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MANTIVORE DREAMS Cover Reveal and available ARCS #MantivoreDreams #GriffinwingPublishingbooks

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I am delighted to announce that I am about to release the first book in a new series, Mantivore Dreams. The Arcadian Chronicles follows the fortunes of a forgotten human colony and what happens to the aliens already living there.

Again, the cover has been designed by my awesome buddy Mhairi Simpson and I think she’s done a fabulous job. While continuing the branded look she has created for me, this design also gives a clear idea of the story with Vrox’s mantivore eyes lurking behind young Kyrillia.

I am also offering review copies for anyone who would like to read and review this book – there are currently 15 arcs available and here is the link where you can download a copy:
https://booksprout.co/arc/19092/mantivore-dreams

As I am offering it through Booksprout, there is a final date by which the review has to be posted, which is 10th September on Amazon – it doesn’t have to be more than a few lines.

I know many of my readers have fallen in love with Lizzy, so I am hoping that some of you will also find a place in your heart for Kyrillia and grumpy old Vrox, who I personally care about far too much. I’ve included the blurb and the opening scene to give you some idea of whether this one will tick your box…

BLURB: Seventeen-year-old Kyrillia Brarian has an imaginary friend, a kindly mantivore called Vrox. She can’t recall a time when he wasn’t there. And over the years, Vrox has been her main source of comfort and strength as she drudged for her mother and nursed her brain-damaged uncle, so she’s never given much thought as to how he got there. Of course, he can’t be real. But when only three or four other people in her dusty village even smile at her, Kyrillia isn’t about to turn her back on the happy, warm images crowding her mind.

Until a family quarrel spirals into something darker – and Kyrillia is forced to wonder if Vrox is imaginary, or even friendly…

CHAPTER ONE

I held my breath. At last! I’d begun to think I’d never track down this music site. A picklist unfolded and I gawked at the strange words. Classical. Youth Cultures. Popular Cultures. Devotional. Ethnic.
What did they mean? Surely music was just a dance tune, or a song? I jabbed at the first one. Yet another picklist unpeeled onto the mat. Much longer. The words tasted strange as I sounded the musicians’ names aloud. “Beethave- no -hoven… Mozz-art…Ta-ch— simply don’t have the time to sound that one out.” I went for a short name – Bach. What did his Family do, to earn a Name like that?
My eyes slid down the picklist of his tunes and found a piece about organs with something about a minor D. Probably a comedy. I hoped so – I could do with a laugh.
“Play.” I breathed in the thick, sweet smell, storing up the sensation of Facs-mining on the Node – something I didn’t do nearly enough. Looking across at the bubbling organi-packs glowing in their transparent tanks, I wished I could spend more time here, rather than snatch these forbidden stints when Mother was away.
The sound pealed out. What was the instrument? The notes seemed to stop, then to stack up on each other as they roared around the room, making Mother’s flower vases buzz on the stone floor. It was unlike anything I’d ever heard. Torrents of melody attacked, drowning me in a rush of yearning. Everything seemed bright, and achingly beautiful.
The final crashing chord faded into silence.
Vrox sways, crooning with delight…
“Again.” I closed my eyes as the monumental music thundered around me. I was Tranced by Vrox’s joy as his emotion rolled through me, swept along by the reverberating climax—
I was stunned by a hard blow. And another. My hurt-hot ear rang with the impact. My cheek felt numb and heavy; my mouth filled with blood.
Vrox rears up, startled – sorry he hadn’t noticed her approach…
“Turn it off! Turn it off!” Mother shrieked over the music. Her distorted face shivered in my vision for a shock-stalled eternity. Snatches of her rant filtered through Bach’s bone-buzzing crescendo, making her fury seem even worse, “…-icked girl… -ways think you know best… –dare to override my passwor…” The organ tune stopped abruptly, just as she screamed, “…ate you! I hate you…
Her words echoed horribly in the small room.
I jerked to my feet. She’s finally admitted it. Axe-sharp hurt immediately snuffed out the flicker of relief, that I’d been right all these years. “Think I don’t know?” My voice shook, on the edge of tears. But grown girls of seventeen shouldn’t cry in front of their mothers. I spun round, stumbling over a vase, and ran. Out into the hot sunlight. Past the stable, whose sharp smell reminded me I still hadn’t mucked out the camel stall or goat pens. I scrabbled at the keycode on the sidegate, my shaking fingers making a hash of it.
She ran after me, yelling my name. Her panting echoed between the house and high fence, getting closer. Finally, as Vrox focused, I got the sequence right. The gate snicked open as she grabbed for my arm. I twisted away, the burn of her nails raking my skin. Skidding through the gate, I slammed it shut in her face. I sprinted across the front yard and past the first startled Node enquirer of the day, over the village courtyard, heading for Westgate. Heat settled like a greasy coat as I raced down Main Street, dust clotting my nose and throat.
At Westgate, Cupert Peaceman, the village security guard, dodged out of the way. Just as well, because I wasn’t stopping for him, or anyone else. Ignoring several calls, driven by the need to get away, I finally slowed, winded and hurting, on the open road where the verges were widened to discourage hostile wildlife. The sun beat down in a suffocating sheet.
Haven’t got a sunscreen – better find some shade. I tottered along on chewed-string legs, coughing up dust. Mother would say it was my punishment. The thought of her pushed me on.
Turning onto Mantivore Way was a relief. The palm tree clumps offered shade and the smell of the water strengthened my legs. I pushed through the shoulder-high reeds, which used to swish over my head, swallowing me whole. Moist leaves slapped against my sore legs. I broke off a brown-brittled stem, whipping it around and stamping noisily to frighten off any lone jaspers or nemmets sheltering from the sun. River silt seeped through my sandals, soothing my feet as I paddled in the murky water. Reaching my sanctuary – a stranded treetrunk – I sat down and rested my eyes on the river.
Sunslit water glitters through the swaying stalks. Scents of river ooze and crushed leaves tickle Vrox’s nostrils. Wind rocks the reeds with a sighing rattle…
See? I was right. She really hates me… For once Vrox, my imaginary childhood companion, was wrong. He reckoned mothers found their daughters annoying, but that, deep down, they cared.
Vrox croons comfort noises, his vari-colour scales flickering in shades of green and blue.
His image flashed on my inscape, while his sympathy finally broke my resolve not to cry. I buried my face in my hands and sobbed until no more tears would come, while the mantivore paced and huffed his sympathy. Finally, I wiped my eyes, blew my nose and stared across the river, where a cargo boat laden with olives throbbed downstream, headed for Reseda. I watched it disappear around the bend, wishing I was on the deck. But then I’d forfeit my right to be Brarian. Waste Uncle Osmar’s painful effort. Besides, I wanted the job – the Node was the only place I felt truly happy. Other than this place. I stared hungrily at the peaceful patterning of light and water. If I came here more often maybe life would seem worth the effort it takes to breathe.
Vrox churrs a strong agreement…
A swishing of reeds warned me, so he faded from my consciousness before I heard the voice. “Kyrillia?”
I relaxed. “Here, Onice.”
“You braced?”
“I’ve been better.”
She high-stepped into the small space surrounding the treetrunk, and carefully sat on the trunk, lifting her skirts clear of the muddy water. “Saw you pelting down the road, so I figured you’d be here.” Handing me a sunscreen, she added, “You’d better borrow this.”
Typical of Onice to worry about me getting fried to a greasy spot. “Oh! Many thanks. I’ll get it back to you tomorrow.”
“She on to you, again?” Onice’s forehead creased in concern.
Grabbing at a reed stem, I rolled it between my fingers.
I hate you… Mother’s wrath-reddened face blazed through my mind as I opened my mouth to frame the words. And closed it. What could I say? I’d watched Onice bask in her parents’ affection with shocked envy ever since I’d been old enough to understand it. She knew that Mother and I fought – she regularly tangled with her own father. But she’d never make sense of Mother’s loathing for me.
And if she did, maybe she’d realise I wasn’t worth her friendship. I stared at the river. “Found that Music site on the Node and played a song. That was when she caught me.”
Onice clicked her tongue. “Bet what had her steaming was you breaking through her passwords and sneaking onto the Node. Again.”
“Hm.” The reed stem mashed to a papery pulp between my fingers. Onice never understood why I persisted in using the Node, despite Mother’s strict ban. But then, I hadn’t told her about Vrox and his constant longing for the Node, either.
“There’s talk about restarting an inter-village apprentice network, Da says. Some girl drowned herself last month in Pistacia cos of her family’s beatings. Maybe you could get yourself signed up for it.” So Onice figures I’ve angered Mother to breaking point.
I hate you… I pushed the memory away, trying to think straight.
“And if I get apprenticed away from here, what happens to Uncle Osmar? She wouldn’t take proper care of him.” I tore at another reed stem.
Onice shrugged. “You got to live your own life. Your Uncle’s had his chances.”
I sighed. It seemed a hard way to treat the old man, especially after all he’d taught me. But it was a sharp-edged situation and if there’d been an easy option I’d already have taken it.
Onice stood up. “Got to get back. Just wanted to make sure you were alright.”
She’s worried I might follow that poor girl into the river. So she dropped all her chores and came after me. I let go of the reed and hugged her. Hard. “Thanks for coming.” I struggled for a solid way to show my gratitude. “If you’re working late, I’ll come by and lend a hand.”
She shook her head, laughing. “Well if I’m working late, you’ll be slogging even later, you crip-wit!”
“S’pose so.” I shakily joined in the laughter, before she left to face certain punishment from her parents, who didn’t like me.

NETTED Cover Reveal!

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My near-future science fiction adventure, Netted, set in post-apocalyptic Maine is due to be released on 1st October by Grimbold Publishing – and here is the cover! My super-friend Mhairi, who designed it, has done a fabulous job. I particularly love the title font…

 

BLURB: In post-apocalyptic Maine, safety is the highest priority. Every citizen is Netted, their thoughts monitored for homicidal, lawless impulses. But being Netted can cause as many problems as it solves.

Years after everyone thought they’d died, a young family are discovered, safe and sound,
living in the wilderness. As their delighted relations race to pick them up, Boyce is
overwhelmed with relief that the daily battle to keep their small son, Hardy, safe has been
lifted from his shoulders.

His wife, Kris, dreads returning to the settlement where she was born and raised. Her mental
powers make living among others difficult, even dangerous, but even she is unprepared for
the catastrophic events that follow.
Safety comes at a price.

Below is the opening section of the book to give you an idea of whether it’s your kind of read – if you would like a review copy, let me know in the comment section below. I have EPUB and MOBI versions available.

CHAPTER ONE
Kris
‘This is the way we stamp on our clothes…’ We sang the usual washing song.

Well, I sang it. Hardy bawled the words at the top of his voice.

We were having a lot of fun, so why was I thinking of Cora and Raif? In a flyer. Looking drawn and sad. Raif, in particular, was dreading the moment they’d arrive at the cabin and start the task of clearing out the place. Still guilt-reamed. Still uselessly wishing he’d done it differently. If only I’d kept my cave-sized mouth shut. If only I hadn’t suggested Boyce take Kris to the cabin, they’d be alive today. And we wouldn’t be here…

I froze, tingling with shock. They’re on their way. Here. Now.

Hardy jerked my hands. ‘Mama, Mama, dance. Again.’

I stared down at my waterbaby. Your whole life is about to change. Every single thing in it will be different from this day forward. And there’s nothing I can do to stop it.

Because right on the heels of the knowledge that we were about to be rescued, was the sharp-edged realisation that I didn’t want to return to Sebago Hold.

Before I had time to absorb this info-bomb, Boyce’s excitement fizzed across my mind like a glowing firework. For sure, Kris – they’re really coming? We’ve done it! Kept Hardy alive and well. All these years… His relief and joy was so intense I could taste it.

My skin heated with his emotion, while my own reaction shrank to a cold ball in the pit of my stomach as I scooped up a protesting Hardy and made for the cabin. Being naked when I met my in-laws for the first time in four years wasn’t an option. I jigged Hardy in my arms as I ran up the path, stilling his yells over our interrupted water play, wishing I could shield him from all the change about to cascade around him.
Boyce sprinted along the lake path, his delight pulsing through me.

Has he really hated it out here so much? It was a hurtful thought. I watched the muscles flex beneath his tanned skin, his sunbleached hair streaming behind him, aware I wouldn’t see him like this again for a long time. If ever… Back in the cabin, I hauled on some clothes, then rushed around tidying up so Raif and Cora wouldn’t think I hadn’t been looking after things.

While Boyce pulled on a pair of trousers, I heard him mentally debating whether to suggest that it wouldn’t matter to his parents if the table was cluttered with breakfast things. So I felt better when he joined in my frantic efforts to make the place look more suitable for visitors.

Visitors. Here in the cabin. It felt plain wrong.

Boyce looked across at Hardy, who’d retreated under the table with his sticks and stones. Should you get him dressed?

Hardy was going through a phase of not wanting to wear clothes, and I hadn’t bothered to butt heads with him about it. Who was around to care? In this humid summer heat, I couldn’t blame him. I reconsidered – should I put him in a shirt? I shuddered at the thought of his screams while he ripped it off as soon as he could. Not the best way to meet his grandparents for the first time, that was for sure.
I sensed Boyce’s agreement, along with an undercurrent of anxiety that they’d approve of Hardy.

Another hurtful thought. It’s not their business. They haven’t the right to judge us. No one else knows what it’s been like, raising a child out here. But even as I railed against it, I knew that everyone would be watching our son, drawing their own conclusions over his behaviour. I stopped ramming the dirty crocks in the solar steriliser and shut my eyes. This is just some weird dream. Please…

Boyce folded me in his arms. It’ll be fine. You’ll see. I understand why you’re afraid – but things will be better.

I tried to smile up at him. But that was the problem with being NetLinked. He knew just how I felt. And the fact that we saw this business so differently wasn’t helping one bit.

Which was when we heard the flyer. Boyce sped down to the beach, frantically rushing around with stones and bits of stick. Hardy emerged from under the table and scampered off to join him. Hardy majorly related to sticks and stones. I shoved more stuff under the bed and cursed my decision to skip indoor chores in favour of washing the blankets. And I tried – very hard – to feel excited at the prospect of returning to Sebago.

Cover reveal – Dying for Space – shiny, new and more appealing!

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As you may know, I changed the covers for the first two books in the Sunblinded trilogy. Immediately, I noticed an improvement in my sales for Running Out of Space. However, as we sat down and looked at the last six months, cover maven, Mhairi and I realised that the new cover for Dying for Space had absolutely no impact. Not a single person felt drawn to buy it after the initial flurry died down after the book launch blog tour.

 

I wondered whether this one looked a bit ‘death mask’ and that was putting off potential readers, given the title is Dying for Space. Mhairi speculated that with the pink tint and her closed eyes, Lizzy looked as though she was… um… having a very nice time. And as I haven’t been targetting a readership interested in erotic fiction in space, Mhairi thought the possibility might be disuading readers from giving this one a go.

 

So she’s come up with this one, instead. It definitely still has the same branding as the first book, with the advantage that Lizzy is clearly alive if a tad pensive – and there is no possibility that this can mistaken for anything other than a space opera adventure featuring a heroine, whose action scenes take place outside the bedroom… This one is going live on Thursday, but I thought I’d share it with you all, first.

Do let me know what you think!