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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Sci-fi Mystery Author Wesley Britton talks about Writer's block + giveaway

One question I always dread hearing is: ”What advice would you give other authors?” My first thought is always: “Blaze your own path. All our journeys are different, all are individual.”

Then I think about all the questions I hear about writer’s block, finding inspiration, seeking kick-starts for writing. I may have a useable idea.

Back when I was drafting my first non-fiction book, I would hit periods when I just couldn’t stare at the computer screen any longer. One afternoon, I sat back, closed my eyes, and let a fantasy come flowing into me. I don’t remember how many afternoons I lost myself to the stories but eventually, the first four books of the Beta-Earth Chronicles had unfolded.

At first, I didn’t think of molding and shaping the tales for readers. I thought I was entertaining myself. Then I found my writing time split between two projects-my non-fiction spy studies juxtaposed against the main trunk of the Beta-Earth Chronicles. These were two very different kinds of writing. One was essentially collecting, synthesizing and analyzing data and organizing it in ways that hadn’t been laid out before. The other was absolutely creative-world building and giving life to characters who, for all intents and purposes, created themselves. My job was to keep these characters in struggles and battles that always kept them wary and on the move.

For years to come, I kept going back and forth between my espionage books and sci-fi stories and found when one well was feeling parched, I could go dip my bucket in the other. Along the way, I mixed in a ton of shorter writing assignments that weren’t all that demanding but helped keep my name out there. I wrote a ton of book and music reviews for sites like and I pumped out articles, essays, and book chapters for a wide range of sites and publications focused on one aspect or another of espionage. 
Still doing all that-

Now, none of what I’m describing is going to suggest a cure-all for all your writer’s slumps. But the more varied your interests and diverse writing approaches you use, the more channels you got to keep your writing juices flowing-

Hammerhead (The Mary Carpenter Spy-Fi Adventures)
by Wesley Britton
Genre: Sci-Fi, crime, mystery, espionage
Publisher: Alien Vision
20 years in the future, humanity has been decimated by climate change and waves of fatal plagues released by Islamic terrorists.

In this new world, Special Operative Mary Carpenter of the Commonwealth of Independent States takes on deadly opponents, including white supremacists, cells of the Everlasting Caliphate, and an international organization of smugglers called Hammerhead plotting to dominate the planet with an all-powerful fear gas.

Join Mary Carpenter in four fast-paced, futuristic adventures that might be in tomorrow's headlines-

A Day in the Death of the Magic Majestic

In 2043, cruise ships like the Magic Majestic served an important purpose in the post-apocalyptic years of the 2030s and 2040's. It was impossible to miss the impact of a decreased population on floating hotels like the Majestic. Most obviously, long corridors and large sections of the cruise ship had been cordoned off due to disuse. Many of these sections resembled a quiet ghost ship of bare walls and empty rooms with carpet stripped off the floors and furniture carted away. In these sections, light panels no longer illuminated the halls and walls. Maid-bots only roamed the cordoned-off floors once weekly to open portholes to air out the stale smells.

The current owners of the Magic Majestic, mainly Puerto Rican smuggler Felix Cortez, had new issues to contend with in the wake of the death of the ship’s former principal owner, Marcus Calavera. During the same hours the Navy of the Sovereign Southern Union had invaded and captured Calavera’s island headquarters, the sisters Tania and Tara Ormsdorf had killed Calavera and his principal henchman, Hector Fuentes, while the crime lords were in the thrall of the fear serum they had planned to use to conquer the world. Thanks to the work of special agents Mary Carpenter and the novice Jasmine Trayer of the Southern Union, “Hammerhead” had been dealt a serious body blow. But the organization was much larger than one charismatic Brazilian.

Still, on this enchanting spring morning, the Magic Majestic sailed out of San Juan in Puerto Rico with a larger complement of passengers than usual. Vacationers lined up on her three open decks, the Sports Deck, the Sun Deck, and the Promenade, waving goodbyes to friends and family anticipating their magic moments at sea. That morning, the sea air blew by on a pleasant, comforting breeze carrying with it the percussive sounds of upbeat island music pumped through the ship's public address speakers.

One member of the deck crowd was Major Mary Carpenter, a special agent on assignment with the Sovereign Southern Union. She was a passenger, not on board for a happy vacation, even though she wanted to dance and bounce on her heels to the beat of the steel drums and electronic vibraphones, just like she had on the Spirit of Charlotte Amalie ferry. As she stepped out onto the honey-colored Promenade, she reviewed the file she'd studied about the Majestic.

From her reading, she knew the ship weighed sixty-eight tons, was six hundred and seventy-five feet long, eighty-five feet wide, propelled by two steam turbine propellers that could get the ship moving at fifteen knots. Around her, she could see the frenetic energy of some of the fifty crew members polishing handrails, swabbing the decks, and touching up the paint. Some dangled over the sides cleaning portholes and tightening rivets.

She knew the ship once boasted 200 first class cabins and 350 spacious second-class cabins with private bathrooms and large beds. In her heyday, the Majestic had offered three restaurants, five kitchens, and a cafe grill on the upper deck that could be converted into a cinema or concert stage. The ship had two swimming pools, a library, dog kennels, even parking for a dozen cars. Mary had been bemused to read the ship had its own lower deck synagogue equipped with a full-time rabbi. But these were all amenities described in old sales brochures. How many were still in use she didn't know.

What she couldn't have known, or anyone else in the open deck crowd could have either, was that many decks below, in the underbelly of the ship was a special hold forbidden to all passengers and much of the crew. While most everyone else on board was enjoying the launch on the bright, clear day, five crewmembers stood around an open hatch watching a small submarine pull close to their ship's hull. Using long poles with strong hooks and thick, steel cables, the crewmen reached out and helped secure the black sub to the bottom of the six-foot open square hatch.

Very quickly, a much smaller hatch on the sub opened up and two figures emerged into view. They were two members of the Quai Do Pacific Rim Criminal Organization. Using the once-hidden sub, they had evaded capture when the authorities invaded the island of Marcos Calavera. They had departed just in time to take with them a prized and unique weapon.

Stepping into the Magic Majestic hold, the rather scruffy, sweaty, and unkempt pair pulled a military footlocker on board behind them. Wordlessly, they drug the black footlocker to an empty motorized flat-bed wheeled cart waiting for them. One of them accepted a small remote from one of the five Latino crewmen, pressed a button, and set the cart in motion. Following the cart deeper into the hold, the pair made their way through the circle of uniformed and much more presentable Hispanic sailors who stood aside at attention for them. The Quai Do men strode further and further into the hold until they were out of site of the Magic Majestic crew.

“Still wish I knew what those Chinese are carrying and where they are hiding it,” one of the crewmen said. “At least those guys don't need a shave.” His colleagues responded to this quirky observation with polite laughter.

“Not if you want a long, healthy life,” the team leader replied after sharing his own short laugh. “The less we know, the less we need to fear.”

Each of the sailors looked around furtively, knowing some unusual, unexplained outfitting of the hold's hull had occurred back in San Juan. Not sharing what changes had been made was apparently the way Felix Cortez wanted things, even if he wasn't on board for this particular cruise. The secret refittings were probably something to do with smuggling, like smuggling whatever the Quai Do men had just drug aboard.

The five crewmen began freeing the submarine from the cables and poles so it could go on its own way. “This will surprise the chinks,” one of them observed. All five men laughed together again.

The Quai Do pair indeed registered deep surprise when they returned to the hatch with now free hands and an empty cart and saw their ride gone. As they each turned to ask what had happened, their short-lived surprise ended after both felt the cutting of their throats by sharp, serrated knives from behind them.

“With these cuts,” the group leader recited, “Hammerhead hereby severs all connections with the Quai Do.”

The Latino sailors then dangled the tops of each victim outside the hatch so their blood would drain into the sea. They then attached ankle-weights to each corpse and then flipped the bodies into the ocean.

“Sayonara, baby,” one of the crewmen cried, after the bodies plopped into the water and sank out of sight.

“Sayonara? Those guys weren't Japs. They were Chinese.”

“Jap, Chinese, Vietnamese, don't much matter. We’ve recycled them as fish food for the bottom-feeders.”

The crewmen laughed again, closed the hatch, and walked off to do more mundane ship duties.

* * * *

Mary Carpenter strolled up to the Promenade deck's railing after accepting a thin-stemmed crystal glass of champagne offered by a colorfully painted waiter-bot rolling on his feet-balls. Like the half-dozen or so of these machines rolling around the deck, the bot carried two trays of filled champagne glasses that looked like metal wings.

Glass in hand, Mary stood by a blonde-haired twenty-something woman gazing out over the water. Since Mary had penetrated the secret headquarters of Marcos Calavera on his private island just a few weeks before, she had done what she could to disguise herself on the sea voyage just in case any of Calavera’s people had escaped the S.S.U. navy and might be aboard the Majestic. Not likely, but she had cut her usually loose and long auburn hair into a short, cooler Dutch-boy style. Her tank-top was loose-fitting and she wore blue-jean, fringed cut-offs that nearly reached her knees. Her flat-soled deck-shoes helped her seem not as tall as she actually was. She felt slight disappointment those shoes didn't hide the usual portable weapons Mary liked to have in her heels and tips. Well, with any luck, she wouldn't get embroiled in any combat.

She half hid her face behind very large blue-tinted sunglasses. These sunglasses appeared to be regular sunglasses, but the left lens was also a hidden screen where Mary could read data reports she could access from the S.S.U. military files included in the databases on the S.S.U. Clinton sailing not so far away. In particular, she could scan all the passengers and crew on the Magic Majestic via a camera built into the sunglasses' nosepiece. She could read any alerts the program might pick up.

While Mary and the young blonde, Jasmine Trayer, had met on a shared mission on Calavera's island, the first mission ever for Trayer, they decided to play new roles on the cruise ship to perhaps throw off any of Calavera's associates who might be on board. So Mary was now playing Mary Dell Somers, a high school teacher from Tennessee.

So far, so good. No familiar faces. Mary's glasses hadn't sent her any alerts.

Neither Mary nor Jasmine, the younger woman with the permanent, sultry pout, her face hidden under a white wide-brimmed, collapsible and easily packed summer hat, could have known that they were standing almost directly above the site of the two murders far below them. Unlike Mary, Jasmine wore thick soled, high- heeled sandals that gave her a bit more height and a bit more shape to her comparatively short legs. At least, short when she stood next to the 6'4” tall Texas beauty. Like Mary, the upper part of Jasmine's face was covered by oversize sunglasses with wide temples that blocked any sunlight from the sides. However, her glasses didn't have the data downloading capability of Mary's tool as she hadn't been trained on their use. In Mary's opinion, Jasmine hadn't been trained in very much. Any field missions like this were assignments Trayer wasn't qualified to perform, in Mary’s opinion. For her part, Jasmine thought her partner was a monolith, a blank, someone you could read anything you wanted onto. A cool customer, a cold fish.

Both women would have been keenly interested in the killings as they had met the Quai Do representatives at Calavera's estate. In fact, the two special agents were on board to find the footlocker of fear-inducing serums they correctly suspected were now hidden somewhere in the Magic Majestic. It seemed the most likely place considering the relationship between Calavera, Felix Cortez, and the Quai Do organization.

“Hi,” Mary said to her supposed new friend, holding out her hand. “Am I intruding?”

“Not at all,” replied the smiling blonde with the pouty mouth.

Accepting Mary's proffered hand and shaking it with a firm grip, she continued. “I'm Simone Perone from Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas island. I'm here because I won a contest and this cruise was the prize.”

Laughing with polite delight, Mary saw Jasmine still had the impish twinkle in her young eyes even though a dark haunting was now also part of her expressions. Seeing someone close to you murdered in front of you because she took a bullet intended for you had just happened to Jasmine Trayer. Trayer would always mourn Juanita Calavera, Mary was certain.

“Then let me toast your prize and wish you the fulfillment of all your dreams!” Mary exclaimed, raising her glass almost spluttering with mock tipsiness.

“Hear, hear,” Jasmine giggled like a flirtatious schoolgirl, draining her own glass and then flinging it overboard. Laughing at the gesture, Mary followed suit.

A muscular, handsome young man with a rich, deep tan, smooth bald head and nearly nonexistent butt strolled up beside Jasmine. As Mary looked him over, she thought his obviously tough skin more resembled a thick shell than normal flesh. He was tough like a human lobster or a walking stone sculpture. She couldn't hide her surprise when she saw his long fingers intertwine with Jasmine's. Jasmine hasn’t been on board that long, she must have moved fast to snare this one.

Mary's scan lens suddenly began scrolling out a report on Ricky Estaphan, a former naval officer of the rather new Caribbean Island Navy. He was apparently an expert on outfitting ships with military weapons. There was no employment record for him after he left the navy following a rather short career. He was suspected of involvement with Marcos Calavera's Brazilian operations. Warning tingles ran up Major Carpenter's spine.

While the three talked, mere feet away, Arabella Hong, a fairly heavyset and drab woman in her early fifties wearing an out-of-season, over-sized gray shirt and long khaki pants spoke to a pretty young hostess. Her flowing thick blonde hair signaled Hong's mixed ancestry. Her flat face, small nose, wide cheekbones, and especially her epicanthic fold, the skin fold of the upper eyelid covering the inner corner of her sky-blue, almond-shaped eyes, clearly showed her bloodline was largely Asian.

“The last cruise I took was fifteen years ago,” Hong reported, “with my late husband, Antonio. It was the time of our lives, I tell you! Even if the rest of the planet was mired in fear and death.”

“Well, I'm delighted things worked out for you fifteen years ago. I'm sorry to hear about your husband. We’ll do everything we can to make this cruise as enjoyable a trip as possible. But, I have to go check on the other passengers right now. We'll talk more later.”

“Sure. I understand.” A disappointed Hong moseyed across the deck, a lonely look in her eyes. Mary ran a quick scan over her facial features. No response from the databases at all.

Jose Boliver, a man so thin his own mother teased that he had to run around a shower just to get wet, was the ship's social director. Jose stood up on a small wooden riser and called out greetings to all the guests.

“Could I have everybody’s attention? Everybody? Please. Welcome! Welcome to the Magic Majestic! We are pleased to have you on board. My name is Jose, Ship’s Host! I will be personally responsible for seeing to any of your special needs!”

He turned and indicated a smiling woman dressed in a uniform very like his, the same girl who had spoken with Arabella Hong. “And this is Maria. She is Ship’s Hostess and will do her best to make sure that we all enjoy ourselves. That’s what we’re here to do, right? Enjoy ourselves!”

The passengers cheered as Maria spoke up, “Our kitchen is always open! The Poseiden's Trident Lounge has live music sixteen hours a day! Feel free to roam the ship whenever you like!”

Maria paused and Jose called out, “We do, however, ask that you refrain from entering areas of the ship that are clearly marked as Personnel Only.”

“It’s a big ship,” Maria added, “easy to get lost in, especially as we have a lot of space not being used on this cruise. I will be giving tours at five-o’clock, seven-o’clock, and again at ten o’clock in the morning for anyone who would like to get acquainted with the layout.”

“So, enjoy yourselves!” Jose concluded the welcome. “And please call upon any of us for anything that you may need. We are here to serve you.”

* * * *

In the dim light of a storage room filled with tool and supply lockers on a lower deck, a pair of gloved hands picked the lock on a large trunk. CLICK. The tumblers fell. The latch popped open. But suddenly, black-skinned Haitian-Creole Emmanuel Lindor looked up when he heard approaching footsteps outside the room.

Knowing his time was limited, Lindor lifted the lid of the trunk and rifled through it. Disappointed by what he didn't find, Lindor heard the steps now just outside the door. He lowered the trunk's lid and slipped away.

About the Author
Dr. Wesley Britton is the author of four non-fiction books, Spy Television (2003), Beyond Bond: Spies in Fiction and Film (2005), Onscreen and Undercover: The Ultimate Book of Movie Espionage (2006), and The Encyclopedia of TV Spies (2009).

Starting in fall 2015, his science fiction/ mystery/ espionage series, The Beta-Earth Chronicles debuted with the ground-breaking The Blind Alien. Throughout 2016 to 2019, eight sequels followed including Return to Alpha, Wesley's first stand alone novel. Alpha Tales 2044 was the first of three collections of Beta-Earth short stories.

Britton earned his doctorate in American Literature at the University of North Texas in 1990. From 2007 to 2015, he was co-host of online radio's "Dave White Presents" broadcast over For DWP, Wesley contributed interviews with authors, musicians, actors, and many entertainment insiders. In 2022, Wes picked up from where he left off with his own “Flashback, another interview show broadcast over and now also archived at his Remember When podcast page.

Wesley taught English at Harrisburg Area Community College until his retirement in 2016. Wes is blind due to the progressive genetic disease, retiniteous pigmentosa. Wesley served on the Board of Directors for Vision Resources of Central Pennsylvania for 14 years. He has been writing book reviews for sites like and for nearly 30 years. Wes and Grace and their menagerie live in Harrisburg, PA.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Bad Realities: Stories of Shock and Suspense by Andrew Schrader

Welcome to the tour for Andrew Schrader's creeptastic collection, Bad Realities. Read on for more details!

Bad Realities: Stories of Shock and Suspense
by Andrew Schrader 
May 26, 2023
Genre: Speculative Fiction/ Horror/ Suspense/ Sci-Fi
To avoid the apocalypse, a boy must cannibalize the dead in . . . THE IMPORTANCE OF EATING ERNEST

A Tarkagen barbarian returning home to retrieve an ancient elixir faces his own worst fears in . . . HONDO RANE AND THE CITY OF ILLUSION

After World War IV, a giant, radioactive floating brain haunts the wastelands. Can a psychic girl harness her powers long enough to stop it? . . . in THE FLOATING BRAIN.

Join these poor souls and many others as they struggle to survive in worlds gone wrong. Can you handle the shock? Or will their stories leave you in a crumpled heap, screaming in vain to escape.
Amazon and Free for KU!

About the Author
Andrew Schrader is a Los Angeles-based author and film director known for his fascination with the stranger sides of human nature. He’s directed two feature films, music videos for bands Osees, Moon-Drenched, and White Reaper, and was a script consultant on “Afterlife,” a horror series for Crypt TV.

His three-book series, What Goes On In The Walls at Night, was featured on the Reddit No Sleep podcast and twice won the Red City Review Book of the Year for fantasy and horror. He also wrote several episodes of the animated show Tig n’ Seek. Bad Realities is his fourth book of short stories.

Yes, of course he loves cats.

@RRBookTours1 #RRBookTours #HorrorBooks #HorrorCommunity

@rrbooktours #rrbooktours #badrealities #shortstories #specfiction #scifi #horror #darkfiction #creepyreads

Book Tour Schedule
May 29th
May 30th
May 31st
June 1st
June 2nd

Book Tour Organized By:

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Western Horror 99 cent Pre-order: Byrd's Luck & Other Western Stories by Jeffrey J. Mariotte

Byrd's Luck & Other Western Stories
by Jeffrey J. Mariotte
May 26, 2023
Genre: Traditional Western and Western Horror Fiction
The crack of a rifle, the thunder of hooves, the silence of the desert at dawn . . . Mariotte takes you there

Western stories by Jeffrey J. Mariotte have appeared in collections alongside those of legendary Western writers like Louis L’Amour, William Johnstone, Elmer Kelton, and Loren Estleman. Now, BYRD’S LUCK & OTHER WESTERN STORIES collects ten of his own riveting tales of the wild West.

Brand-new stories include “Byrd’s Law”—a sequel to the Spur Award and Peacemaker Award finalist “Byrd’s Luck,” costarring Cody Cavanaugh—the hero of his own action-packed novel trilogy—and the first-ever prose story featuring characters from Mariotte’s bestselling, award-winning horror-Western comics series Desperadoes. A mix of traditional and weird Western tales, this book has something for every fan of Western adventure.
99 cent pre-order

About the Author:
Mariotte has written well north of fifty books, including thrillers, westerns, mysteries, horror, fantasy, and more. Three of his novels have won Scribe Awards for Best Original Novel, presented by the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers. 

He is passionate about-among other things-reading, the deserts and mountains and forests of the American West, modern and historical, politics, photography, independent bookstores, and whatever else strikes his fancy at any given moment.

He’s married to author and writing partner Marsheila (Marcy) Rockwell. They live with their family and pets in Arizona.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Curses and Chaos (Arcane Souls World: The Lost Witch, #1) by Annie Anderson + giveaway

Curses and Chaos (Arcane Souls World: The Lost Witch, #1)
by Annie Anderson
May 23rd 2023
Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
If the ABI finds me, I’m dead.

Agent or not, when your dad is the head of the most notorious arcane crime family in the country, no one believes you when you say you didn’t open that gate to Hell on purpose.

Now, I’m practically glued under enough null wards to hide a god and stuck with a stupidly sexy shifter of a jailer who hates my guts.

When my former employer comes sniffing around, not only does my captor keep me alive, but we find out that our pasts are far more connected than either of us realize.

And the lies we’ve been told could kill us both.

Excerpt 1
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” a rumble came from the dark recess of the doorway at my right, a familiar voice that should in no way be here. The athame in my hand was at Theo Acosta’s gut before I ever really gave my hand the command to move.

Theo Acosta was the biggest pain in my ass, but unfortunately, I couldn’t get rid of him. As second in command of the Acosta pack, Theo had been in my business since the day we’d met. I’d managed to avoid him while in the middle of my little murder spree, but if he was here, the jig was up.

“I’m looking for a job,” I quipped, tilting my head to the side like I was a little soft in the head. I mean, we were in a strip club, after all. “The ABI can’t pay all the bills, you know.” That was a bald-faced lie, but given my glamour and outfit, it sure as shit looked like the truth. How he could see through said glamour was a little concerning, but I couldn’t think about that right then.

He gripped my wrist as he plucked the blade from my fingers like he was taking it away from a toddler, moving into the harsh illumination of the club’s neon mood lighting. He’d gotten a haircut since the time I’d seen him last. His usual shoulder-length locks were cropped close to his head in the back and left a little longer in the front highlighting his strong jaw and fabulous cheekbones.

It suited him, the bastard.

I’d never met someone so pretty and so shitty all at the same time.

“Bullshit, Jacobs. You’re up to something.” The green of his wolf lit in his eyes, showing me just how pissed off he was. “You’re always up to something.”

In two and a half years, Theo hadn’t trusted me one bit—not that I’d given him a reason not to. He had some beef with all witches—Wren excluded—so him warming up to me just wasn’t going to happen. The rest of the Acostas loved me. Mari and I painted our nails together. Dayana and I shared dessert recipes. And his mama? She adored me.

But Theo? No such luck.

“Of course, I’m up to something, you dope. I’m trying to get enough power to break the Fae in your dungeon, or did you forget about him while you were being so judgy? So why don’t you go home, mind your business, and I’ll get the answer to all our problems, mm-kay Pumpkin?”

Those green eyes narrowed to slits as his jaw solidified. “Eleven witches are missing, Jacobs. No one has found the bodies, but I know they’re dead. You planning a takeover? Expanding the coven for dear, old daddy?”

I ripped my wrist out of his hold as well as the blade. “No, you moron. I’m getting enough power to make that Fae do what we need him to do before Nico decides to get himself killed. How many packs would love to take over Savannah, hmm? Five? Ten? And how well will your pack fare without a true Alpha when they come? How long do you think Nico will hold on without Wren?”


The tip of my athame was at his throat in a blink. “No coven will help me—help us,” I hissed. “And no, I didn’t ask my daddy for help because the last thing we need is Josiah Jacobs in Savannah.”

About the Author:
Website-FB-TwitterAnnie Anderson is a military wife and United States Air Force veteran. Originally from Dallas, Texas, she is a southern girl at heart, but has lived all over the US and abroad. As soon as the military stops moving her family around, she'll settle on a state, but for now she enjoys being a nomad with her husband, two daughters, an old man of a dog, and a young pup that makes life... interesting.

Blitz-wide giveaway (INT)
2x $50 Amazon gift card

Monday, May 22, 2023

Book Review: Perilous Times by Thomas D. Lee

Perilous Times
by Thomas D. Lee
May 23, 2023
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: urban fantasy, dystopian, Arthurian legend
ISBN: 9780593499016
An immortal Knight of the Round Table faces his greatest challenge yet—saving the politically polarized, rapidly warming world from itself—in this slyly funny contemporary take on Arthurian legend.

Legends don’t always live up to reality.

Being reborn as an immortal defender of the realm gets awfully tiring over the years—or at least that’s what Sir Kay’s thinking as he claws his way up from beneath the earth yet again.

Kay once rode alongside his brother, King Arthur, as a Knight of the Round Table. Since then, he has fought at Hastings and at Waterloo and in both World Wars. But now he finds himself in a strange new world where oceans have risen, the army’s been privatized, and half of Britain’s been sold to foreign powers. The dragon that’s running amok—that he can handle. The rest? He’s not so sure.

Mariam’s spent her life fighting what’s wrong with her country. But she’s just one ordinary person, up against a hopelessly broken system. So when she meets Kay, she dares to hope that the world has finally found the savior it needs.

Yet as the two travel through this bizarre and dangerous land, they discover that a magical plot of apocalyptic proportions is underway. And Kay’s too busy hunting dragons—and exchanging blows with his old enemy Lancelot—to figure out what to do about it.

In perilous times like these, the realm doesn’t just need a knight. It needs a true leader.

Luckily, Excalibur lies within reach.

But who will be fit to wield it?

With a cast that includes Merlin, Morgan le Fay, the Lady of the Lake, and King Arthur himself—all reimagined in joyous, wickedly subversive fashion—Perilous Times is an Arthurian retelling that looks forward as much as it looks back . . . and a rollicking, deadpan-funny, surprisingly touching fantasy adventure.

Kay wakes up again, which means England is in peril. This time it is not a war or just England itself, but the whole world due to climate change. Parts of England are flooded by the rising seas and melting icebergs. The military has become privatized. Scotland is not a part of the British Isles, and Wales is its own country again. And Manchester, England, where Kay is directed by the god Herme to wake King Arthur, is split into different Communistic groups. And he is not the only knight reawakened either.

It is an interesting blend of fantasy and science fiction dystopian, mixed with Arthurian tales. There is a lot of stuff going on—some that could have been chopped from the book. Still, it addresses climate change, showing a future most people won’t like, but possible (taking out the fantasy part.). Part 2 of the book is when it starts to get really going.

I gave Perilous Times 4 sheep.

Reviewed by Pamela K. Kinney

About the Author:
Thomas D. Lee is an author of fantastical and historical fiction. In 2019 he completed an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Manchester’s Centre for New Writing. He has now embarked upon a PhD at the same institution, specialising in queer interpretations of the Arthurian mythos. He frequently considers emulating Merlin and becoming a hermit in the woods who speaks only in riddles.

He has previously worked as a copywriter and a high-school teaching assistant.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

The Rise of Amphitrite (Trident Trilogy #1) by Savannah Zherebnenko

Welcome to the tour for The Rise of Amphitrite by Savannah L. Zher. Read on for more details about this beautiful new fantasy!

The Rise of Amphitrite (Trident Trilogy #1)
Savannah Zherebnenko
April 15th, 2023
Genre: NA Fantasy
Amy—short for Amethyst—has had her life planned out for her since before she could walk: excel at cello, fencing, and academics, attend Oxford early, and take over her father’s law firm after her 20th birthday. She’s never had much free time for friends, aside from Percy, the boy who washed up on the beach in front of her as a child and hasn’t been far from her thoughts since. Percy teaches her about mythology, and sometimes it feels like they’ve known each other much longer than a few years…

When Amy chooses saving the oceans over the family business, moving halfway around the world for a marine biology research position, strange things start happening. The sea and its creatures seem to react to her presence, locals are calling her queen, and she’s feeling off, like part of her is missing. Her coworkers are great, but they seem to be taking all of this a bit too in stride.

When the research ship is attacked by creatures that should definitely not exist at the same time Percy shows up for a visit, Amy has some serious questions. She’s soon confronted with the fact that she may not be in charge of her destiny after all, and more than her own happiness is riding on her choices.

Katee Robert’s modernization of mythology and spice with the immersive but accessible world-building of Cassandra Clare.

About the Author
Savannah Zherebnenko lives in the PNW with her husband, two kids, and three fur babies. When she’s not zombified from her young kids, you can find her in her garden or in the kitchen canning, baking, cooking… slaving. Just kidding about the last one. But really, and if she’s not doing any of those things, she’s curled up with a book and a full glass of wine.

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Book Tour Schedule
May 22nd
R&R Book Tours Kick-Off -
May 23rd
May 24th
May 25th
May 26th

Book Tour Organized By:

Friday, May 19, 2023

99 cent YA Fantasy New Release: Quest of Awakening (The Quest of Awakening Saga Book 1) by Daniel Dickson + giveaway

Quest of Awakening (The Quest of Awakening Saga Book 1)
by Daniel Dickson
May 19th 2023
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
‘Eragon’ meets ‘Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda’ in this queer YA fantasy that will leave you breathless until the last page.

With war threatening to shatter Ivearth’s 500 years of peace, Prince Xavier embarks on a perilous quest to the mystical isle of Hom to claim a dragon and secure his place as king. But a dragon can only bond with someone true to themselves, forcing Xavier to confront his deepest fears. His truth, if revealed, could destroy the monarchy, the kingdom and the faith he serves.

Accompanied by a newly-heartbroken magical creatures expert, and a fearless steamboat captain, Xavier braves mermaid-infested waters and faces off against fearsome dragons. But the trio soon learns Hom calls on them to confront the obstacles that lie within. For Xavier, dangerous feelings for someone unexpected becomes the trigger to confronting all he has suppressed.

Will Xavier be successful in his mission? Or will his journey lead him down a different path, one that could alter the course of history forever?

About the Author:
Daniel Dickson is a Glasgow-based author and cognitive behavioral therapist with a passion for impactful storytelling. With formal education in various aspects of professional writing, psychology, and counseling, he strives to help people find self-love and thrive through his writing and clinical practice. In his free time, he enjoys practicing meditation, taking walks in nature with his rescue dog Willow, reading books across a range of genres especially fantasy and sci-fi, and traveling to explore new cultures. His favorite book is Humans by Matt Haig, and he's a film buff with a particular fondness for the movie Donnie Darko. As a spiritual person with influences from Buddhism, Eastern and Western philosophy, and psychology, Daniel believes his stories can promote acceptance and contribute to creating a more peaceful and unified world.

His debut novel, Quest of Awakening, is a queer YA fantasy that follows the journey of a young prince as he navigates his identity and embarks on a dangerous quest to save his world. With a diverse cast of characters and themes of self-discovery and acceptance, this book is sure to capture the hearts of readers.

Join Daniel on a thrilling adventure that will keep you turning pages and inspire you to embrace your true self. Get your copy of Quest of Awakening on Friday, May 19th.

Blitz-wide giveaway (INT)
$25 Amazon gift card
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Excerpt: Truth in Blue (All That Matters Book One) by Mirai Amell

Truth in Blue (All That Matters Book One)
by Mirai Amell
March 20, 2023

Genre: High Fantasy, coming of age
Publisher: Shadow Spark Publishing
Number of pages: 379
Word Count: 102K
Cover Artist: MiblArt
Sometimes life is better as a lie.

Malakai wanted to protect his kingdom from threats beyond its borders. Instead, stripped of his magic and on the run, he now needs to save it from his brother, the king himself.

Amaryllis wanted to have nothing to do with humans. Instead, stranded in the wrong realm, she now needs to retrieve a lost fae relic with powers no one comprehends.

Una wanted to be a knight in shining armor. Instead, haunted by the memories of a life she never lived, Una now needs to find answers from someone she doesn’t remember meeting.

When their paths cross, each must decide what matters to them the most.
Or risk losing everything they hold dear.

In a world where Angels and Shades battle for souls while the Devil sips his tea, the fate of one country, two races, and four realms hangs in the balance when love and loyalties are tested to their limits.

Excerpt - Chapter 1
No place like home

The palace was too quiet.

It should have been abuzz with many familiar noises: gardeners tending the plants, cooks clanging the utensils, and servants running errands. Instead, the rhythmic clip-clop of the hooves from Ciaran’s horse was the only sound echoing across the palace courtyard. The perfectly manicured shrubs and flowers blooming during peak summer looked exhausted, having to keep the facade of their expected sunny disposition. In contrast, barricaded in a garden corner, rooted yet lifeless, the prana plants glinted cunningly. With the sunlight bouncing off their amber-colored crystalline form, it was as if they were watching him.

As if they knew something he didn’t.

The trained senses of a King’s Knight warned him, but Ciaran dismounted, nevertheless. How could he be wary of a place he had called home for so long? After a few moments of deliberation, Ciaran decided to tie his horse to one of the pillars near the doorway, just in case.
He had practically grown up at the palace, having arrived there at thirteen to live and train as an apprentice knight. His father, Oswald—a Bender and the Lord of Korbridge—had still been alive then to watch with pride when Ciaran had received the royal crest that declared him a King’s Knight five years later. The metal emblem, carved with a golden sun rising from behind a jeweled dagger, was pinned to the chest of Ciaran’s black coat when Oswald passed away a few months after the ceremony. That had been six years ago. Malakai had stayed by his side through the ups and downs, the triumphs and losses. He was a friend, a rival, a comrade, and the closest thing to a family Ciaran had left.

He would gladly walk into a raging fire if it were for Malakai.

Now, Ciaran walked into the decidedly frosty palace.

No one greeted him in the main hall. The throne room, offices, and foyer were all eerily deserted.

He could sense people around, hear their hushed whispers and the echoes of their footsteps, yet it seemed they were deliberately avoiding him. Ignoring the strange stillness in the air, he resolutely walked toward his sleeping chambers in the north wing. Of all the knights in the country, only ten were chosen to be King’s Knights, the ones who lived in the palace, attending to the ruling King of Castellon.

Halfway to his destination, he stopped at the edge of the winding stairs. The stairs diverged here: one set of steps went up to the royal residence, and the other went down to the palace dungeons, a place that brought back haunting memories for him. He tried to shake them off and turned to take the stairs going upwards.

“I see you’re back already.” The hostility in the voice of General Atkins standing before him startled Ciaran. The five knights, who had crept up behind him in the meantime, didn’t appear any friendlier. Reva, Lucia, Feris, Goran, and Jahir all held weapons. To make things worse, they knew each other too well.

“General, where is he?” Ciaran could not stop panic from rising in his heart. The aging General had gray in his hair, but his height and breadth made him a mountain of a man. The formidable presence of this experienced warrior was enough to make grown men wet themselves (most grown men). Still, Ciaran did not break eye contact with his mentor, his emerald eyes demanding answers.

The General winced almost imperceptibly before replying, “The king sent him to Lasceraz.” Ciaran’s blood froze in his veins; he was too late for his friend.

“They’d such a shouting match that the stewards had to call me from my home in the city,” Atkins said. “I found Malakai unconscious on the floor, and the only thing I got from the king was the order to transport him to the dungeons in Lasceraz. In chains. Ciaran, what’s going on?”

The General implored him for some explanation.

“How long ago?” Ciaran ignored the General’s question to ask his own.

“Nearly three days now. What are you guys keeping from us? Answer me!”

Ciaran didn’t reply, his mind already calculating his next steps. Lasceraz, the infamous prison, was in the southernmost corner of the country. It would take several months to reach it on horseback unless he secured the service of a space-Bender mage—like the General, for sure, had. Fortunately, he knew one who used to work for his father, but Bender Farley lived in Ciaran’s hometown Korbridge, and it would take a few days to reach there from Castle. The longer he delayed, the more time Malakai would rot in Lasceraz.

Just as Ciaran turned around to leave, the knights readied their weapons: two sets of daunting daggers, two shining swords, and one menacing mace pointed straight at him. The General himself did not carry anything, standing with his arms crossed in front of him. Not to mention that Ciaran was not a mage, but two of the knights and the General were. Taking a deep breath, he brushed his sandy hair back with his right hand; a few locks strayed back over his green eyes.

“You truly believe you can stop me from leaving?” he asked, smiling for the first time since entering the palace grounds.

The knights looked highly uncomfortable, for they were well aware of who they were up against. People in the kingdom might not know his name, but every knight in the country knew of Ciaran’s reputation.

“No. I don’t believe we can manage that…” The General replied truthfully, “But I need to say that we tried our best regardless.”

Ciaran gave his mentor a quick nod, steadied his sword, and took his stance. “I understand.”

He couldn’t understand how he was still alive.

His entire being ached; his muscles and even his bones were sore.

Malakai tried to turn on his bed to find an angle where it would hurt slightly less, and a pained yelp escaped his mouth. The cold iron bit his wrists, sinking its unyielding teeth into his joints. He opened his eyes to find himself chained to the walls.

Lasceraz. A wave of despair overtook him, making it hard to breathe. Was the air always so stale and thick here? Malakai had toured the prison many times but never noticed how dark it was. The cells were made of thick granite, without even a tiny window to allow light to peek through. With some effort, he turned his head upwards and regretted it immediately. Everything swam before his eyes, and a sharp pain made him retch, only to realize he had nothing left to vomit apart from his blood.

After his body stopped shaking from the shock, Malakai felt a strange emptiness inside him; the warmth and comfort of his magic were barely there anymore. The panic that rose through him was worse than the bile he tasted in his mouth. He tried his best to calm himself, to convince himself that it could not be gone, for magic was made of prana: the life energy coursing through every living being. It had to be somewhere if he was here. But the more he searched, the more it became evident that it was dying.

And he was dying with it.

Malakai’s eyes blurred once more. Were they tears of sadness, knowing he had lost everything he held dear, or tears from the burning torment his body experienced with the slightest movement? He couldn’t tell them apart.

As his eyes focused again, Malakai remembered there used to be a window in every cell once upon a time. The first king of Castellon knew light was a beacon of hope; it kept the fight alive in people. His descendant, the current king, also understood what it meant to the prisoners. So, five years ago, he ordered all the windows to be boarded up. Malakai was the one who had supervised the project and seen the dejected looks on their faces, caked with dirt and grime, yet he never fully comprehended. Until now.

Many of them were murderers, kidnappers, and swindlers, but there were others who couldn’t pay the ever-increasing taxes; people who had no reason to be in the infamous jail of Lasceraz.

Yet, they were.

So was he.

“Get 'im to eat somethin’.” The metallic tinkle of keys alerted him as the room door opened. A guard dressed in red and yellow placed a bowl of soup in front of him while another held a lantern in his hand. Malakai wondered how many days had passed since he was sent here and if Ciaran knew his fate yet. It was no coincidence that he was incarcerated when each of his allies within the King’s Knights happened to be out of the capital.

“Three days. You’ve eaten nothin’.” The guard brought a spoon with the soup near his mouth.

“Please!” the man nearly pleaded and added, “Yer Highness.”

The other guard looked equally awkward. Malakai understood how disturbing it must be to treat the second prince of their kingdom as a mere prisoner—torn between their absolute loyalty to the orders issued by the king and their instinct to protect a member of the royal family. His older brother might be the ruler of Castellon (and he made sure to remind people of that constantly!), but Malakai was a soldier, first and foremost. He had spent time with guards, trained them, and inspected prisons as part of his duties, something the pampered king never bothered himself with.

He opened his mouth to let the guard feed him. Under no circumstance was he allowed to be free of his manacles. Such was the rule in Lasceraz, where every prisoner was kept in maximum-security solitary confinement. Sip by sip, he finished the bowl of soup, and the guards released simultaneous breaths of gratitude, likely because they had half-expected him to protest, or worse. Malakai didn’t want to make it any harder on them than necessary, considering they would have a tough enough time when he escaped. His weak stomach rebelled despite his noble intentions not to trouble the guards; a dull ache radiated from his core, spreading out like a volcano spewing lava, and Malakai keeled over in pain.

After they helped him throw up everything he had just ingested in the chamber pot, one of the guards tried to say something but couldn’t. Ignoring the grip of fatigue threatening to suffocate him, Malakai smiled and said, “It’s not your fault.” He meant it, but they hung their heads in shame and left the room without checking the chains, forgetting that they’d loosened the shackles slightly to let him clean up earlier.

He didn’t doubt that Ciaran would find a way to get him out of here.

But maybe Malakai could beat him to it.

Being beaten in a battle wasn’t something Ciaran ever worried about.

However, victory always comes with a price.

As he rode his tired horse away from Castle, the capital city of Castellon, Ciaran had to admit that while he’d managed to get out of the palace in one piece, thankfully without killing any of them, it hadn’t been easy. Every hesitation, every indecision from one side was used by the other. It was a wonder he’d made it this far.

About the Author:
Mirai Amell is the pen name of a neuroscientist who believes in myths and magic as much as she trusts molecules and microscopes. When she is not doing science, or reading fantasy books, or watching anime, Mirai scribbles poems published in anthologies like From One Line Vol(s) 1-3, Wounds I Healed, and The Crow’s Quill magazine.

Currently, Mirai lives in Seattle, where she researches various brain things.

In a world of magic, where men and women are equal in power and problems, Truth in Blue explores how friends and foes look alike, love and betrayal are two sides of the same coin, and right and wrong are too similar to distinguish. #comingofage #highfantasy #slowburnromance #magic #feminist #realms

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

5 Sheep Book Review: Mia and Nattie: One Great Team by Marlene M. Bell + excerpt

Mia and Nattie One Great Team – Picture Book
by Marlene M. Bell
October 3, 2020
Nattie’s mouth was a little crooked. Her legs were a bit shorter than usual, and one horn was too straight, like a unicorn’s horn. But Mia thought Nattie was perfect.

In a read-aloud picture book for children who love animals, award-winning writer and sheep breeder Marlene M. Bell presents Nattie the lamb’s true story.

MIA AND NATTIE is a heartwarming book that teaches readers about problem-solving, teamwork, and love.

On a visit to her grandma’s farm, eight-year-old Mia discovers a newborn, orphaned lamb outside in the cold and takes her to the laundry room, naming her Nattie. As she tries to nurse the lamb back to health, Mia discovers that Nattie is different from the other lambs and struggles to fit in with them like Mia does with other kids her age. When her grandmother says she will sell Nattie to a neighbor, Mia must come up with a plan to keep her friend around—one that will show the family just how special Nattie truly is.
“With each turn of the page, my kids and I fell more and more in love with this beautiful story. This is a story of friendship, inclusivity, and confidence. This is a story of not giving up on friends, and believing in the power of helpfulness. This is a BEAUTIFUL story. I had tears in my eyes as I was reading this aloud to my kids and it led to a really powerful discussion once we had turned the last page.” – Book Coffee Happy

What a beautifully made book. When you open the cover you see this glossy spread...
My kids are grown now, but I read a lot of picture books to my kids and this is one I know my kids would have loved. The little girl helps her grandma realize that even though Nattie is small and can't live with the other sheep, she can still be a big help on the farm.
Mia and Nattie: One Great Team has a positive message for kids and should be part of a school's library and a perfect gift for any kid.

5 "Baaart approved Sheep"



Mia and Nattie EXCERPT
Tiny Nattie studied the ways of older sheep.

She ate grass and tasty weeds.

She ate grain and hay and drank water instead of milk.

But Nattie would never be big enough to live with the rest of the flock.

She was too small to raise babies of her own.

“Your lamb needs a home,” Grandma said to Mia.

“She has one! Please let me keep her.” Mia hugged Nattie’s neck.

Mia squinted back tears before they fell on Nattie’s wool.

“A neighbor wants to buy her,” Grandma said, then spun around and walked to the barn in silence.

Mia had to find a way for Nattie to stay.

About the Author:
Marlene M. Bell is an award-winning mystery writer and acclaimed artist as well as a photographer. She and her husband, Gregg, reside in beautiful East Texas on a wooded ranch with their dreadfully spoiled horned Dorset sheep, a large Maremma guard dog named Tia, and Hollywood, Leo, and Squeaks, the cats that rule the household.