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PRINT: Isekai Skies (SIGNED Paperback)

PRINT: Isekai Skies (SIGNED Paperback)

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Book Two in the Monster Punk Horizon series.

New to the Monster Punk Horizon series? Start here!

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Signed by H.P. Holo. Contact us for personalization requests.

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I Got Engaged and Ended Up in Another World!

An epic convention. An epic cosplay. An epic engagement. It was the best night of Kaito’s life—until the ground opened up beneath him.

Well, technically, a portal did. Either way, it sucked.

Now, trapped in another world with rampaging monsters, he’ll have to learn to survive. Fortunately, this world is conveniently similar to his favorite video game. And he’s got monster hunting experts (?) Pix and Jaz to show him the ropes.

With their help, he might last long enough to find a way home.

But if not, at least he’ll have fun hunting monsters before he dies!

An action-packed GameLit adventure for fans of monster hunting and portal fantasy!

About the Series: Monster Punk Horizon is an exciting new fantasy comedy for fans of the Monster Hunter games and kick-butt ladies fighting monsters for fun and profit! GameLit readers will enjoy the focus on action over stats.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

"This book made me want to game in this world. The author has an incredible gift for smart, witty names and vivid description. The characters are appealing and carry you through this light, fun adventure with tremendous energy." – Jane Lindskold, New York Times bestselling author

“Plays with planetary ecology as much as Dune ever did … Anyone who enjoys the monster hunter genre of video games should enjoy this.” – Upstream Reviews

This product is a premium SIGNED PAPERBACK

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Enjoy a sample from ISEKAI SKIES

All the neon and body odor assaulting Kaito’s senses suggested he’d been trapped inside a cyberpunk dystopia. Really, it was just the Saturday night masquerade at Wyvern Con.

The event had done a solid job of capturing its theme. The convention odors only added to the simulated realism. Elaborate holographic displays around the room projected energetic, glowing, futuristic dancers to make up for the crowd of nerds who were too awkward or else too drunk to dance coherently. Bright strips of searingly colored lights wove in technological patterns around the dark walls, and snack vendors wandered around with hovering, ramshackle-looking food carts while a small army of server robots puttered around to make sure everyone was staying hydrated. Occasionally one of them would go rogue and malfunction, in keeping with the theme, and to complete the atmosphere, an even larger army of drones buzzed behind the throbbing industrial-electronic music, red eyes sweeping down in oppressive gazes as if on the lookout for whatever wrongthink threatened the power of this dystopia’s dictator. Really they were just taking pictures for the con’s social media feeds, but if modern history had taught him anything, it was that people were willing to overlook dystopian behaviors as long as they were fun in the moment, so he figured he might as well work that into the theme.

The drones were his work, as were the non-malfunctioning hydration bots. (He’d seen too many engineering jokes go horribly wrong to ever want to fake a malfunction.) They were a small part of the overall operation, but he was pleased with the work, especially since everything was running smoothly, and especially since Frankie was there to see it, too.

She stood next to him in their operations kiosk, flipping through several data screens to monitor the status of the night’s operation.

“Oh, you may want to check the feed from Drone 2,” she said. “I think someone just had an X-rated cosplay malfunction in that area.” She flicked to another screen. “Drone 5’s looking a little drunk, too. I think the one buster sword that bumped it might have jarred its environmental sensors.”

“Got it,” Kaito said, and ordered Drone 5 to come in as he deleted the unfortunate snapshot from Drone 2 before it could post. “We may want to think about changing out the sensors next upgrade,” he added. “If they can’t take a bump from a cosplay sword, they’re not worth very much.”

“Already on it,” Frankie replied. “They’re not as consistent as I’d like anyway, so I started researching other options a few weeks ago. Once we have a few more events under our belts, I figured I’d go ahead and upgrade them.”

“Works for me,” Kaito smiled, glad for another small thing to like about Frankie.

They’d met on their first day of class in their first year of college, when both had shown up early to claim the best seat by the holo-professor’s projector. People weren’t required to show up in person for class anymore, professors included, not since the fourth Beer Plague had remade society into the socially distant utopia of every introvert’s dreams—but Kaito liked the intellectual exchanges of a group setting better than the dull distance of a virtual classroom. Especially since most of the students in those virtual classrooms were actually looping videos the real students had set in the gallery to make it look like they were present. The people who made the effort to come in person, in contrast, were more likely to put in effort on everything else, and someone who made that effort early, well …  

That was the third thing Kaito liked about Frankie.

The first two were that she was 1) a cute girl, and 2) a cute girl in Electrical Engineering 101, which had basically been his only standards at that point. But then she’d recognized the stars and monsters of the Fifth Fleet crest on the keychain hanging from his lanyard, and then shown him the Fifth Fleet gene tattoo growing in the pigmentation on her arm.

Kaito didn’t believe in signs so much as lucky coincidences, but really, in a century where nearly all video games were virtual immersions, what were the odds of finding another person who both enjoyed vintage console emulators, and enjoyed the same centuries-old classic game enough to have one of its icons genetically modified onto her body?

It was truly the luckiest of coincidences, and now, four years later, it was coming to its first peak.

He had the code for the rings queued up in his internal dataframe. At the right moment, he’d open his palms, and the digital infrastructure coursing through the nanites in his veins would project the images above his hands. One ring would show the sigil of an iconic blue leonine dragon—not her favorite monster, but one of them, and anyway the meaning would become clear with the second ring, and second monster—the red companion to the blue.

The half that completed the pair.

If she accepted, he’d pass the code into her dataframe and her own nanites would project the ring around her traditional ring finger. There would be some to-do afterward as they arranged how much of their dataframes they’d share and whether their post-college expenses could support a full physical wedding or a mere virtual one. (Tradition dictated that significant rites of passage required physical presence, but then, tradition had never had to pay college loans.)

Tonight, though, was the fun night, and they’d chosen to spend it in the most appropriate way they could imagine.

The dancers were Frankie’s. Frankie did not dance. Not well, at least. But she watched a lot of K-Pop music videos, so she knew what good dancing looked like, and she’d analyzed the rhythms of modern dance music to design an animation cycle that could go with nearly any song that would be played at an event like this.

Next to him, she bobbed her head to the music as she monitored the datafeed on her glasspad, keeping eyes on all of her holographic dancers. It wouldn’t have been a romantic evening to anyone else, but to them, working together on a mutual project, showing off their work to each other was one of the most romantic ways to pass the time.

Even more so because it involved cosplay.

Frankie stood next to him in a costume she’d been perfecting for months before she finally ran it off their hotel’s textile printer the night they’d arrived at the con. The costume looked like a medieval adventurer’s regalia, if that regalia was designed by a 31st century high schooler who loved medieval costume but whose knowledge of said costume was only informed by medieval fantasy anime and assumed that medieval clothiers had access to fashion design resources like AutoCAD and 3D printers capable of infinitesimal detail. There were so many embellishments on her jacket lapels alone that Kaito could never see that coat being practical for an actual adventurer, much less the oversized scythe she’d hooked to her back. But then, he supposed he shouldn’t expect historical accuracy from a show titled Oh Shit! I Killed the Grim Reaper! Now I’m the Grim Reaper!

Strangely, it was one of the better offerings in the re-emerging genre of isekai anime. That particular genre had originated centuries ago, and ever since, every other generation of light novel writers and animation studios had rediscovered it and put a new spin on it, such that it had become as time-honored a genre as mecha, magical girl, or fanservice anime. The original, classic iteration had seen its protagonists transported to other worlds, usually fantasy worlds with video game trappings like measurable stats, skills, and power leveled through experience points. Usually there was also a goddess or equivalent cute female involved in getting the hero’s adventure off to its start.

The modern iteration still saw its heroes transported to video game-like fantasy worlds, but the current trend often featured overpowered heroes accidentally killing gods or similar figures and then having to take their place, which led to series like Reborn as Zeus! How Will I Find Time To Sleep With All These Babes?, My Little Sister Can’t Be Loki, Can She?, and Fuck You, I’m Satan Now!

Kaito had never really enjoyed the genre because he didn’t buy the trope of a regular guy suddenly becoming OP enough to accidentally kill a god, of all things, but Frankie was all for their general absurdity, and occasionally she’d stumble upon one that handled its absurdities with unexpected panache. Oh Shit! I Killed the Grim Reaper! was one of those and had become one of their shared favorites, so it was only natural that they chose to cosplay its two leads for their engagement con.

Frankie was Persefonii von Totenkopf, granddaughter of the titular Grim Reaper, who’d been next in line for the position until granddad went to reap protagonist Kuro from the site of his murder—and discovered that a sinister force had set him up to be reaped instead. According to the rules of this world, anyone who managed to kill a Grim Reaper had to take that Reaper’s place, so the sinister forces granted Kuro the power to do that, for reasons the show still had yet to clarify. (It was complicated. There were lots of weird anime politics involved.)

Kaito had naturally elected to be Kuro and lucked out in that the character was so adamant about not being a Grim Reaper that he refused to wear the complicated reaper’s uniform. Instead, he wandered the obvious fantasy world of the setting in the same white shirt and dark pants of every other generic anime hero, distinguishable from the others only by the cute, stylized skull mask that magically perched on the side of his head. It was the source of his reaper power and had a sentience of its own that refused to let him break it or take it off, except to move it to his face and thus access his reaper abilities.

In fact, the mask was the most complicated part of his outfit, both canonically and technically, for when he moved it to his face, it would trigger a program that projected Kuro’s truly badass reaper form onto the dataframes of nearby viewers. Nearly everyone at these cons left their dataframes open to receive cosplay information, especially since so many costumes now had virtual components. He was saving that for the next morning, however, when half the con would be hungover on overpriced, 3D-printed spirits, and the hotel floors would be clear enough to accommodate the visual space the projection took up.

By now the alcohol was well into taking effect.

Kaito could see it in the way the already awkward dancers were becoming sluggish and stumbling out of the masquerade room to find a bathroom or else the next late night—well, early morning panel, by this point. Soon the DJ announced the last song, the hydration bots shifted to host mode to shoo the remaining hangers-on out, and Kaito and Frankie made to break their equipment down into its nanobot components for reassembling at their next event, whenever that was booked. If they were lucky, word would spread about their work this night and their ambient robotics business would get off to a solid start. It had been an excellent night so far.

Now only one thing remained to make the weekend perfect.

Kaito traipsed out of the masquerade ballroom, his chest suddenly tight with simultaneous nerves and excitement. As if by instinct, he reached into his pocket, produced a little tin, and popped one of the hard candies inside into his mouth. There wasn’t anything special about the candy, except perhaps its taste—a weird combination of spicy sugar and bacon that shouldn’t have worked together but did. Nonetheless it had somehow become the comfort food that he gravitated toward when nervous. He eased the tin back into his pocket like a talisman.

“What are you nervous for?” Frankie prodded, eyeballing the tin with a grin. “Everything’s going the way we planned.”

Kaito just shrugged. He didn’t know why he was nervous. He knew she’d say yes. Heck, she knew the proposal was coming. They’d planned it, because they were engineers, and that was what engineers did, and he’d specifically planned it for tomorrow, once they’d rested and could fully appreciate the moment.

"I don’t know,” he said. “Habit?”

Just then, somewhere, a crowd of cosplayers struck up the iconic song from the Season 7 climax of Oh Shit! I Killed the Grim Reaper!

The remaining people in the hall crowded over to watch the spectacle—and truly it was a spectacle. A chorus line of thirteen Reaper Maids—well, men dressed as the Reaper Maids—kicked up a performance that could only have been the result of intense practice. Somewhere a companion set of Reaper Maids—actual maids this time—joined in, and the odd glance began to pass Kaito and Frankie’s ways, perhaps wondering if they’d join in.

Then Kaito realized Frankie was not only wearing Persefonii’s costume from that season, but from that exact scene, and he remembered what happened after that scene.

The floor around them was clear. There was room. Heck, they were even standing on this particular hotel’s iconic, obnoxious carpet—which Frankie also had tattooed on her in the shape of Wyvern Con’s logo. It was one of those magical moments that just happened at cons, and nothing he’d planned for tomorrow could compare to the absolute serendipity of this moment.

“I have an idea,” Kaito said, heart suddenly pounding.

They stood in the center of the carpet, and Kaito pulled his mask down over his face.

The final form of his Reaper—Reaper God Kuro—blossomed over the dataframes of every onlooker. The stylized skull mask transformed into a truly fearsome death’s head; dark smoke poured from its edges and wrapped around his body to form the hood and length of his quintessential reaper robe and then spread over the floor in a roiling sea of black that crackled with red energy. One errant coil of smoke coalesced into his elaborate and wildly impractical but nonetheless hella badass scythe, and when he tapped it to the floor, a massive blast of bright red lighting cracked over him.

Frankie looked on with eyes wide and manic with excitement—and confusion. She hadn’t seen this costume yet, but she’d seen the show, and she knew what was coming.

"This is ahead of schedule!” she exclaimed, with a voice that hated surprise schedule changes—and yet was exploring the possibility of being totally cool with this one.

Kaito abandoned his ring plan for later. Instead he did a quick dataframe search for Kuro’s monologue from that scene and recited it, verbatim, his voice booming with newfound acceptance of his authority as the Grim Reaper. He declared the creation of the Kingdom of the Undead and asked Persefonii to join him as his Reaper Queen, all while the Reaper Maids’ song came to a crescendo in the background. (Season 7 had been a weird one.)

The manic glint in Frankie’s eyes brightened as she realized the ridiculous truth of the situation. She promptly queued up Persefonii’s reply, as if they’d planned this all along—and then jumped to kiss Kaito—er, Kuro—on his skeletal cheek.

That hadn’t been part of the original scene, but fortunately Kaito had enough brain left in that moment to trigger Reaper God Kuro’s embarrassed emote, which looked intentionally hilarious on his otherwise imposing form, and elicited cheers and squeals of delight from people who recognized the scene and what was happening.

Kaito felt glasspads and camera drones on them as onlookers recorded the spectacle for their social feeds, and perhaps Kaito would have been self-conscious, but right now Frankie hugged him like Persefonii did Kuro in the cuter moments of she show, and in this pure, perfect, ridiculous moment, this was all he wanted.

That was when the world tore open, right beneath his feet.

 

* * *

 

He didn’t know what had happened at first.

Just that the world was there, and then suddenly not. Then he heard a great, thunderous crack, and he was falling end over end above an ocean that sparkled like a pool of liquid sapphires.

He must have lost consciousness because when he opened his eyes again, it was to the sight of a crowd of cosplayers gathered in what looked like an open-air, jungle-inspired eatery themed, strangely, after the franchise he and Frankie had bonded over. But Frankie was nowhere to be seen. He didn't remember a place like this advertised in any of the thirty Wyvern Con hotels. And he would have known about a place like this. It would have been one of their must-sees.

Was his dataframe glitching, then? Had he overloaded it with his cosplay program?

That wouldn’t be unusual for the cheap student-priced nanites he had running through his veins. Sometimes when their processes got confused, they’d default to opening his last Immersive Video Game file and immersing his senses in whatever IVG he’d been playing, but that was easily handled through a reboot.

He sent the mental command for all the nanites to shut down and waited for the dampening of senses that accompanied a reboot. After all, the nanites enhanced and modified every aspect of his experience of the world.

Nothing happened.

That was weird, but also not uncommon. He triggered the back-door command he’d programmed in for instances like this.

Again, nothing.

Now the other cosplayers were beginning to notice him, as if they somehow hadn’t noticed him before, and he realized he was lying prone on a coarse wooden tabletop ... with a little winged pig glaring down from its place on his chest. Suddenly, too, he realized he could feel the discomfort of the little pig’s weight. It wasn’t altered or dampened by his sensory nanites. In fact, he could feel the pressing heat of what felt like a very real sun—no, suns plural?—and smell the uncovered stink of bodies that had been laboring in those suns all day, combined with the absurdly appealing aroma of a gourmet kitchen.

And then, the horrible realization hit him.

This had all the hallmarks of an IVG virus.

He’d heard of the perception-altering viruses that spread at cons, usually as pranks. In fact, now that he thought of it, he’d heard of one appropriately-named virus in particular that would plop its victims into what they perceived as other worlds, only to wear off after an hour or two or, for the more complicated ones, once the victim had followed the right interaction tree. Usually it was the tree that suggested you knew you were in a virus—and were thus less fun to watch in the real world. After all, the only reason these viruses existed was for the cruel entertainment to be had watching a victim’s realspace reactions to his dataspace environment.

Given the complexity of the crowd around him, this was definitely one of the complicated ones. Most viral coders didn’t bother coding and animating more than a few virtual assets.

He groaned. All the effort he’d put into securing his dataframe, and a stupid prank virus had managed to get through at the happiest moment of his life.

Well, the faster he could trigger the tree, the faster he could get out, so he sighed and said,

“Oh my god. Am I in an isekai?”