My friend J. Scott Coatsworth’s new book “Lander,” (sequel to “Skythane”) is out, and from what I’ve read so far it’s damn good!
Sometimes the world needs saving twice.
In the sequel to the Rainbow-Award-winning Skythane, Xander and Jameson thought they’d fulfilled their destiny when they brought the worlds of Oberon and Titania back together, but their short-lived moment of triumph is over.
Reunification has thrown the world into chaos. A great storm ravaged Xander’s kingdom of Gaelan, leaving the winged skythane people struggling to survive. Their old enemy, Obercorp, is biding its time, waiting to strike. And to the north, a dangerous new adversary gathers strength, while an unexpected ally awaits them.
In the midst of it all, Xander’s ex Alix returns, and Xander and Jameson discover that their love for each other may have been drug-induced.
Are they truly destined for each other, or is what they feel concocted? And can they face an even greater challenge when their world needs them most?
The Oberon Cycle: Book Two
Xander is a skythane man whose wings have always been a liability on the lander-dominated half world of Oberon.
Jameson is a lander who has been sent to Oberon to find out why the supply of the psycho-amoratic drug pith has dropped off.
What neither knows is that they have a shared destiny that will change the two of them – and all of Oberon – forever.
500 Word Excerpt (Non Exclusive):
Jameson savored the kiss, his arms around Xander, the way they fit together just right. They were finally together, and Titania and Oberon were one again.
Erro, Quince had called this new world. Like the skythane god of the sun, the one Errian and the Erriani were named for.
For the moment, everything was right in his life, and he never wanted it to end.
A cold drop of water on his cheek brought him out of his reverie. He glanced up. Storm clouds were piled high, swiftly overtaking them. Rain began to pour out of the sky like a waterfall, and thunder echoed in the clouds as the valley went dark, sunlight smothered by the onrushing clouds. Nearby trees thrashed about in the wind, their purple leaves fluttering in distress.
“What the hell?” Xander said as the winds picked up and ruffled the feathers of his wings. He stared up at the black tempest.
“The Split!” Jameson shouted over the howling of the wind. He mimed the two halves of the world, each with their own atmosphere, suddenly being forced together in the middle. “When the Oberon half shifted, all the atmosphere it brought with it along the Split was forced up here!”
A bolt of lightning struck a nearby tree, crisping it to ashes and standing Jameson’s hair on end.
“Run!” Xander shouted.
Jameson’s vision swam, and a memory slipped into his conscious mind from that other part of him—a high-ceilinged cavern that was more like a faery palace than a cave—where he’d stolen away with a lover. More than once.
His stomach heaved at the displacement, and he clenched his hands. That wasn’t me. They were someone else’s memories.
“Follow me!” he shouted at his four companions—Xander, Quince, Kadin, and Venin—and ran toward the cliffs that were rapidly fading to invisibility behind the rain. He pushed down the memory-nausea, tasting bile in the back of his mouth.
Alia was missing. He’d last seen her as they had fled the Mountain, when it had begun to collapse. Jameson looked around wildly, but she was nowhere to be seen. “Where’s Alia?” he shouted at Kadin as they ran. Thunder shook the valley.
Kadin shook his head, mouthing, “I don’t know.”
Rain swirled all around them, coming down so fast that it pooled on the ground and ran in rivulets downhill toward the lake that was now half filled with the broken remains of the Mountain.
The mud made the footing treacherous. Jameson clambered up the hill, using roots and rocks that offered a firmer surface than the naked ground. The wind tugged at his wings, threatening to flip him over. He pulled them in tightly and glanced back to be sure the others were following him through the tempest.
Jameson reached the cover of the forest, plunging under the protection of the canopy. The trees here were tall and thin with white bark trunks and broad purple leaves that were being shredded by the storm.
1000 Word Excerpt (Non Exclusive):
Xander stared at the torrent of water pouring over the cavern entrance. Somewhere out there, Quince and the others were lost in the storm.
“What happened to everyone else?” Jameson shouted, putting his hand on Xander’s shoulder.
“I don’t know. Last I saw them was before the lightning strike.” How had things changed so quickly?
Jameson started toward the exit. “We have to look for them!”
Xander pulled him back.
Jameson’s eyes were wild.
He squeezed Jameson’s hands, trying to reassure him. “Hey, calm down. There’s nothing we can do right now.”
“We already lost Morgan.” Jameson’s eyes pleaded with him. “I can’t lose the rest of them.”
Xander shook his head. “It’s no use. We’ll never find them in this tempest. They’re seasoned veterans. They can take care of themselves. We’ll go looking after the storm passes.” The loss of Morgan weighed on him too, though he was less and less certain that Morgan had been a human boy at all.
Jameson looked doubtful.
Xander felt it too, but there really was nothing they could do. “Hey, it’s gonna be all right.” He pulled Jameson to him, enfolding the two of them with his wings. Jameson was soaked, but Xander didn’t care.
Jameson nodded against his chest. “You’re right. Gods, I know you’re right. I’m sorry. I thought we were done with all this.”
Xander held him out at arm’s length. “Gods, huh? We’re doing the plural thing now?”
Jameson gave him a half smile. “Trying it out? When in Rome….”
“How’s your hearing?”
Jameson cocked his head. “It’s better. But everything sounds muffled.”
Xander nodded. “I can tell.”
Jameson blushed. “Am I talking too loud?”
“Just a little.”
Jameson smiled sheepishly. “It’s weird. It feels like my ears are full of water.”
Xander kissed him gently. “It’ll pass.” He looked around the cavern at last, his eyes gradually adjusting to the dim blue light.
The place was a faeryland, filled with rows of golden stalactites and stalagmites, like the bulwarks of an eldritch castle. Each one was a miracle of minute detail, like candle wax dripped from above. The whole cavern was lit by a turquoise-blue glow.
Xander looked around for the source. It came from pools of water on either side of the cavern. The scintillating light shimmered along the walls, creating complex, ever-changing patterns.
“Look, Jameson… it’s beautiful.” They were both a muddy mess. “We’re stuck here until the storm blows itself out. Why don’t we get cleaned up and try to rest? Then we can figure out what to do next. We have a long flight to Gaelan.” He was still shivering from the rain.
“A bath sounds like heaven.” Jameson let Xander lead him to one of the glowing ponds.
“Do you think it’s safe to go in?” Xander asked, pulling off his boots and testing the water with his toes. It was warm.
Jameson looked queasy, but then he smiled. “They called them faery ponds. There’s a microscopic organism that makes the light. It’s harmless, but beautiful.” He grinned. “Romantic, even.”
Ah, that’s how you knew this place. “You’ve been here before, haven’t you?” he said, slowly and clearly, gesturing to indicate Jameson and the cavern. His own generational memories were still fleeting, occasional things.
Jameson’s smile fled. He shrugged. “Not me personally….”
“Shhh. I know.” If he closed his eyes and focused, he could see this place too, but he seemed to be able to block them out when they were inconvenient. “Too many memories.” Xander pointed at his head.
Jameson nodded. He looked relieved. He reached out and pulled Xander close, his hands warm on Xander’s waist.
Xander slipped his arms around Jameson and kissed him once, twice. He wrinkled his nose. “You’re filthy and you stink! So do I.” He held up his shirt as proof. It was covered in mud stains.
Jameson laughed. “We can fix that.”
He helped Jameson unlace the sides of his shirt, pulling it off to reveal the naked skin underneath. Jameson returned the favor, his hands lingering for a moment before withdrawing to pull down his own pants.
They shucked their wet and dirty clothes and descended into the water. It was surprisingly warm, silky and smooth around Xander’s waist.
The pool was about three meters across and sloped down to about a meter deep at the far end. There was a warm, gentle current drifting past Xander’s legs, and the stone beneath his feet had been worn smooth by water and time.
Xander washed the grime off his skin, and it drifted off into the water around him.
Jameson pulled him in deeper and gestured for him to lower his head.
Xander lay in Jameson’s arms, and warm water washed over him, carrying the mud and dirt out of his hair. Jameson massaged his scalp, pulling away the twigs and bits of gunk he’d accumulated on the mad run through the forest in the storm.
Xander’s desire threatened to overwhelm him at Jameson’s gentle touch. He dipped his face into the water and rinsed off. It was so fucking good to get clean.
He shook his head, splashing Jameson, who shot him an aggrieved look.
The look turned into a wicked grin, and Jameson splashed him back. Then they were going after each other and laughing, a fine mist of water flying through the air.
Damn, it’s good to hear you laugh again. Xander grabbed Jameson and kissed him, harder this time, and Jameson’s body responded. They fell back into the water, and Jameson was hard against him, his own need naked before Xander’s desire.
After all that had happened, Xander needed to feel human and alive again. He tugged Jameson back to the shallow part of the pool and pulled his skythane down on top of him, Jameson’s skin warm against his own.
He kissed Jameson’s neck and nibbled on his ear, eliciting a low moan.
Jameson wanted this as much as he did. He could tell.
For a long, slow, ecstatic hour, Xander forgot all about the storm.
1500 Word Excerpt (Non Exclusive):
Jameson kissed Xander again, his passion fading, but his ardor for the man still in full bloom. It was good to find time for the two of them in the middle of madness.
Xander was at rest, peaceful as he floated on the surface of the water, his eyes closed and his muscles slack. His black wings trailed off below into the glow of the pond. He looked more like an angel to Jameson than he had since the first time they’d met.
Images flashed in his head—this place, other people, other times. He squeezed his eyes shut, willing them to go away.
Reluctantly they subsided. Jameson stood to get out of the water, shaking his head as if to dry his hair.
Xander pulled him back down for one more kiss. “What’s the hurry? I can still hear the storm roaring outside.”
Jameson growled. “I’m hungry. Don’t you ever get your fill?” He should have told Xander about the memories. He knew Xander saw them too, sometimes, but Jameson didn’t want to ruin the moment.
“Apparently not.” Xander let him go. “But I like to watch your backside, so I guess this is some kind of compensation.”
“Pervert.” Jameson smiled to himself. He was still sore from their exertions, but it was a good kind of sore.
He climbed up to the rock floor next to the pool, using one of the columns to steady himself. Something skittered across the edge of his vision. A bat? Or something like it? He looked after it, but it had vanished.
He went to pull his pants back on and wrinkled his nose. His clothes were filthy.
He opened his pack and grabbed a fresh set. He pulled on his underwear first, then laced up his shirt while Xander watched appreciatively. Getting dressed had been a hell of a lot easier before he’d gotten his wings. To compensate for his lack of skythane clothing, they’d raided the king’s closet, and it had been a challenge to find anything without a fur lining or silver buttons. King Theron had been a big man too—thick in the middle, if his clothes were any indication. Frowning, Jameson cinched his belt tight to hold up his pants.
“It suits you.” Xander smirked, getting out of the water and giving Jameson a full-on view of his beautiful body. He was muscled, but not overly so, his stomach firm and his body sleek. He was perfect.
Jameson felt a surge of love for Xander. He took full advantage of the unguarded moment, enjoying the show. Xander’s well-defined abs and his lopsided grin were almost enough to entice Jameson to give it another go, but the memories were messing with his head, and he really was hungry.
“Let’s eat.” Xander pulled out his own change of clothes and sniffed them.
“A little damp?”
“Yeah. Mildew from all the rain. Still, it’s better than the alternative.”
He grinned. It was a shame Xander needed to wear anything at all. “Um, food. Yeah. Sounds good.”
“We need to be ready to leave as soon as the storm lets up.” Xander pulled on his pants. “That means keeping up our strength. Getting fed, getting some sleep…. I want to look for Quince and the others, and my people need me back home. Things will be confused in Gaelan after the shift.”
My people. Jameson had his own people too, somewhere across the continent. “Things will be crazy in Oberon City too, I’d imagine.”
Xander nodded. As he finished dressing, Jameson took a look around the cavern. It was maybe fifty meters across, and half that deep, and there were dark shadows at several places near the back, leading off to other caves or rooms.
He wondered how far this cavern system went. His new gift—or curse?—wasn’t specific on details like that, though sometimes memories sprang wholly formed in his head.
Back home on Beta Tau, caverns could stretch on for hundreds of kilometers. The Great Rift system went on for at least three hundred and fifty, meaning it was theoretically possible to get from New Davos to Arctus without ever going aboveground.
He closed his eyes, trying to remember this place. The ability seemed to come and go randomly, but there had to be a way to summon it up at will. It had come to him when he needed it, but not of his own volition.
Again, there was a flickering, like something fluttering past in his peripheral vision. This time it slipped past on both sides. He looked around wildly, but there was nothing there. Not bats, then. He was losing his mind.
“What are you thinking about?” Xander asked. “You seem a little… distracted.”
“You didn’t see that?”
“Never mind.” He sighed. “It’s probably just this place. I… remember it, but I don’t.”
“I know. Since that kiss, it’s been hit and miss for me too.”
Jameson nodded. That kiss. The one at the House of the Moon, when memories had flooded through him, through Xander, like a torrent. It had been the second time for him, but for Xander….
“Do you ever… see things that aren’t there?”
“Sometimes. Quick images. Like brief overlays of the past on the present.”
“Do you see them now?”
Xander looked around. “No, nothing now. You?”
“No. I….” He stopped. Something was moving at the edge of his vision. He looked around. The cavern seemed to shift, becoming brighter. There was a weird fluttering, as if a hundred dark wings were flapping just out of sight.
“Jameson, you okay?”
Everything went fuzzy for a moment, and his stomach clenched in protest. When he could see again, golden light flickered from candles placed all around the room. Where had they come from?
He turned back to Xander, but Elyra stood there instead, grinning at him, leaning forward, her breasts like two perfect moons under her vest. “You came. I’ve been waiting for hours.” She pulled him close. He could smell her musky perfume, feel her long raven-black hair brush against his cheeks as their lips met….
The world shifted again.
The cavern was dark, lit by only the smallest blue illumination from the pool, and he was all alone. The deep, keening sadness of loss cut him with a sharp physical pain. In his left hand was a bloody dagger, and his right cupped his torn intestines.
A massive furry creature with eight arms and long teeth like a saber-toothed tiger rose up with a growl, and six eyes stared at him over its wrinkled snout. It swiped at him with a hairy paw tipped with sharp claws and he danced away….
He was out of breath, gasping for air, and covered in sweat. He held on to one of the rock columns for support, staring over his shoulder. Surely they hadn’t followed him all the way back here.
There were shouts behind him, in the main cavern, and he took a desperate gulp of air and pushed himself onward, toward the darkness at the back of the cavern….
He/They/We were joined, feeling a sense of peace and harmony at their union. He/They/We fed on the nutrients in the water, joined body and mind, and mused about the world outside and the events of the last few days. Each part of He/They/We shared its experiences out in the world, the others they had encountered before returning with their knowledge to enrich the whole. The time of the Great Move was coming….
Scott is giving away a $25 Amazon gift certificate and three copies of his queer sci fi eBook “The Stark Divide.” Use the rafflecopter code:
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Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38088645-lander
Scott lives between the here and now and the what could be. Indoctrinated into fantasy and sci fi by his mother at the tender age of nine, he devoured her library. But as he grew up, he wondered where the people like him were.
He decided it was time to create the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at Waldenbooks. If there weren’t gay characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.
His friends say Scott’s brain 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 seeks to transform traditional sci fi, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something unexpected.
He runs 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 reality.
Author Website: https://www.jscottcoatsworth.com
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