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    Gender Queer Author Delivers with Superhero Cas Russell

    By Michele Karlsberg–

    Michele Karlsberg: S. L. Huang’s Critical Point is a breakout San Francisco thriller and the third book in the Cas Russell series, which includes Zero Sum Game and Null Set. Math-genius mercenary Cas Russell has stopped a shadow organization from brainwashing the world and discovered her past was deliberately erased and her superhuman abilities deliberately created. And that’s just the start. When a demolitions expert targets Cas and her friends, and the hidden conspiracy behind Cas’ past starts to reappear, the past, present, and future collide in a race to save one of her dearest friends. The following is an excerpt from Critical Point (April release):

    I’d forgotten about my client meeting. I pulled out my cell as I locked the door of the stupid office behind me, punching in the contact number I had. It was already seven minutes after the hour; maybe he was a no-show anyway.

    The phone rang out without a voicemail message. That was weird.

    “You’re not supposed to be leaving,” said a voice with an Aussie accent.

    I turned. It took me three scans of the decrepit parking lot to find the person who had spoken. My client—well, I assumed—was scrambling toward me over the gravel: an unkempt Asian-Australian man with shaggy black hair, greasy stubble, and a torn shirt beneath his leather jacket that was even dirtier than mine. “Sorry,” I said insincerely, waving my phone at him. “I was just trying to call. Something’s come up.”

    “No. No!” He whipped his head in a frantic headshake. “No, you have to stay!”

    “Look, we can reschedule for—”

    “No!” he cried, and launched himself at me.

    His movement translated into mathematics, clumsy Newtonian mechanics with his mass and velocity throwing themselves forward with no regard for efficiency. He might be bigger than I was, but still, it was insulting. And I was in the mood to hit someone.

    I twisted and struck my palm against his hip, building the perfect fulcrum. His body flipped over in a spin an acrobat would have been proud of, and he landed on his back, wheezing.

    I stepped into the afternoon sun so my shadow fell across his face. “Hi,” I said. “I’m Cas Russell. Our meeting is rescheduled. Is that underst—”

    My office exploded.

    The concussion roared outward through shattering glass and splintering wood and slammed across the lot. The blast flung me into the air, the noise overwhelming everything else. I flailed against it and managed enough of a partial solution to twist and hit the ground hard on my shoulder before rolling out back to my feet.

    The explosion had shredded the front wall of my new office, bits of boards hanging by mere splinters against crumbling mounds of plaster. Nothing was on fire, but I didn’t want to know what it looked like inside. The small, grimy parking lot had only a few cars in it, but their windows had all shattered, and I could hear car alarms wailing from some distance away. My lungs twinged in the aftermath of the sudden pressure differential.

    My would-be client, who had escaped the worst of the blast by being flat on his back, tried to scramble to his feet and dash away. I snatched up a piece of wood rubble from the explosion and threw it. And missed.

    S. L. HUANG has a math degree from MIT and is a professional stuntwoman & armorer who has worked in Hollywood on “Battlestar Galactica” and a number of other productions. Her short fiction has appeared in “Strange Horizons,” “Nature,” and “The Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy 2016.” https://www.slhuang.com

    Michele Karlsberg Marketing and Management specializes in publicity for the LGBTQ+ community. This year, Karlsberg celebrates 32 years of successful book campaigns. For more information: https://www.michelekarlsberg.com

    Published on January 16, 2020