New Release Blitz for Tomboy by Janelle Reston (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Tomboy

Author: Janelle Reston

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: March 19, 2018

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 17000

Genre: romance, historical, LGBT, Historical, lesbian, 1950’s, tomboy, student, blue collar, mechanic, NASA, scientist, friends to lovers

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Synopsis

Some kids’ heads are in the clouds. Harriet Little’s head is in outer space.

In 1950s America, everyone is expected to come out of a cookie-cutter mold. But Harriet prefers the people who don’t, like her communist-sympathizer father and her best friend Jackie, a tomboy who bucks the school dress code of skirts and blouses in favor of T-shirts and blue jeans. Harriet realizes she’s also different when she starts to swoon over Rosemary Clooney instead of Rock Hudson—and finds Sputnik and sci-fi more fascinating than sock hops.

Before long, Harriet is secretly dating the most popular girl in the school. But she soon learns that real love needs a stronger foundation than frilly dresses and feminine wiles.

Excerpt

Tomboy
Janelle Reston © 2018
All Rights Reserved

The first time I met Jackie, I thought she was a boy. Of course, she was only eight then, an age when most humans would still be fairly androgynous if our society didn’t have the habit of primping us up in clothes that point in one direction or the other.

Jackie was in straight-legged dungarees, a checkered button-down shirt, and a brown leather belt with crossed rifles embossed on the brass buckle. Her hair was short, trimmed above the ears.

“Who’s that new boy?” my friend Shelley whispered as we settled into our desks. It was the first day of fourth grade, and Mrs. Baumgartner had made folded-paper name placards for each seat so we’d know where to go. Shelley always sat right in front of me because our last names were next to each other in the alphabet. She was Kramer; I was Little.

I looked at the blond cherub in the front row. He—as I thought Jackie was at the time—had his gaze set toward the ceiling, eyes tracing the portraits of the US presidents that hung at the top of the wall. A cowlick stuck up from the back of his head. He reminded me of Dennis the Menace, the mischievous star of my new favorite cartoon strip, which had debuted in our local paper that summer. I liked the way Dennis talked back to adults but somehow never got in trouble for it. I wished I had the same courage.

Mrs. Baumgartner walked into the room. The class fell silent and we straightened in our chairs, facing her. “Good morning, class. I’m your teacher for this year, Mrs. Baumgartner.”

“Good morning, Mrs. Baumgartner,” we answered in unison. She spelled her name on the chalkboard in cursive and asked us to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Back then, the Pledge didn’t have the gist of a prayer like it does today; “under God” wasn’t added to “one nation indivisible” until three years later, after Eisenhower became president. I wiggled my toes around in my hand-me-down saddle shoes as we recited the words.

The trouble began when Mrs. Baumgartner started to take attendance. “Jacqueline Auglaize?”

“Here, Mrs. Baumgartner,” Dennis the Menace answered from the front row.

Mrs. Baumgartner narrowed her eyes. “New year at a new school, and we’re starting with the practical jokes already?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Will the real Jacqueline Auglaize please speak up? This is your only warning.” Mrs. Baumgartner’s eyes scanned the room. I craned my neck around. I hadn’t noticed any new girls in the classroom before our teacher’s arrival, but maybe I’d been distracted by the Dennis the Menace boy.

“I’m Jackie Auglaize, ma’am,” Dennis the Menace piped up again.

Mrs. Baumgartner’s face screwed up as if she’d accidentally sucked on a lemon. “What you are is on the way to the principal’s office, young man.”

“I’m not—”

“And a detention for talking back.”

Mrs. Baumgartner called on one of the other boys to escort the new, nameless student to his punishment. From chin to scalp, Dennis the Menace’s face turned red as a beet. His flushed ears looked almost purple against his pale hair.

Kids playing pranks didn’t blush like that.

“I think that really is a girl,” I whispered to Shelley. But if she heard, she didn’t respond. She knew better than to turn around in her seat when a teacher was already angry.

An hour later, Mrs. Baumgartner was quizzing us on our classroom rules when the school secretary appeared at the door. In tow was a student in a frilly cap-sleeved blouse, knee-length blue corduroy jumper with a flared skirt, lace-trimmed white bobby socks, a pair of shiny black Mary Janes—and short blonde hair.

The cowlick stood like a sentinel at the back of her scalp despite the hair polish that had clearly been combed through since we’d last seen her.

An audible gasp filled the classroom. Actually, it was multiple gasps, but they happened in such synchronization that they had the effect of a single, sustained note.

“Mrs. Baumgartner,” the secretary said, “Jacqueline Auglaize is ready to return to the classroom. We’ve explained the school dress code to her mother. The behavior of this morning won’t be repeated.”

“Thank you, Miss Hamilton. Welcome back, Jacqueline.”

Titters filled the room as Jacqueline walked toward her desk. Mrs. Baumgartner slapped her ruler against her desk. “Does anyone else want a detention?”

We went quiet. Detentions are never an auspicious way to start a new school year.

We spent the rest of the morning learning how to protect ourselves from atomic explosions. Mrs. Baumgartner said this knowledge could save us now that the Soviets had the bomb. “When an air raid siren goes off or you see a bright flash of light, duck and cover underneath a table or desk, inside a corridor, or next to a strong brick wall. Then pull your sweater or coat up to cover the back of your neck and head,” she explained.

We all squatted under our desks as instructed. My father said the Russians weren’t stupid enough to bomb us, that they loved the common people and wanted to protect us. But Mrs. Baumgartner seemed to think they were. She went on in excruciating detail about the things that could happen to us if we didn’t duck and cover. Glass from broken windows could fly in our faces, we could get a terrible sunburn from the blast; pieces of ceiling might drop on our heads. I wasn’t sure whom to believe about the bomb—my dad or Mrs. Baumgartner. I didn’t want to think about it. I shut out my teacher’s voice and stared at my scuffed saddle shoes, pondering how a boy could magically turn into a girl in the wink of an eye.

“She’s not a girl,” Shelley insisted as we walked out to morning recess. “Girls can’t have hair like that.”

“They can if they cut it.”

“But no mother would let a girl wear her hair so short.”

“The school wouldn’t let a boy wear a dress to class.”

Shelley must have been won over by my logic, because the next thing that came out of her mouth was, “Maybe she has a little brother who likes to stick gum in people’s hair.” Shelley’s brother had done that to her once, but since he only got it on the tail end of her braid, she hadn’t lost much length to the scissors when her mother cut it out. “Or she got lice. Yuck.”

I didn’t like the direction of Shelley’s last comment. As it was, the new girl was guaranteed to have very few friends after the morning’s clothing incident. If the lice rumor spread, she’d have no friends at all. I’d been new once too.

“She doesn’t look dirty,” I said. “Maybe her hair got caught in an escalator and they had to cut it off.” I was terrified of escalators. My mother had warned me never to play around on one or my clothes would get snagged between the steps and I’d be pulled in, then smashed as flat as a pancake. Back when she worked in a department store, before marrying my dad, she saw a lady get caught by the scarf in an escalator’s moving handrail, and it would have been death by strangling if an alert gentleman with a penknife hadn’t been nearby to free her. I still get a little on edge every time I step onto one.

We got in line to play hopscotch on a board a couple other girls had drawn earlier that morning. I looked around. The whole school was out on the playground, and it was harder than I would have expected to find a short-haired girl in a blue jumper. There were lots of blue corduroy jumpers darting around the swings and monkey bars and jungle gym. Wanamaker’s must have featured them in its back-to-school sale that year. My dress wasn’t new. It was a hand-me-down from my older sister, with a ribbon tie and a skirt made with less fabric than the newer fashions. Shelley and I had done a test run of our first-day outfits the previous week, and no matter how fast I spun around, my skirt failed to billow as dramatically as Shelley’s.

Still, I tried to make the skirt swing gracefully as I hopped down the squares. I had no desire to be dainty, but I liked the aesthetic of fabric twirling in the air. We went through the hopscotch line four times before I finally spotted Jackie. She was over by the fence, poking at the dirt with a stick. Alone.

That last bit was no surprise.

It took three more rounds of hopscotch before I worked up the nerve to go find out what she was doing.

“Where are you going?” Shelley called as I marched off.

I didn’t answer her, afraid I’d lose my momentum. It was risky talking to an outcast. On the one hand, it was the only way to turn her into not-an-outcast. On the other hand, it might turn me into one too.

“What are you doing?”

Jackie looked up. “Thinking about digging a hole to China.”

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Meet the Author

Janelle Reston lives in a northern lake town with her partner and their black cats. She loves watching Battlestar Galactica and queering gender. You can keep up with her at http://www.janellereston.com.

 

Giveaway

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Review of A Token In Time by Ethan Day

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Rating: 4.85 stars

Zachary Hamilton comes from a family endowed with special gifts.  He has them as well and it has cost him everything.  Zachary doesn’t want his gift and his family doesn’t think he should have it  either.  To “return it” is to die so Zachary and his love, Nick, have been on the run  from the Hamilton family since they were teenagers.  Living as fugitives has been hard and each time they think they are safe, the Hamiltons find them yet again.  Then Zachary and Nick land in Los Angeles, California and their luck seems to change.  A benefactor appears out of the blue, offering them a store for their antique business and a place to call home.  And for a while they are happy.  Until a bullet shatters their lives and Nick dies in  Zachary’s arms.

Zachary is consumed by his grief, refusing to leave his apartment until Dave, his assistant in the shop, pulls him out of his house and back into their shop.  As Zachary tries to determine his next step regarding his family, he receives a phone call from a lawyer.  It seems that Mark Castle, a famous movie star from the 50’s has died and left Zachary the entire Castle estate, including an ancient relic.  This powerful token will change Zachary’s life and those around him if Zachary has the courage to use it. And so begins A Token In Time.

Well, what an amazing story.  I read it twice before sitting down to write this review, not because I needed to but because I wasn’t ready to let  go of Zachary and Marc and all who come with them, past and present.  I have been a fan of Ethan Day’s books but A Token In Time represents a departure from the light comedic fiction I have come to expect from him.  A Token In Time fluctuates between contemporary and historical romance under an umbrella of the supernatural and it does so beautifully.  The story of Zachary Hamilton and Marc Castle flows like a Mobius strip from the year 2008 back to the 1950’s and around again and never hits a false note.

Ethan Day has certainly done his research into life in the 50’s and it shows without it coming across like an information dump.  When Zachary (and the reader) land in Los Angeles circa 1958, the surprises are endless and sometimes very funny.  Stereophonic Hi Fi is new and wonderful, Coke is Coke, and gas “costs a friggin’ quarter”.  And the lack of the internet and Star Bucks come as an unhappy surprise to a young man accustomed to the everyday pluses of life in 2008.   Oh it’s so great to tag along with Zachary as he visits the West Hollywood Sears store and has to pick out pants that most certainly aren’t low riders!  Ethan Day’s deft touch with comedy is everywhere without overwhelming the dark and angst filled romance behind A Token In Time. Ethan Day brought the 50’s vividly back to life so much so that I was reaching for the iTunes store before the end of the book to recapture the sounds of the times.

And lets talk characters shall we?  I have loved Ethan Days previous creations but the characters he has brought to this story are remarkable and have so much depth to them as to be unforgettable.   Zachary is a complicated young man, beautiful, gifted, and still so full of joie de vivre through all his pain. But he doesn’t fully come to life until he falls onto the sand and into 1958. Free from the mechanisms of his family, he starts to blossom and the love affair between Zachary and the reader snaps to life as well.  Marc Castle too is rendered here in gorgeous Technicolor from his golden tan to white movie star smile.   We come to love him dearly the more we get to know him.  And don’t get me started on Jonathon Reed, Max, Maddie, and  Leo.  The author keeps adding characters so real, so damn lovable that I wanted to hold onto them for dear life and not let them go. I am going to beg here, Ethan Day.  Please consider giving us Jonathon and Max’s story.  Pretty please?  With fuzzy swinging dice on top?

And lurking behind all of this is a constant menace, the dark we hide from, the monsters we know are under the bed.  Skillfully, the dread increases, the anxiety ramps ups a notch after notch much like the music from the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. We know where the danger coming from in both eras but not how or when it will strike. And strike it does in stomach churning, heart stopping ways.  Mystically, brutally rendered evil to balance the joy and love that infuses the rest of the story.

So why not give it 5 stars? Only because of the way the story begins.  A minor quibble but it took me a little while to get accustomed to the manner in which Zachary and Nick’s back story is told.  I found it a little jumpy at the beginning, but it soon settles itself out and the reader gets sucked in this wonderful page turner not to be let out until the very last word of the epilogue.  And you will love the end.  Really, you will.  And now I will say no more.

Cover:  Winterheart Designs did the cover and they did an outstanding job of it.  It looks like it came right off the book jacket of a novel from the 50’s, both in color and illustration.  It really couldn’t be more perfect. I would love to have a copy of it for myself, framed and hung on the wall, it’s that good.

Available from MLR Press, Amazon and ARe.