Category: Literature


5.5"X8.5" Post Card TemplateIf you’ve been waiting to get your hands on a physical copy of Shadeborn, now is your chance. The next chapter in the Shadeskin Anthology continues in both digital and print formats, so jump in and join the story!

Synopsis:

A new power is rising in Shreveport, escalating tensions between Shade and Illumin. Every Shade in the city feels this shift and works to carve out their own section in the new order. The Raven family unites against their growing enemies to prepare for the upcoming war. Still recovering from the wounds of betrayal, the Ravens wrestle with painful memories of their losses, set aside old feuds, and reforge their alliance with the Illumin. In the end, all may succumb to this powerful force that threatens the city.

In the second installment of the Shadeskin Anthology, two authors interlace stories of ancient beings and their impact on the human race set against the backdrop of a Louisiana city.

 

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Save Fiction Day

July 31st is the first annual Save Fiction Day. A whole day for you to set out and buy something new and adventurous. You see, bookstore shelves are full of tiny hostages held for ransom and it is up to you to rescue them. Drag your friends to your local bookstore and comb the shelves until each of you have found a new story worth taking home. In doing so, you will have saved the life of that poor, defenseless book.

Don’t limit yourself to physical books though, because thousands more are stuck in the internet begging to be downloaded to your Nook, Kindle, iPad, or phone. Think of all the stories lying at your fingertips on whatever device you are reading this post on. They need a chance to be free and you are the only one capable of paying their ransom and saving them.

I’ve put together a hostage list that I think you’ll enjoy rescuing, depending on the genre. All of these recommendations may be purchased in at least one of the major ebook stores and by special order from your local Barnes & Noble. Now get out there and rescue some fiction!

Science Fiction

This is my favorite genre, and if you’ve never given it a chance before, use Save Fiction Day as your excuse. I promise it isn’t as nerdy as it sounds.

Supremacy: Reformation by Myself

Cast down and imprisoned in the age past, the gods left their creation to survive without guidance. Two brothers now struggle to unite the last of the ancient Orders. One rules as emperor, taking up the divine mandate bequeathed him. The other questions his brother’s loyalty to the gods, declaring he has supplanted them. With the rest of the galaxy shrouded in darkness, the Second Order stands as humanity’s last bastion of hope until the gods return. Will they survive?

Buy it from: Barnes & Noble or Amazon

Void Voyage 1: I Shall Not Rest in Peace by B. L. White

Haru has inherited a Solar System on the brink of war. He aims to repair it, planet by bleeding planet. Mars is his first stop. Upon the heights of Olympus Mons lies the cloner cults and their arcane ways. One of their slaves, a beautiful clone christened as Leena-58, is to be sacrificed for peace. Haru has come to save her and others of her kind. She must choose though, to live and fight for true peace or be murdered for a false one.

Buy it from Barnes & Noble or Amazon

Jak Phoenix by Matt D. Williams
Jak Phoenix is a pilot who would rather kick back with a cold drink than stick his neck out to save the galaxy. But, as we all know, life often gets in the way of these ‘big dreams.’

Jak and his longtime friend Baxter once again find themselves on the verge of bankruptcy. A last minute salvage mission delivers more than they bargained for when Jak’s old enemy shows up and steals their haul out from under them. When it is revealed the cargo is more important than any of them realized, Jak decides, against his better judgment, that a retrieval is necessary. His pursuit leads him right past his enemy and into the hands of the most feared pirate in the galaxy.

Buy it from Barnes & Noble or Amazon

Fantasy

These aren’t your typical fantasy reads, so look elsewhere if you need elves.

Way of the Black Beast by Stuart Jaffe
In a world destroyed by the abuse of magic, one woman fights all odds to survive and find the answers behind her mysterious past.

Despite the challenges — crazed magicians, guitar-playing assassins, mutated beasts — she pushes on with a single-mindedness that may destroy all she holds dear.

Buy it from Barnes & Noble or Amazon

Eden by Matthew C. Plourde
When an earthquake plunges the world into darkness, Alexandra Contreras struggles for survival and seeks answers. Guided by a mysterious, scarred man, she braves the wasteland in search of humanity’s mythical birthplace: Eden. Once confronted with her tragic destiny, she must make a decision which will alter the fate of the world.

Buy it from Barnes & Noble or Amazon

Urban Fantasy

And now for something completely different…

ShadeskinShadeskin by Myself, B. L. White, and Amanda White
Lurking beneath the veil of reality, a supernatural war threatens to consume the city of Shreveport, Louisiana. The Illumin, messengers of light, strive to protect the city’s human inhabitants from the vicious Shades. Banished from their natural world, the Shades carve out a restless existence among us. The powerful Raven family stands between the warring Shades and Illumin, struggling to maintain a delicate balance while ensuring that everyone else remains unaware.

An Aztec relic makes its way into Matthew Gillard’s hands, unlocking an evil with the power to bring back the dead. Impossible to control, the relic bends him to its will. Now Raven, Shade, and Illumin all desperately seek this nerdy kid from the nearby town of Wheelbarrow Creek.

Buy it from Barnes & Noble or Amazon

Paranormal Romance

I don’t regularly read this genre, but many people enjoy it.

Blood Lust by Zoe Winters
It’s all about the blood…

Comprised of three novellas, Blood Lust gives readers a snapshot look at the world of the Preternaturals Series. (Future installments of the series will be novels.)

KEPT:
As a cat therian (shifter), Greta’s blood is already sought after to enhance spells and potions, but due to a quirk of her birth, her blood is potent enough to kill for. When her tribe plans to sacrifice her, Greta must ally herself with Dayne, the dangerous local sorcerer, and the only person strong enough to protect her.

CLAIMED:
For a vampire, Anthony isn’t a picky eater, but he’s drawn to Charlee’s blood more than any other. Like a fine wine saved for a special occasion, he’s denied himself this pleasure. But one night, high from the potent magical blood of another, he claims his prize and loses control. Ashamed of almost killing the one woman who means anything to him, he wipes her memory of the event. When Charlee awakens with complete amnesia, Anthony is the only one who can clean up the mess he’s made.

MATED:
Because of the vampiric blood that has run through her veins since birth, Jane has been a target for vampires who resent a human being “kindred.” She’s forced to disguise herself as a vampire groupie to appease them and safeguard her life. When she’s abruptly given to Cole, the leader of the werewolf pack, to satisfy a gambling debt, she discovers the blood running through her veins has a far greater impact on her destiny than she ever imagined.

Buy it from Barnes & Noble or Amazon

I Will Not Abide

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Some things in pop culture I can let go. Tabloid magazines don’t pretend to be anything more than vapid pictures of celebrities, so I happily ignore them. However, I will not abide this repackaged Twilight fanfiction currently sweeping the top of the New York Times bestsellers list.

I’m calling on every author out there to join me in a blog campaign to stop this plague of smut. If drek like that can make it to the top, we can surely dethrone it with our superior fiction. We just need to unify our voices across the internet and get our readers out in force. I’m officially declaring July 31, 2012 to be “Save Fiction” day!

Hashtag: #SAVEFICTION

If you want to join me in this campaign, write up a blog post on July 24 showing off some of your work and link to where readers can buy it. Tell them they can save fiction by flooding every commercial outlet with their purchases on the 31st. If you are feeling particularly generous, link them to other authors’ works. The point is to get everyone buying something other than 50 Shades. Literally anything they could possibly buy will be better.

We need to take to the bookstores and load up our bags and ereaders with new fiction that is better than 50 Shades!

If you have any ideas to contribute to this campaign, comment on this post or hit me up on Twitter.

Shadeskin Preview

I love writing in multiple genres at the same time. It works my brain all the way around, sloshing the creative juices everywhere. Now that Supremacy: Reformation is officially off the ground, I need to tell you about my cross-pollination with urban fantasy.

About three years ago, I wrote a short story involving angels and demons, completely ignorant of just how big the urban fantasy genre had become. The story itself wasn’t really that great, so I shelved the idea hoping it would ferment a little more. Well, after the whole Twilight craze drove me insane, I knew I had to bring something different to the UF table to wash away the embarrassing image of sparkling vampires.

I promptly dug up my story and presented to my writers’ group an idea of creating our own UF anthology set in my world. We put our three imaginations together and created Shadeskin, a story of light and shadow set in our hometown of Shreveport, LA. It is a collection of five inter-weaving tales that re-envision the typical angel/demon archetypes. Trust me, you haven’t read anything like this before.

As proof, here is a preview of the first story, Walk the Crimson Path, written by yours truly.

 Shadeskin

Walk the Crimson Path

The axehead scraped along the concrete, leaving behind a trail of warm blood. Blackened viscera clung to its sharp edges. Awash in red, a thin hand wrapped tightly around its handle and pulled it along with a stammering jerk. Escaping the carnage behind them, pale feet stumbled before the crimson path.

The rising sun kissed the face of the young woman dragging the axe. Shadows crept around her, hiding from the growing rays of light. Her long, black hair, matted with blood, lay flat against her back. She staggered along until finally reaching the street curb.

“So, this is destiny,” she whispered, a forced smile curving her lips.  

Several bystanders gathered around her. Proud to be a spectacle, she smiled and drank in their fear and confusion. One man summoned the courage to follow the bloody trail into the nightclub. He didn’t last long before running back outside and vomiting over the pavement. 

She admired his tenacity. On any normal day, he or anyone else in the crowd might have been able to alert the authorities, but she knew the force permeating their minds weighed them down. Their eyes were glazed over.

In the still air, the young woman’s hair began to sway at the approach of a powerful entity. A cloud of unnatural darkness materialized behind the bystanders, drawing their gaze. A man stepped regally from the cloud and walked toward her. The crowd parted to make way for his purposeful stride. Renewed fear sparked inside everyone, save for her. 

“Where does your destiny take you?” he asked.

To you,” she replied, feeling her ties to the physical realm loosening. It felt like she was awakening from a dream.

Now,” he said, his voice cutting the air with finality, “You are mine. Hold on to this.” 

He brought her in for an intimate kiss. The moment their lips connected, a peaceful wave rolled through her. Quivering under his power, she let go of the axe and wrapped her arms around his strong neck. The axe handle slapped the concrete, flinging droplets of blood. A surge of warmth resounded within her heart, healing all the torment she had so recently endured.

The sun’s light faded, withdrawing its warm touch from her face. She held on to him for stability as the pavement dissolved. A multitude of sensations charged through her. Opening her eyes, she was alone in darkness. Then, she began falling.

~~~

Clara’s furious eyes bore through her mother’s gentle stare. Her father had quickly bowed out of the argument to steel himself in the living room. 

“How many times do I need to make my point?” Clara asked through clenched teeth. “You manufacture conspiracies from the tiniest actions of any company that works with the government, especially when it comes to things you don’t even understand, like internet security. Mandrake Solutions is your latest target only because I have a chance to work for them!”

“Conspiracies?” her mother replied. “This is about you turning your back on your father and me to prove a point. Just by taking this interview, you are opening yourself up to a world of corruption. You should know to stay true to your values and not involve yourself with malicious people. We taught you better than that.”

“Oh yes, fearing everything was a great lesson.” Sarcasm dripped through Clara’s words, “In school, I was the weird kid that couldn’t eat the cafeteria food because of its ‘poisonous content’ implanted by the government. It took me forever to convince you that cell phones were safe from wandering ears. I am still shocked you relented on that one.”

“Clara, I know working for a top security firm may seem like a valuable societal contribution, but can’t you see the danger? You will be connected to sensitive areas of our government that will make you a high-profile target. I am just trying to shield you now like I did when you were young. You paint me as an over-zealous mother during your childhood, but, just like then, you are still too young to see the oncoming storms.”

“Mom, this isn’t the Cold War. There aren’t covert agents living among us, planning assassinations for everyone. We live in an information age where our digital lives need protection. I will shield you, even if you don’t appreciate or understand it.”

“Please, rethink this. You have enough talent to work for anyone you choose. Take an interview with any other company, just not Mandrake, not with government contracts. I just-” she paused, her face wincing with thought. “Believe me, you will understand one day when you-“

“When I grow up?” Clara interrupted. “I am grown up. You can keep your conspiracies while I escape this prison and enter the real, rational world.”

Her mother clutched at the side of her burnt-orange skirt with nervous fingers. A tear formed in the corner of her eye, but she escaped Clara’s room before it fell.

Clara instantly regretted driving her mother to tears again. She heard her father trying to calm her down in the living room. Clara stood fuming in the middle of her room, waiting for the inevitable. After a few minutes, her father appeared in the doorway. Tall and slender, he was the pole that kept their rocking gondola stable. 

“I try not to fight with her, Dad,” Clara offered.

He just smiled and hugged her. “She knows that, but you two are so stubborn and entrenched in your own ideals that neither of you will yield. Not even for peace’s sake.”

“True,” she laughed, looking up into his dark, comforting eyes. A cloud of stubble shadowed his face. 

“Remember, Clara, this world is yours to conquer, but at least pay some attention to what we say. We aren’t as crazy as you might think.”

“Just eccentric,” she playfully responded, her anger subsiding. 

“The time will come when your perspective will change.” He put his hand on top of her head. “You’ll always be my little girl, no matter how tall you get or how far you travel.”

“Nathan, we need to go,” her mother called from the kitchen. 

Clara looked in her mother’s direction. “Tell her I’m sorry.”

“Make a little time tonight to stop by the club and tell her yourself.” Nathan leaned in and kissed her on the forehead. He gently squeezed her shoulder before rushing off. 

Clara sighed and fell backward onto her bed, cushioned by a mountain of pillows. Her ceiling fan rotated, laughing at her with its periodic squeaking. She lifted a round pillow over her head and punched it a few times before laying it on her stomach. She could almost feel the ‘negative energy’ swirling around the room. Her mother certainly had an odd way of seeing the world.

From the moment she was born, Clara was set up for failure. Her parents thought the world of their only child, but they never grounded her in reality. Instead, they spoiled her into thinking she was special with bedtime stories about how she would someday save the world. While harmless for a young child, the stories didn’t stop as she grew older and instead transformed into prophecy.

As a budding teen, Clara’s talent for re-telling her destiny just seemed weird. The captivated audience she was used to began rolling their eyes and trying to switch the subject to music and boys. Clara, the fated savior of the world, watched her social life go up in flames.

The ‘special’ food she carried to school each day tasted more like ash the longer she was alone. No one believed her anymore about how her food kept her safe from dangerous toxins. The fact she had never seen a real doctor created rumors she couldn’t escape. At first she hated the kids at school for their cruelty, but by high school, she realized her parents had done this to her with their crazy beliefs.

The constant supply of rumors branded her an outcast. Ostracized, she accepted her true fate as the weird kid. She hated her parents every lonely minute of high school. However, they were still her parents and for all their numerous flaws, at least they nurtured her academic side. By the time she graduated, she had outpaced her classmates in every scholastic measure.

Thankfully, college evened things out, allowing her a taste of normal life with actual friends. She started life anew with a clean slate. No longer would she allow anyone to know her as the ‘false destiny chick.’ The sooner she moved away from her parents, the sooner her childhood scars would heal.

The muffled sounds of closing doors announced Clara was alone in the house. Friday nights initiated the nightclub cycle, and her parents offered the best, non-conformist experience down at the Hookah Palooka. They hated it when Clara referred to it as a ‘hippie bar,’ even if it was true.

She sat up on the edge of her bed and looked in her vanity mirror. Frizzled auburn hair fell just past her shoulders. Murky rings cupped her brown eyes, reminders of her argument with her mother. Still, she remained fixed on her goal of shining in her interview with Mandrake.

A pop song burst through the silent air, signaling an incoming call. Clara reached for her phone, her face lighting up after seeing the caller ID. 

“Hey,” she answered.

“Hey you,” Drake replied. “Have any plans tonight?”

“Just avoiding my mother. We clashed pretty fantastically today.” Her voice shook more than she realized.

“Yeah, you sound out of it. More speeches about how you’re wasting your life?”

“Of course. She wants to shelter me from everything, and I am beginning to realize that nothing I ever say will change her mind.” The memory of that earlier conversation burned inside her head.  

“Mothers,” Drake said sarcastically, “They think you owe them your life because they made a decision to bring you into this world.”

“Ha. I like to pretend it doesn’t bother me, but I only lie to myself.”

“Well, keep reaching for your dreams and take her advice where you can. It’s not like she wants you to fail. She still loves you.”

“I know,” Clara admitted. “It’s just lately, I have been really stressed about this interview.”

“I don’t think any of the other interview candidates can even hold a candle to you.”  

“You mean the ones coming from Ivy League?”

“Hey, optimism always wins out, and when it comes to intellect, you have it all,” Drake said firmly.

“I wish I had your cheery disposition.”

“Do you want some of it tonight?”

Clara looked at her computer desk where stacks of books surrounded her cherry-red laptop. “I have a few more things to look over.”

“You need to unwind sometime in the near future.” He seemed a bit pleading.

“I will, just as soon as this interview is over.” 

“I will definitely take you up on that.”

“I was hoping you would,” she said, bringing the conversation to a close. Hopefully he wasn’t as dejected as he sounded. 

“Ok. I love you.”

She hung up before realizing she had not reciprocated. She started to call him back, but the doorbell rang. She rose from her bed with a sigh and headed to the front door.

A haze of sunlight filtered into the living room through vertical blinds covering a pair of French doors. Past the doors lay a well-kept back yard. A couch and a pair of easy chairs sat around a glass coffee table in the center of the room. Her mother’s tea grew cold in a yellow mug near the table’s edge.

The doorbell rang a few more times before Clara made it to the door, inciting her to fling it open in frustration. Louisiana’s humid summer air greeted her with its wet kiss. She stepped outside and looked around the bend of the house to find no one. Studying for this interview must be more draining than she thought.  

She moved back to her room. Opportunity wafted from the stack of books surrounding her computer as she sat at her desk. She cracked open the book on mathematical graph theory she had been reading before her mother’s earlier interruption. Pages of handwritten notes sat wedged throughout, representing the milestones of her college course. Most students never understand the close relationship math shares with computer science, but when it comes to digital security, the two are inseparable. 

Her mind floated into the pages of her studies. Information flooded back to her while she read, reminders of a simpler time. Only now did she see the real-world application of what she had learned, and Mandrake would be most interested in the interview candidate who clearly demonstrated such insights. Competition was fierce, but so was she. Well, at least Drake believed in her. 

The doorbell rang again, breaking her concentration. Annoyed, she threw her book onto her bed and went back to open the door. A cloud passed overhead, toning down the cheery light in the living room. She opened the door and again saw no one. She let out a frustrated sigh. 

Instantly, a loud banging noise snapped her attention to the French doors. A human shadow cast on the blinds wildly slammed its fists into the glass. Clara froze in place, paralyzed with fear.

“Help me!” the shadow screamed desperately before collapsing onto the ground.

Clara’s limbs awakened at once and she rushed to the French doors, quickly sliding the blinds aside. Instead of lying on the ground, the figure leaned upright against the glass, startling her. She fell backward onto the hardwood floor in surprise. A thin young woman with long, dark hair looked down at her through a pair of black over-sized sunglasses.

A chill tingled Clara’s spine, sucking her breath away. She screamed inwardly, commanding herself to move, but she remained pinned to the floor. Fear sliced into her heart like a knife.

The woman swung an axe into the French doors. Harsh lines of cracked glass grew outward from the center of the door. With a twisted smile, she thrust the axe straight into the door, blowing tiny shards of glass into the house.

Clara felt a dark presence reach in and touch her soul. She rolled onto her hands and knees, clawing at the floor in a frantic dash to the front door. The woman laughed softly behind her.

Clara grabbed the edge of the coffee table and pulled herself up. The woman buried the axe deep into her lower back. Clara slammed onto the coffee table, spilling her mother’s tea. She screamed through the pain, trying to crawl across the table.  

Bare feet landed on either side of her. The axe tore into her side, cracking through bone. Clara curled around it, trying to hold it in place. With a quick jerk, the axe swept out again, taking with it a chunk of flesh. Clara lurched onto her back and screamed until blood poured from her mouth, choking her voice. 

Feeling the cold metal of the axehead press against her neck, she looked up in terror at her assailant. The woman bent down, placing her lips next to Clara’s ear.

The woman spoke in a gentle, impassive voice, “Your vision is too narrow, but only through this pain will you expand it. Tear your heart in half and bury your soul.”

The woman jumped off the table and exited through the front door, leaving it open. Clara looked outside, feeling throbbing pain numb her body. Carefree birds sang her eulogy. She reached for them, wishing they would save her. Blood seeped between her fingers over the glass of the coffee table. Daylight faded away, leaving her in darkness. 

End of Demo

I hope you enjoyed this snippet. For the full experience, look for the release of Shadeskin soon in print and ebook.

While I do not have any firm release dates yet for Supremacy: Reformation, I do have something to whet your appetite. To appreciate the full breadth of the story you need to start at the absolute beginning anyway.

Behold! The mythos that fuels the Reformation series inside the Supremacy universe:


The Origin

Supremacy - Reformation: Series 1 Cover Art

Cover Art for Supremacy - Reformation: Series 1

At the Origin, the two supreme entities of Light and Dark filled everything with their power. Light was an open expanse anchored at its center by a sphere of formless mass. Dark was a brooding void fueled by logic and reason. They both distanced themselves from each other, content to exist independently. Eventually, Dark desired ultimate control and reached out to steal Light’s mass. Light resisted, and thus began their eternal struggle.

They each pulled on the sphere unwilling to relent. The strain escalated until the mass exploded, leaving a ring that marked the line at which both entities had gripped it. The rest of the mass traveled outward, escaping both entities.

In anger, Dark swallowed Light with its void, dispersing it into pockets of small remnants that became the stars. Light reached out through the stars, grabbing at the exploded mass until it swirled around, forming the galaxies. As the universe began to take shape, the energy from the two supreme entities that at one time filled everything, faded into mere background noise.

The ring of mass broke apart into forty shards. The power of both Light and Dark mixed within, birthing a consciousness. The shards transformed into bipedal creatures of immense power, able to control space and time. They were the Gods.

The Gods saw the beautiful universe congealing around them, but felt it lacked meaning. Focusing on a single galaxy, they cultivated numerous planets and populated them with creatures of all sorts, but they were not satisfied. They held a council and decided they should create a new being closer to themselvesone they could commune with. So, they created humanity.

They gave humanity a consciousness and form similar to their own, but did not give it any power above imagination. The Gods foresaw that human imagination was the only tool it needed to thrive, and thrive it did. Soon, the entire galaxy was inhabited with the Gods’ paramount creation.

Humanity was grateful for its existence and lived to serve the will of the Gods. The Gods rewarded humanity with technology forged by their own divine hands and beyond human comprehension. Humanity used this technology to further enrich its society, ushering in an era of complete peace.

The Gods divided humanity into five Orders across the galaxy to better rule its creation. Each Order had its own collection of denizens that used their specialized talents to serve the galactic community. Every person born fit perfectly within his or her Order and fulfilled a necessary role. Everyone’s needs were met by their own hard work.

The Gods were pleased with their creation.

Discontent sparked inside one of the humans by the name of Xylus. Dreams of usurping the Gods and ruling the galaxy himself played through his mind. A mysterious longing within his soul drew him to a forgotten portion of the galaxy where the powers of Dark remained strong. He called out to the supreme entity, offering himself over to it. Dark answered his malice with a horde of demons from the depths of space that followed his every command.

With his newly found power, Xylus brought war upon the unsuspecting Gods and began the Fall. The entire galaxy burned in an unprecedented era of violence and darkness. War raged on for centuries as both sides vied for humanity’s ultimate destiny.

The Fall ravaged the galaxy and nearly destroyed the ancient Orders, but in the end, Xylus stood victorious. He imprisoned the Gods on a planet far from the galactic core, called Earth. He purged all memory of the planet from the official records and ensured no one would ever come near it again. Xylus even covertly spread misinformation about its location to keep it hidden and forgotten. With the Gods cast down, he ascended to godhood.

Xylus began reshaping the galaxy as he wanted, but he never suspected that the Gods had been the only force suppressing Dark. Now uncontested, Dark rose up through the unwilling vessel of Xylus and consumed most of the galaxy, shrouding it in its black void. Given enough time, Dark would regain its full strength and pull all the mass of the universe back to itself. Humanity was doomed, unless the Gods could be resurrected.

In this ensuing aftermath, the Second Order went unnoticed as the Fall had barely touched its borders. Its citizens carried the hope of the Gods in their hearts and waited in faith to hear from them. They now lived in devotion to their divine emperor who carried on the mantle bequeathed him.

In their last days before imprisonment, the Gods dispatched a messenger that prophesied over this unscathed oasis. The Second Order was commanded to wait until the appropriate time when the Gods would draw them to Earth by the light of a fallen star. Then they would release the Gods and be shielded against the forthcoming judgment cast on the galaxy.

It has been nearly 400 years since the prophecy and many believe the time of the fallen star has come…

Superheros are all the rage these days. Everyone dreams of being spared the monotony of everyday life by some psycho superhuman with an insane fashion sense. ​Thankfully, Marvel and DC have obliged us with enough comics, movies, and video games to spork our eyeballs out with superhero goodness for the rest of our lives. My only question is, who will save us from this onslaught of superhero visual media?

Well friends, our savior is none other than Michael Stackpole . Sure, he may appear to be a mild mannered guy, but when behind the keyboard, he transforms into The Authornator-bringer of originality to superhero stories!

His latest creation, In Hero Years…I’m Dead, is a must read for all fans of the traditional comic book story.


in hero yearsSynopsis

The story centers around an old hero returning to Capital City after twenty years of imprisonment. All that he knew has changed. The great heroes of his time have all retired, content to allow a new group of young upstarts to run things. As he stumbles around trying to regain his old footing, he learns the new rules have cultivated a dangerous societal mix that could destroy him if he continues to play a hero.

Review

It is incredibly hard to tell an inventive superhero story, but In Hero Years…I’m Dead genuinely spins an original tale. Stackpole mixes the traditional comic book feel with quirky humor and a noir-detective backdrop that makes for truly compelling reading. Capital City is full of surprises around every turn as caricatures of all the classic heroes propel you further down its alleys.

The characters feel very real and leap off the screen. The protagonist keeps you engaged as he explores the new world Capitol City has become in his absence. Everyone can connect to the range of emotions he experiences throughout the story.

Most hero stories focus on the heroes themselves and their personal struggles. While Stackpole certainly captures this, he also explores the pressure of society as it works against the traditional hero versus villain mechanic. He creates a truly modern city that brilliantly figures out how to cope with its super inhabitants that is so believable, it is almost scary .​ The social commentary he weaves into the main storyline adds that bit of depth that some hero stories skim over to appease the masses.

You won’t find the same old ‘have to beat the bad guy’ plot here. Stackpole dishes up a fresh take on caped crusaders and their reason for protecting their city.

 

 

In Hero Years…I’m Dead is currently available digitally for most ereader platforms. Sadly, this is not in print yet, but there is a very good story as to the reason. It comes in two edition, normal and deluxe. The deluxe edition is only a dollar more and includes a sweet essay detailing Stackpole’s own personal journey writing the novel.

 

Get it Here (Deluxe edition):

Direct from the author

On the Nook

On the Kindle

 

Deep-seated prejudices exist in all of us to solidify our fear of the unknown. They are the little voices in our heads that cry out when we try to embrace something different. By keeping us comfortable with the status quo, they have kept us alive as a species in ages past. Unfortunately, we don’t really need them anymore in our modern way of life, so now they only drag us down and keep us away from potentially rewarding experiences.

One of the rewarding experiences they may have kept you from is reading science fiction. What is the first thing that runs through your head when you think of scifi books? You probably imagine a lonely nerd surrounded by towers of thick novels trying to escape his pathetic non-life. By some strange magical grace, scifi movies get a pass from this stereotype as proven by box office numbers. Why does the scifi novel get passed up?

Movies are for everyone and books are for nerds, right? Wrong. See, your prejudices are already lying to you. Allow me to address a reason you may not like reading scifi and what you can do to enjoy the genre.

Reason #1: Too much techno-babble


What is ‘techno-babble’?

Turn on any episode from any season or movie of Star Trek and fast forward to the end when they stop speaking English and start making up random physics-sounding words and phrases. That is techno-babble. It is the result of a nerd behind the scenes hammering down on his keyboard and trying desperately to out-nerdify his fellow nerd friends.

Nothing is more satisfying to us nerds than coming up with a plausible sounding explanation for completely imaginary things. What nerds lack in social ability, we make up for a thousandfold in imagination and creativity. Unfortunately, this has resulted in overly complex descriptions about the world within many scifi stories that quickly turns people away. It can be hard to stand under the mind storm of a nerd’s keyboard.

What can you do about it?

Not all stories are riddled with this craziness. Many scifi authors are beginning to see the problem with too much of this running throughout the genre and are changing their ways. You have probably even heard the term ‘speculative fiction’ being thrown around to denote such stories. While I hate the idea of re-branding science fiction to achieve literary equality, I can understand why. But that is another blog entry.

Science fiction is such a vast genre you can be sure to find at least one corner of it to appreciate. Perhaps the best place to begin is with the seminal scifi novel of the 20th century, Dune. Frank Herbert pretty much invented how to tell a scifi story with less ‘sci’ and more ‘fi’. He never once strays off the story to describe in detail how the technology actually works in his world. He just takes you along and lets you discover the world for yourself, much like scifi movies.

So, do some digging around at your local bookstore in the scifi section. You should easily find something that interests you. An easy test for techno-babble is to read the back cover and if you can’t understand at least half of what it says, don’t get it.

Please, don’t judge an entire genre by this one stereotype, read up for yourself. And if all else fails, just skip the techno-babble like the rest of us, because even we nerds hate to be out-nerded.

Vindicated – Chapter 2

E arlier this year, I put together a novel proposal for the Black Library’s open submission period. Per their requirements, I siphoned off a piece of my soul planning the entire story and writing the first three chapters. It was a fantastic first date. I wrapped my submission up and sent it off knowing this relationship was going to be ‘The One’. Unfortunately, just like any one-sided relationship, I possessed a completely different idea of what was going on between us since they never called me back. Therefore, I shall unleash my shame upon the entire Internet!

Behold! Chapter 2 of a rejected Tau Empire novel:

Chapter 1

Chapter 3

Tau Castes

 

Art by FaceInTheSand



Vindicated – A Tau Empire Novel

by VigRoco

 

Chapter 2


Acario’s commission as Planetary Governor of Pangeus had been an unofficial exile from the Administratium of Terra. His ambition had clashed with the egos of his peers and had drawn the lines of political feuding. In the end, he was cast out from the inner circle and forced into the eastern fringe of the galaxy where he could no longer interfere. He vowed to one day return.

The beasts’ arrival was his opportunity. They skulked throughout the rest of the galaxy and were a growing threat to the Imperium. If he could stop them on Pangeus, he would have bargaining posture to trade information for power. However, the Administratium had not been receptive to his requests for military resources to accomplish this. Desperation grew inside him along with the ferocity of the beasts’ attacks. He feared an exile’s death.

Fate called out to him now that the xenos had subsided the beasts’ onslaught. He stood in one of the cramped comunicae rooms of the city’s meager administrative palace. He was hunched over gripping tightly to his staff for support. Age had twisted his face into a permanent scowl. Long, white hair dropped down behind his shoulders and a wiry beard protruded out from his chin and touched his chest. He adorned himself in the finest administrator robes he could obtain in this part of the galaxy.

An operator sat at a terminal working out the communication link. An astropath, trying to reach out through the Warp, was strapped prostrate along a table. Acario began speaking after the operator confirmed the open connection to Terra.

“This is Planetary Governor Acario. We have been successful in halting the advancement of the Tyranids that have taken root on Pangeus. We still require reinforcements as a new xeno threat faces us. The Tau Empire has deployed a hunter-cadre here under the pretense of aide, but I am certain they will try to annex us the moment we have finished crushing the Tyranids.

“I know Space Marine detachments are patrolling near this sector. Pangeus will be lost to the Imperium if we do not receive aide. I am formally requesting these resources as a Governor within the Administratium. The light of the Emperor will grow dark in this sector unless immediate action is taken. “



Dagon rushed through the crowded tunnels running below the city with his sniper rifle still strapped to his back. The tunnels wound below ground to a series of large caverns that had been recently converted to refugee camps. Filled with people and dwindling rations, they contained the remaining known population on Pangeus. Fear swarmed over the refugees as news of their salvation had not yet made its way down.

Dagon slid through the wall of bodies, unable to return any answers to their questioning eyes. Several meters behind him, a messenger who had followed him down began delivering the official news of the outcome of their battle. Everyone turned to hear the messenger as Dagon pushed past them, nearly shoving a few people to the floor in his desperation.

Finally he saw Kara sitting on a rock next to an underground waterfall spilling into a shallow pool. She locked eyes with him and time slowed. He took off his sniper rifle and utility harness allowing both to drop to the ground as he approached her side. She smiled as he wrapped his arms around her and pulled their lips together.

The crowds drifted away from them and gathered around the messenger. Kara pulled away and gently cupped Dagon’s face in her hands.

“I thought we were doomed, ” she said with tears tracing lines down her face.

“Apparently I was wrong this time, ” he replied as they both exchanged muted laughter.

“Did the Imperium answer our cries?”

“No. Xenos descended onto the battlefield and turned everything around. We are safe for now, but these xenos are not hear simply to help our cause. I fear they want our allegiance.”

Where is the Imperium?”

“I have to be that voice.”

The cavern shook with the joyful cries of the crowds after hearing the messenger’s words.


A Tau fleet consisting of a dozen ships orbited Pangeus. Most of them were long range transports carrying full compliments of dropships and planetary strikecraft. A few bombardment vessels rode in low orbit with their cannons still trained on the planet’s surface. They glided above the surface like a school of ravenous sharks hunting their prey.

Above these orbited the Aun Utulus, a large, circular vessel that dwarfed even the largest transports. It bore the markings of the Ethereal caste, the ruling caste of the Tau Empire. Two security details of spear-like frigates stood sentinel above and below it. Four evenly spaced spires jutted upward along the edge of the hull. Each spire housed a series of plasma engines at its base that provided all the momentum the ship needed.

Por’ Ari’Tai waited in a broadcast chair aboard the Aun Utulus while a vox link was opened to the surface of Pangeus. Wide black eyes focused on the holoscreen before her. The sterile light of the room reflected dully off her pale-blue skin. A single braid of black hair dropped from the back of her otherwise bald head down to the floor. She wore the dark blue robes of the Water Caste, the diplomatic and administrative arm of the Tau Empire, the edges of which were trimmed with ancient wisdom passed down for generations and written in original Tau script.

Using the clumsy communication methods of the Imperium always encumbered her. Patience was her key when dealing with humans as their fear of technology forced them to use archaic communication methods. She had always privately wondered what they feared. Her entire function within the Greater Good would be diminished without constant technological advancement.

The room around her was filled with other Water Caste members broadcasting communications throughout the fleet. They relayed news reports, orders, and operating procedures to keep the fleet focused on the Greater Good. Ari’Tai drew her taught, pale-blue face into her best approximation of a human smile as the holoscreen wound to life.

Pangeus is a beautiful world. We are grateful to share it with you during this critical time.”

“Your military presence was a welcome addition to our over-extended forces. I thank you on behalf of Pangeus, ” replied Acario in his scratchy voice. Static flickered through his image.

“We wish to catalyze its salvation with our military assistance. We have already offered what we believe to be a sign of good faith. If you allow, we would like to join you on the surface to see in what other areas you might require our assistance. We have with us a fleet equipped to fully rebuild your world. “

“I am grateful for your assistance, but any inter-planetary decision I make must be ratified by council vote. We will convene immediately to discuss this matter and consult with our personal advisers. ” He paused, narrowing his eyes. “I have received news that your military commander has already made contact with the Lord Commander. I trust you are not positioning a coup.”

“We would not insult the Imperium with such a crude gesture. We only wish to offer assistance here as a prelude to stronger diplomatic relations. The Tyranids seek to devour both of our empires. We must unite.”

“I will temporarily authorize you to send a single envoy until the council makes a final ruling on this matter. That is the most I am able to offer at this time. “

Ari Tai watched as he made the sign of the Aquila. She returned it and noted the surprise on his face. After he had severed their link, she tapped on the holoscreen and it dissipated.

“Their council is only their method of stalling the inevitable, ” said Por’ Gyme from behind her.

Ari’Tai spun around in her chair giving her full attention to her Pathos Guide. He wore robes similar to hers, but with the addition of metallic stripes at his collar. His splotchy skin showed his true age, but life still thrived within his mind. Many worlds had been brought into the Tau Empire due to his expert guidance. She was thankful to serve the Greater Good under such a prestigious mentor.

A group of young, apprenticed Water Caste members trailed behind him hanging on to his every word. She remembered following him from their perspective. It was like searching through the Knowledge Core and finding the exact slice of data you needed. In a galaxy populated with clashing ideals and technologies, drowning in the noise was too common. His experience gave force behind the oceans his apprentices swam in and guided them to the shores of effective diplomacy.

“I expect nothing less from them, ” she replied. “My words will bend their will into the Greater Good. Eventually they will abandon the Imperium just as it has abandoned them in these critical hours. “

“Never forget that the merits of the Greater Good must merely be revealed for someone to accept their truth. Pangeus is still full of Imperial citizens blinded by the light of their own emperor. Asking them to look away will be difficult, which is why I need you to lead the initial envoy to the surface. Exploit the shadows cast upon them from his light.”

“For the Greater Good, ” she whispered with a bowed head.


Acario stepped out of the communicae room and headed down the corridor toward the council chamber. The short walk was appalling. He remembered the winding labyrinths of the Administratium’s palaces on Terra. Throngs of people constantly filled their cavernous halls. Whenever a High Lord strode among them, they would make way with a reverent nod. He had thrived on bathing in their respect.

Pangeus’ population lost such traditions in favor of simple, rustic values. Now he had to fight to make it through the crowded hallways. He looked at the people he passed in the narrow corridor. Most of them did not even acknowledge him as they hurried by. Who did they think had the power to save their world? Without him the Tyranids would have already consumed them all.

He looked up at the twin doors to the council chamber. Only three meters high and devoid of inscriptions, they were a reminder of the haste with which the palace was built and forgotten. He even had to open the door himself, as most of the palace’s servitors had to be reassigned elsewhere.

The empty chamber was a modest space barely meeting the council’s needs. About 8 meters wide and 14 long, it held a long table chipped from years of use and a host of chairs gathered around it. He took his position at the head of the table and place his armful of parchments and battle reports before him. A pale light shined down from the ceiling, illuminating the room in a pale haze.

A few moments later, the doors creaked open, preceding the sounds of excited chatter. The rest of the planetary council filed in and took their places around the table. Even with everyone in attendance, it was only half full. Acario tried to neutralize their smiles with his scowl.

“Where is the Lord Commander?” asked Acario, getting directly to the business at hand.

“I believe he is with the xeno commander trying to fortify the city, my lord, ” said Gabe Poliz. His black hair and toned skin revealed his native heritage.

“I agree that the arrival of these xenos was fortuitous, but they oppose the Imperium and are thus equally as dangerous. We cannot leap blindly into an alliance. The costs must be weighed.”

“The costs have been weighed, ” replied Gabe as he looked around the room. “Earlier this very night, we all thought we were fighting a losing battle, but now we have hope. And since hope is all we have left, we should grip it tightly.”

“Where was the Imperium these past few weeks?” another voice added. It belonged to the oldest member of the council, Heregar who always insisted he be addressed by only one name. His dark, leathery head was completely shaven in support of some strange belief that no one could ever remember.

His wiry frame hardly seemed to support him as he stood up to continue addressing the council, “If the Imperium respected us, they would have sent more than a few young pups as rescue. Earlier tonight, I had accepted my fate and was sleeping soundly only to be shocked into consciousness by Gabe here saying something about xenos saving the city.

“None of us should be alive right now. Thus, we are dead…” Heregar let his voice trail off as he stared up at the lights, a wild spark forming in his eyes, “…and therefore, we should join these new xenos in a crusade against the insects. What do we have to fear now? The Emperor has forgotten us.”

The kernel of truth within his opinion resonated with Cali Jardus, who represented the planet’s agriculture guilds. She smiled slightly while nodding at him. She stood and motioned with her hands to quiet the rest of the murmuring council and nervously clasped her gloved hands together before speaking.

“It is dangerous to accuse the Emperor of abandonment. Without him we are lost and doomed to revert back to Old Night. What we have been given is a test of our own fortitude. Can we ally with these xenos, drive back the Tyranids, and still remain loyal to the Emperor through it all? That is the question we should internalize.

“To you I may appear to be a simple farmer, but it is our agriculture that forms the core on which all of Pangeus subsists on. We have forgotten that we ourselves subsist on the Imperium and the will of the Emperor. It was our abandonment of him that brought this plague to our planet. I have repented for my own personal abandonment, and you should do the same. “

“I am happy to see that the entire council has not lost their minds, ” Acario said after allowing a pregnant pause. “I am no fool. We must come to some treaty with the xenos, but as Jardus has implied, we cannot enter into any agreement lightly. I advise that we open diplomacy with them if only to stall long enough for our combined military strength to finish off the Tyranids.”

The chamber doors abruptly swung open and Galvin stormed into the room. All eyes snapped to him as he took an empty chair next to Heregar.

“Well, speak of the Nurgle, ” said Heregar.


Dagon sat pinned against the wall as his wife slept deeply with her head in his lap. He gently stroked her hair as exhaustion finally caught up to him. His entire body ached from pushing it for days without rest. The past month had felt like a constant battle. However, if war were easy, they would not need soldiers.

The cavern activity had died down as everyone drifted off into sleep without fear of attack. Their gentle, rhythmic breathing resembled the evening winds on Pangeus’ plains. He and his wife would often just lay underneath the purple sky with the winds lapping at their skin. He smiled at the recollection. Perhaps they would eventually return to the surface with such a carefree spirit.

Movement within the cavern instantly jolted him into the present. He watched a young, native teen crawl over the sleeping bodies heading in his direction. He released a frustrated sigh, knowing this was a messenger sent for him. He chuckled at the sight of the messenger stumbling along, accidentally waking up a few people.

Dagon looked up into his eyes as the teen delivered his message while fidgeting at his pant legs with his hands, “Sir, the Lord Commander requests your presence in the council chamber.”

Dagon looked back down at the beautiful creature laying at his feet in undisturbed peace.

“Thank you. I will join him soon, ” he replied with a whisper, waving him away.

When they were alone again, he bent down and kissed her forehead. He moved his hand to brush her face.

“Haven’t you done enough already?” She asked.

“Perhaps if I was as watchful as you, I would have.”

“Let them deal with this. The rank of ‘Lord Commander’ is not given to just anyone, ” she said while sitting upright. She snaked her hands around the back of his head. “I need you here. “

“If only it were that simple.”

“I have lived these past weeks in constant fear–fear of witnessing the death of my homeworld at the hands of these terrible creatures and fear of witnessing that death alone.” Tears arched down her face.

“I only leave you to quench the source of your fear. Trust in me. Trust in the Imperium. The Emperor lights our dark paths so that we can see there is nothing to fear but our own disillusionment. “

She laughed while drawing him into a parting kiss.

“Promise me you will work on your iterating skills after you have used your true talents to kill the beasts, ” she said while playfully slapping his cheek.

He helped ease her into a comfortable position on the padded mat she now occupied alone before standing up. He swiftly exited the room, silently snatching up his gear which had not been moved since he first came down into the caverns. Once in the hallway leading up to the city, he strapped his utility harness back on and pulled his full mask over his face.

Encased in black, he slid through the shadows of the city. IG soldiers patrolled the empty streets, watching for anyone breaking the curfew. He could tell from their vigilance that they had already quelled a few riots. No one wanted to stay down in the caverns when the city was effectively theirs again. Daylight would break in a few hours and release the eager mob to reclaim their city.

They ignorantly accepted the gift of life from the xenos with no attention to the cost. Whatever the council wanted with him was probably related to this. Pangeus had never tasted war before. They knew nothing of sacrifice or courage, only entitlement to their endangered land.

He had no misconceptions about Governor Acario, either. The condition of Pangeus was far from his mind as he plotted to regain his former position of High Lord. What prestigious member of the Administratium would ever seek out a rustic planet such as Pangeus to preside over? However, he was currently the planet’s governor, and as such wielded entirely too much power for an Imperial citizen.

“Governor Acario is simultaneously our key to life and imprisonment with these xenos, ” he whispered carelessly to the darkness.

“Is there more than the Hunt?” asked a deep, guttural voice.

Startled, Dagon drew out his laspistol and pressed himself against the side of the building to his immediate left. He was in an alleyway with an empty street before him. He had become sloppy during his time on Pangeus and should not have let down his guard enough to allow someone to surprise him.

“You are a warrior, yet you speak of politicians, ” said the voice, about three meters behind him. “Your politicians have left you defenseless and weak.”

Dagon turned to face the xeno voice. Only the dark alley lay before his searching eyes. A faint, red light floated where the voice should have been. The alley behind the light slowly writhed about like a conjured illusion.

“Show yourself! Only a xeno would hide from the Emperor behind such perverted technology.”

“It is our technology that has saved your world that your beloved Emperor allowed to become encumbered with political idealizing. It is they who are the true parasite here.”

“I am sure your politicians orbit us right now scheming how you will use us for your own advancement.”

“Scheming requires an initial trait of selfishness. I do not fight for myself. I fight for the Greater Good. Our politicians act on behalf of the Greater Good. Our functions differ greatly, but we both work to achieve the same purpose.

“Your politicians, however, work for themselves. Why do you fight, then? If it is not for them, then you both work against each other. Your division brought the beastial Gor’vie down upon you.”

“I fight for the Imperium, and defend the eternal light of the immortal Emperor, beloved by all!” He shouted into the night. Receiving no response, he was left alone with his thoughts. The red light had vanished. He continued toward his destination.

By the time he reached the council chamber, guilt pressed against his mind for leaving his wife’s side. With all his years of service to the Imperium, hadn’t he given enough to warrant a small reprieve? He doubted his abilities would even remain useful as Galvin should be handling the new military situation with the xenos.

He walked into the chamber. Worn expressions of debate stretched out across every face. Galvin, still adorned in his commander’s uniform, rose out of his chair and indicated he sit beside him. Instead, Dagon walked to the end of the table, crossed his arms, and cocked his head at Governor Acario. Silence filled the chamber.

“I appreciate your frankness, Dagon, ” remarked Acario. “We have brought you here at the request of Lord Commander Icross who has affirmed that we cannot save our world without the aid of these xenos. So, the council has allowed a interim treaty that will give the Lord Commander the power to converse with the xenos and formulate a combined military strategy to combat the Tyranids.

“You and he are to be a liaison for the council to the Tau military commander.” He looked over at Galvin. “Normally we would only require one military person to fulfill this role, but as the Lord Commander has stated, we are under a pressured timeframe and need the specialized guidance that you may be able to provide. Are you prepared to perform the duties asked of you by the Imperium?”

Dagon looked around the room. He did not have much of a choice as most of the looks cast his way were desperate pleas for salvation. None of them, save Acario’s, were forced. They all had built their lives here on Pangeus and needed to him to reclaim their future. At least in that sense, they fought for the same goals.

However, they still did not have the light of the Emperor illuminating their hearts. Their political idealizing had distracted them from the glory of the Imperium. That was how the Tyranids had been able to destroy them, through their own negligence to the Imperial Truth. The xeno was wrong.

“For the Emperor,” he said while looking into Acario’s veiled eyes.

The chamber emptied out quickly with everyone scurrying back to the caverns to get some sleep in the few remaining hours of the night. Galvin was the last to walk out with Acario. They exchanged a nod before diverting off to their respective places.

Acario headed directly for the communicae room to relay the council’s decision to the xenos. The room had been emptied after he sent out his long distance request to Terra. As with most things on Pangeus, he was forced to perform several menial tasks himself.

He brought the vox online and hailed the xenos orbiting above them. After a few beats, the xeno he knew as Ari’Tai appear on his screen. She wore the same forced smile as the first time he communicated with her. He could not overcome how strange it was that a narrow slit ran down her forehead where her nose should have been. He sighed in disgust before addressing her.

“The council has decided to provision an alliance between our military forces. Our Lord Commander will act as a liaison between the council and your military commander here on the ground. We are grateful for your aid. I apologize for the length of time taken to reach our decision, but the recent duress we have been under has rendered us distraught and receding to our safe, bureaucratic methods. “

“I will alert our commander to proceed with combined force protocol then. I am glad to be moving forward in our mutual relationship, ” she replied.

“As far as planetary diplomacy is concerned, I was not able to secure more than what I have already stated in our previous conversation. You are free to send a single envoy and must station it within an embassy we have set up here in the city. Once you are on the surface, we can commence deeper diplomatic discussions on the future of our two interests.

“I am uploading the landing coordinates to you as we speak. Our city has only a single point of landing, therefore I must have you escorted by a military detail from the landing site to your embassy. Do not take this as hostility, but rather as our way of protecting our limited assets. You must not over-step these boundaries or you will break the council’s trust.”

“I accept your provisional limits to our envoy. I will be personally leading it to the surface when dawn breaks over the city. I look forward to meeting you in person.”

“As do I, ” Acario said while making the sign of the Aquilia, which she again reciprocated.

I have officially read nearly 100,000 words of the paranormal romance genre after finishing up Mated by the only paranormal romance author I have ever read, Zoe Winters. The journey to get here has been incredibly strange as I have had my brain infused with more emotional instability than I have ever experienced before. Hopefully I can still function as a normal citizen.

I have been hearing lately that digital publishing is getting readers to branch out from their mainstay genres, but I never thought I would be caught up in it myself. The truth is, though, that if Zoe Winters had been traditionally published, I would have missed out on her work because you will never catch me even glancing at the romance section of the bookstore. After branching out into the jacked up fiction that is paranormal romance, I have discovered some pretty good stuff.

Mated is the final chapter in Zoe’s Blood Lust trilogy (which should be coming out in print form soon) and what a final chapter it is.

MatedSummary

So what we have here is another crazy chic, Jane if you remember her from Claimed, who has been pretending to be goth to fit in with the vampire crew. Unfortunately for her, she gets wrapped up with these crazy awesome Furries (or werewolves if you prefer the non-hilarious connotation). The alpha furry, Cole, takes her as payment for one of the vampire’s debts and things get awesome.

He is all like, ‘my furry senses tell me that you are my mate’, and she is all like ‘but I don’t get down that way’. So, he keeps her locked up in the hive with all the rest of the furries. They actually have a nice set up for being a pack of furries without real jobs besides eating defenseless forest animals (they even have a TV). Lucky for them, Cole runs a successful web business to pay the bills.

Did I mention there are demons? Yeah, apparently the furries are in league with the demons. Cain, a demon friend of Cole, tells him that one in his pack is actually killing humans instead of defenseless forest animals. Cole’s hatred of forest animals pushes him to find out who it is and gets himself and Jane wrapped up in an insane plot where they may or may not end up romantically entangled by the end of the story. Stuff goes down and blood is everywhere. Because that is how furries like it.

Review

Once again, Zoe has shocked me with her ability to tell the oldest story in the book (boy meets girl) and actually keep it interesting. I seriously doubt a plain romance novel would keep my attention the way she did (not that I am going to test that out). The Blood Lust story keeps evolving and Mated beautifully continues the tradition.

The wolves’ subculture within Cary Town is just as meticulously crafted as the ones from the first two Blood Lust entries. You will be drawn into it along with Jane and walk with her as she slowly releases her prejudices about the wolves. The interactions among this world and its characters melds seamlessly into the plot with nothing feeling out of place.

It is a difficult job to use legendary creatures and not devolve them into hackneyed archetypes, but Zoe walks that line like a pro. Her tremendous talent to bring them to life will fill you with genuine empathy for their plights as they become more like good friends than fictional people. You will not find boring, flat development here. Zoe only writes with 100% pure 3D characterization.

The plot was good and well thought out. It moved along with good pacing for the most part, but there were a few moments that I felt it begin to stall just a little in the middle. It is really not much to complain about as the encompassing world soaks up the plot’s deficiencies. The build to the final climatic scene was so riveting it had me glued to the screen. The sheer emotion fueling the two main characters’ battle with fated love was written so excellently I began questioning whether or not I have actually ever really been in love before.

Mated is worthy as the final chapter in the Blood Lust trilogy. It is a great read that is ridiculously under-priced for its quality. I am by no means a paranormal romance authority, but I can safely recommend it to anyone who needs something deeper than Twilight to test the genre out.

I give it one out of one wolf bites (because that is all it takes to pierce your heart).

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Recently I took a detour from my normal reading fare to delve into some insane paranormal romance. After successfully making it through two novellas, I was ready to get back into the wondrous future of science fiction. Nothing against paranormal romance as a genre, it’s just I sometimes crave worlds were people are doing something else besides falling in love with one another.

Over the past year or so, I have been casually reading through the Horus Heresy series within the Warhammer 40K universe. Warhammer 40K began as a humble table-top strategy game that quickly grew a tremendous collection of lore to back the plastic armies crawling across tables everywhere. Somewhere along the way, Games Workshop , the company behind 40K, finally realized that it could make even more money by getting people to write books for them.

Whatever your opinion of licensed fiction, the Black Library, literary arm of Games Workshop, has been cranking out some great works of fiction that deserve to stand on their own merits outside the overwhelming lore that makes up Warhammer 40K. Several talented authors have lent their minds to the Black Library and crafted mind blowing stories within the 40K-verse.

Out of all the Horus Heresy authors I have read, Graham McNeill is still my personal favorite and his latest book, A Thousand Sons , shines brightly in the series. It is also the Black Library’s very first novel to make the New York Times best-selling list.

Summary

The twelfth book in the Horus Heresy series and following the Thousand Sons Space Marine legion, A Thousand Sons tells the tragic story of how they fall from the guiding light of the Emperor. Mangus, Primarch of the legion, searches too deeply for power to unlock hidden secrets of the galaxy and as a result, the Emperor bans everyone from wielding these powers. In his search, Mangus witnessed the betrayal of Horus and sets out to warn the Emperor with the very power he was forbidden to use. The Emperor retaliates by unleashing Leman Russ, Primarch of the Space Wolves, on their homeworld, Prospero, to bring Mangus to justice.

Review

McNeill paints this legion vastly different from any of the others he has previously worked with, giving them a truly unique flavour. As with all doomed legions in the Horus Heresy timeframe, they possess redeeming qualities that he captures and brings to life with such force that they will live directly inside your grey matter long after the story has concluded.

The interactions between the Thousand Sons and Space Wolves are simply amazing as both legions revolve around each other in a fatal dance. The mounting tension builds until it becomes palpable and you accompany Mangus to the Council of Nikea, a major milestone within 40K lore. McNeill demonstrates his knowledge and love for 40K lore as he meticulously builds to this crucial moment. His treatment of the legion is worthy of praise from fanboys everywhere.

The plot has a few problems in the beginning as it starts off seemingly going nowhere until the Space Wolves show up. Then the real plot arises and consumes the characters in its wake. Once things began to pick up, I literally could not stop reading. McNeill’s talent for weaving characters into his plot has certainly reached its pinnacle with this Horus Heresy entry and I felt he more than made up for the slow start.

The ending was a bit mysterious as it hinted at related 40K lore that readers will not pick up on unless they are fully entrenched with the table-top game. The journey to the end is well worth the read, though, as this is definitely one of the better entries in the series and deserves its well-earned New York Times slot. McNeill has written a superb story that anyone mildly interested in 40K should take a look at.

I give A Thousand Sons a 90%

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