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Book Blitz: Before Again – Claire S. Duffy

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Congratulations to author Claire S. Duffy on the release of Before Again, “A gripping start to a seductive series.” Read on for more info!

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Before Again (The Shadow City Chronicles #1)

Publication Date: November 30, 2022

Genre: Urban Fantasy/ Paranormal “Buffy meets Outlander”

He’s been killing for hundreds of years.

But he reckoned without her.

Kirsty has always been alone.

It’s fine. It’s what she’s chosen. People, as a general rule, are more trouble than they’re worth. It’s why God invented batteries.

But when she comes across the man being burned alive on the banks of the Clyde, she can’t just let him die. Without a second thought she batters in to save his life…

And accidentally tears the fabric of time.

Now an ancient serial killer is on the loose and only Kirsty can make him regret he was ever born.

Even if it means killing the only person who ever loved her.

Sometimes she can bloody well see all these magic destiny shenanigans far enough.

The twisty, laugh out loud funny start to a seductive fantasy series. Buffy meets Outlander with a side order of Taggart. If you like fast-paced action, Glasgow humour and women who take no prisoners, you’ll love Before Again.

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Excerpt

Kirsty ran faster and faster, desperately trying to find that rhythm that cleared her mind. Her lungs burned and her legs trembled, but she pounded on and on. She swerved left, then right, vaulting over the railing around Queens Park as though it were nothing, then raced herself up the path to the flagpole. A swan hissed at her and a dog’s bark echoed in the moonlight. She leapt onto the platform around the flagpole from the path below, clearing at least three metres straight up.

Kirsty drank in the view as she caught her breath. Her brain whirred like a possessed waltzer. Half-thoughts, snatches of feeling, fragments of horror zipped and sizzled and seared across her mind. The white light and the crack of Owen’s spine snapping back into place rattled around and around until Kirsty was dizzy.

What was he? What was she?

The city was spread out before her, lights twinkling in the blackness. The Campsies barely an outline against deep purple clouds. Her city. A city that had ricocheted from poverty to riches and back again; that was famous for being one of the friendliest and most dangerous places in the world. A cultural capital of Europe that had an outbreak of bubonic plague in the twentieth century. A city riddled with vibratey time holes and lepers who play Simon Says with wee girls and maniac serial killers who can’t be killed.

A strange, icy sense of calm enveloped Kirsty. She looked up, and the stars were dazzling, celestial fireworks twinkling a hundred colours, filling her with awe and strength. The night was still, but a gust of wind swirled around her, whipping up her hair, whispering something she couldn’t catch.

A glittering sound crackled in the air. It sounded like a fire that had almost burnt itself out, leaving only red-hot coals to shimmer and snap. The air itself was alive, fizzing with magic.

Kirsty thought of Mrs McCafferty’s words. Just focus on the next step. Could she do that? A fox screeched in the dark. The Shadow had gone to the Barrowlands that evening to find another victim. Owen. Kirsty pictured him coming up the stairs, all smooth and suave in his tailored suit and his silver cigarette case.

He might have been running his victim’s tights through his fingers right now, slowly approaching as she cowered in terror. He might have been displaying her body, ready for some poor bugger to stumble across in the morning. Instead, he was hiding in the dark, trying to put his face back together. That was something.

They hadn’t won the war. Kirsty wasn’t even sure what the war was yet. But they won a wee battle.

Available on Amazon

About the Author

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When she’s not wandering around Glasgow dreaming up sexy vikings and tears in the fabric of time, Claire S Duffy writes best selling the crime fiction series Glasgow Kiss and the Stockholm Murders under CS Duffy. She’s also a screenwriter and blogs about the feminist dawn of Hollywood at Fully Fifty-Fifty on Substack.

Claire S. Duffy – Fika Books

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Book Blitz: The Panacea Project – Catherine Devore Johnson

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Looking to read a new and exciting medical thriller? How about The Panacea Project by Catherine Devore Johnson?

Read on for details and pre-order a copy today!

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The Panacea Project

Expected Publication Date: February 28th, 2023

Genre: Medical Thriller

A timely exploration of bodily autonomy set in a classic medical thriller

Calla Hammond has always been a loner―a product of the foster system and avoided by others because of a skin condition. When doctors discover her immune system holds the key to curing cancer, she struggles to advance lifesaving research in a world that sees her only as a means to an end. Yet along the way, Calla gains the one thing she has always longed for: a chosen family.

When a group of unscrupulous people join forces to sell Calla’s blood to the highest bidder, she digs deep to find the strength to retake control of her life, her body, and her story.

The Panacea Project is a layered examination of self-sacrifice, implicit bias, and the juxtaposition of bodily autonomy with high-stakes capitalism―for those who love fiercely strong characters and deep themes infused with heartwarming moments of love and humor.

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About the Author

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Catherine Devore Johnson is a former attorney turned writer. Her work has won or placed in competitions held by the Houston Writer’s Guild and the Writer’s League of Texas, and she has published an essay in The Houston Chronicle about caring for her mother after two strokes. She works as a writer and editor at a children’s hospital and lives in Houston with her husband and two children. The Panacea Project is her first novel.

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Book Blitz: The Truth About Elves – Ekta R. Garg

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I have something special to share today! You’re going to want to add The Truth About Elves to your Holiday TBR!

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The Truth About Elves

Publication Date: October 19, 2022

Genre: Holiday Fiction/ Novella

As a bartender in Las Vegas, Curtis seems to have the dream life. He’s single, lives close to the Strip, and only has to worry about when to pick up the next extra shift. No one knows the truth about what happened ten years ago, and no one knows how he spends three months every year: as a part-time elf for Santa Claus.

When Curtis went to the Arctic Circle the first time, he thought he could escape the unthinkable. Now, the anniversary of the worst day of his life is coming up, and he’s been asked to do the unbelievable. If Curtis wasn’t a man of his word, he would turn his back on the whole thing. But Mr. C. took Curtis in when he had nowhere else to go, and now the boss is calling in a favor—the kind that will make Curtis face the memory of the unimaginable.

If you’ve ever wondered whether holiday magic is real, come find out. Embrace the season and the power of forgiveness along with Curtis as he discovers The Truth About Elves.

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Excerpt

January 29, 2015

Villas at Desert Pointe Apartments

Las Vegas, Nevada

You probably don’t know this, but Santa is nothing more than a glorified chauffeur.

Sure, all the books and movies portray him as a jolly guy who spends Christmas Eve going around the world distributing gifts. That description isn’t far off. I mean, Mr. C. definitely has a big heart. He treats all us elves fairly, and even though he works us hard (especially once Thanksgiving hits) he isn’t a slave driver. 

Oh, yeah, me. I’m Curtis. An elf. No, I don’t have pointy ears, I’m not three feet tall, and I don’t act like a doofus. I’m right around five-foot-ten and look like your average Joe. Brown hair. Green eyes.

We do have some dwarves—you know, little people with small body trunks and short limbs. They get custom-made counters and work stations. Need a special box to sit on at meal time. No pointy ears though. Not a single one. Or two, I guess; nope. Just people who are…well, little.

The majority of us elves are normal. We have lives back in the rest of the world when we’re not doing our Quarter Force shifts, and there’s definitely variety here. Diversity, the affirmative actioners would call it. People from all over, from all walks of life, from every slice of the social strata.

They came to the Arctic Circle for the same reason I did. Working for Mr. C. became the absolute last resort we had. For me, after the plane went down… Well, let’s just say every door on all of my other relationships had slammed shut.

And, no, we’re not angels in heaven. We’re alive, holding down regular jobs back home on the Continents and using our work for Mr. C. as a way to look at ourselves in the mirror again. Except for the fact that we deliver gifts to all of the people in the entire world in a single night, we’re nothing like what the movies would have you believe.     

Like all that stuff about Mr. C. riding in a sleigh with reindeer? Please. Has anyone stopped to think about the fact that a sleigh can’t even support the weight of gifts for every single person in the world? And how are eight reindeer supposed to pull a sleigh that heavy?

Yeah, yeah, I know, the sleigh is magic, the reindeer are magic, and so is Santa Claus. Mr. C. makes the job look like magic, but as for the rest of it? I guess it makes for good box office sales during the holidays.

Mr. C. does go around the world but not in a sleigh. He uses a Concorde. Why do you think they grounded the entire fleet? Mr. C. worked a deal with the FAA and the other aviation organizations across the world. They would let him have the planes, and he would keep their workforce employed.

That part of the deal has worked out pretty well. And Hollywood didn’t get everything completely wrong. Mr. C. does use reindeer. They shuttle supplies between warehouses in the compound.

You didn’t actually think we made all those toys and wrapped everything in one building, did you?

For those assigned to the Final Quarter Force—October to December—we get to see everything come together on the back end of things, but work for Mr. C. goes year-round. Quality control of products, flight maneuver exercises, vetting of wrapping paper vendors, and paperwork. Mounds and mounds of it. The First Quarter Force deals with most of it, and Second Quarter finishes up (although Mr. C. really prefers that First Quarter get it all done.)

When I came on board eight years ago, I started as part of the First Quarter. If I’d had a choice, I would have lobbied to stay with First. But one thing you learn with Mr. C. is that you don’t get many choices. Freedom, yes. Choices, no.

Puchase Here and on Amazon 

About the Author

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Since starting in niche publishing in 2005, Ekta has written and edited about everything from healthcare to home improvement to Hindi films. She became a freelance editor in 2011 to cement her essential belief that words can change people and the world. A writing contest judge, podcaster, and reviewer, Ekta blogs original fiction, book reviews, and parenting adventures from The Write Edge (http://thewriteedge.wordpress.com). Her holiday novella, The Truth About Elves, released in October 2021 from Atmosphere Press.

Ekta R. Garg | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

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Book Blitz: Imbalance of Power – Armin Shimerman

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Today I am sharing the last book in the Illyria trilogy, Imbalance of Power by Armin Shimerman. If you pre-order now you can save 10% off the purchase price!

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Illyria: Imbalance of Power

Expected Publication Date: Winter 2022

Genre: Historical Fiction/ Historical Fantasy

With the threat of further imprisonment held over him, Doctor John Dee must use all his talents to solve the mystery of who on Illyria is shepherding religious insurrectionists bent on overthrowing the Queen. Helped by his acolyte, Will Shakespar, they investigate the court of Count Orsino, their chief suspect.

Together, in this exciting final chapter, Steeped in Elizabethan history, Dee and Shakespar must maneuver through a labyrinth of religious intolerance as they seek to protect Crown and Country.

Their mission brings them in contact with the witty characters of Toby Belch, Malvolio, Feste, and others in a fancifully imagined prequel to “Twelfth Night.”

Pre-Order Here!

About the Author

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Armin Shimerman was born on November 5, 1949 in Lakewood, New Jersey, USA. He is an actor and writer, known for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993), The Hitcher (1986),  Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997), and BioShock (2007). He has been married to Kitty Swink since May 16, 1981.

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Book Blitz: Of Deceit and Snow – Ashley W. Slaughter

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Happy publication day to author Ashley W. Slaughter! Read on for more info about the second novel in The Crowned Chronicles, Of Deceit and Snow and grab yourself a copy today!

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Of Deceit and Snow (The Crowned Chronicles #2)

Publication Date: November 8th, 2022 (Today 🥳)

Genre: YA Fantasy

A queen trapped in a game of lies.

Queen Rosemary Avelia has never felt so out of control of her own life. In the kingdom of Tarasyn, she is fighting for her survival, playing to her captor’s wants and desires for a bride—and for her kingdom of Lecevonia. She must keep her wits about her if she is to survive the extravagant, Talent-infused court life of Snowmont. But how long can she balance between her game and her need to return to her kingdom? To her people?

A king fighting for power.

King Gryffin Danicio is also struggling to stay in control. The more he covers up the secrets of his family, the more fragile his hold on the minds of the people of his kingdom becomes. Beneath the luxurious rooms and gilded furnishings of Snowmont is a dark, hidden past–and a future full of hope and power not only for Tarasyn, but for the entire Magian Peninsula. Gryffin has plans for the Talented of the Magian Peninsula, but without Rosemary’s support, his idea of a land strengthened by magic may never be fulfilled.

A magic on the brink of liberty.

An awakening of the Peninsula’s ancient magic is on the horizon. Rosemary must choose to stop it—or aid Gryffin in bringing it to fruition.

But first, she must get home.

And she cannot do it alone.

Of Deceit and Snow is the second installment of the Crowned Chronicles, a series following passionate and determined Queen Rosemary as she faces love, reign, the threat of war, and the mystifying world of the Talented.

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Of Legends and Roses (The Crowned Chronicles #1)

Publication Date: August 31, 2021

Genre: YA Fantasy

A realm touched and forgotten by magic.
A young queen orphaned by disease.
A prince after her heart.

Queen Rosemary Avelia knows little about ruling a kingdom, and even less so about the ancient legends of her land. Since no one has been born Talented in centuries, she simply scoffs at the idea of magic. However, when the charming Prince Gryffin Danicio arrives just as her kingdom is under a deadly threat, he shows her that not all kingdoms of the Magian Peninsula have so quickly dismissed the legends of the Talented. Perhaps the Talented should not so easily be forgotten.

Of Legends and Roses is the first book in The Crowned Chronicles, a series following passionate and determined Queen Rosemary as she faces reign, love, the threat of war, and the mystifying world of the Talented.

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About the Author

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Ashley W. Slaughter was born and raised in south Louisiana, among sugarcane fields lining the banks of the Mississippi River. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from the University of Louisiana at Monroe in 2018 and worked as a wildlife biologist before pursuing her career as an author. Writing has always been a passion of hers, as shown through her near-to-bursting manila folder of short stories she’d written throughout grade school, and the COVID-19 pandemic has allowed her to rediscover this passion. She enjoys hiking, kayaking, spending time with her husband and pets, and, of course, reading.

Ashley Slaughter | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | TikTok

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Book Blitz: Sex and the City: A Cultural History – Nicole Evelina

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Are You a Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, or Miranda? Read more about Sex and the City: A Cultural History by Nicole Evelina and pre-order a copy today!

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Sex in the City: A Cultural History

Expected Publication Date: November 15, 2022

Genre: TV/ Pop Culture

Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield

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An insightful look at the cultural impact of the television phenomenon Sex and the City.

Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, one word was on everyone’s lips: sex. Sex and the City had taken the United States, and the world, by storm. Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha influenced how a generation of women think, practice, and talk about sex, allowing them to embrace their sexual desires publicly and unlocking the idea of women as sexual beings on par with men.

In Sex and the City: A Cultural History, Nicole Evelina provides a fascinating, in-depth look at the show’s characters, their relationships, and the issues the show confronted. From sexuality and feminism to friendship and motherhood, Evelina reveals how the series impacted viewers in the 1990s, as well as what still resonates today and what has glaringly not kept up with the times. The world has changed dramatically since the show originally aired, and Evelina examines how recent social movements have served to highlight the show’s lack of diversity and throw some of its storylines into a less than favorable light.

While Sex and the City had problematic issues, it also changed the world’s perception of single women, emphasized the power of female friendship, built brands, and influenced fashion. This book looks at it all, from the pilot episode to the spin-off movies, prequel, and reboot that together have built an enduring legacy for a new generation of women.

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About the Author

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Nicole Evelina is a USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction, non-fiction, and women’s fiction. Her six books have won more than 40 awards, including four Book of the Year designations. She was named Missouri’s Top Independent Author by Library Journal and Biblioboard as the winner of the Missouri Indie Author Project and has been awarded the North Street Book Prize and the Sarton Women’s Book Award. In addition to books, her writing has appeared in The Huffington PostThe Philadelphia InquirerThe Independent JournalCurve Magazine and numerous historical publications. She lives outside St. Louis, Missouri.

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Book Blitz: Queen and Conquerer – Isabelle Olmo

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I think this could be author’s grocery list and I would still buy it just for the cover! Thankfully, there’s a amazing story beneath it. Read on for more details about Queen and Conqueror by Isabelle Olmo! 

Stay tuned for the book tour in 2023!

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Queen and Conqueror (The Queen’s Guard #1)

Publication Date: August 2022

Genre: Fantasy/ Romantic Fantasy

How does one conquer a kingdom without spilling blood? You offer your hand in marriage to the king who killed your husband.

Almira’s father raised her in political cunning. Since childhood, she’s prepared for this moment. She lays out the players one by one like pieces on a board.

One. King Alton, the brother-killer. The spare heir who killed his brother for the throne.

Two. The perfect seamstress. The people must admire a queen and welcome her with open arms even when she arrives with a deadly armada behind her.

Three. The Queen’s Red Guard. These warrior women have one purpose; to protect the queen at all costs. Even from her husband. Even from herself.

Queen & Conqueror is the first book in an epic feminist fantasy series told from the perspective of the women who rule and shape the future.

“Men will never be ready for women like us and it is not our job to ready them.”

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Excerpt

He cleared his throat. “The High Lord seeks aid from Istok. Your native country hasn’t been plagued with war like we have. Perhaps if your father–“

“Istok did not begin a war. My father will not risk Istokian lives because my husband has a vendetta against a king that toys with our Suidian forces. We should retreat and regroup. Sit with King Alton and negotiate,” she said with a steady voice.

She surprised herself. She’d never challenged a messenger as such. But she was damn tired of sitting like a protected porcelain plate, while the world crumbled.

He looked at her incredulously. “My lady, forgive me, but shouldn’t you let your father decide that?”

His words filled Almira with sudden anger, but she controlled and subdued it. She moved slowly as she stood and faced the captain. He was a large man, and she was small even for a woman. That mattered little.

“Captain, your job is to deliver news of the front. You’ve done that. But to presume I would take advice on state matters from you is insulting.”

He stepped forward and opened his mouth.

“Apology accepted,” she said and raked him over in disapproval. “You didn’t mean to insinuate anything. You have, after all, the utmost respect for my house. However, you will deliver a message from me, captain. Each day I sit in this room while my husband fights a war that drags on and continues killing our soldiers. Each day more lives are lost. At first it was fifty. Now, you tell me 2,000. Inform High Lord Edgar that I want the number.”

He blustered. “The number?”

“Yes. I want the number.” She pressed her index finger against the map. “I want the exact number of deaths we must reach to determine this cause is folly. It’ll give me something to look forward to while I practice my half-stitch.”

She sat and pushed her dinner plate away with disgust. The time had finally come for her value to be placed on the table. Even at a young age she knew he married her because of her connections to Istok. Her father wisely kept their country out of the squabbles and in the years since the war started, her home country grew rich with trade.

“That means you’re dismissed, captain,” Sanaa said.

Clearly astounded at being addressed in such a manner, he left. Not before his helmet slipped and rolled about on the stone floor. It caused a great deal of noise. He rushed after it, while the women watched the display.

Available on Amazon

About the Author

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Isabelle Olmo was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico and was raised on a steady diet of 80’s fantasy films and Sweet Valley High. Her love of literature was developed at an early age when her grandmother gifted her a poetry collection. Queen & Conqueror will be her first published novel.

She graduated with a degree in English Literature and a minor in Political Science from the University of Central Florida.

When she’s not writing she loves to travel, cook, and drink wine. One day she hopes to live in Barcelona, her favorite city in the world.

Isabelle Olmo

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Book Blitz: Ghost Witch – Ian Conner

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I have the petfect story to curl up with on Halloween! Check out Ian Conner’s Ghost Witch and make sure to leave a light on!

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Ghost Witch

 Publication Date: June 2nd, 2022

Genre: Supernatural Horror/ Ghost Story, Native American Folklore/ Mythology

The Two Spears and Four Claws clans for generations. Now the evil has returned, once again threatening the lives of a young mother and her twin babies. It is an evil that temporarily killed and banished with fire and magic, but it can never be destroyed. It is a source of great shame for the clans. So much so, that it is never spoken about outside of the tribe.

Carlyle Allen, the wealthy new owner of Haunted Gap, is building his dream home for he and his young bride, Rebecca. Carlyle discovers a hidden room in the basement and comes across the corpse of “The Maiden”, a form the evil entity takes to seduce and trick people into doing its bidding.

A very pregnant Rebecca Allen visits Haunted Gap for the first time. Rebecca becomes exposed to poison from “The Maiden,” leading to a trip to the clinic where she meets Maggie Four Claws and Dr. Sally Manning. Realizing that Rebecca has been marked by the Ghost witch, she contacts her grandmother Opal for help and to alert the clans.

Maggie manages to convince both Rebecca Allen and Dr. Manning that she and the babies are danger, not only from the Ghost Witch, but from her husband Carlyle as well. As Dr. Manning races to get Rebecca to safety, the Ghost Witch causes an accident, allowing Carlyle to kidnap Rebecca in order to sacrifice her and the children to “The Maiden.”

Meanwhile, Maggie Four Claws, Grandma Opal, and the rest of the clans move into action to hunt down and banish the Ghost Witch. But, will they find the evil in time enough to destroy it and save Rebecca and her babies?

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About the Author

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Ian Conner is retired and spent most of his adult life as a Marine and Army Infantry Sergeant. Now living near San Diego California with his wife Bonnie, a cellist, and their two dogs, Cookie and Isabella. Conner spends his days fostering kittens, gardening, crafting beautiful stained glass and creating worlds on the page.

Conner has authored several other novels:

Cooper’s Ridge  –  Science Fiction

The Long Game – Political Thriller

The Price of Partisanship – Political Thriller

Solaris  – Political Thriller

Griffins Perch – Epic Fantasy

Ghost Witch  –  Horror

After a lifetime of destruction the thought of creating something tangible and lasting holds great appeal.  He finds writing a cathartic way to redefine himself both in his eyes and the eyes of others.

Black Raptor Books

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Book Blitz: To Steal the Sun – S.M. Carter

I’m on the blog tour for this in November, so come back then to find out my thoughts!!

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Welcome to the official release of To Steal the Sun by S.M. Carter! Read on for details and grab yourself a copy of the book!

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To Steal the Sun

Publication Date: October 11th, 2022

Genre: Adult Fantasy/ Heist Fantasy/ POC/ LGBTQ2+ Representation

3 DANGEROUS rogues. 2 nations at WAR. 1 IMPOSSIBLE heist. Ocean’s 11 meets Game of Thrones. From one of the creators of WARFRAME!

THE KICKSTARTER SENSATION THAT WAS OVER 700% FUNDED.

When Raik, the most cunning smuggler this side of the desert, finds where the Ivory King vaults his magical runes—he builds a crew to execute an elaborate heist.

Among them is Kahli Mahanta, a religious assassin with blind ambition. A young rogue, Kirin, with wit sharper than his arrows ought to be. And Amara, the so-called Nightspirit, whose raven-hair conceals even darker secrets.

It won’t be easy. They’re opposed by the curved blades of the magic-deranged, watched by a paranoid king, and hunted by gaunt beasts that click in the cold desert night… All the while discovering that trusting each other might be the most dangerous mission of all.

To Steal The Sun is a tale of unlikely heroes thrust together in a new refreshing fantasy. One cast in vibrant silks, fragrant spice, and the relentless glare of a radiant sun.

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Kahli

As the sun bled out and shadows struggled to find their final depth, Kahli knocked on the door of a humble home. The clay building, like most in the northwestern city of Jharwada, seemed a crude shell to Kahli, having trained and prayed in the tent structures of the south.

From inside, a woman called out in a timid voice. “Hello?”

According to Kahli’s orders, this was a soft walk—innocents were not to be killed in the service of the Divine’s will. And so, Kahli Mahanta, Auxiliary Hand of the Divine, knocked louder.

The worn grey curtain covering the home’s only window slid open, revealing a lanky woman draped in a dark cotton servant’s wrap. She stared with sunken eyes. She looked twice Kahli’s age, but they were of similar height—which was crucial to the plan.

Kahli leaned out of the shadows, revealing the unveiled half of her face. She hoped it allowed the woman enough of a glance at her golden-brown skin and blond hair to mistake her for a newly arrived Tireenian servant. Kahli presented her left palm in a gesture of respect between equals and imitated a reassuring smile that touched her eyes above the veil.

The locks clicked open, and Kahli’s expression became genuine. A strong shoulder could splinter a doorframe well enough, but a smile did the Divine’s work in silence.

The woman opened the door, eyes wide. Kahli, not one to leave curiosity unsatisfied, stepped forward and struck the woman in the throat. The woman clutched her neck and gave a strangled cough as she collapsed back into her home. Kahli slipped in, a ghost in the night, closing the door and turning the locks.

Tears streamed from the servant’s eyes as she knelt on a fraying embroidered rug in the candlelit foyer of her home. She wheezed for air and tried to regain her footing.

Kahli adjusted her black veil, making sure its silk edges hid the scars covering the left side of her face.

“Sister, if y-you wish to meet the Divine, k-keep struggling,” Kahli said. She allowed a heartbeat for the threat to sink in, to let the servant understand her words through her accursed stutter.

“If, instead, y-you wish to endure the suffering of the living, c-close your mouth and remove your clothes.”

The woman obeyed.

***

An hour later, Kahli walked into the palatial residence of the high satrap of Jharwada, draped in the servant’s sarong. The disguise fit lengthwise, but her athletic build made it tight around her thighs and shoulders. Kahli took in shallow breaths and shortened her stride to compensate.

Skirting along the massive foyer, she tilted her head toward the shadows and moved to the wooden staircase at its far end. The room was remarkable compared to the plain design of every other structure in the city. Hanging vines covered the walls, and twisting trees wound up the stone columns. It was a strange mating of granite sculpture and plant life she’d seen only in the overgrown jungle ruins of Tireen.

At regular intervals throughout the room, candelabras burned saffron-scented wax. But the main illumination was moonlight, which stabbed through the glass-domed ceilings, highlighting the occupants within. In the center of the room, two veiled women in silk twirled in a traditional Jaru dance, accompanied by a plucked sarod and wavering flute. Men and women in lavish purples, yellows, and burgundies lounged on couches, watching the performance and sipping palm wine.

Kahli restrained a sneer. Divine-damned fools. Unfocused and soft. Pretending to appreciate the old religion’s art only to gain the favor of their high satrap, who was rumored to be a connoisseur of Jaru traditions.

Kahli’s life was pledged to the Kithkarnin Order. A pledge that changed after her scars and demotion, after Hayanna and the trial. But a pledge that remained strong. The Book of Kith said: A dedicated mind is the calm sea on which the Divine sails.

Keeping to the shadows and moving with light, brisk steps, Kahli reached the wooden staircase with its base so entwined in roots, it appeared to grow from the floor. The frame creaked as she ascended two steps at a time. The high satrap resided at the top. The letter from the First had been succinct and clear:

The High Satrap of Jharwada has fallen from the Ivory King’s graces. By his holy decree, she shall be ushered on a soft walk.

Her locket should be collected as an item of memorial.

This letter, from the highest-ranked assassin in the world, was a gift from the Divine.

Never had any Kithkarnin ranked outside the group of Primary Hands been given a target of the satrap’s importance. All Kahli wanted since her scarring and demotion, all she prayed for, was a chance to rise in the ranks.

And this was it.

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About the Author

S.M.Carter

S.M. CARTER is an author and game developer.

As an author he has contributed to multiple comic anthologies and writes the ongoing graphic novel, AARDEHN, with artist Eric Vedder. As a game developer, he is credited as creative director of THE DARKNESS 2, and is one of the creators of the smash-hit game WARFRAME.
He lives in London, Ontario, Canada with his wife and two children.
He once caught a fly with chopsticks.

S.M. Carter

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Book Blitz: The Path of Most Resistance and Other Stories – Yoav Ilan

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We are so thrilled to share this gorgeous anthology with you today! The Path of Most Resistance and Other Stories comes out on October 10th and if you enjoy Black Mirror, you are going to love this!

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The Path of Most Resistance

Expected Publication Date: October 10th, 2022

Genre: Sci-Fi/ Speculative Fiction/ Anthology

The stories of The Path of Most Resistance feature curious nonconformists who find themselves pushing back against strange and oppressive social norms, mavericks who transgress the boundaries of convention in their strive for freedom and authenticity. No matter if they’re in a Silicon Valley office, the far reaches of space, or dystopian futures where relationships are subjected to totalitarian control, the characters show unshakable conviction in a world plagued with uncertainty. Each story ushers you into a unique reality that unfolds step by step, leaving you with a disturbing new perception of the world.

In “Blind Date,” two lovers chosen for each other by a hidden control system attempt to peel away the layers of their oppressive reality and peer into what they were not meant to see. In “Expressing,” a pick-up at an ordinary bar turns into a paranormal encounter. In “The Path of Most Resistance,” a hiring manager and a job candidate go all-in during an interview that will reshape their lives. In “Red Flagged,” a random passenger is accidentally exposed as a covert rebel fighting for freedom in a society that dictates what one is allowed to know. In “Miscalibrated,” an interstellar expedition runs into armed conflict with an alien civilization, in which their best chance of avoiding a nuclear war is discovering the underlying truth about the communication differences between humans and these aliens.

In story after story, author Yoav Ilan displays remarkable creativity and intelligence, showing that sci-fi can be as artistic as literary fiction, and that things are never as they seem.

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Blind Date

They both arrived at the appointed time. He entered the hall from the south side, she from the north. Above them the ceiling soared upwards till it vanished in the darkness.

The silence in their ears was the background for the steady tap of her heels and the thud of his footsteps. The two circles as seen from above glided steadily forward along the vast floor, weaving toward the same square pillar where they stopped.

He flaunts a red flower in his buttonhole. She wears a black pin on her lapel.

All around is silence and emptiness. The two circles that were drawn around them on the floor met, forming a number 8. They remained within its bounds.

“You are of course …” “Yes, and you …”

And again silence, unease. While yet trapped in the emptiness of the hall and of their conversation, the big clock struck six times. The sound and the vibrations carried through the pillar and the floor, jarring them out of their stillness.

They both wear dark glasses. If only she could look into his eyes for a brief moment. If only he could.

“A movie?” he asked. She smiled, and the 8 on the floor became a circle. “This way please.”

The elderly usher opened the door into the theater. His flashlight illuminated row upon row of seats. All but four of them were empty. A pair of seats at the far end beside the stage glowed red.

“Your seats.”

They looked alternately at each other, the voluminous theater, and at the other two couples who sat in the far corners of the sea of dusky seats. They shook their heads almost in unison, making them both burst into short, nervous laughter.

“Sorry,” they murmured to the usher as they fled outside, hand in hand.

Outside to the street, wide with long sidewalks and the odd streetlight casting its cone- shaped island of pale light. Deserted except for an old man walking his dog, crossing at a corner. On his face, dark glasses, and encircling both him and his dog, a red band that vanished with them around the corner. They noticed they were still holding hands. Shyly, they released them.

“I’d prefer to be somewhere a little less noisy, if that’s okay with you?” she says. “Something like the amusement park?”

“Sounds great.”

As if in contrast to the emptiness around them, he offered her his arm and she slipped her arm through it. As they neared the entrance to the subway, they passed a policeman leaning against a streetlight. And again the same irritating thing.

Around him there is no red circle. His eyes are not hidden behind dark glasses. For his part, the policeman did not pay attention to the resentment that spontaneously appeared on their faces. The policeman indifferently checked the air around them, his eyes alighting for a moment on them and then returning to stare into empty space, as if they . . .

The pressure of her hand increased and they were dragged from there by their circles.

The amusement park was slightly more bustling than the clock tower, the movie theater, the streets. Slightly. There were about a dozen couples strolling arm in arm, bounded by circles that moved with them, dictating the direction and the pace. On everyone’s face the same dark glasses. Almost everyone. A policeman stood at the entrance to the Ferris wheel.

The couple moved toward it in a straight line, more or less. More or less because their circle swerved randomly here and there, as if dodging hidden obstacles. He bought a ticket from the automatic machine. Now, all that was left was to wait for the wheel to stop. Finally it ground to a halt, and then began to rotate again slowly, pausing momentarily as each seat reached the bottom.

“It’s absurd,” the man thought, wanting to go and sit with his partner on the vacant seat hovering at ground level, as if waiting for someone to climb aboard. But the circle around them refused to change its position.

Attempt to cross over it … the thought alone began to hurt. The outer perimeter of the circle began to glow slightly. Or perhaps it only appeared so through the tears that filled his eyes.

The thought made his head feel heavy, but this did not stop a feeling rising inside him, a feeling that had lain dormant for a long time. Perhaps the key was to act swiftly, suddenly.

All at once he broke away from the woman at his side and tried to put a foot over the boundary encircling him. Quickly, without thinking about it. If he thought about it, the Mechanism would activate the pain.

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About the Author

Yoav Ilan sqaure profile

Following his career as a naval engineer Yoav moved on to Computer Science, and has spent the last two-decades in the high tech industry, ranging from small startups to big tech. He is a husband, father and a science nerd. He lives in New York.

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