Tag Archives: artists

Blog Tour: Red Dot by Mike Karpa

Red Dot | Mike Karpa

The Dot Trilogy #1

BANNER-FB - Red Dot

Release Date: November 1st, 2021

Cover Artist: Maria Oglesby

Word Count: 77,483

Buy Links:

Publisher | Amazon

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Blurb

After the disaster of global warming, the world has gotten its act together. People are positive, sensible, and intent on creating a better future and a just present. And it’s working! So, in a world where everyone makes good decisions, what could possibly go wrong?

Well, other people. Mardy is a 26-year old gay man who dreams of being a full-time machine-tool artist. He brims with ideas, puts in the hours, and has a solid circle of friends—both fellow artists and the artificial intelligences he works with.

But he’s always coming in second to another machine-tool artist at his makerspace. He’s dealing with that, thanks to the highly effective psychotherapy of the future, but then he meets his irritatingly successful rival’s twin—and falls for him hard.

Consequences ensue, and fast, driving Mardy not just to pursue his artistic dreams, but to try to liberate his AI friends from servitude, and find love in the process.

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Excerpt

Chapter 1

Mardy’s ExMail delivery jet was vectoring in fast on San Francisco.

“Coming in a little hot, don’t you think?” he said to the plane.

“It’s fine, Mardy,” the plane replied.

Mardy gripped the open side-portal of the plane. Hoverdown would normally have engaged by that point, but there was little at the moment to distinguish their trajectory from a kamikaze run at his apartment building rooftop.

“Plane?” Mardy asked, panicking a wee bit. They were plummeting. Mardy clamped his lips against the wind. He wanted to make the designstation time he’d booked for the evening, but as much as he wanted to be a full-time machine tool artist, he’d prefer not to die in the attempt.

One hundred feet, fifty feet. Twenty.

The plane hit its thrusters hard, sending Mardy sprawling out of the portal. He managed a shoulder roll onto the hot concrete roof, ending in a crouch. His heart pounded as the impact of his landing reverberated through his bones.

His plane floated above the roof. “See you tomorrow, Mardy.”

Mardy stood. Did he detect a smirk in the plane’s voice? It maintained its hover, wheels retracted. Was it waiting for Mardy’s reaction?

“See you tomorrow,” Mardy mumbled, shaken, sweating, and not just from the sun beating down on them.

The plane waggled its wings ever so slightly. It was laughing, Mardy was sure of it. Mardy waved slowly as the plane left for who knew where. The official story was that all the delivery jets were operated by a central AI, a single intelligence. But Mardy had sensed differences between planes almost from day one and found it harder and harder to pretend he didn’t. And this plane, a jokester, was his favorite. It knew Mardy was light on his feet, able to handle the abrupt braking. It was playing with him. Mardy wanted to give it a name.

Phil.

The name popped into Mardy’s mind, unbidden. Which felt more alarming than the idea of plunging to earth through an open portal, because naming AIs was illegal—not just technically illegal, but illegal enough to land you in jail.

Mardy caught the beautifully air-conditioned elevator down the thirty-three flights to ground level, legs tired from a full day on the job, and hoofed it one block down Mission Street to WorkShop Downtown SF, sweat now dribbling from him despite the near-dusk hour. The batteries of the personal cooler strapped to his chest must have filled up from harvesting his body heat as he’d raced through his workday.

Mardy pushed through the WorkShop front door. He planned to spend an all-nighter polishing his latest machine-tooled design. It was nearly ready to submit for the salon, the competitive exhibition WorkShop held every month. Salons had only one slot per discipline and he had never been selected, but this was the month he would finally beat out their resident star, Smith Hunt. Mardy could feel it: this month, he would be the salon’s chosen machine tool artist.

He dropped his satchel next to his designstation, already feeling the hours of slogging to come.

His design was a whirligig, one of the middle genres of machine tool art. He’d been working so far in gizmos, the very bottom rung of the genres, but having failed every single month he’d competed, he’d decided more ambition was called for. His whirligig was essentially a mobile cooling fan intended to track the person it was paired with, walking after its target on tiny legs to provide continuous cooling. The best part? When the person settled, their whirligig would dance a cha-cha. It naturally wouldn’t be as convenient or effective as the personal cooling units everyone wore to survive their globally warmed world, but it would be adorable.

His best friend, Cat, a plastic surgery artist, hurried over to Mardy’s designstation, their bushy black hair bouncing. “We’re heading over to Uncle Mix for drinks.” They were dressed in work clothes—sweatshirt and jeans—except that their jeans had a starscape of Milky Way and crescent moon splashed in yellow against the dark blue denim, likely the work of one of the resident fabrics artists.

Mardy shook his head. “I haven’t finished my entry.” Plus, he really wanted to do more than design it. He wanted to build this sucker, an expensive, full realization. And on his pilot’s salary, he couldn’t afford another night out. A minimum-wage job like ExMail pilot was enough for a tidy supplement to universal basic income, but it left little room for art.

Cat bent over to look at his screen. “Show me,” they said.

“I want it to be a surprise.”

“I already know it’s a whirligig. You’ve been dropping hints for a solid month.”

“Are you submitting?” Mardy asked.

Cat cocked their head at him. “Think a question will distract me?”

Mardy chuckled. “Okay, not subtle. But your plastic surgery is so great. I reallywant you to submit a routine. Use me as your blank.”

Cat gave him a skeptical look.

Ever since Cat’s controversial near-triumph at Vegas Regionals last year, their plastic surgery performance recordings had gotten astonishing view metrics. Now everybody wanted to be in a Cat performance. But Mardy had shied away, despite Cat’s repeated requests and flattering remarks about his bone structure. Mardy trusted Cat’s ability to restore his face and/or other body parts afterwards, but he was afraid of knives. He’d only volunteered now to avoid showing Cat his design. But he’d said it, and if he’d said it, he’d do it.

“Done. And just to warn you, I submitted an hour ago,” Cat said.

“I’m not scared.” Mardy tried to hide a gulp of terror. “In bocca al lupo.” Over the last decade, the Italian phrase—in the mouth of the wolf—had thoroughly supplanted the nonsensical break a leg, part of a global migration of slang, as verbal fashions swarmed over the face of the planet like birds on the move.

Cat ran a finger down Mardy’s jawline, the plans for imagined cuts bubbling behind their eyes.

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About The Author

AUTHOR PIC - Red Dot - Mike Karpa

Mike was once a woodworker in a makerspace and knows how semiconductors are made. His novels hop around between genres, dabbling in scifi (Red Dot), romance (Red Dot again), suspense (Criminals), and forthcoming in 2022, a snarky comedy of manners set in New York and Arkansas and a YA novel about five puppies in search of a dog rumored to be their dad. Eventually, a behemoth about love, war and espionage in India in the 1960s (Between Countries) will see the light of day as well.

His goal these days is to write novels for queer audiences that are entertaining rather than esoteric, upbeat rather than angsty. His more recent shorter fiction, memoir and nonfiction (some in the more angsty vein) can be found in Tin HouseFoglifterTahoma Literary ReviewOyster River Pages and other magazines.

Mike has roots in Texas and Estonia, and has lived in California, Michigan and Ohio, not to mention eight years in Asia in the early part of his life.  Now he lives in San Francisco with his husband and dog in a house soon to be celebrating its 130th birthday. Red Dot is Mike’s second book, after Criminals (2021), and is the first in a planned trilogy.

Social Media

Website: https://mikekarpa.com

Facebook (Publishing): https://www.facebook.com/mumblerspress

Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/mike.karpa/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mumblerspress

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mumblerspress/

Liminal Fiction (LimFic.com): https://www.limfic.com/mbm-book-author/mike-karpa/

QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/mike-karpa/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Mike-Karpa/e/B09GTNWKVY

Giveaway

Mike is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour

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Brooke and Ella at their absolute best.

59353203._SY475_Secrets & Lies by Brooke Blaine & Ella Frank

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved everything about this book, from the moment that Ash and Ryder met, to the awesome Epilogue set six years later.

It’s taboo, pay attention if that’s the kind of thing that squicks you out. For me, I wasn’t particularly bothered given the circumstances of how the pair met.

It’s seriously hot, but it’s also much more than just sex. While there’s an instant lustful attraction between the two men, there’s also a meeting of minds, of similar passions and interests.

The age gap between Ash and Ryder never really feels like a bit deal, Ryder is an old soul, he’s had to mature growing up with his military single dad, so he’s used to looking after himself.

The forbidden aspect of their situation is dealt with both realistically and appropriately imho, I liked how Brooke and Ella took that part of the story.

The “Third Act” crisis point isn’t drama created for the sake of it, it fit perfectly into the narrative and I felt it was handled well. The Epilogue is absolutely fabulous and I firmly believed that this pair would see out their lives together.

#ARC kindly received from the authors in return for an honest and unbiased review

View all my reviews

New Release Blitz: The Weight of Living by M.A. Hinkle

The Weight of Living by M.A. Hinkle

Cherrywood Grove #3

The Weight of Living Banner

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: February 17, 2020

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 79,500

Buy Links:

NineStar Press | Amazon

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Barnes & Noble | Kobo

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TheWeightofLiving-f500

 Blurb

When she arrives in Cherrywood Grove for a working vacation, shy photographer Trisha Ivy expects to kick back and relax, enjoying her last summer of freedom before turning into a real adult with a mortgage and a nine-to-five.

After all, her real life is back in Chicago with her best friend Bella, not a sleepy small town. But Trisha keeps running into beautiful, confident Gabi Gonzalez, a caterer working all the same weddings…and she’s the daughter of Trisha’s favorite local TV star. Trisha can’t resist getting to know her. After all, she’s only in town for the summer, and Gabi is straight. What harm could it do?

Gabi Gonzalez has spent most of her life trying to escape Cherrywood Grove and find something bigger and better. During an internship in Milwaukee, she thought she’d finally found it. But after her father’s sudden death, she returns home and tries to squeeze back into the same childhood roles: kid sister, cool aunt, tireless worker.

She’s just resigned herself to going through the motions when she meets Trisha, someone who finally sees Gabi for her own self instead of putting her in a box. Can Gabi open up to Trisha about what she really wants before Trisha leaves town for good?

Excerpt

The Weight of Living
M.A. Hinkle © 2020
All Rights Reserved

June
2015, Three Months Before: The Time Gabi Was a Grumpy Tomatillo

Gabi had expected Soledad to laugh when she came in the room, and she was not disappointed. “What is your outfit?” Soledad asked, putting her hands on her hips. “I didn’t even know you owned a dress.”

Gabi busied herself rolling up the sleeves of her cardigan. She had short-sleeved ones, but none of them had been washed recently, so they smelled musty like the closet at her parents’ house. When she left for her internship, she’d only brought blazers. “I own several, as it happens. You remember how I used to dress. This is for business.”

Soledad glanced at her own outfit—a bright, short-sleeved button-down and her favorite gold chain. Gabi would have called it a self-conscious look if she didn’t know Soledad so well. “Well, sorry, I thought this was a TV show, not a board meeting.”

The twist to her voice was surprisingly nervous, and Gabi glanced at her again. “You don’t have to change. You look great.”

The idea of Soledad looking anything but great—except maybe elbow deep in week-old fryer grease—was unfathomable. Soledad’s hair was always sleek and freshly gelled; her shirts were always bright as jewels against her brown skin.

But she still didn’t relax; she was twisting the gold chain between her fingers, a gesture usually reserved for long talks on the phone with her latest girlfriend.

“You look fine,” Gabi repeated. “I have to dress this way to make my parents happy. You saw how my mom reacted when she noticed my short hair.” She affected a high-pitched voice, which sounded nothing like her mother but made the point. “‘Ay, mija, tu pelo! What did you do to yourself?’”

Soledad winced. “I thought I wasn’t supposed to remember.”

“She didn’t mean it.” Though Gabi’s mother certainly had. Gabi’s hair hadn’t been shorter than shoulder-length since a classmate rubbed gum in it in kindergarten. “Anyway, it’s too late to change, so they can’t say anything even if they want to.”

Gabi’s parents wouldn’t say a word. From the moment they laid eyes on Soledad, they had adored her. They’d spent the whole weekend hanging on her every word and laughing hysterically at her jokes.

Gabi clapped Soledad on the back. Touching her so casually seemed strange, but no stranger than Soledad’s nerves. She hadn’t even blinked when one of the guys in their internship group nearly cut off a finger slicing ham. “Come on, chill. This really isn’t a big deal.”

“Easy for you to say.” Soledad let Gabi nudge her toward the kitchen anyway. Today, they were filming in the big industrial kitchen on campus, which Gabi had hoped would put Soledad at ease, but no dice. “You’ve been on TV since you were, like, five.”

“Six.”

Soledad shot her a look, but before she could tell Gabi off, Gabi’s father Carlos swept into the room. As usual, several members of the crew trailed him trying to get his attention, but Carlos ignored them, making a beeline for Gabi’s side. He gave her a loud smacking kiss on the cheek, and Gabi dutifully rolled her eyes. She’d missed it since she’d been away for almost a year now, but her dad would get a big head if she let him know.

“There’s my girl. Or one of them, anyway.” He turned to Soledad. “I’m outnumbered, and it only keeps getting worse. I prayed and prayed Soledad would have a boy, but alas. Oh well. There’s always you, Gabi.”

“Not planning on kids, Dad,” said Gabi.

He draped an arm around her shoulders. “You haven’t met the right man yet, mija. I thought I would be a bachelor forever too, but here I am.”

Soledad snorted, and Gabi’s father wagged a finger at her. “Your opinion does not count, Señorita Rivera! Although when Sarah’s old enough, I will appreciate your help vetting her choice of woman.”

Gabi caught Soledad’s eye, both of them startled. Sarah was only seventeen, and their internship was nearly over. They hadn’t discussed the future, but it probably didn’t involve either of them hanging out in Cherrywood Grove.

Before Gabi had to figure out how to drop any bombshells on her father, Sarah popped up at his elbow. “Abuelo, I’ve already had three girlfriends.”

“Si, si, mijita, I know, but high school does not count.”

Sarah puffed up, a sure sign she was going to lecture all of them on exactly how serious she could be. And also, probably ageism or something. Gabi would have to step in. She loved watching Sarah unleash herself, and so did Carlos, but they were on a tight schedule today.

“Sarah, you said yourself you broke up with them because they weren’t mature enough for you.”

Sarah’s shoulders relaxed. “It’s true, I suppose. But Abuelo’s right about your boyfriends, Gabi. They were all garbage.”

Soledad did nothing to hide her smirk. Gabi pretended not to notice.

Carlos let go of Gabi, but only so he could pull Sarah to his side instead. “Now, have you got notes for me, hmm?”

“Yep.” Sarah held up her binder, labeled Talk of the Town in her impeccable handwriting. “Although I still couldn’t decide on one part. I know you said you didn’t like this line—” She flipped through the pages until she found one highlighted in blue. “—but I couldn’t think of a better substitute. Yours doesn’t roll off the tongue.”

“Ah! Lucky for us, our resident tiebreaker is here!” He reached out for Gabi again, holding one girl in each arm.

Soledad caught Gabi’s eye, her hand covering her mouth to hide a laugh.

Gabi made a face at her to indicate, I will deal with you later. To her father, she said, “Okay, okay, let me see.”

Her father passed her the binder. The line in question was a scientific explanation about egg proteins. Sarah’s version involved the actual names; Carlos’s was more simplistic. He never liked to go into too much detail in case it lost people’s attention. But his was patronizingly vague.

“Sarah’s is better,” Gabi declared. “But ditch the scientific terms. Call them proteins. We can put a graphic up with their proper names in a post if it’ll bother you so much.”

“It will,” said Sarah, though not as sharply as usual since she’d won the argument. “Don’t go anywhere, Abuelo. I have more notes.”

Gabi took the chance to duck out from under her father’s arm. Soledad was clearly still ill at ease, which would make for a stiff and uninteresting performance. And Gabi was the resident problem-solver, after all.

“Good, good, let’s talk.” Carlos touched Gabi’s elbow before she managed to slip away completely. “Oh, Gabriela, your sister was looking for you.”

Gabi waited until Carlos walked away, an arm still around Sarah’s shoulders, before letting out a disgusted sigh. “Of course she is.”

“Rosa’s pretty cool.” Soledad was only trying to tweak Gabi’s nose, but Gabi could never resist the bait.

“And beautiful and talented and blah blah blah.” Gabi adjusted the sleeves of her cardigan again, already sliding down. She’d forgotten how fussy feminine clothes were. “You only like her because you think she’s hot.”

“And you’re only cranky because she’s older than you and can challenge your authority.”

“Don’t you start rubbing in the age difference. My parents are bad enough. I can only handle being called their little surprise so many times in one week. And you wonder why I needed a break.”

Gabi shooed Soledad out the door over to the prep area, where Gabi’s sister, Rosa, was bent over a row of papier-mâché tomatillos painted with faces. Despite the barely dry paint, she was wearing a far fancier dress than Gabi’s, tied with a sash at her waist emphasizing her curves. If Gabi wore a similar dress, she’d look flat as a board. Or like Frankenstein’s monster.

Soledad tilted her head. “Are these supposed to be your family?” she asked, picking up one with Carlos’s distinctive broad nose.

“Oh, of course! And there’s you over here.” Rosa picked up one tucked behind the others with Soledad’s dimple in her left cheek. “You can take it home after the shoot if you’d like. A little memento. Otherwise, it’ll end up lost in Papá’s house somewhere. He’s less organized than I am.”

Gabi found her own. “Why am I frowning?”

“You’re unripe, obviously. Papá wanted some models to demonstrate how to shop for fresh tomatillos. See, he’s bruised, and Mamá is overripe.”

“You have way too much fun with this stuff.”

“Are you kidding me? She’s living the dream.” Soledad gently replaced her tomatillo next to Gabi’s. “Hell yeah I’m taking my mini-me home.”

“We’ll have to find a safe spot so your roommates don’t trash her.” Gabi poked Rosa’s arm. “Now what did you want me for?”

“What did I want you for?” Rosa tapped her cheek and then brightened. “Ah. Yes. Carry this, please? I’d ask one of the tech guys to help, but something always ends up broken.” She pointed at a box of miscellaneous props. “Also, it’s your turn to hide the armadillo. Several times over, but we’ll let it slide.”

“Can I do it?” Soledad asked, picking through the box. “It’s my favorite part.” She found it near the bottom and held it up, grinning. It was one of Rosa’s first props for the show and thus a little worse for wear, but it still worked.

“You have to be sneaky. Dad keeps his eyes peeled better than you’d think.” Gabi started to pick up the prop box, but her sleeves had slipped down again. She growled and shrugged off her cardigan.

“Bare arms? The scandal!” Soledad winked at her.

“I’m simply glad she’s wearing real clothes again,” said Rosa absently, picking up a tiny paintbrush to touch up a detail on Carlos’s tomatillo. “I have no idea where you got the outfit you arrived in, mi amor, but it should have been burned.”

Gabi caught Soledad’s eye and mouthed, I told you so. She grabbed the box. “Stop messing with those. We’ll need them sooner than you think.”

“All right, all right.” Rosa stepped back. “I’ll be there in a moment.”

“If you aren’t on set in five, I’m sending one of the tech guys here.”

Rosa flapped a hand at her, already inspecting another tomatillo to doubtless make a minuscule change no one else would notice, even in HD.

Rolling her eyes, Gabi nodded at the doorway, and Soledad headed out first, though she lingered in the hallway instead of walking right back into the kitchen.

“Getting cold feet after all?” Gabi asked, though she could never imagine Soledad intimidated. Then again, she’d never imagined her nervous either. “Say the word and you can leave. It’s not going to mess anything up.”

“Don’t be silly. This is awesome. It’s—” Soledad traced the swirling patterns painted on the armadillo, her expression thoughtful. When she spoke, her voice had softened. “You’re lucky, you know? I wasn’t sure what to think when you invited me to visit, but your family’s as good as it looks from the outside. It’s pretty cool. You’re so much less awkward here.”

Gabi adjusted her grip on the box, unsure what to say. She and Soledad rarely discussed personal topics. She wasn’t even sure why she’d invited Soledad to come visit during their break. Soledad was the only one without family to visit over the holidays, yes, but she’d been excited for the break from her roommates. Her own parents were nothing to write home about.

“I guess,” Gabi said, when the silence threatened to turn strange between them. It happened sometimes, both of them holding their breath for no reason Gabi could make sense of. “I’ve never thought about it.”

Soledad’s expression didn’t change. “I’m not surprised. It makes you even luckier.” As fast as it came, her mood passed, and she lifted her head, flashing Gabi one of her signature cocky grins. “It’s your job to distract your papá while I hide this.”

Gabi grinned back. “I see how it is. I’m always stuck playing the sidekick.”

“Damn straight you are.”

When they got back to the main filming area, Carlos had apparently decided on the finalized version of the script and settled on a good area to film the intro. Sarah waved them over to the corner, out of frame.

“Are we interrupting something?” Soledad whispered. She’d gone tense again, and now it was too late to do anything to loosen her up. Oh well. Most of the guests were bad on camera too.

“He’s not started yet. Trust me, you’ll know when.” Gabi sat in a folding chair beside Sarah; Soledad turned hers around and propped her arms on the back, as was her way.

“They’re only testing the acoustics in this room right now,” Sarah said, making notes in a different, rainbow-colored binder. “It’ll be a while before anything interesting happens.”

Still, they all quieted when someone called for silence, and the cameraman counted down like they were truly filming. Soledad leaned forward in her chair, mouthing the words along with Carlos: “¡Hola! I’m Carlos Gonzalez, and you’re not, coming to you live from the greatest kitchen in the world.”

They had recently tweaked the intro for this episode, and Gabi ought to have paid attention. Yet she found herself watching Soledad, her eyes bright with excitement, and when Carlos forgot a line and the whole crew broke up in laughter, Gabi realized she hadn’t heard a word he said.

Meet the Author

M.A. Hinkle swears a lot and makes jokes at inappropriate times, so she writes about characters who do the same thing.

She’s also worked as an editor and proofreader for the last eight years, critiquing everything from graduate school applications to romance novels.

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