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Cover Reveal: Technopaladin – Elizabeth Corrigan

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I’m thrilled to share this gorgeous cover for upcoming new release, Technopaladin by Elizabeth Corrigan!

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Technopaladin

Expected Publication Date: May 2021

Genre: YA Sci-Fi/ Fantasy

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.

Desperate both to cure the children and keep her place in the order that is her only home, 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.

Coming Soon!

About the Author

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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

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Blog Tour: Down World – Rebecca Phelps*

Stranger Things meets the Netflix series Dark in this paranormal thriller where three mysterious doors in a school basement hold the key to unlocking the mystery of what really happened the night Marina’s brother died.

As the new kid in school and still reeling from the unexplained death of her brother Robbie, Marina O’Connell is only interested in one thing: leaving the past behind. But a chance encounter with handsome Brady Picelli changes everything. He will lead Marina to a startling discovery. The Down World is real and the past, present, and future are falling out of balance.

Brady is determined to help Marina discover what really happened to her brother. However, what is taken from one world, must be repaid by another. And Marina is about to discover that even a realm of infinite possibilities has rules that must be obeyed…

My thoughts:

This was a strange, trippy book, with weirdness all around. From parallel worlds with other versions of everyone you know and strange doors in unexpected places.

Is Down World something created by the military in the base that’s now the high school? How did the sinister Russian take over? Is there actually a conductor on the train? So many questions!!

All Marina wants to do is find her brother, if he’s still alive, and mend her family, but instead she gets sucked into a surreal and terrifying alternate reality, one that starts seeping through into hers. Can she unravel the universes as they merge and alter everything she knows?

A blend of scientific theory and a lot of science fiction weirdness that creates a novel that makes you think about reality and how far you might go for the people you love.

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

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Blog Tour: Kid – Sebastian De Souza*

  • Available to pre-order at many retailers including: Bookshop.org | Waterstones | Hive | Amazon
  • Indie bookseller West End Lane Books is running a special pre-order promotion, where readers can get a SIGNED & DEDICATED copy of Kid if purchased through their website

London, 2060: Following a series of deadly pandemics, devastating environmental disasters and a violent surge in cyber terrorism, the UN has made it compulsory for every tax paying citizen to login to the Perspecta Universe: a totally safe, pollution free, environmentally friendly virtual reality world.

Eighteen years later, ‘The Upload’ is complete, and billions of people all around the world exist in massive dormitory complexes surrounding the major cities, all totally unconscious of the crumbling world around them.

Apart from the renegades, the ‘Offliners’ who live in London’s silent wasteland, making the disused Piccadilly Circus Tube station their home: a fully self-sufficient, subterranean community.

When Josh ‘Kid’ Jones, a young Offliner, discovers that an antiquated piece of technology called an ‘iPhone left to him by his father seems able to communicate with the past through social media. He strikes up a friendship with Isabel Parry, a 16-year-old living in 2021, and the two begin communicating through time and space via Instagram. But what Kid and Izzy don’t realise is that by doing so they are not only changing their own fate, but also the fate of the rest of the world…

Sebastian de Souza is an actor, producer, screenwriter and musician. Sebastian can currently be seen on Channel 4, playing the leading role of Leo in the Hulu Original series The Great, opposite Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult, written by Oscar-nominated and BAFTA award-winning writer Tony MacNamara (The Favourite).

Previous roles include Gareth in the BBC/Hulu adaptation of Sally Rooney’s best-selling novel Normal People directed by Oscar-nominated Lenny Abrahamson (Room); in Netflix’s Medici, playing the iconic painter Sandro Botticelli; Alfonso d’Aragona in Showtime’s Emmy award-winning The Borgias, opposite Jeremy Irons and Holliday Grainger; and in the multiple BAFTA award-winning Skins, as lead Matty Levan.

Sebastian has also played the lead role of Rafa in Paramount Pictures’ Brit-Crime thriller Plastic, opposite Will Poulter and Alfie Allen, and can currently be seen on Netflix playing Edmund in Ophelia opposite Naomi Watts, Daisy Ridley and Clive Owen.

As a writer, at the age of 20 Sebastian wrote the feature film Kids In Love, which he also starred in opposite Will Poulter and Cara Delevingne. The film was produced by Ealing Studios, the oldest and most prestigious studio in the UK. He wrote and directed the short ‘Evelyne’s World’, starring Evelyne Brochu at Korda Studios in Budapest.

His debut YA novel KID: A History of the Future is published by Offliner Press in Spring 2021.

My thoughts:

This was a really clever book, the plot was so intriguing and revolves around blooming Instagram messages of all things, but in a very different way than just sending someone a random DM.

The future is bleak, utterly miserable, but maybe it can be changed in the past, which in this context is our present – 2021.

But from Kid’s perspective, this is the tipping point, from here on out things get really bad and he desperately wants to stop evil megacorp Gnosys from taking over even the tiny crumbling corner of London, Soho, that he calls home.

I was absolutely hooked. Even though we currently appear to be living through our own dystopia, I am still very keen on dystopian fiction with a touch of hope. And Kid and Izzy’s friendship via some weird technological loophole gave me that hope. This is a chunky book but it fizzes along, blending future tech with contemporary lockdown life.

This is written with confidence and talent – it’s hard to believe it’s a debut novel. The characters are realistic and engaging, the plot is smart and gripping. It’s very enjoyable and compelling.

*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: Sleep Tight – C.S. Green*

Even in your dreams you’re not safe…

The nightmare is only just beginning…

When DC Rose Gifford is called to investigate the death of a young woman suffocated in her bed, she can’t shake the feeling that there’s more to the crime than meets the eye.

It looks like a straightforward crime scene – but the police can’t find the killer. Enter DS Moony – an eccentric older detective who runs UCIT, a secret department of the Met set up to solve supernatural crimes. Moony wants Rose to help her out – but Rose doesn’t believe in any of that.

Does she?

As the killer prepares to strike again, Rose must pick a side – before a second woman dies.

My thoughts:

This started out as a tight, tense locked room murder but then dipped into Rivers of London style territory and became even more weird and twisted and I really enjoyed it.

DC Rose Gifford is contacted by a detective working for UCIT – apparently a compliance team but actually they deal with the weirder cases – ones like this, that might involve a killer who can astral project himself into his victims’ dreams and then into their reality.

What Rose is hiding is that she can see things that she shouldn’t – like her dead mother, and she’s worried if she says anything they’ll think she’s crazy but DS Moody and her team are on the lookout for people just like her – for them seeing the dead is a good thing.

As the case continues Rose has to be brave and dig deeper – it’s just all too neat and tidy, their suspect is too convenient. I liked Rose, her tenacity and nose for the truth, however strange, serve her well in this case.

Well written, gripping and very enjoyable, this is the first in what will hopefully be a series of strange cases solved by the UCIT team with some unorthodox methods, can’t wait!

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

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Blog Tour: A Song For A New Day – Sarah Pinsker*

An unnervingly prescient, Nebula-award-winning novel explores life in a world permanently locked down in the aftermath of a pandemic.

BEFORE.
Luce Cannon is on the road. Success is finally within her grasp: her songs are getting airtime; the venues she’s playing are getting larger. But mass shootings, bombings and now a strange contagion are closing America down around her.
The gig Luce plays tonight will turn out to be the last-ever rock show as the world’s stadiums, arenas and concert halls go dark for good.

AFTER.
Rosemary is too young to remember the Before. She grew up, went to school and works in the virtual world of Hoodspace.
Working for StageHoloLive, which controls what is left of the music industry, her job is to find new talent, search out the illegal backroom jams and bring musicians into the
Hoodspace holographic limelight they deserve.
But when Rosemary sees how the world could actually be, that won’t be enough.

Sarah Pinsker is a singer, songwriter and author. Her short stories have won the Nebula, Sturgeon and Philip K. Dick Awards.
Currently finishing her second novel and fourth album, she lives with her wife in Baltimore, Maryland.

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My thoughts:

This book made me cry, I don’t think it meant to but after a year with no live music, no theatre, no mooching round art galleries, no hearing buskers in the Tube stations, no tiny gigs in sticky floored bars, no crowds, no festivals, no hugging friends with shared glee or going a bit deaf from standing too close to a speaker, a book that celebrates the necessity, the essential-ness of music, of art, of crowds, of dancing, of being present hits hard. Really, really hard.

I love music, I love going to gigs, I’ve been to hole in the wall bars with a band in the basement, I’ve been to mega stadiums. I’ve danced in fields, in back gardens and parks, I’ve missed the last train home to hear the second encore. I’ve sat on concrete floors because the singer told us to, I’ve perched on the edge of stages sipping watered down cider in plastic pint glasses while the band tunes up.

And I miss it like you wouldn’t believe. I miss the thrill of a live band, of being squeezed up way too close to other humans, of dancing with strangers, of singing along even though I really can’t sing.

And this is what this brilliant book is all about. After a pandemic and some really brutal violence, people are afraid, they’re staying home and only mingling virtually. And no recording, no live streaming is ever as good as in the flesh. Something Luce knows and Rosemary learns.

I loved Rosemary, I loved Luce, I loved their passion and optimism (R) and defiance and scepticism (L) and the way that both of them are determined that live music, shared experience, the way a bass line can go right through you to your soul if played correctly, should never really be replaced by the hollow virtual kind.

A Song For A New Day is a call to arms, to retain your love, your passion, your joy for making things, for sharing things and for experiencing it right there in front of you. Not through a screen, headphones on, alone.

I cannot wait to go to the theatre, to a gig, to hear someone play an instrument or sing live again. I cannot wait to be connected to a room full of strangers by lyrics, by a guitar riff, a drum beat.

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

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Blog Tour: Orange City – Lee Matthew Goldberg

OrangeCity

Welcome to the tour for Orange City by Lee Matthew Goldberg! Today I have an excerpt to read and a chance to win a signed copy of the book!

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Orange City

Expected Publication Date: March 16th, 2021

Genre: Science Fiction/ Dystopian Sci-Fi

Imagine a secret, hidden city that gives a second chance at life for those selected to come: felons, deformed outcasts, those on the fringe of the Outside World. Everyone gets a job, a place to live; but you are bound to the city forever. You can never leave.

Its citizens are ruled by a monstrous figure called the “Man” who resembles a giant demented spider from the lifelike robotic limbs attached to his body. Everyone follows the man blindly, working hard to make their Promised Land stronger, too scared to defy him and be discarded to the Empty Zones.

After ten years as an advertising executive, Graham Weatherend receives an order to test a new client, Pow! Sodas. After one sip of the orange flavor, he becomes addicted, the sodas causing wild mood swings that finally wake him up to the prison he calls reality.

A dynamic mash-up of 1984 meets LOST, ORANGE CITY is a lurid, dystopian first book in a series that will continue with the explosive sequel LEMONWORLD.

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Excerpt

At six on the dot, the gloved cellular let out a piercing ring. A timer turned on, ticking down with each buzz. E wouldn’t have long to remain idle. The entire pod apartment vibrated, and his capsule bed slid open. The white ceiling drew his attention, the walls devoid of color, a minimalist’s fantasy—nothing like a home.

Shades of the dream from last night still lingered. His knuckles painted with blood as he beat a shadow. The voice of the shadow belonging to a ten-year-old boy. The boy’s cries stabbing E’s ears. He shook that dream away.

He removed the intravenous tube that connected him to his bed and switched off the cooling mist which allowed him to slumber for days. He stretched his old bones, his hair standing up in a state of white shock like it had since he was a young man. Swinging his thick legs over the side of the bed, he yawned at the morning before finally answering his cell.

“I’ll be right there,” he coughed into the digital eye on his gloved palm.

He removed the glove and pushed a button on the side of the bed. Doors opening along the wall revealed a sliver of a kitchen with a piping pot of subpar and gritty coffee brewing on the counter— the best offered to the Scouts— and two sizzling poached eggs from a suspect source. He scarfed down the eggs and pushed another button to raise the shades along the lone wall facing east. The heart of The City hovered in the near distance, its new buildings staggering on one end like giant colorful stalagmites. Sipping his black coffee, he watched it in motion as he did every morning.

Between the Scouts and the rest of The City lay a half a mile of ice water. The City was made up of many Regions, his situated on the outskirts. Sometimes he wondered what it would be like to fall into those frosty waters and drift off to wherever it might choose to take him, no longer having to shuttle between The City and the faraway Outside World anymore. But instead of a dramatic suicide, he suited up and headed through the tunnel with a suitcase in hand like he had for twenty years. He’d convinced himself long ago that living here was better than rotting in prison like he would’ve been if they hadn’t selected him. At least he was still able to get lost in a bottle of whiskey or feel the sun against his cheek during

the few instances it was allowed to peek through the chronic clouds. Even though The City was far from ideal, the Outside World remained definitely worse. It reminded him too often of the man he used to be and of the terrible sins he’d committed. These thoughts returned at the beginning of every week while he geared up for another one, as he wondered if one day the Man in the Eye might give him a promotion and he wouldn’t have to be a Scout anymore.

That way, he’d never have to return to the Outside World.

Then, he could possibly be at peace, like all The City’s inhabitants wished.

Available on Amazon!

About the Author

DSCF2105b copy

Lee Matthew Goldberg is the author of the novels THE ANCESTOR, THE MENTOR, THE DESIRE CARD and SLOW DOWN. He has been published in multiple languages and nominated for the Prix du Polar. His first YA series RUNAWAY TRAIN is forthcoming in 2021 along with a sci-fi novel ORANGE CITY. After graduating with an MFA from the New School, his writing has also appeared in The Millions, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, LitReactor, Monkeybicycle, Fiction Writers Review, Cagibi, Necessary Fiction, the anthology Dirty Boulevard, The Montreal Review, The Adirondack Review, The New Plains Review, Underwood Press and others. He is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Fringe, dedicated to publishing fiction that’s outside-of-the-box. His pilots and screenplays have been finalists in Script Pipeline, Book Pipeline, Stage 32, We Screenplay, the New York Screenplay, Screencraft, and the Hollywood Screenplay contests. He is the co-curator of The Guerrilla Lit Reading Series and lives in New York City. Follow him at LeeMatthewGoldberg.com

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Giveaway: Signed Copy of Orange City (US ONLY)

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Blog Tour: The Aether Ones – Wendi Coffman-Porter*


Long ago, the Great Sundering ripped the universe apart, creating two separate realities. The kuldain realm developed advanced technology, and its inhabitants travel the universe on massive ships to colonize and expand their empire. The aether realm, meanwhile, harnessed the magic of the massively powerful eldrich energy that connects everything within their realm.

Now, a tentative peace reigns between the two realms, maintained by a treaty and by the Imperial Investigative Service–a force designed to monitor interactions between the realms and ensure that most kuldain inhabitants don’t even know aether space exists.

Leilani Falconi, a talented agent of the IIS, polices the galaxy with quick sarcasm and a quicker temper. When a series of suspicious deaths in kuldain space threatens the secrecy and peace, Lei must solve the mystery–fast–before both her realities change forever.

My thoughts:

This was a gripping, clever sci-fi thriller that whizzed all over the universe as Lei raced against time to unravel a conspiracy with far reaching consequences for both kuldain and aether realm and their peoples.

She’s smart, quick and happy to commit violence to get what she needs if her bag of tricks and bribes don’t quite cover it. As an agent she has licence to do whatever it takes in service to the emperor, and a talent for disguise and assuming new identities as needed.

I liked Lei and her take no prisoners attitude, I appreciated her dry sense of humour and determination. The plot whizzed along taking in all sorts of weird and wonderful events and characters. Really enjoyable.


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

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Blog Tour: Winter’s Orbit – Everina Maxwell*

A famously disappointing minor royal and the Emperor’s least favorite grandchild, Prince Kiem is summoned before the Emperor and commanded to renew the empire’s bonds with its newest vassal planet. The prince must marry Count Jainan, the recent widower of another royal prince of the empire.
But Jainan suspects his late husband’s death was no accident. And Prince Kiem discovers Jainan is a suspect himself. But broken bonds between the Empire and its vassal planets leaves the entire empire vulnerable, so together they must prove that their union is strong while uncovering a possible conspiracy.
Their successful marriage will align conflicting worlds.
Their failure will be the end of the empire.

My thoughts:

This was so good. I did not know I needed a gay space conspiracy thriller in my life, turns out I did.

The relationship between Kiem and Jainan is lovely to watch blossom as they investigate what really happened when Prince Taam was killed, unravel a plot to destabilise the treaty that keeps the Empire and its vassals from war, get to know each other better and wind up the security service.

Kiem is one of those people who lead a charmed life, people like them, even their worst moments are amusing and humanising. He can be a lot (I have a friend who is exactly the same) but he means well.

Jainan is a lot more reserved, and with reason as his story is revealed, he’s learnt to keep his thoughts to himself and make himself smaller to avoid attracting attention.

I also loved Bel, Kiem’s aide, who does her best to keep him on the straight and narrow, but has secrets of her own and not just about how she’s so organised.

This was a tremendously fun read, with lots of action and a labyrinthine conspiracy that goes all the way to the top, with the risk of serious danger the closer they get to the heart of 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.

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Blog Tour: Tripping the Multiverse – Alison Lyke*

As a science journalist, Jade has seen more than her fair share of peculiar oddities—none weirder than her socially inept fellow reporter Antigone. When the test of a teleporter using an electron collider goes awry, the two women find their world changed in subtle ways, with anomalies breaking out in their personal lives. Their increasingly unstable dimension gives Jade the ability to shapeshift while Antigone can see portals into other worlds.

When the test of a teleporter using an electron collider goes awry, the two women find their world changed in subtle ways, with anomalies breaking out in their personal lives. Their increasingly unstable dimension gives Jade the ability to shapeshift while Antigone can see portals into other worlds.

A fellow journalist who attended the experiment is trapped in another dimension and Jade and Antigone hold the key to saving him. Of course, their task is not just a simple rescue mission. Realizing they will continue to drift into increasingly stranger worlds until they straighten out the paradox, the women reluctantly agree to travel through the multiverse in search of a solution.

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Chapter 2: “Bluebird”

When Jade peered into the mirror, she saw her sister’s face reflected in place of her own. Jade reached toward her sister’s face and watched as her sister’s hand reached forward, all framed by the mirror’s fading, pink roses. She pulled her hand back and touched her face. The mirror Amber touched her own face. Jade tapped the mirror again, and her reflection reached out toward the surface in unison.

After a few more moments of introspection, Jade closed the closet and reached for her smartphone. She had never used the “selfie” function before, so it took some finagling before the front-facing camera turned on. Jade saw her sister’s face on the phone, just like she had in the vanity.

I’ve turned into Amber, she thought, then assumed she was dreaming, since turning into her sister was not possible. Jade slapped her own arm, which had turned into Amber’s silky, hairless arm. She hit herself softly at first, then harder. She slapped her face, even harder, and watched as a red hand mark stained her sister’s beautiful face in the phone’s camera.

This isn’t a dream; this is a nightmare. When Jade was little, and she had nightmares, she would wake herself up by jumping from something high off the ground. She might climb a bookshelf or ladder, then jump off and wake up. If there was nothing nearby to climb, or if jumping from a mundane object didn’t work, Jade would wake herself up by jumping out of a window.

Dreams can read your mind, she knew, so she had to work quickly and with little thought. If she gave the nightmare too much time, it might figure out what she was up to, and try to stop her. Jade raced across her room, flung open her window and climbed onto the windowsill, and then she jumped. A nanosecond too late, she realized that she was not dreaming.

As she fell, a sudden instinct overtook her. She felt movement under her skin again, and she sensed she was lighter and smaller than before. I am a bird, she thought, I can fly; I am a bright bluebird. She pictured a bluebird in her head.

Not an actual bluebird, because she’d never seen one, but the drawing of one she’d seen in an ornithology book. She repeated the idea of a bird and its image over and over in her mind.

Blue feathers burst from her arms, her face elongated, and she was no longer falling—she was flying. As a bluebird, Jade landed on her windowsill. She perched there, thinking in a mix of Jade thoughts and bird thoughts. Jade investigated her bedroom, her bluebird eyes resting on Amber’s dress, which was now an abandoned lump of green cloth on the floor.

She heard someone approaching her door, so she flew inside, transforming back into Jade as she landed on the floor.

Available on Amazon!

I’m an author and an English and Communications professor from Rochester, NY. I’m an insatiable reader and a dedicated writer. I’ve spent many years honing my skills and I now enjoy helping others find and explore their own voices. I write fantasy and science fiction and I aim to captivate and inspire. I’ve written two published novels: a modern mythology titled Honey, which came out in 2013 and Forever People, a cyberpunk science fiction slated to come out in the spring of 2019. I also regularly contribute poetry and short stories to literary magazines.

Alison Lyke | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Giveaway: win a copy of the book

My thoughts:

This was a really fun sci-fi adventure, with Jade and Antigone travelling through multiple worlds trying to get back home and repair the strange anomalies that the dimensional shift has created.

Funny, engaging and clever, I really enjoyed reading this and as Jade comes out of her shell and starts to develop more, she grew on me, although I liked Antigone, she was probably a bit too much for her quieter friend. Their new found powers could be very useful or very dangerous, I just hope in their next adventure they make good decisions!

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

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Blog Tour: The Cronian Incident – Matthew Williams

TheCronianIncident

To celebrate the upcoming release of the final installment of The Formist series, we’re going back to where it all started in The Cronian Incident

Read on for details, excerpt, and a chance to win a signed copy of the book!

The Cronian Incident FINAL 150dpiThe Cronian Incident ( The Formist #1)

Publication Date: September 2017

Genre: Science Fiction

Jeremiah Ward was just another convict, a disgraced investigator who once worked the Martian beat, now serving his sentence in a mining colony on Mercury. When a member of a powerful faction goes missing on Titan, Ward is given an opportunity he cannot pass up. In exchange for investigating the disappearance of this figure, he gets a clean slate and a second chance.

But, the deeper Ward digs the more secrets he finds. Instead of investigating a missing person’s case he becomes embroiled in a centuries-old conspiracy and Ward comes to realize his one shot at redemption may cost him his life.

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Excerpt

Prologue

They stood two by two. In standard squad formation, moving onto their target area.

In front, Bern and Valeri stood, there arms held squarely at their sides. Durand could see that their hands were twitching. Valeri was attempting to hide it by crossing her arms and tapping out the rhythm of some unheard melody against her bicep. Bern however couldn’t decide what to do with his hands, and kept wiping them against his trouser legs.

Durand and Chayond were fortunate that way. In their hands, the equipment bags hung. Though relatively light, they were just burdensome enough to require both hands to carry them. They did not have to worry about idle hands or telltale signs of nervousness as they waited for the elevator to finish descending.

“Remember, no talking,” said Valeri, reminding them as the elevator came to a stop. The doors slid open to admit them to the station’s main hub. Bern nodded forward, and the four stepped out onto the platform.

Evening was now upon them, with several bright lights shining down from the station’s vaulted ceiling. Through the station’s dome, a thick grey haze was just visible. The faint traces of light reflected off of Saturn’s disc turned what would have been the black night into a deep, murky twilight.

The four of them were quickly swallowed up by the din of chatter, footsteps, and the sounds of a computerized voice making announcements in Anglish, Franz, Deutsch, Chin and Swahili.

The station was filled with hundreds of locals milling about, moving from one transit lane to another. Few paid them any attention as they walked through the crowds. Why should they? To onlookers, the group’s blue and orange coveralls designated them as maintenance staff. To all recording devices and sensors in the area, their ID tags also designed them as such.

Still, Chayond felt a tinge of panic every time the bag he carried rattled. None of their party would fare too well if they were stopped for inspection. Chayond felt himself looking at the few Gendarmes mixed in with the commuters out of the corner of his eye. If Bern saw him, she would certainly backhand him across the face. Of course, she would wait until they were no longer in public before doing so.

It seemed to take a terribly long time to cross the main floor. At the far end, they began to descend a flight of stairs, and Chayond felt a little better. The bag was rattling louder, luckily it was being drowned out by the whooshing noise of hypertrains coming and going inside their tubes. The dull, monotone computerized voice continued to announce the arrival and departure of trains, though it was becoming more difficult to hear. The noise was like a cushion that began to cloak their every move.

Valerni motioned to their left as they reached the bottom of the stairs. Commuter traffic continued to pour around them, which made maintaining their tight formation somewhat difficult. Still, they held in their two-by-two stance, moving towards the left track – and to the small door that led to the maintenance tunnel. No one followed them there. All the commuter traffic was drawn to the tubes and left what appeared to be a maintenance crew alone.

As soon as they were through the hatch, the noise stopped. The busy station was now sealed behind the pressure door. The only sounds now the gentle hissing of the tunnel’s pressure controls.  of course, Valeri’s commanding voice. Checking her chrono, she made a quick consult of their timetable.

“We’re on schedule,” she said. “Let’s keep it that way. Move out.”

The four collapsed into a single line, moving down the tight tunnel as quickly as they could. Durand threw the strap of his bag over his shoulder and Chayond did the same. Their steps became fast and heavy, their work boots striking hard against the metal grates that lined the floor. Heavy pipes and ducts controlling the settlements flow of fresh water and air whizzed by their heads. The high pressure and heat combined to make the going very uncomfortable.

Yet still, they moved. Rigid discipline and a clear purpose driving them onward. Until they reached their destination and set up, they could not relax.

When they finally came to the hatch that would admit them onto the platform that they wanted, they had all broken a good sweat. Only Valeri appeared to not be out of breath.

“Alright, pay attention because we don’t have time to dither.” Reaching into the pocket of her coveralls, she retrieved a small handheld. She held the transparent device up. Displayed on it was a single-frame. A man’s face.

“This is David Lee,” Valeri said. “He’s the Formist the Chandrasekhar’s sent on ahead to do their dirty work. Our intel says he’ll be travelling alone by the time he gets to the line. So that’s when we take him down.”

She tapped the screen. Lee’s image was replaced by a video feed of him standing with a woman. They stood close to each other, a degree of intimacy clearly implied by their body language.

“This is our contact. She is the one who provided us with Lee’s itinerary. According to her, Lee will be here at the time indicated, and he will be alone. However, if we find that they are together, then something’s gone wrong and we’ll need to take them both down. There can’t be any suspicion on her.”

“Who is she?” Durand asked.

Valeri shrugged. “Didn’t ask.  neither should you. All you need to know is, she’s not our target. If it comes down to it, we take them both down.  we leave her behind for the authorities to collect. Any other stupid questions?”

Durand was sufficiently shamed and shut up. Bern though had some thoughts on that score and offered them freely.

“Probably some just whore from the Yellow Light District. Point is, she’s a fucking patriot and gave us this information. So she’ll understand, I’m sure.”

All heads in the group nodded. A rumble shook the tube, indicating that a hypertrain was going by. It was nothing more than a passing tremor. No sound made it through the sealed pressure doors.

“That’ll be the 2115 to Cassini now,” she said, smiling. “Our Dr. Lee will be making the next one. Better suit up.”

Durand dropped his equipment bag on the ground, kneeling down to open it. Chayond did the same, placing his bag on the floor and separating the tabs on the seal. As Durand began removing their change of clothes, the others began to disrobe. The suits Durand passed out looked like something reptilian, scaly surfaces the same color as mercury. They were thin, no heavier than a stack of thermal blankets, with hoods at the top and small terminals on the left arms.

Valeri and Bern quickly became half-naked, their sweating frames glistening from the tube’s lighting. Quickly, they pulled the silver skins over their coveralls and began doing up all the clasps, sealing the suits around themselves and firing up the cells that powered them.

Durand tossed a suit aside for himself before handing one over to Chayond, who hesitated. His head was swimming from all the heat, the run had left him drained and full of endorphins. Still, he was aware enough to feel damn apprehensive. Accepting the suit seemed like a terrible step, one from which there was no turning back.

Durand noticed his hesitation. “Hey, you good?” he asked. Chayond glanced quickly in Valeri direction. She looked up from her suit to shoot him a look of disapproval and he quickly averted his eyes.

“Yeah, I’m good,” he replied, taking the suit in hand and unzipping his coveralls. Somehow, one look from Vslero was enough to silence any doubts, or enough to scare him into compliance.

A moment later, all four members of the team were suited up in their new vestments. Everything from their necks down was now covered in specialized material. Valeri pulled the last piece into place, pulling the hood up and covering her hair.

“Remember,” she admonished. “Make sure your sticks are charged just right. Too much, and his implants might rupture.  that’s the last thing we want.”

All heads nodded again. Chayond interpreted the mention of the sticks as an order to distribute them. Reaching down into the bag, he began pulling them out, one by one. Four slender truncheons, a small console on one side, contained a power indicator, an electrical port, and a few controls. He handed the first to Valeri, passed out the second and third, kept the fourth for himself.

Each team member inspected the sticks to ensure that they were set at exactly the right power level before sliding them neatly into the waistband of their outfits. Each stick connected with the suit’s internal power supply.

“Alright, let’s power them up,” ordered Valeri. “Let’s see if these things were worth the price.”

“Doubt that,” Bern said sarcastically. “ they still better work.”

As one, Bern, Durand and Chayond pulled the hoods up over their heads and engaged the suit’s power supply. Three low-frequency squeals sounded out in the tube, and where three men with silver skins stood, suddenly there were just three faces. The rest of their heads, like their bodies, were now cloaked in advanced stealth fields.

Valeri smiled. “Not bad.” She pulled her mask into place over her mouth and eyes and put her finger to the terminal on her arm. It took less than a second before she completely disappeared from view.

“How do I look?” she asked, her voice filtered and modulated by the mask.

“Like nothing at all,” replied Durand.

“Good.” She suddenly reappeared, removing the mask and hood. “Then be ready. If the target escapes, we may not get another chance. So make this one count.”

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About the Author

Matthew Williams Headshot

Growing up in the 80s and 90s Matthew Williams was born in to science fiction. He enjoyed many of the infamous SF franchises of the time and read many of sci-fi’s most influential works. As an adult, Matt marvelled at those SF novels which stood the test of time, while making valuable observations of the human condition, and he decided to create his own novels.

As a professional writer for Universe Today, Matt is well-versed in many nerdy topics ranging from: spaceflight to terraforming, Earth sciences to physics, and the future of human space exploration. He has interviewed many of today’s top scientific minds and NASA personnel, and been a featured speaker at astronomy societies. His articles have appeared in such publications as Business Insider, Science Alert, Phys.org, HeroXPionicGizmodoFuturism and IO9.

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