Spotlight & Excerpt: Utopia Falls + Giveaway

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Utopia Falls
by Kody Boye
Genre: YA Science Fiction

 

Society has reached its peak within the walled city of Utopia. While the outside world lies in inhospitable ruins, the city within brims with technological marvels—all thanks to a benevolent god that appeared during humanity’s darkest hour. But with the city on the verge of overpopulation, and the world outside not promised to be safe, time is running out for the Utopian people, and it’ll take one brave young woman to change the course of history.
 
Seventeen-year-old Ember Hillen has lived in the shadow of the god her entire life. With a promising future in medicine, she believes that her future is set in stone. What she doesn’t expect is for her Aptitude Test scores to come back with exemplary remarks—or to be chosen as her city’s next Holy Conduit.
 
As the Holy Conduit, Ember can connect with, and receive visions of, her god’s desires for the Utopian city. The only problem? Her god is implying that her people must somehow journey beyond their isolated city to build a new world in the wasteland. But with the mad leader of the premier engineering facility within Utopia attempting to sway Ember through whatever means possible, Ember must make a choice that will change a life forever. The only question is: can she withstand the storm that will follow?
 
 

 

utopia falls

 

excerpt
When I was a child, my father told me that I could do anything I wanted. This, he said, was the promise made to our world, our people, and our city. Blessed by the God Above, we are each offered the chance to do whatever we want, so long as we are willing to take it. But it is not without fear that we trudge through dark waters—and on a day like this, I struggle not to drown.
My annual test scores have come back with exemplary marks.
I am now eligible to apply for The Connection.
I should be happy. I should be ecstatic. I should be thrilled out of my mind that my test scores were so high, because with them, I could do any and everything I could possibly want. But the truth of the matter is: I am completely, and utterly, terrified. But it is not without reason.
No.
Those eligible for the Connection get to face our God for what She truly is—the savior of our people.
As I stand here, within my assigned testing room, I try my hardest not to tremble, but find myself doing just that.
To see your God, a voice inside my head says. To know Her person, Her aspects, Her secret.
But could I, know? Could I really?
The last person to successfully connect with our God, and become a prophet as a result, was Alabaster Curito, and that was nearly forty years ago. According to some, he’s never been the same since.
But he’s the Illuminarium’s Holy Conduit, I think. Can you even begin to imagine what it would mean if you connected with Her?
I have. And can. And do. But right now, I’m trying to prepare myself for what will happen next.
Maybe I can get out of this. Maybe they won’t look at my test scores. Maybe I missed their criteria by just one point. Maybe… just maybe—
The door opens, and my face instantly pales.
Curtio is standing outside. Three Agents from the Extant Facilities stand alongside him.
“Ember Hillen?” Curito asks.
“Yuh… Yes?” I manage, attempting to swallow the fear in my throat.
“Do you know why we’re here?”
“I… I don’t… I think I—”
“Please,” the tallest and darkest-haired man beside Curito says. “Come with us.”
A primordial fear rises within me as I stand. Born in ages past, and tempered through the history of our people, it threatens to overwhelm me in an instant. Somehow, though—someway—I am able to withstand it, and begin to follow them from the testing room I have been seated within for the past five hours.
For so long I had considered myself an ordinary young woman. Now, I understand, I am something extraordinary.
But extraordinary people, while capable of extraordinary things, are not always promised them. No. Promise, it could be said, is simply a false platitude, upon which the unfortunate truth could be dangling.
As we make our way down the Illuminarium’s dark halls, through which run golden fluorescent lights along the edges of both the ceiling and the floor, I find myself thinking of my father, who knows nothing except that I will have been testing today.
Please, I think. Let me make him proud.
We walk for what feels like an eternity, but can surely only be a few minutes.
Come time we stop, I realize where we’ve arrived.
The Holy Conduit’s chambers.
The three men from the Extant facilities leave us be; and it is here that Curito turns to face me before saying, “Please, come in.”
He pushes his hand to a reader on the door.
It scans his palm.
The door opens.
Inside, Curito leads me to a single table, upon which there lies two cups and a kettle. From this he pours a sweet-smelling tea that reminds me of—
Honey?
The scent wafts into my nose, and sets ablaze my delight.
“I knew it was your favorite,” the old man says as he continues to pour the tea.
“How?” I ask.
The Holy Conduit lifts his eyes and says, “Sit, Miss Ember Hillen.”
I seat myself tentatively, trying my hardest to keep from grimacing in the face of our greatest holy man. He is the Conduit of our people—the only surviving man who has touched our God’s conscience in years past—and he could either make my future bright or leave me in the dark.
I swallow the lump in my throat as he rounds the table, then seats himself across from me.
“Try it,” he offers, a smile curving his thin lips. “I will warn you: it’s hot.”
I sip the tea, relish its flavors, its textures. The cup is still sticky on the edges, which means that the honey is fresh.
Which means that they may have been expecting this.
A frown crosses my features as I consider this notion, and I lift my eyes to face the man soon after. “Sir?” I ask.
“Yes?” he replies.
“Why am I here?”
“Is it not obvious?”
I swallow a lump in my throat and try my hardest to remain composed, but find that it is nearly impossible to do so. My lower lip trembles. My heart pounds. Tremors in my hands cause the tea to shiver within the cup. I have to tighten the muscles in my arms to keep from showing more emotion than necessary.
With a long exhale, Curito sips his own tea and says, “Your test scores are exemplary, Miss Hillen.”
“What does that mean?” I ask.
“It means: you may be our next Conduit.”
“What?” I pale as I consider this. “Surely you’re mistaken. The tests can’t be over yet.”
“Most of the tests ended hours ago, Miss Hillen. Yours were prolonged because our artificial intelligence realized your potential.”
“But… I’m just…”
“What?”
“A girl who wanted to be a doctor,” I reply.
Curito smiles and says, “People who reach for their goals often find other opportunities presented to them.”
I’m unsure how to reply.
With a smile, Curito leans forward and presses a button on his side of the gray table. A panel slides out of place, revealing a touch screen, upon which there is varying amounts of information, beside which are test scores.
“Your marks,” the man continues anew, “are beyond anything we have seen in recent years. You understand history, biology, mathematics, our written language and its syntaxes and rules. You understand some of the greatest psychological phenomena related to the human mind, and are capable of deciphering problems from the tiniest of clues.”
“What are you trying to say? That I’m smart?”
“You are more than smart, Ember. You are extraordinary.”
There it is—that word again. Extraordinary. Something I feel I have never been, and never will be so long as I live.
“Tell me,” Curito says, drawing me from my thoughts. “Did you attempt to deceive the intelligence in any way? Possibly by giving untrue answers?”
“No,” I say, and frown. “Why would I do that?”
“Some are afraid of their true potential.”
“But why would I be?”
“That is a question only you can answer.”
I find that I can only stare.
With a smile, Curito stands, extends a hand to me, and says, “If you would.”
He leads me back to the door we entered through, then pulls it open before guiding me into the hall.
“Where are we going, sir?”
“Outside.”
“Why?”
Curito doesn’t respond. Instead, he merely leads me through the many halls we initially passed through, then toward the Illuminarium’s Central Chamber. Normally, it would be full of people, who would be accessing the boundless information through the holocomputers. Today, it is empty, possibly because of the testing that has taken place.
At the door, Curito hesitates, then pulls the Illuminarium’s front door open.
Given that I have been in darkness for so long, my eyes struggle to adapt to the light that pierces in. Soon, however, they adjust.
The sight before us never ceases to amaze me.
Anyone looking in the sky at this hour of the day would have seen nothing out of the ordinary. For me, though—a girl who has just been chosen to attempt a connection to our God—I see something beyond the scope of mortal comprehension, and tremble as a result.
Our God floats in the sky above the city. Her head looks to the Heavens, the stone pillars that serve as Her wings descend at angles on either side of Her neck, and in place of where Her body would be there descends tendrils, which flicker with a bright gold luminescence that lights our world. A light wind is projected from somewhere deep inside Her skull, and wafts about the city with ease that I find wondrous to this day. She is marvelous, and an icon to our people. Most of all: She is our savior.
Curito smiles as he looks up at Her—as he takes in all Her wonder, Her majesty, Her Might. Then he opens his mouth, and says, “Be proud, Ember Hillen, for soon, you may know Her in ways few ever have.”
As I stare up at the God—whose stone head and emotionless gaze look forever to the Heavens—I find a flicker of doubt spreading from my heart all the way up to my brain.
Will I succeed? I wonder. Or will I fail?
There is no true way to know.

 

Though Kody Boye was born and raised in Southeastern Idaho, he moved south at the age of eighteen and has resided in various parts of Texas since 2010, living first in Austin, then in Fort Worth before finally landing in the Rio Grande Valley. His first story, [A] Prom Queen’s Revenge, was published in the Yellow Mama Webzine at the age of fourteen. His debut novel, Sunrise, followed at age eighteen.
Since then, he has written several novels across multiple speculative fiction genres. His most recent works include When They Came, The Beautiful Ones, Kingsman Online, and The Red Wolf Saga.
Kody is currently enrolled in an online university and pursuing an undergraduate degree in creative writing and English, with plans to further his education with an MFA, which will allow him to teach.
When not writing, Kody enjoys reading young-adult novels, playing video games such as World of Warcraft and Guild Wars, and browsing social media endlessly.
 
 
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Book Blitz & Excerpt: Replaced Parts + Giveaway

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Replaced Part
Transformed Nexus , #1

by Stephanie Hansen
Genre: YA Sci-Fi
Publisher: Fire and Ice YA and Tantor Audio
Date of Publication: 02/23/21
ISBN: 9781953735027
ASIN: B08RZB9PXL
Number of pages: 232
Word Count: 67,770
Cover Artist: Caroline Andrus
 
When a clopil named Vex warns you of danger…Listen!
 
In the year 2163 a corrupt World Government controls everything on our planet and beyond. 
 
Sixteen year-old Sierra has been so caught up in her own world of saving animal test subjects and her father’s disappearance, she hasn’t paid much attention. When she finally finds his location, she and her friend set off on a covert interplanetary mission to rescue him, she begins to see the corruption first hand. 
 
Discovering that her father has been on the front lines secretly trying to save human test subjects inspires her to join a revolution. But she is afraid of the collateral damage of hurting the people she loves. Will she find the strength to make a deal with the mad scientist Cromwell to save not just her friends and family but everyone?
 

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Excerpt:

To make a smoke bomb all you need is potassium nitrate, sugar, water and a fuse. Programming holograph messaging to be ‘smoke screen projection only’ is much more difficult. It’s a digital version of invisible ink and completely security cam resistant. I pull up Yesha’s incoming call. The smoke allows her image to take shape and it almost feels like she’s in the room with me.

“I can’t believe you talked me into this, you little gomer.”

Yesha frequently begins conversations in the middle, no introduction or formal interrogation into my life. I think that’s why I like her.

“It didn’t take much to convince you.”

“Did you receive the package?”

I hold up the box addressed to me, Sierra, but I’ve removed the contents.

“Yep, right here, see.”

Yesha’s laugh is like a chorus of toads with hiccups. Her image vibrates on the smoke.

“That’s only the box, you drone bug!”

“I know.”

I hold up the syringes that had been inside the box.

“Be careful with those. Check the labels.”

I roll a syringe in my hands like Kitchen, one of our home bots, does with pretzel dough.

“One says healing serum, which I asked for. Why does the other say anti?”

“Backup. You always need an emergency abort mission option.”

“All right. Thanks!”

Yesha interrupts before I collapse the projection.

“Just be sure not to give the anti if you haven’t given the original serum.”

After she’s gone, I look at my subject.

I shouldn’t be doing this, but I find the koala’s eyes drawing me in like a poli-magno crash about to happen. It’s impossible to turn away.

The Science Olympiad team’s going to put me on probation again, which stinks since they’re the only local, human friends I have.

Following protocol gets us nowhere, however.

Mom’s going to be agitated because this isn’t the first time I’ve broken the rules.

I guide the koala out of the cage, leaving her brothers inside. I have to shake off feelings of jealousy. I don’t have any siblings.

“Why ya look so sad?”

Uplifting experiments have given us animals who speak. “Why do you look so sad, Eucarpo?”

The koala glances back at her brothers and then her eyes look up at me past her round, stub nose, and adorable ears. The sensation of an infant wrapping tiny fingers around mine envelops me. I can’t let them endure more unethical testing just so we can have the best DNA combination. I was okay with the testing when the purpose was to help those that were sick and it was beneficial to the koala species, but I can’t stomach testing these sweet things just for superficial reasons.

“Hate leaving ‘em behind.”

“They’re going after you if this works.”

“What ya mean, if?”

“Healing adaptation experiments have just begun.”

“But ya aced the test?”

“Well, yeah, but that was just practice. This is the first time I’ve used it on a living being. Don’t worry, it should all go as planned. I’m just being paranoid.”

It would be nice if I could stop blabbering when I’m nervous. Sometimes you just have to go for it and see where the cards fall. That was something my dad used to say. Before he disappeared, he used to tell me lots of things. He’s been gone almost a decade, but I might as well as have “Missing Dad” tattooed on my forehead.

“Ya paranoid?Ne’er!”

As she raises the fur above her eyes, I scratch behind her ear, and she leans into it like a bear scratching its back on a tree trunk. Her fur is soft as manufactured silk charmeuse.

“Ah yeah, right dere.”

“You sure you’re ready for this?”

“It gets us closer to freedom, so I been ready a long time.”

She takes another glance at her brothers, and I pick up the syringe with self-healing serum. I begin the sedation process as no one wants to be awake when artery lining fortifies, muscles pull with new agility, and brain tissue encases itself with a biting, thin metal sheet. Another reason I’m jealous of Eucarpo is that she responds to sedation, and I don’t.

As Eucarpo drifts into a peaceful sleep, I look out the school windows and see only the steel and glass of surrounding buildings. Their reflections mirror the sky. Today the unending blue gives the impression of being in the middle of the sea. On gray days, it’s as if I’ve been swallowed by thunderclouds. I can only imagine how green fields would look. People used to love the smell of fresh-cut grass. That was before an asteroid broke through the atmosphere damaging our ecosystem and killing all plants, causing our world to work together to save Earth and its remaining, limited vegetation. The only vegetation left is kept in guarded areas and labs.

I think I can hear the machines used to keep the atmosphere from collapsing but the sound isn’t right. Instead of a hum, I hear iron clanging. The serum glides through the syringe into Eucarpo and her breathing intensifies as the cells within her body multiply. No, that isn’t the machines. It’s locker doors slamming,followed by footsteps of someone coming down the hall. No one should be here now. They should all be at the assembly that I’m skipping. I must finish before anyone else arrives. I look at the oxygen and pulse readings, cringing with every spike. It feels like an hour passes as I look at the screens, but I know it’s only been seconds. I count breaths and clock ticks, staring at Eucarpo’s oxygen and platelet numbers rising.

“Come on, the science minds keep refreshments in here.”

I think I recognize the voice coming down the hall. Every muscle in my body wants to stiffen, but I can’t freeze now.

Luckily, the serum is fast acting and Eucarpo’s readings are settling. I inject the awakening treatment and then I throw the syringes and all remaining evidence into the incinerator. The burning and sanitizing process will turn these things into energy or something else useful. Eucarpo stirs a little when I hear the door sensor click.

As the voltball captain and visual arts queen walk in, I step in front of Eucarpo.

“Look, we found someone avoiding the assembly,” Milcah says as she nudges Danver in the ribs with her elbow.

Join the Live Release Day Celebration for Replaced Parts by Stephanie Hansen at 10am EST on Facebook with special guest USA Today bestselling author Scarlett Kol. 

About the Author:

Stephanie Hansen is a PenCraft Award Winning Author. Her novella series, Altered Helix, released 2020. Her short story, Break Time, and poetry has been featured in Mind’s Eye literary magazine. The Kansas Writers Association published her short story, Existing Forces, appointing her as a noted author. She has held a deep passion for writing since early childhood, but a brush with death caused her to allow it to grow. She’s part of an SCBWI critique group in Lawrence, KS and two local book clubs. She attends many writers’ conferences including the Writing Day Workshops, New York Pitch, Penned Con, New Letters, All Write Now, Show Me Writers Master Class, BEA, and Nebraska Writers Guild conference as well as Book Fairs and Comic-Cons. 

She is a member of the deaf and hard of hearing community.

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Book Blitz & Excerpt: Folder, Raymond Bolton

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Folder
by Raymon Bolton
YA Fantasy, YA Sci-fi, Science Fiction
Published: November 2020
Publisher: Regilius Publishing

Eric Folder has moved to Oregon to attend Portland State University when an automobile accident leaves him stricken with migraine headaches. The resulting visual effects—something medical professionals term an aura—render him virtually blind and defenseless when a gang of street thugs attacks him. Desperate to see and needing to protect himself, Eric reflexively tears at the luminous lines of light and finds they have become tangible. When he pulls them aside, his present reality folds away with them, leaving him in better circumstances with his enemies vanished. Attempts to fold his way out of subsequent perils leave him in increasingly strange situations until, eventually, his world becomes a nightmare.

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Praise for Folder:

A wild young-adult alternate-worlds adventure that will leave you guessing right up to the end! Fans of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials will love this!” – D. J. Butler, author of Witchy Eye

 

A big, engaging ride across our infinite possibilities – and our choice to be heroes.” – Anthony Dobranski, author of The Demon in Business Class

 

 

Excerpt
PROLOGUE
 

 

I’m lost.

I don’t know if I should laugh or cry when I say this, because I sound as if I’m repeating words from a hymn or I’m in need of a compass, or else I’ve given up completely. The thing is, I’m terrified because all these things are true and I don’t know how to fix them. I would say a prayer if I thought someone could hear, but even if they did, I don’t think this is a place where prayers get answered. If I had a compass, knowing whether I’m facing North or South wouldn’t take me away from this place, let alone back to where I started. In fact, no one can get me out of the mess I’m in, except maybe me, and I’m as scared to try to change what has brought me here as I am afraid do nothing.

I remember when my friends and I were kids and we hid in the bushes and pretended there were monsters coming after us. Well, now the monsters are real. I’ve been listening for what seems an eternity to their angry snorts and the clatter and scratches of their claws on the large stone surface where those creatures are gathered. Every now and then, one of them hisses and another does the same in response. The rate of their footsteps escalates and I imagine two of them colliding and squaring off in an expression of indignation. It’s too dark to see whether this has actually happened, or if it’s just my imagination, but the pounding of my heart in face of the impending danger keeps me riveted on what’s happening.

As I hide in a clump of bushes and the minutes pass, I’m more than a little relieved that they’re taking so long to find me. Unexpectedly, the full moon peeks through a break in the cloud cover and the scales on the bodies of several great beasts glisten. Each is twice the size of a bullmastiff and I count six of them several yards from here. Their eyes glow whitish gold and appear to have vertical slits, although it’s hard to be sure at this distance. As they circle a spot where I was standing a short while ago, sniffing the ground in several directions around it, one of them raises its head and opens its mouth, baring rows of long, needlelike teeth. I expect the creature will howl. Instead, a rasping reptilian sound emerges and I shudder, wondering what kind of beings they are.

Although I’ve recently arrived, from my earlier experiences and the landscape’s layout, I recognize this place as being near where the street car used to stop in a time that’s lost to me forever. The place where I’m hiding used to be the parkway where Park crosses Mill—or what used to be Park and Mill before everything transformed into this new reality. There aren’t any streets anymore and I’m surprised there are even deer trails to mark where Park and Mill once intersected. This used to be Portland State University, but now everything’s grown over and forested. The clock tower has vanished, as have the student union and the rest of the buildings that were part of the campus.

Without warning, a thought bubbles up from a world I’ll never see again and I almost cry out loud. Cursing this lack of control, I force my idiot self to keep quiet. Still, there is some truth to the thought that this situation is what Dad would have called a mixed blessing. It’s because it rained so hard that those things haven’t discovered me already. Here I am, kneeling on a thick bed of leaves. If they weren’t so soggy, they would crackle each time I move and announce my location. Instead, their wetness muffles whatever noise I might otherwise make. On the other hand, because the night is so cold and water is starting to soak through my pants, I’m beginning to shiver and I’m afraid I might sneeze any minute. If I do, those creatures will certainly hear and I know I will die because I’m sure they can out-run me.

The breeze that’s been chilling me starts to increase and I wonder if another storm is building. The last of autumn’s leaves whip though the air and there is a sharp crack above me. The creatures turn in my direction and two cock their heads. A third one starts walking toward me and I hold my breath, wondering whether it will continue to advance, when a second crack drops a large bough into the bushes a few yards to my right. The creatures stop and stare at the spot where it landed. Then, apparently satisfied they understand what caused the disturbance, they resume their search in the original location. Realizing I’ve been holding my breath and that I need to breathe, I inhale deeply, then exhale. My breathing is starting to grow normal when something grabs my shoulder.

 

About The Author


Raymond Bolton lives near Portland, Oregon with his wife, Toni, and their cats, Max and Arthur. His epic fantasies are published by WordFire Press, publisher of the Dune and Star Wars novels, and have received endorsements by the late Mike Resnick and award-winning author Paul Kane.

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