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🌟 Please join me in welcoming author M.F. Sullivan to Stories That Make You Smile! M.F. is here today celebrating the release of her epic cyberpunk fantasy novel, The Hierophant’s Daughter. She’s generously provided an excerpt and giveaway, and sat down to answer a few questions about her new novel and her process in writing it. Pull up a chair and enjoy! 🌟
The Hierophant’s Daughter by M.F. Sullivan
Dive into the first volume of a bleak cyberpunk tahgmahr you can’t afford to miss.
What would you sacrifice to survive?
Series: The Disgraced Martyr Trilogy (book #1)
Publisher: Painted Blind Publishing
Cover Artist: Nuno Moreira
Release Date: May 19, 2019
Length: Novel / ~100k words / 298 pages (paperback)
Heat Rating: 1 flame (A romantic relationship between the couple but no intimate scenes or sexual situations are described in the book. The book fades-to-black before any love scene.)
Pairing / Genre(s) / Keyword(s): LGBTQ Cyberpunk/Horror, Sci-fi/Fantasy (Adult)
By 4042 CE, the Hierophant and his Church have risen to political dominance with his cannibalistic army of genetically modified humans: martyrs. In an era when mankind’s intergenerational cold wars against their long-lived predators seem close to running hot, the Holy Family is poised on the verge of complete planetary control. It will take a miracle to save humanity from extinction.
It will also take a miracle to resurrect the wife of 331-year-old General Dominia di Mephitoli, who defects during martyr year 1997 AL in search of Lazarus, the one man rumored to bring life to the dead. With the Hierophant’s Project Black Sun looming over her head, she has little choice but to believe this Lazarus is really all her new friends say he is–assuming he exists at all–and that these companions of hers are really able to help her. From the foulmouthed Japanese prostitute with a few secrets of her own to the outright sapient dog who seems to judge every move, they don’t inspire a lot of confidence, but the General has to take the help she can get.
After all, Dominia is no ordinary martyr. She is THE HIEROPHANT’S DAUGHTER, and her Father won’t let her switch sides without a fight. Not when she still has so much to learn.
The dystopic first entry of an epic cyberpunk trilogy, THE HIEROPHANT’S DAUGHTER is a horror/sci-fi adventure sure to delight and inspire adult readers of all stripes.
The Flight of the Governess
The Disgraced Governess of the United Front was blind in her right eye. Was that blood in the left, or was it damaged, too? The crash ringing in her ears kept her from thinking straight. Of course her left eye still worked: it worked well enough to prevent her from careening into the trees through which she plunged. Yet, for the tinted flecks of reality sometimes twinkling between crimson streaks, she could only imagine her total blindness with existential horror. Would the protein heal the damage? How severely was her left eye wounded? What about the one she knew to be blind—was it salvageable? Ichigawa could check, if she ever made it to the shore.
She couldn’t afford to think that way. It was a matter of “when,” not of “if.” She would never succumb. Neither could car accident, nor baying hounds, nor the Hierophant himself keep her from her goal. She had fourteen miles to the ship that would whisk her across the Pacific and deliver her to the relative safety of the Risen Sun. Then the Lazarene ceremony would be less than a week away. Cassandra’s diamond beat against her heart to pump it into double time, and with each double beat, she thought of her wife (smiling, laughing, weeping when she thought herself alone) and ran faster. A lucky thing the Governess wasn’t human! Though, had she remained human, she’d have died three centuries ago in some ghetto if she’d lived past twenty without becoming supper. Might have been the easier fate, or so she lamented each time her mind replayed the crash of the passenger-laden tanque at fifth gear against the side of their small car. How much she might have avoided!
Of course—then she never would have known Cassandra. That made all this a reasonable trade. Cold rain softened the black earth to the greedy consistency of clay, but her body served where her eyes failed. The darkness was normally no trouble, but now she squinted while she ran and, under sway of a dangerous adrenaline high, was side-swiped by more than one twisting branch. The old road that was her immediate goal, Highway 128, would lead her to the coast of her favorite Jurisdiction, but she now had to rediscover that golden path after the crash’s diversion. In an effort to evade her pursuers, she had torn into a pear orchard without thought of their canine companions. Not that the soldiers of the Americas kept companions like Europa’s nobles. These dogs were tools. Well-honed, organic death machines with a cultivated taste for living flesh, whether martyr or human. The dogs understood something that most had forgotten: the difference between the two was untenable. Martyrs could tell themselves they were superior for an eternity, but it wouldn’t change the fact that the so-called master race and the humans they consumed were the same species.
That was not why Cassandra had died, but it hadn’t contributed to their marital bliss. And now, knowing what she did of the Hierophant’s intentions—thinking, always, what Cassandra would have said—the Governess pretended she was driven by that ghost, and not by her own hopelessness. Without the self-delusion, she was a victim to a great many ugly thoughts, foremost among them being: Was the fear of life after her wife’s death worth such disgrace? A death sentence? Few appreciated what little difference there was between human and martyr, and fewer cared, because caring was fatal. But she was a part of the Holy Family. Shouldn’t that have been all that mattered? Stunning how, after three centuries, she deserved to be treated no better than a human. Then again, there was nothing quite like resignation from one’s post to fall in her Father’s estimate. Partly, he was upset by her poor timing—she did stand him up at some stupid press event, but only because she hoped it would keep everybody occupied while she got away. In that moment, she couldn’t even remember what it was. Dedicating a bridge? Probably. Her poor head, what did the nature of the event matter when she was close to death?
That lapse in social graces was not the reason for this hunt. He understood that more lay behind her resignation than a keening for country life. Even before he called her while she and the others took the tanque to the coast, he must have known. Just like he must have known the crash was seconds from happening while he chatted away, and that the humans in her company, already nervous to be within a foot of the fleeing Governess, were doomed.
Of the many people remaining on Earth, those lumped into the group of “human” were at constant risk of death, mutilation, or—far worse—unwilling martyrdom. This meant those humans lucky enough to avoid city-living segregation went to great lengths to keep their private properties secure. Not only houses but stables. The Disgraced Governess found this to be true of the stables into which she might have stumbled and electrocuted herself were it not for the bug zaps of rain against the threshold’s surface. Her mind made an instinctive turn toward prayer for the friendliness of the humans in the nearby farmhouse—an operation she was quick to abort. In those seconds (minutes?) since the crash, she’d succeeded in reconstructing the tinted windows of the tanque and a glimpse of silver ram’s horns: the Lamb lurked close enough to hear her like she spoke into his ear. It was too much to ask that he be on her side tonight.
Granted, the dogs of the Lamb were far closer, and far more decisive about where their loyalties stood. One hound sank its teeth into her ankle, and she, crying out, kicked the beast into its closest partner with a crunch. Slower dogs snarled outrage in the distance while the Disgraced Governess ran to the farmhouse caught in her left periphery. The prudent owners, to her frustration, shuttered their windows at night. Nevertheless, she smashed her fist against the one part of the house that protruded: the doorbell required by the Hierophant’s “fair play” dictatum allowing the use of electronic barriers. As the humans inside stumbled out of bed in response to her buzzing, the Disgraced Governess unholstered her antique revolver and unloaded two rounds into the recovered canines before they were upon her. The discharge wasn’t a tip-off she wanted to give to the Lamb and her other pursuers, but it hastened the response of the sleeping farmers as the intercom crackled to life.
“Who is it?” A woman’s voice, quivering with an edge of panic.
“My name is Dominia di Mephitoli: I’m the former Governess of the United Front, and I need to borrow a horse. Please. Don’t let me in. Just drop the threshold on your stables.”
“The Governess? I’m sorry, I don’t understand. The Dominia di Mephitoli, really? The martyr?”
Yes, yes, please. I need a horse now.” Another dog careened around the corner and leapt over the bodies of his comrades with such grace that she wasted her third round in the corpses. Two more put it down as she shouted into the receiver. “I can’t transfer you any credits because they’ve frozen my Halcyon account, but I’ll leave you twenty pieces of silver if you drop the threshold and loan me a horse. You can reclaim it at the docks off Bay Street, in the township of Sienna. Please! He’ll kill me.”
“And he’ll be sure to kill us for helping you.”
“Tell him I threatened you. Tell him I tricked you! Anything. Just help me get away!”
“He’ll never believe what we say. He’ll kill me, my husband, our children. We can’t.”
“Oh, please. An act of mercy for a dying woman. Please, help me leave. I can give you the name of a man in San Valentino who can shelter you and give you passage abroad.” “There’s no time to go so far south. Not as long as it takes to get across the city.”
It had been ten seconds since she’d heard the last dog. That worried her. With her revolver at the ready, she scanned the area for something more than the quivering roulette blotches swelling in her right eye. Nothing but the dead animals. “He’ll kill you either way. For talking to me, and not keeping me occupied until his arrival. For knowing that there’s disarray in his perfect land. He’ll find a reason, even if it only makes sense to him.”
The steady beat of rain pattered out a passive answer. On the verge of giving up, Dominia stepped back to ready herself for a fight—and the house’s threshold dropped with an electric pop. The absent mauve shimmer left the façade bare. How rare to see a country place without its barrier! A strange thing. Stranger for the front door to open; she’d only expected them to do away with the threshold on the stables.
But, rather than the housewife she’d anticipated, there stood the Hierophant. Several bleak notions clicked into place.
One immaculate gray brow arched. “Now, Dominia, that’s hardly fair. Knowledge of your disgrace isn’t why I’ll kill them. The whole world will know of it tomorrow morning. You embarrassed me by sending your resignation, rather than making the appearance I asked of you, so it is only fair I embarrass you by rejecting your resignation and firing you publicly. No, my dear. I will kill these fine people to upset you. In fact, Mr. McLintock is already dead in the attic. A mite too brave. Of course”—he winked, and whispered in conspiracy—“don’t tell them that.”
“How did you know I’d come here?”
“Such an odd spurt of rain tonight. Of all your Jurisdictions, this one is usually so dry this time of year! Won’t you come in for tea? Mrs. McLintock brews a fine pot. But put that gun away. You’re humiliating yourself. And me.”
☆ Author Interview ☆
Congratulations on your new release. Please tell us a little bit about it. What’s your favorite aspect or part of the story? Do you have a favorite character? Who/Why?
Thank you so much! The Hierophant’s Daughter is Book I of The Disgraced Martyr Trilogy, an LGBTQ cyberpunk/horror series being released throughout 2019 and the beginning of 2020. By 4042 CE, Earth has been overrun with the Hierophant and his cannibalistic army of genetically engineered humans: martyrs. That same year, his daughter, General Dominia di Mephitoli, flees the Holy Father’s evil regime in a globetrotting gambit to resurrect her dead wife. I love the story—I think it’s a powerful adventure and it’s the kind of book I wish somebody else would write so I can experience it as a reader! The dark megalopolises and grim dystopian atmosphere really get me excited. Here’s to hoping it’ll be a Netflix series or movie trilogy someday, so I can enjoy it as a viewer!
It’s hard to say who’s my real favorite character in the whole trilogy—as the author you sort of have to pick two. Your favorite character to write/read, and your favorite character as a person. Favorite character to write would have to go to the story’s villain, the pedantic Hierophant who pops up around every corner and generally casts a very black shadow across the books. But favorite character as a person? Hard to say. I love Dominia and in the end she is probably my favorite—who doesn’t love a one-eyed widow General (former Governess of the United Front, at that!) trying to restore life to her wife—but Miki Soto, the foulmouthed Japanese prostitute, is absolutely incredible because I feel like she just came rocketing out of nowhere to give the story a kind of vibrance I couldn’t have intentionally created if I tried. She’s with the cabal of working girls known as the Red Market, yet she’s probably the most moral character in all three books—and if that sentence doesn’t tell you about the vibe of the trilogy, I don’t know what will!
What was the inspiration for your latest story?
There were a lot of inspirations, but mostly I wanted to give LGBTQ readers an adventure that was ‘theirs’. I feel like a lot of modern queer literature is still hung up on presenting being gay as some kind of dilemma, whether it’s a YA novel about how hard it is to come out or an M/M romance novel with ‘taboo’ undertones. It’s a kind of literary microaggression that I feel nobody’s fully acknowledging. What happens to these gay characters after they come out? After they’re together? Don’t they have other concerns in life than attaining self-awareness of their orientation and being in love?
Another way to say it is, you’re not going to get many straight, heterosexual white males reading LGBTQ books like those, which is unfortunate because that is exactly who should be reading those books. So, in order to promote sensitivity to readers across the board, I think it’s vital that we as a society begin to ‘graduate’ our gay literature from its coming out phase to its living phase. Time to step up queer literature’s focus on its proverbial Maslow scale. I think we as a society are infantilizing ourselves with this YA obsession to begin with. If we want to expand our minds with books the way fiction is intended to expand our minds, we need to start contemplating higher level concerns than those we contemplated in high school or even college.
Tell us about something you learned while writing and/or researching this story.
I learned a whole hell of a lot about the electromagnetic spectrum, and even more about black holes! I feel like between the research I’ve done for The Disgraced Martyr Trilogy and the research I’m doing now for another upcoming LGBTQ sci-fi/noir series I’m working on, I’m getting prepped to write some kind of physics thesis!
What was the most difficult part of writing this book? Why?
I was writing all three books at once, editing all three books at once, just generally working constantly on them in every way, shape, and form from the word ‘go’. I never felt ‘ready’ to write this series and in fact when I started I didn’t realize it was a series. I just felt the urgent push of inspiration and knew I needed to fulfill it, so I sat down and started writing the first page, and the next, and…on it went. It was exhilarating, but exhausting. The climax of Book I involves a marathon—that was actually a second draft addition, because Book I needed a bit of reworking after I figured out it was a trilogy instead of one novel. I feel in retrospect that the marathon got in there because it was such a powerful symbol for my duty to Dominia and her world—I’ve been running this marathon with her, this long, slogging race from the first time I sat down in April of 2017 to now, as I finally get to watch the release of the trilogy I’ve loved—and sometimes loathed—to write. It is an exceptionally dark series, even for me. A lot of tragedy happens to a lot of people. But I knew what the very last chapter was going to be from very early on, and the knowledge of that chapter, the genuine need to reach it, kept me from being tempted to stop.
Tell us a little bit about your work(s) in progress!
Last year my short story, “The Remedy”, received an honorable mention from L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future competition, which was very exciting because by that time I was already hard at work on expanding in into a full-length novel that I’m kind of describing as The Big Lebowski meets Blade Runner. By now I’ve somehow expanded those plans into a rough arc of six novels! Still not sure how that happened, but I’m excited to get more deeply into them once Book I of The Disgraced Martyr Trilogy is out. I’m halfway through with writing Book I of this new series, but I’m holding off on devoting myself to it until I can take a break from calling bookstores and designing marketing material!
What is your favorite underappreciated novel?
Waiting Period by Hubert Selby Jr. It’s a very troubling but very interesting novel written from the perspective of a man who buys a gun with the intention of committing suicide, but during the waiting period decides the better choice is to stay alive and become—well, a vigilante or a terrorist, depending on who you ask. I find it an extremely powerful story, especially in this day and age where we’re seeing so much homegrown alt-right terrorism. It’s a book worth reading for anybody trying to understand this sort of mental illness.
What do you find to be the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Maybe this is a rude response, but I’ve just never had trouble with that and always been surprised that people do. I think that could be because I was raised mostly by my single father and had a lot of guy friends in school, so I know how men are, and also know that ultimately they’re just people. In fact, I take a lot of pride in my male characters and sometimes I find them even more organic and lively than my female characters! Building a character from a starting point of “are they male or female” is wrong thinking. Writers do best when they open-mindedly invite whatever character will best represent the theme they’re thinking about, or when they just stumble upon a character and become interested enough to follow that person through a story…or three, or six.
Werewolves or vampires?
Meet the Author
M.F. Sullivan is the author of Delilah, My Woman, The Lightning Stenography Device, and a slew of plays in addition to the Trilogy. She lives in Ashland, Oregon with her boyfriend and her cat, where she attends the local Shakespeare Festival and experiments with the occult.
Find more information about her work (and plenty of free essays) here.
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