Tuesday, November 29, 2022

The Art of Always by Patricia Friedrich



The Art of Always
Patricia Friedrich

Genre:  Women’s Fiction/Historical
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Date of Publication: Jan 19, 2022
ISBN: 978-1509237791
ASIN: B09KQY4W8L
Number of pages: 372
Word Count: ~ 90K
Cover Artist: Diana Carlile

Tagline: The biggest mystery is why we lie to ourselves

Book Description:

Art history student Darcey Mendes needs a new topic for her thesis in order to graduate, but time is against her. Family debts are pressing. She fears she must give up all hopes of an academic career. Yet, without her degree, would she earn enough to provide for her secret daughter's future? 

Archie Northwood, rich and from a privileged family, suddenly reappears in her life to offer the chance that could save her--the story of his Brazilian great-grandmother. His ancestor was Modernist painter Ana Eça, who, on the verge of stardom in the 1920s, mysteriously vanished from public view forever. 

Choosing to unveil Ana's story is a complicated proposition for them both. How will they be able to work together to resolve the decades-old mystery when Darcey cannot allow Archie to guess her secret?

Amazon     BN     Google

Excerpt:

A thin mist had covered the city. Inside the fog, cobblestone pavers and streetlamps gave the streets a dreamlike feel, which Ana experienced from the other side of her window. Watching the movement of neighbors hurrying to catch a train or walk to work, she knifed a small wedge of butter and slathered it on a piece of toast. The flavors of the morning, fresh coffee and jam, delighted her. It was a moment of perfection, a fleeting one, full of ideas about art and success, so she took full notice of it. But soon the pleasure of warm French bread and sweet coffee was replaced with worry. Her morning with Joaquim and the strange intuition she had about it kept her heart prisoner and made her attention falter. The strange prophecy and the knot in her stomach alerted her to be careful. As she fell asleep the night before, she had made up her mind that the recent encounter would be their last time together. She reminded herself that no matter the powerful hold Joaquim had on her, she could do whatever she wanted.

About the Author:

Patricia Friedrich is a Professor at Arizona State University, having received her Ph.D. from Purdue University. She teaches courses in composition, linguistics, peace, and culture. She writes non-fiction about the intersection of those areas. Her non-fiction work has appeared in eight books and in over 40 book chapters and journal articles. Her fiction has been published in several literary magazines including Eclectic Flash, The Linnet's Wings, and Birkensnake, as well as in the anthology Flash in the Attic. Her novel The Art of Always was awarded first place at a regional RWA competition, was the winner of a National Indie Excellence Award, and was published in 2022 by The Wild Rose Press. She is also an author of historical romance under the pseudonym Eliza Emmett. All the Parts of Your Soul, her next novel (with Jen Jensen), is forthcoming. She lives in Arizona.











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Monday, November 28, 2022

Release Day Blitz Martyr by Linda Robertson Reinhardt


Martyr     
The Immanence Series
Book Three
Linda Robertson Reinhardt

Genre: Dark Fantasy
Publisher: Igni House Publishing
Date of Publication: Nov 28, 2022   
ISBN:   9781685440091
Number of pages:  635
Word Count: 148,000 
Cover Artist: Linda Robertson Reinhardt

Series Tagline: A renegade angel once changed human society forever… now a new angel will change it again.   

Book Description: 

Jovienne’s quest to understand her power and claim her freedom leads to a shocking discovery--one that will shake the foundations of modern society and sends her straight to Hell.

Listen to the Immanence Soundtrack



About the Author:

Linda Robertson Reinhardt is an internationally published novelist and her short stories have appeared in several anthologies. In 2022, she released The Immanence Series, a dark fantasy trilogy for which she created the covers and all the interior artwork. A life-long musician, she’s also an award-winning composer, so it’s no surprise she also wrote and produced a 72-minute original orchestral score to accompany the new books. She has even scored a few short, independent films. Her music is available on most streaming channels. She is also a graphic artist and a painter, and her artwork is available through Redbubble. If that’s not enough, she makes jewelry and hand-blends/hand-bottles fragrances that she sells on her Etsy store. A mother of four boys, Linda is married and lives in Ohio.
 







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A Haunting at Marianwood by E.M. Munsch


A Haunting at Marianwood
Dash Hammond 
Book Six
E.M. Munsch

Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Mystery and Horror, LLC
Date of Publication: October 18, 2022
ASIN: ‎B0BJ4GYGD2
ISBN-10: ‎1949281213
ISBN-13: ‎978-1949281217
Print length: ‎217 pages

Book Description: 

Life is good for Dash Hammond. He's recently remarried his childhood sweetheart, Dr. Maevis Summers, and together they're raising his four-year-old son, T.J. in the Hammond family homestead in Clover Pointe, Ohio. A retired Army colonel, Dash now keeps himself busy fixing everything from a leaky faucet to an unsolved murder.

It is no wonder that his cousin Billy McCafferty calls on Dash for a road trip to Kentucky when  his oldest sister is in trouble. The president of a religious order, Sister Miriam Patrice, Miri Pat to those who knew her before she took the veil, has been hearing things, seeing things and misplacing things. A very competent woman, she refuses to accept an unearthly reason for all this.

Marianwood, the motherhouse of the Sisters of the Blessed Mother of God, is located on an old plantation thought to be haunted by its original inhabitant, Miss Victoria Harris, who is rumored to prowl the grounds and cemetery in search of her murdered beau. 

When the Ohio contingent arrives, they discover that things are not as simple as your ordinary haunting. 

In a battle of wits, will the victor be supernatural or a very corporal retired Army colonel?


Excerpt:

A HAUNTING AT MARIANWOOD

Sister Miriam Patrice slid back from the kneeler. The quiet of the church soothed her as it wrapped its velvet cloak of serenity around her. She sat, hands folded, once in prayer but now to stop the trembling. Glancing at the sunlight streaming through the stained-glass windows casting a rainbow on the empty pews, she drew in deep slow breaths. She looked at the watch pinned to her tunic. Time to get back to work. She rose to leave the church, her place of refuge, a place free from the distractions of the running the community and the new retirement home the sisters established to help make ends meet.

The members of the Sisters of the Blessed Mother of God found their numbers dwindling. New recruits, as Sister Miriam Patrice called them mimicking her cousin Dash Hammond’s military jargon, were very rare. The teaching congregation once had more than a hundred sisters. Vocations, callings to either the religious or the educational side of the community, had fallen to less than a handful each year.

As she walked down the aisle to the back of the church, she heard it again. Tap, tap, tap. She stopped to listen, making sure she wasn’t mistaken. That sound sent shivers down her spine. Squaring her shoulders she walked to the doors next to the church exit. One led up to the choir loft, the other down to the cellar. In days past she had gone up the stairs; today she would go down.

Pulling the doorknob, Miriam Patrice met the resistance of a locked door. She pulled out her keys and unlocked it. She struggled with the door, suggesting to her that no one had gone to the cellar in a while.

The stone steps were worn but sturdy. She moved cautiously into the darkness, one hand on the wall to steady her nervous knees, the other searching for the handrail. Her hope was that the security guard forgot to close the door one day and some critter, not two legged, was trapped down here and making the tap, tap, tap sound. Logically she knew this was wrong, but the alternative could be worse.

Decades ago they discovered one of the newer buildings constructed during a period of rapid expansion had been built on an underground spring. It wasn’t long before the building tilted, as did their finances. What a waste of time and money. Fearful that what she would find was a tell-tale pooling or bubbling of water, she moved forward slowly. She said a silent prayer that she would not stumble into a puddle, a precursor of the inevitable unwelcome news.

Her trek seemed unnecessarily slow though reason told Miriam Patrice she should alert one of her sisters where she was just in case she lost her footing. But her reasoning had not been the sharpest of late. She blamed her sleepless nights, not because of an uneasy conscience but an overabundance of concern for her congregation and its uncertain future, both financially and individually.

After spending a half an hour poking into the corners, searching for the origin of the sound, Miriam Patrice gave up. She needed a flashlight if she wanted to do a proper search. Next time she would be prepared. Next time, she told herself, she would be less skittish, more confident that she could deal with whatever sprung up from the tap, tap, tap. After deciding this, she nodded to herself. At least she didn’t hear a drip, drip, drip.

The sound had stopped so she returned to the church. As she locked the door behind her, the tap, tap, tap began again, louder this time. If she permitted herself, she would have said damn.


About the Author:

Elaine Munsch is a native of Cleveland, Ohio, but has spent her adult life in Louisville, Kentucky.  She graduated from Nazareth College of Kentucky located outside of Bardstown and attended The Ohio State University for her graduate work. She has been a bookseller for fifty years working in both large and small, chain and independent bookstores. She opened the first Barnes & Noble in Kentucky where she set up a mystery reading group which is still active today. She also taught classes in the mystery genre for the Veritas Society and joined the local chapter of Sisters in Crime.
  
With Susan Bell, she co-edited MYSTERY WITH A SPLASH OF BOURBON, an anthology of bourbon related stories.

As E.M. Munsch, she writes the Dash Hammond series set on the shores of Lake Erie. The latest title, A HAUNTING AT MARIANWOOD, is set to be released at the end of October.






Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Bewitching Book Tours Holiday Sale



 Bewitching Book Tours Holiday Sale

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Reserve a Tour Now for Any Time in 2023

This offer cannot be combined with any other discounts, sales, or special offers.

This sale ends on December 1

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Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Release Day Blitz A Raven Remix Paranormal Penny Box Set by Sarah Hualde


A Raven Remix
Paranormal Penny Box Set 
Books 1, 1.5 and 2 
Sarah Hualde

Genre: YA Paranormal Cozy Mystery
Date of Publication: 11/15/22
ISBN:  9781736756645
ASIN:   B0BKFLD85D
Number of pages: 550
Word Count: approx 80,000
Cover Artist:  OlivaProDesign

Book Description:  

Most people run from death,
But not Penny.
She chases it down.

Penny's premonitions put her friends in peril. Join her as she stalks the bird of death by following the musical clues he leaves behind.

Will she and her cheeky cat, Spades save the day?
Or will the Raven be one step ahead?

This Paranormal Penny Boxset features books 1, 1.5, and 2 in the Paranormal Penny Mystery Series.

Join Penny and Spades as they thwart murderers before they strike.


Amazon     Kobo     Apple     BN

Excerpt:

It wasn’t life that flashed before my eyes as Betty Fae thwacked me between the shoulder blades. It was death and disaster—replays of all the faces of shock and sadness worn by acquaintances of my past. Death of one sort or the other followed that stupid Raven.

I remembered them all. Vividly. The writer, the homeschool mom, the surfer, the politician. They were among the near-strangers I’d encountered and endangered.

Following their faces came the really painful pictures. The friendly child advocate, the sweet boy next door, and losing my aunt and uncle. After them, but always above them, followed the loss of my sister and father.

All because of the same intolerable bird. Gracious enough to give me a glimpse of their perils before nudging them to the brink. Impending doom sat, staring at me, from the cup of the only friend I had in town- Janice Rockland. It lingered there amid the froth bubbles, telling me Janice Rockland had twenty-four hours, at most, left to live.

My eyes watered. My throat closed all the tighter. Even after it dislodged my Belgian waffle. Air battled past my suffocating emotions. I gulped it down, despising myself and fearing for my boss.

Janice and Betty Fae offered me a glass of water and napkins, thinking they’d saved the day. Little did they know. Trouble had just landed in their small town.

Janice watched me through the rest of the meal. If I told her she was about to die, would she be able to eat? I sipped my coffee and avoided conversation.

Long ago, I’d explained my weird glimpses to one of the Raven’s victims. Instead of believing me, my friend grew increasingly sarcastic about my confession. He mocked me. I didn’t blame him. I’m not sure I would’ve believed me, either. In the end, his sarcasm killed him.
Laughing and gesturing like a mad bird to make fun of my premonitions, he’d lost control of his bicycle and collided with a garbage truck just as it was lowering its load.

No, I wasn’t about to tell Janice about her Raven. I’d keep watch. Stay sharp. Once the bird made an appearance, he wouldn’t leave until his prey was dead. Accidentally or with malice aforethought.

The next song, movie quote, television commercial, or anything ominous could clue me in on how to save her. At least I could give it a shot. If I didn’t keep a constant eye on Janice, her death would be on my head.


About the Author:

Sarah lives in California, in a home that brings her happiness and hay fever. She loves God, loves her family, and loves freshly brewed coffee. She has a husband who cooks, a son who stop animates, a daughter who loves animals, a dog that follows her everywhere, and a turtle who scowls at her condescendingly.

Her mother raised her on Mary Higgins Clark, Diane Mott Davidson, and Remington Steele. Her grandmother shared True Crime stories with her as they plotted how to get away with the perfect murder. It's no surprise that Sarah became an award-winning spinner of suspenseful tales brimming with quirky characters. Mysteries are in her blood. Not that she could survive one of her own stories. She confesses, "I'd be snuffed out by chapter two."











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The Man Who Came and Went by Joe Stillman #MagicalRealism #Fantasy


From the writer of "Shrek" comes "The Man Who Came and Went," a magically realistic novel about a grill cook who can mind read orders, and a small town diner that changes lives. 

The Man Who Came and Went 
Joe Stillman

Genre: Magical Realism / Mature YA / Literary Fiction
Publisher: City Point Press
Date of Publication: 3/1/22
ISBN: 9781947951389
Number of pages: 240
Word Count: 64,000
Cover Artist:  Barbara Aronica-Buck and Susan Stillman

Tagline:  
A grill cook who mind-reads orders.  
A diner that changes lives.
Tips appreciated. 

Book Description:

Fifteen year old Belutha Mariah, our storyteller, is the oldest of three kids from three different fathers. Her life’s goal is to keep her dysfunctional mom, Maybell, from procreating yet again and then to leave the coffin-sized town of Hadley, Arizona the second she graduates high school. 

Along comes the new grill cook at Maybell’s Diner, Bill Bill, a mysterious drifter with the ability to mind-read orders. As word spreads, the curious and desperate pour into this small desert town to eat at Maybell's. Some believe Bill knows the secrets of the universe. Belutha figures he’s probably nuts. 

But his cooking starts to transform the lives of locals and visitors, and Belutha finds her angry heart opening as Bill begins to show her the porous boundary between this life and what comes after.

Amazon     BN     BaM     Bookshop     Indiebound


Excerpt

            That day, the day Bill arrived, my mom was serving up eggs and complaints.

            “Dammit, that daughter a mine,” she yelled to Dolene, across the diner. Shes like walking birth control. Does she think Im trying to have babies? Scuse me, Darlin’” Maybell gave Clovers bubble walker a little kick, sending it between tables 4 and 6 so she could get by and dump a load of dishes behind the counter.

            Dolene was homegrown, like the tumbleweed, with eyes like a golden retriever that never quite looked at you directly. She was smart enough to add up a check, but you could tell she was never getting out of Hadley. I take it you didnt get laid last night.”

            Maybell pointed to her sour puss. Does this say laidto you?”

            There was a harrumphfrom booth 5 by the window. That was Rose. Rose was an old woman by the time she was 30. Now she was in her late 60s, a widow since before I was born—in other words, forever. She liked to spend her afternoons at Maybells Diner, reading her book and keeping an eye on the goings on around her, as if she was the towns homeroom teacher.

            “Look at Saint Rose,” Maybell said, stuffing dirty plates into the plastic tub under the counter. Thinks she smells better than Mentos. I aint running a library here, Rose. Next time bring Readers Digest!

            There was another sound from Rose, something between a welland a pfffft.She never took her eyes off her book.

            The door opened with a DING from the bell that hung on it. No one noticed Bill entering. He was about average in height, but his skinny frame made him look taller. You could tell from his face that he was in his mid-20s, but those were hard years he had lived, and his body looked frail and geriatric. His clothes were old and clung to him like an extra layer of skin, with a smell that would never wash out.

The angles of his face were sharp and careworn. But his eyes, those were different. His face was hard and weathered, but his eyes were soft. They seemed brand new.

No one in the diner even looked. If they did they would have seen those eyes taking in every little detail: the people talking, forks carrying food, the string lights behind the counter, Dolene ringing up a check. But what drew Bill more than anything else was the grill. Harley, the grill cook, must have had four meals going at once, each with its own set of sounds and smells. Most of those meals involved eggs. His spatula made a metal-on-metal scrape as he turned them. Bill was riveted. He went to sit at the counter to watch.

            Down the counter, a porkish-looking man named Earle—probably one of three men in town who had never slept with my mom—raised his empty cup. Can I get a refill, Maybell?”

            Maybell stopped and faced him. Seriously, Earle? Is it so goddam much trouble for you to get up off your ass and get it yourself? Cant you see Im working here?”

            “Well…” he stammered. I just—was I—I was—”

            Maybell pointed to the coffee pot. How far away is that? Two feet?”

            “Sure, I guess…”

            “Am I your personal slave, Earle? Is that why God put me on earth?”

            “No, I dont think youre—”

            Maybell grabbed the pot and sloshed coffee in his Earles cup. There. You happy now?”

He nodded meekly.

            While she had the pot in her hand, Maybell filled the cup sitting in front of Bill. Ill be by to take your order in a minute, hon.”

            Maybell walked on. Bill just sat there and stared at the coffee. For him, there was no diner anymore, no Maybell, no clanking dishes or dumb conversation. He leaned closer to that cup like it was the only thing in the world. And there he was, smelling coffee for the first time. And it smelled like life. Like a whole world. Like this is how a planet smells if youre up in space and could take a deep breath. Bill was motionless for who knows how long. And then, when he was good and ready, he took his first sip.

            Those eyes, the ones that didnt belong on his head, they closed as if he was praying. No, more like he was hearing a prayer. The coffee was praying to be heard, and Bill heard it.

 

About the Author:

Joe Stillman co-wrote “Shrek” for Dreamworks which earned him an Academy Award® nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay and the Annie and BAFTA Awards.  Other produced features are “Beavis & Butthead Do America”, “Shrek 2”, “Gulliver’s Travels”, “Planet 51” and “Joseph King Of Dreams”. 

In television, he was co-producer and writer on “King of the Hill,” for which he received two Emmy Award® nominations. He was a writer and story editor for Nickelodeon’s “The Adventures of Pete and Pete” and a writer on MTV’s “Beavis and Butthead”. More recently he worked on Nickelodeon’s “Sanjay And Craig” and “Kirby Buckets” for Disney. Other TV credits include “Albert” for Nickelodeon, “The War Next Door” for the USA Network, “Clueless”, “Doug” and “Danger And Eggs” for Amazon.

Joe is currently working on “Curious George” and “Half-Baked 2” for streaming on Peacock.










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Monday, November 14, 2022

Beta Test by Karenna Colcroft


Beta Test
Real Werewolves True Mates
Book Two
Karenna Colcroft

Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Vegan Wolf Productions 
Date of Publication: November 10, 2022
ASIN: B0BKQLY5RN
ISBN: 978-1-958346-03-7
Page Count: 344
Word Count: 100,671
Cover Artist: Kim Ramsey-Winkler

Book Description: 

Tareth McConnell has learned not to count on anyone other than herself. She definitely is NOT in the market for a relationship. But the first time she sees the man with the long braid on the subway, she’s drawn to him.

The first time Justin Ruel speaks to Tareth, he knows there’s something special about her. Something that calls to him as clearly as her beautiful voice. If he didn’t know better, he would swear she was his mate–but that’s impossible. Justin is the Beta of City Pack, the largest werewolf pack in the United States, and he absolutely cannot have a human mate.

As their connection grows and they begin to act on their attraction, Justin hides the truth from Tareth. But when a series of attacks on members of the two Boston werewolf packs occurs, Tareth’s life is endangered. To protect her, Justin has no choice but to tell her what he is–even if it means losing her forever.


Excerpt:

She knew Justin wasn’t anything like Max. He didn’t seem at all fazed by his discovery.

If anything, he’d been amused. She hadn’t seen that at first. To her, the situation had been anything but amusing. It wasn’t until he’d threatened to leave that she’d realized she was overreacting.

At least we got the arguing out of the way on the first date. Maybe that means our relationship will be smooth sailing from now on.

That wasn’t exactly a logical thought either, but it made her feel better.

She rummaged through the pile of menus and mail on her kitchen table until she found menus for the three nearest Chinese restaurants. Justin could decide which one he wanted to order from, since he was insisting on paying. For once, she was grateful for the clutter. Having to search for the menus gave her a little more time to calm down and think rationally.

When she returned to the living room, Justin was at the window looking out at the street.

“You have a great neighborhood here,” he said without turning around.

“It is pretty nice.” She’d entered the room quietly, or so she thought. How had he known she was back?

He turned and smiled at her. “I just wanted to tell you how great today has been so far.

I’m glad we’re continuing the date. To be honest, I didn’t want to leave yet.”

“To be honest, I don’t know if I’m going to want you to leave at all. At least not until morning.”

The words seemed to drop out of her mouth without consulting with her brain. Of course she’d considered spending the night with him. She would have had to have been dead not to be attracted to him. And despite the way she’d reacted to his finding her toy, a tiny part of her found it arousing that he knew she’d used it on herself. Maybe he even knew that she’d been fantasizing about him.

No matter what her libido and body wanted, she hadn’t intended to let him know that she might let him stay. They’d agreed to come back to her place and kiss. Maybe more. She’d laid down her ground rules at the beginning. First date, no sex.
Neither of them had said anything about his staying the night, but that was exactly what she’d just suggested.

She bit her lip and managed to look him in the eye. He smiled, and something in his eyes let her know that she could say anything she wanted to him and he would be fine with it.

“I don’t want to leave either,” he said softly. “I’ve already told you I want you. It doesn’t have to happen tonight. If it does, I’m not going to complain about it, and I’m not going to think any less of you.”

It was an odd thing to say. Not something Tareth had ever heard from a guy. And it was exactly what she needed to hear.

“I won’t think less of you either,” she said, trying to make a joke of it.

“Good.” He held out his hand. “Let’s take a look at those menus. Lunch was way too long ago.”

They chose a restaurant and placed their order, then sat on the couch again to wait. Justin held her hand, and for several minutes they sat there together in silence, as they had on the boat. The silence now was just as comfortable as it had been then.

Justin’s touch was just as much a fuel for desire as it had been earlier.




About the Author:

A writer since childhood, Karenna Colcroft delved into the world of romantic fiction in 2009 and brought numerous novels, novellas, and short stories into the world until 2016, when various circumstances combined to enforce a hiatus. Now Karenna is resurrecting herself and some of her previously-published books along with new books set in the same universe.

Karenna lives just north of Boston and has been in love with the city since childhood, though she has yet to encounter any werewolves, vampires, or other paranormal beings in her travels. (At least none that she knows of.) Though since in her non-writing life, under another name, she offers services as a channel and energy healing practitioner, it could be said that she herself is a paranormal being. The jury’s still out on that.

Karenna is a polyamorous, nonbinary human who splits time between the home she shares with her husband and the one she shares with her committed partner. She also has two adult children and a bonus son, three grandchildren, and two and a half cats. (Half in terms of time the cat lives with her, not in terms of the cat itself…)








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Wednesday, November 09, 2022

Meaning Wars Omnibus: A Queer Space Opera by Michelle Browne



The Meaning Wars Omnibus: A Queer Space Opera
The Meaning Wars 
Book Six
Michelle Browne

Genre: Science Fiction, Space Opera
Publisher: Magpie Editing
Date of Publication: Nov 10, 2022
ASIN: B0BHXRZ8NP
Number of pages: 550 
Word Count: 237,000
Cover Artist: Kateryna Kyselova

Tagline: Two best friends search the galaxy for love – while an oppressive human government hunts for them.

Book Description: 

Two best friends looking for love.

An oppressive interstellar government.

Adulthood has never been so stressful...

For the first time, all five books in The Meaning Wars are united as a complete collection. In this queer space opera featuring a diverse cast, a found family navigates the politics of revolution and freedom. 

Join Crystal, a wormhole engineer, and Sarah, an English Literature graduate with a chip on her shoulder, as they try to find romance and friendship - while an oppressive interstellar government watches their every move. 

As Crystal deals with her faltering marriage, Sarah makes risky career decisions - by doing what's morally right. Running from the surveillance state of the Human Conglomerate, will the Interfederation's multi-species alliance prove their salvation? A crew of old friends and a union of renegade space pirates may be their way out. But first, they have to save rebel icon Patience Ngouabi from arrest and certain torture - and make sure they all get out alive.

Fans of Ruthanna Emrys' A Half-Built Garden and Becky Chambers' Wayfarers series will love the cosy yet intense adventures of this crew of misfits fighting for political and social justice.


Excerpt:

The leaves and trees here were soft shades of blue, ranging all the way to bold indigo. It was a sharp but not unlovely contrast against the pale sky, which looked white or a little yellowish because of the thick, protective atmosphere, shielding them from the insistent blue luminance of the F-class star. They’d seen patches of gold and yellowish plains, and even plenty of familiar Earthly green plants, which grew here quite well, but the native vegetation tended towards navy, periwinkle, and turquoise.

“Good job back there,” said Sarah in a whisper. “I thought you were gonna crack, to be honest.”

“Me too. But I kept thinking, ‘What would Sarah do?’ and I just tried to look bored,” Toby whispered back. He shot her a smile that started a bit wan, but gradually brightened. “Hey, we did it. And now we’re going to rescue someone.”

“Speaking of,” said Paulo, stumping over, “I finally got this shit figured out. Goddamn map was in really poor resolution and didn’t account for this fucking river valley having a flooded area. They sent me archived shit. I just figured out the discrepancies.” He sighed. “Sorry for snapping at both of you. I’m just worried and stressed.”

Sarah inhaled and let out a long breath. “You and me both. It’s not like I’m rescuing someone who’s basically my hero or anything, while caked in mud and preparing to flee for our lives—oh wait, yes I am. This is a nightmare.”

Toby bumped her shoulder and wiggled his feet in his boots, sluicing the mud off. “At least you’re not having this nightmare alone.”

Paulo pointed. “C’mon. Over there. Who knows how long we have before there are guards or a collection force? Those fake identities won’t hold forever.”

A cold pit formed in Sarah’s stomach. What if this was an elaborate trap? She’d seen that letter, sure, but did they know for certain that Patience was still alive? What if the guards had found her already?

“We’re in disguise,” Toby ventured, a tremor in his voice. “Um. Just so you know. That’s why we look like guards. But we’re not.”

There was a rustling. Didn’t sound like anything bigger than a rabbit—if those had even been introduced here.

The two guards circled them both, the person with sideburns keeping their gun trained right at Sarah and Toby’s faces.

“Wait. There’s supposed to be a woman here that Patience talked to,” said the one on the right.

Silently, a third person crept out of a hidey-hole Sarah hadn’t even noticed. Moss and a snarl of brush against the arch of a tree root parted and revealed a rather small woman with dark skin and large, anxious eyes, and a larger gun.

And then, abruptly, Sarah was face-to-face with her—Patience Ngouabi.

For many reasons, she was one of the most beautiful women Sarah had ever met, known, or heard of. Her skin was perhaps duller and less perfectly even in tone than it looked in interviews, but was still the glorious brown of fresh clay, with a hint of rust.

Still, she had the angelic features Sarah had seen in so many interviews: that heart-shaped face, broad, gentle nose, soft cheekbones, and full, plush lips. Her wide, dark eyes searched Sarah’s face in momentary confusion.

She had really been hoping to meet Patience under different circumstances—not while going by a dead woman’s name. If she took Patience’s hand, she thought, Patience would be touching the skin of a dead woman, not Sarah’s.

“I’m Sarah Jean White,” she said, just managing to hold her voice steady, trying to pretend she wasn’t starstruck.

“I’m afraid we’ll have to do the formal introduction later. There are soldiers on the way!” said Patience, without much of her name.



About the Author:

Michelle Browne is a sci fi/fantasy writer. She lives in Lethbridge, AB with her partners-in-crime and their cats. Her days revolve around freelance editing, knitting, jewelry, and nightmares, as well as social justice issues. She is currently working on the next books in her series, other people's manuscripts, and drinking as much tea as humanly possible.












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