Tuesday, 10 October 2017

The Stark Divide: New Sci-Fi Epic from J. Scott Coatsworth!

Read an excerpt of The Stark Divide below!



Publisher: DSP Publications
Author: J. Scott Coatsworth
Cover Artist: Aaron Anderson
Length: 284 Pages
Format: eBook, Paperback
Release Date: 10/10/17
Pairing: MM
Price: 6.99, 16.99
Series: Liminal Sky (Book One)
Genre: Sci Fi, Space, Gen Ship, Apocalypse, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer

Blurb:

Some stories are epic.

The Earth is in a state of collapse, with wars breaking out over resources and an environment pushed to the edge by human greed.

Three living generation ships have been built with a combination of genetic mastery, artificial intelligence, technology, and raw materials harvested from the asteroid belt. This is the story of one of them—43 Ariadne, or Forever, as her inhabitants call her—a living world that carries the remaining hopes of humanity, and the three generations of scientists, engineers, and explorers working to colonize her.

From her humble beginnings as a seedling saved from disaster to the start of her journey across the void of space toward a new home for the human race, The Stark Divide tells the tales of the world, the people who made her, and the few who will become something altogether beyond human.

Humankind has just taken its first step toward the stars.

Book One of Liminal Sky

Excerpt:

DRESSLER, SCHEMATIC,” Colin McAvery, ship’s captain and a third of the crew, called out to the ship-mind.

A three-dimensional image of the ship appeared above the smooth console. Her five living arms, reaching out from her central core, were lit with a golden glow, and the mechanical bits of instrumentation shone in red. In real life, she was almost two hundred meters from tip to tip.

Between those arms stretched her solar wings, a ghostly green film like the sails of the Flying Dutchman.

“You’re a pretty thing,” he said softly. He loved these ships, their delicate beauty as they floated through the starry void.

“Thank you, Captain.” The ship-mind sounded happy with the compliment—his imagination running wild. Minds didn’t have real emotions, though they sometimes approximated them.

He cross-checked the heading to be sure they remained on course to deliver their payload, the man-sized seed that was being dragged on a tether behind the ship. Humanity’s ticket to the stars at a time when life on Earth was getting rapidly worse.

All of space was spread out before him, seen through the clear expanse of plasform set into the ship’s living walls. His own face, trimmed blond hair, and deep brown eyes, stared back at him, superimposed over the vivid starscape.

At thirty, Colin was in the prime of his career. He was a starship captain, and yet sometimes he felt like little more than a bus driver. After this run… well, he’d have to see what other opportunities might be awaiting him. Maybe the doc was right, and this was the start of a whole new chapter for mankind. They might need a guy like him.

The walls of the bridge emitted a faint but healthy golden glow, providing light for his work at the curved mechanical console that filled half the room. He traced out the T-Line to their destination. “Dressler, we’re looking a little wobbly.” Colin frowned. Some irregularity in the course was common—the ship was constantly adjusting its trajectory—but she usually corrected it before he noticed.

“Affirmative, Captain.” The ship-mind’s miniature chosen likeness appeared above the touch board. She was all professional today, dressed in a standard AmSplor uniform, dark hair pulled back in a bun, and about a third life-sized.

The image was nothing more than a projection of the ship-mind, a fairy tale, but Colin appreciated the effort she took to humanize her appearance. Artificial mind or not, he always treated minds with respect.

“There’s a blockage in arm four. I’ve sent out a scout to correct it.”

The Dressler was well into slowdown now, her pre-arrival phase as she bled off her speed, and they expected to reach 43 Ariadne in another fifteen hours.

Pity no one had yet cracked the whole hyperspace thing. Colin chuckled. Asimov would be disappointed. “Dressler, show me Earth, please.”

A small blue dot appeared in the middle of his screen.

Dressler, three dimensions, a bit larger, please.” The beautiful blue-green world spun before him in all its glory.

Appearances could be deceiving. Even with scrubbers working tirelessly night and day to clean the excess carbon dioxide from the air, the home world was still running dangerously warm.

He watched the image in front of him as the East Coast of the North American Union spun slowly into view. Florida was a sliver of its former self, and where New York City’s lights had once shone, there was now only blue. If it had been night, Fargo, the capital of the Northern States, would have outshone most of the other cities below. The floods that had wiped out many of the world’s coastal cities had also knocked down Earth’s population, which was only now reaching the levels it had seen in the early twenty-first century.

All those new souls had been born into a warm, arid world.

We did it to ourselves. Colin, who had known nothing besides the hot planet he called home, wondered what it had been like those many years before the Heat.

Buy Links Etc:









Author Bio:

Scott spends his time between the here and now and the what could be. Enticed into fantasy and sci fi by his mom at the tender age of nine, he devoured her Science Fiction Book Club library. But as he grew up, he wondered where all the people like him were in the books he was reading.

He decided that it was time to create the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at his local bookstore. If there weren’t gay characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.

His friends say Scott’s mind works a little differently – he sees relationships between things that others miss, and gets more done in a day than most folks manage in a week. He loves to transform traditional sci fi, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something unexpected.

Starting in 2014, Scott has published more than 15 works, including two novels and a number of novellas and short stories.

He runs both Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark, sites that bring queer people together to promote and celebrate fiction that reflects their own lives.

Author Links:








Coatsworth/e/B011AFO4OQ





And finally ... I recently read and reviewed this book for WROTE Podcast. To read my review, click HERE!





Thursday, 5 October 2017

FREE LGBT Romance Ebooks!

Here's a FABULOUS deal. Sign up to the mailing list for QueeRomanceInk, any time from now until the end of October, and you get FIVE free sci-fi/fantasy romance Ebooks, one of which is Docklands Diamond by my pseudonym, S A Smythe. You will also get access to some fantastic LGBT fiction by some wonderful authors, celebrating romance, diversity, and fantastic story-telling.

Docklands Diamond is a fun, filthy tale of romance, discovery and one sassy talking dick. What's not to like?

https://www.queeromanceink.com/join-our-email-list/

On the morning after his 35th birthday, Alex Logan is left with two unwanted gifts; the hazy memory of a sensual encounter with a handsome Scottish stockbroker, and a new, opinionated best friend with a constant demand for sex.

Docklands Diamond is the story of one man, one talking dick and one very sexed-up City executive who will stop at nothing to get Alex into bed. He has a sultry sister, Willow, an amateur witch whose love potion has left Alex in this sticky situation. The problem is, Alex is straight, or wants to be, so it is up to Broadsword, his new best pal, to persuade him that Leith is Mr. Right.


A quirky, filthy story of love and acceptance, with lots and lots of hot sex...

Monday, 25 September 2017

Review of Savage (Songs from A Broken World) by Gary Numan


I had always been a massive fan of Gary, right from the beginning and tailing off to nothing during the Beserker years, until I was given the Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind) album in 2014. It took me 6 months to actually listen to it, worried that it would be full of syncopated noodling and dull synth self-indulgence, but the result was so powerful, it stayed on repeat in my car for the next six weeks after the first listen, and is a constant presence on my driving playlist. 

So Savage had a lot to live up to. The next album after a hugely successful one always has massive expectations heaped upon it, and not necessarily good ones. 

Out of the eleven tracks, I would say nine of them are strong, making up for the two which aren't quite so powerful. Each has its own flavour, variably with Eastern-inspired wailing chorals, elegant strings, wafting melodies and irresistibly rhythmic drumbeats. The song structures are familiar; the softly softly build-up, full of Dystopian bleakness, before hitting the listener with throbbing mid-sections that lift each track into its own dimension. There are numerous references to God, but don't worry, Numan hasn't gone all Cliff Richard on us faithful Numanoids. In the Broken World Numan refers to, it's a bit late for that. The future is bleak, thanks to global warming, and Numan gives us insight into what that could be like.

Stand-outs for me are Ghost Nation, the first track, giving an epic taste of what is to follow. Numan's vocals are on point, soaring and breaking, with a depth that seems to only improve with age. And Bed of Thorns is bound to be a crowd pleaser, with its memorable chorus and deep echoes of the classic Down In The Park synth melody

The song chosen for the single, My Name is Ruin, has grown on me with each listen. I love the sinuous, Eastern-influenced synth which offset the slightly shrill vocals. Daughter Persia's voice in the background fits in perfectly on the chorus. It's the only song where I feel Numan's voice is being exercised to its limits, and it has taken a few listens to really appreciate it. 

Some of the tracks sound familiar in other ways. And It All Began With You is a ballad with distinct Wicked Game overtones, yet saved from mawkishness by Numan, who makes a love song sound like the lament of a serial killer.

My initial feeling was that the album faded slightly after When the World Falls Apart. This is another strong track, arguably more suitable to be a single than My Name Is Ruin. I'm sure Numan fans will vigorously discuss this point long into the night. I still feel this is the weakest part of the album, during What God Intended and Pray For The Pain You Serve. This is all relative though, because there is a lot to compete with. Every track has its own tasty little riff or chorus to yell along to in the car. Yes, some of the tracks are similar, and a couple seem to merge into one, but if you enjoyed Splinter, and want more, then you won't be disappointed. 

The album picks up again with the last two tracks. Broken takes the listener to the dusty plains of Tattooine with soaring, atmospheric electronica that is just begging to be used as a film score. 

"I've seen the whole world die," he says at the end, but I really hope it doesn't. Despite the gloomy lyrics and bleak message, this late bottled vintage Numan is a taste worth savouring. 





Sunday, 10 September 2017

No-cook cocoa, nut and date energy bites

First of my occasional recipes!

These are seriously quick to make, about 5 minutes from start to finish. I took the Deliciously Ella Ultimate Energy Bites recipe, and tweaked it because let's face it, who has coconut oil in the store cupboard? Ditto hemp powder... 

You will need a food processor.

Makes between 10 - 20 balls, depending on how big you like them..

– 1 cup of dates, stoned
– 3/4 of a cup of almonds
– 3/4 of a desiccated coconut or walnut or any other nut
– 2 tablespoons of chia seeds
– 1 tablespoon of sunflower oil
– 1 tablespoon of raw cacao powder
Approx 1 tablespoon of runny honey

Start by placing the almonds, walnuts and chia seeds in your food processor. Blend for 1 minute, until a flour forms and the nuts have crumbled.

Then add the remaining ingredients. Blend for another minute until a sticky dough forms.

Use your hands to roll the mixture into little balls, adding more honey if they are a little crumbly,  and place each in a miniature cupcake holder if you have them.

Store in the fridge for two weeks.

It goes without saying, but I will anyway, these aren't suitable for nut allergy sufferers...


Thursday, 7 September 2017

Book Review: When Heaven Strikes by F.E. Feeley Jr





I was scared to read this one at first. The striking image on the front cover hinted at a plot concerning wild weather, but I could have been wrong. It could have been an allegory for the chaos that religious fervour can wreak on innocent lives. What if I was disappointed?

Turns out, it is both, and I wasn’t disappointed. First off, it is books like this one that make me love my job. After an easy-going start, the author draws the reader into the lives of Ted and Anderson, before focussing on the aftermath of a homophobic attack that has totally unexpected results. Both parts of the book are cleverly interwoven, yet easing towards an inevitable and dramatic climax.

As an inveterate storm-watcher, I was waiting for the tornado to hove into view, and it does, but I’m not saying when. Everything I was expecting to happen, didn’t happen. I really hoped the author wouldn’t succumb to the normal romantic tropes, and he doesn’t. I was expecting a book full of rage against the religious machine, but the outcome is more one of forgiveness.

This is such an elegant book. The sex scenes are beautifully choreographed, the progress of Ted and Anderson’s relationship feels totally real. Yes, love does happen at first sight. Then the reader gets sucked in by the secondary characters, the most surprising of which was the fire and brimstone preacher and his son. Again, expectations confounded at every turn.

In fact, this book IS like a tornado, throwing the reader into a spin. I loved that the ending made me cry. That is what books are supposed to do. Entertain you, anger you, make you feel. This book has all the feels, and much, much more. A masterclass in how to craft an MM romance, and support it with a plot that is so much more. A strong contender for my Book Of The Year.

BLURB

Artist Ted Armstrong lives a solitary and eccentric life. The survivor of child abuse disguised as religion, Ted has cut himself off from the world. 

Then Ted meets Anderson Taylor, and it’s like being struck by lightning. 

Anderson is a cardiac surgeon whose passion for his work has consumed him. He fears he’ll never find a partner—until he sets eyes on Ted. It’s happening fast, but both men know what they feel is right. 

Confronted with an angry preacher, a scandal, and an act of God that threatens to destroy everything, their relationship will face its first true test.


Book Review: Cursed by Sid Love writing as Kris Sawyer


I was gifted an ARC of this book for an honest and fair review.

This is an interesting one, a shifter/fantasy MM story with no pounding sex or rock hard abs, despite the misleading cover. In fact, most of the usual shifter tropes are missing, which makes a refreshing change, and yet it is still undeniably a shifter story.

It reads a little unevenly at times, with large leaps to move the story along where more detail and background would have improved the pace. This is a longer story fighting to free itself out of the constraints of a short (15,000 words) tale, and it deserves more embellishment. 

The author has created some well-rounded, likeable characters, and some genuinely scary ones. The tender moments feel real without being sickly sweet, and Clyde and Terry's relationship, although super-fast, is one to root for. The ending felt a little tacked on, probably to satisfied those clamouring for a satisfying ending. This is one area where restraint would have served the book better. 

Overall, I enjoyed the book. I loved the setting and really cared about Clyde and Terry. This series shows real promise. 

BLURB

Clyde Barrington is a werewolf with a curse on his head. Every night, he shifts from human to wolf and lives the life of a lonely predator, never fully accepted by his pack. When he saves a handsome stranger from a fire, everything changes.

In a world divided by the ancient feud between werewolves and warlocks, Clyde and Terry must learn to trust each other. When wolves start to disappear, their bond is tested by the fear of a pack now balanced on the edge of destruction.

Amidst a web of lies, deceits and betrayals, Clyde must decide where his loyalties lie, and choose between a forbidden love and the ties that bind him to his brothers. Is Terry an enemy to the pack, or the saviour that will lead them out of the darkness?

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Book Review: Pregnant For The Alpha by Judith Shale


This book was given as an ARC by the author for an honest and fair review

It is fair to say I had fairly low expectations, given my previous experiences with MPREG books. (One didn't actually have any MPREG in it. The alpha gets the Omega up the duff off-screen and then voila! The kid is in kindergarten...)

This, however, is much better, a neat, standalone story which packs a lot in its 150 or so pages, from Omega Mikey realising he is "on heat" to finding his forever mate and settling down with him. It happens quickly in the shifter world. No disastrous first dates and all that nonsense. One sniff and yep, he's the one! It probably goes without saying that realism goes sailing out the door when picking up a book called Pregnant For The Alpha. After all, we are dealing with MPEG, shifters, plus interspecies mingling that wouldn't exist in real life. It made no sense so you either roll with it and just go with the flow, or give up in the first few pages because it defies the laws of human logic. The clue is actually in the title of the book at the front cover, so really, there's no excuse for that.  

I decided to roll with it. Any book that just bats tropes around like a cat with a mouse and then stomps all over them is gold in my book. The story was well-balanced, with cute, likeable characters. There is also a solid subplot involving Mikey's wish to get his screenplay accepted by a major motion picture company without compromising his artistic vision, and the Alpha fighting off a challenge to his authority. Yes, there were predictable romance markers, the fabulously rich Alpha, the boo-hiss villain, but kudos for not shoehorning in a "boy meets boy, boy loves boy, boy loses boy, boy gets boy back," scenario, AND for tackling the whole MPREG thing head on. Yes, I wanted to know how Mikey was going to give birth, how they were going to feed the baby. I needed this information, and I wasn't disappointed. So often it is glossed over, but that ain't good enough. If it's MPREG, those issues HAVE to be tackled and worked into the story without any cracks showing. 

I would have liked to see more of the animal side of the shifters, and more feline traits in the humans, but I find this is lacking in most shifter books I've read so far, to be honest. It's as if the human/shifter sides are mutually exclusive, which I find odd. Still, it didn't spoil the story. It just would have enriched it further.

So a quick, fun read, sticky, scorching sex and a satisfying ending. All in all, a great job, despite the fact I was mildly disappointed that the Omega didn't give birth to cute, fluffy Jager (jaguar/tiger) kittens. Now THAT would have been fun. 

BLURB

Someday Mikey will find his alpha. The independent young jaguar shifter hopes that day is far in the future... even if his need for a mate becomes unbearable every time he goes into heat.



When Mikey returns to his hometown, the last thing he expects is to find that fated connection. Especially with the pride alpha, the devastatingly handsome Lukas Waverly.

While Mikey would prefer to take things slow, Lukas has powerful reasons to put a baby in him as soon as possible.

Is Mikey ready to get pregnant for the tiger alpha?

(Pregnant For My Alpha is a 150-page M/M paranormal romance featuring feline shifters and male pregnancy. Standalone with no cliffhangers and guaranteed HEA!)

Book Review: Welcome To Crash by Lina Langley

No doubt the M/M romance fascists will get their panties in a knot over this one, featuring as it does a man caught between two lovers, a scenario in which the ending will always be bittersweet.

Yes, hunties, the main character CHEATS on his boyfriend. Get over it and move on, because this is a wondrous treat, an effortless read that I couldn’t wait to get back to. I read it over the course of three evenings, and was immediately in love with the characters. Damien and Levi’s relationship feels so incredibly real. Levi wants to keep their affair discreet because of their tutor/student relationship. His character felt familiar, a dreadlocked, groomed and decent man who has been chased and seduced by the Pan-like Damien, only to see the boy/man begin to crumble.
Damien is of age but eyebrows would still be raised if people found out. He accepts Levi’s insistence on secrecy but grudgingly. At times he seemed fairly young in attitude and speech, and then I realised that was because he hadn’t quite shed the arrogance of youth, and was unable to see the effect his actions would have on others. I liked him, though, because he was willing to accept that he had faults, and grow with them. His vulnerability and sense of guilt made him human, and who are we to throw the first stone?
Photographer John, wavering between gay and straight, is blown away by 21st Century Damien, although he does not know that Damien is out of time. John is suitably grungy, a tortured, grubby artiste fighting for recognition under the dominating wing of his mentor, a man who should be dead, but somehow isn’t.
This book wasn’t all about the love triangle, but about the circumstances around it. And what circumstances! The way the reader finds out what is happening to Damien, via his attempt to tell Levi about John, the time-bending twist; the horrible realisation that everyone around you thinks you are going insane; it was all wonderfully simple to understand but elegantly told. I really wanted all these characters to succeed in getting what they wanted. In less capable hands, a plot like this would be a hot mess, but without giving spoilers, I can safely say I enjoyed it right to the very last word. Definitely an author for those who are looking for romance with a piquant flavour of realist fantasy.

BLURB

At first, Damien feels lucky to land a job at an influential art studio, but it soon becomes obvious that something’s not right. His gorgeous boss, John, is interested, and he’d be the perfect man for Damien—if Damien wasn’t already in a relationship. It isn’t long before Damien is at the center of a love triangle, forced to choose between hot, punk John and his secret affair with his professor, Levi. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, because something impossible is happening to Damien—and it’s having a drastic effect on his health as well as his perception of reality. 

Each time Damien goes to work, things grow more bizarre, starting with Sam—an artist who has been dead for years and now somehow… isn’t. Damien’s unusual circumstances also free him from the restrictions of monogamy—or so he thinks. Levi, who cannot believe Damien’s claims, fears for his sanity. John also has strong doubts when Damien reveals knowledge of a catastrophic event looming in John’s future. Whether the men he loves believe his wild claims or not, neither can deny Damien is languishing, and if they cannot save him, he’ll be lost. More importantly, they must convince Damien to save himself.

Book Review: The Stark Divide by J. Scott Coatsworth


The author gifted an ARC of this novel for an honest and fair review. Publication date October 2017.
Sci-fi can be a little po-faced at times, or quirky to the point of artifice. It can be difficult to strike the balance between intelligent story-telling and dumbing down the science-y bits for the masses. This author has been on my radar for a while. I’ve read some of his short stories, but never a full-blown novel.
Basically, this is a story split into three parts, threaded together by three generations of the same family. In the first part, we are introduced to the mothership, Dressler (or Lex, in ship-mind form, so the humans can relate to it.) Lex is critically wounded by a fungus that may or may not have been introduced intentionally, entailing a heart-stopping race to save her cargo from destruction before she is destroyed. Her cargo is the seed which will create a new world for humans wanting to escape Earth, which is slowly being torn apart by wars, big business and human fallibility.
Each part of the book is set a few years ahead from the next, so there is a real epic quality, a sense of journey, as humans attempt to start again, having screwed up the planet they were originally put on. Inevitably, the same old problems rear their ugly heads even in this Utopian worldly (called Forever.) This is a potent tale in an era where the problems the characters are coming up against are very familiar. Namely, the refugee crisis, capitalism and politics, power play, and wars that escalate, causing mass devastation. The fate of the dying Earth is very dark indeed.
In contrast, it is wonderful to see the birth and development of Forever, borne out of the asteroid Ariadne, where the seed was planted. And whilst this could easily be a bleak tale of a dystopian future, it isn’t, due to the ingenuity, compassion and generosity of the characters the author has created. The potential villain appears near the end, and is bound to have his day further down the series.
I loved the diversity of the characters, all without the common angst over who they are, or the usual mutterings of those around them. Some are gay, some are straight, some are trans. Get over it. It’s so refreshing to have a character that just happens to be trans, and yes, it is inevitable that their personal circumstances have a bearing on how they act around other people, but it isn’t a big thing. And the gay couple are in a long term, loving relationship. Again, that’s it. Accepted. Move on. We should have more characters in mainstream novels like this, which would go a long way to aid acceptance in the wider world.
Anyway, soapbox time over. This is a great science-fiction novel, and a cracking start to a gripping series. There is also a helpful glossary at the back. I’ve said this before with books. I just wish I had known the glossary was there before reading the whole book first! This would have been helpful to either, a) have it at the front or, b) mention it at the front so I know it’s there. It isn’t as easy to flip back and forth with an e-reader, but anyway, I was grateful for the added information. Not that there are a lot of unfamiliar words, but it does help to enrich and understand the world the author has created.
Finally, there are elements of everything here. An adventure, a rescue, the creation of a new world, machines with organic elements and Artificial Intelligence. The Lex character may or may not have the humans’ best interests at heart. That’s all I’m saying. In a word, this is a great novel, with awesome world-building and a plot that satisfies the sci-fi buff in all of us.

BLURB

The Earth is in a state of collapse, with wars breaking out over resources and an environment pushed to the edge by human greed.

Three living generation ships have been built with a combination of genetic mastery, artificial intelligence, technology, and raw materials harvested from the asteroid belt. This is the story of one of them—43 Ariadne, or Forever, as her inhabitants call her—a living world that carries the remaining hopes of humanity, and the three generations of scientists, engineers, and explorers working to colonize her.

From her humble beginnings as a seedling saved from disaster to the start of her journey across the void of space toward a new home for the human race, The Stark Divide tells the tales of the world, the people who made her, and the few who will become something altogether beyond human.

Humankind has just taken its first step toward the stars.