Book Blitz & Excerpt: The Last Beekeeper + Giveaway

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The Last Beekeeper
by Rebecca L. Fearnley
Publication date: April 20th 2022
Genres: Adult, Dystopian, Fantasy, Young Adult

Solma is a fighter. Trained by her village Steward to protect their community from the predators of their harsh world, she is fierce and loyal. But how can she protect her friends and family from crop failure and starvation? With flying insects extinct for over a century, nowhere on the forsaken continent of Alphor is safe and Solma is terrified her little brother, Warren, will be one of the next to die. The villagers cling to life, waiting for the Earth Whisperers—mysterious nomads with a strange magic that helps plants grow—to arrive.

But then Warren finds something. Something impossible. When the first bee in a hundred years crawls out of the earth, Warren forms a strange bond with the creature and Solma fears he might have a new power. One that leaders of Alphor would kill for. As she and Warren fight to keep the bee secret and safe, word of this miracle sweeps the continent. Allies and enemies alike descend on the village. Some demand the bees for themselves, others want to destroy the colony to level the odds. When words become threats and then violence, Solma and Warren are caught in the conflict, and now it isn’t just the bees in danger.

When whoever controls the bees controls the world, how will Solma and Warren know who to trust?

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EXCERPT:

The insect—for it can only be an insect—wanders groggily over the mound, seems to contemplate her fingertips for a moment and then clambers aboard.

Its feet are so light, she can barely feel them. She holds the creature up to her face, frowning as it waggles its antennae. Its gold-and-black striped body gleams in the sun, fuzzy to the point of ridiculous, with delicate gossamer wings and antennae that twitch curiously. Solma stares.

“What is it, d’you think?”

It isn’t a beetle. Solma knows that much. Warren’s pulling at her fingertips, straining to see. Solma suppresses a smile and holds the creature out so he can get a better look. Warren’s eyes widen.

“That’s a bee!” he whispers. Solma scoffs.

“No it isn’t,” she laughs, ruffling his hair. “It can’t be, can it? There ain’t no more bees.”

No one has seen one in over a century. This can’t possibly be a bee.

Still. What’s the harm in letting her brother hope?

She watches it wriggling on her finger. She can feel it now if she concentrates. The lightest brush of life against her skin. It buzzes its wings half-heartedly and Warren grins with delight. Solma can’t help grinning, too. It’s been such a long time since she’s seen him smile.

“Why don’t it fly away?” Warren asks. “You think it’s sick?”

Solma gently cups her other hand over the insect and draws it close to her chest. Could it be sick? The thought makes her sick, too. The summer skies have been empty of flying things for such a long time that suddenly she can’t bear the thought of this one falling ill. It buzzes against her again, shuffling down her finger and into her palm, as if accepting the safety she’s offering. Its little body thrums, begging protection.

“Maybe it is sick,” Solma concedes, then balks at the stricken look on Warren’s face. “We’ll save it,” she says without thinking.

It’s a daft thought. She doubts they can save it. If it really is a bee, it’s the only one she’s ever seen. Where can it possibly have come from?



Author Bio:

Rebecca has been obsessed with two things since she learned to walk and talk: stories and animals. Luckily, the two seem to be very compatible. Rebecca writes stories set in strange worlds filled with bizarre creatures, strong female characters and magical powers. She started her writing career as a poet, performing all over the country and publishing her first collection, Octopus Medicine, with Two Rivers Press in 2017.

In addition to writing, Rebecca is also a teacher and, in 2018, decided that she wanted to write quality books for the young people she works with. Her books tend towards themes of respect for the environment, protecting the planet and the new generations challenging the old to face up to their mistakes.

She lives in Reading, UK, with her unusual family, which includes herself and her partner, a friendly little mini-lop rabbit (called Cleo) and a gregarious and feisty quaker parrot (called Maya).

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Cover Reveal: Leather & Lace + Giveaway

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Leather & Lace

The Fool’s Adventure Book 2

by Lauren Sevier & A. Smith

Genre: Dystopian Western Romance

 

Three years wandering the desert is enough to drive anyone insane, and the limits of Bonnie and Jesse’s minds and hearts will be put to the ultimate test.
 
A deadly showdown with a murderous outlaw ripped Bonnie away from the relative peace and ragtag family she’d built at the end of Guns & Smoke. In the thrilling next chapter in The Fool’s Adventure series, we finally get the answer to the biggest question: What happened to Bonnie?
 
After three years of fighting to get her back, literally, Jesse James finds her in the most unlikely of places– New Orleans high society. With the help of his rival-turned-friend Will Ellis, and a sassy staff member, Jesse’s tasked with infiltrating the house of the man he believes was responsible for killing his parents in order to get her back. Jesse’s biggest challenge yet will be learning to fight for Bonnie in a way he never expected before: by fitting in.
 
Mired in high society politics and scheming, Bonnie is at the epicenter of one of the most ruthless gangs in the world. Years trapped in a gilded cage of wealth and lies has irrevocably changed her from a crass outlaw into a southern debutante. Gone is the dangerous glint in her eyes, replaced with suspicion when the devilishly handsome street fighter named Montana suddenly joins her father’s staff.
 
Can Jesse remind Bonnie of who she really is in time to keep her from giving her heart and hand away or will he discover that the wild, beautiful outlaw he fell in love with is truly gone? 

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**Don’t miss the first book in the series!**

Guns & Smoke

The Fool’s Adventure Series Book 1

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Lauren Sevier & A. Smith are long time friends and co-authors from southern Louisiana. Guns & Smoke, their first joint publication, began as a “short” story after having too much wine on girl’s night. Nine years later it is now the first novel in a Dystopian/Western Romance series. The duo has plans to publish several series together in the future. A. Smith spends her time with her two rescue dogs and rescue cat surrounding herself with books and Labyrinth paraphernalia. Lauren Sevier collects antique tea cups and tries to stay sane, though as the mother of a toddler she fails brilliantly most days. She also has a growing collection of crowns and tiaras and likes to act silly on Tiktok. Look for more thrilling novels from The Fools Adventure series in the future!

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A. Smith’s Links:

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Spotlight, Excerpt & Author Interview: Mage of Fools + Giveaway

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MAGE OF FOOLS
by Eugen Bacon
RELEASE DATE: March 15, 2022
GENRE: Speculative Fiction / Dystopian / Afrofuturist
BOOK PAGE:  Mage of Fools – Meerkat Press

SUMMARY:

In the dystopian world of Mafinga, Jasmin must contend with a dictator’s sorcerer to cleanse the socialist state of its deadly pollution.

Mafinga’s malevolent king dislikes books and, together with his sorcerer Atari, has collapsed the environment to almost uninhabitable. The sun has killed all the able men, including Jasmin’s husband Godi. But Jasmin has Godi’s secret story machine that tells of a better world, far different from the wastelands of Mafinga. Jasmin’s crime for possessing the machine and its forbidden literature filled with subversive text is punishable by death. Fate grants a cruel reprieve in the service of a childless queen who claims Jasmin’s children as her own. Jasmin is powerless—until she discovers secrets behind the king and his sorcerer.

BUY LINKS:  Meerkat Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Excerpt:

Tuesday.

Outside the double-glazed window, a speck grows from the moonless night and yawns wide, wider, until its luster washes into the single-roomed space, rectangular and monolithic. One could mistake the room for a cargo container.

The space, one of many units neatly rowed and paralleled in Ujamaa Village, pulses for a moment as the radiance outside grows with its flicker of green, yellow and bronze. The cocktail of incandescent light tugs along a tail of heat. Both light and heat seep through the walls of the khaki-colored shelter, whose metallic sheen is a fabrication, not at all metal.

Light through the window on the short face of the house—the side that gazes toward Central District in the distance—rests on the luminous faces of a mother and her two young children, their eyes pale with deficiency in a ravaged world. It’s a world of citizens packed as goods in units whose short faces all stare toward the Central District that will shortly awaken in the dead of the night. The light drowns the toddler’s cry of wonder.

As sudden as the ray’s emergence, it evanesces and snatches away its radiance, leaving behind hoarfrost silence. A sound unscrolls itself from the darkness outside. First, it’s a thunderhead writing itself through desert country—because this world is dry and naked, barren as its queen.

The lone cry of a wounded creature, a howl or a wail reminiscent of the screech of a black-capped owl, plaintive yet soulful, rises above the flat roofs screening the wasted village. The cry is a dirge that tells an often-story of someone in agony, of a hand stretched out to touch an angel of saving but never reaches. A second thunderhead slits the sound midcry, nobody can save the mortally wounded one.

Jasmin closes her eyes. She needs no one to tell her. She knows.

Everybody knows—except the children. That King Magu’s guards—so few of them, yet so deadly—have found another story machine, and its reader.

“Siyent yight,” says two-year-old Mia. Her owl eyes—evolved to navigate darkness—gaze into Jasmin’s. But they are eyes that are also glows: they not only see but soak light to illuminate her world.

Jasmin does not speak. She’s unpacking the reality of what’s just happened. She is overwhelmed by an emotion that’s not yet rage. Her ears are ringing, a child’s sound toy, but there are no more toys in Mafinga. The country’s reality is cold, gray. Its wind vibrates with the dirge of a better yesterday. It’s a world gone dumb—must all be broken? The bones of the ancestors pop with metamorphic hymns of water that is ruler and land that is slave, as people degenerate into crustaceans.

“Siyent yight, Mamm,” says Mia again.

Jasmin’s fingers rest on Mia’s twin cornrows that end in pigtails.

“Yes. The silent lights.”

“Someone hurt?”

Jasmin is taken aback. She never imagined Mia understood.

“The sirens are coming,” says Omar in his grown-up voice. Even at four, he hasn’t outgrown the burst of curls on his head. His pale chocolate skin is still baby soft.

“Soon,” says Jasmin. “You know what it means.”

She glances at the children still hugged to her hips. They too are readers, partaking of the story machine, they just don’t know it yet. Each time she narrates from the device—

She closes her eyes, unwilling to fathom how much she has endangered them with her oral tales.

“I bwashed my teeff.”

“Good, Mia. Now you, Omar. Make it happen.”

He peels himself from gazing at the world out there.

Mia stays. Her eyes seek assurance. “I good, Mamm, aight?”

“You’re always good, dear goatling.”

The children know about goats. The goats from the stories Jasmin tells them. Tales of animals so calm, you think they are stupid, but their working minds sharpen with each bleat. Despite their odd pupil shape, how unsettling to a human eye, goats are intelligent beneath the horn.

Jasmin watches as Omar navigates the space between the unpartitioned living area with its metal-like seats and spartan table, its kitchenette with a tiny chiller and microwave, its multipurpose sink, the sleeping area with its floored mattress, its toilet—only a curtain for privacy. One wall is fitted with an automated screen that turns itself on, off at central command. You don’t flick channels to choose the news, sports, documentaries, music or entertainment. Pzzz. Pzzz. The screen comes on at a whim with the propaganda of the moment: sometimes it’s a choir of children in flowing pinafores and jester pantaloons singing slogans. Or the same children in sisal skirts and war paint doing a folk dance, chanting the Hau, Hau, Acha We song about decrying dissenters. Pzzz. Pzzz. The screen goes silent as it does now, momentarily asleep.

All units in Ujamaa Village are the same. They are metallic khaki in color. Everyone’s within a kick, right there, next door. But you never hear anything—except the outside. And, mostly, as just then, the outside world brings the sound of dying.

Once a week you get a pass to use the Ujamaa Facility. It used to have gendered showers: hot sizzles and soap dispensers, a luxury despite the blandness of their products. But there are no more men in the village. Now the sizzler showers and their weekly extravagance are for everyone. There’s no place for modesty.

Whoop. Whoop. The work siren goes.


Author Interview:

What inspired you to write this book?
I really wanted to write an Afrofuturistic novel, it was just something I wanted to do. It took a while for the idea to form, clarity on where the story might go, and it leaned towards dystopia.

Unlike everything I’ve ever done, this one started with a title: Mage of Fools—way before I knew what I was going to write.

What, if anything, did you learn when writing the book?
I remembered that writing a novel is bloody hard! I am mostly a short story writer, and I use a model of stories-within-a-story to craft a novel. Often, I tuck little stories and poems inside, layered vignettes invisible to the reader, and they carry the mutability and intensity of a short story, which seems to power my longer forms.

What surprised you the most in writing it?
I was astonished how much I connected with the characters, and how they wrote their own stories. I finished the first draft of the manuscript in three months of straight writing, on top of other writing, editing, and a day job. I was married to my text.

If it’s not a spoiler, what does the title mean?
It is a spoiler. Somewhere in the novel, someone says it, and the meaning is evident.

Were any of the characters inspired by real people? If so, do they know?
“The transformation of Mafinga happened seemingly overnight. People became their own labor, coerced into the spirit of Ujamaa.”—excerpt, Mage of Fools.

King Magu is the caricature of a past president of Tanzania, my birthplace, who was somewhat of a dictator. He’s long dead now, so it’s best that I don’t dwell on him.

When the United Republic of Tanzania first gained colonial independence under its first president Julius Kambarage Nyerere, it was a socialist country that adopted the premise of ‘ujamaa’, sharing and togetherness.

Ideally, ujamaa should have worked—it’s a beautiful and generous concept. In practice, it created corruption and one of the poorest countries in the world.

Do you consider the book to have a lesson or moral?
Mage of Fools is a story about the spirit of humanity, and free will. It’s about hopes and dreams, country, liberty and belonging. A secret story machine tells of fate, love and promise, charted by bold authors and their indelible scripts.

Jeffrey Ford, in the book’s commendation, captures it best:

“Eugen Bacon’s unique vision, Mage of Fools, is a wonderfully imagined dystopia; a techno/folklore blend with a resourceful mother at its heart.”

What is your favorite part of the book?
I honestly like them all, but I took special delight in Atari’s story—developing this character who needs so much, until his needing becomes destruction.

Which character was most challenging to create? Why?
I felt all the major characters in Mage of Fools. I find immersion in writing, and I morphed as I wrote, becoming Jasmin, becoming her lover Solo, her husband Godi, the deadly Atari, Queen Sheeba, the children Mia and Omar… I connected deeply with each of them, and I think it helps in the robustness of their characters.

I’d say that, perhaps, the secondary characters who needed to play a role, albeit small, were a little challenging: keeping their roles minimal yet relevant.

What are your immediate future plans?
I have books spilling out, it’s not funny. In 2022, there’s Chasing Whispers, a story collection by Raw Dog Screaming Press, and An Earnest Blackness, an essay collection by Anti-Oedipus Press. I have finished a cross-lingual hybrid project (Languages of Water) that’s just entering the publication process, and I am co-writing a time travel novel with European slipstream author Andrew Hook.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

eugen bacon-firstchoice-colorEugen Bacon is African Australian, a computer scientist mentally re-engineered into creative writing. She’s the author of Claiming T-Mo by Meerkat Press and Writing Speculative Fiction by Red Globe Press, Macmillan. Eugen’s work has won, been shortlisted, longlisted or commended in national and international awards, including the Bridport Prize, Copyright Agency Prize, Australian Shadows Awards, Ditmar Awards and Nommo Award for Speculative Fiction by Africans.

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