Thursday, May 19, 2022

A different marketing idea


Several weeks ago I received an unsolicited email on my website from Ben Shepherd who wanted to promote The Iron Admiral: Conspiracy on his website. We all get lots of those, most not worth the effort. But I read what he had to say and found his idea different and intriguing. It involved no monetary cost to me and since I suck at marketing, I thought I'd give it a go.

The concept revolves around the fact that most authors are readers. It's inevitable that a writer will gravitate toward writing what they prefer to read, which in my case is space opera with romance. As a result, they will have a list of favourite books that have influenced their own writing in that genre.

I was asked to come up with a list of five such books for which I would write a short opinion (not a review), concentrating on what made me pick that book. But first, I had to come up with a label that applied to my own book and my list, prefaced by 'the best'. The exercise required a lot of serious navel gazing, stops and starts, and tossed out examples. It certainly wasn't just a matter of 'here's my book cover and blurb' as is the case with so many of these 'promotion' sites.

There are comprehensive instructions on what your list should look like. Here's an excerpt.

  1. Your title should target the perfect readers for your book. If your book is a history book about World War 2 and you create a list about “the best fantasy books with elves” that is not going to help get your book in front of the right readers.
  2. Your title should attract readers to your book recommendation page. We use your title throughout our website and marketing channels to pull readers into your list.
  3. Your title should be personalized and reflect your voice/personality. 

The title can be very broad, fun, and provocative with things like:

·         The best books to manage bloody depression

·         The best fantasy novels that sweep you into a very strange world

·         The best books that capture the magic of Galicia Spain

·         The best books on why the French seem to be in denial about their own history

Or, around a specific topic but personalized:

·         The best books about World War One that don’t have the same old story

·         The best books about Abraham Lincoln from a fan and historian

·         The best books on the most famous battles of the First World War

·         The best war books that go beyond bombs: how war affects families

All those links will take you to entries on the Shepherd site. They'll give you a better idea of the concept.

Eventually I came up with "the best science fiction romance books filled with action and adventure in the stars".

Then I had to select five books and write my short opinion pieces which took considerable time. You can see what I picked, and why, by clicking the best science fiction romance books filled with action and adventure in the stars.

I think this is a wonderful concept, getting authors to effectively promote each others' books, while also providing readers with a kind of benchmark on where the author thinks their book fits. It's a bit like Amazon's "if you liked this you might like blah" – but with more depth.

It wasn't easy for me to come up with my logline. The list of books was easier, but then I had to write a not-review which described why the book was on my list. So, it takes a bit of time to do the job well. Whatever else I get out of it, it has been a fascinating, illuminating exercise.

The link to the site's 'for authors' page is on the site's footer but there it is to save you the bother. The site earns its money from associate links and authors are not charged.

Have a look. It might work for you.



Wednesday, May 18, 2022

CAPTIVE (The Survival Race, book 1) - CHAPTER 16

An abducted cop and a gladiator prisoner must learn to trust each other with their lives…and their hearts…to escape their alien captors.  

If you just found CAPTIVE, you can catch up reading here: Chapter 1  Ch 2  Ch 3  Ch 4  Ch 5  Ch 6  Ch 7  Ch 8  Ch 9  Chs 10 & 11  Ch 12  Ch 13  Ch 14  Ch 15 or buy the full book at your favorite retailers for only $2.99.

Last week's episode ended with Duncan telling Addy he knew someone who had escaped alien captivity... Max. Will Addy go to Max--the man she despises--for help?



Chapter Sixteen


By late afternoon, the ground had dried, making Addy’s daily run easier. Even without the mud, each run grew slower and shorter. It was a matter of time before she’d have to stop them altogether.

Damned pregnancy.

In the zone, legs carrying her without effort, she utilized her daily thinking time and concluded that going to the kennel and asking Max for help was out of the question.

If he was smart enough to figure out how to escape, then so was she.

She checked her running watch. It had been a gift from Duncan and a tremendous help in keeping track of the thirty-hour days. Unfortunately, she’d reached the edge of the warrior’s training field two minutes slower than last week. Oh well. Through the trees, men and boys as young as five practiced hand-to-hand combat. Her stomach soured. She turned and followed her path deeper into the forest around the field.

“What’s your hurry, pet?”

Jerked from her thoughts, she looked up, seeing nothing but path and woods. Her heart skipped a beat—which wasn’t a good thing when running.

A large form jumped out from behind a tree, and Addy crashed into Regan’s rock-hard bare chest. She turned to run the way she came, but powerful hands grabbed her, pulling her back into his chest. “Well, well.” His meaty arms encircled her, trapping her. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you’ve been avoiding me.”

Covered in dirt and blood, he reeked of sweat. Nno doubt his fighting matches had pumped his testosterone to dangerous levels.

She squirmed. “Let me go.”

He tightened his hold like a boa constrictor, and her chest crushed under his squeezing force. Gasping for breath, she stopped moving. He loosened his grip, and precious air expanded her lungs.

“Normally you run this path in the morning.”

He’d been keeping track? “You were waiting for me?”

“Don’t flatter yourself.”

“Then what are you doing in the woods? Marking your territory?”

His fingers dug into her shoulders as he forced her back into a tree. Her shoulder blades grated against rough bark. “The entire Yard and everyone in it is my territory. Including you. Disrespect me and suffer the consequences.” He cocked his hand.

“Don’t.” She moved to block the strike. “I’m pregnant.”

A sly smile tugged his lips. His hand lowered. “Even better.”

When his mouth covered hers, she clamped her teeth tightly together. Pressure like a vice grip squeezed her upper arm until she cried out, but his tongue in her throat stifled the sound. It wasn’t a quick kiss to prove his alpha status. This time it was predatory. Greedy and vicious. Meant to teach her a lesson.

Her frantic heart pounded as calloused hands slid up under her shirt and tore open her sports bra. She tried to hit, scratch, kick, knee him in the groin, but his whole body pinned her against the tree. She could barely move. 

She bit his tongue.

The blow came hard and fast. She landed on the ground, jaw pounding and ear ringing. Something wet rolled down her chin. Standing over her, wiping blood from his lips, Regan looked the epitome of a fierce barbarian.

She had known this day was inevitable, had long debated whether to fight or lie still. It seemed instinct had decided for her, and it was too late to take it back.

“You dare challenge me?” His menacing words sent a chill through her core.

Scrambling to get away, she crab-walked backward, turned, and almost got to her feet before he grabbed her ankle and jerked. Her face smacked against the rough path. She spat dirt and forest debris.

Twisting her leg, he flipped her onto her back. He straddled her hips, pinned her arms overhead, and then caught her throat in a meaty grip. “I am a champion alpha gladiator,” he whispered into her ear. “Do you realize what I can do to you?”

Trapped beneath his weight and strength, she was powerless. He could beat her. He could rape her. He could strangle her, and there was no way to stop him. She squeezed her eyes shut and nodded.

The grip on her throat tightened. “Tell me.”

“A-anything,” she choked out. Saying the word admitted defeat.

“That’s right. No matter how much you fight, you’ll lose. I can withstand more pain than you could ever dream of inflicting. And I’ll bet my soul you can’t say the same. I’ll give you a choice. If you don’t want to get hurt, retract your claws and canines. Understand?”

What kind of a choice was that? She nodded again. Tears escaped through shut lids and slipped down her temples.

“That’s a good pet.” He yanked on her shorts.

Fire erupted inside, setting her soul ablaze. She couldn’t lay still. She had to fight even if it meant getting beaten. She groped the ground for a rock or something with which to strike him.

A musical tune sounded through the trees.

Regan stopped with her shorts at her knees. “Not now, you hairy Hyborean fuck!” In an instant, his face appeared above her, and her eyes reflexively shut. Thick stubble scraped against her cheek. Hot breath rasped in her ear. “We’ll finish this at midnight, twenty-five hundred hours. Right here. Under this tree. Don’t make me come looking for you.”

The music sounded again.

When Addy opened her eyes, he was gone.

She didn’t know how long she lay there shaking before managing to pull up her pants and assess the damage. Opening and closing her mouth, she brushed a palm over what felt like a huge lump in her throbbing jaw. At least it wasn’t broken. A finger sweep over her teeth indicated they were all accounted for. Numb, she curled into the fetal position and hugged her knees.

She couldn’t live like this.

Dammit, she wouldn’t live like this.

Too scared to stay, but too scared to go back to Duncan’s where Regan could find her, she swallowed her pride and ran to the one place she had to go.

Minutes later, Addy stood at the “people door” that led from the Yard into HuBReC’s infirmary, the same place Ferly Mor had taken her numerous times for check-ups. Duncan had explained that anyone seeking medical treatment could enter through the “people door” without Hyborean aid.

Before she lost her nerve, she sublimated the door and entered the cleanser-and-adhesive-scented foyer. Shelves containing bandages, ointments, antiseptic, and first aid supplies aligned the back wall. The absence of drug bottles and sharp cutting tools didn’t go unnoticed.

Two door buttons—one on the right wall and one on the left—faced each other. The right door led into HuBReC’s infirmary waiting room. The other led into a room she had never been in before. The room that housed visiting humans and hospital patients.

She shuddered. This kennel would have been her home had Ferly Mor not adopted her.

She pressed the button on the left wall and watched the white vapor swirl in the doorway. It was now or never. She crossed the threshold. The door crackled behind.

The kennel, lined with cages on either side of a long center aisle, reminded her of the stables she mucked out back home as a teen, except these were clean and didn’t stink as expected. The cages appeared to be the same size as the breeding box and made of the same material—like everything else on the planet, the Hyboreans weren’t creative with building materials—but instead of solid walls lining the aisle, they were vertical bars like jail cells.

Addy tiptoed down the aisle, peering into each one. Empty. Empty. Empty. Max.

Her gut clenched, and her legs itched to run away. She inhaled a deep, fortifying breath, forcing herself to stay. Max had escaped before. That made him her one hope. She had to suck it up, push her feelings aside, and ask for his help.

He slept by a heating cube with his naked back toward her. His wounds, after only a week of the Hyboreans’ superior medical care, were nearly gone. Some weight had returned to his emaciated bones.

In the corner of his stall, er room, sat his black backpack and the apple basket she had thrown at him. The lightstick poked out of the top. Next to him appeared to be a half-eaten bowl of fruit and a small bundle she knew contained his food stash in case they didn’t feed him.

Heeding his words, she had kept a similar stash until realizing that if Ferly Mor had forgotten to feed her—which he never had—she would not go hungry. The Yard yielded plenty of fruits, vegetables, and fish.

So why did Max continue to hoard food?

“You want something?” The last time she’d heard the sleep in Max’s voice, it sounded husky. Sexy. This time it sounded gruff. He stretched and rolled over to face her.

She tried not to stare at the little round welts on his chest from last night.

“You pick another bushel of ammunition?”

“I’m not going to apologi—”

“Hell, woman, I didn’t expect you to.” His monotone voice came across as tired, not resentful.

She glared in awkward silence while he assessed her. Direct from Regan’s attack, she must have looked like crap covered with grime, sweat, and forest debris. Her jaw probably turned a lovely shade of purple by now.

“Who won?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Then why are you here?”

“I need—” She closed her eyes and bit her lip. “Your help.”

His eyes narrowed. “With?”

“Planning my escape.”

* * *

“Hell no.” He rolled away, pulling his blanket up over his shoulder. He’d thought the woman came to ask him to train her to fight. Based on that bruise on her cheek, she’d made an enemy.

“Duncan said you’re the only one who can help.”

“Yeah, well, Duncan says more than his prayers.”

“I’m not asking you to do anything that would get you in trouble. Just tell me how you did it. How far you got. How you were captured. What it’s like on the outs—”

“Whoa, woman.” He rolled to face her again. “Where the hell do you think you’ll go?”

“Home. To Earth.”


“Yes, seriously.” Her straight spine and set jaw demonstrated fortitude, but then her bottom lip quivered, and she grasped the cell bars, perhaps to keep from collapsing. “You don’t understand.” Desperation colored her words. “I have to get back home. My freezer is full of blackberries.”

“Well, that’s one I’ve never heard before.” Either she loved blackberries or it was some pop culture reference coined after his abduction. “You have any idea where in the universe you are?”

She shook her head no. Red-blonde wisps that had escaped her ponytail floated around her pretty gray eyes.

“I can see you’ve thought this through.” Why was he listening to her fantasies of escaping when he should be resting and healing? He rolled away again.

“But I think Duncan knows. He’s been to Earth and back a few times.”

“Possible.” Since she wasn’t going to let him sleep, he might as well play her game. He rolled back, propped himself on an elbow, and rested his head in his hand. This should be entertaining. “You plan to escape the Yard, commandeer an alien spaceship, and fly it home?”


“You an astronaut?”




“Let me guess. You drove an automatic, right?”

“I can drive a stick, thank you very much.”

He snorted. “Woman, you flying an alien spacecraft is like a snake driving an eighteen-wheeler. Impossible. Haven’t you noticed that every piece of Hyborean equipment is controlled by telepathy? You lack the capacity and brainpower. No offense.”

“Then I’ll sneak aboard their ship.”

“Ah. And you’ll magically know when they’re leaving and which planet they’re headed to?”

The fire in her eyes dimmed. Her shoulders drooped. “Okay, I’m not headed to Earth just yet. I’m going to the equator. Duncan told me about a clan there.”

“Did Duncan tell you it takes months to get there?”

“If others have made it, so can I.”

“Did he tell you about the man-eating smilodons? You know, saber-toothed tigers? Did he tell you about the ice breakups? And the poachers? Go back to Duncan’s house and make babies for your master. You’ll live longer.”

Her knuckles whitened around the cell bars. She stuck her face through the opening. “These Hyboreans already stole my freedom, my liberty. What’s the difference between them and the poachers? Tell me, Max, what’s the difference between the wild animals and you damn gladiators? I’ve already been preyed upon. At least out there I can only die once.”

Point well taken. Freedom might be worth dying for, except she wouldn’t be dying for it—she’d be committing suicide.

Max sat up, slid over to the wall, and leaned his back against it. She had no concept of hell’s fury on this planet. “Say by some miracle you do manage to escape. You’ll never make it out of the frozen region by yourself. Where will your food come from? Where will you find shelter when there’s ten hours of bitter darkness? How will you protect yourself from hungry carnivores? Do you think you can survive in a world you know nothing about?

“Then there’s the baby, every day slowing you down until you can’t take another step. Can you see yourself giving birth alone in an icy wilderness? If you don’t freeze to death first, a smilodon will sense your blood and devour you both.”

“That’s why I need your guidance. Teach me about Hyborea. Tell me how to get to the equator. I am a strong woman, Max. I can make it. I know I can.”

A painful ache shot through his bad leg as he stood. It wasn’t anything he couldn’t bear. He limped over. Her face tilted up until their gazes met. “It’s easy to act brave when you know you’re safe. But what if safety’s an illusion? What if danger lurks straight ahead?” He slapped the button on the wall next to him, and the cell bars sublimated.

Addy jumped back as he stepped through the white vapor. Her pupils grew as big as the apples she’d thrown at him. “I see by your expression you thought I was caged. The bars aren’t there to keep me in, woman, they’re there to keep you out.”

She had that same frightened look as in the breeding box, except this time she appeared even more vulnerable with the bruise on her cheek and the tattered shirt. He refused to let it get to him. He was teaching her a lesson. “You still feel brave?”

Her body trembled. Her chest rose and fell as she gulped in air. Her hands tightened into fists, though she must have known she’d never be able to fend him off. “Don’t come any closer.”

Challenge accepted. He stepped forward, invading her personal space, intimidating her with his towering gladiator height and fierce glower. “You afraid to die?”

“Terrified,” she whispered. He had to hand it to her for not retreating. “But I ask you what’s worth more in the end: a long life being raped by barbarians or a life of freedom, no matter how short-lived?”

Suddenly tired, he turned and limped back inside his box. Using the wall as a support guide, he slid his back against it as he lowered himself to the floor. “You remind me of a kid I knew a long time ago. Eager to escape. Willing to die trying.” He scooped a pink chunk out of his food bowl and popped it into his mouth.

“Who was he?”

He took his time chewing the sweet fruit before swallowing. “Me.”

Addy entered his cage and knelt across from him. “Does that mean you’ll help?”

“What makes you think I’d risk what little I have to help you?”

“Because you escaped once. Because in the breeding box you declared your freedom. Because after everything you did”—she placed a hand on her belly—“you owe me.”

“Woman, if I sent you out there in your condition, you’d be dead within days.”

“My condition?” Anger flashed in her eyes. “You mean you won’t help me because I’m pregnant?”


“Are you freaking kidding me? You did this to me. It’s all your fault I’m pregnant.”

It wasn’t all his fault, but that ordeal wasn’t something he wished to think about. Ever again.

“And now you’re telling me you won’t help me escape because of it?”

“Yup.” It was as good an excuse as any.

“Unbelievable! I’m two for two today. Because you knocked me up, I can’t escape, and a gladiator with a pregnancy fetish wants me. As far as I’m concerned, Max, it’s partly your fault Regan assaulted me.”

“Regan did this to you?” He should have known. It didn’t take much to provoke Regan into smacking anyone. Addy’s defiant spirit was nothing if not provoking.

She nodded. “What kind of sexual deviant jumps a pregnant lady?”

That alpha bastard put his paws on Addy’s naked body? The idea bothered him more than he would’ve thought. Many gladiators forced themselves onto the broodmares. Max was no less a beast than Regan, why, then, did the thought of Regan molesting Addy make him want to hit something?

It must be his damn animal possessiveness again.

“How the hell do you think you’ll survive out there when you don’t even have a clue how the system works in here?” He couldn’t help redirecting his anger at her.


“This is a breeding facility. Breeding costs money. Unscheduled pregnancies waste time and dough, which piss off the Hyboreans. Remember rule number one? If a guy wants to avoid punishment, he’s gonna take care of business himself or find a pregnant female—which, as you know, is in no short supply.”

“This place is a freaking zoo. I have to get out of here. Please, Max, I’m begging you to help me.”

“Hell, woman, you must be down-and-out desperate to beg for my help.”





Will Max help Addy escape? Find out next week or read the full story now at your favorite retailers for only $2.99.



Romance with a rebel heart

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Hosted by 5 Science Fiction Romance authors with 8 RWA Golden Heart finals and a RITA final between them. We aim to entertain with spirited commentary on the past, present, and future of SFR, hot topics, and our take on Science Fiction and SFR books, television, movies and culture.