Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Mutable: Chapter Four, Part One

Notes: We now delve into tropey goodness! I'm sure plenty of you saw this coming ;)

Title: Mutable: Chapter Four, Part One


Chapter Four, Part One

The easy mood from earlier in the day was completely gone when Cas walked back into the captain’s tent. Rone was there, along with Commander Hije and Lieutenant Commander Jepson, who sat off to the side glaring at the touchpad she held.

“It might be just as they say! There’s no need to jump to any—” When she saw Cas, she cast an affronted look at Rone. “What is he doing here? He doesn’t need to be present for any of this discussion!”

“Considering that it’s his people who have gone missing and his fate on the line, I’d say that yes, Mr. Farling does in fact need to be present for it,” Rone replied. It was only because Cas was good at reading people, exceptionally good, that he could hear the testiness in that reply. The captain was annoyed with his underling.

“They’ve been moved, they aren’t missing,” Jepson said. “Look, it’s all accounted for right here. There was a case of infectious mold in the apartments the Delacoeurians were given, and they—”

“Mold?” Darven raised an eyebrow. “As if this planet isn’t, what, probably fifty percent mold or mildew already? If Leelangers didn’t know how to deal with mold, they wouldn’t have survived this place.”

“That might explain why we can’t see them ourselves, but it doesn’t give me a good answer to why they won’t provide video of them.”

Cas listened to Rone with only half an ear, already sure of what had happened. His people, the unlucky ones, the ones who hadn’t passed the damn stupid blood test because of a chance infection or a lingering disorder—they’d been wiped out. Already. Damn, the Leelangers were cocky, to do that while their capitol was still inhabited by Imperians. They must have been so sure that no one would check on them until it was too late.

Hell, it was too late, even if these fools didn’t see it yet.

“—not something for us to pursue, we have to give it over to the diplomatic corps,” Jepson was saying. “Those are Admiral Deray’s instructions, sir.”

“The diplomatic corps seems to have failed severely in their work. I don’t know that I’d trust them to look after the welfare of a fly at this point,” Rone snapped. He was done trying to hide his anger.

To her dubious credit, Jepson didn’t back down. “Nevertheless, those are our orders. And I feel I must remind you, sir, that you have only just recently been reinstated to your duties after the last investigation into your conduct. Another infraction so soon would leave an indelible black mark on your record.”

“If you think I care about that, you’re as—”

“Captain,” Darven said softly, and it was enough to stop what looked to be an epic tirade. Rone closed his eyes for a moment, then opened them and looked straight at Cas.

“I’m sorry, Beren,” he said, his voice full of genuine apology. “This has all got to be very confusing for you.”

“A little,” Cas confessed. “Is—you really can’t find the rest of us?”

Jepson attempted to plaster on a genial, meaningless smile. “We know where your people are being kept, we’re simply not able to make contact with them at this time. Our diplomatic corps will be informed and have more information for us shortly. In the meantime, the Leelanger delegation has found a place for you here in town, and promised us that under no circumstances will you come to any sort of…grief while waiting for your next blood test.”

Rone shook his head. “Not an option, Lieutenant Commander.”

“Not our call, Captain,” she replied briskly. “There are no more available duty assignments on board any of our ships. Without a job already in place, we can’t take Mr. Farling with us.”

“I can work,” Cas interjected. He could feel the tide in the room wavering, ready to fall either way. It needed to fall in his favor, it had to. Otherwise he’d never make it. Even if he took out the Leelangers who came to pick him up at the gate, more would track him down. Cas worked best in the shadows, hunting one on one. Too many people and he would be overwhelmed. “I can—look, I know my resume doesn’t offer much in the way of technical skills, but I can clean, I can cook, I can keep a house, I can look after children, I read and write Standard as well as Leelinge and Delacoeurian, I can—”

He paused, as though catching his breath in the middle of a rant, and just as he’d hoped, Rone made eye contact. His expression was pure compassion, and something a little sweeter, something that made Cas’s skin crawl. He didn’t deserve anything sweet.

Jepson sighed, as though incredibly put-upon. “As impressive as those credentials are, Mr. Farling, they won’t do you any good without a pre-authorized duty assignment.”

“Well, how do I get one of those?”

“You wait for one to come through that is the proper fit,” she said. “In six months, perhaps as few as three—”

“Oh, lose the platitudes, Sofia,” Darven interjected. “The kid says he’ll be dead by then. Given the incredible lack of information and cooperation from the Leelangers on the subject of their ‘guests,’ I tend to believe him.”

“That hasn’t yet been proven, and until it is we have to follow protocol,” Jepson said coolly. “We have to, Captain.” Her look held volumes. “And as he’s not actually a minor—I believe your age is twenty-two, Mr. Farling?” She barely waited for him to nod. “Right, then as a legal adult, you don’t qualify for any special protections under Imperian law.” She pushed back her chair and stood up.
“I’m very sorry for the inconvenience, young man, but believe me when I say that it’s all for the best. Rules are made to be followed, after all. Captain, Commander, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to contact the admiral and inform him of the situation. He can mobilize the diplomatic officers.” She saluted both of them, then left the tent.

“So, that’s it.” It wasn’t hard to inject his voice with an air of hopelessness. Cas would have to resort to sabotage after all. “I’m staying. You’re leaving me with them, even though you know that they’re killing us.”

“That’s not proven,” Darven said, but his heart wasn’t in it.

“A Leelanger evasion is as good as a lie,” Cas told him. “They smile with one half of their face while snarling with the other half, and you only see the side that they want you to see. We tried for peace with them so many times, and they always, always betrayed our trust. We fought back because we had to. My brother fought them because he was trying to protect me—” And I failed, I failed, I failed. Beren, I’m so sorry. To his shame, tears sprung up in his eyes, and Cas looked away from Darven’s discomfort and Rone’s painful compassion.

“There might be another way,” Rone said after a moment.

Darven sighed heavily. “You can’t adopt this one out of hardship like you did the others, Captain, he’s too old.”

“There are other ways to make a person family,” Rone said mildly.

Cas raised his head, meeting Rone’s calm and purposeful gaze. Darven looked like he’d just been hit upside the head with a rock.

“No,” he said, “no no no, you can not be thinking what I think you’re thinking, Rone, you are not—"

“Beren Farling.” Rone’s voice drew him in, somber but beautiful. “Would you do me the honor of taking my hand in marriage?”

Monday, February 26, 2018

Where Death Meets The Devil

Okay, I don't often do posts about other people's stuff (I've done more recently, but only because folks have asked nicely) but even if I hadn't been asked, I would still have wanted to post about this book. It's just...okay, put yourself in my shoes. You like thrillers. Suspense. Badasses. Assassins. Explosions, gun fights, car chases, doublecrosses, heroes getting their asses kicked (then saved), adorable pets (in this case, a camel, and not really a pet, but the point remains), etc. This book has them all. AND I LOVE IT!

Plus, it takes place in Australia. I want to go to there...I might skip the trekking-across-the-desert part, though.

Look, you know me, you know what I like in my own writing. This books has all that stuff and more. It's beautifully plotted, complex, emotional, fun, sexy, surprising...I just really enjoyed it.

So! Now you know how I feel. Have a blurb, read for yourself.


Jack Reardon, former SAS soldier and current Australian Meta-State asset, has seen some messy battles. But “messy” takes on a whole new meaning when he finds himself tied to a chair in a torture shack, his cover blown wide open, all thanks to notorious killer-for-hire Ethan Blade.

Blade is everything Jack doesn’t believe in: remorseless, detached, lawless. Yet, Jack’s only chance to survive is to strike a bargain with the devil and join forces with Blade. As they trek across a hostile desert, Jack learns that Blade is much more than a dead-eyed killer—and harder to resist than he should be.

A year later, Jack is home and finally getting his life on track. Then Ethan Blade reappears and throws it all into chaos once more. It’s impossible to trust the assassin, especially when his presence casts doubts on Jack’s loyalty to his country, but Jack cannot ignore what Blade’s return means: the mess that brought them together is far from over, and Ethan might just bring back the piece of Jack’s soul he thought he’d lost forever.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Mutable: Chapter Three, Part Two

Notes: Cas is making his way around the camp, finding out all sorts of interesting things ;) Read and find out what. The next chapter is where the tropey goodness really starts to kick in!

Title: Mutable: Chapter Three, Part Two


Chapter Three, Part Two

Imperians, Cas thought to himself for the dozenth time since setting out, were arrogant.

It wasn’t that he hadn’t realized that before, but he hadn’t really understood it. Now he was beginning to see just how far their arrogance extended, and it would have made him shake his head if it wasn’t working so well in his favor.

He moved around the encampment like a wraith, sticking to the shadows and the obscuring rain, even when he began to shiver from the cold. There were regular patrols, but the people performing them were fast and perfunctory with their duties. It was clear that they didn’t have the slightest concern for their camp being infiltrated. And why should they? Imperians were the technological marvel-makers, the ones who had pulled themselves out of planetary solitude and obscurity first and gone on to create a new system-wide hierarchy as they saw fit. They were at the top—other trade planets were in the middle—Leelangers were at the very bottom. And Delacoeurians? Ha, they didn’t even make the graph.

It took about an hour to get the layout of the camp. The troop barracks and mess halls were close to the front gate, along with the administration tents. Further in were officer’s quarters, as well as the dedicated space dock where Imperian ships squatted like giant silver toads, waiting to leap into the air and croak their way into space. For a people who valued appearances so highly, Cas was surprised they didn’t do more to enhance the beauty of their ships.

He didn’t find any weapons, but that was only to be expected. Besides, anything could be a weapon. He did find the central generator, which was guarded by a simple camera and alarm system that a child could work around. If things went badly for Cas tonight, he could probably still manipulate Captain Basinti into letting him stay a little longer. Another opportunity to get outside meant he could disrupt the generators and delay the Imperians’ exit for days, possibly weeks. There was leeway here, and Cas knew how to turn the tiniest bit of leeway into a lever to open an entire cavern. Almost anything could be an advantage if you approached it the right way.

“If you think you might lose, then you’ve already lost,” his mentor, Ozeda, had told his pupils. Cas hadn’t been the only person of his generation to take on a phage. Ten had tried, seven had succeeded, and two remained alive. The other had already left the planet. She was the primary target on Cas’s list.

Christala. I’m coming for you.

First he had to make it off of Leelinge, though.

By the end of the second hour, Cas knew he should be heading back. He needed to break back in, after all. Shaking with cold, he made his way along the outer edge of one of the smaller barracks, a blocky, artless building that had probably been thrown together by a bot in under an hour. No aesthetics, no sense of beauty. Another chink in their Imperian armor.

Voices sounded from inside, braying with laughter so loudly that, despite himself, Cas was drawn to the sound. He hadn’t heard laughter in a long time. Should he…would it be wise to…

He had his ear to the edge of the door in a moment, eyes trained through the window to see what was happening inside. Two men and two women sat at a table, drinking what was probably alcohol, and also probably against regulations while they were in potentially hostile territory. Sloppy. So sloppy.

“But truly,” one of the men was expounding to the little crowd, “the fact that we’ve wasted so much time on this backwater irritates me. How hard is it to get the Leelangers to agree to our terms? Even cockroaches can be trained to eat from your hand.”

“Stiff necks,” one of the women, whose curly hair kept falling into her face, said. “Too much pride. And what do they have to be proud of, anyhow? Managing to survive on a swampy wasteland like this? Being better than the inhabitants of the unluckiest ship in the system? It’s ludicrous.”

“This whole fucking situation is ludicrous,” another man grumbled. “We should have been off this rock a week ago, not coddling a bunch of refugees destined to become our asteroid miners and toilet bowl cleaners. I blame Basinti. He’s too soft.”

“Watch it,” the first man cautioned him. “I admit that it’s inconvenient, but the captain is a hero of the conquest. He wouldn’t get a command like this if everything was exactly as it seems. There’s got to be some delicate diplomacy happening.”

“Fuck their diplomacy, Aleks,” the other man grumbled, taking another drink. “They don’t deserve diplomacy. We should have come in here, pointed our guns at their heads and said, ‘Give us what we want.’”

“I feel sorry for them,” the second woman spoke up. Belatedly, Cas recognized her—it was the soldier who had been dispatched to deliver his meal. “Not the Leelangers so much—the Delacoeurians. Imagine landing on the planet you’ve been traveling to for centuries and finding it so…awful. And then they got here and things were just as bad, if not worse. We’re doing the right thing by taking them away with us.”

“You’re a soft heart,” the loudmouthed man scoffed. “Too soft for this sort of work, Fillie. Lower planetary people are like stray wrakkens—feed them too much and they’ll cling like burrs, even when you try to burn them off. We shouldn’t be encouraging them to rely on better people to take care of them.” The door on the other side of the small building slid open, but the man didn’t notice. “Basinti should have told the Leelangers to take our crumbs and be grateful, and he should have told those fucking Dela-whatevers to make peace with their gods, because—”

“Because what, Private?”

The way the four of them jumped to their feet was gratifying. The one who’d been drinking the steadiest lost control of his flask, too. It fell to the floor with a clang as he wheeled around to desperately salute the officer who’d crept in like an unexpected storm. Darven, Cas remembered. First name or last?

“Commander Hije!” the drunk soldier gasped.

Ah. First name, then.

“Because what?” Darven pressed. “Because you think you’d like to go out there and dispense a little indiscriminate cleansing, is that what you’re thinking? Because you think, what, you’re so much better than people who’ve not only managed to live in some of the worst conditions imaginable for decades, but to almost take over the fucking planet while doing it? People with next to nothing build a civilization underground that rivals anything we could have done when we first arrived on Imperia. And lucky them, when they gave birth to dumbasses like you, those dumbasses didn’t survive long enough to make it into the military, where they could shame their commanding officers with their idiocy.”

The soldier looked about a moment away from throwing up with panic. “Sir, I—I didn’t, I’m so—I apologize.”

“I don’t give a damn about your apology,” Darven snapped. “What I give a damn about is you mouthing off in such a disrespectful manner. And the rest of you?” The three other soldiers seemed to shrink inside of their uniforms. “You should have cut your friend here off at the pass. I don’t care what you say when you’re on your own time, but on away missions like this, you have no time of your own. Your time is my time, it is Captain Basinti’s time, it is Imperia’s time, and you are disgracing all of us with your behavior. Next time I catch word of this sort of talk going around, I’ll have the four of you buried so deep in shit work that your eyes go brown. Do you understand?”

“Yes, sir!”

He singled out one of the women. “Private Fillie, the captain wants the Delacoeurian in Delta Two brought to his tent. Take Jarves with you.” He glared at the loudmouth. “And when you’re both done with that, Jarves, you come find me. Your night’s only just beginning.”

“Yes, sir!” The exited the tent double-time, and Cas swore. How was he supposed to get in around both of them? He sprinted around the outer edge of the camp to beat them back to his building, racking his brain for a way to get inside. He couldn’t out-maneuver two of them, not without—

Ah, but Jarves had been drinking, and heavily. That could be his in.

Cas beat them to their destination by a comfortable margin, and watching Private Jarves stagger along, he knew he had a chance. He sidled as close as he could, the rain mirrored against his bare skin, waiting for them to get close enough. Jarves was complaining—softly, so at least he could learn—and Fillie was trying to ignore him. He slouched up behind her as she scanned her wrist, made to follow her inside—

Cas stuck his foot out, and Jarves tripped over it and fell right into Fillie, knocking both of them to the ground. Cas darted in around them and went straight for the showers, letting the phage turn its efforts back to changing his face as he—very quickly—washed off under the spray, then dried and got dressed. By the time he came out, the soldiers had righted themselves, although both were rather red in the face.

“You must have really enjoyed that shower!” Fillie said brightly. “You’ve been in it for hours!”

Cas smiled sheepishly. “It’s the first hot water I’ve had access to for months.”

She nodded understandingly. “I see. But you didn’t eat anything. Weren’t you hungry?”

He was starving, actually—the phage took a great deal of energy to maintain. “I lost track of time,” he said apologetically.

“That’s all right. Why don’t you eat some real quick, before we go?”

“Fillie,” Jarves grumbled. “We’re on a timer here…”

“I’ll be fast,” Cas said. He bolted the food down—noodles in a salty sauce, some sort of spongy vegetable casserole, a square pretending to be chocolate cake, and a glass of diluted juice. It all tasted heavenly. He wiped his mouth and stood up from the cot. “Thank you so much,” he told her honestly. “I’m ready to go now.”

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Guest Post: Lander by J. Scott Coatsworth

Hi darlins! I've got a friend stopping by the blog today with the latest installment of his Oberon Cycle series. Is this not the most gorgeous cover? And don't you want to get your hands on some wingfic? One stop shopping, right here ;)

Blurb: Sometimes the world needs saving twice.

In the sequel to the Rainbow-Award-winning Skythane, Xander and Jameson thought they’d fulfilled their destiny when they brought the worlds of Oberon and Titania back together, but their short-lived moment of triumph is over.

Reunification has thrown the world into chaos. A great storm ravaged Xander's kingdom of Gaelan, leaving the winged skythane people struggling to survive. Their old enemy, Obercorp, is biding its time, waiting to strike. And to the north, a dangerous new adversary gathers strength, while an unexpected ally awaits them.

In the midst of it all, Xander’s ex Alix returns, and Xander and Jameson discover that their love for each other may have been drug-induced.

Are they truly destined for each other, or is what they feel concocted? And can they face an even greater challenge when their world needs them most?


Jameson savored the kiss, his arms around Xander, the way they fit together just right. They were finally together, and Titania and Oberon were one again.

Erro, Quince had called this new world. Like the skythane god of the sun, the one Errian and the Erriani were named for.

For the moment, everything was right in his life, and he never wanted it to end.

A cold drop of water on his cheek brought him out of his reverie. He glanced up. Storm clouds were piled high, swiftly overtaking them. Rain began to pour out of the sky like a waterfall, and thunder echoed in the clouds as the valley went dark, sunlight smothered by the onrushing clouds. Nearby trees thrashed about in the wind, their purple leaves fluttering in distress.

“What the hell?” Xander said as the winds picked up and ruffled the feathers of his wings. He stared up at the black tempest.

“The Split!” Jameson shouted over the howling of the wind. He mimed the two halves of the world, each with their own atmosphere, suddenly being forced together in the middle. “When the Oberon half shifted, all the atmosphere it brought with it along the Split was forced up here!”

A bolt of lightning struck a nearby tree, crisping it to ashes and standing Jameson’s hair on end.

“Run!” Xander shouted.

Jameson’s vision swam, and a memory slipped into his conscious mind from that other part of him—a high-ceilinged cavern that was more like a faery palace than a cave—where he’d stolen away with a lover. More than once.

His stomach heaved at the displacement, and he clenched his hands. That wasn’t me. They were someone else’s memories.

“Follow me!” he shouted at his four companions—Xander, Quince, Kadin, and Venin—and ran toward the cliffs that were rapidly fading to invisibility behind the rain. He pushed down the memory-nausea, tasting bile in the back of his mouth.

Alia was missing. He’d last seen her as they had fled the Mountain, when it had begun to collapse. Jameson looked around wildly, but she was nowhere to be seen. “Where’s Alia?” he shouted at Kadin as they ran. Thunder shook the valley.

Kadin shook his head, mouthing, “I don’t know.”

Rain swirled all around them, coming down so fast that it pooled on the ground and ran in rivulets downhill toward the lake that was now half filled with the broken remains of the Mountain.

The mud made the footing treacherous. Jameson clambered up the hill, using roots and rocks that offered a firmer surface than the naked ground. The wind tugged at his wings, threatening to flip him over. He pulled them in tightly and glanced back to be sure the others were following him through the tempest.

Jameson reached the cover of the forest, plunging under the protection of the canopy. The trees here were tall and thin with white bark trunks and broad purple leaves that were being shredded by the storm.