Sunday, October 29, 2017

eBook Feature! The Stark Divide by J. Scott Coatsworth

I'm very happy to share a great new scifi story released by J. Scott Coatsworth, the first in a new series!

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

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

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.

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Author Bio:

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.

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.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter Two

Hey everyone! I'm continuing last week's new story, Denied. This week's prompt is: Maybe you should slow down a little. 

The softness underneath my body, the smooth fabric against my face, the scent permeating the air… it was too much and yet not enough. I took small, quick breaths and gripped the edge of the pillow. It smelled like him, like Captain. Not even the pain of touching these things could take away the wonder of them.
“What is he wearing?”
I peeked out of the corner of my eye, not wanting to face them head on.
“Not sure,” Captain said. “I didn’t feel any seams.”
“Certainly fits tight enough. I won’t have to do much of an exam to ensure he’s not injured.”
Captain’s cheeks turned red, and he cleared his throat. “I’ll leave you to it.” He turned and walked away, but the other one stayed. Man… woman… I couldn’t tell. I wasn’t stupid; the aliens had educated me, and I remembered what humans were, but there was an unknown quality to this one. Their hair was level with their pointed chin, narrow shoulders and hips, soft in a way but not rounded. Their eyes were sharp as they studied me though.
I wanted that to stop.
A second later, I wanted the person to go back to where they were.
“No,” I said. I squirmed away from the edge of the bed.
“It’s just to check you don’t need any medical care, so I need you to take off that garment” They spread their hands out to the sides. “My name is Aparoe. I won’t harm you.”
I shook my head. “It stays on.” It had never been off. My torment, a constant punishment if I sought comfort. Even the touch of my own skin on the outside triggered it. Sometimes my need overwhelmed my resistance to touch, like when Captain appeared.
Everywhere he’d touched me burned like fire now. It might go away in a little while or last for what felt like forever. I never knew. But I was out of my cell, at least for now, and that was worth it.
Aparoe cocked their head. “You don’t want to take it off?”
“Can’t.” I shook my head again, watching Aparoe closely for signs they were moving.
“Hmm.” They pulled out some device, and I recoiled, falling off the other side of the bed. The blanket came with me, and tangled around my legs. I flailed, trying to get it off. Aparoe was hovering over me before I could free myself. I yelped.
“Please stay calm. Maybe you should slow down a little. I won’t touch you. I’d like to scan this… thing you’re wearing.”
I couldn’t get free, and if they came closer, I’d endure the punishment for their touch. That was the last thing I wanted to do. I froze, watching their every move. Waiting for the betrayal.
My family had given me away.
Aliens had tested and punished me.
The universe was a vast array of planets and peoples who didn’t care what happened to me, or any other person turned into property. To be harvested or purchased for the worth we could provide and then tossed aside.
Like how Captain had just left me here.
Resentment washed over me, and I glared at Aparoe for a second before they inched closer and I tried to melt into the floor. But that had never worked for me in the past.
“Oh stars and moons,” they said breathily. “That thing is grafted onto your nerves. It’s doing something, stimulating them. What is it doing? What do you feel?”
“Itching.” Confusion marred Aparoe’s face.
“And pain.”
Their mouth dropped open and their eyes widened. “Pain?”
I nodded. “Always.”
“To punish me. To keep me from touching. From being touched.” Not that there had been anyone in my cell to touch me. But they’d sometimes sent in machines that did things, made me see things, and then the needles would become spikes that pierced my brain like giant shards of ice, freezing me in eons of agony….
“We’ll get it off you.” Aparoe touched my arm, and I yanked it back. They looked down at the machine and their eyes widened. “Your arm.”
It was on fire. I held it to my side to avoid making it worse. The impulse to cradle it close was there, but I’d learned to suppress it a long time ago.
“Your arm. Your back. Under your legs. Anywhere you’ve been touched.” Their color was pasty-white, nearly as pale as me. They scooted back, farther away from me, and I slowly moved too, untangling my legs from the cover that had slipped off the bed on top of me. “How are we going to get it off you?”
I inched back, looking over my shoulder. There was a corner, one I could sit in and brace my body without actually touching myself, just like the corner in my cell. There was even some sort of table there that would protect my head. The room hadn’t felt big at first, but as my pain and panic grew, I found myself wishing for my cell again.
This was too different. My heart raced, and I couldn’t slow down my breathing. I risked my own body heat triggering the suit if I leaned too hard against the wall, but I couldn’t move. This all had to stop.
“Hey, hey, calm down. Take a deep breath.” Aparoe held up a hand and patted the air in front of me. “It’s going to be fine.”
I shook my head, my shoulders curved and my stomach caving in with each gasp. Nothing was fine. This had to be a test. One of those things they’d put in my head to make me lower my guard. Make me break the rules. I’d already done that, so the punishment had to be coming soon.
I’d never left my cell, not since they locked me up. It was going to be bad. So bad.
Darkness swirled around me, and I lost control, slumping sideways against the wall.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter One

Hey everyone! It's time for a new flash story! This one is titled "Denied" and it's based off the 300 word flash fiction story First Contact. This week's prompt is: Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

I endured years of experiments at the hands of sadistic aliens. Barely eighteen, I've been rescued from the tiny cell and the years of enforced sensory deprivation. Lost, with no family or friends I can remember or would turn to if I could, I'm alone in the universe... except for the humans who saved me. The Captain. Zeke. Doc. A crew of misfit Rangers, a ragtag bunch operating just this side of legal--and often on the other side when circumstances are right--are not the kind to help someone “like me” recover. Captain wants to send me away, but I can't leave. No one else can touch me.

He's it for me, the strength I can't function without.

Chapter One:

The wall burst open. I trembled, retreating to my corner.


I huddled into a ball. Men! Where did they come from? Earth was so far away.

“We found another, Zeke.” One crouched down, creeping closer. Another man came in, and I cringed. They were too close. “What’s his file say?”

The new one looked at the square device my captors always carried. “Deprivation for sexual reprogramming.”  

“Sadistic bastards. How long?”

“Seven years, Captain.” The men both cursed and stared. I wanted them to stop looking at me like that. “He’s barely eighteen. He was just a kid—still is.”

“You speak? Can you understand me?” The one called Captain was so close I could smell him. Spicy, with a whiff of the first scent other than mine I could remember smelling in a long time. I think that’s why I woke up screaming. It’d been so long. The aliens had no scent, and they never came into my room.

No touching.

“I won’t hurt you. Understand?”

I shook my head, sure the green ones were testing me again.

“Sure you do. We’ll get you out of here.” Captain reached out slowly.

“No,” I whimpered. I’d never be free, could never be among humans again. They’d told me, over and over. Even if I wanted to—

“Just grab him,” Zeke said.

“After what they’ve done? No. He has to decide, if he has any chance of recovery.”

Zeke frowned, taking another step down the corridor. “Don’t got all day, Captain. Reinforcements are coming.”

“Keep looking. I’ll stay here.” Alone now, Captain smiled at me, his blue eyes holding a warmth I’d nearly forgotten.

I gasped. The years, and the punishments, had turned most of my memory into a haze, but I remembered smiles. And hugs—before they gave me away. Before I’d been turned into an experiment.

“You’re safe.” Captain’s hand ghosted above my arm, so close. So warm. I gasped. The never-ending need, forced down so deep, overflowed. Unable to stop myself, I launched forward, huddling into Captain’s gentle arms.

I shivered, my heart racing. “Out. Please.” If this was another test, I’d already failed. And I would never be able to walk out of my cell on my own, but maybe, if he took me, I could do it. For just a little while before the aliens stuffed me back in and punished me for this luxury of touch.

Captain’s clothes were smooth, his hands warm. The warmth exacerbated the itching and pain from my suit, but I didn’t care. I tucked my face against him, the only area not covered by the infernal garment the aliens had stuffed me into back on the fateful day.

He stood, and Captain grunted. “You’re tall, but you don’t weigh a thing.” His voice was rich with… something. Just hearing Standard was foreign, but I couldn’t tell anything from his voice, other than it was different from when he’d first talked to me. Had I done something wrong?

Of course I had. I’d touched him. I started to squirm, to get down, to dart back into my cell, but he tightened his arms around me. “Stop!”

I froze, shuddering as the thousand pinpricks sent a wave of pain through my body, especially where his arms were banded across my back and under my legs.

“That’s better. I don’t want to drop you.” Captain was walking away down a featureless corridor, doors like the one to my cell passing at regular intervals. They were open. “Just be patient until we get to my ship and medical can take a look at you.”

More humans?

In moments, we’d left the corridor and the space opened up. It was bigger than anything I could remember being in before, and that scared me. My stomach roiled, and I fought down the urge to vomit. I whimpered, low, broken.

“Shh, it’s okay. Almost there.”

Captain didn’t hesitate, walking right toward an opening… into nothing? I shrieked when the darkness closed over us, the material under my grasping hands hardening as I fought. I hated the darkness, long periods of no light, nothing but the sound of my own breathing. Why was he doing this to me? Was this my punishment?

“Hey. Hey! Stop.”

Too late.

I fell and hit the ground, hard, crying out again. I huddled there, unable to even see my hand. My breath sped up, faster and faster. I groped at the floor, looking for the wall, a corner, somewhere I could huddle safely.

“Hey.” A light, a beacon practically painful in its intensity compared to the dark, appeared. Captain’s face was in it. “I’m right here. It’s just a transporter capsule. We’ll be on my ship in a moment.”

I had no idea what he was talking about. Captain sighed. “Just stay still.” He crouched next to me and then did something. Warmth suffused my body, and then the darkness was gone. The white walls were gone.

The room was brightly colored, full of objects I thought I remembered. A bed. A chair. Captain stopped touching me, but he waved his hand toward what I hoped was a bed. “I want you to lie down there. Do you need help?”

I crouched, creeping along the floor with its soft coverings. “No.” I crawled onto the bed.

Captain did something, and a tone echoed through the room a minute later. He walked over to one wall, and a door slid open. Another human stood there.

“I’m flooded with patients you’ve released that need medical care. Why did you call me down here?”

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. I have another one for you. I thought it best not to take him to medical, after where he’s been for the last seven years.”

The other human’s mouth fell open. “Seven… years?”

Captain nodded, his mouth white. I didn’t like the way his face scrunched up or the way the other one stared at me. I buried my face against the bed.


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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: Mine! Part Two Chapter Forty

No prompt this week, but enjoy the chapter anyway! 

I braced both arms on the shower walls and looked down. Steam filled the shower stall, and Ritch was behind me. He’d scrubbed my front and then my back, and now he was plastered against me, his hands rubbing soapy bubbles up and down my abs… and lower.

My plan had been to come inside and apologize, maybe sleep on the couch if Ritch was really mad. I’d screwed up, big time, but my mate was forgiving.

Ritch curled his hand around my length, and I gasped, my hips punching forward.

Very forgiving.

“That’s right. I’ll give you what you need.” Ritch rubbed his cheek against the back of my shoulder. He squeezed the head of my cock when I pushed my ass back, his shaft sliding up my crack. I loved it, grinding into him, but then I had to thrust forward.

I couldn’t figure out which way I liked better, and it was a struggle to not go crazy with Ritch moaning against my shoulder, his hand caressing my length while he moved counter to me, rubbing his cock along my crack. My leg was still healing, and I knew he would stop me if he thought I was overdoing it.

Not that I could feel any pain in my leg. The pleasure tightened my balls, pulling them up tight to my body, and the ache in my groin grew. My need to come began to eclipse everything, and I panted. The wet heat of the shower raining down on us and the musky scent of my mate sent me into orbit.

White streams of come shot from the tip of my cock to coat the tiles and my mate’s hand. Sometime during the eternity of seconds my balls turned inside out, Ritch came, his hand tightening spasmodically as he wrung every last drop from me while painting me with his scent.

Claiming me. “Oh God, I love you,” I groaned.

Ritch kissed my shoulder, his sharp pants blowing across my neck. “Love you too.”

I wished we weren’t in the shower so the combined smell of our seed wouldn’t be washed away. I loved the blend of his bitter spend with the blissful feelings of pure relaxation and happiness saturating our bond.

“We should get you in bed.” Ritch moved before I was ready, but as he rinsed us off and cleaned the shower tiles, the ache in my body from two days of running from my demons grabbed my attention.

Okay, so maybe bed wasn’t that bad of an idea. I yawned, exhaustion swamping me. I swayed.

“Whoa, big guy. Bed.”

“Yeah, okay.” I helped him as best I could, but on the heels of that orgasm, I was dead on my feet. As soon as the back of my knees hit the bed, I collapsed backward. It was almost too much effort to squirm around and get my head up to the pillows, but Ritch kept prodding me until I did.

He covered me with the blanket. “I’ll be right back. You go to sleep.”

There was no arguing with my mate. I closed my burning eyes, the relief almost instantaneous as sleep dropped over me.

“You need to let it go, Park,” Deke said. “We’ve done our job.”

“How? Those bastards took nearly everything from me. Kraig, my dad, my mom, my mate… I want to dig through the rubble of that lab and kill Trein all over again. These werekin were experimenting on their own kind and used that on humans to turn them into feral beasts. I don’t know how it could possibly be so simple that we’ve cut off the head of this. There has to be more.”

“And there probably is. But this goes far beyond just a few clans in this area.” Deke stood and pushed his desk chair back. He walked over to the office doors and double checked they were closed firmly. “Evidence has been found about another lab, one focused on the human werekin. But there are several different locations it could be. However, they’re far beyond our borders. Kraig didn’t know just how far he’d been taken because he’d been drugged so much.”

“But his souls came from Ritch’s cousin and his mate.”

“Yes. There is a network, one we’re not sure the extent of. As the alpha, I’m going to have to test each and every member of our streak. Other alphas are doing the same. That is our job, to ferret out any other conspirators while others find the lab and shut it down.”

I leaned back in my chair, running a hand through my mane. “Do you really think there’s someone else who turned traitor?”

Deke shook his head once, slowly. “And I hate to accuse people without evidence, but this is too important. I will use my influence as the alpha of this streak to ensure the safety of all the members. And I need your help. While we may be safe now, there’s no telling what might shake up in the future.”

I sat up again, leaning forward. “You think they might come here?”

“That’s just it. I have no idea what is going to happen. But things are changing—they have to. No one can look at the fallout from mistreating human werekin, as if they were less than us, just because they don’t have an animal soul. Our society must change.”

“Seems like life’s been nothing much changes lately,” I said ruefully.

“True. We’re both mated before we’re even twenty-five, the alpha and beta of this streak. Who would’ve imagined it?”

I snorted. “Not our parents.”

“No, probably not. I like we’re doing them proud, though. We’re going to make a great life for our mates and keep our clan safe.”

I nodded once. “We are.” I stood and held out my hand. “You and me.”

Deke grabbed my hand. “And Kraig and Ritch. Who have totally been listening on the other side of the door.” Deke snickered.


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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: Mine! Part Two Chapter Thirty-nine

This week's prompt is: Don't toy with my heart. Enjoy!!

The hug was constricting and tighter than I ever expected to be squeezed by a human werekin. It was actually hard to breathe for a moment before Ritch let go. He looked me straight in the eyes, a tear streaking down his cheek. He sniffled and worked his jaw.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

His mouth slowly dropped open, and then he snapped it shut. Ritch’s eyes narrowed. “Okay? My new mate left me for two days.” He smacked me on the shoulder, then held on and squeezed. “You left. I had no idea where you were. All I could feel was how much pain you were in. It hurt me, so much.” His voice hitched. “I couldn’t help you. You didn’t let me help you.”

“I know. I’m sorry,” I said softly. “Would it help if I said I wasn’t used to having a mate?”

Ritch scowled. “No. I’m not joking, Park. You scared the hell out of me. I thought… I thought you might not come back. The alpha said you would, but….”

I buried my muzzle against his neck, unable to take the guilt along with the pain. “God, Ritch. I just, I couldn’t handle it. What you said, it hit me like a nuke. I lost everything. I got my brother back, and then you came along. You’re the mate I’ve always been waiting for, but I can’t control anything. I couldn’t stop my brother’s kidnapping, or my mother’s death. I never even noticed my father turning into a traitor to his own family.

“As beta, I’m supposed to protect the streak. I supposed to be the one who everyone goes to when they need help. But I’m worse than useless, because they don’t know that they can’t depend on me until it’s too late. Like it was too late for her.” My mom. I’d seen it in her expression, the death she knew was coming. “What if the look in her eyes wasn’t knowledge of her fate and peace meeting it? What if it was confidence that I would save her from it?”

My eyes burned, and I lost the battle with the tears threatening to fall. My saving grace was the way Ritch let me keep my muzzle tucked against his neck, hiding my face. He softly stroked my mane and held me as I shuddered, my arms wrapped tight around his chest to hold him close.

“You didn’t fail her or your brother. Sometimes we can’t protect ourselves, much less those around us. Not when we’re betrayed. And no one saw what your father had become, if what I’ve heard is true. You’re a great beta; I’ve seen you with the others in the streak. They all look up to you, even if you’re younger than most of the adults in the streak. That’s because you are strong, and smart, and your steady determination comes through in everything you do. Look at what you did for me!”

I wordlessly shook my head, denying his words, unable to speak past the lump lodged in my throat.

“Yes. When I came here, I was afraid of my own shadow. You could’ve pushed me off on someone else, or in guest housing, but you brought me here. You taught me to value my contributions as a human werekin. You never looked down on me; you let me help you. Just a few weeks ago, I could barely stand to be touched. Look at me now—I’m mated to you. I can’t stop touching you.”

“That’s because I was selfish,” I said. “I knew from the first time I scented you that I wanted you for my mate. I had to keep you close.”

“You chose to. You made sure I knew that I could have objected at any time. And you didn’t take advantage of me or push before I was ready. You don’t toy with my heart.” Ritch tugged on the strands of hair he’d wound between his fingers until I lifted my head up. “If I’d known I’d expose this well of guilt, I would have been more careful about what I said. You aren’t perfect, no one is, and all that matters is that you do your very best every day for the people you care about.”

I heard the words, but how could I believe him? That my mistakes could be forgiven so easily? I took a deep breath and let it out as I shook my head.

“You may not think you deserve the same compassion as everyone else, but you’re only a man. A strong one, who cares about those around him, but a man nonetheless. No one can save everyone. One day you’ll learn you don’t need us to forgive you because you didn’t do anything wrong.”

“I left you.”

He made a face. “Okay, yes, that was wrong. We’re mates, partners. You need to come to me when you feel like you’re going to panic. But you didn’t mean to run from me. Being mates is new to you too. So you didn’t do something that was wrong… just not right.”

“Why did you have a gun?” I finally asked the question I should have lead with.

“Oh.” Kraig blinked then looked down at the table. He frowned. “Where—”

“I moved it. Did Deke learn something new from the alphas?”

“No.” Ritch shook his head. “It made me feel better, even if I know I’d never need it here.”

“I’m sorry you didn’t feel safe in our home. Is that why you were sleeping down here, so you could hear if someone came in?” Not that he’d woken up when I came in the house.

“No. I set the alarm like you showed me. The bed was just… too big.” He yawned.

“Let me take you to bed.”

Ritch’s eyes widened, and he sniffed. “I think you need a shower first.”

“Oh. I didn’t mean….”

“No, but I do. After you get clean.”


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