Spotlight & Excerpt: New Life in Autumn + Giveaway

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A New Life in Autumn - Michael G. Williams
Michael G. Williams has a new gay sci-fi mystery out, Books of Autumn book 2: A New Life in Autumn. And there’s a giveaway!

THE HARDEST PART OF DYING IS DECIDING HOW TO PASS THE TIME

Valerius Bakhoum died and kept no living. Now he can walk the streets of his city with a new face and a new name and finally feel a little bit respected. Too bad he’s still flat broke and behind on the rent. Unsure what to do with himself—and perhaps even of who he is—Valerius resumes his career as a detective by taking up the oldest case in his files: where do the children go?

Throughout his own youth on the streets of Autumn, last of the Great Flying Cities, Valerius knew his fellow runaways disappear from back alleys and other hiding places more than people realize. Street kids even have a myth to explain it: the Gotchas, who steal them away in the night. With nothing but time on his hands, Valerius dives in head-first to settle the question once and for all and runs smack into a more pressing mystery:

Who killed one of Valerius’ former lovers?

And do they know he’s still alive?

Return to the mean streets of Autumn by Valerius Bakhoum’s side as he shines a light into shadowy corners and finds secrets both sacred and profane with shockingly personal connections to who he was—and who he might become.

Warnings: This book does involve mild violence, capture and impending torture by antagonists, and discussion of the murder of children.

About the Series:

What would you do if you found yourself free at last–and all alone–in the sin-drenched paradise you were told you’d never reach?

Books of Autumn is a series telling the story of Valerius Bakhoum, a down and out private eye in Autumn, last of the great flying Cities, at various points in his life.

In A Fall in Autumn (2020 Manly Wade Wellman Award), we meet Valerius as he winds down his career and his too-short life.

In New Life in Autumn, Valerius navigates a surprising second chance and questions of who he is–and who he might become.

Walk the mean streets of Autumn by Valerius’ side in this award-winning study of the kindness and compassion found in the places where humanity’s lowest ambitions lurk!

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Excerpt

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Across three quarters of the City of Autumn, street kids are an unthinkable paradox. For the most part, the Pluses and the PlusPlus and all the other manifold forms of intentional humankinds only ever run into the sorts of kids someone wanted badly enough to design. There are already a billion people in the world between the Empire, the Eastern Expanse, and the less-organized places nobody’s fought over quite yet. Having kids willy-nilly wouldn’t add up, not with so many people already in line for the breakfast bar. That’s one of the many objections the Spiralists put forward to continued cultivation of Artisanal Humans like me—well, like I was.

That’s going to take some getting used to.

Anyway, widespread cultural insistence on bespoke offspring leaves a lot of kids out in the cold, literally. The ones I described before, orphaned by chance or abandoned for turning out imperfect or who got tired of their old life and decided to chase a new one are, in the remaining fourth-to-fifth of the City, as common as cobblestones and just as underfoot. There are plenty of them, and the supply continually refreshes, and I went to distinctly other streets than theirs. It isn’t that I wanted to avoid them, but talking would have taken money or some sort of barter and I was too short by half on either. I suspected it would have generated too much information rather than too little. A street kid asked to tell a story for a steam bun or a little reliably spendable scrip will gin up all the story you want and then some. I didn’t need urban legends. I needed facts, and that meant a much more gruesome start than some urchin milking my wallet with tall tales of what goes bump in the night.

I mentioned to Clodia one time that I had a friend who worked the Cisterns. The City of Autumn is like any town: its people have to piss like anybody else and its gutters often swell with rain. Autumn routinely flies into weather systems to gather up fresh water, and there’s a vast infrastructure to purify it for use by humankinds. I could spend ten pages telling you about the ponds in Down Preserves where rainwater burbles and bubbles under pressure, mixing in fresh air. The whole City sleeps atop a bed stuffed with pumps and gravity lines, charcoal and scrub algae, grates and artificial reefs and purpose-built shrimp—but I won’t.

Instead, I’ll simply say this: by the time water gets to us, the only thing left is the scent of the air where it first fell as rain. I don’t understand how the process works. I don’t care, either. The important thing, the thing none of us think about too much in case it, too, is another pretty lie in the quilt of them we make over our lives, is it happens. Sip from Lotta’s to remember the dead, cup your hands in the fountains of Domino, turn on a tap in the average Autumn kitchen, and you’ll enjoy the aroma of a field somewhere in Afrique, or a mutant blossom somewhere on a nameless plain in the vast Recovery Zone between Big River and the Salt Flat.

But on the other end of the system? Once all that delicious water has run its course through bodies and beer kegs and ice machines and steam plants?

That’s called Cistern Intake. I knew a gal who worked that part of the system. You could smell it on her from ten meters away. I always felt sorry for her, because it was so baked into her skin, ground down into her pores, she didn’t even smell it anymore herself.

On the plus side, she always had plenty of room in a bar. Nobody crowded her for long.

Frankie was a Mannie. Generally speaking, no variety of Plus—nice, “normal” people with designer genes—would even be considered for her job. Even applying for it might result in getting a replication error assessment. Odds are good you’ve already heard the story from a few years ago about the PlusPlus whose big ideas on “lived egalitarianism” got her carted off for genotoxicity screening. What most folks don’t know, however, is it was a stunt on both sides. Sure, she only wanted to make a point by suing the City for the right to join a scrubber team, not actually take the job if they offered it. But the City went out of its way to make the counterpoint in response, escorting her kicking and screaming away from the workhouse where they keep the little gliders they use to clean the Fore Barrier’s external face.

I assume she hoped to drum up publicity for her so-called perverse beliefs. I think she expected the City would do something to make an example of her, sure, but something more symbolic. You know, a big fine she could never pay, or maybe a few nights in the Palace of Imperial Justice. Something Imperial media could print without making anybody lose their lunch.

Instead, they dragged her —did I mention the kicking and screaming?—straight to the Hive. No trial. No judge. No pretenses. The Hive is right there at the front of the City, and the tiny portion of it sticking out above street level is visible if you climb high enough in Down Preserves and look to the Fore. The joke goes, they put the City’s worst criminals out there so we’ll hear them screaming if we crash into anything. This lady’s worst crime, though, was trying to prove we’re not all equal, not in the lives we’re allowed to lead or the risks we’re expected to take in the course of them. It sounds like heroism to you or me, but to the powers that be, the Sinceres, the Spiralists, and all the other people who don’t care if the Empire is a heap of shit as long as they’re near enough the top to catch a breeze, she’d committed the worst kind of social treason: she’d violated the spoken and unspoken rules propping up the class system on which they relied.


Author Bio

New Life in Autumn - Michael G. Williams
Michael G. Williams writes queer-themed science fiction, urban fantasy, and horror celebrating monsters, macabre humor, and subverted expectations. He’s the author of three series for Falstaff Books: the award-winning vampire/urban fantasy series The Withrow Chronicles; the thrilling urban fantasy series SERVANT/SOVEREIGN featuring real estate, time travel, and San Francisco’s greatest historical figures; the science fiction noir A Fall in Autumn, winner of the 2020 Manly Wade Wellman Award; and a bunch of short stories. He strives to present the humor and humanity at the heart of horror and mystery with stories of outcasts and loners finding their people.

Michael will be the Guest of Honor at Ret-Con in 2023, co-hosts Arcane Carolinas, studies Appalachian history and folklore at Appalachian State University, and is a brother in St. Anthony Hall. He lives in Durham, NC, with his husband, a variety of animals, and more and better friends than he probably deserves.

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Book Blitz: The Deep, by Mariam Sheriff

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The Deep

by Mariam Sheriff

Paranormal Mystery

Published: May 19, 2022 

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A tale beyond the waves….

Stanley is going through the motions of life, endlessly seeking employment in the pages of the daily newspaper and frequently coming up short. When he receives a call from his friend, Mrs Anderson, a widow whose only son is giving her cause for concern he thinks the young man is just looking for some space away from his interfering mother.

Stanley’s initial scepticism soon gives way to fears that Mrs Anderson was right about Jason when he witnesses him being kidnapped. Trying to save him, Stanley is also taken by the group and finds himself and Jason far out to sea on a boat. And it’s clear the kidnappers want rid of them both.

Certain of his impending death, Stanley is rescued at the last moment by a woman named Lythea. Her ability to breathe underwater is astounding enough but when Stanley finds he too has the same talent it signals the beginning of an epic adventure beneath the waves, as he desperately tries to track down Jason’s kidnappers and save him from a watery end.

Can Stanley get to Jason before he is killed? And what are the secrets behind his amazing new power? Stanley is about to discover more about himself and his family than he ever imagined.

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About the Author

Mariam Is a Mechanical Engineer from Saudi  Arabia. Despite majoring in an engineering field, she never forgot her true passion which is writing and literature. Her father encouraged her love for reading from a very young age. That at the age of 12 she had already finished reading many books by some of the most widely acclaimed novelists, Such as Victor Hugo, Charles Dickens, and Fyodor Dostoevsky.

Mariam took an interest in writing, though she never had the determination to become a published author until recently when she completed writing her last novel The Deep.  It was a story that she enjoyed writing so much that she really wanted to share it with the world.

Mariam was busy with her studies during the time she started first mapping out this book’s initial plot. Nevertheless, at any given time she would turn to writing, which helped her escape the stresses and routine of daily life by immersing herself in the details of her story. Which revolves around a mysterious empire deep under the ocean, a place with no shortage of wondrous adventures, and where breathing underwater and mingling with unusual ocean creatures was possible.

It took Mariam many years though to study marine life, and learn more about the ocean in order to be able to build the events in her story. She carefully crafted every detail to weave an anecdote that merges the beauty of the ocean with the art of story-telling. Moreover, her aim was to capture the essence of this hidden realm beneath the waves. And introduce the reader to a glimpse of its magic.

Mariam conceived the idea of the Deep in 2014 when she heard about a friend who got into a terrible diving accident. Fortunately, all turned well for her friend. But this incident captivated Mariam’s attention and she ended up writing the accident’s details on a note. These notes were later developed into a plot. But Mariam had writer’s block and she was about to give up working on the book. During this time, she moved to Australia. She would often wander, and hike parts of this beautiful country’s wilderness. One of the places she would come to love the most is called the great ocean road. A coast area that overlooks beautiful ocean sceneries, these trips helped revive Mariam’s dream to continue writing the story, and finally, bring The Deep to life.

Moreover, Mariam would go snorkelling regularly in order to envision and experience fully the world that her characters are experiencing. Whether it was the murky waters, the beautiful corals, strong water currents, or even not so friendly fishes.

Although finishing the manuscript was a very daunting task, especially since Mariam had to translate her own book from Arabic to English herself. It was an experience that she fully enjoyed, Learned a lot from, and helped her dive into a world that is immensely mesmerizing and not fully explored.

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Spotlight & Excerpt: Ghost Light + Giveaway

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Ghost Light

by Jane Tesh

Genre: Paranormal Mystery

 

Theodosia “Teddy” Ballard knows nothing about community theater, but when the stage manager for “Little Shop of Horrors” takes a tragic header down the costume-loft stairs, she agrees to fill in for the sake of her actor friend, Will. Teddy takes the superstitions and swelled heads of The Stage in stride—till she meets George Clancy Everhart, the theater ghost, who informs her that the previous stage manager was murdered and demands that she find the killer. Both investigation and rehearsals are complicated when she makes a surprising discovery about her relationship with Will—and learns that George has his own dramatic agenda.

 


ghostlight - excerpt

There was no way I had left a door open, but I got up and checked again. Must be a draft from somewhere in this old building. I retrieved the scattered pages and made sure they were in the right order.
I heard a thud as if something had fallen over backstage. Looking in the wings, I found a hammer on the floor. I put it back where it belonged and returned to my papers.
An overhead light flickered, red, then green, then white.
“All right, that’s enough.” I got to my feet for the third time. “Good joke, Will. Ha, ha. Now show yourself.”
“I beg your pardon, dear lady,” said a deep voice.
I stared in disbelief as a man appeared before me. He was tall and elegantly dressed in a three piece suit and cravat. His features were blurry, but he had an aristocratic air, a distinctive nose, and a satisfied smile.
He removed his bowler hat and bowed. “George Clancy Everhart, at your service.”
I didn’t know how Will had managed to create this image. This must have been some bizarre rite of passage for people new to the theater. Well, it wasn’t going to rattle me.
“Theodosia Ballard,” I said. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Theodosia! What a splendid name!”
“I prefer Teddy.”
“Teddy? That’s a boy’s name! You are a woman, and a very fine woman, at that. Such a magnificent presence! You should be on stage.”
“I am on stage right now, and I have a lot of work to do, so you can turn yourself off, disappear, whatever, just go away.”
He looked startled. “You don’t believe in me.”
“I believe you’re a really good special effect. Go on now, get lost.”
The image drew himself up. “My good woman, you are speaking to one of the premiere actors of the Twentieth Century. Why, I appeared in hundreds of plays during my lifetime. Thousands of performances! All to great acclaim!”
“I’m sure you did.”
“Excellent reviews! Encores by the score!”
“Then why are you haunting a little theater in Rossboro, North Carolina? Shouldn’t you be in New York? London?”
He paused and put a hand to his heart. “You wound me to the core, Theodosia. In my later years, my career took a sad tumble. Like your lover William, I was unable to continue my passion for Broadway. I ended up here, disillusioned but undefeated.”
“Whoa, hold on, buster. Will is not my lover. And how do you know about his New York experience?” I’d had enough. “Will, stop this right now. It isn’t funny.”
“I agree, Theodosia. It is tragic. The boy has such talent, such a love for theater.”
“Stop it.” I moved to push the man away, but my hands went right through him, and I almost fell into the orchestra pit. A strong force shoved me away from the edge.
“Dear me,” he said. “You must be more careful.”
I caught my breath. “I don’t believe in ghosts. Why are you here?”
“Because you need my help,” he said.
“What do I need your help for?”
“Why, to solve the murder, of course! I liked Paula. She was efficient. I admired her work ethic. I do hope you have a strong work ethic, Theodosia.”
“Wait, wait. Go back to the first thing. Solve the murder? No one’s calling Paula’s death a murder!”
“But it was,” George Clancy Everhart said. “I saw it.”


Jane Tesh, a retired media specialist, lives in Mt. Airy, North Carolina, Andy Griffith’s home town, the real Mayberry. She is the author of the Madeline Maclin Mysteries, featuring former beauty queen, Madeline “Mac” Maclin and her reformed con man husband, Jerry Fairweather, and the Grace Street Mystery Series, featuring struggling PI David Randall, his psychic friend, Camden, and an array of tenants who move in and out of Cam’s boarding house at 302 Grace Street. Ghost Light is her first standalone mystery and the first to feature an asexual heroine.

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