A Caryn Release Day Review: The Long and Winding Road (Bear, Otter, and the Kid #4) by T.J. Klune

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Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

This entire book was one long paean of gratitude to love and family.  Which is, indeed, beautiful.

This book will mean nothing to people who haven’t read the rest of the BOATK (Bear, Otter and the Kid) series.  For those who are fans – like me – it is a very fitting ending to the series, but more than that it is a gentle and gracious goodbye to these beloved characters.  I won’t say it’s angst free (after all, is it physically possible for Mr. Klune to write a book without angst?), but the levels are much lower than in the three previous books.

We are back in Bear’s head for this one, but this is a more mature, confident, and settled Bear than in the earlier books.  The years of his marriage to Otter have given him a surety in the future, and happiness, that he was never able to believe in before.  He still has manic ramblings that lead him to outrageous hysteria like he had in the previous books, but the edge of panic isn’t there like it used to be.  It’s as if his thoughts are used to flowing into this crazy morass, but the reality of Otter’s love is now there to create a dam of sorts, to lift him out of the frenzy before it can really take hold.  So, still hugely entertaining, but no longer making the reader fearful of where it’s going to lead him.  Bear is continuously aware of how blessed he is to love and be loved by Otter and Tyson and his growing circle of friends and family, and he expresses that gratitude continuously, both aloud and in his head.  And I never got tired of hearing it.  He had been through so much pain in the past, and he learned never to take joy for granted.  Personally, I find that admirable and refreshing – I feel like it is much more common in our society for people to think they deserve that kind of joy regardless of what they’ve done with their life, or to lose sight of how amazing a gift it truly is once they’ve had it for a while.  Bear and Otter were able to look at each other with the love that comes from knowing someone else deeply and completely, and yet still be astonished by the depth of that love, and they expressed that love time after time. 

When it comes from the heart, you can never say I love you too much.

The book starts in New Hampshire where Bear and Otter moved when Tyson started college at Dartmouth.  The story of Tyson’s spiral into panic and addiction was revealed (I have to admit when I read The Art of Breathing I had a bit of whiplash trying to figure out how the Kid got to that point when things were going so well at the end of Who We Are.  I needed to know this!).  Bear and Tyson’s harrowing early years had left them so enmeshed – which was both a strength and a terrible weakness – that the process of disentangling was bound to be fraught with difficulty.  Even more so than in The Art of Breathing, in this book I really saw Bear and Tyson become separate individuals, though still incredibly close.   After Tyson left the nest to embark on his own journey, Bear was finally able to focus on Otter and his long-deferred needs and wishes.  Seeing the return to Seafare through their eyes, coming back to where it all started in order to start the next chapter of their lives, was really the focus of the story.  And it was full circle – endings, but also new beginnings, and throughout, an attitude of hopefulness.

The secondary characters are, as always, so lovable and so much fun!  Creed and JJ were by far my favorites, but Dominic, Ben, Anna, and the rest of the crew were there, joined their half sister Izzie and  Megan (Bear and Otter’s surrogate) and her Lamaze instructor boyfriend with a pregnancy kink, Marty.  Mrs. Paquinn is never far from anyone’s thoughts, and her memory remains a touchstone.  The Green Monstrosity starts bursting at the seams with the additions to the family, and Bear’s freak outs about becoming a father were hilarious (as was his pride in his super sperm).  I loved how all the things that made Bear so entertaining in the first book were still there, but with so much more!

Cover art by Paul Richmond is exactly right for the book, in ways I can’t find words to describe.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 346 pages
Published August 9th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
Original TitleThe Long and Winding Road
ISBN139781635336818
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series Bear, Otter, and the Kid  aka BOATK:

A Ali Audiobook Review: After the Fire (Through Hell and Back #2) by Felice Stevens and Kale Williams (Narrator)

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 Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
A single bullet destroyed the dreams of Dr. Jordan Peterson. With his lover dead, Jordan descends into an endless spiral of self-destruction that nearly costs him his friends, his career and his life. When Jordan finds himself working closely with the aloof Lucas Conover, the investment banker’s mysterious past and unexpected kindness shocks him back into a life and emotions he’d thought lost forever.

The betrayal by the foster brother he’d worshiped, taught Lucas Conover never to trust or believe in anyone. Living a solitary life doesn’t free him of the nightmare of his youth; it reinforces his belief that he would never fall in love. When the death of one of his clients forces him to work closely with Dr. Jordan Peterson, he meets a person whose suffering exceeds his own. Though Jordan rejects his effort to help, something within Luke pushes him discover more about the first man to ever get under his skin.

As Luke lets down his guard and Jordan lets go of his pain, desire takes control. Each man must come to terms with past struggles if they are to create a future together. And learning to trust in themselves and love again after tragedy and a lifetime of pain, may be the only thing that saves them in the end.
This book begins 9 months down the road from the end of book one.  I will start this by saying that I had not read book one and while I was able to follow this perfectly, I probably missed out on some of the emotional connections by doing so.  As a result I would recommend that you read this series in order.
Jordan is a mess at the start of the story.  His partner was killed and he’s not dealing with the grief well at all.  He has isolated himself from his friends and he’s drinking excessively and abusing prescription medication.  He ends up working with a project with Lucas who manages Jordan’s ex’s money.  The two men don’t get off to a great start;  Jordan is angry and rude and Lucas is cold and aloof.  Over the course of them working together though they begin to have feelings for each other.  It’s a struggle for them both though.  Jordan isn’t ready to let go of his ex and Lucas has a bunch of issues from his childhood.
The story overall was just average for me.  I liked the idea of it but the execution style was not my thing.  It was very drama filled and over the top in places in my opinion.  Jordan in particular gave me emotional whiplash.  He would go from anger to lust to guilt to love all in the matter of the same conversation/moment in time.  I had a hard time relating to either MC and I didn’t actually like Jordan all that much.  I should have felt sorry for him but he just annoyed me too much for me to really warm up to him.
I think if you were a fan of the first book though that you would probably enjoy this.  The couple from book one plays an important role here.
This book was narrated by Kale Williams who I had never listened to before.  I thought he did a good job.  He has a nice narrating voice and I will check out some of his other work in the future.
Cover by Reese Dante:  I liked this cover a lot.  It’s very eye catching and draws you to the book.  It also compliments the cover from book one really well.

Sales Links:  Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2v0Nwx2Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2wmDXZ0

 

Book Details:
Kindle Edition, 264 pages
Published February 24th 2017 (first published February 23rd 2015)
Original TitleAfter the Fire
ASINB06WP9TNF9
SeriesThrough Hell and Back #2

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Satin (A Material World #2) by KC Wells

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Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

Smooth, sleek, silky—all words that define not only the fabric featured in this story of the same name, but also Russ Dauntry, the female impersonator with the beautiful voice and even more beautiful body. 

While on a stakeout, Detective Constable Joel Hunter can’t believe how attractive he finds the sultry songstress in the sleek red satin gown as she croons torch songs such as “Maybe This Time.”  Intrigued, he keeps coming back, even after his case is solved and there’s no need to show up.  One night, the beautiful Satin comes out to join him after her set, and he’s shocked to learn that “her” name is Russ and he’s a female impersonator. Even more shocking is when he later learns that the gorgeous body beneath the gown is all Russ—from the well-defined pecs to abs of steel and long, shapely legs. 

Unable to deny his attraction and developing a true friendship, Joel allows himself to feel something for another man.  More shocking is that he’s willing to act on that desire as the two tumble into bed together.  Later, most of the story revolves around their growing attraction and Joel’s inability to express his feelings.  Denial is his new home apparently, that is, until he’s faced with the very real possibility that he may lose Russ forever if he can’t accept all facets of his lover—from his masculinity to his preference for satin.

I enjoyed this story, and though the push pull of Joel’s sexuality is something we do see in MM romance quite often, there were enough interesting twists to keep it from being one of many.  And I do have a major fondness for men who get in touch with their feminine side, so I’m loving this series that started with Lace and will soon feature a story named Silk.  The one major issue I had that kept me from giving this a full four stars is the speed with which they ended up having full anal sex.  They went from “Hmm, I feel an attraction to a man, and that is shocking to me” to “Bend over and grab the lube” by the end of their first official date.  I would have loved a bit more of a slow burn or at least some exploratory frotting, oral sex, hand jobs—something to slowly introduce him to the pleasures of being with a man.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that his thinking didn’t seem to match his actions, and I was caught off guard and a little taken aback by how quickly they had sex. 

All that being said, I still recommend this story, and in fact the series, to lovers of MM romance who enjoy an MC with a soft, feminine side that he’s not afraid to show, and/or lovers of romance who enjoy seeing a man discover that those times he “admired” other men may have been much more than a surface attraction and he can now relax and explore his sexuality.   I’m definitely looking forward to what the author has in store for us with Silk.

Cover Design: Meredith Russell.  Design is sexy yet still pretty generic.

Sales Links

Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 180 pages
Published July 6th 2017
ASINB073SHP317
SeriesA Material World #2

Review Tour and Giveaway for KC Wells’ Satin (A Material World #2)

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Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK
 
Length: 46,000 words
 
Cover Design: Meredith Russell
 
A Material World Series
 
Lace (Book #1) – Amazon US | Amazon UK
 
Blurb
 

Can a touch of Satin bring a straight copper to his knees?

Detective Joel Hunter is on surveillance when he first lays eyes on Satin, the singer with the amazing voice, which is as beautiful as she is. But when the stake-out comes to an end, he can’t resist going back to the bar. He gets a shock when he learns what lies beneath the satin dress, but an even bigger one when he realizes he’s attracted to the owner of that sultry voice – Ross Dauntry.

Ross can’t figure out why the cop keeps coming back, even after he’s learned the truth. Is Joel attracted to him, or to Satin? Because the answer is important, and one way or another, Ross needs to know…

A standalone novella of satin and sensuality…

Although this story is in the same series as Lace, you will not find Dave and Shawn in these pages – Joel and Ross provide enough heat of their own.

 

August 7 – Millsy Loves Books, Urban Smoothie Read
August 9 – Nerdy Dirty & Flirty, Wicked Faerie’s Tales & Reviews
August 11 – Xtreme Delusions, My Fiction Nook, Au Boudoir Ecarlate, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, MM Good Book Reviews
August 14 – Making It Happen, The Librarian’s Corner
August 16 – Dog-Eared Daydreams, Sexy Erotic Xciting, Wicked Reads, Bayou Book Junkie, Diverse Reader, Nautical Star Books, Books 2 Blog

Author Bio
 

Born and raised in the north-west of England, K.C. WELLS always loved writing. Words were important. Full stop. However, when childhood gave way to adulthood, the writing ceased, as life got in the way. K.C. discovered erotic fiction in 2009, when the purchase of a ménage storyline led to the startling discovery that reading about men in love was damn hot. In 2012, arriving at a really low point in life led to the desperate need to do something creative. An even bigger discovery waited in the wings—writing about men in love was even hotter….

K.C. now writes full-time and is loving every minute of her new career. The laptop still has no idea of what hit it… it only knows that it wants a rest, please. And it now has to get used to the idea that where K.C goes, it goes.

And as for those men in love that she writes about? The list of stories just waiting to be written is getting longer… and longer….



K.C. loves to hear from readers.
E-mail: k.c.wells@btinternet.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KCWellsWorld
Twitter: @K_C_Wells
Website: http://www.kcwellsworld.com

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Audiobook Tour and Review for After the Fire (Through Hell and Back #2) by Felice Stevens (excerpt and review)

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After the Fire

Through Hell and Back Series, Book 2

Felice Stevens

M/M Romance

Release: 02.24.17

Audio Release: 07.11.17

after-the-fire-cover

Narrator: Kale Williams

Cover Design: Reese Dante

Cover Photo: Alejandro Caspe

BUY LINK

 Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2v0Nwx2

Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2wmDXZ0

 

BLURB

A single bullet destroyed the dreams of Dr. Jordan Peterson. With his lover dead, Jordan descends into an endless spiral of self-destruction that nearly costs him his friends, his career and his life. When Jordan finds himself working closely with the aloof Lucas Conover, the investment banker’s mysterious past and unexpected kindness shocks him back into a life and emotions he’d thought lost forever.

The betrayal by the foster brother he’d worshiped, taught Lucas Conover never to trust or believe in anyone. Living a solitary life doesn’t free him of the nightmare of his youth; it reinforces his belief that he would never fall in love. When the death of one of his clients forces him to work closely with Dr. Jordan Peterson, he meets a person whose suffering exceeds his own. Though Jordan rejects his effort to help, something within Luke pushes him discover more about the first man to ever get under his skin.

As Luke lets down his guard and Jordan lets go of his pain, desire takes control. Each man must come to terms with past struggles if they are to create a future together. And learning to trust in themselves and love again after tragedy and a lifetime of pain, may be the only thing that saves them in the end.

This is a re-release of the original version published in 2015. It has been re-edited with over 4000 words of additional content added.

after-the-fire-teaser-1

EXCERPT

“We have a board meeting next week to decide if we want to accept sponsorships or not. I’m all for getting companies to donate as much as they want.”

Pushing his artichoke around the plate, Jordan chewed his bottom lip in thought. “I understand, but I don’t want this to become something they crow about and take credit for. It isn’t about them or us. It’s about what Keith wanted and helping the kids of the community so they have a safe place to come to every day if they choose. We have to make them want to come. So for sure we’ll try and get the computer companies to donate their computers and the libraries to donate children’s books. But this is always going to be The Keith Hart Center for Youth. Not XYZ Corp Center. I’m doing this to help Keith’s dream become a reality.”

Noting Lucas’s silence, Jordan quirked a brow. “Did I surprise you? You’re awfully quiet.”

The chatter from the cavernous dining room filled the silence, while he awaited Lucas’s response.

“I agree. For the record, I never intended to acknowledge the corporate sponsors any more than having maybe a plaque in, say the computer area, stating, Computers Generously Donated by…whomever we choose. As you put it so very well, it isn’t about them.” Once again, he flashed that charming grin that lit up his normally austere face.

A tug of desire hit Jordan low in his belly and the breadstick crumbled in his hand. For almost a year he’d barely thought about sex. In the cold hours of the dark, he’d awaken from dreams where he’d been making love with Keith, and his body’s natural urge had led him to finish off with his hand. But not until this moment had he felt a pull toward another man. Disturbed, Jordan studied Lucas from beneath lowered lashes, pretending to concentrate on his food.

For God’s sake, what was he even thinking? Shaking his head, angry with himself for having those traitorous urges, Jordan drank down half his sparkling water, his hands shaking so badly he feared Lucas might comment. Lucky for him, the waiter approached to take away their dishes, engaging Lucas in conversation so he saw nothing.

Lucas wasn’t even his type. Jordan ran a critical gaze over the enigmatic man sitting across from him. Sure, he had the broad, muscular build similar to Keith but personality-wise, the two men were nothing alike. Keith’s friendly, joyful personality drew people to him; they couldn’t help but want to be his friend. Totally unlike the quietly serious Lucas Conover whose lone-wolf persona and hands-off attitude screamed, Don’t ask, don’t touch. Jordan excused this inexplicable physical reaction as his first time in months being in close proximity to a man.

“You okay, Jordan? You looked kind of sick for a moment.”

As far as he knew, there wasn’t yet a cure for being heartsick and heartbroken.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Felice Stevens has always been a romantic at heart. While life is tough, she believes there is a happy ending for everyone. She started reading traditional historical romances as a teenager, then life and law school got in the way. It wasn’t until she picked up a copy of Bertrice Small and became swept away to Queen Elizabeth’s court that her interest in romance novels was renewed.

But somewhere along the way, her reading shifted to stories of men falling in love. Once she picked up her first gay romance, she became so enamored of the character-driven stories and the overwhelming emotion there was no turning back.

Felice lives in New York City with her husband and two children. Her day begins with a lot of caffeine and ends with a glass or two of red wine. Although she practices law, she daydreams of a time when she can sit by a beach and write beautiful stories of men falling in love. Although there is bound to be some angst along the way, a Happily Ever After is always guaranteed.

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS

Twitter:https://twitter.com/FeliceStevens1

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/felicestevens/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8432880.Felice_Stevens

Instagram: https://instagram.com/FeliceStevens

Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/felicestevensauthor?ref=hl

Newsletter: http://felicestevens.us8.list-manage2.com/subscribe?u=d43061d90bf2256eb322ed69f&id=586ac8fa57

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Its Here! Of Gods and Monsters: Komainu (Of Gods and Monsters #3) by Wulf Francú Godgluck

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Of Gods and Monsters: Komainu (Of Gods and Monsters #3) 

by Wulf Francú Godgluck

Blurb: 

Hades

His innocence was the fire that blighted the deepest dark, but even he can’t save the King from a past stained so black, the devil won’t even touch it.

Years creep up on you, like a rotting hand: cold and wet, it will drag you down into your grave.

Life will hand you eternity only to rip it away from you.

Love will slaughter you in the most beautiful way and still manage to nail you in the ass, bareback, when you see him choose the heart of another man.

But Death… He is a patient soul. He waits, and he waits, and he waits.

‘Cause the bastard knows he will always have the last laugh when he knocks at the door.

Kemono

Memories were all I had, all I had clung to as my heart turned to stone and finally to dust.

Now he is mine and I will hold him, and I will kiss him. We will dance and we will laugh, and we will cry… We will be human together…

I did not know heaven until I knew him.

There is no greater power that can tear and rip your world apart as when their lips finally kiss yours again.

But being human comes at a fatal price.

Sometimes you have to let go of the hand you hold onto so tightly that it brought pain, because that is the only way you can save them from Death.

Rex

Why did she take them away, hand them back, then force me to choose?

Is love really that cruel, that she would enjoy tormenting you as you watch the two men you love with your whole heart, kill each other…?

And then, my worst fear, my deepest darkest nightmare became a living breathing thing.

Death had come to take from us what we could never replace.  

Excerpt: HADES

It had been no fuckin’ blow to his balls when the thought had clawed within Hades’ head, that if—and that was big fuckin’ if—they would have found their Rex dea—gone… He and Kemono…would have… had something. Wouldn’t be a fuckin’ relationship, Hades didn’t love the fucker, he didn’t believe he could ever love the Jap. But… They would always have a part of Rex within each other. Be there for one another in their own fucked-up way out of mutual respect in memory of their gatito.

But now… Fuck, Hades didn’t want to force his little to choose, and it scared him, ’cause if Rex chose the Jap, there was nothing left to live for. Nothing left to prevent el cucuy from completely consuming the small morsel of Breno el Oscuro that remained.

Nothing.

They couldn’t share Rex, as possessive and aggressive as Hades and Kemono battled for dominance between themselves, it was a thousand times more terminal when it came to Rex.

One of them would have to be the better man…and walk away.

And Hades had already decided for both of them whom it would motherfuckin’ be.

Excerpt: REX

“I could fuck you over this counter,” Haywood brought his face inches from Rex’s own, a glare spitting embers of heat, “right now for this evidence.” Haywood’s hands slammed down on the counter, pinned on either side of Rex’s thighs, the muscles in those arms balled tight with frustration. “One kiss, kid…” Haywood’s hot breath danced against Rex’s skin, making it break out in icy pebbles. “That’s all I ask, all we ever fucking wanted from you since the first time we saw you dancing in Diablo.”

Rex swallowed hard. He could play the game, set the teasing to scorching, but he couldn’t betray his bruised heart.

Instead he turned his head when Haywood came in for the kill.

“Fuck!” the man groaned, heated air flaring along Rex’s neck as he sniffed him instead. Nose and scruff tingled Rex’s skin when Haywood skimmed his lips to Rex’s ear. “Who hurt you, baby?”

“A very, very bad man,” Rex said coldly.

Excerpt: Kemono

He’d never had that, never even touched Rex other than that single instance when he had stroked Rex’s broken lip before the boy had hugged him, stealing a single febrile kiss. A memory so ancient, yet it held the power to hollow-out Kemono’s darkest nightmares and give him an ephemeral glimpse of nirvana. The thought of simply cuddling with the boy made acid guzzle through his veins, he didn’t know how…to hold Rex that close to him.

It was one thing to touch a man, fuck them while you held them down as they withered under you, or have their lips on your cock as you gripped them by the hair using their throat.

It was a ruinous sentiment to touch and hold close, for the first time in your life, the man who owned your heart and soul.

He was too terrified to even speak to him.

Because the words Kemono needed to say would never be enough to apologize, but not saying anything would be worse.

He was a large disturbing man, a strong, brutal monster, whose hands only knew annihilation, afraid to touch an angel, because Rex’s touch would be more fatal to Kemono than any cicatrix he had received.

Word count is: 101388

Page count is: 259

About the Author

Wulf Francú Godgluck

They come to me in the night, creeping into my head. Their voices are all different, their stories all dissimilar, but they keep saying the same thing…

“Show us, tell us, bring us into your world, and make us known.”

Then I sit and they take over. They tell their tales of love, loss and sinister misfortune. Not all of them get a happy ending, but they are pleased when their part is written.

I sometimes find myself lost in my own mind; a world very similar to our own yet so different. Things don’t go bump in the night— they squeal and crawl under your skin, making you grind your teeth, and making your stomach turn over and putting your nerves on edge. Then there’s the drama. Oh, the drama!

Wulf Francú Godgluck hails from South Africa. His work is not for the faint-hearted! In his books you’ll find… all the beasties with their nasty claws and teeth, and some you didn’t even know existed.

But the monsters aren’t all real.

Some live inside us. Who knows what he will make you discover about yourself, lurking in your heart, behind the closed walls in the deep, black recesses where no light penetrates?

Wulf will steal your heart and never give it back. More than likely, he’ll pin it to the wall with a bobbypin and sit there sipping his tea while you writhe and squeal on the floor…

STILL sure you want to read a Wulf Godgluck book?

Proceed at your own peril.

Contact & Media Info

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook

On Tour: E.M. Hamill on Writing, and ‘Dali’, (author interview, excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Dali

Author: E.M. Hamill

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 8/7/17

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 85200

Genre: science fiction, space travel, third gender, interspecies sex, kidnapping, genderfluid, space opera

Add to Goodreads

♦︎

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host E.M. Hamill here today. Thank you for taking time to sit in our author interview chair. The author also brought an excerpt and giveaway.  Don’t forget to check both out after the interview!

♦︎

~ Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words E.M Hamill Interview ~

 

  • Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate or longhand?

Computer. It keeps up between my brain and my fingers better than pen. I used to do data entry and I type really fast.

  • How long on average does it take you to write a book?

Six months for the first draft of a full length novel, usually. You can’t rush editing, though. I average about a year before it’s ready to try and publish.

  • Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it?

Oh, gods, yes…just keep plugging away, is all I can do. Even a few words a day is better than none. Eventually it cracks. I may start an entirely new section just to get flowing again. Worst case scenario, walk away from it for a week or so and then come back.

  • What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?

Writing is such a subjective thing. There are books I disliked, which were beautifully written and are someone else’s absolute favorite books. A review is simply the manifestation of personal taste. When someone’s taste coincides with mine and they love the story I’ve told, it’s a warm and wonderful thing. A bad review can really crush my ego, but if it’s constructive, I try to take those things into account.

  • What is your favorite motivational phrase?

Be the change you want to see in the world.

  • What is your favorite quote?

“We are the music makers,

And we are the dreamers of dreams,

Wandering by lone sea-breakers,

And sitting by desolate streams;—

World-losers and world-forsakers,

On whom the pale moon gleams:

Yet we are the movers and shakers

Of the world for ever, it seems. – Arthur O’Shaughnessy”

Synopsis

Dalí Tamareia has everything—a young family and a promising career as an Ambassador in the Sol Fed Diplomatic Corps. Dalí’s path as a peacemaker seems clear, but when their loved ones are killed in a terrorist attack, grief sends the genderfluid changeling into a spiral of self-destruction.

Fragile Sol Fed balances on the brink of war with a plundering alien race. Their skills with galactic relations are desperately needed to broker a protective alliance, but in mourning, Dalí no longer cares, seeking oblivion at the bottom of a bottle, in the arms of a faceless lover, or at the end of a knife.

The New Puritan Movement is rising to power within the government, preaching strict genetic counseling and galactic isolation to ensure survival of the endangered human race. Third gender citizens like Dalí don’t fit the mold of this perfect plan, and the NPM will stop at nothing to make their vision become reality. When Dalí stumbles into a plot threatening changelings like them, a shadow organization called the Penumbra recruits them for a rescue mission full of danger, sex, and intrigue, giving Dalí purpose again.

Risky liaisons with a sexy, charismatic pirate lord could be Dalí’s undoing—and the only way to prevent another deadly act of domestic terrorism.

Excerpt

Dalí
E.M. Hamill © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

Human beings are assholes. I should know. I’d become one in the last few months.

You’d think the near extinction of our entire species after the pandemics and global poisoning our last world war inflicted might let us all pull together. Even with galactic war breathing down our necks, when almost everyone realized the human race constituted less of a threat to each other than some of the other things out there, we continued to be dicks.

Those attitudes started problems—in particular, Europan attitudes, of the New Puritan variety. I no longer possessed the self-control or sufficient fucks to avoid adding fuel to their fire.

His voice floated over the excited din of the crowd and the pregame show on the holographic screens above the bar.

“Abomination.”

I sighed and turned my head. The Team Europa-jacketed hulk next to me exuded a cloud of loathing against my empathic nets. I raised one eyebrow at him.

“Really? You can’t come up with anything more original after fifteen minutes of shit-talking?” The conversation behind me started as a diatribe against the rally for third-gender rights, held outside the arena and glimpsed on the main holo screen. I didn’t pay attention to either until the comments got louder and were meant for my ears.

“Faggot.”

“How very twentieth century of you.” I downed another of the six shots the robotic bartender dispensed in front of me. I wasn’t looking for trouble, only anesthetic. Outside, a cluster of media bots interviewing star athletes had driven me into the bar to hide. The presence of mechanized paparazzi still unsettled me. I didn’t want them in my face.

The annual Sol Series tournament games between Mars and Europa bordered on legendary for their savagery. No one took rugby as seriously as a gritty Martian colonist or a repressed New Puritan, and the bar overflowed with both, waiting for the station’s arena to open. Spectators gathered around us in the bar, drawn by the promise of a fight, glittering eyes fixed on us. My empathic senses drowned in their excitement and fear, even with the numbing effects of synthetic alcohol.

He invaded my personal space and leaned closer, face centimeters from mine. His breath carried a trace of mint and steroid vapors. Great. A huffer, his molecules all hyped-up on testosterone. He stood over a head taller than me, about twenty-five kilos heavier. His fists would do damage. His minions stood at either side, more meat than smarts. Neither spoke. Their mouths hung open while he harassed me, and I expected shuttle flies to crawl out at any time.

“You’re nothing but an A-sex freak.”

“Better. Still lacks originality.” I threw back the last shot. “How about androgynous freak? Hermaphrodite? No, those words are probably too big for you.”

The titter of laughter from the crowd only pissed him off. “Go fuck yourself.”

“Technically, I can’t. But I can fuck anybody else in this room. Can you?”

Shocked laughter rose from the circle of spectators. The guy clenched his fists and flexed his muscles. I continued, “Do I scare you?” I swiveled on the stool to face him and changed posture, crossing my legs in demure modesty. My voice rose into a husky, suggestive alto as I leaned one elbow on the bar. “Or do you want to find out what’s under my kilt?”

I hit a nerve. His eyes went blank, black, and his rage flooded over my senses. The crowd gasped and took a step back. Minion One caught his rising fist and spoke. “Jon, don’t you know who…”

Jon’s lip curled. “It’s an atrocity. It should have been killed at birth.”

“I prefer the term changeling.” I stood, and the circle around us got wider. The potent mix of hormones surged through my bloodstream as they altered my chemical makeup and bulked strategic upper body muscles. I let a cold smile form on my lips and dropped into a Zereid martial arts stance. Jon took half a step back as I became more definitively male in ways he recognized. “Oh, go ahead and hit me, by all means. A good fight is almost as good as sex.”

“Break it up.”

The crowd parted into nervous brackets with security’s arrival. Caniberi lumbered into the midst of the circle with the boneless roll space-born started to get after generations in orbit. He cast a sour eye in my direction.

“Dalí, why is it always you?”

“Just lucky, I guess.”

The constable growled at me. He turned to Jon. “You can’t play in the tournament if I throw you in the brig for violence. Move out.”

Jon stared at me a minute longer. The threat of not getting to beat the hell out of some hedonistic Martians made him reconsider. He and the minions moved away, but he threw one more sentence in my face like a javelin.

“You’ll be alone, changeling.”

The truth in his words knifed through me all the way to my gut and cut me deeper than any microsteel blade. “I’ll be waiting.”

Caniberi squinted at me as the crowd began to disperse. “Dalí, do I need to talk with the Captain?”

“No, sir. Leave my father out of this.” He’d dealt with enough from me already. My mother was now away on the diplomatic mission I’d been suspiciously—but rightly—deemed unfit to assume. Without Mom there to buffer the uncomfortable presence of my grief between us, Dad was lost.

“One of these days you’re going to push the wrong buttons and end up hurt, or worse. Some things the medical officer can’t fix.” His gaze softened. “Drinking and getting the shit beaten out of you won’t bring them back.”

“I’m well aware of that, sir.” My voice came out sharper than I intended. One of the best officers on the station, Caniberi had known me a little over a decade, and he never hesitated to kick my ass if I deserved it, no matter what gender I chose at the moment. This time, he just stared at me with an odd expression. His pity broke in tepid surges against my senses.

“Get out of here. I don’t want to arrest you again.”

I turned and left the bar. With the bots still hovering outside, I ducked my head to foil their facial recognition apps and fought my way upstream from the arena.

The shakes hit me in the aftermath of the hormone flood. The synthetic alcohol in my system warred with my normalizing chem levels and sour nausea threatened. I grabbed one of the rails lining the corridor and took several shuddering breaths as my muscles cramped, rearranged, and settled back into the lean, sexless frame where I am most at home.

The crowd jostled around me and headed toward the game. My empathic nets buzzed dully with their anticipation and excitement, but the sense of being watched pushed at the back of my mind. A familiar presence tripped a memory and an emotion.

The watcher knew me.

I turned my head. The Zereid made his way toward me, head and shoulders above everyone else, long, muscular limbs wading with passive grace through a river of human bodies as the crowd shifted for him. An eddy of cautious glances swirled and vanished downstream.

Oily quicksilver eyes without lids narrowed, their shape signifying the equivalent of a smile. His resonant voice buzzed in my ears. “He is the size of a cargo bot, you know. Even the arts we learned can’t change gravity. He might kill you.”

“I won’t let it go that far.” I shrugged. I actually hoped I’d bitten off more than I could swallow this time.

But the presence of my childhood friend undid me. A lump rose in my throat, pressure in my head, and I closed the distance between us. He gathered me in against cool flesh. I was locked in arms capable of crushing a human like a piece of foil but which held me with careful tenderness. Against his enormous chest, I felt like a small child, even though in developmental terms, Gor and I are the same age. His concern brushed my mind with affectionate familiarity.

“I see you, Dalí,” he murmured. “I mourn with you.”

I breathed in the scent of Zereid. Gor smelled of his homeworld—rain and earth and copper clung to his leathery turquoise skin and short, downy fur even in absentia. Homesickness washed over me.

I’d lived on Zereid most of my life. My mother, Marina Urquhart, served as ambassador for fifteen years. Dad’s career required he return to Sol Fed, and rather than separate our family, Mom resigned her appointment. My differences were clear, even to my third-gender mother, but there, we were aliens. I wondered what it would be like to have more friends who blinked.

When we got back to our own kind, I found out I was still an alien.

Gor pulled away. In the tarnished silver of his eyes, like antique mirrors, my unkempt reflection stared back at me. His dismay at my mental and physical state, impossible to miss, sighed against my mind.

“How did you hear?” I said.

“Your mother. “

“Of course.”

His head cocked. “I tried to come sooner, but the travel permissions into the colonies are daunting.”

“No, I understand.” I wanted to sit and talk with Gor. I eyed the bar, but couldn’t go back in there yet. “Come on. We can go to Dad’s quarters. He’ll be on the bridge.” My own cramped space wouldn’t accommodate Gor’s height or his bulk.

We squeezed into the private lift and rode up to the command deck. My thumbprint opened the door to the Captain’s suite, and Gor made a sound of wonder as he ducked through the port.

Three levels of transparent alloy shielding overlooked the U-curve of Rosetta Station. Shuttles buzzed in and out of bays like honeybees in the hydroponics domes, ferrying passengers to huge starliners docked on the outer limbs.

“An inspiring view.” Gor gazed out the window.

Ochre planet-shine from Jupiter’s face illuminated the room, the swirling storms in the gas giant’s atmosphere familiar to me now. I never found them beautiful, only an echo of the chaos in my head. I dropped into one of the chairs facing the viewport.

Gor eased himself into the seat opposite me. “You’re in crisis, Dalí.”

I couldn’t hide anything from him. Even if I wanted to, he was a telepath; his empathic senses much more attuned than my own modest abilities. Our friendship spanned far too many years, our trust well established. Lying to him would betray our oath of crechemates, a Zereid custom similar to old Earth tradition of blood brothers.

“Today would be the second anniversary of our wedding.” I stared at my hands. I still wore a ring on each of them, the ones Gresh and Rasida gave me.

“I remember. The love between you and your mates deserves celebration.”

Triad marriages with two members of the same sex and one of the opposite were common. The female population had not rebounded as fast as the male. But mine was the first triad marriage to include a changeling spouse under the new laws we helped to bring about. The legislation was both praised and vilified by hundreds of other citizens while we exchanged vows beneath the domes of the lunar capitol. My parents, Gresh’s mother, and Gor celebrated with us. Rasida’s mother refused to attend the wedding of her only daughter.

The three of us had been inseparable, invincible. Without them, I staggered, incomplete.

Our child would have been three months old now.

“Don’t say it.”

Gor’s eyes elongated in confusion. “What?”

“That they wouldn’t want me to be like this.”

“I did not come here to admonish you for grieving.”

I gave a short laugh. “What did you come here to scold me for?”

“For ceasing to live. Abandoning the larger destiny for which you trained.”

“Ambassador?” I dug a vape out of the pocket of my coat and thumbed the switch, inhaling illegal chemicals deep into my lungs. His gentle reproach against my empathic nets rebuked me without a word.

“You were sure of your calling as a peacemaker six months ago.” Zereid reverence toward conciliation is, ironically, unforgiving and unbending.

“I was certain of a lot of things then.” I exhaled a cloud of spicy mist. If any of the scent remained, I’d catch hell later for vaping in Dad’s quarters.

“There are always those who work against peace, even in their own hearts. As you are doing now.”

“I don’t know if I believe in peace anymore.”

“Because you do not possess it.”

“Stop feeding me platitudes, brother.”

He spread six-fingered hands wide. “What would you have me do? Tell me. Your pain is mine to share, beloved friend. Allow me to help you. Your rage is fearsome but undirected. You point it at yourself.”

“I was supposed to die, not them.” I cursed the terrorists who missed their target by eight minutes. When I decided not to address the media bots and chose instead to hold a private farewell with my family, I put myself ahead of schedule. I should have died with them. Even though the bastards failed to kill me, they destroyed me.

“Come home.” Gor waited for me to answer. I didn’t. He continued. “Madam Ambassador thinks Zereid would be a place of healing for you. You can study at the temple with me again, be teacher and student. This year’s crop of younglings is a challenge.” His vocal pipes fluted in laughter. “As we were.”

“That isn’t much of an incentive.” A grin tried to tug at the corners of my mouth, stiff and out of practice with the expression. “I’ll think about it.”

“Will you?” His doubt hovered between us.

The port slid open again and my father thundered in—Captain Paul Tamareia—“The Captain” to everyone on the station, even me at times. I stood at automatic attention, swaying a little. Gor rose too.

“What the hell were you thinking?” he demanded. “And turn that goddamned vape off.”

I complied. “A misunderstanding, sir.”

“Misunderstanding, my ass. Six shots of the synthetic piss that passes for whiskey says it wasn’t.” He turned to Gor and bowed. “Welcome aboard Rosetta Station, honored friend. Forgive me for not greeting you first.”

“Captain Tamareia.” Gor bowed back.

“How long will you be staying? I insist you use my quarters as your own. Stop by the constable’s office and he will register you for my door. I’m afraid most of the cabins are small, and we’re overcrowded with the tournament.”

“My thanks, sir. My travel clearance is good for the next two weeks, and then I must return.” Gor nodded at us. “I should collect my belongings now. I will go to your constable on the way back.”

“It’s good to see you, Gor.”

“You as well, Captain.” He put one enormous hand on my shoulder. “Dalí, please think about what I said.”

Gor let himself out. Dad and I both understood he made a graceful exit so we could shout at each other in peace. Zereids don’t carry a whole lot of baggage. They don’t wear clothes.

“Did you need to pick a fight with the number eight of the bloody Europan rugby team?” He tossed his personal data device on the table. “Do you even know who he is?”

“Other than a prick, no.”

“Jon Batterson. Does the name ring a bell at all?”

“Batterson.” I blinked through mental processes made sluggish by the vape. “As in President Batterson?”

“Light dawns. The heir apparent to his self-righteous little robotics empire.” He ran both hands through his hair. I inherited my dark-brown waves from him, but Dad’s customary high-and-tight showed little hint of curl. Mine now fell to my shoulders in a shaggy, tangled mane. “Do you realize the mess I would have had to clean up if you really let loose on him? Even if he is built like the ass end of a freighter, you could put him on the injured list.”

“It wasn’t my intent.”

“From what Caniberi told me, you were about to unleash hell on him. You sure stirred up some crap. The president is coming to the game tonight. The constable didn’t know who he was either, or he might have thrown you in the brig to prove a point.” He sat down with a thud on the steel bench and sighed. “Dalí. Come here.”

I sat next to him and braced myself.

“It’s been six months. Your leave from the diplomatic corps is finished, and if you don’t return, you’ll be dismissed. This has to stop. When you go back to your life, you’re going to encounter people like Batterson on a daily basis. Your reputation and your career are at stake. You can’t do this anymore.”

“That life’s over.”

“Don’t throw it away. You did so much in so short a time. You have a gift for understanding, and you will be a formidable ambassador. Sol Fed needs you in the negotiation chamber at the Remoliad. Luna is a better place because of your work.”

“Because of Gresh’s work. Because of Sida and our child. They were my reasons for everything. I’m not sure I feel as strongly for the rest of the human race.”

“Then you need to find another way to deal with their deaths. I won’t watch you destroy your future. You worked too hard for it.”

“Tell me how, sir.” My fury rose. “Tell me how I can deal with it because I’m looking for an exit.”

He stiffened. “What do you mean?”

“Nothing.” I rose and stalked away. He started to call after me, but the communication tones went off.

“Captain Tamareia, report to the bridge. The president’s shuttle is incoming.”

“On my way. Dalí!”

I ignored him and ducked through the port.

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Meet the Author

E.M. Hamill is a nurse by day, sci fi and fantasy novelist by night. She lives in eastern Kansas with her family, where they fend off flying monkey attacks and prep for the zombie apocalypse. She also writes young adult material under the name Elisabeth Hamill. Her first novel, SONG MAGICK, won first place for YA fantasy in the 2014 Dante Rossetti Awards for Young Adult Fiction.

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It’s Release Time for Chasing Ghosts by M.K. Hardy (exclusive excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Chasing Ghosts

Author: M.K. Hardy

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 8/7/17

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 77600

Genre: Contemporary, contemporary, romance, addiction, drug/alcohol use, performance arts/visual, writer

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Synopsis

Nic is a successful ghost writer, making a decent living churning out best-selling autobiographies of celebrities and other notable figures. She’s also a recovering alcoholic—three years sober and still tempted, every day, to open the bottle again.

Luckily she has distractions—this time in the form of Isobel DeWitt, an award-winning and well-loved actor in her prime, who has decided to release a tell-all autobiography. Nic finds her likeable, charming and fascinating…but also impossible to crack. Every draft sounds like just another magazine piece full of perfectly crafted sound bytes, but there’s no soul.

Undeterred, Nic continues to dig into the actor’s history in search of the clue that will unlock it all and finds it in the form of one Melody Graham, a reclusive playwright and, if rumours are to be believed, Isobel’s erstwhile lover. Nic chances everything to reach out to her and unbelievably she responds, sharing stories about her time with the tempestuous actress and helping Nic get further and further into Isobel’s head. The problem now is figuring out where Isobel Dewitt starts and Nic ends…

Excerpt

Chasing Ghosts
M.K. Hardy © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

“Hi, my name is Nicola, and I’m an alcoholic.”

Not much of a way to begin a story, is it? But as James, my agent, always says, “truth is what makes the story.” On the other hand, my sponsor Mary likes to tell me to “be honest with yourself and screw the rest of them.” Either way, you can’t get any more truthful than that, can you?

“It’s been two years since my last drink.”

I was sitting in a dingy church hall on a flimsy folding chair, surrounded by people who looked as if they’ve been chewed up and spat out by Fate like disused pieces of chewing gum on the pavement. Some of them couldn’t even bring their eyes up to meet the gazes of their fellow addicts. Instead, they focused on the streaked wooden floor, following the whorls and gouges with their bloodshot eyes. I didn’t recognize all the faces; for every regular there was a newcomer, who more likely than not would come for one, maybe two weeks before disappearing off the map in a haze of empty vodka bottles, never to be seen again. Sometimes on my weaker days, it made me angry to see them, knowing by looking at them that they wouldn’t be back next week, and hating them for being weak enough to succumb. Just like I wanted to.

You’re supposed to share your story at these meetings, but that wasn’t really why we were here, was it? You don’t want to hear my story. Nobody does. There’s a reason my name never shows up on the front jacket—why if you read between the lines of each tell-all memoir you won’t find me mentioned there. It’s because I’m very good at my job, you see. I can draw out even the most reluctant person, put their words, their life down on paper so that the masses can’t help but want to read it, and the supposed author can’t help but rake in the cash. So I hope you don’t mind if I just give you the bare highlights of my own life—my name might be all over this, but it still really isn’t my story.

The smattering of half-hearted applause at my testimony had stopped now, and I was talking again. I was sharing my experiences of the past week—the times I’d wanted to drink, the times I’d been glad of the clarity I now had… You don’t need the details.

The truth was I could do without the clarity. Clarity, if you ask me, is overrated. I wasn’t sober because it made me clear-headed or better able to deal with my day-to-day life—honestly, I was a high-functioning drunk. That’s the thing about a Calling—you don’t have to be sober to be able to do your job. I could write just as well—maybe better—when I was drunk. I met my deadlines, I made meetings when I had to, my cat never went hungry, and I was never the type to get into fights or wake up in a gutter because, like all good alcoholics, I drank alone, at home.

No, to be brutally honest, I got on the wagon because when I hit thirty I was starting to develop a slight gut, and that’s not attractive on anyone. And believe me, some days I wish I had just switched to gin and slimline, but here I am now and so here I stay. Never let it be said I don’t see a story through till the bitter end.

After the meeting finished, the group disbanded, drifting away from each other like autumn leaves pushed by a capricious breeze. There was a table set up with orange juice, tea, and biscuits; some of the newcomers lingered there, hoping to meet kindred spirits who would reassure them that everything’s okay and it’ll just get easier with time. The regulars knew better.

Me, I picked up my sleek black laptop bag and hoisted it over my shoulder, exchanging curt nods with a few people before heading for the door. I wasn’t in full Bitch Mode, which on a normal day meant I might stop and exchange pleasantries, but I’d got a meeting to get to across town and not a lot of time. Chances were I’d probably be late. Why didn’t I just skip the meeting, go to a later one, you ask. To which I reply: you’ve never been an addict, have you?

I grabbed a taxi as soon as I could, promising the driver a generous tip if he could get me to my destination by four o’clock. That’s the other thing about having a Calling—you can make plenty of money doing it. I have even more now that it doesn’t all go on booze and mixers, but it mainly just sits in my bank account or occasionally serves to entice cab drivers to get me where I’m going on time.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that what I do is necessarily what I saw myself doing when I majored in Creative Writing at college (you don’t really care where, do you?). My starry-eyed teenaged self thought I was going to be the next Kerouac, or the next Tartt, or at worst the next Stephen King. I think my younger self would probably want to knife me in my sleep if she saw me trampling all over her dreams of renown and accolade, making a tidy little profit without my name ever appearing on a single dust jacket.

It’s still writing, though. It scratches that eternal itch. And I’ll tell you what, it’s satisfying, in its own way—getting into someone’s head, finding their voice, putting their life into their own words when they can’t make that transfer from mind to page for themselves. I’m like a conduit—weirdly, I feel connected to them. It’s an addictive sensation in its own right, and I am, after all, an addict.

Some people go from vice to vice, trying to find something that fills in that emptiness. I knew a guy in the early nineties who, after nearly killing himself on a five-year bender, sobered up almost overnight only to begin falling into bed with a different person each evening. What alcohol couldn’t accomplish, AIDS did. When you look at it like that, my way doesn’t seem so bad, does it?

We got to the hotel at five past four—even though we were technically late, I still gave the driver his promised tip. It wasn’t as if he had any control over London traffic, after all. I slid out of the cab, barely looking around to check my surroundings before heading inside. I have a lot of meetings at hotels, so I’m well acquainted with them—the plush beige carpets, the myriad mirrors, the waxy, sunlight-starved pot plants. These initial meetings are always in the bar, so perhaps it’s unsurprising that I ended up the way I did. Liquor is a natural lubricant; it gets peoples’ tongues wagging. Even now, hours before dinner time, the bar was half full, cluttered with businessmen soothing their jetlag with a pint of ale, nervous tourists tittering over a glass of merlot.

I caught sight of myself in the mirror behind the bar. It’s a rule, in writing—you have to tell the reader who they’re looking at. Never mind the picture on the cover, they want to be reminded of the sparkling blue eyes, the crisp white smile, the smooth, even tan. And you won’t be seeing my picture, so I suppose I ought to lubricate my own descriptive skills with a bit of introspection. Not that I’m going to tell you what you want to hear.

See, unsurprisingly I guess, I’m about as ordinary-looking as it gets. I’m about average height, maybe a little over but not enough to be tall. I’m average weight—maybe a bit extra on the hips and thighs from time to time; it comes and goes. My eyes and hair are a mid-brown that’s neither particularly drab nor particularly inspiring—my hair pretty much lives in a perpetually slightly dishevelled ponytail. I’m the kind of pale that you only get by staying indoors most of the time, summer or winter, and only holidaying to northern European cities that don’t require you to wear sunscreen or mosquito repellent. My wardrobe is mostly brown, black, and navy. I don’t wear rings and my ears aren’t pierced. I’m basically the definition of a cipher.

I didn’t start out that way—I am told by reliable though biased sources that I was a very pretty little girl. And I went through all the normal teenage rebellion phases—heavy eyeliner, dyed hair, outrageous clothes (though who could live through the eighties and not claim fashion victimhood?). But somehow, I ended up like this: a plain Jane, nondescript and unmemorable. Maybe it’s the exterior reflecting the interior, since my job is more or less all that defines me these days. Or maybe it’s just that spending so long in a drunken, intensely personal, and yet wholly impersonal haze erased all desire for self-expression. But if that’s the case, why am I writing this? I honestly don’t know. You tell me.

The woman I was there to meet wasn’t hard to find. Unlike me, she was well-known enough to create a bubble of impermeability around her, one which no tipsy tourist or errant waiter was likely to overstep. And even if they didn’t know who she was, she was striking in a way that caused people to stop and stare rather than come too close. And as used to celebrity as I am, I’ll admit I hesitated for a moment before breaching that no man’s land and approaching her table.

“Ms. Dewitt? Nicola Booth. Sorry I’m late.”

“Oh, are you?” she said politely, in that tone where it was obvious she’d noticed and was pretending not to—which I hate, by the way.

“Yep,” I said, tamping down the urge to roll my eyes as I took a seat opposite her at the table. Lord, save me from the well-meaning ones—give me a stone-cold bitch any day. They’re so much more fun. “Anyway, I’ve just got a few questions before we get started. I assume your agent told you what I’ll be doing?”

“Well, I know what a ghostwriter does, of course, but I’m sure you all have your own methods…”

“Sure.” I sat back in my chair, nodding a little. “A lot of writers like to pore through articles, past interviews, watch appearances on Jay Leno, that sort of thing. Really bumps up the research fee.”

She raised an eyebrow—just the one. You know how in books everyone can do that? I’ll tell you what, not everyone can do that. “And you?” she said in this arch tone and I’m not sure whether it’s getting my back up or turning me on a little.

Not wanting to give her the satisfaction of watching me jump through any of her little hoops, I turned a little, motioning for the single waiter who’s loitering by the bar. He hurried over, more for her sake than mine, I knew, and I ordered a mineral water with lemon before looking back to Ms. Isobel Dewitt with all her arched eyebrow and perfect lips.

“I like to talk.”

“To talk.”

“Mm. I mean, yes. To talk. You’re supposed to be telling your life story, right? So the best way to do that is to… talk about it. To me. I’ll record it, take notes, ask questions…and then I’ll whisk it all away and transform it into a bestselling account of your life.” Maybe it sounds conceited, but trust me, it’s true. I have never failed to turn out a book that exceeded the publisher’s expectations, and I’ve even helped a few minor celebrities to climb the social ladder to better recognition.

The great Isobel Dewitt pursed her perfect lips and tossed her perfect hair and relaxed back in her chair with a nod. “All right. So when do we start?”

Well. This is it, then. “We can start right now,” I told her, leaning over to pull my recorder out of my bag, then set it on the table between us. No time like the present. “Let’s talk about what you want out of this book.”

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Meet the Author

MK Hardy is the pen name for two geeky women living and writing together in Scotland. They’ve been writing partners for eleven years and life partners for nine. When they’re not typing frantically at one another they like to walk the dogs, cuddle the cats, drink cocktails and play boardgames.

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