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A Winter’s Day Off

hocking hills winter

A Winter’s Day Off
By Jana Denardo
Author’s Note – This was written for the 12 days of ficmas challenge and for the word of the month challenge (the word being hat and the supernatural beings being a werewolf, a vampire and a druid-magic user).
XXX

“I’m going to say it again, it’s our day off. We never get days off. We should be home, in front of the fire doing stuff to make Aphrodite happy,” Jason grumbled, stomping along the snow-covered ‘Granny’ pathway winding along Ash Cave’s lower rim. Faolan preferred actual woodland paths but at this time of year, he couldn’t quibble about taking the paved path. The fact he had actually cajoled Jason out into the woods for a late afternoon hike was a miracle in and of itself, and he’d probably have to do a lot of things to ‘make Aphrodite happy’ to make it up to the vampire.

“It’s a beautiful day out,” Faolan said, even though it was a lie. It was so grey and sunless Jason didn’t even need sunblock and an umbrella to be outside without a problem.

“You lie worth shit,” Jason replied, rubbing his arms. Faolan doubted he could possibly be that cold. He had on his ‘big coat,’ snow boots, snowmobiling, negative degrees rated gloves that he’d gotten Goddess knew where, a Steelers hat pulled down to his sunglasses – not that he needed them- and the Doctor Who scarf Faolan had given him wrapped all the way up to his nose.

“Vampires, do they ever stop bitching?” Derrek asked, happily striding along next to them. Faolan wasn’t sure the werewolf was any happier being out in the cold park until he saw how miserable it was making the hot-blooded Jason. Faolan swore they lived to torment each other. He also swore he was the only sane one in this threesome.

“Shut up, furball.”

“Bite me, if you can get your fangs past all those layers of scarf,” Derrek replied, putting a hand out to against a hemlock’s trunk for balance as his boot skidded.

Faolan tugged down his tousle cap in Star Trek blue, complete with Spock ears, that his grandmother had crocheted for him. Maybe if he got it down over his ears far enough, it would muffle their bickering. Doubtful. He’d probably hear them even if someone cast a deafness spell on him. He fingered his ever-present magic wand riding in his coat pocket. Maybe he should cast one on himself. No, then he’d miss the subtle sounds of winter birds and animals as they strolled on toward Ash Cave. Maybe he could cast a mute spell on them.

“Besides, you know how druids are better than me,” Derrek continued. “You’ve been with him way longer. You knew Faolan was coming out here with or without us.”

Jason huffed, saying nothing because he knew it was true. Faolan was glad they came for all their bickering. He wanted to share this part of his life with them. He loved nature. What Druid didn’t? He knew they might never see the cycle of the seasons in the way he did, but of the two, Derrek would come closer. Werewolves were all about their senses. Derrek was more aware of the squirrels, chipmunks and foxes that might be scampering about than Faolan was. Jason was more the ‘this winter shit needs a glass of wine while I read by the fire’ type, when he wasn’t doing Aphrodite things by said fire.

“I did want to see the frozen waterfall. You have to admit, that’s going to be something to behold,” Faolan said.

“Want to know what else is frozen? Jason jabbed a finger toward his belt line. “I’m expected it to be warmed up properly.”

“Don’t worry, we’ll cant a heating vent that,” Faolan replied, smirking. Derrek brayed with laughter, startling something that crashed through the underbrush.

“No respect, that’s all I get.” Jason seemed to sink even deeper into his coat as they rounded the bend, and the horseshoe shaped shell of the recess cave came into view.

Faolan paused for a moment, taking in the distant view. Snow clung to the sandstone hollow and dusted the staircase leading up to the higher rim. Normally, he’d take that path back but it probably wasn’t safe. It did have something of a drop down halfway back to the parking lot. He could hear the trickle of water from the creek above.

Even Jason and Derrek stopped their bickering when they spotted the vista. Faolan snapped several photos of the cave and creek from this distance and one of his lovers framed by the snowy cliff-side. Together they walked down to the small beach that thrust its way into Ash Cave. From the lip of the cliff, long daggers of ice dangled like the sword of Damocles. One was more pillar than dagger. Another pillar thrust up from the ground like some giant candle complete with melted wax appearance. Between the two pillars some of the water fell, still liquid.

“Okay, so it is worth seeing,” Jason said, slipping an arm around Faolan’s waist.

“It’s gorgeous, isn’t it?” Faolan murmured, entranced as he always was when he visited here in winter.

“Yeah,” Derrek said, edging closer to the ice stalagmite.

Faolan peeled off his gloves and touched the pillar of ice then cupped them upwards, letting the frigid water trickle through his fingers as he said a little prayer. He dried his hands on his wool pea coat, pulled the gloves back on before wielding his camera again. He knew he couldn’t capture the true beauty of it but he’d try. After capturing the panoramic views, he went to macro views and slowly realized he was working in silence.

Glancing around he spotted Jason and Derrek deeper into the cave recess kissing against the stone wall. That was about the only time they were ever quiet. He caught several photos of that before they realized what he was up to and drew him into their embrace and their fiery kisses. All were in agreement it was too damn cold for more than kisses. Faolan reluctantly said goodbye to Ash Cave and her wintery veil of ice and snow.

Derrek suddenly sat on a large flat rock, kicking off his boots. Jason eyed him then snorted. “Wolves, none of them are right.”

“Shut up.” Derrek hurriedly stripped, his jewels acting like any human’s – retreating up for warmth. “Carry my stuff!”

With that he began to shift. Faolan distributed the discarded clothing between him and Jason. He had to say Derrek’s fur looked too luxurious to not stroke so he gave his lover a pet. Derrek barked then raced for the creek. He skidded out onto the frozen section, ran around like he was on the dog track then started loping down the path. Dropping Derrek’s clothing, Jason stooped and made a half-hearted snowball before whipping it at Derrek. The werewolf leaped up, catching it in his mouth, making happy dog sounds.

Jason snorted and scooped up the clothing again, wagging his head. “Wolves, they just are so weird.”

“You’re just jealous you don’t have a nice warm coat of fur.” Faolan grinned, a little jealous himself.

“Keep telling yourself that.” Jason reached out and took Faolan’s hand. He tugged Faolan in for a kiss, and then walked back toward the car, still holding hands.

Derrek trotted along with them with occasional forays into the underbrush after gods knew what. Faolan didn’t mind. He knew Derrek wouldn’t bring them back a squirrel as a ‘gift.’ He couldn’t deny Derrek time to play as a wolf. Werewolves needed their fur time.

“So, I have ideas for how you can thank me for freezing my balls to death out here.” Jason grinned, giving Faolan’s hand a squeeze.

“Tell me all about them.”

Faolan couldn’t wait to hear them. When it came to bedroom games, Jason always had the best ideas. It was hardly a punishment for making Jason freeze. Time to commune with nature and time to be loved on by Jason and Derrek, what better way could there be to spend a day off?

New Release – The Stark Divide

The_Stark_Divide_Updated-2.jpgThe Stark Divide

By J. Scott Coatsworth

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:

DSP Publications (paperback): https://www.dsppublications.com/books/the-stark-divide-by-j-scott-coatsworth-416-b

DSP Publications (eBook): https://www.dsppublications.com/books/the-stark-divide-by-j-scott-coatsworth-415-b

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B074G2NJP6

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-stark-divide-j-scott-coatsworth/1126901106?ean=9781635338324

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-stark-divide

iBooks: https://geo.itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-stark-divide/id1266474103?mt=11&at=1l3vtqV

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35834187-the-stark-divide

QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/book/the-stark-divide/

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

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:

Website: https://www.jscottcoatsworth.com

Facebook (personal): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworth

Facebook (author page): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworthauthor/

Twitter: https://www.facebook.com/jscoatsworth/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8392709.J_Scott_Coatsworth

QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/j-scott-coatsworth/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/J.-Scott-Coatsworth/e/B011AFO4OQ

Deep Thoughts

A few months ago Queer Sci Fi ran a discussion about whether the turbulent, ugly political clime had changed our reading and writing habits. At the time I thought, ‘no, not really’ and didn’t take part. However, I keep track of my reading for various reading challenges. Hell, if I were as meticulous about the rest of my life as I am about that reading list, my house would be on Better Homes & Gardens and my novels would be plotted to perfection.

When I looked over it, I realized I had subtly changed my reading habits. I’ve always read more mysteries than anything else but this year that’s almost all I’ve read. As of me writing this, I’ve read 102 book (including manga) and less than a dozen have been YA or fantasy. That was a bit shocking but I thought no more about it.

Then I started reading Seraphina for the Popsugar Challenge read a book recommended by a favorite author. It’s an interesting fantasy with a strong female lead and I set it aside half way through (or maybe a bit earlier than that). It was blatantly about racial intolerance (and one would assume defeating the evil of it but there’s no guarantee). In this case human vs dragon but the implications were obvious and I couldn’t escape thinking ‘if I wanted to be immersed in that, I can turn on the news.’ I just couldn’t finish it. There might have been a happy ending or relatively so but I couldn’t make myself read it.

I meant to write this post then but life intervened. I got busy. And more horrible shit has happened in the world. Two weeks ago I started another YA fantasy, Julia Vanishes. Like Seraphina, it’s an interesting world with a strong female lead…and the story is becoming the loss of freedoms and rights, the turning away/attacking of immigrants as the leadership becomes a theocracy and women are bearing the brunt of it. Yeah, no, I just can’t. Maybe at another time I could read this but right now with Trump and his bullshit, I simply can’t heap fictional misery upon real life.

Now, I know some authors need to use their writing as an outlet for this stuff, to work through their own feelings. In theory in far less turbulent times, I did write one novel where the bad guys were trying to erode the rights of women and homosexuals (about 13 years ago now) but it didn’t work well. I had another which was about racial intolerance before I gave it up. I lost the heart to do it. One of my potential nanos would have featured a new but growing intolerant religion but nope, I just cannot do it. That one is for after nano (maybe for camp next spring) when I can replot the villains.

So I was wrong. I have changed, partially subconsciously. I’ve never really liked dystopias so I thought yeah I haven’t really changed my reading but yes I guess I’ve started avoiding fantasies with sweeping political plots. I think I like mysteries because they’re so small picture, if you will. We’re concentrating on a murder and not the state of the world for the most part. How ironic is it that fictionalized murder is less disturbing to me than fictionalized political/racial strife.

Renewal Release!

QSF Renewal-Print

QSF has a new book out, the latest in our series of flash fiction anthologies:

Re.new.al (noun)

1) Resuming an activity after an interruption, or
2) Extending a contract, subscription or license, or
3) Replacing or repairing something that is worn out, run-down, or broken, or
4) Rebirth after death.

Four definitions to spark inspiration, a limitless number of stories to be conceived. Only 110 made the cut.

Thrilling to hopeful, Renewal features 300-word speculative fiction ficlets about sexual and gender minorities to entice readers.

Welcome to Renewal.

Mischief Corner Books (info only) | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Goodreads


Renewal Banner

Excerpt

Because these stories are only 300 words each, we’re not supplying long excerpts, but here are the first lines of several of the stories. Enjoy!

“Griselda pulled the weeds from between the rows of Valerianella locusta plants in the garden, careful not to disturb the buds that would grow into the babies that were her only real income-producing crop.” —The Witches’ Garden, by Rie Sheridan Rose

“I didn’t know how truly the world was in trouble until I went journeying to look for Anisette’s bluebonnets.” —Bluebonnets, by Emily Horner

“The ship’s drive malfunctioned at the worst possible time.” —The Return, by Andrea Speed

“Before we continue, there’s a rather macabre fact about me I should share.” —Rejuvenation, by Christine Wright

“When I died they buried me at the bottom of the garden and returned to the fields.” —Below the Hill, by Matthew Bright

“The world is ending and I can’t look away from your eyes.” —Sunrise, by Brigitte Winter

““Losing one’s superpowers to your arch nemesis sucks donkey nuts, I tell ya. And trust me when I say I suck a lot of them.” —Rainbow Powers, by Dustin Karpovich

“The day I was born again was damp, rainy—a good day for rebirth, all things considered.” —The Birthing Pod, by Michelle Browne

“Intwir’s twelve eyes roved over the container, taking in the cracked outer lock and the elasticated fabric stretched tightly over its exterior.” —In a Bind, by S R Jones

“‘You’ve reached Androgyne HelpLine. Press one to start service. Press two to interrupt or cancel service. Press three—’” —Auto-Renew, by Ginger Streusel

“The doctor tells me that my wife is dying, but I already know.” —I Will Be Your Shelter, by Carey Ford Compton

“‘San Francisco was the first to go dark, followed by Los Angeles.’” —When Light Left, by Lex Chase

“My fingers lingered on the synthetic skin, trailing soft patterns across my work.” —Miss You, by Stephanie Shaffer


Ebook:

http://www.mischiefcornerbooks.com/store/p123/Renewal%3A_Queer_Sci_Fi%27s_Fourth_Annual_Flash_Fiction_Contest.html

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/renewal-27

https://www.24symbols.com/book/x/x/x?id=2333692

https://play.playster.com/books/10009781386116653/renewal-j-scott-coatsworth

Print (b/w illustrations only):

Paperback (color illustrations, est available 9/16 – preorder now)

Included Authors

‘Nathan Burgoine
A.M. Leibowitz
A.M. Soto
Abby Bartle
Aidee Ladnier
Alexis Woods
Andi Deacon
Andrea Felber Seligman
Andrea Speed
Andrea Stanet
Anne McPherson
Bey Deckard
Brigitte Winter
Carey Ford Compton
Carol Holland March
Carrie Pack
Catherine Lundoff
CB Lee
Christine Wright
Colton Aalto
Daniel Mitton
Dustin Blottenberger
Dustin Karpovich
E R Zhang
E.J. Russell
E.W. Murks
Ell Schulman
Ellery Jude
Eloreen Moon
Elsa M León
Emily Horner
Eric Alan Westfall
F.T. Lukens
Fenrir Cerebellion
Foster Bridget Cassidy
Ginger Streusel
Hannah Henry
Irene Preston
J. Alan Veerkamp
J. P. Egry
J. Summerset
J.S. Fields
Jaap Boekestein
Jackie Keswick
Jana Denardo
Jeff Baker
Jenn Burke
Joe Baumann
John Moralee
Jon Keys
Jude Dunn
K.C. Faelan
Kelly Haworth
Kiterie Aine
Kristen Lee
L M Somerton
L. Brian Carroll
L.M. Brown
L.V. Lloyd
Laurie Treacy
Leigh M. Lorien
Lex Chase
Lia Harding
Lin Kelly
Lloyd A. Meeker
Lyda Morehouse
M.D. Grimm
Martha J. Allard
Mary E. Lowd
Matt Doyle
Matthew Bright
Mia Koutras
Michelle Browne
Milo Owen
Mindy Leana Shuman
Naomi Tajedler
Natsuya Uesugi
Nephy Hart
Nicole Dennis
Ofelia Gränd
Patricia Scott
Paul Stevens
PW Covington
R R Angell
R.L. Merrill
Rebecca Cohen
Redfern Jon Barrett
Reni Kieffer
Richard Amos
RL Mosswood
Robyn Walker
Rory Ni Coileain
Rose Blackthorn
Ross Common
S R Jones
Sacchi Green
Sarah Einstein
Shilo Quetchenbach
Siri Paulson
Soren Summers
Stephanie Shaffer
Steve Fuson
Tam Ames
Terry Poole
Tray Ellis
Vivien Dean
Wendy Rathbone
Xenia Melzer
Zen DiPietro
Zev de Valera