Happy Friday! Reading Day is back this week with frequent guest Jeff Baker, who brings us a short but dark story from a museum. Note from the author: the artist - Bernecky - mentioned at the end is from the show Murphy Brown, for those who remember. :)
You can find more about Jeff and his work authorjeffbaker.com
The urge to scream until his lungs exploded nearly took Davitts out at the knees. All the magic at sylvas fingertips and they let the damned Shadows possess his Essenin?
Instead of howling, he grabbed a double handful of shirt fronts—Zie’s and this newly arrived mahk’s—and bellowed in their faces, “Do something!”
The firelight danced over Zie’s face, deepening the haunted shadows. For a moment, he simply stared at Davitts before patting his chest. “Yes. Yes, I have to do something.”
He gently removed Davitts fingers from his shirt and took three unsteady steps toward the water. It took Davitts’ anguished brain nearly a second too long, but when he caught up, he tackled Zie with a distressed grunt. “Not that! Dear goddesses! Are you suddenly trying to die?”
“I have to save them,” Zie whispered to the sand. “This is my fault. It’s all my fault.”
“Not this again. Not the time..” Davitts hauled Zie to his feet and turned to the sylvas woman. “Without wave running out there and making yourselves Shadow food, there must be something you can do.”
Nearby, Rolli was tugging the last edlak up onto the sand. He turned his head to call over, “Davs, this is Ke. Ke, Davitts.”
“Thank you, Rolli. Always so helpful,” Davitts muttered, rubbing at his chest. His heart was going to give out, it struggled so badly. On the opposite shore, the Shadows were doing something awful with Ess’s hands, making them move a huge fallen log.
Ke squinted across the water, arms folded tight. “Youngling, I hear you are something of a wind worker.”
“I…I…” Zie cleared his throat and tore his gaze away from the water. “Yes, mishu. It’s one of my primaries.”
“Is yours stronger than the monsters’ windworking?”
“Possibly,” Zie murmured, some of the dazed grief fading from his eyes. Good. He was thinking again.
The Shadows windworking, though incredibly strong, was unreliable without a sail and their progress across the lake slowed by gusts shoving the tree-boat as much sideways as forward. Davitts hoped that maybe Ess would fall off amid all the shoving about, but they clung tight. His disappointment only grew as the Shadows did that horrible thing again with the inky tendrils oozing out of Ess’s hands so they could break off the biggest branch and use it to start poling across to the island.
Slowly, every movement twitchy and slow. Mother of waves, poor Ess. Are they in there fighting? Are they aware at all?
Ke spoke sylvas words at Zie, too fast and sharp for Davitts to catch any of them. Eyes wide, hands trembling, Zie nodded and raised his arms toward the water. The stance had become familiar from their sea voyage as Zie closed his eyes and called a wind that nearly took Davitts off his feet, whipping sand into tiny whirl-demons as it roared out from the island.
The waves kicked up in answer, rocking the tree trunk, but not enough to dissuade the Shadows from moving forward inch by inch. Was Zie trying to blow the craft back to the opposite shore? That didn’t sound feasible.
No. Ke raised her arms in imitation of Zie’s posture and the waves nearer the far shore rose impossibly, as if they were ocean breakers.
Ah, now I see what they’re doing. Davitts clenched his fists to keep himself still, unwilling to distract the mages. Inside, though, he chanted, come on, come on, come on, a little more, a little higher, wilder.
The waves crashed against the tree, whipped even higher by the gale force wind Zie called. Between the two of them, they had fashioned a tempest, and the tree heaved and bucked in the impossible peaks and troughs of the storm.
A wave splashed over the tree soaking Ess and drawing ear-piercing shrieks from the Shadows. The oily black tendrils came out again, trying to cling to the bark as Ess lost their grip on the pole branch. Out of the corner of his eye, Davitts caught a quick series of gestures, Zie and Ke in tandem, and waves began to swamp the tree from both sides.
The deluge would have drowned someone without gills—and the Shadows panicked when Ess lost their grip and began to slide off the tree.
Howling as if the sky were splitting, the Shadows flung out tendrils toward the nearer shore, only a few lengths away. They grabbed desperately for branches, for sand grasses, for the thorns and spines of the low, scraggly bushes and heaved themselves back to safety, abandoning Essenin as he fell into the lake.
A wounded sound came from beside him and once again, Davitts had to catch Zie before he flung himself onto the lake.
“We have to get them. We can’t just leave them!”
“Sh, hush.” Davitts wrapped him up tight. “Ess is perfectly safe. The water’s the best place for them. The safest place.”
“What if they’re unconscious? What if they’re hurt?” Zie whimpered pitiably. “I have to get them. It’s my fault.”
“The safest place, as I said. If Ess is knocked out, they’ll sleep it off underwater. Where it’s perfectly safe for them.”
“I’m glad the lovely selak is safe,” Ke said nearby, her voice dust dry and soft. “What those monsters did, not something I’d wish on anyone, and certainly not someone so kind. But I find myself wondering, young mahk, why you keep saying that this is all your fault. When your lover reassures you that it’s not, why do you still assert that it is?”
In Davitts’ arms, Zie went stiff and still. Then he shoved away, backpedaling like a startled animal until his bootheels splashed up the water at the lake’s edge. He glanced between them, his purple eyes haunted and full of anguish.
Finally, he whispered, “I say it because it’s true. My fault. I did this. I summoned the Shadows.”
Flame Con is confirmed! The last one I was supposed to go to was in 2020. We all know what happened there. The organizers tried again for 2021 - also a no go.
2022 looks like the magic year for the convention to return to Manhattan. Freddy and I will be there for Mischief Corner Books - table number to follow very soon.
August 20-21, Times Square Sheraton.
It's a heck of a fun time with all the queer creators and fans - hope to see you there!
It had been an excellent plan. Simple. Efficient.
Essenin had bellowed at Rolli to take the edlaks before the Shadows could catch up to them. Get the non-combatant out of harm’s way so he wouldn’t be a distraction. Davs would be proud that they were thinking strategically. Rolli had only hesitated for a moment, fear and anguish clouding his eyes, before he took the reins and plunged into the lake with all three edlaks.
Ke’s light shield was as powerful as Zie’s had been on the beach so many days ago, but she tired more quickly. Perhaps because she was older or light was a more difficult discipline for her. Essenin knew what they had to do when she faltered the second time.
“Go! Run the waves to the island! I’ll hold them!” they shouted over the Shadows’ wind.
“With what, selak child?” Ke snarled back at them.
A laugh that felt like broken glass bubbled in Essenin’s chest as they called the water to them. This way. This way. Up. Up onto the sand. “With the thing they hate most!”
Why the Shadows feared the water so much, Ess couldn’t say. Perhaps it had something to do with not being able to use the wind underwater, taking away their ability to move, or it was simply just too unlike them for the Shadows to tolerate. Essenin didn’t really care. As the water advanced, covering Essenin and Ke’s legs to mid-calf, the Shadows shrieked and retreated.
“I will hold them,” Essenin repeated with a grin they hoped relayed more confidence than they felt. “Go, Ke. Before you can’t any longer.”
With a strangled sound, she let her light shield fall and ran into the lake, leaving Essenin alone with the Shadows pacing the shoreline just above the waterline, rage rolling off them in waves. The whispers had already begun—now the feathered intrusions into Essenin’s mind became harder to ignore. The Shadows didn’t call them by name, as they had Davs. Rather, they insinuated.
Weary…exhaustion… they whispered. Too hard…so tired…
Essenin shook their head, fighting against listening. Only until Ke reached the shore, then they could let go and dive under the safety of the water. Just a few moments longer. The Shadows were wasting their nonexistent breath.
So tired…so tired…hold you up…buoy you…come to us…let us in…
“Shut up, shut up, shut up, you psychotic murderous ink smudges. I’m not listening. Can’t hear you.” Though Essenin could still hear the tip-tip-tip of Ke’s wave running. He needed to hold on a little longer, let her get far enough away that they couldn’t reach shadow arms over the water to snatch her.
The Shadows stilled, a wall of eerie, watchful darkness, their will still pushing hard at Essenin. No illusions that the monsters were giving up. No. They were thinking, and this could only be a bad thing. Essenin took the chance to back farther into the water. Shin deep. Knee deep.
The sudden shock of hurricane-force wind threw Essenin down on one knee and they saw to their horror that the sudden squall had thrust the water back from the shore, away from Essenin until there was only sand, all protection gone.
They glanced up in horror to see the wall of Shadow curving down in a massive wave and had time for a single scream before the searing cold of them invaded the top of their head. The agony of the Shadows invading every nerve and muscle went on and on, though Essenin could no longer scream. Hate and rage battered them until they were certain the Shadows contained nothing else.
Maybe this is why none of the selak sailors could remember. It was all too much.
Through the awful pain and the terror of invasion, Essenin stayed present, though. Shoved into a tiny, compressed sliver, but still aware somehow. They heard Zie’s heart-rending scream from across the lake. Dav’s agonized bellows for them. All so far away. So far…I’ll never get back to them. Oh my loves.
Dimly, it registered how the Shadows tried to move stolen arms and legs. It was as if they had forgotten their previous practice onboard the ship they had hijacked. One arm jerked, then the other. In clumsy, unbalanced twitches, they got Essenin’s body standing and clomped farther onto the shore. The burning cold was the worst of it, biting even more sharply into each muscle as the Shadows moved it, but the weight of them…how could Shadows be so heavy? Though not heavy in the sense of tearing bone and sinew, but the pressure on Essenin’s mind was crushing.
The howling wind dropped. The Shadows began their whispering again, though this time seemed to be talking to themselves. Each other. Impossible to say if they were a single mind or many.
Essenin’s head jerked from side to side, the Shadows obviously searching for something as they whispered over and around each other. Driftwood, lake grasses, someone’s abandoned blanket—they considered and discarded all of these. Then Essenin’s eyes fastened on the trunk of an old, fallen tree, one big enough that Davs wouldn’t have been able to get his arms around it.
The pieces slammed together in Essenin’s compressed mind all too clearly. The airless void was how the Shadows saw the water, hardly airless, as any selak could’ve told them, but it was a medium over which they had no control. The tree trunk was their solution, their way to stay atop the void, as they had used ships to cross the sea.
Good. That’s fine. I’m not strong enough to move that tree on my own.They’re stuck here. With me. I’m stuck here. At least my Davs and my Zie are safe. Dear goddesses, how do I get out of this?
Essenin told themself that the other selak had all been fine. Released when the Shadows had finished with them. They would tire of their Essenin pack edlak. Eventually.
Somehow this didn’t help the screaming fear one bit.
One twitching step at a time, the Shadows moved them to the massive trunk, its broken and gnawed roots reaching toward the water like far too many broken fingers. Essenin’s hands came up, shoving at the tree. As they’d presumed, it didn’t budge.
Good. Stupid evil ink blots.
The moment of smug satisfaction evaporated when tendrils of shadow slithered from Essenin’s fingers, a nauseatingly oily sensation, and coiled around the tree trunk until it was wrapped in a sheath of darkness. The Shadows still needed Essenin’s hands, but now the strength of all those Shadows joined them, shoving the trunk into the water where it spun and bobbed until the larger branches steadied it.
Inside their own mind, Essenin strained to stop their own body from climbing onto the log, but not even a little finger listened. They could only beat against the walls of their mental prison as their traitor body knelt atop the trunk and the Shadows summoned storm winds to push the improvised raft across the lake.
Please, please stop us. Don’t let the monstrosity reach you, Essenin thought desperately at his lovers and companions across the water. Shoot me dead. Set it on fire. Do something!
But the tree raft with its horrid cargo sailed on.
No newsy updates this week, so I thought I'd do a bit of a roundup of Where Stuff Is. :)
Publishers: I work with two, currently
This Website :D
Queer Romance Ink
Some other listings for all the things:
Liminal Fiction (like Queer Romance Ink, but more spec fic focused)
Amazon Author Page
By unspoken agreement, Zie had been watching the Shadows while Davs kept an eye on the road. The roiling mass of darkness kept to the trees, surging to the left, then to the right again as if searching for a way across the water. Zie’s grip on the ancient battlements of the tower was the only thing keeping him from collapsing in a panic-stricken heap.
He had to bite back a shriek when Davs seized his shoulder.
“There. Just coming over the rise.” With his spyglass to his eye, Davs pointed up the road. “There’s our Ess. He’s brought a sylvas with him. Let’s hope she’s a mahk.”
Zie squinted at the road, struggling to make anything out in the last light of dusk. Ess rode in front, identifiable by their dark braids flying in the rising wind. A smaller figure thundered behind, bent close to their edlak’s neck. That would be whoever Ess had brought from the sylvas compounds. But the third figure made no sense to Zie, with a misshapen hump on their back. “Who is the third rider?”
Davs moved his spyglass and heaved an irritated sigh. “For fuck’s sake, Ess. Why would you bring Rolli, of all useless people?”
“Who is he?” Zie leaned over the tower’s stones as if that would help him see better.
“A bard of our acquaintance. Human. Expert in being a nuisance.” Davs’ voice had sunk to a bass growl, his words clipped and short. Part of that was most likely worry over Ess, which Zie understood with every jangled nerve in his body, though Davs seemed to truly dislike this Rolli person. “There. They’ve spotted the beacon.”
Davs handed over the spyglass so Zie could get a better view. Essenin had halted them on the road, gesturing and pointing while they spoke urgently to their two companions. After a short debate, the edlaks wheeled away from the Shadows and Essenin took them down to the path that ran around the lake, but in the opposite direction.
“He’s going to try to cross on the other side of the island,” Zie murmured. “If they can do it quickly…”
“That’s it, love.” Davs murmured as he moved around the tower to track their progress. “Just keep ahead of them.”
“The Shadows are moving.” Zie clutched Davs’ arm, whispering as if the things could hear him. “They’ve seen. Oh, Ess. Hurry.”
But there were only so many places the edlaks could safely navigate down the steep embankment to the lakeshore. The monsters had spotted their prey now and had called the wind to speed their pursuit.
“Do you think they know?” Davs asked just as quietly now. “Do they sense sylvas?”
Zie swallowed hard, twice, before he could choke out, “They know. Not scent or actual sight, but they know.”
The Shadows were closing ground far too swiftly, though Ess had found a safe way to the bank and was leading them down at a precipitous pace. Zie was certain it would only be through a local goddess watching over them that the edlaks managed without breaking a leg.
They were down, the Shadows on the heels of the last mount in line. The human bard made the mistake of turning to look and nearly fell off his edlak in horror. He probably cried out, since the others turned toward him. Zie wanted to shout at them not to stop. Keep riding! They don’t want him!
He couldn’t swear that they would never harm a human, though. He knew why Essenin, so much more courageous than he was, had stopped.
The sylvas rider vaulted from the saddle and faced the Shadows. Both hands came up and light flared, then exploded along the shoreline, a calling of light so brilliant that Zie had to squint through his fingers. The Shadows’ enraged shrieks cut through the night, carried on their evil winds across the water. The sound sliced through Zie’s heart.
Essenin had dismounted now, too. Waving their arms, gesticulating and most likely yelling at the human who seemed confused or terror stricken. Finally, Ess got their point across and the human, Rolli, grabbed up the reins of the loose edlaks and urged them into the water. The poor beasts needed little encouragement to flee toward the island. They tossed their heads and surged through the shallows in a mad dash to escape the horrible Shadow screams.
Of course, Essenin didn’t follow. Naturally not while the mahk held off a horde of monsters with nothing but a light spell. Essenin put an arm around her waist and while still facing the Shadows, backed them both toward the water. They appeared to be arguing.
“They better have a plan,” Davs said through gritted teeth. “And not the usual Essenin kind that’s mostly I’ll figure it out as we go.”
“They’re going to use the water,” Zie pointed to where the waves appeared to be in conflict, trying to land on and rush away from the shore at the same time.
When the churning waves touched Essenin’s bootheels, they raised their hand as well. The water surged forward even as the Shadows’ wind strove to force it back. Slowly, slowly, Essenin was winning.
Beside him, the mahk stumbled. The light flickered and strengthened again, once, then twice. Holding such bright light was exhausting, Zie knew all too well, and even the strongest mage could only manage for so long.
Zie gave the spyglass back, a terrible anxiety growing within him. Ess backed them into the water, ankle deep now, neither one of them apparently willing to turn their backs on the Shadows. More words, possibly angry ones, flew back and forth between them. Finally, the mahk released the light and stumbled into the water, barely managing a wave run over the now wind-tossed lake.
Alone now on the shore, Essenin held the Shadows at bay with the water at their command. The Shadows crept closer and closer still as Ess struggled to keep the waterline from receding as the howling shadow winds battered the water. Another step back. Another. But Essenin was struggling now, the Shadows whispers all too obviously calling to him.
“No, no, no!” Zie shouted. “Dive into the waves! Go!”
The winds tore his words away and he rushed for the tower stairs, barely aware of Davs calling after him. The fortress raced by in a blur as he sprinted for the shore, leaping fallen masonry and low-lying scrub.
By the time he reached the sandspit where Rolli was just hauling the edlaks onto the island, Essenin had stopped backing up. They stood with their arms spread wide, terribly still. The Shadows mirrored them, the restless darkness gone eerily still.
“Essenin!” Zie screamed and was about to throw himself onto the surface of the lake when strong arms caught him and lifted him off his feet. “No, no! Let me go!”
“Have you lost your mind?” Davs bellowed in his ear.
With a roar of a hundred thousand voices, the Shadow wind struck, knocking them all to the ground and sweeping the water back from the far shore so that Essenin stood only on sand. For one, heart piercing moment, the cataract of Shadows rose, poised directly over Essenin. Then, with a horrific shriek, the Shadows fell upon them, driving through their skin, through their skull, vanishing within until only Essenin remained, their limbs jerking, the light drained from their eyes. Possessed.
Happy Friday, everyone! We have reached the end of the week and another Reading Day! This week, I'm reading to you from Ellie Thomas' newest m/m historical - London in the Rain. This time, Ellie takes us to 1930's London, just before the start of WWII. Come have a listen :)
London in the Rain
by Ellie Thomas
A life of set routine is the norm for Raymond Smith. Now in his mid-thirties, a fleeting wartime romance far behind him, he is an exemplary clerk at a London insurance firm where he’s perceived as dry and conventional.
But Raymond has a secret. Every month or so, he visits Charlie’s, one of the more understated bars in Soho's flowering gay scene in the 1930s. There, he seeks relief with strangers to get him through the next few weeks.
On one of these visits, he encounters suave David Carstairs, a well-travelled linguist with the Foreign Office. Rather than a brief encounter, David offers him friendship and even affection. Despite Raymond’s misgivings, the two men, with their contrasting backgrounds and experiences, start to form a bond in the spring of 1936 as Europe inexorably begins to march towards war. Will Raymond fearfully reject this chance of happiness? Or can he unbend enough to allow David into his heart and life?
Ellie Thomas lives by the sea. She comes from a teaching background and goes for long seaside walks where she daydreams about history. She is a voracious reader especially about anything historical. She mainly writes historical gay romance.
Ellie also writes historical erotic romance as L. E. Thomas.
Please leave a message at the beep... Fine. Of course I'm here. Online is portable, after all.
A brief check in since I'm visiting my sister in the Virginia mountains.
Shadow Run, which I started writing because I wasn't writing, has hit 30 episodes. I honestly thought it would be quite short. A short story. Perhaps a novelette. Ha. We'll see where we are when it's done. I apologize in advance for any cliffhanger episodes as we reach the dramatic climax.
Rarely Pure and Never Simple is on track for a June 28 release. Hooray!
From the Noblest Motives is swiftly approaching 50K - and is nowhere near done. I'm not even going to try to estimate a word count this time. I'm thinking around 65K? We shall see.
The old fortress wasn’t across a continent, but even the short distance felt too far for Essenin. They pushed the edlaks to the fastest pace they could safely maintain. It would be both stupid and cruel to ask for more just to gain an hour or two. Still, every nerve in Essenin’s body screamed that they would arrive too late.
During an uphill climb where they needed to walk the edlaks, Ke pulled up to ride beside Essenin. “Where are they, that they feel is safe to stop?”
“There’s a lake about a day and a half’s ride away still. Deep water. Would take maybe two hours to row across.” Essenin shifted in their saddle to help Sidle with the incline. “In the middle, there’s an island with an old ruined fortress.”
“Wonderful,” Ke muttered. “They’ve gone to ground at Haiernas. Between the ghosts and the ruins, I’d hardly call that safe.”
Essenin shrugged. “We’ve camped there before. Some parts are more stable than others and the occasional ghost didn’t bother us.”
Ke shot them a look that could only have been called judgmental. “Oh, to be spirit blind. Haiernas Keep retains all the violence and fear of its ruin. There are far more than occasional ghosts.”
“You know the history, then?” Essenin tried to keep their voice light, but a chill stole over their heart. If a mahk was more sensitive to spirits, what had they sent Zie into? How bad would this be for him?
“Your bard would most likely know more.” Ke nodded to Rolli, who had dismounted to lead his stubborn, balking edlak up the slope. “It was before any sylvas stepped foot on Cau Senis shores. Before the imperium put an end to local feuds and land wars.”
“But still, you know what happened.”
“The barest bones of the story.” She stopped her sturdy edlak at the top of the rise to wait for Rolli. “A warlord had been rolling through the old lord’s lands in that area. One vassal after another forced to surrender. One stronghold after another besieged and conquered. From what I’ve heard, the aging lord retreated to his last reliable vassal at Haiernas.”
Essenin cringed. “Which doomed them.”
“You’re a quick one.” Ke snorted. “Yes. They say the siege lasted three years, though that’s probably a storyteller’s exaggeration.”
“We never exaggerate.” Rolli said in his driest tone as he climbed back onto Bramble’s back. “The ballads say three years. Historical documents say maybe eight months. Still horrible.”
“Oh, so you know about this fortress, too?” Essenin huffed. “You could’ve said.”
“One, you didn’t ask. And two, I thought you knew.”
Ke flapped a hand at him. “You finish the tale then, bard. Since all I have is pieces.”
“My pleasure.” Rolli pulled his sewa around and started tuning it.
Essenin hurried to stop him. “Ah. No, Rolls. No ballads, please. Just tell me. Briefly. As close to the facts as you can.”
“Fine.” Rolli shot him a quick glare, then slumped in the saddle. “The quick, boring version is that the mistress of Haiernas sent most of her ishai out to get help from neighboring allies. They never came back. The siege went on too long and the defenses failed. Lots of slaughter and so on. The place has been deserted ever since because it’s too eerie to live there with the ghosts.”
“Wonderful. Just perfect.” The anxious knot in Essenin’s stomach decided it was a mass of snakes instead. “Now Zie, who has been a bundle of traumatized nerves since we met him, will have the extra horror of camping in the middle of a ghost siege.”
“Eh, you didn’t know.” Ke urged her edlak to a faster pace again. “The island is the best defensible place against these Shadows. It will give me time to get to the bottom of what happened in the north.”
They veered onto the main road again that evening and spent the night out under the stars. The mild early summer weather made it no hardship, but Essenin had sunk too far into worry that they didn’t sleep beyond a few minutes anxious dreaming here and there. They finally got up in the hour before dawn after a dream of Davitts and Zie being ripped apart while the Shadows laughed.
Essenin needed the whole hour, with the sky turning from deep blue to rose gold, in order to calm their racing heart, the dream had been that vivid, that real.
They’re both fine. You’ll get there and swim the edlaks to the island and the most that may have happened is that Zie kicked Davs for snoring too loud.
Still, once they broke camp and were back on the road, Essenin urged them to a swifter pace. They were closer now and something in Essenin’s gut told them reaching the lake by nightfall was crucial. Fretting when the edlaks had to walk and snapping at their travel companions didn’t help a thing, but every mile it was harder to stay level-headed and patient.
Finally, as the sun was setting, they rode around the turn that showed them the lake glittering in the valley below. Essenin kicked Sidle into a gallop, bent low across her neck. Soon the island came into sight—the island, the watchtower. Oh gods.
Essenin reined in so abruptly that Sidle reared and nearly threw him.
“What is it?” Ke called out as she caught up to him.
They pointed to the bright flames atop the tower, the signal they’d arranged with Davs. “We’re too late. The Shadows are already here.”
Happy Friday, everyone! A special sneak peek this week (all the rhyming!) as I read to you from the second Variant Configurations novel, From the Noblest Motives. (Coming in August this year!) Completely unedited :D
From the Noblest Motives
Variant Configurations 2
by Angel Martinez
Several months have passed since Blaze and the infamous Variant activist Shudder McKenzie helped Damien rescue captives of the sinister Fredamine Project. Professionally, everything's great. He's back to working with Damien again and they have a new lead on the four kids who are still missing. Personally, not so much. Blaze has made his peace with Shudder, though nothing between them has even been easy, but his relationship with Damien has taken several steps back. Blaze no longer has any idea where he stands. Adding to the tense atmosphere are the anti-Variant members of legislature who have been slowly gaining popular approval, and the cryptic messages Damien receives from an unknown source.
Shudder's back to his old haunts and his old tricks, trying to raise public awareness of imperiled Variant rights—such as the draconic Horace Act that strips due process during Variant trials—and to rescue Variant kids in trouble. His almost mythical luck runs out though when he's arrested for murder only three days after the passage of the Horace Act and a whirlwind trial and sentencing lands him in the most notorious maximum security facility for Variants—San Judas Tadeo.
With too many conspirators on both sides of the aisle, Damien, Blaze and Shudder no longer know whom to trust. Peeling through the layers of deceit and half-truths puts them on shakier ground with every discovery and in greater danger than ever before.
Variant Configurations takes place in a future Earth where humanity is reclaiming its spot in a gradually healing world. This book contains mentions of past abuse, action-adventure style mayhem, and the sparks of a slow burn, series-spanning relationship.
Angel writes (mostly) Science Fiction and Fantasy centered around queer heroes. Currently living part time in the hectic sprawl of northern Delaware and full time inside her head, she has one husband, one son, two cats, a love of all things beautiful and a terrible addiction to the consumption of both knowledge and chocolate.