Book Blitz & Excerpt: Recorder + Giveaway

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Congratulations to author Cathy McCrumb! This week marks the release of Recorder, the first book in her Sci-Fi series, Children of the Consortium. Read on for more info and a chance to win a signed hardcover of the book!

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Recorder

Publication Date: November 9th, 2021

Genre: Science Fiction/ Speculative Fiction

Publisher: Enclave

Children of the Consortium

When a research station goes dark and a rescue mission goes wrong, a young woman with no name, no family, no friends loses everything that defines her…

Donated to the Consortium before birth, the Recorder’s sole purpose is to maintain and verify the records. A neural implant and drone ensure compliance, punishing any display of bias.

Suddenly cut off from the technology controlling her, she tastes freedom and what it means to be human. But if the Consortium discovers her feelings, everyone she knows will be in danger.

With no name, no resources, and only an infinitesimal possibility of escape, the Recorder’s time is running out.

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Excerpt

I did not have a name—none of us did—but once when I was young, I had a friend.

Early in my tenth year I slipped away from the other girls of my cohort. Their approved games did not interest me, and since I had fulfilled my physical activity requirements, I took refuge at my favorite place near the artificial brook.

Light sparkled on water rippling over smooth brown stones. Either the brook’s engineers or its gentle flow had sculpted rounded banks in the loam, and lavender and thyme grew between orange lilies. The self-pollinating plants bobbed and dipped in the breeze created by the giant fans in the lofty, domed ceiling. It was a close approximation of a real brook, from what I had read.

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About the Author

Cathy Hinkle Cathy graduated from Biola University with a degree in literature and a love for stories. She and her husband, whom she met while writing letters to soldiers, have five children and currently live within the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. While writing is one of her favorite things, she also enjoys reading, long hikes, long naps, gluten-free brownies, raspberries, and crocheting while watching science fiction movies with friends and family.

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Spotlight, Excerpt & Author Interview: Paperclip + Giveaway

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PAPERCLIP
by Seb Doubinsky
Release Date: August 17, 2021
Genre: Dystopian / Noir / Speculative Fiction
Book Page

SUMMARY:

In New Babylon, leader of the Western alliance of the city-states, armament mogul Kurt Wagner has a secret dream: to build a space station to save mankind. Little does he know that he is the target of competing plots involving geopolitics and black magic. In the background, a film director with a political conscience, a bodyguard with a secret mission, a driver with an occult hobby and a talking bird are trying to make sense of their world, hoping to see their wishes come true—which they will, but not in the way they expected. 

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EXCERPT:

Prologue

“Phew, it’s hot in here . . . Let’s step outside.”

“Oh my, what a view!”

“Right? Sheryl was so lucky to find this mansion. So pseudo-Edwardian! Love it!”

“And then I told him—Oh sorry, I knocked your glass!”

“No problem. It’s champagne. It won’t stain.”

“I heard Rust threatened Sheryl that he would have her show canceled if he won the election.”

“I’m sorry, I’ll squeeze right here, if you don’t mind. This balcony is a very crowded place.”

(Laughter)

“Well, it’s so warm in there.”

“And so cold out here. I think I’m going back in.”

“What do you expect? It’s November! At least it isn’t raining!”

“Do you mind if I smoke?”

“What’s your next project, Susan? You don’t mind me calling you, Susan, do you?”

“I’m thinking about doing a documentary now.”

“What? But you’ve just won a Golden Star for best movie!”

“Did you see president Delgado’s dress? She looked stunning!”

“I thought she looked tired. And she’s put some weight on.”

“Might be stress eating. I understand, with all those awful polls.”

“Isn’t that Wagner over there?”

“Who?”

“Kurt Wagner, the CEO of Allied Weapons International.”

“Maybe, yes. Who is he talking with?”

“I don’t know. Someone from Delgado’ staff, perhaps. Or a New Moscow spy.”

(Laughter)

“After all, Rust did call Delgado a Bolshevik.”

“Pretty pink for a red, in my humble opinion.”

“A documentary about what? Did Netflix contact you about a project?”

“No, no, it’s my own idea. I feel like doing something different now. More personal.”

“Is that the bridge we see from here? With all the lights?”

“Excuse me, I would like to squeeze through.”

“Sure.”

“Is that Lee Jones? The writer?”

“Must be. He seems already drunk.”

“And who is he talking to?”

“Manny Povero, I think”

“Who?”

“The artist, you know. The painter.”

“And the old guy?”

“City Commissioner Ratner.”

“Ah yes, I didn’t recognize him. He looks older on TV. Does look like a cop, though. Sexy, in a violent kind of way.”

“I told Sheryl it was crazy to have this party. Rust will use it against her and Delgado. And the rest of the media, for that matter.”

“Do you know Sheryl Boncoeur well? I mean, personally?”

“Yes, we were in journalism school together, way back when. She’s always been a killer.”

“Her talk show is awesome.”

“Yeah, but I think she has more enemies than friends now.”

“Everybody loves to hate Sheryl. Herself included.”

(Laughter)

“Is that the airport, over there? With all the lights?”

“Yes, that is an excellent idea, Mister Wagner. A new pilot-less helicopter? Like a huge drone, you mean? I will tell president Delgado about it. Oh, you have already?”

“Love that dress Sylvia is wearing.”

“It’s a Chanel. New collection”

“Good her husband’s rich.”

“I heard Wagner bought it for her. They’re seeing each other, I heard.”

“Well, who isn’t he seeing?”

“You?”

“Bitch.”

(Laughter)

“Excuse me.”

“Sure.”

“Oh sorry, I stepped on your toes!”

“No worries. I’m just afraid this balcony will end up collapsing at some point.”

“Lee!”

“Susan!”

“Manny, this is Susan DeVeere. Susan, Manny Povero.”

“I have seen all your films.”

“Well, I love your art. Looking forward to your exhibit at the Contemporary Art Museum!”

“Thank you. Congratulations on your Golden Star!”

“Well, that’s all thanks to Lee’s superb novel! I just had to add images to his fabulous dialogues.”

(Laughter)

“I’m freezing. I’m going back in now.”

“I’ll go with you.”

“Phew! I can breathe better now.”

“Yeah, it’s nice when it’s less crowded.”

“President Delgado will address her guests in a few minutes.”

“Did you hear that? I didn’t know she was going to make a speech.”

“I hope it won’t be a long one.”

“I know what you mean. Dreadful.”

(Laughter)

“Let’s go hear her.”

“I’m staying here.”

“Come on Lee, be sociable for once. Show your support.”

“Fuck my support. I only support my whiskey.”

“It’s okay, I’ll stay with Lee.”

“Atta girl.”

“I have to go. It’s my duty.”

“I’ll go with you, Georg.”

“Thanks Manny. The arts supporting law and order. I like that.”

“I don’t, but I’ll go with you anyway.”

“I fucking hate politics. Poor Georg. Wouldn’t like to be in his shoes. Top cop must be the worst job in the world. And congratulations for your Golden Star, by the way. Can’t remember if I called you that night or not.”

“Thank you, and yes, you did, actually. Are you working on a new book?”

“I’m always working on a new book. My ex-wives cost me a lot.”

“Is that the presidential palace we see other there? With all the lights?”

paperclip


Author Interview:

What inspired you to write this book?

The world we are living in. Speculative fiction is all about the present, not the future. The book is a deformed mirror-image of our times. That’s why it is slightly grotesque.

What, if anything, did you learn when writing the book?

That events you write about can happen in real life. In the novel, one of the characters, a billionaire named Kurt, wants to build a space colony to save the human race. I began the book before Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos had turned their projects into reality.

What surprised you the most in writing it?

Nothing surprised me, but I was relieved when I had finished it. Writing is a painful grind for me.

What does the title mean?

As the title is a key for the story, I won’t tell you. But I can tell you it was inspired by a fabulous painting by pop-artist James Rosenquist, titled… “Paper Clip”.

Were any of the characters inspired by real people? If so, do they know?

No, not in this one. Except Kurt, who is a mash-up of Musc and Bezos, but I don’t think they know. Or care.

Do you consider the book to have a lesson or moral?

Yes. I am a poltical writer, so all my books have a sort of moral. In Paperclip, it is very ironic, tongue-in-cheek. When there’s no moral, there’s a moral, I would say.

What is your favorite part of the book?

No favorite. Take it or leave it.

Which character was most challenging to create? Why?

Waldo, who is a bird. Because I’m not a bird.

What are your immediate future plans?

Like I said, I co-wrote a collection of stories with my friend J.S. Breukelaar, titled “The Turn Of The Seasons: A Dark Almanac” which will come out next year through IFWG Press. And I’m writing a new city-states novel. Of course.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Seb Doubinsky is a bilingual writer born in Paris in 1963. His novels, all set in a dystopian universe revolving around competing cities-states, have been published in the UK and in the USA. He currently lives with his family in Aarhus, Denmark, where he teaches at the university.

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Spotlight, Excerpt & Author Interview: The Bridge + Giveaway

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THE BRIDGE
by J.S. Breukelaar
RELEASE DATE: June 22, 2021
GENRE: Speculative Fiction / Dark Fantasy
BOOK PAGE

Meera and her twin sister Kai are Mades—part human and part not—bred in the Blood Temple cult, which only the teenage Meera will survive. Racked with grief and guilt, she lives in hiding with her mysterious rescuer, Narn—part witch and part not—who has lost a sister too, a connection that follows them to Meera’s enrollment years later in a college Redress Program. There she is recruited by Regulars for a starring role in a notorious reading series and is soon the darling of the lit set, finally whole, finally free of the idea that she should have died so Kai could have lived. Maybe Meera can be re-made after all, her life redressed. But the Regulars are not all they seem and there is a price to pay for belonging to something that you don’t understand. Time is closing in on all Meera holds dear—she stands afraid, not just for but of herself, on the bridge between worlds—fearful of what waits on the other side and of the cost of knowing what she truly is.

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Excerpt:

After I wrote the story in Marvin’s notebook, I wound my hair into a bun, pulled on a skirt and my thin coat and raced toward the bridge. I balked at the spot where the spiked claws—neither human nor animal—had crooked themselves around the rail. They were not there now—but I knew better than to trust either my faulty imagination or my crappy memory. Best just to pretend they never were. My feet kept moving and if my racing brain calibrated two dark smears at the lower edge of the railing, it stored the image for a rainy day.

I did not slow until I got to the other side.

A velvet mystery hung over the cobbled streets of Wellsburg, and it wrapped around me like a cloak. My whole being leaned into the history lurking around the corners, behind the walls, the listing road signs. My soul dipping into a cool clear stream of a reality that I could steal and make my own. I breathed in the truth of this place—smells of coffee and expensive perfume, and sounds of music and peals of laughter—and felt the cracks inside me fill with possibility.

I smiled.

Backlit water tumbled in the fountain at the center of the Quad. It was warmer on this side of the river, similar to September in the Rim, balmy yet with an edge to the breeze. The fickle nature of the weather had revved up my cough, and a few people looked up as I passed, curious maybe about what kind of weak constitution could be unwell on such a night as this? One look at me, at what I was, told them all they needed to know: cult survivor—endangered species. Their faces glowed with health and flawlessly applied makeup—lipstick that never smeared, mascara that never ran. Their expensive, casually assembled couture clung like a second skin. I felt like a plucked bird, a bad joke with my war paint and kohl-black wings, and I kept my head down.

There were some others like me. Mades and other special-program students from the Tower Village, dancing clumsily to and from electives or from jobs they had in taverns and shops, keeping to the shadows, insisting on their own planned obsolescence.

I didn’t want to be a bad joke.

I passed under the maple and through the granite arch to the Writing and Culture Office. Pagan had said that she would be in class. I was counting on that. Walking through the streets of Wellsburg had jangled my nerves and mixed up the words of the story in my head. I wanted to make Pagan believe in me—see that I was real enough to keep. Invisible in the Blood Temple behind Kai’s larger-than-life protection, only half real in the Starvelings where Narn never forgave me for being the wrong half—all I wanted was to dangerously imagine myself through the gaze of another. To prove that Narn was right, after all, not to throw me in the trash.

Distant music played from the Music and Technology rooms. Someone was practicing a strange diminished chord over and over again. I climbed some stairs and passed a landing illuminated by a huge leadlight window that depicted Eve leading a shamefaced Adam from Eden. Laughter tickled down from the level above and I balked. Kai’s ugly shoes echoed on the stairs. The laughter turned to something else. A moan. The stunted arpeggios from the music room quickened. Adam buried his face in his hands.

I wandered down a wide hallway lined with sconces. The ceiling receded into shadow. I smelled expensive weed, and the moan turned to a sob, getting louder as I neared the restroom. I kept walking. Room 225 was to my left. The door was ajar and I stood on the threshold looking into a small classroom dominated by an oaken table which students sat around with typewritten sheets and notebooks like mine. The walls were of age-defying stone and a stern old-fashioned clock hung behind the instructor, the second-hand juddering. I identified two other Mades, but otherwise it was all Regulars. Pagan lounged with her friends, a gaggle of swans with long necks and lush feathers that caught the light. I sat down facing a high window against which the maple branches flung themselves in the rising wind. Sweat pooled at the small of my back.

The instructor was a nervous Made a few years older than me, with emerald streaks in her hair and a small fierce freckled face. She wore a department store Bohemian skirt and earrings that jangled. She nodded at me, checked my name on the roll, and explained the workshopping process for the benefit of the “latecomers.” We would read from our work, she said, and the class would offer their critique, beginning with the student to her left, and concluding with feedback from Jacinta herself. The other two Mades and I avoided eye contact. There was a quota, but I didn’t know how many places were left, and I wondered if they did either. Were we all competing for the same thing—protection? I felt something in me rise to the ugliness of the game.

There were only females in the class. No males. My heart sunk. Was there no damn place in this whole campus where one could meet a nice young drover, take him upstairs into a room with faded wallpaper like in the Five-Legged Nag? Unbutton his jeans before he knows what you are?

Someone read a chapter from the start of a novel about the end of the world. Another student read a poem about antique tools. The instructor made notes in a yellow pad and everyone commented on the pieces, lies mostly, how much they enjoyed it and how they couldn’t wait to read more. The Regulars were looking aggressively bored or were on their phones, and even then I knew that Jacinta couldn’t have stopped them if she tried. Everything about their attitude suggested that they were less students than paying customers, with a line of credit as long as their necks—she served them. We all did. This was the tomorrow we were being re-Made for. I felt my hopes plunge, my power drain.

Pagan had not acknowledged me. The readings were muffled beneath the roaring in my ears. I was rigid with anxiety. A few Regulars read stories about bad dates and true detectives and dead mothers, none of which we Mades knew anything about. I was to read last, and by then Pagan was asleep with her head on her hands and her sandy quiff flopped over her eyes. I almost felt a sense of relief. At least this way, she couldn’t laugh at me. If she laughed at me, I thought I might die.

I didn’t know whether to stay sitting or stand up. I stayed sitting, kept my eyes on Marvin’s notebook, without really seeing it. At first when I began to haltingly read, nothing happened. I knew my lips were moving, but in my anxiety I could hear no sound. Faces turned to me, pale and tense. I was making no sense. It was all just mumbo-jumbo, a bad joke after all. I heard a titter, saw someone swiping the screen of their phone. I stopped rushing. Tried to slow down to make space for the out-of-joint meaning.

Once I asked Kai what we were, exactly. What the fragments of our being amounted to. “Tell me and we’ll both know,” she’d said.

The story I read was and wasn’t the same as Narn told me on the bridge. It was both more than that, and less . . . There is a man with a raven’s head pulled over his own like a mask. He uses his beak to peck the faces off little girls in their sleep. They wake up every morning with something missing—a-tongue-a-tooth-an-eye, and every night the man-raven returns one thing—a nose haphazardly affixed to an earhole, an eyebrow ripped away and replaced with an upper lip—only to take something else instead.

“Their eyeballs,” I finished very slowly, “squish like grapes between my beak.”

Silence slammed down on the room. The clock stopped ticking and it was no longer a clock but a map. Across the map, place names—Demos, Kokylus, Akheron, Elysion—materialized in symbols I didn’t know I knew. The play of moon-cast shadows through the maple branches bounced the map across the faces in the room, refracted contour and form-lines with no earthly reference, the blur of tongue-twister toponyms, impossible sea levels and nightmarish elevations—a shifting restless map showing directions to nowhere. Pagan smiled in her sleep. Another student rushed from the room and there was a bang of the lavatory door, moaning that I suddenly realized I had not so much heard as foreseen. Jacinta, her freckled forehead sheened with sweat, jumped up from her chair and the markings were stark across her face.

“Stop!” she cried.

A door banged again. Open or shut. Giant wings flapped past the window casting the room in sudden utter darkness, and when they passed in the blink of an eye, the map had gone. The clock was just a clock. The faces of my classmates just pale, stunned faces.

“Why should we listen to this?” Jacinta asked, trembling.

“If someone lived it,” Pagan answered without raising her head. “We should at least be able to listen to it.”

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Author Interview:

  1. What inspired you to write this book?

It started with a short story inspired by storytelling itself, by the anxieties we all face at college, and by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, which is how so many of us feel, especially if we straddle countries, identities, genders, genres, colliding histories. Once I wrote the story I wanted to learn more about this world between the future and the past, between science fiction and magic. So I stayed there. I stayed on the bridge.

2. What, if anything, did you learn when writing the book?


That it’s incredibly difficult to turn a short story into a novel. I can’t tell you how many times I just wanted to give up and start something from scratch.

3. What surprised you the most in writing it?


The place surprised me. The more I explored it, the more I learned about the history of witches, of goddess and demons, of darkling futures that are always present.

4. What does the title mean?


The Bridge refers to a bridge in the novel that connects the old and new campuses of Wellsburg College. The old campus which is where Meera wants to be, and the new campus, purpose built for Mades – survivors of the Blood Temple paradise cult, and made to replicate it in ways that Meera wants desperately to escape.

5. Were any of the characters inspired by real people? If so, do they know?


There’s a lot of me in Meera. If I didn’t know that at the start of the novel, I know it now.

6. Do you consider the book to have a lesson or moral?


None whatsoever.

7. What is your favorite part of the book?


That changes depending on my mood. Right now it’s the end.

8. Which character was most challenging to create? Why?


Meera. The main character. She hid from me. I know now why – we have a lot in common. And neither of us wanted to admit it.

9. What are your immediate future plans?

To keep writing.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: J.S. Breukelaar is the author of Collision: Stories, a 2019 Shirley Jackson Award finalist, and winner of the 2019 Aurealis and Ditmar Awards. Previous novels include Aletheia and American Monster. Her short fiction has appeared in the Dark Magazine, Tiny Nightmares, Black Static, Gamut, Unnerving, Lightspeed, Lamplight, Juked, in Year’s Best Horror and Fantasy 2019 and elsewhere. She currently lives in Sydney, Australia, where she teaches writing and literature, and is at work on a new collection of short stories and a novella. You can find her at thelivingsuitcase.com and on Twitter and elsewhere @jsbreukelaar.

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