This is my personal blog and does not necessarily reflect the collective views of Hard Limits Press

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

a Sacrificial Magic excerpt

"Want to go buy us some lotto tickets?"

Jericho looked over at her partner in the passenger seat, a big black motherfucker looked like he could fold even the toughest PCP addict in half.

"Man, don't packets of heroin ever pay off."

"Doesn't mean these street niggas know that."

"Shut up Williams, acting like you ain't street."

"Girl, you know you as street as me with an ass like you got."

Jericho snorted, laughing. Williams had a way of cheering her up even when the beat sucked worse than usual.

"You couldn't handle this ass anyway, motherfucker." Jericho said with nothing but love. "You might be built like a brick shithouse but I'd still climb you like a tree."

Williams grinned at her but he caught sight of their location and that cut him off.

"This is the place. Damned if I know what's going on. I said lotto tickets but the shit I've been hearing about this area doesn't sound like a bunch of heroin addicts."

Jericho parked the unmarked car near some overflowing dumpsters. There wasn't hardly shit around here, just closed store fronts tagged and wrecked. The city block, riddled with alleyways, looked like it had rotted from the inside out.

Like the city has leprosy, Jericho thought as she ad Williams waited for shit to go down, always pieces falling off.

"They gonna spot our rotation," Williams said, "this shit is hinky."

"They ain't gonna see the car," Jericho said, though she felt it too, that sense that something could go bad way too easy, "slow your roll. You sound like you the one on drugs."

Jericho could wait for a long time. When she was a kid she'd done a lot of waiting, when Mamma had to work at the strip club and couldn't find someone to look after her and her sisters. Williams never had gotten used to it, though, and he fidgeted in his seat.

"There," he said after what had to have been a solid hour, "you see that?"

She leaned forward and peered out the windshield. A dark shape, turning to go down an alley. Something just wasn't right about the way the guy moved.

"Yeah. What the fuck?"

"That's what I'm saying."

"It's where we're supposed to be. Not going to ruin all that fucking vice work because the nigga looks like an extra for Frankenstein."

She got out before Williams could argue with her. He hadn't seen the shit she had, working this lead. She'd never seen addicts feen so bad for their poison. Not even crackheads, and that was saying some real shit right there. She couldn't shake the feeling, then or now, that there was something wrong with their eyes. The way they stared right through her, the way they were the wrong color, somehow. And the fucking crazy talk.

But it didn't sound all crazy, she thought before she could stop it, sounded like a language.

She shook her head. She didn't have time for that right now. She heard the click of the car door as Williams got out to cover her, and she made sure her piece was loose in its holster. She didn't like drawing it. Too easy for a cop around here to get an itchy trigger finger, and nothing good ever came of that, but this time that deformed figure made it so not having it in her hand felt way too vulnerable.

The alleyway stunk like piss, but she couldn't say that smell didn't crawl up her nose at least once a day. Hardly bothered her now. The oily, greenish sheen on the concrete did, though. Dread and instinct played her spine like a cheap xylophone. One of the shadows broke away from the others obscuring the back of the alley, came towards her.

She pulled her gun and for a moment her and the shape faced off. Where the fuck was Williams, she wondered, though the rapidly eroding rational part of her brain told her about his heavy footfalls at the mouth of the alleyway.

"What the fuck are you?"

"You want my gift, human?"

The thing hissed. A hammering headache started right between her eyes and the world swam out of focus. Fuck, it's voice. She couldn't stand it. She tried to make her hand work, tried to pull the trigger, because all her worries about shooting someone who didn't deserve it had evaporated like the piss under her feet would when the sun hit it in the morning.

"Stay away. Stay away!"

It lunged. Not human at all. It's eyes. Holy shit, it's eyes. It all happened in seconds but in her mind it slowed down like the fucking Matrix, except she wasn't no chosen one and there was no way in hell she was getting away from the thing barreling towards her. It leapt, changed shape, it fucking changed shape, and when it hit she felt its claws like a set of red hot kitchen knives, ripping her open.

She stumbled back, disbelief shielding her from the soul burning pain she knew she was in, fell in to William's arms. The thing shot past her, big like a mastiff. She could hear Williams shouting, cursing, and it turned in to something else, a language that crawled in to her and squeezed her brain in a red hand.

Then, thank god, nothing.

Monday, February 7, 2011

My review of Strange Little Band

Check out the website for Strange Little Band

The world of Triptych is not unlike our own, but despite familiar cultural references and a collection of mundane day to day problems, Addison Harris and Shane Meyers have lives further complicated by belonging to a cut throat organization populated by super humans.

In the Triptych organization, anything goes as representatives of Homo Superior lie, cheat, and steal to get what they want. Affection is a thing to be exploited and genuine love is almost unheard of. Even children are potential pawns.

Addison Harris, resident self-described ice queen, thinks that she will have no trouble bearing a child for Triptych. She’s used to the scheming and already has only tenuous ties with her first child, daughter Ashlynn. What does she care if they want to breed a race of Homo Superior that also has alien blood?

One unintended psychic bond later and she finds herself in Shane Meyers’ office, informing the half alien scientist that he’s about to become a father. Professionally cool to one another at best before, Addison and Shane find themselves drawn to each other, first because of their unborn son and then because of mutual respect and attraction.

Of course, love is a weakness at Triptych, whether it be for an unborn child or for each other. Everyone from a sexual predator to a selfish boss want to split them up for their own purposes. Can Addison and Shane’s relationship survive?

The good

I do not like these people, but the true success lies in the fact that I want to read about them anyway. I very much appreciated that both Addison and Shane are sexual sharks, that it wasn’t the romance trope of the male main character brow beating and using the female main character until she declares it true love. They’re both terrible people when the story opens, and they use every weapon available to them to try and control each other. It sounds odd to say this about something that begins in a rather heartless place, but I appreciated that they always, throughout the book, seem as strong as the other even when behaving badly. They are equals, and I find that alone fairly revolutionary. As a romance, it automatically succeeds when I can’t help but return to the main characters, even if I wouldn’t spend a second with them in real life.

Another positive is that the beginning is gripping. The writing is tight here, because I immediately know what everyone cares about and what their motivations are. The author includes many point of view characters and while I think it would have been a leaner, meaner book without them, I have to praise the author for handling them in such a way that it made me feel as though there was a bigger, living world outside of Addison and Shane’s relationship. That only strengthened the story, rather than succumbing to a narrow and potentially stifling style that only included the main characters.

I also appreciate how the author incorporates psychic powers as being a fact of life. They feel like a natural part of the character’s existence, and are mentioned the way any mundane sense or ability would be mentioned. I enjoyed the way she used it to fuel and affect Shane and Addison’s romance, too, and the way both proud and abrasive characters opened up to one another, partly because of its deftly handled influence.

There are some great romantic moments, and I began hoping for Addison and Shane once they begin sleeping together—in the completely mundane sense—and find that they need one another’s company despite themselves. The author captures the contented, somnolent feeling of cuddling up to someone you are newly in love with.

The ugly

Unfortunately I think some of this unravels further on. Triptych, thanks to a character perspective near the beginning about taking a psychic child away from their parents, sounds like an oppressive holding pen for psychics and other similarly talented individuals. So when I read about Addison in the hallway wearing nothing but a nightgown, only to encounter Shane and have a grope session, I wonder as to the regulations on this place and the behavior of the people within it. It only became clear to me later that Triptych was less totalitarian and more Machiavellian.

This kind of muddled writing is a continuing theme throughout. I feel as though the author has some great ideas, but that they lack cohesion throughout the work. When magic is included as part of the plot to foil Addison and Shane’s relationship, it’s jarring because it isn’t mentioned as part of Triptych before that moment. It ends up feeling as though the author included things as they occurred to her, but did not go back to weave them in seamlessly from the beginning.

The biggest problem I see is that I am still not sure what the point of breaking Addison and Shane up is. It seems as though the experimental child Addison is carrying is the motivator, since he’s Shane’s only offspring and Triptych wants to test alien human hybrids. The enemies to the relationship use a variety of methods to drive them apart, presumably to get control of the baby, but then Addison and Shane retain custody of him and it doesn’t seem to matter, after all.

I admit, I like my romances to have a lot of plot and action. Addison and Shane are more like a drawn out hurt comfort tale. It spans twelve or so years, which I felt was too long. The initial break up is the classic misunderstanding that could be fixed if only they listened to their gifted daughter about sensing the spell responsible. (that’s the other thing. I can’t figure out why two psychic parents would so quickly dismiss the concerns of a child said to be gifted in those same areas.)

I didn’t see the need for the deus ex machina plot the children use on their parents to get them back together, either. I wanted Addison and Shane to get over themselves on their own, like they did in the beginnings of their relationship. I wanted to see them be more proactive, and I wanted them to come back to each other a lot sooner.

Final Thoughts

If you enjoy sensual, heavily interpersonal romance, I suggest you give this book a try. The paranormal elements are interesting and the characters manage to interest despite what should by all rights be cliché. There are some moments of true sweetness here that are worth a look.