my arms around his neck and savored the feel of him against me.

“We can’t save them all,” he whispered into my ear.

I nodded, because really, that was all I could do.

I AM HOPE COVER REVEAL | GIVEAWAY

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Evelyn Shepherd reveals the beautiful cover art for her next book in her THE METEORA TRILOGY series titled I AM HOPE.

It releases on September 8, 2015, published by Loose Id Publication.

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BLURB

The undead were only the beginning.

Topher, Jesse, and Sawyer thought their greatest threat were the Infected and Mutated that roam the world. As they struggle to reach the camp in Kill Devil Hills in North Carolina, they soon discover that the monstrous mutations of the undead are the least of their problems. Something else, something far more intelligent and lethal, is hunting them.

Topher knows that the only way humanity will survive is to find a cure for the strange infection that’s ravaged the world. He’s on the brink of discovering it; but the further his research goes, the more he realizes that curing the world of the infection may mean losing Sawyer.

The three will fight to stay together, and Topher will have to make the ultimate choice: cure the world or save his lover?

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PRESENTING

Cover Art by Valerie Tibbs

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EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT

[Please insert the assigned excerpt here]

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Evelyn Shepherd lives in Columbus, Ohio with two fat cats. Her time is split between writing and running a book/writing blog. She’s the author of the Theo Bourne Series, the best-selling Last Canticle, and the award-winning Meteora Trilogy.

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SPOTLIGHT: The Homecoming by J. Scott Coatsworth | BOOK GIVEAWAY!

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AboutTheBook

TH CoverTitle: The Homecoming

Author: J. Scott Coatsworth

Publisher: Less Than Three Press

Cover Artist: London Burden

Length: 20,000 words

Release Date: July 29, 2015

Blurb: When his own world is destroyed, Aldiss and his crew barely manage to escape, leaving friends and lovers behind. What was meant to be an exploratory trip back to the home world turns into a mad dash for survival.

When they awaken from stasis on Earth, which was abandoned by humanity five centuries before, they must quickly learn about their new home. While exploring the region around the ship, Aldiss meets Hari, a shape-changer, whose people harbor secrets that might cost the crew their lives.

Excerpt

Hari reached the edge of the woods just in time to see Neru crouching to leap at the two-legs. Young fool.

He gathered himself and jumped after Neru, knocking him aside as his teeth reached for the two-legs’ throat.

Neru turned and snarled at him, backing away toward the woods.

Hari stood firm, ears back, hackles raised, and drew the corners of his mouth back to reveal his teeth. Back off, Neru.

The whelp shook his head and grinned with the brashness of youth, until Hari leaped at him and nipped his ear. With a surprised yelp, Neru turned his head, deferring to Hari’s strength. As you say, brother. There was a cockiness to Neru’s look that unsettled him.

The other wolf backed up slowly then turned to disappear into the woods.

Hari caught a glimpse of Mavi watching from the shadows. The old wolf snarled, and slunk off after her son.

What do you seek, old mother? Hari wondered, watching Mavi’s silver-tipped tail flicker into the darkness. It was clear where Neru’s courage and cunning had come from.

Hari turned back toward the two-legs. He was holding a strange stick, not unlike the one that Hari’s grandmother had shown him in the wolf dream.

But it was his face that caught Hari’s eye. He knew that face. The two-legs’ eyes were white-gray, and his jet-black hair was swept to the side.

Despite the danger, he shifted in the manner only a few of the clan are able to do in the cold. He grew quickly taller and less hairy but no less muscled, and stood naked before the two-legs.

They stared at each other for a long moment. Hari felt an immense attraction washing over him. He saw in his summer form that this two-legs was beautiful. His own body responded to this… man… in an unexpected way, seeing and feeling things his winter form could not. Hari leaned forward and sniffed the stranger, drinking in his musk. It smelled enticing. Strangely familiar.

He sensed the two-legs stiffen, and to reassure, him, Hari licked the man’s neck.

The two-legs was trembling now like a young whelp, so he tried something else. He took the stranger’s face in his hands and kissed him.

The shaking slowed, and then the man was kissing him back. Hari was hungry for him, like a starving wolf at the end of a long, hard winter.

It is not the time for this, the keh whispered in his ear.

He broke contact and turned away, ashamed that he was betraying his Clan, and for lust. An emotion of his summer form.

“I’m sorry,” he said to the two-legs, without looking back. “It won’t happen again.” Even he was not sure if he meant Neru’s attack, or the kiss.

He shifted back into his winter form and loped off into the woods after his pack mates.

BuyLinks

Less Than Three Press

Amazon US

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AboutTheAuthor

Scott has been writing since elementary school, when he and won a University of Arizona writing contest in 4th grade for his first sci-fi story (with illustrations!). He finished his first novel in his mid-twenties, but after seeing it rejected by ten publishers, he gave up on writing for a while.

Over the ensuing years, he came back to it periodically, but it never stuck. Then one day, he was complaining to Mark, his husband, early last year about how he had been derailed yet again by the death of a family member, and Mark said to him “the only one stopping you from writing is you.

Since then, Scott has gone back to writing in a big way, finishing more than a dozen short stories – some new, some that he had started years before – and seeing his first sale. He’s embarking on a new trilogy, and also runs the Queer Sci Fi (http://www.queerscifi.com) site, a support group for writers of gay sci fi, fantasy, and supernatural fiction.

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Winner’s Prize: E-copy of The Homecoming.

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TourSchedule

August 10:

Susan Mac Nicol

August 11:

Wicked Faeries Tales And Reviews

Diverse Reader

August 12:

Love Bytes Reviews

August 13:

Prism Book Alliance

Amanda C. Stone

August 14:

The Land of Make Believe

August 15:

Nephy’s World

August 16:

Man2ManTastic

August 17:

Loving Without Limits

August 18:

Divine Magazine

World of Diversity Fiction

August 19:

Evelyn Shepherd

August 20:

Eyes on Books

August 21:

Molly Lolly: Reader, Reviewer, Lover of Words

Carly’s Book Reviews

Review: The Homecoming by J. Scott Coatsworth

I received this book for free by the author for an honest and impartial review. My receiving the book in no way affects my review.

 

TITLE: The Homecoming

AUTHOR: J. Scott Coatsworth

GENRE: LGBT Romance, Fantasy 

RATING: 2 ½ Stars

Buy Links: 

Less Than Three Press

Amazon US

All Romance eBooks

Kobo

SUMMARY: When his own world is destroyed, Aldiss and his crew barely manage to escape, leaving friends and lovers behind. What was meant to be an exploratory trip back to the home world turns into a mad dash for survival.

When they awaken from stasis on Earth, which was abandoned by humanity five centuries before, they must quickly learn about their new home. While exploring the region around the ship, Aldiss meets Hari, a shape-changer, whose people harbor secrets that might cost the crew their lives.

BUY LINKS:

REVIEW:

The Homecoming had a mixture of pros and cons. I think the biggest issue with the book was that it was too short. There’s a reason fantasy stories are long. It’s to allow ample room for world building and character development, to key points in the genre. The story didn’t allow for this. Important details and developments are crammed into a short number of pages, leaving you wanting (and needing) more.

Scott Coatsworth is talented. The writing was strong, with great imagery. The characters were intriguing and I was genuinely interested about the worlds, but for the majority of the story I was confused and wanting to know more—why did humans leave earth, what happened on their new planet, what are all these unique things they keep mentioning? How do wolves shift to humans? Why are there only certain wolves that do?

Aldiss and Hari had potential as characters, but the space the author allowed for them to grow and form a relationship, wasn’t enough. The romance felt rushed, especially since it doesn’t start till a good portion of the way through the story.

To put simply in terms of pros and cons:

Pros—Great writing. Interesting characters. A unique world.

Cons—A little too much tree imagery. Too short, not enough world & character development.

What I’d like is to see the author take the story and turn it into a full length fantasy. I’d be happy to see 90-110k of the world. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be about sex, but rather about the environment and the characters as a whole. If J. Scott Coatsworth did that, I’d happily throw my money at the story and buy it.

GUEST BLOG: Gail Koger

Planes, Trains, and Taxis.

Planes:

On a sixteen hour flight from Australia I got stuck sitting next to an English lady who was all elbows.  I mean, those suckers should have been registered as lethal weapons. Jab! Jab! Jab!  Joe Frazier had nothing on her. Trying to keep out of range, I ended up sharing half of my sister’s seat. Needless to say, she wasn’t very happy either.

About thirty minutes into the flight from hell, the English lady pulled a handkerchief out of her pocket and rubbed briskly at her really hairy underarms. Ewww!   Where the heck was the flight attendant when you needed her? I pushed my call button frantically. C’mon, c’mon I can’t take another 15 hours of this crap.  After what seemed like an eternity, okay it was more like five minutes, the flight attendant walked up. Before I can say a word, the English lady rudely butted in and ordered five of those little bottles of whiskey. I watched in amazement as she lined them up on her tray and proceeded to toss them down, one after another.  Twenty minutes later she was asleep and stayed that way for the entire flight.

Trains:

If you want to travel to Mexico, make sure you fly. I made the big mistake of taking the train from Nogales to Mazatlan,Mexico.  Hey, it was cheap. Really cheap and I soon found out why. The toilet was the pull down kind. No privacy. If you needed to go, you pulled the sucker out of the wall and did your business with everyone in the compartment watching. Yeah, like that was going to happen. I’m proud to say I held it for twelve hours straight. Okay, I kept my legs crossed and prayed a lot.

The sleeping berths faced the front of the train. Every time it stopped you fell out of bed. They made a lot of stops. By the time we arrived in Mazatlan, I’m sleep deprived and really, really needed to pee. I rushed for the door, eager to find a real bathroom and found myself face to face with a big Hispanic dude. I eyed his scruffy unshaven face, filthy, sweat stained yellow shirt and his big ass rifle in horror. Holy guacamole, a bandito and we’re about to be robbed.  No, I did not pee my pants, but it was close. The guy turned out to be El Policia or as us Americans like to say a cop. He wanted to know if we had any drugs. I pulled out a bottle of aspirin and handed it to him. He was not amused.

Taxis:

Riding in taxis can be downright terrifying.  There’s the language barrier. Yes, I went back to Mexico, my mistake. Moving on, I’ll admit my Spanish is limited. So communicating can be like a game of charades. Lots of hand gestures, pantomiming water and swimming.  “Adios Cerritos Beach. Si?”  At the blank look in the driver’s eyes, I did my best swimming routine and spoke very slowly. “Vamonos, beach. Si?”  We ended up at the market with twelve of his cousins trying to sell us handmade Mexican jewelry. Go figure.

Have you ever ridden in one of those airport vans? You know, the ones driven by a downright surly driver who speaks very little English and can’t get off his cell phone long enough to find out where you’re going? That should have been my first clue that things weren’t quite right. My second clue should have been the panicked expressions of the Japanese businessmen already seated. I climbed in and before I could even close the door, the driver floored it, cutting off a city bus and whizzing in and out of traffic. Did I mention no seatbelts? Red lights weren’t a problem, either. Nope, not at all cuz we weren’t taking the highway, we were doing Mach One down a trash filled alley. The driver seemed hell bent on hitting every pothole he could, sending us crashing into the ceiling.  Like some crazed kamikaze pilot, the driver shot across a busy street, barely missing a semi-truck and zoomed down another alley. I’m all for seeing the sights but c’mon. Dumpsters and transients aren’t really tourist attractions. The driver took a sharp right and suddenly I’m sitting on the lap of a Japanese businessman. He wrapped his arms around me as we went airborne and careened into the parking lot of a Marriot hotel. As soon as the driver opened the door, we all bailed. Was it my hotel? No, but I’m not stupid or suicidal. The nice Japanese businessmen escorted me inside and bought me a drink. Okay, a lot of drinks. Hey, I needed them to calm my nerves.


BLURB FOR JUST DESSERTS

Kaylee knew being a Coletti Warlord’s mate wasn’t going to be easy. Not only was Talree downright scary, he had a bossy streak a mile long and collected enemies like most men collected  lovers. But while Kaylee’s life might not be perfect, Talree truly loved her.

Flash forward nine months to a very pregnant, insanely hormonal and cranky as hell Kaylee. If the pregnancy wasn’t enough to drive her crazy, Talree’s enemies are tap dancing on her last nerve. The Shani Queen Mother, a psychotic alien with a bone to grind against Talree, decided she wanted the planet Tartum – a barren piece of crap loaded with Ditrum crystals, and part of the Coletti Empire. Her master plan? Kidnap Kaylee and hold her for ransom. If the Overlord refused to give the Queen Mother Tartum, she would feed Kaylee and her son to the Tai-Kok.

She thinks Kaylee will beg for mercy. Boy, is the alien bitch in for a surprise. She’s about to meet a woman suffering from hormone overload and a serious lack of chocolate. The only one begging for mercy will be the Queen Mother.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I was a 9-1-1 dispatcher for thirty-one years and to keep insanity at bay, I took up writing. Not to worry. The insanity isn’t catching – much. Other than the addiction to chocolate and the twitch in my left eye, I’m good. Next up in the Coletti Warlord series is Just Desserts. My current project is Catching Dragos, a paranormal romance.

Links:

www.gailkoger.com

http://www.loose-id.com/coletti-warlords-just-desserts.html

https://www.facebook.com/Colettiwarlordbooks?fref=ts

BOOK HAUL!

20150627_084337

So I haven’t done an original post in a little while. I have a few things in the works, including some reviews, but I thought I’d do a little bit of a haul. Now I originally was going to record it, but due to some rather annoying technical difficulties, I gave up. I’ll have to work on that, because I’d like to also start doing live reviews, which would be a little more in depth on my opinions. I’ll keep you up to date on where that is, but right now it’s in li~imbo!
This past Saturday was the annual Half-Price Clearance Sale, where all the local Half-Price Book stores in the central Ohio area come together and set their clearance items. Everything is $2 or less. On Sunday it drops down to a $1. It’s a three day extravaganza of books upon books. And I mean this was an entire building down at the Ohio Expo Center filled with rows upon rows of tables, covered in books. It was huge!

It started at 9, but I got there early with Dahmpir72. We were there around 8:30 and there was already a line. It was crazy! The line grew as we waited, starting to wrap around into the parking lot. The reason we got there early was to get some exclusive totes. This is my Black Friday, y’all. It was crazy, but fun. When the doors opened, we rushed in. It didn’t take long for the carts to vanish.

I won’t go into detail, but needless to say we left about a quarter till noon and we still hadn’t even put a dent in the place. I managed to keep within my $20 budget, which I’m proud of.

20150630_111704This is the front of the tote

20150630_111717

This is the back. I thought it was super cute!

I made out like a bandit. I got some really great books. Some of them I read, some of them I never even heard of, and a couple I’ve been searching for for a really long time!

20150630_111659The first book I got was THE SAMURAI’S GARDEN by Gail Tsukiyama. I’ve already read it, but it’s one of my favorites from her so it was a must have. Dhampir72 actually found a copy as well (hers is with the newer cover).

I then got NORTH AND SOUTH by Elizabeth Gaskell. You do not even know how long I’ve been looking for this book. I’ve been hunting for it for over a year, ever since I saw the Richard Armitage mini series from BBC. It’s sooooooo good. If you like period pieces, especially Regency/Victorian era ones, this is right up your ally.

The third book, which as you can see has no dust jacket, is an intermediate grade story called THE SPY PRINCESS. I thought it looked super cute, so I figured I’d give it a try. I got another intermediate grade novel called The Doppleganger: The Great Escape. It’s a comic/novel duo and it seemed super cute. I’ll post reviews when I finishr eading.

The 5th book I found made me laugh and was an instant by. It’s called Raptor Red by Robert Bakker. And you guessed it, it’s about raptors. I couldn’t find a better book to read after seeing Jurassic World, than Jurassic Park its self.

I got another creature book. This one is by the writer of Jaws, and it’s called WHITE SHARK. I looooove creature/monster books. I think they’re so fun. They always remind me of bad Sy-Fy movies.

I picked up a copy of THE SNOW GARDEN by Christopher Rice. He’s one of my all time favorite authors, and I’ve alraedy read this one. I just didn’t have a copy of my own. I’m slowly collecting all his books.

Then of course, the final book I got, was Anne Rice’s THE CLAIMING OF SLEEPING BEAUTY. I’ve been dying to read this series, so when I saw it for $2 I couldn’t resist.

Well that’s it. That’s all I got. Not a bad deal for under $20. They do these sales all over the US. So talk to your local Half-Price store to see when yours is. I recommend going, because you never know what treasure you’ll find!

GUEST BLOG by Renee N. Meland

THE FREEDOM IN GOING BACKWARDS

I had an epiphany the other day. It seems, at least for us artsy types, that we spend the first part of our adult lives figuring out how to go back to the way we were when we were five. I saw a similar post on a friend’s website the other day, so I know I’m not alone on this. When we’re five, everything seems achievable: being a writer, being an astronaut…whatever dream comes into our juvenile little heads, we see no reason why we can’t achieve it.

At what point were we told we were wrong about that?

Somewhere between age five and age thirty, our perspective gets all screwed up. I don’t know if it comes from the first bill we ever have to pay on our own, or the first relative who tells us, with a chuckle, “no really, what do you want to do with your life?” Either way, that five-year-old gets lost along the way.

And it takes a while to get them back.

Some people never do. Some people find themselves on their deathbed, thinking “yeah I never did write that story/paint that painting/build that house, but I sure met everyone else’s expectations of me.” It’s crazy that we were are most true selves before we even reached junior high.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to make a life for yourself, in whatever way that means. There are other dreams that come with being an adult that are also valid: wanting a house, wanting to be able to travel…these things are important too.

But somewhere along the line, it seems like we got the idea in our head that we had to choose. One or the other. House or art. Cruise or culture. What is it that makes us think we can’t have both? There never seems to be enough time in the day, but if you really want something, you’ll find a way to squeeze it in. And you may find that half-hour that you shove into your schedule is the best part of your day.

Five-Year-Old-Me told me that.


Burning Doors

The Extraction List Series

Book 2

Renee N. Meland

Genre: Science Fiction Thriller

Publisher: Limitless Publishing

Date of Publication: April 28th, 2015

ISBN: 9781680581119

ASIN: B00W7GV018

Number of pages: 164

Cain Foley committed his first murder before he could even drive a car…

Not that he would’ve had anywhere to drive to. When he was fifteen, America was one of the poorest countries in the world, and its’ citizens took their hatred of that fact out on each other through gangs and violence.

Children barely tall enough for carnival rides peppered the streets selling drugs (or themselves) so they could buy their next meal.

Every night on the news, Cain watched as an angelic blonde woman who lost her own child swore she’d end it…

She assaulted America’s televisions with praise for the Parental Morality Law: a set of rules that spells out exactly what it takes to be a parent in the eyes of the government, and the consequences of breaking those rules. He prayed every night that she’d come to rescue him before his father took off his belt again.

Before she could save him, Cain faced a fatal choice…

Fight back or die on the basement floor.

He chose life.

Now on the run, he finds himself being hunted by a police officer with his own special brand of torture. Before he can save even a handful of the children who have been swept up in the gang life, he must first cover up not one, but two murders. His father’s and one committed by a teenage madam who is either the love of his life, or his final undoing.

As he feels himself being pushed further and further to the edge, Cain realizes that surviving his father was just the beginning.

Available on Amazon  Kindle  Print


EXCERPT

The first time I killed someone, it was an accident. Though I guess it was the kind of accident that happens when you squeeze your hands around someone’s neck for too long, or when you shove someone who is standing too close to the edge of a building. In my case, I accidentally killed my father when I beat him to death with a pipe.

He had set me up that night, I’m sure of it. I was always careful to leave the TV volume down so I wouldn’t be caught. But when I flipped the power on that night, the news roared. The woman I wanted to see was there, giving a speech like always, but her voice came out with the force of thunder. Sweat drenched my body when I heard the door to my parents’ upstairs bedroom fly open and hit the wall. The foundation shook and so did my limbs. I sat frozen in a seated position as I heard his footsteps. All I could focus on were his shiny patent leather shoes coming toward me. Even in the middle of the night, he took the time to slip them on.

I could smell him before I even saw his feet. He constantly stunk of mouthwash and old cologne; it was some putrid mix of sandalwood and beach vacations that we would never take. He cackled as he stepped toward me, so the minty air from his breath reached me before his hand did. I felt my head hit the floor before I felt the familiar sting in my cheek.

“You’re so stupid. You really think you’ll ever leave here? Where do you think you’re going to go, huh? You need me. She hasn’t come for you and she never will!” He kicked me in the side with his foot.

My stomach clenched from the impact.

I usually kept quiet when he hit me. At most, I would agree with whatever he was saying to stop him before he did real damage.

It never worked.

No matter what I said, or didn’t say, the blows would keep coming. My mother was always conveniently upstairs, but no one can tell me she couldn’t hear the snap of his belt or the furniture rattle as he shoved me into it.

That night was different. Maybe it was watching the woman from the television, or maybe it was the way his smile stretched across his face as he struck me, I don’t know. But when he was finished and heading back upstairs, I spat towards him.

My cheeks burned as I did it. In fact, my whole body felt like it was on fire. But I’d be lying if I said I wished I could take it back. Even when he turned, eyes wide when he noticed the wad of saliva glistening on the concrete floor, I didn’t regret it one bit.

I may have even cracked a smile.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Renee N. Meland is an avid writer and reader of speculative fiction. She and her husband reside in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. When she is not writing or being a devoted doggy-mom, she is gardening or learning a new recipe.

She is currently working on the rest of the books in The Extraction List Series. Other upcoming projects involve reincarnation, and a house filled with people who all have something to hide.

Blog: https://reneenmeland.wordpress.com/

Twitter @reneenmeland

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8194285.Renee_N_Meland

Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/pages/Renee-N-Melands-Books/311899338826241

SPOTLIGHT: Genetic Rebellion Series by Ann Gimpel

The line between hunter and hunted thins, blurs, and finally shatters.

Sometime between the interminable wars in the Middle East and 9/11, the United States moved forward breeding a race of super humans. Clandestine labs formed, armed with eager scientists who’d always yearned to manipulate human DNA. At first the clones looked promising, growing to fighting size in as little as a dozen years, but V1 had design flaws.

Seven years ago, a rogue group turned on their creators, blew up the lab, and hit all the other breeding farms, freeing whomever they could find. In the intervening time, they’ve retreated to hidden compounds and created a society run by men. Women are kept on a tight leash because the men fear if they discover their innate power, they’d launch their own rebellion.

Being a genetically altered human without a name grew old, so Glory named herself. Surrounded by a maze of unpleasant alternatives, she makes a bold choice and ends up a fugitive in the midst of a Minnesota winter. Once she’s on the run, she discovers how unprepared she is for life outside her protected compound.

CIA agent, Roy Kincaid, devoted his career to hunting super humans who staged a rebellion seven years before. He’s not making much headway, so he goes deep undercover. One blustery night, a striking woman staggers into the café where he’s catching a late meal. Part waif, part runway model, the half-frozen woman arrows straight into his heart.

Glory’s flat out of alternatives, but death in the storm might be preferable to telling the tall stranger looming over her anything. Sensing Roy is dangerous, she pushes into his head seeking clues and discovers he hunts those like her. Maybe she can fool him, just for tonight. Get a hot meal and dry motel room out of the deal. If she’s lucky, he’ll never find out she’s on the run from the same group he’s targeted for death.

The thing she didn’t count on was falling in love.


EXCERPT

“Dessert, hon?” The waitress sidled back over to him, and Roy realized he was her only customer.

“Sure. What do you have?”

She rattled off a series of pies and cakes. He chose apple pie with a scoop of ice cream, and she left with his dinner plate. Roy slumped against the chair. He had to keep going. No choice. Not really. A good night’s sleep, coupled with the first adequate meal he’d had in a couple days might make a big difference in his attitude. At least he hoped they would.

He’d just begun on the pie, which had a surprisingly flaky crust, when a rush of cold air yanked his attention toward the door. A tall woman walked in. Long, dark hair caked with snow swirled around her, and she held her body tightly as if she were really cold. Roy glanced at her feet and was shocked to see a pair of tennis shoes with holes in them. Good God, had she been outside with such inadequate footwear? Didn’t she understand she could freeze to death? Even his stout boots didn’t do much to divert the cold.

Keeping her gaze downcast, she made her way to the counter and sat.

“Coffee, hon?” The waitress asked.

“How much is it?” the woman inquired.

“Two bucks.”

“Oh.” The woman’s shoulders drooped, and she swiveled the stool around, getting ready to go back out into the storm.

“No, you don’t.” The waitress’s voice sharpened. “I’ll stand you a coffee. You look about done in.”

The woman’s even features melted into what looked like relief before she turned back to face the counter. “Thank you. That’s really kind and I appreciate it. My wallet was stolen, and—”

“Never you mind.” The waitress patted the woman’s shoulder. “Bet you’re hungry too.” She poured hot coffee into a mug and handed it to the woman, who drew the steaming liquid to her lips.

“Maybe a little,” the woman ventured. She clasped the cup with fingers white from cold.

By now, Roy knew he was staring, but he couldn’t make himself turn away. There was something waiflike and alluring about the tall woman with long, black hair. Snow dripped off her, creating puddles around her stool. All she wore against the winter weather was a thick, gray sweater and worn jeans. No scarf. No gloves. No hat. He was close to certain her wallet hadn’t been stolen. She looked more like an abuse victim on the run to him. Maybe he could help her get to her intended destination, if it wasn’t too far out of his way.

He pushed his chair back and made his way to the counter. “Say—” he began, but she started and drew away as if she expected him to hit her.

I was right. Abuse victim for sure.

“I’m not going to hurt you.” He kept his voice low, soothing. “Order whatever you want, and I’ll pay for it.”

She kept her gaze on her hands clutching the coffee cup. “I can’t let you do that, sir. I’m all right. Truly I am.”

Without waiting for an invitation, he took the stool next to hers and called to the waitress. “Bring her the same meal I just had.”

“You got it, hon,” rang from the direction of the kitchen.

“You are not all right,” Roy said. “You’re thin as a rail, and you were shivering when you came in here. In fact, you still are. I’ll bet your shoes are wet clear through.” When she didn’t respond, he ploughed on. “Let me help you.”

She shook her head. “Don’t want your kind of help. It always comes with strings.”

“Mine doesn’t.”

He pushed a little with his enhanced mental ability to get her to look at him. If she did, maybe she’d see truth in his eyes. A shudder ran down her thin frame, but she dragged her gaze upward reluctantly. Roy felt bad for forcing her, but he didn’t have time to soothe her wounded places, which he suspected ran deep.

Eyes a shade of green he’d never seen inspected him. Long, thick lashes framed those eyes, and they were set in a face with high cheekbones, a high forehead, and black eyebrows winging a track over porcelain skin.

“Who are you?” The words tore from him. He hadn’t meant to say them. She was nervous as a feral cat as it was.

She shook her head sadly. “No one. I’m no one. You’ll forget all about me when you leave here.”

Something shifted in his mind, but he fought it. Before he could determine if something real had just happened or if he were imagining things, the waitress showed up with the woman’s dinner.

“Here you go, hon. Hope medium’s okay for that steak?”

“Fine, thank you.” Before the words were out, the woman picked up the fork and knife and shoveled food into her mouth.

Roy congratulated himself on a good call. Even though she’d been reluctant to admit it, she really was starving. He had no idea what she’d do tomorrow or the next day, but it wasn’t his problem. While she ate, he observed her from the corner of his eyes. In addition to being hungry and underdressed, she looked young. Maybe twenty. He’d be surprised if she were much more than that.

He shook a mental finger at himself. The country was full of abused women running from the men who used them as punching bags before they raped them. It was one part of law enforcement work he’d never understood: why the women kept going back for more.

“There are safe houses for girls like you,” he said, and could’ve kicked himself. What the hell was wrong with his mouth tonight? He couldn’t seem to keep words on the other side of it.

She stopped chewing long enough to glance at him. “What’s a safe house?”


We have to trust to fight side by side, but love’s so unexpected—and so irresistible —it trumps everything.

Honor takes a huge chance and flees her compound one wintry night. A genetically altered woman, she has no memories from before her kin staged a rebellion seven years before. Because of her enhanced physiology, she finds a home working for the CIA alongside four other women just like her. There are still plenty of rules, but they’re different, and she’s figuring out how to blend in.

Milton Reins burns through women and marriages. After the third one implodes, he swears off hunting for a replacement. Running the CIA is a more than fulltime job. There’s no time for anything else in his life, which is fine until Honor comes along. Training in the gym throws their bodies together and makes him remember the feel of a woman in his arms. Milton aches for her, but she’s a freak—the CIA term for test tube humans designed by scientists.

Honor wants Milton with every bone in her body, but it’s a terrible idea, especially after she delves into his head and sees his ambivalence toward her kind. Need drives them together, but their differences create roadblocks every step of the way. Fueled by anger and fear, she shuts him out. So what if the sex was great, she’s done.

Or is she?

EXCERPT

“How about this?” Honor finished her drink and twirled the glass between her hands. “The other women and I are on top of things. We’ll make sure nothing…unexpected happens.”

“What if I pull rank and order Charity to stay here?” he demanded, not liking her answer.

Honor shook her head. “That’d be a bad idea.” After a pause, she added hastily, “Sir. With all due respect.”

Milton chortled. “You’re learning. Why is it a bad idea?”

Honor closed her teeth over her lower lip. “Like all of us, she’s finding her way. Figuring out where she fits in here. Even though we lived in the western United States, we may as well have been in Bangladesh for all the differences between living here and where we were after the rebellion.”

“You still haven’t told me why it’s a bad idea.”

“She needs to trust you. If you ride herd on her, treat her like the Nameless Ones treated us, she never will, and this…problem of hers will just get worse.”

Desperation flared, a glowing nimbus she nipped quickly, but he’d been paying close attention, plus he’d been inside her mind. Milton pushed forward with a combination of intuition and his augmented ability. “You’re worried it will get worse anyway.”

Her gaze skittered away. “Yes. No. Possibly. These things are hard to predict. Please.” She leaned forward this time and placed a hand over his where it lay atop his leg. “Let us handle it our way. I give you my word we’ll ask for help before it gets out of control.”

Her touch was warm, electric. Before he could stop himself, he set his other hand over hers, and turned the bottom hand upward, capturing her flesh between his. His mouth was suddenly dry, and his groin tightened with a rush of sexual energy so intense it stole his breath.

Words became a struggle, but he forced them out anyway. “Doesn’t sound very smart to me. Is there any chance she’ll switch allegiance?”

Honor’s eyes widened. “Oh hell, no. You mean fight for the Nameless Ones?” When Milton nodded, she was even more emphatic. “No. That’d never happen. She hates them just as much as we do.”

It was the main thing that had worried him: that he’d been playing host to a double agent—again. Some of the tension drained out of him, and he rubbed his fingers over Honor’s where they lay clasped between his.

“I really should go, sir.” She tried to pull her hand back, but he didn’t let go.

“Do you always do what you should?”

Honor looked away. “Not a fair question, sir.”

“Stop calling me that!”

“But you are my commanding officer.” Honor kept her voice soft, but the meaning in her words slapped Milton squarely across his forehead.

He released her hand. “Sorry.” He spoke stiffly. “I forgot myself. You’re free to go.”

The sadness he’d sensed earlier was back in spades. It flowed from her in slow, tired waves. He pushed, surprised when she let him inside her mind. Not far, but enough for him to view the loneliness she’d lived with all her life. Her only safety zone had been the dozen women in her dorm at the compound, and seven of them were dead. No wonder she needed to do everything possible to protect Charity.

Milton got to his feet and offered her a hand. She took it and stood too. “Thanks for helping me understand you a little,” he said.

“You’re welcome. Sometimes that way is easier than talking. Thank you for not insisting Charity stay here.”

“She’s important to you,” he said. “I didn’t fully appreciate how much you depend on each other until you allowed me into your thoughts.”

Milton didn’t know if he moved toward her, she toward him, or both of them simultaneously, but Honor ended up in his arms. He tightened his hold, enjoying the feel of her sleekly muscled body against his. She matched his six-foot height and fit perfectly in his arms. His cock hardened against her belly, and her eyes widened in surprise.

“Of course you’d be a virgin,” he murmured, stroking his hands down her back.

“We were off-limits to the Nameless Ones, but we talked about sex among ourselves.”

Arousal flashed deep inside him. Even though he knew he shouldn’t, he asked, “What did you talk about?” He cupped his hands around her high, firm buttocks and snugged her against his erection.


What does it take to move past a lifetime of hating?

Charity’s luck never ran strong because her original configuration was unstable. Her handlers designed experiments to fix the problem, but only made it worse. Sick to death of living under their thumb, she jumps at a chance to escape her compound. She’s no sooner settled in as a CIA special operative—a role where she can put her augmented mind and body to use—when her wobbly genetics escalate.

Tony’s a freak—a genetically altered human waging war against the government. He snaps up an offer of amnesty, walking away from his role as a genetic researcher to work for the CIA. When Charity collapses in a severe seizure, he labors to save her life, but nothing’s working. In a last ditch effort, he joins his mind to hers and discovers he wants her more than he’s ever wanted anything. Only problem is she hates every single male freak for how they treated women in the compounds.

Charity recovers from her medical crisis, but all she can think about is Tony. Furious, determined to never let anyone like him near her, she blocks him from her mind, but he seeps back in anyway. Loving someone like Tony is a huge risk, a gamble that could throw her already precarious genes into a tailspin.

Knowing all that, why the hell is she considering it?

 

EXCERPT

Tony dialed his night vision up another notch and paced Frank as they ran hard around Langley’s perimeter. After being cooped up for hours in a plane, both men needed to burn off some steam. As Tony ran, scenes from his computer-like brain flashed before him.

After his petri dish birth on one of the breeding farms set up by the U.S. government, he’d been groomed from adolescence to work as a genetic researcher. None of them attended school; their knowledge was downloaded directly from huge mainframes operated by government scientists. He lived a comfortable life at his breeding farm near Portland, Oregon, but it blew up in his face seven years ago. He was twenty-two then and knee-deep in research to perfect those like him. Each successive strain was a bit better than the last, but problems still cropped up.

He’d been close to a major breakthrough—at least he thought he was, but it could’ve been a dead end like so much of his research—when a cadre of renegade freaks, genetically engineered humans just like him, staged a rebellion. They hadn’t cared for the decision to scrap the earlier prototypes, so they blew up every breeding farm they could find. After that, they created hidden compounds, like the one in Keyser, West Virginia where Tony ended up.

He hadn’t bought into the violence, but there wasn’t a hell of a lot of choice once it began. Normal humans shot them on sight after the rebellion, so he went along with the program and moved his genetic research to his assigned compound. He didn’t have nearly the access to materials he’d had prior to the rebellion, but at least he was still alive.

“You’re pretty quiet, buddy,” Frank observed.

“Sorry. I was thinking.”

The other man snorted. “Always dangerous. About what? Did you come up with something we missed on those hard drives Milton swiped from our headquarters?”

“Nah. Wish it were that straightforward.”

Frank slugged him in the arm. “Watch that esoteric stuff. Our programming’s not designed for it.”

“Maybe not, but do you ever wonder what will become of us?”

“The probability of that line of thought producing something of value is—”

“Not what I asked,” Tony snapped. “We’ve thrown in our lot with normal humans, V0 as it were. We can’t undo it.”

“So? You and I discussed this before we showed ourselves and requested amnesty. We could’ve remained hidden. They would have found Charity without our help, and then they’d have left. We didn’t take that route. Are you having second thoughts?”

“Not really. We didn’t fit in with the other Nameless Ones—except it was a ridiculous moniker, since we had names, we just didn’t tell them to the women.” Tony slowed when they came to a perimeter fence and turned to face the other man. Because of the physical strength built into his genetics, he wasn’t even slightly winded.

Frank stopped and tossed his hood back. Shaggy black hair fell to his shoulders, and he examined Tony through his amber, animal-like eyes with vertical slit pupils. All the men looked very much the same due to shared genetics. Tall, rangy, muscled. Both of them wore regulation issue CIA field gear they hadn’t changed out of yet.

“What aren’t you saying?” Frank asked.

“Not sure. Except I’m feeling like a man without a country. We didn’t fit in there, but we don’t fit in here, either. They don’t trust us. I saw it in Milton’s eyes that night you and I saved Charity’s life.”

Frank grimaced. “Shit, bro. We’re machines. We’re not supposed to have feelings. Who cares if they trust us, so long as they continue to offer us a place to work and live? When did you fall off the wagon?”

Should I?

Tony weighed the advisability of confiding in Frank, but if not him, then whom?


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ann Gimpel is a mountaineer at heart. Recently retired from a long career as a psychologist, she remembers many hours at her desk where her body may have been stuck inside four walls, but her soul was planning yet one more trip to the backcountry. Around the turn of the last century (that would be 2000, not 1900!), she managed to finagle moving to the Eastern Sierra, a mecca for those in love with the mountains. It was during long backcountry treks that Ann’s writing evolved. Unlike some who see the backcountry as an excuse to drag friends and relatives along, Ann prefers solitude. Stories always ran around in her head on those journeys, sometimes as a hedge against abject terror when challenging conditions made her fear for her life, sometimes for company. Eventually, she returned from a trip and sat down at the computer. Three months later, a five hundred page novel emerged. Oh, it wasn’t very good, but it was a beginning. And, she learned a lot between writing that novel and its sequel.

Around that time, a friend of hers suggested she try her hand at short stories. It didn’t take long before that first story found its way into print and they’ve been accepted pretty regularly since then. One of Ann’s passions has always been ecology, so her tales often have a green twist.

In addition to writing, Ann enjoys wilderness photography. She lugs pounds of camera equipment in her backpack to distant locales every year. A standing joke is that over ten percent of her pack weight is camera gear which means someone else has to carry the food! That someone is her husband. They’ve shared a life together for a very long time. Children, grandchildren and three wolf hybrids round out their family.

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