Thursday, May 28, 2015

Kiss the Guardian (Part Two)

Posted by: Kelly Jensen

(Read part one here


Being tricky meant choosing the game that made the best use of Felix’s talents, and that meant not trying Ring the Bell.

“Aww, c’mon, it’s just for fun.” Zed smiled his most winsome smile—or simply plucked another charmer from the collection. “And you’ll like the thing you have to do for me.” He winked. “Promise.”

Zed was obviously thinking of sexy things. Felix liked sexy things. “Fine.”

Elias went first. Felix did not laugh when the captain failed to ring the bell. Nessa gave it her best, swinging the mallet against the plate with a small shriek. She did not ring the bell. Felix didn’t really care if Zed managed the feat, he simply enjoyed watching his man move—his grip on the mallet handle, the way his torso twisted, the bunch of musculature in his arms. He rang the bell.

Despite his contrary nature, Felix gave it his best shot. The holographic arrow darted up from the plate and stopped just short of the bell. The silence was deafening. Mustering a smile, he handed the mallet to Qek.

“Give it all you’ve got!” Nessa encouraged, jumping and clapping her hands like a toddler.

Qek’s forehead smoothed, a sure sign of thought. Then she swung the mallet down with surprising force. The arrow shot up the pole and slammed into the bell.

“Damn.”

“And the winner is our ashushk friend!” the barker announced, handing over a fluffy approximation of a Gentian squirrel.

Qek counted the tentacles, perhaps checking for anatomical correctness. “I have not seen a live Gentian squirrel, but in the pictures I have seen, they are not pink.”

“It’s a toy, Qek.”

“Do adults play with toys?”

Nessa cuffed the side of Felix’s head before he could instruct their pilot further in the art of human sexuality. “Hey.” He rubbed his offended curls.

“Think of it as a keepsake,” Nessa said.

Producing a wrinkled smile, Qek stuffed the squirrel under her arm. “What will we play next?”

Elias was scratching his head. “How come Qek managed to ring the bell harder than Zed?”

“I deduced it was a matter of applying the correct amount of force to exactly the right point of the plate.”

Zed laughed. “Okay, let’s see you apply science to Whac-A-Lem.”

Qek whacked the Lems that were only thinking about poking their holographic noses out of their holes. Then she bowled a perfect game of Skeeball. When all of her stupidly light ping pong balls found their way into fishbowls, Felix had to bite his lips over a pout. How was she doing this? More importantly, without any points, how could he convince Zed to help him flush the water cycler aboard the Chaos? Sexy favors be damned, that was a messy job and he wanted help with it.

The little blue ashushk bounced up and down on her toes, a move obviously borrowed from Nessa, as she collected her prize for popping the most balloons with a dart.

Felix elbowed Zed. “You were covert ops, man. How come you can’t kill six balloons with four darts?”

“Because it’s not fucking possible!”

“Qek’s green giraffe begs to differ.”

Grumbling, Zed led the way to the shooting gallery. “Okay, this is where we’ll separate the men from the ashushk.”

Nessa’s hand shot out before Zed could duck and he got his first cuff of the afternoon.

Felix leaned in to Zed’s side. “You know Qek looks after the weapons stored aboard the Chaos, right? She can break down a plasma rifle in thirty-seven seconds.”

Zed gaped and Felix wished he had a ping pong ball. His mouth formed the perfect O.

Qek won the match—passing off yet another stuffed animal to Felix—and then she met her match. “I do not understand the point of the next game.”

Felix glanced up from an intense study of the neon yellow python wrapped around his wrist. The faux fur was incredibly soft and the eyes were sort of cute. “Huh?”

“It’s a kissing booth,” Nessa explained.

“How is the game played?”

“Well, it’s not a game. You just pass over some credits for the chance to kiss someone really attractive.” Felix glanced at the booth’s occupant and frowned. “Ah, normally it’s a really good looking girl or guy. I dunno what that’s supposed to be.”

The booth’s attendant waved them over. “Want to kiss the Guardian?”

Looked like a cross between an elephant and a Berian cockroach. This was supposed to be the most technologically advanced species in the galaxy?

Zed poked a finger toward the shimmering holo. “That is not a Guardian.”

Elias nudged Zed in the middle of the back. “You should probably kiss it to make sure.”

“I wonder what the Guardians would make of this representation,” Qek mused.

“I got reliable information that this is a bona fide depiction of an actual Guardian,” the barker said.

“I think you’ve been hoodwinked,” Elias replied.

Nessa tilted her head. “I don’t know. I think it has a certain majesty.”

Zed slung an arm around Felix’s shoulders. “Well, I’m not going to kiss it. Not when I got a perfect pair of lips right beside me.”

Corny as hell, but the declaration warmed Felix’s middle. “Neither of us got any points,” he murmured, putting his mouth close enough to Zed’s for that kiss.

Zed pecked his lips. “Just as well we didn’t wager with Qek.”

“I would have asked for help flushing the water cycler,” the little ashushk said.

“I thought it was my turn to do it?”

“Perhaps you’d like to help me with it, Fixer?”

Not really, but it would be uncharitable to say no when Qek had given him his fluffy yellow snake. Felix mustered a smile. “Okay, sure.”

Zed’s lips brushed his ear. “After, I can give you another job to do. One you’ll enjoy.”

Felix’s smile spread into a grin.

“Hey, isn’t anyone going to kiss the Guardian?”

Felix gestured toward Elias. “It’s all yours, Cap’n. Go for it.”

***

Find out more about Zed, Felix, and the rest of the crew's adventures at www.chaosstation.com.

LONELY SHORE, book 2 of the Chaos Station series, is out now!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Kiss the Guardian (Part One)

Posted by: Jenn Burke
To celebrate the release of LONELY SHORE, book two of the Chaos Station series, Kelly and I wanted to treat our readers to a fun short story set between books one and two. We hope you enjoy it! Stay tuned for part two tomorrow.

----

Wenchang Station, 2269

It was just an average delivery job until the clown rolled by on a unicycle.

For a second, Zed thought he’d hallucinated it. Alien poison was flowing through his veins, after all, and God knew what form his mental degeneration would eventually take. Hallucinations were a definite possibility. He’d never had a particular thing for clowns—good or bad—but hallucinations didn’t care, right?

He breathed a sigh of relief when Flick muttered, “What the fuck.”

“I…do not know.” Qek clicked, her broad, blue face smoothing as she tried to understand what had just moved past them. “That…I have never seen such a thing before.”

“Oh my God, is the carnival today?” Ness grabbed Elias’s arm, as if she were trying to stop herself from bouncing. Her wild red curls vibrated with the aborted movement as the captain looked at her with an expression stuck somewhere between amusement and confusion. “We’ve got to check it out.”

Flick narrowed his eyes. “Wait, what carnival?”

The carnival.” Ness waited for them to clue in, but even Zed was drawing a blank. “You guys seriously need to absorb some culture at some point,” she said on a huff. “Wenchang Carnival. It’s a big deal, used to happen twice a year? Ring a bell?”

That sort of did tickle a memory, actually. “Before the war, right?”

“Yeah, and this is the first one since the war ended. And we’re here while it’s on! I always wanted to check it out.” Still holding Elias’s arm with one hand, she gripped Qek’s with the other. “C’mon, Captain, you’re going to win Qek and I some stuffed animals.”

“Oh…great.” Though Elias’s voice was dry, his expression had slipped fully into the amused side of things.

Zed looked at Flick. Flick looked back. He couldn’t quite read his lover’s expression. Were his brows lowered because he thought the carnival was stupid or because he was trying to figure out how the ship’s doctor could be reduced to an excited schoolgirl by the promise of cheap toys?

“You, uh…” Zed shrugged as they trailed after the rest of the Chaos’s crew. “You want to check it out? I could try winning something for you.”

“Or maybe I’ll win something for you.”

“I have better aim.”

“I figure out angles.”

“I’m stronger.”

“I’m trickier.”

“Are we seriously arguing about who’s going to win what?”

“Maybe.” Flick eyed the colorful stalls that came into view as they rounded a corner. “Want to make it interesting?”

Zed couldn’t stop the smile that bloomed on his lips. He had a flash of what they’d been like back at the Academy—always up for fun and games. “What, we’re competing now?”

“Whoever wins the most challenges—”

“Gets the most toys?”

Flick glared at him. “No. Whoever wins the most challenges gets to have the other person do one thing for them.”

“Just one?”

“Greedy bastard. You in or out?”

Zed’s grin widened. “Oh, I’m in.”

***

Catch Part Two of “Kiss the Guardian” tomorrow on Here Be Magic!


Find out more about Zed, Felix, and the rest of the crew's adventures at www.chaosstation.com.


LONELY SHORE, book 2 of the Chaos Station series, is out now!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Loving the Superheroine

Posted by: Jeffe Kennedy
When I first saw this amazing cover, I felt an actual, physical chill.

It was everything I could have hoped for - my warrior princess's thousand-yard stare, the golden glow and a great big freaking sword.

OMG YES YES YES.

I was so thrilled, I called in my guy, David, and bounced happily as I showed him. He said, "there's no way she could swing a sword that big."

Oh, yeah - that annoyed me no end.

I should caveat at this point and say that David is a wonderful man. We've been together nearly 25 years and there's a reason I always put him in my Acknowledgements as the one who makes everything possible. He's a nurturing person, fair-minded and always supportive of everything I do. He also studied Kung Fu alongside me for 15 years and has decidedly strong opinions on the topic of what women fighters can and cannot do.

Which is all fair enough. A lot of Ursula's perspective on fighting and training is informed by those same considerations. I have a pretty good idea of what I can and can't do physically, especially if confronted by a male opponent.

Except this is fiction. And yes, I did tartly ask, "Does it help to know she's not fully human?"

Of course he backpedaled and felt bad for raining on my cover parade. He also doesn't read my books - or really any fiction - and I'm good with that. I also forgave him because I know that what he said was his knee-jerk, programmed response and not how he came to think about it after some discussion.

But it's salient that this is so culturally ingrained in us. We see male action heroes accomplishing the impossible ALL THE TIME. We expect it. Of course Indiana Jones can outrun a boulder despite all laws of physics! Can David Banner become a giant green monster that busts all clothing except his short pants? Why yes! Can Bruce Wayne pour bucket loads of money into technology to make himself a superhero with no supernatural abilities? SAVE US, BATMAN!!

Sure, we can pick apart the ways that our disbelief isn't *entirely* suspended. The Hulk's pants, right? Still, I'd lay money down that David would not have looked at a cover with a man holding a great big sword and immediately assessed whether he thought the guy could swing it. Because men are completely accustomed to fantasizing themselves as superheroes. Which usually includes saving the beautiful princess and winning her body, if not her love.

In this case, I wanted the fantasy of the superheroine. She's not screaming shrilly waiting for Indy to come save her. She's supernaturally fast and strong.

She has a big freaking sword and she knows how to use it.

The Talon of the Hawk

A HEAVY CROWN
Three daughters were born to High King Uorsin, in place of the son he wanted. The youngest, lovely and sweet. The middle, pretty and subtle, with an air of magic. And the eldest, the Heir. A girl grudgingly honed to leadership, not beauty, to bear the sword and honor of the king.
Ursula’s loyalty is as ingrained as her straight warrior’s spine. She protects the peace of the Twelve Kingdoms with sweat and blood, her sisters from threats far and near. And she protects her father to prove her worth. But she never imagined her loyalty would become an open question on palace grounds. That her father would receive her with a foreign witch at one side and a hireling captain at the other-that soldiers would look on her as a woman, not as a warrior. She also never expected to decide the destiny of her sisters, of her people, of the Twelve Kingdoms and the Thirteenth. Not with her father still on the throne and war in the air. But the choice is before her. And the Heir must lead…

Request a digital review copy

Available May 26, 2015

 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Here Be News

Posted by: Eleri Stone

New Releases


Lonely Shore (Book two of Chaos Station)

All they can do is live day to day…

Felix Ingesson has returned to his duties as the Chaos's engineer with Zander Anatolius, his ex-boyfriend-turned-broken-super-soldier, at his side. Hope means something again. But there's nothing Felix can do to battle the alien poison flowing through Zander's veins, or his imminent mental decline. With each passing day, the side effects of Zander's experimental training are becoming more difficult to ignore.

When the ruthless Agrius Cartel seeks their revenge—including an ambush and an attempt to kidnap the Chaos's crew—Zander is pushed over the edge. He can no longer hide his symptoms, nor does he want to. But hurting Felix when he's not in control of himself is Zander's worst nightmare—when it nearly happens, he agrees to seek help. Even if that means trusting the unknown.

As Zander places his life in alien hands, Felix appoints himself his lover's keeper. And though he tries to be strong, he can't ignore the fact that he might lose Zander…forever this time.

Buy Links: Amazon | Amazon UK | B&N | Kobo | iBooks | Carina Press

The Talon of the Hawk (Book three of The Twelve Kingdoms)



A HEAVY CROWN

Three daughters were born to High King Uorsin, in place of the son he wanted. The youngest, lovely and sweet. The middle, pretty and subtle, with an air of magic. And the eldest, the Heir. A girl grudgingly honed to leadership, not beauty, to bear the sword and honor of the king.

Ursula’s loyalty is as ingrained as her straight warrior’s spine. She protects the peace of the Twelve Kingdoms with sweat and blood, her sisters from threats far and near. And she protects her father to prove her worth. But she never imagined her loyalty would become an open question on palace grounds. That her father would receive her with a foreign witch at one side and a hireling captain at the other—that soldiers would look on her as a woman, not as a warrior. She also never expected to decide the destiny of her sisters, of her people, of the Twelve Kingdoms and the Thirteenth. Not with her father still on the throne and war in the air. But the choice is before her. And the Heir must lead...


Buy links: Amazon - Barnes & Nobles - Bookdepository

One Cut Deeper 
Her needs are dark. His are dangerous.

Charlie MacNiall has been bringing his beautiful king shepherd to the vet clinic where Ranay Killian works for the better part of a year. She doesn't realize he's been slowly wooing her. She certainly has no idea that he picked her deliberately--that she is to become his. A broken heart and a desperate desire to be dominated make her the perfect victim.

His perfect victim.

Charlie fixes Ranay, testing her emotional limits while pushing her sexual boundaries past anything she'd imagined possible. Pain is their shared pleasure...until Charlie disappears and Ranay is all but destroyed.

The FBI says the man she loves is a serial killer. Ranay can't deny there's a darkness in Charlie, a monstrous hunger that drives him to the brink. She even believes he could kill. But Charlie's hunger is what bonds them--it's the foundation of their love. Would he actually kill her?

Sunday, May 24, 2015

What's in a Name?

Posted by: Janni Nell

Shakespeare said it first, but was Romeo and Juliet’s dilemma any greater than the dilemma of a modern writer working in more than one genre? I don’t think so.

I’ve reach a kind of crossroads in my writing. After releasing five humorous paranormal mysteries under the Janni Nell name, I published three humorous chick lit mysteries—yep, you guessed it—under the same name. I can still see the look on horror on the face of a fellow writer, when I told her I’d published both paranormal and chick lit under the same name.

Of course I’d considered using a different name, but because the two series were similar in voice and humor, I decided they had enough in common to be published under the same name. With the benefit of hindsight that seems like a big mistake. The differences between the genres were too great. All I ended up doing was confusing readers and messing with my brand.

Now I’m a month or two away from publishing another paranormal. This is a more serious story and, although there is a mystery to solve, I wouldn’t place it in the mystery genre. So I’m considering a name change. Am I crazy? Maybe. If I do change my name, in some ways, it’ll mean starting from scratch. But…and it’s a big but, I won’t confuse readers further by publishing something that is different from what I’ve published in the past.

I’m interested in how other writers have handled this situation, but also how readers feel when their favorite authors switch genres.

So, what should I do? Change my name? Keep the same name? Or maybe hedge my bets with “Janni Nell writing as…”?


In the meantime you can see what all the fuss is about by checking out the Allegra Fairweather series of paranormal mysteries and the Sassy Chance series of chick lit mysteries.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Cosy Mysteries

Posted by: Jenny Schwartz
Bird on a lanternA few years back, I devoured cosy mysteries. Carolyn G Hart's Death on Demand series, Joan Hess's Murder in Maggody, Margaret Maron's books -- all of them! There were ones with a harder edge, like Dana Stabenow's Alaskan mysteries. And ones which played up the cutesy humour, like Donna Andrews.

And then, suddenly, I stopped reading them. I can't even put a finger on why. From haunting the library for the latest releases, abruptly I didn't care.

I have some favourites that I re-read, like Marion Babson's classic British cosies, but generally the cutesy cosies and I have parted ways, and frankly, now that I think about it, I miss them.

I miss the gentle humour and sense of family or community that they celebrated. I miss the clear sense of right and wrong, and evil being punished. I even miss the puzzle solving (although for some, the puzzle was never very puzzling).

All of which leads me to the point of this post ... I think cosy mysteries are set for a resurgence, but in a slightly different guise. I think they're going to have a paranormal edge.

Mystery solving elves sound good to me :)

Friday, May 22, 2015

Archives: Cheat A Cheater? DANCER OF THE NILE

Posted by: Veronica Scott
Veronica sez: In about two weeks I'll be releasing GHOST OF THE NILE so I thought today I'd revisit this excerpt from one of my earlier Gods of Egypt stories.

1550 BCE
Nima’s beauty and skill as a dancer leads an infatuated enemy to kidnap her after destroying an Egyptian border town. However, she’s not the only hostage in the enemy camp: Kamin, an Egyptian soldier on a secret mission for Pharaoh, has been taken as well. Working together to escape, the two of them embark on a desperate quest across the desert to carry word of the enemy’s invasion plans to Pharaoh’s people.
As they flee for their lives, these two strangers thrown together by misfortune have to trust in each other to survive.  Nima suspects Kamin is more than the simple soldier he seems, but she finds it hard to resist the effect he has on her heart.  Kamin has a duty to his Pharaoh to see his mission completed, but this clever and courageous dancer is claiming more of his loyalty and love by the moment. Kamin starts to worry, if it comes to a choice between saving Egypt or saving Nima’s life…what will he do?
Aided by the Egyptian god Horus and the Snake Goddess Renenutet, beset by the enemy’s black magic, can Nima and Kamin evade the enemy and reach the safety of the Nile in time to foil the planned attack?
Can there ever be a happy future together for the humble dancer and the brave Egyptian soldier who is so much more than he seems?
The excerpt:
(Trying to escape the enemy, Nima and Kamin have been taken by a caravan master who's determined to have a profit from the encounter.)
 Please, Great Ones, let him follow my lead now. “Either we’re going to be your guests or your prisoners.”
           “You can’t have it both ways, sir,” she said when the laughter quieted, laying one hand on Kamin’s arm as a calming gesture.
                “Good point.” Ptahnetamun poured himself another round of the wine before sitting down. “It seems we’re on the horns of a dilemma.”
                He likes toying with us. Hoping she’d found a way out of the situation, Nima took a chance. “Are you a gambling man?” She pointed at the object taking up most of the table beside him. “Do I see a senet board?”
                He rubbed his hand across the game board inlaid atop the gleaming container. “Indeed it is. You play?”
                As if she had all the time in the world, Nima walked to the game box, deliberately making her stride slow and sensuous, like the opening steps of a dance. Bending to give him a good view of her shapely bottom outlined by the dress pulled tight as she leaned over, Nima opened the bottom drawer of the case and plucked a shiny black pawn at random from inside. With an elegant gesture, she turned and extended her hand to the caravan master, the pawn sitting on her flat palm. “I challenge you to a game.”
                He stroked his bearded chin, leaned back as he braced one foot on a trunk and made a show of considering. “For what stakes?”
                “If I win, you give us shelter for the night, and we go our separate ways in the morning.” She set the pawn on the board in the starting square. “If you win, we’re yours to do with as you please.”
                “Nima—” Kamin’s protest was instant and angry. In two steps he was at her side, yanking her to face him. “What are you—”
                Wrenching herself loose, she ignored him, facing Ptahnetamun again. “I’ve lived in border towns all my life, so I’ve heard of the honor code governing caravan masters. I want your word you’ll abide by the outcome of the game.” She held up one hand before he could speak. “No, I want your blood oath on it.”
                Jaw dropping, Ptahnetamun stared at her while his men muttered and even the serving girl looked impressed by Nima’s boldness.
                “Well? Do you agree to my terms or don’t you?” Nima drew herself to her full height and tried to feel impressive, despite her dusty clothes and tired body. He can’t back down from this challenge in front of his crew. I hope. Since he hesitated, she taunted him, paraphrasing a saying she’d often heard in the taverns where she danced. Be aware I’ll pass you by as one who sails with the breeze, blessed by the Sun. I’ll be entering the House of Repeating Life while you, my opponent, will be stopped.”
                Next minute, Ptahnetamun threw back his head, roaring with laughter. “Spoken like a true gambler. I like your spirit, woman.” He pointed at Kamin. “Does your warrior agree to what you propose? The deal must include you both.”
                “Will you give us a moment?” Pulling Kamin aside, Nima turned so the gawking caravan crew couldn’t see their faces. Kamin’s cheeks were red, and his frown was truly impressive.
                Putting both hands on her shoulders, he gave her a little shake. “What in the seven hells are you doing? “
                She laid her hand gently over his mouth, leaning close as she whispered, “Trust me, please, Kamin? If he swears me a blood oath—”
                Shoving her hand away, he rolled his eyes. “And if you win,” he said furiously. “The throwing sticks are bound to be false-weighted somehow. It won’t be a fair game, not some friendly match in the tavern for mugs of beer.”
                “I’m hoping the sticks are false.” She smiled mischievously, letting her smile fade as he continued to glare at her. “Please? I know the stakes are high, but we’re not getting out of here otherwise. You’re one man surrounded by dozens, and he sees profit in selling us. This is the only way we stand a chance of escaping.”
                “You’re asking me to risk the success of my mission for Pharaoh, for Egypt, on how well you can cheat a cheater?” He closed his eyes for a moment, rubbing his brow.




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