blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Ruabon – Carl Drinkwater*

Read my thoughts on the other books in this series: Lost Solace Chasing Solace Grubane Clarissa

Welcome to Tecant.


Nothing ever happens here.


Until today.


Ruabon Nadarl is just another low-ranking member of the scan crew, slaving away for the UFS which
“liberated” his homeworld. To help pass the time during long shifts he builds secret personalities into the robots he controls. Despite his ingenuity, the UFS offers few opportunities for a better life.
Then Ruabon detects an intruder on the surface of a vital communications tower.
He could just report it and let the deadly UFS commandos take over, while Ruabon returns to obscurity.
Or he could break UFS laws and try to capture the intruder himself. For the UFS, only the outcome matters, not the method. If his custom-programmed drones can save the day, he’ll be a hero.
And if he fails, he’ll be dead.
Buy


Karl Drinkwater writes thrilling SF, suspenseful horror, and contemporary literary fiction. Whichever you pick you’ll find interesting and authentic characters, clever and compelling plots, and believable worlds.
Karl has lived in many places but now calls Scotland his home. He’s an ex-librarian with degrees in
English, Classics, and Information Science. He also studied astrophysics for a year at university, surprising himself by winning a prize for “Outstanding Performance”.
When he isn’t writing he loves guitars, exercise, computer and board games, nature, and vegan cake.
Not necessarily in that order.

Website
Twitter
Facebook
Instagram
Newsletter

My thoughts: this was interesting in that it both filled in a gap in one of the Lost Solace books, Chasing Solace, but also showed you the flip side to those events. What Ruabon does that day with the drones he’s been tinkering with isn’t huge in the grand scheme of things, but to him, in that moment, it is everything. He’s so bored of his job, of the UFS, that even breaking all the rules doesn’t bother him.

If you’ve read the previous books and short stories, you’ll know what’s happening, what Opal and Athene are up to, and why UFS are so keen to catch them. This can be read as a standalone but it makes a lot more sense tied into the whole.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Clarissa – Karl Drinkwater*

Read my thoughts on the other books in this series: Lost Solace Chasing Solace Grubane

If you’re reading this: HELP! I’ve been kidnapped.
Me and my big sister stayed together after our parents died. We weren’t bothering anybody. But some mean government agents came anyway, and split us up.
Now I’m a prisoner on this space ship. The agents won’t even say where we’re going.
I hate them.
And things have started to get a bit weird. Nullspace is supposed to be empty, but when I look out of
the skywindows I can see … something. Out there. And I think it wants to get in here. With us.
My name is Clarissa. I am ten years old.
And they will all be sorry when my big sister comes to rescue me.
Buy a copy


Karl Drinkwater writes thrilling SF, suspenseful horror, and contemporary literary fiction. Whichever you pick you’ll find interesting and authentic characters, clever and compelling plots, and believable worlds.
Karl has lived in many places but now calls Scotland his home. He’s an ex-librarian with degrees in
English, Classics, and Information Science. He also studied astrophysics for a year at university, surprising himself by winning a prize for “Outstanding Performance”.
When he isn’t writing he loves guitars, exercise, computer and board games, nature, and vegan cake.
Not necessarily in that order.

Website
Twitter
Facebook
Instagram
Newsletter

My thoughts: this is another short story set in the world of the Lost Solace books, which start with Opal looking for her missing sister – Clarissa. In this brief glimpse of the past, narrated by 10 year old Clarissa herself, we see what happened, what sets Opal on her quest. Clarissa has been taken by two agents, she thinks in order to force her to go to school, but they seem to have a different agenda. On the ship, Solace, they encounter something strange, something they’re afraid of. But Clarissa isn’t. It’s a really interesting bit of back story filled in, and suggests the beginning of Clarissa’s own story is even more interesting than Opal’s. Hope there’s more to come!

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Subject Twenty-One – A.E. Warren*

What if our future lies 40,000 years in our past? Subject Twenty-One is an astonishing debut novel in which a young woman’s refusal to accept the status quo opens her eyes to the lies her society is built on. Elise’s world is forever changed when she is given the opportunity of a lifetime – to work at the Museum of Evolution and be a Companion to the Neanderthal, Subject Twenty-One, a member of a previously extinct species of human restored to life. As a Sapien, a member of the lowest order of humans, and held responsible for the damages inflicted on the world by previous generations, this job is Elise’s chance to escape a stagnating life in an ostracised and impoverished community. But it doesn’t take long for Elise to realise that away from the familiarity and safety of her home, her secrets are much harder to conceal. Every day presents a new possibility for being exposed. And the longer she stays the more she comes to realise that little separates her from the exhibits . . . and a cage of her own.

My thoughts: this was a really interesting and thought provoking read. A little alarming when you think of the human zoos of the late 19th century and early 20th, where people were taken from their homes and put on display for white European audiences to marvel over the “savages”.

This book has Neanderthals being treated the same way – as displays in a rather sinister museum, alongside animals, rather than being treated like the cousins of humans, like people. Sapiens (us) have been supplanted as the dominant species but cruelty is bred in the bone and even the supposedly more evolved Medius and Potier aren’t immune. Punishing the ancestors of the humans who damaged the planet is petty and largely pointless – the sins of the father and all that.

Elise might be a sapien but she’s faster and smart too, her innate skills come in useful as she bonds with Kit, aka subject twenty-one, a Neanderthal. She sees him as more than a curiosity and wants to help him, to teach him things and let him develop, whereas the museum authorities want to preserve him – like a relic.

The book throws up lots of questions and explores the idea of what it is to be human, and whether we can live alongside each other without feeling the need to be “better” than anyone else. I’m keen to see where this series goes as Elise and her friends search for a new way to live.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, giveaway

Giveaway: The Shards of Earth – Adrian Tchaikovsky

This blog tour is a little different – it’s all about prizes! Instead of me telling you about the book (which I have done here), head over to Twitter and enter the competition. And then follow the blog tour to enter again and again. The winner of each giveaway will receive 1 Hardback copy of Shards of Earth and 1 Doors of Eden bundle including a paperback copy, branded torchlight keyring and vinyl sticker. The competition is open to residents of UK/Ireland for shipping purposes and is run in conjunction with Tor UK & Black Crow PR. It runs from May 27th to June 8th and is hosted by some fab book bloggers, as you can see below. Good luck!

blog tour, books

Cover Reveal: What Remains – An Anthology by Inked in Gray

Cover Reveal Banner

What Remains

Check out the cover for upcoming release of What Remains! A chilling collection of Horror, Sci-Fi, and Fantasy!

What Remains: An Anthology by Inked in Gray

Expected Publication Date: Summer 2021

Genre: Anthology/ Short Stories/ Fantasy/ Sci-Fi/ Horror

Publisher: Inked in Gray

Victory at all costs. Even at the price of our own life, the desire to survive transcends all rational thought. 

What Remains brings together fifteen tales of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. From sacrificing loved ones or oneself, to doing what it takes to keep them alive, these stories shake the soul, rip out its insecurities and flay them on the page. 

Careful who you trust. Some quandaries have no right answer when we cannot save what we love most—or when isolation, desperation, and betrayal leave you no choice.

Take the journey with us to see What Remains when civility, decency, and sanity have all but fled.

Coming Soon!

Authors:

R.A. Busby 

About the Author: An award-winning literature teacher and die-hard horror fan, R. A. Busby is also the author of “Bits” (Short Sharp Shocks #45), “Street View” (Collective Realms #2), “Not the Man I Married” (Black Petals #93), “Holes” (Graveyard Smash, Women of Horror Anthology, Vol. 2), and “Cactusland” (34 Orchard, forthcoming). 

“I was always instructed to write about what I know,” she states, “and I know what scares me.”  In her spare time, R.A. Busby watches cheesy Gothic movies and goes running in the desert with her dog. 

She can be found on Twitter and at  RABusbybooks.weebly.com

David-Christopher Harris

About the Author: David-Christopher Harris’ fantasy publications include “Olam Ha-Ba” in speculative fiction and poetry magazine Arsenika, “Last Call”  in The Arcanist Magazine, “Falselight”  on PageHabit, and “Children of Ozymandias” in 50WordStories,  among others. He received his M.A. in Medieval Literature, which he uses exclusively to teach his cat Latin. He is currently querying.

He can be found on Twitter and at www.dcharriswriting.com

Andy Dibble

About the Author: Andy Dibble is a healthcare IT consultant who lives in Madison, Wisconsin. He has supported the electronic medical record of healthcare systems in six countries.  His work appears or is forthcoming in Writers of the Future, Star*Line, Sci Phi Journal, and others.  He is Articles Editor for Speculative North magazine.

He can be found on TwitterFacebook, and andydibble.com.

LT Ward 

About the Author: LT writes mostly speculative fiction shorts and novels while spending her days raising her children and satisfying her never-ending thirst for knowledge through reading, meeting people, and first-hand life experiences. She has short story publications with Dancing Lemur Press, Me First Magazine, Jazz House Press, and forthcoming with Black Hare Press and Cardigan Press. She currently volunteers with WriteHive, a nonprofit literary organization. 

She can be found on TwitterInstagram, and at ltwardwriter.com.

Ben Armstrong

About the Author: Ben is a young author who has been writing stories for over six years now. Recently he has been published in his town’s newspaper.

Maxwell I Gold

About the Author: Maxwell I. Gold is a Rhysling Award nominated prose poet, focusing on weird and cosmic fiction. He is a regular contributor to Spectral Realms, edited by Lovecraft scholar S.T. Joshi and his work has also appeared in Weirdbook MagazineSpace and Time MagazineStartling StoriesBaffling Magazine, and many others.

His debut prose poetry collection, Oblivion in Flux: A Collection of Cyber Prose is forthcoming this August from Crystal Lake Publishing.

Maxwell can be found on Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, and at www.thewellsoftheweird.com

Damir Salkovic

About the Author: Damir Salkovic is the author of novels Kill Zone and Always Beside You. His shorter work has been featured in the Lovecraft eZine, Dimension6 Annual Collection 2020, and in multiple horror, science and speculative fiction anthologies.

Find him on Goodreads and at his blog, Darker Realities.

Lawrence West

About the Author: Lawrence J West has been on his writing journey since he was fourteen years old and has always been drawn to fantasy, sci-fi, and horror because of the way these genres allow for the exploration of human experience in unique ways. Since becoming a husband and father he has also found that his writing has a greater degree of empathy and insight. 

Lawrence can be found on Twitter.

Sharon Frame Gay

About the Author: Sharon Frame Gay is an award winning author whose work has appeared in many anthologies and magazines, including Chicken Soup For The Soul, Typehouse, Fiction on the Web, Literally Stories, Lowestoft Chronicle, Thrice Fiction, Saddlebag Dispatches, Crannog, and others. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee. 

A collection of her short stories, Song of the Highway, was released in August, 2020.

Sharon can be found on Twitter and Amazon.

Timothy Johnson

About the Author: Timothy Johnson is a writer and editor living outside of Washington, D.C. His published work includes the novels The Pillars of Dawn and Carrier as well as short fiction appearing in various professional and semi-professional markets. He is an MFA candidate in George Mason University’s creative writing program and an affiliate member of the HWA. 

Find Timothy on Twitter and at timothyjohnsonfiction.com.

DL Shirey

About the Author: DL Shirey lives in Portland, Oregon, where it’s probably raining. Luckily, water is beer’s primary ingredient. His stories and non-fiction appear in 60 publications, including Confingo, Page & Spine, Zetetic and Wild Musette. 

You can find more of DL Shirey on Twitter and at www.dlshirey.com.

Dan Eveloff

About the Author: Dan Eveloff is a lawyer and sports agent living in Chicago, Illinois with his dog, Reuben. He studied accounting at the University of Kansas, and subsequently earned his law degree from Northwestern University. His short fiction “The Price of Recompense” has appeared in AHF Magazine, “Shakespearean Justice” in Aphelion Webzine, and “Prevenge” can be found in Close to the Bone Magazine

His social media presence can be found on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter 

Valerie Hunter

About the Author: Valerie Hunter teaches high school English and has an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her stories and poems have appeared in publications including Cicada, Storyteller, Edison Literary ReviewOther VoicesRoom, and Wizards in Space.

Find Valerie on Instagram.

Nicholas Barner

About the Author: Nicholas Barner has farmed, cooked, and written variously in Oakland, Chicago, Maine, and Los Angeles. He lives with his partner, Shelby, and their Dog, Nuni.

He can be found online at nicholasbarner.com

Thomas Canfield

About the Author: Thomas Canfield lives in the mountains of North Carolina. His phobias run to politicians, lawyers and TV pitchmen. He is still trying to plumb the logic of the sales pitch; The more you buy, the more you save. It never quite seems to work out that way in the real world. Canfield occasionally reviews books on Goodreads.

Cover Reveal Organized By: 

R&R Button

R&R Book Tours

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Version Zero – David Yoon*

From the brilliant mind of New York Times bestselling author David Yoon comes a lightning-fast and scorchingly observant thriller about how we can save ourselves from the very real perils of a virtual world.

Max, a data whiz at the social media company Wren, has gotten a firsthand glimpse of the dark side of big tech. When he questions what his company does with the data they collect, he’s fired…then black-balled across Silicon Valley.

With time on his hands and revenge on his mind, Max and his longtime friend (and secretly the love of his life) Akiko, decide to get even by rebooting the internet. After all, in order to fix things, sometimes you have to break them. But when Max and Akiko join forces with a reclusive tech baron, they learn that breaking things can have unintended–and catastrophic–consequences.

My thoughts: this was an interesting, chaotic adventure in cyberspace as two young programmers, attempt to put right all the wrongs of social media and the internet. Taking on the big companies by hacking into them is one thing, but when they’re co-opted into a reclusive tech billionaire’s slightly less hopeful schemes, things go a bit sideways.

Max is incredibly optimistic and slightly naive, he genuinely thinks he can make people reject the mega corporations that own their data and rule their lives by pulling back the curtain, and it seems to work but we all know the wizard is some guy in a black polo neck or grey t-shirt. It isn’t enough in a way, as angry as people get, the convenience and addiction to the internet won’t be replaced quickly or easily.

Pilot – the worrying former tech god turned total hermit taps into Max’s naivety and manipulates the hopeful bright young things by offering them access and support, a back way in to the CEOs and programs they want to bring down, but he has other plans.

It all becomes a spiralling nightmare for Max, and saving his friends becomes his priority, but can he save the world too? A timely and thought provoking book, which ironically I’m telling you about via a blogging platform and sharing it over social media. Max would not be impressed.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: It’s Not Never – Louise Gregory & N.G.K *

From the worldwide bestselling author NGK, and Louise Gregory, a new contemporary love story based around the first human mission to Mars.

A timeless love story.

Ambitious and hardworking, astronaut Jessica Gabriel refuses to let love get in the way of becoming the first person to walk on another planet. Or maybe she is just afraid of losing her best friend?
Fellow astronaut, John Eden, is determined to prove he is more than his family name. Yet his insecurities might cost him his place on the mission.
Neither of them are looking for love, and mission protocol forbids it. But love doesn’t follow the rules, and the two friends have to decide whether they want to risk everything they’ve worked for to be together.

Louise Gregory is the debut co-author of It’s Not Never, and uses her extensive background in psychology, coaching and team dynamics to create multi-layered characters with deep rooted feelings and motivators.

Louise lives by the “three r’s” – reading, writing, and running, all of which she would do more of were it not for her addiction to social media. She lives in the Cotswolds with her husband, two daughters, and a cat who is plotting to kill her.

N.G.K. is the best-selling author of seven books, including the popular Harry the Happy Mouse and Ridgeway Furrow series which have collectively sold over a million copies around the world. It’s Not Never is his first book for adults.

N.G.K. lives in the Forest of Dean with his wife, two children, and Lulu the cat. 

My thoughts: this was a hugely enjoyable and rather lovely book. It did what all the best love stories do, so have tissues on standby.

I enjoyed all the science-y, space travelling stuff as much as the slow burn romance between Jessica and John, from their first meeting at university to reconnecting at astronaut training and into space. The characters are deftly drawn and fully realised, two very different people on the same path to the stars. Moving and inspiring.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Shards of Earth – Adrian Tchaikovsky*

Read my review of the author’s previous book – The Doors of Eden

The war is over. Its heroes forgotten. Until one chance discovery . . . 

Idris has neither aged nor slept since they remade him in the war. And one of humanity’s heroes now scrapes by on a freelance salvage vessel, to avoid the attention of greater powers. After earth was destroyed, mankind created a fighting elite to save their species, enhanced humans such as Idris. In the silence of space they could communicate, mind-to-mind, with the enemy. Then their alien aggressors, the Architects, simply disappeared—and Idris and his kind became obsolete. 

Now, fifty years later, Idris and his crew have discovered something strange abandoned in space. It’s clearly the work of the Architects—but are they returning? And if so, why? Hunted by gangsters, cults and governments, Idris and his crew race across the galaxy hunting for answers. For they now possess something of incalculable value, that many would kill to obtain.

Amazon Goodreads

Adrian Tchaikovsky is the author of the acclaimed Shadows of the Apt fantasy series, from the first volume, Empire In Black and Gold in 2008 to the final book, Seal of the Worm, in 2014, with a new series and a standalone science fiction novel scheduled for 2015. He has been nominated for the David Gemmell Legend Award and a British Fantasy Society Award. In civilian life he is a lawyer, gamer and amateur entomologist.

Website

My thoughts: after the genre bending epic Doors of Eden this is something of a more traditional sci fi story, set years after the final destruction of Earth by an alien species known as the Architects for their remodelling of everything, planets, ships, that crosses their paths.

Idris is one of a tiny handful of people who can communicate with these strange creatures and he helped turn the tide of the war against them. But now he and the ship he currently crews on have discovered that the Architects might not be as gone as they’d hoped.

With stolen ships, warrior women, alien races and various crime factions and religious acolytes in pursuit, Idris and his colleagues, those his captain refers to as family, must retrieve their ship and prepare to face the Architects again.

I liked the crew of the Vulture God, Rollo was an emotional and mostly benevolent captain, and his misfits suited their roles well. I thought the crab-like Hanni were interesting and Kit, as Idris’ sort of personal attorney, was a clever touch; Idris constantly needing to prove he was a free man so has a lawyer around to defend him, made for an interesting comment on a trope of sci fi – the humans enslaving or being enslaved by aliens, here instead they’re just enslaving other humans, again.

The Parthenon and Solace was also intriguing, vat grown female super warriors, extremely long lived and battle ready, especially with Mr Punch to hand.

All the different factions competing for resources and bodies, all keen to get Idris to work for them, considering what he can do, all the trappings of a rollicking space adventure. This was a fun and highly entertaining book, I really enjoyed it, the ideas and concepts were very interesting, the writing hooked me in straightaway with the giant space monsters and exploding spaceships. I highly recommend it.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

books

Book Blitz: The Tribesmen of Juno – Robert I. Katz

Today, we are celebrating the release of The Tribesmen of Juno by Robert I. Katz! It is the latest installment of his sci-fi series The Survivors. Read on for more details and a peek at the first chapter!

Tribesmen of Juno v.2.1The Tribesmen of Juno: The Survivors #3

Publication Date: May 25th, 2021 

Genre: Sci-Fi/ Fantasy

Publisher: Rukia Publishing US

From USA Today bestselling author, Robert I. Katz, comes The Tribesmen of Juno, Book Three of The Survivors.

Thirty years ago, Terence Allen left his father’s home in the city of the Viceroy, and under the assumed name of Blake Pierce, gained both fame and fortune, first as a wandering ronin, then as a mercenary commander. Now, Blake Pierce is the Duke of Taverno, and he controls half the nation of Venecia.

Blake Pierce is a power in the world, but the cities that owe Taverno loyalty are being bribed to switch allegiance to his principal opponent, Benedetto Corsi, the Duke of Siena.

In far away Fomaut, the Primate has been assassinated. Wolford is beset by unknown forces.

All over the continent, unrest is stirring.

Men are digging into the ruins of the dead cities, seeking riches and the weapons of the nearly forgotten Empire. The industrial revolution encouraged by Blake is slowly grinding to a halt.

For three thousand years, the Viceroy has ruled over all the nations, rarely exerting his authority but tolerating no opposition to his reign. Only the Viceroy retains any remnant of the Ancient’s lost technology. Many men have tried to challenge the Viceroy. All have been crushed.

But the seven nations are stronger and richer than they were, and the Viceroy has expended much of his hoarded arsenal. Has the time come to finally throw off the Viceroy’s rule? Or will Taverno turn into just another dead, radioactive city?

Blake would prefer not to find out, but unseen forces are moving against him, and in the end, he may have no choice but to fight back or lose everything he has gained, including his life.

Chapter One

And so it came to pass in the thirtieth year of the reign of the Viceroy Gaius Tiberius VII that a rebellion arose from a minor princeling in the city of Poitiers. This princeling was tall and handsome, a writer of poetry and a singer of songs, unrivalled with a blade, strong with phrygium, quick with praise for the accomplishments of others. His people loved him and he had been told since he was a small child that he was destined for great things.

His rebellion was small, at first. He questioned the primacy of Inquisitoria over the spiritual needs of his people, arguing that a relationship with the creator could be forged by every individual through devout prayer and without the intercession of God’s anointed.

The Inquisitoria declared this to be heresy, but heresy, though frowned upon, is not forbidden. Only words that encourage active disobedience to Imperial edicts are forbidden. All other enquiry is allowed. The Prince’s thoughts, at first spoken, then written, and then disseminated throughout all the nations, were much discussed.

The Viceroy took no position on this issue.

But then, the Prince decreed that the mandate of heaven had fallen from the Viceroy, since the Empire from which the Viceroy’s authority derived had turned its face from this world. This was rebellion. This was not allowed. The Viceroy, ever merciful, gave the Prince a chance to repent. He refused.

The Viceroy then led an army to the gates of Poitiers and called upon the Prince to emerge, to recant his words and pay homage to his rightful overlord. Again, the Prince refused. The Viceroy, much saddened, returned with his army to the City of Varanisi.

The Prince, joyful in his defiance, decreed a celebration, and declared that the Viceroy’s rule was at an end.

One day later, an Earthquake shattered the city of Poitiers. A day after that, a ball of fire descended from the heavens upon whatever remained. The Prince and those few of his people who had not already abandoned him vanished in the conflagration.

The city of Poitiers no longer exists. Where it once stood, a blue, placid lake now fills a gigantic crater. Fish swim in the lake, but those who eat these fish grow ill. Their hair falls out. Their blood grows thin and pale and then oozes from their mouth and their eyes, and then they die, screaming in agony.

Three hundred years passed before the Viceroy’s rule was again challenged.

From: The Reign of the Viceroys of Gault, Third Edition, New Imperial Library, 4753

“Your Grace?”

Blake Pierce looked up. Colin McGregor insisted on following the rules of protocol and decorum, in public at least, and he did so with an unruffled air of gravity and calm. Colin had been with him for many years, first hired as the purser for Pierce’s Marauders, Blake’s former mercenary company, now serving as seneschal and principal advisor to the Duke of Taverno, Blake’s current and most illustrious title.

“Sit down, Colin.” Blake tapped a piece of parchment sitting on the table in front of him. “What do you make of this?”

Gingerly, Colin picked up the parchment, quickly scanned it, frowned, and then read it again. “Unfortunate,” Colin said.

Yes, the sudden death of Blake’s principal factor in the city of Mitre was “unfortunate.” Natural causes, supposedly. An elderly fellow, he went to sleep one night and didn’t wake up. Elderly, and fat, but he had been vigorous and had displayed no prior symptoms before suddenly dropping dead.

Unfortunate.

Mitre was a small city but strategically placed, at the confluence of two rivers providing excellent access to the sea and both isolated and partially defended by a range of encircling mountains. Three large passes cut through the mountains, all surrounded by steep cliffs. Easy enough to rain arrows, boulders or boiling oil down onto an invader. It would take a large and determined force to break through. Unfortunately for Mitre, a small but rich city with a tiny military of its own, at least three such armies were currently considering an invasion.

In years past, Mitre’s small military, combined with the difficulty of reaching the city, had been sufficient to keep them independent, but that was in the days when the King of Venecia aided in keeping the peace. The King was long dead and times had changed.

At least four different poisons could have killed silently in the night. Probably more. Blake was not an expert on poisons but as a sometime agent of the Viceroy, he knew the basics.

“Suggestions?” Blake asked.

Colin puffed up his cheeks and tapped a finger on the arm of his chair while his eyes wandered to the harbor outside the Castle windows. “This changes nothing. We’re offering Mitre protection and an alliance. Prudence would dictate their acceptance.”

“And yet it appears that a message has been delivered, one that the Elders of Mitre cannot fail to understand. They deal with us at their peril.”

Colin shrugged. “If they refuse to deal with us, they will suffer the fate of a thousand other conquered cities. That message, too, will be clearly understood.”

Blake sighed. “We shall see. It is up to them to decide.”

“And,” Colin added, “it is entirely possible that he did die from natural causes.”

Blake reluctantly grinned. “Make certain that an autopsy is performed, and that the results are made public. I expect that his heart has been weak for several years. His courage in performing his duties, suffering as he must have been, is an inspiration to us all.”

“Indeed,” Colin said.

“And give him a nice funeral.”

“Of course.”

Abel Barker knew a thousand ways to kill, but only a few of these left no distinguishing marks upon the body. Of these, poison was the least obvious but was often the most difficult to administer. Poison, to be effective, must be delivered to the body of one’s victim, which means that the assassin must have access to that victim, or must suborn someone in the victim’s circle.

Poison itself might leave no trace, but the method of delivery all too often left a trail.

Almost always better to mix violence with misdirection. Strangle a man, for instance, and then throw him off a tall building, or have him stumble at the edge of a cliff or leave him in the desert for the sand lizards to devour. Anything to destroy the evidence.

And if you don’t mind leaving questions behind, the body can simply disappear.

Poison, though, did have its uses. Sometimes, nothing else would do.

Abel Barker, for most of his life, had served the Viceroy. He had been recruited as a boy, having been discovered in his parent’s small village by a Finder team searching for children with the ability to weave soul-stuff. He had been brought to the Viceroy’s city, Varanisi, educated in the Viceroy’s scholium and been sworn to the Viceroy’s service. In this, he had not been given a choice. Abel Barker would, if necessary, die for the Viceroy. All of his classmates would.

In theory, change could be good, for the individual and for the society in which the individual lived, but more often than not, change brought instability, and the Viceroy prized stability. The Viceroy suffered no challenge to his own rule. After more than two thousand years, the Viceroy had managed to arrange things pretty much the way he wanted them.

Blake Pierce, or Terence Sergei Allen as he had once been known, had started a revolution. The Viceroy had reluctantly allowed that revolution to proceed. Blake Pierce had not been the first to mix the uses of phrygium with the ancient remnants of technology but in theory the innovations he had introduced would advance the Viceroy’s own goals upon this world.

Now, ten years later, the wasteland was filled with searchers, looking for they knew not what, hoping to strike it rich and ignoring the first lesson they had been taught as children, which was to avoid the dead cities.

Abel Barker crept among the trees. It was a dark, quiet night, warm with a light breeze. Somewhere, not far away, an owl hooted.

Seven men slept in the clearing. An eighth stood watch, sitting on a fallen log facing the woods. The sentry yawned, straightened his back and re-filled a ceramic mug with coffee from a pot simmering over a small fire.

Abel Barker’s night vision goggles gave him a clear view of the clearing. His hazmat suit protected him from residual radiation.

The ruins began less than a hundred meters from the clearing. A small city had once stood here. The city had not been physically destroyed. Neutron bombs, followed by radioactive dust, had killed off the population. Centuries later, most of the buildings had crumbled into rubble, but the rubble, and the dirt beneath the rubble, was still filled with both treasures and lingering poisons.

These men were digging for treasure. Unknown to themselves, they were finding poison. Idiots.

In the past ten years, hundreds of small teams, almost all of them poorly equipped and ignorant of the real risks, had decided to try their luck. The majority returned with little of value or did not return at all.

These men had already ingested sufficient ambient radiation to kill them, but it would kill them slowly, over months, perhaps even years. Slowly was not good enough for the Viceroy’s purpose.

Whistling under his breath, Abel Barker opened a small box, pressed a button and quickly retreated. Silently, odorless and invisible, a volatilized gas sprayed upward and then, blown by the breeze, drifted toward the campsite. The gas inhibited the action of acetylcholinesterase on neuromuscular junctions, preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine, the body’s principal neurotransmitter. The gas was readily absorbed, either through the lungs or the skin. The first symptoms of exposure included a runny nose, nausea, then, a few minutes later, difficulty breathing. Convulsions and death by asphyxiation would soon follow.

Not a pleasant way to die, but necessary. If any of their comrades came looking for them, the decomposing bodies of these men would serve to reinforce the lessons that they had been taught as children and foolishly chosen to ignore.

An hour later, it was done. Three of the seven had awakened after exposure. They had stumbled out of their tents, vomiting, hoarsely gasping for breath that would not come. They had tried to run but had fallen, twitched a few times, groaned, cried out, struggled and then died.

Abel Barker, a compassionate man (when allowed to be), regretted the actions that circumstances had forced him to take, but knew that good men are often compelled to unpleasant and otherwise regrettable deeds, for the greater good of us all.

Sad, Able Barker thought, but necessary.

An adversary is someone who wants the same things that you want. Nothing personal. It’s competition. You win some and you lose some. An enemy, on the other hand, wants you dead…because he hates you.

Benedetto Corsi was an adversary, not an enemy. Blake was happy about that. Corsi and Blake Pierce had struggled against one another for many years, and to some extent, each had enjoyed the rivalry. Blake had, at least, and he was fairly certain that Corsi had as well.

The same could not be said for Johannes Stryker, and even more so for Saverio Narcena.

Stryker was Corsi’s spymaster, a man whose emotions ran cold, at best, but Stryker, from what little Blake knew of him, took pride in his own intellect, in his objective evaluation of the world around him. Blake, by besting Corsi all those years ago with tactics that neither Corsi nor Stryker had foreseen, and thereby establishing himself as Corsi’s principal rival, had offended Stryker.

Narcena had other reasons to hate Blake. His reasons, in Blake’s estimation, were childish. Years ago, Blake had defeated him in battle, making him look foolish. Corsi had relieved him of command and placed him under Stryker’s tutelage—to learn wisdom. Narcena, in Blake’s estimation, should be thanking Blake for having shown him the error of his ways and setting him upon a path more in keeping with his talents. Narcena, or so Blake’s spies told him, saw things differently.

Blake stood on the highest balcony of Castle Taverno, looking up at the stars from which his ancestors had come, thousands of years ago, and brooded. Mitre was not the first small setback he had suffered. A message had indeed been delivered to the city fathers of Mitre. A similar message had been delivered to Blake. Those messages had been coming more often, their unmistakable sub-text growing louder and louder.

Stop.

Blake sighed. For many years, Blake had served as an agent of that stability the Viceroy so prized. He knew how things worked. He had never grown so complacent, however, as to think that he himself, and the others like him, represented the limits of the Viceroy’s reach.

Blake well remembered the meeting he had with the Viceroy, when blood feud had first been declared against him by Thierry Jorge Garcia. The Viceroy had gently and sadly explained to him that in the world outside Varanisi, his commands meant little. The Kings and Queens and leaders of the various nations paid lip service to the Viceroy’s primacy but had no hesitation in ignoring him when they felt like doing so.

The Viceroy had seemed so regretful at his inability to help, so sincere. Blake, being young and naïve, had believed him.

Each year, the Viceroy sent the finders abroad, looking for children with the talent to weave phrygium, soul-stuff as it was often called. The parents of such children were handsomely rewarded, the children taken to be educated and raised in the Viceroy’s palace, and once in the Viceroy’s palace, a worm was planted in their brains, a worm which grew and bored deep, doing no harm, but enforcing the Viceroy’s will. A neural web it used to be called, in the far-off and long vanished Empire of Mankind, a tool to control the victim’s behavior.

Tindall and Eliza, whose services the Viceroy had loaned him, were once such children. They had helped Blake achieve hegemony over half of Venecia but Blake had never taken their services or their loyalty for granted. Tindall and Eliza were loyal to the Viceroy. They had to be. They had been given no choice.

There were rumors of agents deeply planted in the bureaucracy of all seven nations, of secret assassination squads. Blake did not know for certain, but he suspected those rumors to be true.

Ambition had come slowly to Blake Pierce, once a satisfied, indolent young man named Terence Sergei Allen, but it had come. Seven men and women before him had discovered that phrygium could be used to power the technology of the ancients, something that the Viceroy in theory approved of and encouraged, but then, succumbing to pride and ambition, all seven had then set themselves against the Viceroy. That, at least, was the story. All seven were now dead and long since forgotten.

When you play a game that you cannot win, Blake thought, stop playing…or change the rules. Thousands of years ago, the commander of what was then the greatest military force ever assembled had said, “If you have a problem that you cannot solve, then make it a bigger problem.”

Blake had done his best to make the problem bigger. It remained to be seen what the Viceroy would do about it.

Available on Here (All Countries) and on Amazon

Towering Flame Final v.3The Towering Flame (The Survivors #1)

From USA Today bestselling author, Robert I. Katz, comes The Towering Flame, the first book in a brand new series, The Survivors.

Once, long ago, the Empire of Mankind spread among the stars, but the Empire fell into civil war and anarchy, leaving every human inhabited world across the galaxy to go its own way.

Today, after two thousand years of isolation, the Viceroy rules over seven nations on one long-abandoned planet. He alone possesses any vestige of the technology left behind by the vanished Empire and he uses it to rule with an iron fist in a velvet glove.

But below the surface, ambitious men are struggling for power and rebellion is simmering.

Terence Allen is the third son of a wealthy father. Terence is satisfied with his life. He has few responsibilities, fewer challenges and little desire to change.

Terence Allen is an unlikely catalyst for rebellion, but Terence’s destiny changes the moment he sees Thierry Jorge Garcia striding toward him one night at the Summer Fair in Varanisi, the Viceroy’s city. Thierry, the heir to a long-standing military tradition, will let nothing keep him from pursuing Irina Archer, the woman he had known and loved as a young man in far-off Cathay, the woman who is now Terence Allen’s fiancée.

The feud that results will have repercussions far beyond the borders of the city, as the seven nations seethe with conspiracies, rumors and strife. A war that has been brewing for over a century is coming, a war that will upend the foundations of both men’s world.

Only $0.99 HERE

Antiquarians GuildThe Antiquarians Guild (The Survivors #2)

Twenty years ago, Terence Allen left his father’s home in the city of the Viceroy, and under the assumed name of Blake Pierce, has gained both fame and fortune, first as a wandering ronin, then as a mercenary commander.

Since the king’s death, ten long years before, the nation of Venecia has fallen into chaos, as the smaller city-states strive to maintain independence and the stronger states try to conquer all the rest.

Blake Pierce’s company, Pierce’s Marauders, has entered into a contract to provide security for the city-state of Taverno, which is beset by numerous enemies, the most serious of which is Benedetto Corsi, the Duke of Siena.

But Blake is facing other challenges, some that he knows about, others that he merely suspects.

In far away Fomaut, the Primate and the leader of his armies, Alejandro Garcia, are digging in the ruins of dead cities, seeking the lost technology of the Ancients and preparing for war against their neighbors, while Davida Montoya, the woman Blake loves above all others, is still living in her father’s castle, refusing to join him until his wars are over…which, the way his career is going, may be never.

For Corsi, and his shadowy spymaster, Johannes Stryker, the Kingship of Venecia represents the culmination of their ambitions. For Blake Pierce, rule of Venecia is only one step toward his own secret goal: to free the world of Gault from the heavy-handed tyranny of the Viceroy, who has ruled the world for over 2000 years.

About the Author

Robert I Katz

I grew up on Long Island, in a pleasant, suburban town about 30 miles from New York City. I loved to read from a very early age and graduated from Columbia in 1974 with a degree in English. Not encouraged by the job prospects for English majors at the time, I went on to medical school at Northwestern, where in addition to my medical degree, I acquired a life-long love of deep dish pizza. I did a residency in Anesthesiology at Columbia Presbyterian and spent most of my career at Stony Brook, where I ultimately attained the academic rank of Professor and Vice-Chairman for Administration, Department of Anesthesiology.

When I was a child, I generally read five or more books per week, and even then, I had a dim sense that I could do at least as well as many of the stories that I was reading. Finally, around 1985, with a job and a family and my first personal computer, I began writing. I quickly discovered that it was not as easy as I had imagined, and like most beginning writers, it took me many years to produce a publishable work of fiction. My first novel, Edward Maret: A Novel of the Future, came out in 2001. It won the ASA Literary Prize for 2001 and received excellent reviews from Science Fiction Chronicle, InfinityPlus, Scavenger’s Newsletter and many others.

My agent at the time urged me to write mysteries, as mysteries are supposed to have a larger readership and be easier to publish than science fiction. Since I have read almost as many mysteries as science fiction and fantasy, and since I enjoy them just as much, I had no objection to this plan. The Kurtz and Barent mystery series, Surgical Risk, The Anatomy Lesson and Seizure followed between 2002 and 2009. Reviewers have compared them favorably to Patricia Cornwell and Robin Cook and they’ve received positive reviews from The Midwest Book Review, Mystery Review Magazine, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Lady M’s Mystery International, Mystery Scene Magazine, Library Journal and many others.

In 2014, I published a science fiction short story, “To the Ends of the Earth in the Deep Blue Sea” on Kindle for Amazon. Since then, I have made all of my previously published novels available for purchase on Kindle and now, in June, 2017 I am about to embark on a new venture. I will be publishing new novels on Kindle, the first of which is entitled The Cannibal’s Feast. It’s a science fiction story of corporate warfare in space. The next, coming out in early 2018, will be another science fiction novel tentatively entitled The City of Dust, a tale set on an abandoned world after the collapse of the First Interstellar Empire of Mankind. 

Robert I. Katz | Twitter

 FacebookBookBub | Amazon | Goodreads

Book Release Blitz Organized By:

R&R Book Tours

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Technopaladin – Elizabeth Corrigan*

Clarity’s paladin order forbids her from entering the Azure District, the one location in her high tech city that refuses paladin rule and technology. When she receives an illicit invitation to violate the prohibition, spurred on by rumors of suffering in the district, she passes through the crumbling brick entryway into no-man’s land. Within, she finds the residents lack not only the ocular implants and three dimensional computers she takes for granted, but also medicine to fight a disease infecting the children.

Clarity knows her order isn’t perfect—after all, they stole her from her parents when she was a small child to raise her with their values—but she cannot believe they know what’s going on in the Azure District. When she confronts the head of the order, he refuses to aid people who have rejected his help in the past, even the children. Unwilling to take no for an answer, Clarity enlists the help of the leader’s son Cass and takes matters into her own hands.

Clarity engages in increasingly questionable behavior—deleting official records, lying to her friends, and manipulating people who can help her. As the nefarious nature of her actions tarnishes the purity of her cause, she must determine what it truly means to be a paladin, in both name and action.

Amazon Barnes & Noble Kobo Apple

Extract

“Come on, Clarity!” Hope grabbed Clarity’s hand and dragged her down Londigium’s main thoroughfare. The bright glare of the morning sun glinted off the silver skyscrapers and made some of the light-up signs in the storefronts difficult to read. Nonetheless, Clarity could make out the image of a dress on the digital placard of Hope’s destination.

    Clarity dodged to avoid running into some people going in the opposite direction from her. She tried to wrench her hand free of Hope’s grasp to give herself better maneuverability, figuring she could follow her friend’s gleaming, red-gold hair through the crowd, but Hope held tight. “Remind me again why we’re doing this? I don’t care about going to the gala, and I don’t see why I can’t just wear my official paladin armor.”

    “I swear, for someone so invested in her career, you can be dense about the things you need to do to advance it.” Clarity’s other friend Zeal tossed her black braids over her shoulder as she gave Clarity a scathing glance. “You have two weeks left until the gala, and Hope has convinced Steady Threads to make an exception to their usual deadlines and take an order for your dress. Try to be a little grateful.”

    “I’m a warrior.” Clarity cringed at the petulant tone in her voice but continued her line of argument anyway. “My job at the moment is just conducting training for the non-warrior paladins, but if and when I get promoted, I’m going to be a Citadel guard or a peacekeeper in the city. None of this has anything to do with looking pretty at a gala.”

    “Do I have to remind you why you put that ‘if’ in there?” Zeal asked. “You beat out the Grand Conductor’s son during graduation trials for a position at the Citadel.” Zeal was right. Steadfastness Hughes ran the Order of the Amethyst Star, and he hated Clarity. “You need to go to the gala and do some networking among the other warriors to make yourself popular in other circles. Or at least look appropriate so as not give him an excuse to send you off to the boondocks and install his son in your place.”

    “I know, I know. You’re right.” Clarity stumbled as Hope came to a sudden stop in front of the tailor’s shop. “I just feel more comfortable in my armor. The paladins already spent a lot of money getting us high-tech, retractable armor. I don’t see why they’re bothering to pay for dresses and tuxedos as well.”

    “Because it would be ridiculous to try dancing at a ball with your armor clanking everywhere, and the purple microfiber bodysuits underneath are not nearly as flattering as you all think they are,” Hope said, her voice containing an uncharacteristic tartness. “Besides, don’t you want to look amazing enough that Valor regrets breaking up with you just because you beat him in that silly contest?”

    “Don’t say that so loud.” Clarity glanced up and down the street, but no one she knew was nearby. “You guys are the only ones who know we broke up. Besides, I don’t think—”

    Before Clarity could finish her sentence, a man ran into her, practically shoving her into the store’s forcefield window. She and her friends turned in sync to watch a man in a fine suit run past them, knocking the crowd aside to get through. Behind him came a pair of men in armor as shiny as Clarity’s own, sufficiently far behind that the recovering throng on the street would be an impediment. By the time the paladin peacekeeper she recognized as Diligence noticed her and called, “Stop that man!” Clarity was already racing after him as best she could.

    The pursuant looked behind him and noticed a much closer paladin. With a curse, he tried to pick up speed, and when that failed, he turned a corner into what looked like a small alley. He must not know the city very well, Clarity thought. There’s an open air market on the other side of that building. He’s going to be easy to spot there.

    Indeed, as she chased him between the skyscrapers, she could easily see his head bobbing amid the stalls. Realizing his mistake, he pushed over a table full of crates of apples, sending the green fruit rolling across the ground. Clarity didn’t miss a beat, leaping into the air above the overturned boxes and landing on her quarry in a tackle. 

    The crowd had erupted into shocked gasps at the chase, but as Clarity pulled the man to his feet and twisted his arms behind his back, the crowd burst into applause. She heard the word “Azurite” murmured a few times, so she glanced down at his chest and saw that he in fact wore the telltale diamond-shaped, blue patch that marked him as a resident of the city’s Azure District. Everyone knew the Azurites hated paladins and the order they represented so much that they refused paladin technology rather than follow paladin laws. Clarity had heard rumors that people in the walled-off part of the city lived in abject poverty, but the man standing in front of her looked well-fed and clothed.

    Diligence and his partner jogged up behind Clarity. “Thanks for the assist,” Diligence said as he handcuffed the criminal. “We caught him trying to buy a slew of weapons on the black market. The dealer was smart enough to try to make a deal, but this idiot ran.” 

    Wow. Clarity had known she was chasing down a criminal, but she’d had no idea he was such a dangerous one. 

    “If you want paladin tech, all you have to do is submit to the laws of the city,” Diligence said to his prisoner. Then he turned to the farmer whose apple crates remained upside down on the ground. “If you file a report with the Citadel, the order will reimburse you for your damaged merchandise. We apologize for interfering with your business.”

Elizabeth Corrigan has degrees in English and psychology and has spent several years working as a data analyst in various branches of the healthcare industry. When she’s not hard at work on her next novel, Elizabeth enjoys playing tabletop role-playing games and cooperative card games. She refuses to watch most internet videos and is pathologically afraid of bees. She lives in Maryland with two cats and a very active iphone.

Elizabeth Corrigan | Twitter | Facebook

Giveaway: $20 US Amazon e-gift card!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

My thoughts: this was a fun sci-fi read with a serious and timely message. Clarity discovers that the history she’s been taught isn’t exactly accurate and that the people of the neighbouring Azure District are suffering, without basic things such as medicine to stop their children dying of a disease eradicated elsewhere.

She chooses to try to help, which puts her in conflict with the paladin leaders and laws. But sometimes doing the right thing can look like doing the wrong thing.

The characters are interesting and there’s world building fascinating, the writing is engaging and enjoyable. I can think of plenty of readers who will love this and hopefully embrace the point – we should help others even when they’re different to us.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.