*Review Round-Up* Nov & Dec 2015

Hi readers, it has been a while since our last Review Round-Up, and so I do hope that you are all well and had a fantastic Christmas Holiday!

Although I have been reading a great deal, with a house move to the coast over the Christmas period, and having a short time without Wi-Fi it has taken me a little longer to write and publish blog posts. I have, however, been enjoying Scarborough (UK) life with walks along the coast, up the cliffs and around the castle remains, as well as visiting author Anne Brontes grave! Meanwhile, Tina has held up the fort like a true warrior with the amount of reviews she has posted, as well as assisting a local Lit Fest! Thanks, Tina ❤

We have quite a mix of genres from the end of 2015 to share with you, from dystopian sci-fi fantasies, to erotic paranormal romances, historical romances and a mystery chick-lit! Amongst them is also a gritty, Scottish crime thriller, Blue Wicked by Alan Jones, which we are currently running a giveaway on. (For more info on this, please click the title.)

As always, please click on the titles to view our full reviews and more!

Although a little later than usual we wish you all a Happy New Year x

Caroline & Tina 🙂

Peter WellsThe Man Who Missed the Boat by Peter Wells, contemporary drama (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: It should have been an ordinary Saturday morning. A short walk down his street to give a piano lesson at the home of a family he knew well. As it turned out, he knew them rather better than was good for him. How much trouble can a well-intentioned piano teacher land in? Simon Baxter discovers that being “well-meaning” is sometimes not enough to protect you from the chaos in other people’s lives. Even an excessive sense of “good manners” can be disastrous in the wrong circumstances. Under pressure the unorganised desires kept strictly deep inside us can surface and bring chaos to the lives of ourselves and anyone near us. Will our untrained hero make it safely across the river of life or, like so many of us, get swept up by the current of events towards an unplanned adventure? In the sudden change from “Not being loved enough” to “Being loved too much, and by more than one women,” Simon finds out more about himself than he would like. Can he choose wisely, and live with the consequences? In this, his second novel, Peter Wells continues to cast his gentle but penetrating light on those foibles and weaknesses which lie beneath the exterior of the apparently most ordered lives. Those hidden character traits which can, in the right circumstances, surface and toss their owner, and anyone around him or her, most unpleasantly.

Point vmpThe Point of Evil, Point Vamp: Book Four by Victoria Bliss, erotic paranormal romance (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: Blood and sex were all he ever wanted until love gave him something worth living an eternity for.

Steve—who had been a womanizer in life and was even more so in death—prowls the Point using his vampiric wiles to get the blood and sex he craves. He’s always looking for his next meal and when he sees a tall, curvy beauty with a red scarf around her neck, he thinks he’s found it.

Eloise is different—she’s shy and needs encouragement, and Steve just can’t get her out of his mind. He has to take his time, get to know her and slowly seduce her. When she disappears, leaving only a note begging him not to pursue her further, he can’t help himself and ends up in the service of George Aquino, a vampire crime boss with a penchant for twisted and cruel torture and a dungeon full of prisoners.

A daring rescue, a difficult choice and love against the odds. Do you dare visit the point of evil?

The Point Vamp series

What is The Point? It is the hottest club in town for both Vampires and humans alike. It has a large dance floor and a bar like any other club but once you disappear behind the VIP only door you find out what makes The Point so unique. Sex, blood and lust all behind closed doors and only accessed by the chosen ones.

Now, you become a chosen one and get to see the sexy world behind that door.

Welcome to The Point.

Dariana30 Days by JA Heron, erotic thriller (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: Dariana Walsh is the daughter of a ruthless gangster and heir to his empire. Not only does she feel trapped, but she has many questions about numerous incidents that have happened in her life so far. Particularly, what happened to her mother? Her father sees her as his little girl, but she longs to be treated like an adult. He wants to shape her, to become more like him, but she resists, the only way she knows how…

One of Wilson Walsh’s men – Chas – is not who he seems. He was sent to infiltrate, earn trust and walk away with Wilson’s most treasured possession, his daughter. He has a plan to take down the most unrelenting man to walk the streets of East London.
Over the next thirty days, blood is shed, friendships are formed and amongst all of the pain and suffering, surprisingly, love blossoms.

In a sea of betrayal and violence… time and love know no bounds.

***Contains strong sexual and violent scenes ~ over 18’s only. There are strong, dark scenes in this book if you do not wish to read about violence, sexual violence or child abuse, then please do not buy this book***

Treagar's redemption coverTraegar’s Redemption (Woodland Creek) by Isobelle Cate, sci-fi paranormal time-travel romance (reviewed by Caroline)

Blurb: Marcus Theodoric Treagar is a sabretooth with a curse that has him traveling through time, leaving a trail of dead bodies. Not only that, but as soon as he falls in love, he is wrenched away from that period and returned to 16th century Venice. To save the last remaining piece of his heart, he refuses to become involved again.

Until Paisley Halleran.

As the daughter of the shifter chronicler, Paisley Halleran knows that magick and the paranormal abound in Woodland Creek. With her adopted brother, Virgil Rowtag, they fight for every shifter’s rights in the area. When Paisley comes face to face with Marcus, who has been arrested for a murder he does not remember committing, she believes he is innocent. Marcus, on the other hand, knows he has finally found the woman truly meant for him.
However, not everything is cut and dried. Paisley unearths tragic secrets and lies that link her to Marcus. Not only will it show her whether Marcus is truly innocent or guilty of the murders in Woodland Creek, it will also spell the difference between staying with Marcus because she wants to, or letting him go because she has no choice. 

NaliniShield of Winter (Psy-Changeling #13) by Nalini Singh, sci-fi fantasy paranormal romance (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: Assassin. Soldier. Arrow. That is who Vasic is, who he will always be. His soul drenched in blood, his conscience heavy with the weight of all he’s done, he exists in the shadows, far from the hope his people can almost touch – if only they do not first drown in the murderous insanity of a lethal contagion. To stop the wave of death, Vasic must complete the simplest and most difficult mission of his life.

For if the Psy race is to survive, the empaths must wake . . .

Having rebuilt her life after medical ‘treatment’ that violated her mind and sought to stifle her abilities, Ivy should have run from the black-clad Arrow with eyes of winter frost. But Ivy Jane has never done what she should. Now, she’ll fight for her people, and for this Arrow who stands as her living shield, yet believes he is beyond redemption.

But as the world turns to screaming crimson, even Ivy’s fierce will may not be enough to save Vasic from the cold darkness . . .

RavenscrestThe Ghosts of Ravencrest (The Ravencrest Saga #1) by Tamara Thorne and Alistair Cross, modern gothic, erotic horror, paranormal (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: Darkness Never Dies …
Ravencrest Manor has always been part of the family. The ancestral home of the Mannings, Ravencrest’s walls have been witness to generations of unimaginable scandal, horror, and depravity. Imported stone by stone from England to northern California in the early 1800s, the manor now houses widower Eric Manning, his children, and his staff. Ravencrest stands alone, holding its memories and ghosts close to its dark heart, casting long, black shadows across its grand lawns, through the surrounding forests, and over the picturesque town of Devilswood, below.

Dare to Cross the Threshold …
Ravencrest Manor is the most beautiful thing new governess, Belinda Moorland, has ever seen, but as she learns more about its tangled past of romance and terror, she realizes that beauty has a dark side. Ravencrest is built on secrets, and its inhabitants seem to be keeping plenty of their own – from the handsome English butler, Grant Phister, to the power-mad administrator, Mrs. Heller, to Eric Manning himself, who watches her with dark, fathomless eyes. But Belinda soon realizes that the living who dwell in Ravencrest have nothing on the other inhabitants – the ones who walk the darkened halls by night … the ones who enter her dreams … the ones who are watching … and waiting …

Welcome to Ravencrest …
Who is the man digging in the garden beyond Belinda’s bedroom window? Who – or what – is watching her from the vents? From ghostly screams and the clutching bony fingers of death in the indoor pool, to the trio of gliding nuns in the east wing who come at Belinda with black blazing eyes, to the beckoning little girl in the red dress who died more than two centuries ago, Belinda is thrust into a world of waking nightmares where there is no distinction between the living and the dead, and there are no limits to the horrors that await. Witchcraft is afoot at Ravencrest and as unspeakable terrors begin to unfold, Belinda realizes that her beautiful new home is a keeper of tragedy, a collector of souls. And it wants to add her to its collection …

Windward Secrets CoverWindward Secrets by K.A. Davis, paranormal horror suspense, mystery, chick-lit (reviewed by Caroline)

Blurb: At just over 67,700 words Windward Secrets is a fast paced mystery laced  with humour, suspense, and a touch of the paranormal that will make the reader gasp at times, and soften their hearts at other times.

When Claire McPherson booked Windward Cottage, for the annual reunion with three college friends, her biggest concern was whether they would like the weather-beaten, old Victorian on Cape Cod. Claire, Diane, Jill, and Caroline are in for more than a little Right and R. Windward Cottage has its own special powers of seduction. After 35 years of friendship they thought they knew everything about each other, but the old house draws confessions out of each and leads them unwillingly into a 50yearold mystery.

What was planned to be a vacation filled with fun, food, and reminiscing turns into one that will change their lives forever. Who or what is trying to frighten them? Only one woman’s stubborn determination keeps them at Windward Cottage when common sense tells them to leave. Fear, danger, and unexplained events connect the four women to each other and to Windward Cottage. Three of the women find their futures, and one finds her past.

Readers will recognize someone they know in every character as Windward Secrets heightens their awareness of the heinous crime of human trafficking.

Dream AlchemyDream Alchemy (Life and Shadow Series) by Nicholas Boyd Crutchley, dystopian sci-fi fantasy (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: A warrior battles hydra.

The Blood Plague liquefies eyes.

A rapper rails against Earth’s ecological ruin.

From the pitch Abyss, Chaos corrupts our dreams. 

On stealing the dreams of an old warrior and priestess, Chaos discovers them to be essential ingredients for his dream alchemy. With their souls the dark god can control Sol, Dragonland’s angelic ruler, and release his wanton daughter, Babalon, from Hell. If the devil queen returns and swallows the angel’s soul, the veil separating reality from the pitch Abyss will tear, and Chaos will pour forth and warp reality. Can Sol defeat Chaos? Or will Babalon’s poison kiss seduce him?

Through the psiqnet, a network of human minds and quantum artificial intelligences (QAIs), consumers shop Earth towards ecological ruin. The preachers of Gaia, ecoterrorists woven within the system, seek to bring economic and ecological harmony through Gaia QAI. Yet as Gaia begins to infect other QAIs with compassion, the Blood Plague rises, intent on exterminating humankind.

What force connects Dragonland and Earth?

The Life & Shadow Series explores how genetic engineering, synthetic biology and nanotechnology will impact humankind and Earth’s ecology. More specifically, themes include the outcome of human minds interfacing with artificial intelligences, the long-term effect of humankind on natural ecosystems, and compassion in society.

goddessGoddess by Kelee Morris, contemporary, erotic romance (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: Wife, mother, PTA president… Sex Goddess?

For Julia Nelson, it was only a faded tattoo, almost forgotten, like the sex-charged dreams that inspired it some 20 years ago.

For renowned, rugged-sexy archaeologist Dr. Ashland Stewart, it was his greatest discovery, the sacred emblem of an ancient goddess culture.

Two symbols, eons apart, yet exact duplicates. It must be a coincidence. But when Julia and Ashland meet, their connection is instantaneous, powerful, erotic.

Julia’s suburban life is safe and comfortable. She has everything to lose.

Ashland’s world is remote archaeological digs and flings with younger women. He’s sexually free but emotionally guarded.

Ashland awakens Julia’s long buried inner goddess with breath-taking passion and insatiable desire.

But their sexual adventure becomes increasingly perilous as their emotional barriers crumble. Will Julia risk falling in love and soaring to new heights, or will she return to her earthbound responsibility to her family? 

BlueWicked_Dark_300DPIBlue Wicked by Alan Jones, crime thriller, drama (reviewed by Caroline)

Blurb: ‘Blue Wicked’ is a gritty thriller set in the south side of Glasgow. Eddie Henderson finds himself as the unlikely investigator with information that there’s a serial killer targeting the substance dependent underclass who inhabit the notorious Glasgow housing estates. The police force ignore his warnings but one young detective believes him and she helps him search for the truth, despite putting her own career at risk. Their desperate search for the truth on their own proves Eddie right and sparks off a massive manhunt, with Eddie and Catherine, the young detective, at the forefront of the investigation. The book contains a fair bit of strong language and Glasgow dialect, and has some very violent passages.

kris tuallaA Discreet Gentleman of Discovery (The Discreet Gentleman Series #1) by Kris Tualla, historical romance (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: Brander Hansen lost his hearing at age seven, his inheritance at twenty-three. Furious at his father’s betrayal, Brander leaves home to make his way as Lord Olsen, a ‘discreet gentleman of discovery’ in 1721 Christiania, Norway. He intends to gain his own estate and begins buying the debt markers on Kildahlshus.

Baroness Regin Kildahl’s husband has gambled away her estate and sunk to more dangerous habits. She writes to Lord Olsen soliciting his help saving both her husband and her home. When her husband dies, Regin offers herself and her title to anyone who will redeem his gambling debts, unaware of Brander’s plan and circumventing his efforts.

The Hansen heir accepts her offer and hires Lord Olsen to deliver his bride. Brander’s choices are clear: give the widow and her estate to his younger brother, or claim them both as his own. But who would accept a deaf husband?

LachlanDiscovered (Forsaken Blood #1) by Em Taylor, sci-fi romance (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: Lachlan Ethelred Mackenzie looks like an ordinary sexy university professor, but for over a millennium, he’s been one of a number of his kind trying to steer humanity towards the heavens. But humans are slow and stubborn.

It’s been a long slow journey since the spaceship from Vampyras experienced technical difficulty near Earth in 1006 and the Vampyrs had to abandon ship, and learn to survive on a planet filled with primitive beings.

It’s now 2061, and humanity is heading to Mars – perhaps now the Vampyrs can research space folding technology away from prying human eyes.

Psychologist, Doctor Kate Maxwell is excited about going to Mars—except for one thing – she’s terrified of the journey. A space accident when she was twelve has left her with PTSD and a fear of space travel. But when the handsome Professor, Lachlan Mackenzie becomes her cabin mate she finds herself falling for him all too easily. But why is he so reticent? He’s cute, single and seems altogether perfect.

Things are getting complicated for Lachlan. He’s falling for the sexy red-headed psychologist, his long-lost daughter is on board the spaceship to Mars and she has no clue what or who he is and it seems that the leader of the Vampyr council is plotting something. Lachlan has too many secrets and too many problems. And Kate is the only thing he wants. Can he keep his hands and his fangs away from her? Does he want to? And what will happen if she discovers his secret?

All hell is about to break loose.

This book contains scenes of an adult nature.

Sex Snow and MistletoeSex, Snow and Mistletoe (short story) by Laura Barnard, contemporary, festive holiday romance (reviewed by Caroline)

Blurb: Melinda is already having a crappy Christmas. Forced to attend some snotty bitch’s wedding is not the way to start out the holidays. But when a car crash pushes her into the path of a handsome stranger she’s glad to follow his snowy, sexy and seductive path. But is he too good to be true? And will she make it to the wedding before her best friend loses her mind with worry?

Please note this is a short story of 10k words.

MirandaMiranda’s Dilemma (Fashionably Impure #1) by Natasha Blackthorne, erotic, regency, historical romance (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: Poised to become Mayfair’s most expensive and exclusive courtesan, Miss Miranda Jones finds her rise inexplicably blocked by a socially powerful nobleman. Scorned by her ducal father and determined to attain everything that life has denied her due to an accident of birth, she’s not about to let this arrogant earl stop her.

Adrian Sutherland, the Earl of Danvers, saw his father destroyed by a heartless, predatory courtesan. He has no time or patience for such exotic, expensive ladybirds. He’s far too busy restoring his family’s wealth and reputation whilst doing what he can to protect his friends from the clutches of all the scheming courtesans of London.

Then a moment of compassion turns intense dislike to breathless passion, and these two strong-willed, fiercely proud people are compelled to indulge in a brief affair. Each is convinced that they can satisfy their craving for the other without emotional risk.

But neither realizes that a little dalliance can be a dangerous thing.

Reader Advisory: This is an erotic historical romance and it contains frank sexual language and period appropriate sexual slang, frequent sexual scenes and descriptions and general bedchamber naughtiness. The characters discuss abuse issues from their backstories during the course of their developing relationship. For Adults 18 & Over Only.

Men of the BorderlandsThe Men of the Border Lands Collection, Volume 1 (Ménage Everlasting) by Marla Monroe, erotic, futuristic ménage à trois romance (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: (This collection includes three books from the Men of the Border Lands series, nearly 110k words total). MFM, erotic romance.

In Belonging to Them, while escaping slavery in the Border Lands, Heather hides in a trailer belonging to brothers Brandon and Bolton. They take her to their farm and prove they won’t harm her. Bolton quickly falls in love, but Brandon pulls away. After a wolf attack almost takes her from them, Brandon must realize he could lose the best thing that’s ever happened to him.

In A Home with Them, fed up with the reluctant men who have cared for her for five years, Jessie takes matters into her own hands. Wyatt and Kent worry that their kind of love isn’t what Jessie needs, but a tough life out in the Border Lands and a kidnapping show the men that Jessie belongs with them.

In Their Border Lands Temptress, after the year of catastrophes, Ronnie jumps at an offer of protection from a lifelong friend. When the safety becomes abuse, she runs. Brice and Garrett know she needs a man to protect her, and they are hell-bent to help her. When danger shows up at their door, Ronnie must decide if she’s ready for them to be more than lovers or if she’s too scared to let them into her heart.

The Border Lands are a dangerous place, but love and passion are often the keys to surviving.

** A Siren Erotic Romance

HMFHold Me Until Forever (Grayson Brothers #3) by Christina Phillips, erotic contemporary romance (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: She’s the only one he wants…and the one he can never have

Ella Clark has been in love with Alex Grayson forever. She’s tired of being invisible—or worse, being treated like his kid sister. If she can just get him to drop his iron-fisted control for two seconds, she’ll prove she knows exactly how to blow his mind.

Alex has been fighting his attraction to Ella since her should-have-been-innocent sweet sixteen kiss burned down his world. He’s damaged, and there’s no way he’ll ever drag her into his screwed up life. Until she offers him something he’s always craved—steamy, no-strings sex inside his exclusive BDSM club. Where she’ll be safe from the darkness that haunts him.

Except there’s nothing safe about being with Ella, and the more she gives, the harder it is to let her go. If he stays, he risks everything, but how can he walk away from the only woman he’s ever needed?

**REVIEW** ~ Dream Alchemy, by Nicholas Boyd Crutchley (Life and Shadow series)

Fantasy/Dystopian Fantasy/Sci-Fi

Dream Alchemy

Synopsis

A warrior battles hydra.

The Blood Plague liquefies eyes.

A rapper rails against Earth’s ecological ruin.

From the pitch Abyss, Chaos corrupts our dreams. 

On stealing the dreams of an old warrior and priestess, Chaos discovers them to be essential ingredients for his dream alchemy. With their souls the dark god can control Sol, Dragonland’s angelic ruler, and release his wanton daughter, Babalon, from Hell. If the devil queen returns and swallows the angel’s soul, the veil separating reality from the pitch Abyss will tear, and Chaos will pour forth and warp reality. Can Sol defeat Chaos? Or will Babalon’s poison kiss seduce him?

Through the psiqnet, a network of human minds and quantum artificial intelligences (QAIs), consumers shop Earth towards ecological ruin. The preachers of Gaia, ecoterrorists woven within the system, seek to bring economic and ecological harmony through Gaia QAI. Yet as Gaia begins to infect other QAIs with compassion, the Blood Plague rises, intent on exterminating humankind.

What force connects Dragonland and Earth?

The Life & Shadow Series explores how genetic engineering, synthetic biology and nanotechnology will impact humankind and Earth’s ecology. More specifically, themes include the outcome of human minds interfacing with artificial intelligences, the long-term effect of humankind on natural ecosystems, and compassion in society.

My Review

Original and Thought Provoking

4 Stars

Dream Alchemy is an epic read which weaves together Fantasy and Dystopian Fantasy/Sci-Fi. At its core is the battle between good and evil, Chaos and his daughter Babalon on the one side and Sol, the angel who rules over Dragonland, on the other. The storyline is set in a medieval style world of priestesses, warriors and nobles and a nightmare filled Earth of the future.

The environmental catastrophe which humankind has inflicted on the Earth and its people is one of the main themes in the tale and there are heartfelt passages which emphasise  how greed and the love of money and human vanity have stripped the planet of its resources and led to an environmental catastrophe and a two tier society. Other themes touch on the corrupting influence of power and the importance of compassion.

Malevolent forces are at play and there is much talk of a prophecy on which the future rests. The fate of the key characters Nostromo and Natasha, the old warrior and the priestess, is pivotal, attracting the interest of Chaos who wishes to use them for his own evil ends. On Earth the blood plague threatens the safety of all. The read blends past and present with dreams and reality building up to an unexpected conclusion.

The writing is vivid and at times visceral and brutal. There are scenes of hellish proportions describing the fate of humankind at the time when Babalon ruled and we are left under no illusions of what will happen if Chaos has his way. The descriptions of genetic engineering and how human minds interface with artificial intelligences is both prophetic and terrifying.

Recommended to readers who enjoy a thought provoking read that will remain in their minds long after finishing it.

Reviewed by Tina Williams

Please note, a copy of the book was given to me for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

Purchase Links

Amazon UK   e-book  Amazon UK  paperback

Amazon US e-book  Amazon US paperback

 

Connect with Nicholas

http://www.nbcauthor.com

http://www.goodreads.com/nbcauthor

To read a post by the author, Nicholas Boyd Crutchley, on the inspiration behind Dream Alchemy and read an excerpt click on the title.

*AUTHOR POST* ~ Nicholas Boyd Crutchley on the inspiration behind Dream Alchemy (Life and Shadow series) ~ includes excerpt

 Dystopian Fantasy/Sci-Fi

We are delighted to welcome author Nicholas Boyd Crutchley  to our blog. Nicholas is the author of Dream Alchemy, an exciting dystopian fantasy/sci-fi adventure which is part of the Life and Shadow series, a labyrinth of interconnected stories through deep time. The novel explores the impact of human minds interfacing with artificial intelligences, the long-term effect of humankind on natural ecosystems and compassion in society.

I will be reviewing Dream Alchemy in the coming weeks and in the meantime Nicholas has kindly submited a post where he reveals what has influenced him on his writing journey. He has also very kindly shared an excerpt. Tina 🙂

Dream Alchemy

Book Blurb

A warrior battles hydra.

The Blood Plague liquefies eyes.

A rapper rails against Earth’s ecological ruin.

From the pitch Abyss, Chaos corrupts our dreams. 

On stealing the dreams of an old warrior and priestess, Chaos discovers them to be essential ingredients for his dream alchemy. With their souls the dark god can control Sol, Dragonland’s angelic ruler, and release his wanton daughter, Babalon, from Hell. If the devil queen returns and swallows the angel’s soul, the veil separating reality from the pitch Abyss will tear, and Chaos will pour forth and warp reality. Can Sol defeat Chaos? Or will Babalon’s poison kiss seduce him?

Through the psiqnet, a network of human minds and quantum artificial intelligences (QAIs), consumers shop Earth towards ecological ruin. The preachers of Gaia, ecoterrorists woven within the system, seek to bring economic and ecological harmony through Gaia QAI. Yet as Gaia begins to infect other QAIs with compassion, the Blood Plague rises, intent on exterminating humankind.

What force connects Dragonland and Earth?

The Life & Shadow Series explores how genetic engineering, synthetic biology and nanotechnology will impact humankind and Earth’s ecology. More specifically, themes include the outcome of human minds interfacing with artificial intelligences, the long-term effect of humankind on natural ecosystems, and compassion in society.

Purchase Links

Amazon UK   e-book  Amazon UK  paperback

Amazon US e-book  Amazon US paperback

Author Post

Seeds of Dystopia

At eighteen my first breakdown began, which continued throughout my degree and beyond. After graduation, I painted factory roofs, peddled Betterware, and sold computers, easels, music tapes, videos, and other junk bought cheaply.

At age twenty-four, a second breakdown conjured voices. Reeling from the chatter, I fled for five years, until I became a high school teacher. The voices pursued me to a teaching post in the Middle East, after which I returned to the UK. There, while hiking in the Scottish Highlands, a Canadian lass wearing sturdy hiking boots met me and said, “Hey, fancy living in the Rockies?”

Twice yearly, thousands of golden eagles migrate from Alaska to Mexico via the valley I lived in. While watching them from atop a frost-weathered ridge, my heart married the girl with sturdy hiking boots, and soon so had my legal status. Together we lived, tenting below -20°C, while conjuring in campfires wondrous imaginings. As she cooked up new recipes for wild camping, I imagined stories to write while waiting for a work permit.

At age thirty-six, a third breakdown conjured another me, who provoked a divorce. After signing my love away, I found myself back in the UK and no longer able to teach. While retraining through an MSc in Ecology and Conservation, I explored environmental contamination and habitat destruction, and wondered whether humankind’s avarice would continue to overharvest natural resources, and how synthetic biology might replace and enhance such resources. Could biologists and ecologists tailor organisms and ecosystems to create self-renewing resources for humankind’s industrial machine? Could humankind interface the biological world with the industrial complex, as researchers now splice flesh with machines? And what about nanotechnology, social networks and cybernetics? Would consumers and corporations connect via neural interfaces woven into brains by injected nanomachines? Facebook on LSD?

For some, the above may appear closer to utopia than dystopia, especially with probable advances in fusion power, industrial ecology, aggregate manufacture and artificial intelligence. Imagine a guilt-free throw-away society that efficiently recycles manufactured goods. A person, mentally linked to Prime, Amazon’s Quantum Artificial Intelligence (QAI) computer, finds no product that quite meets their specific need. With help from Prime, she designs a new product, and has it 3D-printed using locally sourced recycled materials and inputs harvested from renewable synthetic organisms. Fusion powers the process so no greenhouse gases are emitted or further planetary warming occurs.

Perhaps because of my PhD in mental illness (Paranoia, hallucinations and Delusions), and MSc in Ecology & Conservation, I saw the shadow side of the above. Dream Alchemy begins the telling of this shadow.

Excerpt from Dream Alchemy

Prophecy 

Noah leans back against rock, sweat beading down his naked body. Ruby light, cast by gemstone scales adorning a colossal statue, bloodies his skeletal features. Beneath the effigy’s gaze, in the pit at the centre of the mine, fornicate slaves. Their rapture climbs rough-hewn walls, claws towards him, whispering for him to join them. The choice, to either crack rock for emeralds or debase oneself in the pit, all slaves endure.

Temptation draws the slave’s stare to the pit, and the statue of Queen Babalon, Whore of Hell, watching over it. The devil queen’s indigo hair caresses her scarlet flesh and voluptuous breasts, and trails along her ruby-encrusted serpent’s tail. The demon’s emerald eyes desire his descent into the pit, where lust consumes.

Around the pit, with scourges in hand, watch two slavelords. The bull-headed giants stand on cloven hooves, snorting approval at the debauchery below. One casts down a length of knotted rope, bellowing, “Use this.” Noah flinches on seeing the rope, as the slavelord booms, “I bet she survive; one urn snakebite grog.” The other brute responds by pawing the ground, crying, “Done.” Together, they each lift an urn and drink alcoholic aphrodisiac. Noah can almost taste the blend of naga venom and alcohol. The memory cascades into scarlet-lit images of a girl, bound by his hand. The slave’s head sinks as he recalls her screams.

The snores of a nearby slavelord, punctuated by hammer blows that punish rock, lifts the suffering slave from shame. Looking up, he sees the sleeping beast, drunk on snakebite grog, and beyond, Nombuso, whose muscles flex across his gangly frame. Noah studies the ebony adolescent’s thick lips, broad nose, and the rag swathing his missing eye, and wonders how he continues to resist the pit. Does Nombuso also believe slaves are brothers and sisters, who should care with gentle touch, not caress with a lascivious one? From the boy’s gritted teeth and wild eye, and the emotion behind each hammer blow, Noah understands anger, welling rage, not belief in compassion, fortifies Nombuso against the devil queen’s desire.

Athuen, Queen of radiant form …’

Noah’s eyes snap to the dark recess from where the whisper emanates.

‘Joined Alta, sunbeam on the storm …’

Standing, he leaves his hammer and approaches the shadowed alcove. The pit, Nombuso and the slumbering slavelord forgotten, he reaches the recess.

‘Together stars filled her womb …’

Where a pale rock face meets a charcoal-grey face, a vein of black rock meanders. There, Noah senses the source of the voice.

This world’s beginning, love’s bloom …’

The slave claws at the black vein, scraping free flake after flake. Blood stains torn fingers as from within the created cavity emerges rainbow fire. The volcano of colour overflows, then erupts—a plume of myriad hues. The hammers of slaves fall silent, leaving only bovine snorts to echo through ruby shadows. Before frightened stares Noah pries more foliated rock away, uncovering a multifaceted diamond, the source of the heatless flame. The gemstone’s triangular facets paint his face vivid crimson through deepest violet, and hypnotise. Forgetting all else, he frees the jewel and presents it to those gathering around him. The diamond’s psychedelic mushroom cloud coalesces into a gold sun cupped by a crescent moon. A mellifluent voice resonates:

Athuen, Queen of radiant form

Joined Alta, sunbeam on the storm

Together stars filled her womb

This world’s beginning, love’s bloom

So we blessed with joyous prayer

Nights with dreams, truth laid bare

The other miners see the vision, hear the voice, and do not see the waking slavelord. Eyes full of hope, hearts courage, they watch as sun and moon morph into their ruler, Queen Babalon. 

Then woke Chaos, pitch Abyss

Who conjured evil, poison kiss

Serpent enchantress of dark desire

Whose forked tongue, made all a liar

Whore of Hell he named Babalon

Devil queen, corruption’s paragon 

 

Babalon enslaved, people cursed

Corrupting all, in lust immersed

With emerald eyes and scales of scarlet

She seduced souls, gorged the harlot

This wanton whore so devilish

We lost hope, made no wish 

The slavelord stands, whip in hand. Neither Noah nor the other miners notice him as a winged warrior, armed with sword and shield, morphs from Queen Babalon. Noah weeps at the majesty of the shimmering angel, awed by eyes radiating sunlight and outstretched wings that shine moonlight. Shaking with emotion, he believes words that prophesy:

Now Sun and Moon, Gods of Light

Give their son, angel of might

And through Sol smite devil queen

Forge kingdom true, peaceful dream

Where wise children forever grow

Beyond the stars, forever go 

 

Seek your saviour, where hydra roam

Through toxic mists, choke and groan

Find Paradise Portal sparkling gold

In circle’s centre, seven stones old

Within soars freedom’s peace

From Beyond, angel Sol release 

 

“I said what that?” A crack of the slavelord’s whip flays Noah’s forearm, and sends the Prophecy Stone sailing. Holy vision and divine voice fade.

“Magic?” the beast snorts, bloodshot eyes wide. “Slave no magic. You die.”

Noah does not cower as the monster draws back his whip: emboldened by the Prophecy, he stands proud.

A dread sound silences the cavern.

The slavelord topples forwards, his skull caved in. Shocked, Noah looks up from the twitching beast to the boy with one good eye. “Nombuso?” he whispers.

“I heard the words,” Nombuso says. “I saw the moon and sun, and their angel child.”

The slaves glance at one another, overwhelmed by the power of the Prophecy. Then, they turn to the ebony boy wielding a sledge hammer, who eyes approaching slavelords.

About the Author

Nicholas studies ecology, plays chess, exercises and hikes. He writes science fantasy novels and short stories from a variety of genres. He spends his spare time identifying plants and trying to understand humankind’s impact on ecosystems. He lives with himself, barely.

Connect with Nicholas

http://www.nbcauthor.com

http://www.goodreads.com/nbcauthor