Join Us for the New Release Tour for Life Minus Me (The Evanstar Chronicles #5) by Sara Codair (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Life Minus Me

Series: The Evanstar Chronicles, Book .5

Author: Sara Codair

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: January 6, 2020

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 23500

Genre: Paranormal, LGBT, Angels, Mental illness, Psychic ability, Pets, #ownvoices, Fae/fairies

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Synopsis

Mel is half Angel, but despite her ability to heal and read minds, she feels powerless to help anyone. When a prophecy shows a local pet supply store owner driving their car off a bridge, Mel sets out to stop it.

Baily, owner of Barks and Bits, is barely holding it together. Things keep going wrong, and their depression spirals out of control. Just as they start wondering if they’d be better off dead, a new friend provides a glimmer of hope. But is that enough to keep living?

Mel never thought saving Baily would be easy, but she can’t figure out when, where, or why Baily’s suicide will happen. As her confidence fades away, she wonders how she can help anyone when she needs so much help herself.

Excerpt

Life Minus Me
Sara Codair © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Mel

Saturday

Sun beat down on Mel’s cold, rosy cheeks, and wind whipped her blonde hair into a frenzy of thrashing strands. She sped up on I-95 in a yellow Jeep Wrangler with the top down on a chilly Saturday morning in January. The fact that she even felt cold at all reminded her that she was a little human…25 percent human.

A salty chill grew in the air. A green bridge loomed on the horizon. It crossed the Piscataqua River, the border between Maine and New Hampshire, leading her from the place where she, a seemingly human college senior who lived with her grad-student fiancé, was deciding which medical school to attend, to one where she was an Angel-Elf-Human hybrid who fought Demons and healed minor injuries. Sometimes, Mel felt like she lived in two worlds. In one, science and reason left little room for belief in the supernatural. In the other, her maternal grandmother was an Elf, her father was an Angel, and the rest of her family members were Demon hunters.

They weren’t technically two separate worlds so much as cultures, one hidden from the other. Mel led a double life in this messy multifaceted world where she tried her best to make it a better place. She tried, but she failed more than she succeeded.

She tapped the steering wheel with her fingers, drumming a rhythm to a song someone was listening to in the car in front of her, one she wasn’t hearing through her ears, but through telepathy she’d failed to turn off. She understood even less of the science behind her mind reading than that of her healing abilities.

Speeding up, she passed the pickup truck whose driver was loudly thinking about the music he was listening to and how it reminded him of his ex-boyfriend. Mel imagined the rush of wind, the growl of her engine, and a big brick wall shielding her mind from everything outside her skull until the music ceased. Mostly. She’d inherited her telepathic powers from her father, but she didn’t control the ability nearly as well as he did.

She tightened her grip on the steering wheel. It was going to be at least another hour before she got to Mary’s Eats, a diner where she was meeting her cousin, Erin, for breakfast.

Driving was difficult when her attempts to control her telepathy failed, but crowded restaurants were more of a challenge. When Mel stepped through glass doors into the diner, other people’s thoughts battered the mental walls she’d constructed around her mind. She squeezed by the line of customers waiting for tables, ignoring their glares and reinforcing her shields so the dull, incoherent murmuring of a dozen minds faded away.

The L-shaped room was filled with pink and blue tables that had been there since the 1950s. The faux-wood vinyl floors were less than a year old, installed around the same time the owners had gutted the walls to insulate them, updated the wiring, and added gender-neutral bathrooms. Those bathrooms, along with the large portions of bacon that the restaurant served, were why Erin often insisted on meeting here.

Erin sat in the fifth booth from the line, hood up and headphones on. Rocking back and forth to the beat of music Mel couldn’t hear, Erin shredded a straw wrapper and stared at the silverware. Two menus sat untouched on the edge of the table.

A bony shoulder collided with Mel’s back. Newspapers flew up into the air and floated to the floor like feathers from broken wings as a man with wispy gray hair and pasty skin jumped backward.

“I’m so sorry,” he said, catching his balance on the side of the booth. “I wasn’t watching where I was going.”

“It’s fine. It’s a good thing you didn’t fall.” Mel bent down and started picking up the dropped papers.

“I’ll get them. I’m healthier than I look.” The old man bent down and scooped up more pages.

Mel picked them up quicker and then helped him back to his feet.

“Thank you,” he said, before shuffling off to a table where a younger person with short brown hair and rosy cheeks glared at a computer screen.

“Cooper, these numbers don’t look right,” said the person, picking at chapped lips.

Cooper clutched his disorganized newspaper to his chest as he looked over the person’s shoulder. “That check was only supposed to be for $5,000, not $50,000!”

“Call the bank. They close at noon,” said the younger person.

“Mel? Someone else is going to walk into you if you keep standing in the middle of the aisle,” said Erin, whose hood and headphones were now off.

“Good point.” Mel slid into the seat across from Erin. “It’s been a long week.”

“It must be horrible, going back to school after having a month off.” Erin gathered pieces of their shredded straw wrapper into a pile and slid them under the menu.

“You had a couple weeks off too.” Mel fidgeted with the ring on her left-hand ring finger.

“Over which I had to write a five-page paper. You had no homework and get to start all new classes.” Erin picked up the butter knife and put it down, squeezing their hands together.

“Are you okay?” Mel leaned forward and tilted her head, peering at Erin’s grass-green eyes, barely resisting the temptation to let her shields down so she could read Erin’s mind.

“Not really.” Erin yanked their right hand away from their left, running their fingers through short, red curls. “The meds my new doctor had me on were actually working until I broke out into hives, got really dizzy, and couldn’t keep a single meal down.”

“That sucks.” Mel curled her hands around the edge of the booth’s seat, digging her fingernails into the old vinyl. Erin wasn’t much more human than Mel, which was probably why medications intended for humans didn’t work. But Erin didn’t know that, and Mel couldn’t tell them the truth—she was bound by an oath that was impossible to break. Had she known what the consequences of this secret would be, she never would’ve agreed to keep it.

“Yup. My stupid brain is already foggy again, and I can’t focus on getting anything done.” Erin picked up the fork, spun it around, and ran their fingers over the prongs.

Mel snatched it out of their hand. “Careful.”

Erin rolled their eyes. “I wish the server would hurry up and come back now that you’re here. I’m starving.”

“Me too.” Mel slid Erin’s napkin and butter knife closer, farther away from Erin.

“Really? You think that little of me?” Erin stood up, fists clenched as they stared out the window to the street where their car, a Jeep Cherokee built four years before Erin was even born, was parked outside.

“Erin, I’m sorry. I just…it’s an old habit, maybe. I’m sorry.” Mel’s hands shook as she waited for Erin to either accept the apology or storm away. Her chest got tight and her eyes burned. A year and a half ago, she had sat with Erin in this very diner, thinking Erin was just fidgeting, not realizing until she dropped her shields that Erin had a butter knife under the table and was nervously running their thumb back and forth over the edge until it bled. It was the type of thing that used to happen all the time, and each time Mel intervened, Erin pushed her further and further away, resisting help no matter who it came from.

Erin took a deep breath and sat back down. “I don’t cut anymore, and if me being off medication means you’re going to start meddling with my life again, I’m not talking to you. Either accept that I’m fine without your interference or leave me alone.”

“Okay. I’ll stop. I won’t intrude.” Mel gritted her teeth. Erin would’ve died if she hadn’t meddled. Erin’s bitterness over Mel’s interference in a suicide attempt was a sign Erin was not fine at all, but there was nothing Mel could do about it without crossing boundaries and breaking the fragile trust she’d built with her cousin.

Erin leaned forward. “I have a good therapist now. Mom isn’t ignoring me as much as she used to. Be my cousin and friend. Don’t act like some guardian angel trying to save me.”

Mel squeezed her eyes shut, holding tears in. She’d do what Erin asked, for now, even though it made her feel like a complete failure, like the shittiest Angel ever.

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Don’t miss Book #1 in the The Evanstar Chronicles series, Power Surge, available from NineStar Press

Erin has just realized that for the entirety of their life, their family has lied to them. Their Sight has been masked for years, so Erin thought the Pixies and Mermaids were hallucinations. Not only are the supernatural creatures they see daily real, but their grandmother is an Elf, meaning Erin isn’t fully human. On top of that, the dreams Erin thought were nightmares are actually prophecies.

While dealing with the anger they have over all of the lies, they are getting used to their new boyfriend, their boyfriend’s bullying ex, and the fact that they come from a family of Demon Hunters. As Erin struggles through everything weighing on them, they uncover a Demon plot to take over the world.

Erin just wants some time to work through it all on their own terms, but that’s going to have to wait until after they help save the world.

Meet the Author

Sara Codair lives in a world of words, writing fiction in every free moment, teaching writing at a community college and binge-reading fantasy novels. When not lost in words, Sara can often be found hiking, swimming, or gardening. Find Sara’s words in Alternative Truths, Helios Quarterly, and Secrets of the Goat People, at https://saracodair.com/

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New Release Blitz for The Hunt (Psychic Underground #2) by Sarah Elkins (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: The Hunt

Series: Psychic Underground, Book Two

Author: Sarah Elkins

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: December 30, 2019

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 82100

Genre: Paranormal, LGBT, psychic ability, shifters, captivity, law enforcement/FBI, fantasy, medical personnel, shifters, paranormal

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Synopsis

The Facility is undergoing repairs after a chaotic failed escape attempt by several psychic test subjects some months ago. Neila and Henry’s mission is to locate potential psychics for the scientists at the Facility to study, but they have other ideas.

Neila can’t shake the idea of Nikola Tesla from her mind, and it’s getting worse as bizarre things start happening to herself and Henry. As they hunt for more about Neila’s possible past life, they aren’t sure if they will find answers or if they will become the hunted.

Things are not peaceful back at the Facility as troubling secrets come to light, and the Psychic Underground may never be the same.

Excerpt

The Hunt
Sarah Elkins © 2019
All Rights Reserved

The repair work on the Facility was slow going, but the director refused to forego using her office. The ceiling was still missing. New modern cameras, a phone, and internet were being installed: the works.

Director Lianne McClaine sat behind her desk with her elbows on several paper files while she read the results from her last checkup with her oncologist on her tablet. The cancer had vanished. Out of nowhere. Gone. Her doctor was sure there had to be some sort of error with her previous tests. Cancer didn’t just go away.

Not the type she had.

The newly installed landline phone rang on her desk.

“Director McClaine,” she said, leaving her answer vague. A director could be in charge of all sorts of things. No need to out their secret operation because of a wrong number.

“Director, you wanted to see us?” Agent Henry Anderson replied. She remembered him saving her life. The painful feeling of them being temporarily linked; her bullet wounds healing at his beckoning. He had hijacked her body with his shapeshifting ability, but it had saved her life. She wasn’t sure how to feel about it. Despite being grateful to be alive, she also felt violated. The director tried to put the latter feeling out of her mind.

“Yes. You and Blackbird report to my office.”

“Yes, ma’am.” The call ended.

The director glanced over the two paper files once more before she put them back in the bottom drawer of her desk. Agent Henry Anderson’s blood work and DNA tests had the same error the other shapeshifters at the Facility had. The results read as if he had just had a minor blood transfusion from multiple donors. There were traces from more than one blood type. The sort of errors that are normally attributed to contaminated samples. She should have noticed the pattern, even if the doctors hadn’t made the connection. They still hadn’t, but no denying it, he was a shapeshifter.

Henry’s results weren’t the only ones with the error. Besides the known shapeshifters, there were two others with the same anomaly: the pyrokinetic, Wallace, who had been killed by Shorty four and a half months before and “Blackbird” Neila Roddenberry, who had killed Shorty after he had almost succeeded in killing everyone in the Facility.

The whole incident had been a complete clusterfuck. Shorty, a telekinetic ex-con who, sick of being a prisoner and test subject in the Facility, rallied the rest of his test group of four men, Blue Team, to lead an escape attempt. The only reason anyone survived was because Henry had joined forces with several other test subjects.

Three members of Green Team, the shapeshifters, used their powers to help the perpetually disoriented group of telepaths and several doctors escape, bypassing the Facility’s biometric scans by copying Lianne’s own DNA. Green Team’s efforts weren’t what put an end to the assault though. Shorty had his eyes on another test subject, the only other one down on paper as an agent, Neila Roddenberry. The woman had more than one ability and the skill to use them.

After a vicious fight between members of Shorty’s Blue Team and the Facility’s surviving pyrokinetic, a nonbinary person named Lor, that wrecked the hallway leading to the Facility’s solitary holding cell, Henry managed to free Neila from the holding cell. Lianne wasn’t entirely clear on what happened afterward, but the two men Shorty sent to reach the Hole were soon very dead.

Not long after, Shorty and his remaining team member found the director, killed her guards, and almost killed Lianne just before he brutally broke Neila’s leg and dragged the small woman away by her hair.

Director McClaine was surprised she hadn’t been handed her ass on a platter by her superiors. They wanted an excuse to privatize the work the Facility was doing. The vultures circling the Facility had only grown in number since the incident. Defense contractors were interested in taking over where the clandestine government agency had continually failed. Private companies like White Rook and HUGO Defense had personnel trained to use the abilities most people assumed were utter bullshit, such as psychic powers like telekinesis, telepathy, pyrokinesis, shapeshifting, and God knew what else. The federal government was behind the private sector and had been for years. All Director McClaine had left was one more strike, just one more mistake, and she’d disappear into another dark hole somewhere. And even God wouldn’t have a clue what would happen to everyone else at the Facility.

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Meet the Author

Sarah Elkins is a comic artist and writer who nearly had to give up art entirely due to a form of ossifying tennis elbow that forced her to be unable to use her dominate hand for nearly a year. She spent much of that time writing novels with her left hand as a means to deal with the pain and stress of possibly never drawing again. Thanks to a treatment regimen she is able to draw again albeit not as easily or quickly as she once did.

Sarah enjoys reading science fiction, horror, fantasy, weird stories, comics of every sort, as well as any biographical material about Nikola Tesla she can get her hands on (that doesn’t suggest he was from Venus.) She has worked in the comics industry since 2008 as a flatter (colorist assistant,) penciler, inker, and colorist. She contributed a comic to the massive anthology project Womanthology. Currently she (slowly) produces a webcomic called Magic Remains while writing as much as her body will allow.

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Check Out the New Release The Empress of Xytae by Effie Calvin *excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: The Empress of Xytae

Series: Tales of Inthya, Book Four

Author: Effie Calvin

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: December 30, 2019

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 83500

Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy, LGBT, royalty, new adult, magic, paladins, gods, goddesses

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Synopsis

Crown Princess Ioanna of Xytae has kept her truthsayer blessing a secret for twenty years. In any other nation, her powerful magic would be cause for celebration. But Xytae’s patron is the war goddess Reygmadra, and the future empress is expected to be a brutal warrior.

Reserved and peaceful by nature, Ioanna knows the court sees her as a disappointment. She does her best to assuage their worries every day, working quietly beside her mother to keep the empire running while her father is away at war. But when news of the emperor’s untimely death reaches the capital, Ioanna finds herself ousted by her younger sister Netheia, who has the war magic Ioanna lacks.

Princess Vitaliya of Vesolda has come to Xytae to avoid her father’s upcoming wedding, which she sees as an affront to her mother’s memory. Vitaliya has absolutely no interest in politics or power struggles and intends to spend her time attending parties and embarrassing her family. But when she saves Ioanna’s life during Netheia’s coup, the two are forced to flee the capital together.

Despite their circumstances, Vitaliya enjoys travelling with Ioanna and realizes that the future empress’s shy and secretive nature is the result of her unhappy childhood. Ioanna is equally unaccustomed to being in the company of one as earnest and straightforward as Vitaliya, for she has spent her life surrounded by ambitious and cutthroat nobles.

Ioanna cannot allow her sister to continue their father’s legacy, and plots to rally supporters to her side so she can interrupt Netheia’s coronation. Vitaliya knows she ought to leave Xytae before the nation is ripped apart by civil war but finds she is unwilling to abandon Ioanna. But Ioanna’s enemies are always watching…and they’ve realized that Vitaliya is a weakness to be exploited.

Excerpt

The Empress of Xytae
Effie Calvin © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Reygmadra

The Imperial Palace at Xyuluthe buzzed with anticipation. Empress Enessa had finally gone into labor, and the heir to the Xytan Empire would be born within a few hours. The archpriest of Adranus and the archpriestess of Pemele were both there to aid with the birth along with countless members of the imperial court who would bear witness to the historic event.

Reygmadra, Goddess of Warfare and Eighth of the Ten, waited just outside the empress’s chambers, unseen by all who passed. She would not deny she was beginning to grow impatient. She was only here to bless the child, the future empress. Then she would be on her way.

If the child ever arrived.

Reygmadra had no tolerance for children, nor for the tedious conversations that always surrounded a birth—discussions of size, weight, and bodily functions. She had left the empress’s room because she had grown tired of the pointless hysterical screaming, but this was undoubtably worse.

Unfortunately, she could not grant a blessing to a mortal until after it had taken its first breath. This was one of the rules she and her fellow gods had agreed upon when they’d first set out to create Inthya. Even Reygmadra could see the value in this one, for if babies could use magic in the womb, nobody would ever risk giving birth ever again.

Emperor Ionnes was occupied, as always, by his campaign in Masim. He would not return to meet his new daughter for several months. Some of the members of the court were muttering about this, but Reygmadra did not see the trouble. What help could Ionnes be right now? He would only be in the way if he tried to help. At least in Masim, he was serving his nation by leading the army.

She longed to be there, whispering ideas in his ear as he slept, soaking up the power she received when tens of thousands of warriors prayed to her in unison. Of course, the prayers would find her no matter where she was on the mortal realm of Inthya or in the celestial planes of Asterium. But there was nothing like experiencing it firsthand.

Babies seemed to bring out the stupidest, weakest aspects of mankind. One of the Xytans was now relaying a tale of someone else’s labor, and Reygmadra decided to take a walk before she lost her temper and stabbed someone.

She moved through the palace like a specter, her face unseen and heavy footsteps unheard. She was dressed as she usually did when she manifested on Inthya, as a common soldier with short sword and breastplate. If someone did somehow see her, they would think nothing of her.

One of the rooms led out into a garden, and Reygmadra decided she had been indoors for too long. She stepped out into the sunlight, into the fresh air.

Reygmadra didn’t think much of gardens—they were really just a waste of space—but this one was empty, so she would stay for a while. As she moved, she kept an ear to the palace, hoping she would soon hear distant cheers.

“Still waiting?”

A woman dressed as a Xytan noble stood there among the flowers. She had olive-toned skin and long, wavy ebony hair, and her face was impossibly, supernaturally beautiful. The dress she wore was simple but elegant, all wine-colored silk that perfectly emphasized wide hips and a narrow waist. Despite her disguise as a mortal woman, Reygmadra recognized Dayluue—Goddess of Love and Seventh of the Ten.

“It will be a while yet,” said Reygmadra. “Why are you here?”

“I’m feeling neglected,” Dayluue said. “You haven’t come to see me in ages.”

“I’m busy.”

“You’re always busy.” Crimson lips pressed together in a pout as Dayluue adjusted the neckline of her dress aggressively. “Maybe I should call on someone else. I wonder what Nara is doing.”

Possessive rage seized at Reygmadra, and Dayluue began to laugh. But the sound was cut short when Reygmadra grabbed her by the shoulders. A moment later, she had Dayluue pressed between the garden wall and her own body.

“I love it when you get jealous,” Dayluue said breathlessly. “Kiss me?”

Reygmadra brought her lips to Dayluue’s throat. Dayluue tilted her head back, hands clasping at Reygmadra’s hair, and laughed again. “I have missed you,” she said.

“I don’t believe you,” said Reygmadra because expecting strict monogamy from Dayluue was like expecting a bird to refrain from flight.

“I’ll prove it, then.” Dayluue’s eyes sparkled.

“No. I’m busy.”

“I never took you for the sort to get excited over a birth. Or are you finally realizing what I’ve been saying about the population—”

“No. I’m just giving her a blessing, and then I’m leaving.”

“It might be a while,” warned Dayluue. “Labor can last an entire day.”

Reygmadra shuddered. “Awful.”

“Well, they wouldn’t have to do it so often if you didn’t keep convincing them to kill one another.”

Reygmadra rolled her eyes. “Did you come here just to argue?”

Dayluue pressed her lips to Reygmadra’s. “Only if you really want to,” she murmured into her mouth. The scent of her mortal body, flowers and sweat and pheromones, was intoxicating.

They were antithesis to each other, and yet, there was an undeniable symmetry to their domains. They were two primal forces, mindless impulse given sentience. And sometimes the fiery lust Dayluue elicited from her felt identical to the thrill of battle.

Perhaps that was why Dayluue always returned to her. Perhaps that was why Reygmadra did not object to Dayluue’s wandering.

When they met like this in Asterium, it was a union of selves, of auras and magic, and two becoming one in the way none but their own kind could hope to understand. It was delightful to have Dayluue’s energy surging through her, to feel her own spirit within Dayluue. Reygmadra always came away from these unions feeling softer, lighter. But not weaker. Never weaker.

On Inthya, with warm bodies made of blood and flesh, things were different. On Inthya, Dayluue was in control, and Reygmadra was helpless under her expert fingers.

“Kiss me again,” said Dayluue. “But lower, this time.”

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Meet the Author

Effie is definitely a human being with all her own skin, and not a robot. She writes science fiction and fantasy novels and lives with her cat in the greater Philadelphia area.

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Check Out the New Release Blitz for Grimmer Intentions (Tales from the Grim #2) by Jodi Hutchins (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Grimmer Intentions

Series: Tales from the Grim, Book Two

Author: Jodi Hutchins

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: December 9, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 91100

Genre: Paranormal, LGBT, romance, paranormal, demons, ghosts, spirits

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Synopsis

She screwed up. She broke protocol. She saved a life. Grim Reaper Margo Petrov may have resurrected a drowned surfer on the brink of death, but she isn’t earning any awards or receiving employee of the month from Corporate; she’s under more scrutiny from the Grim governing body than ever before. Since she has a massive secret that could spell disaster if revealed, she sure as hell doesn’t want to be in the spotlight, in any form.

Margo vows to keep her head down and stay out of trouble, reaping her quota of spirits lest she cause more problems for herself and the woman she saved with an illegal blood bond. She certainly shouldn’t be opening doors to the Fae lands or offering her neck to an Empusa woman suffering from bloodlust, but Margo’s laundry list of bad decisions keeps growing. With the threat of becoming decommissioned by Corporate looming in her periphery, Margo stumbles deeper into the politics of her people and soon realizes their intentions are far worse than she initially thought.

Excerpt

“Margo, calm down. You can’t go killing someone just because they pissed you off.”

Margo Petrov pumped her arms, increasing her speed as she cut across the dead grass of the front lawn, though her initial fury had settled to a low broil. The cold metal of the baseball bat against her palm was soothing but not calming enough to ease the rage completely.

The sound of Luis’s sneakers pounding the asphalt behind her indicated he’d finally caught up. “I’m not going to kill them,” she grumbled.

Luis snorted. “Okay, well, when you storm out of your apartment, yelling, ‘I’m going to fucking kill ’em, Luis,’ I think I can safely assume you’re going to kill someone.”

She stopped abruptly, causing Luis to run into her chest as she turned to face him. “Fine,” she said, tossing the bat into the bushes lining the sidewalk. She grabbed his shoulders, lowering her gaze to his. “Nobody fucks with my brother without consequence. Nobody,” she said, shaking him slightly to emphasize her seriousness.

Headlights from a passing car gleamed in his wide brown-eyed gaze as he nodded.

“Besides”—she started, as she dropped her hands from him, quirking an eyebrow—“I just want to know if they’re afraid of the dark.” She’d been livid when Luis told her the resident group of asshats from their high school decided to give Luis hell on his way back from the library.

Without further discussion, Margo continued down the cracked sidewalks of downtown Philadelphia.

“They still hang out at the bowling alley on Daly Ave?”

Luis huffed a discontented sigh, eliciting a grin from Margo. “Dude come on. Think about this for a second; do you really want to risk another arrest? You’re almost eighteen, and you could be charged as an adult.”

He had a point, and she admitted that to herself, but she continued down the sidewalk anyway, cutting across the street, her feet displacing loose black asphalt pebbles on the worn roadway. “Yeah, but they need to leave you the hell alone. This is getting ridiculous.” For years, she and her brother experienced taunting for their otherness, Luis taking the brunt end most times. The basketball team tormented Luis for merely existing; however, Margo guessed they blamed their mocking on his differences. They needed a good scare, using a bit of magic, the otherness his tormentors weren’t aware of. She wanted to scare them so bad they’d piss themselves. If all else failed, she’d just beat the shit out of them.

Luis gave a shrug of nonchalance, something she instantly recognized as her brother’s passive language, which furthered the desire to teach the perpetrators a lesson. Instead of digging into his dismissal, she turned and continued her way toward downtown.

Luis followed.

The streets were busy even though rush hour had ended a few hours prior. Cars zipped past, a stray honk resounding a few blocks away, voices rising in a cacophonous argument. The late-night city sounds were laden with a warning, hinting at the kind of night bad things happened, stirring a deep foreboding in the air around them.

Luis jabbed her in the ribs, ripping Margo from her eerie thoughts. “Hey, do you see that?” He pointed to LOVE Park on the opposite side of the crosswalk. Standing beside the water fountain was a child, their head turning from side to side in rapid succession. Luis was clearly pointing to the small person; however, the iridescent shift of air around the child indicated to Margo they weren’t alive.

Before meeting Luis, she agreed with the titles given to her—weirdo, crazy, psychic—the names condensing her down to a freak who could see ghosts with the only person to possibly believe her long dead. Of course, she’d been ecstatic to find kinship in another, to prove at least to herself she wasn’t crazy. That is until Luis stopped for every spirit in sight with their Sally-sob story. “Yeah, I see them, and no, we don’t have time.”

Luis scoffed just as the light turned, and he hurried across the street without waiting for Margo.

She rushed after him, forgoing her planned scare tactics on the basketball team in hopes she’d convince him to leave well enough alone.

They approached the park’s edge, Luis carefully watching the child. Luckily, the park held no other visitors, alive or dead. “We have to help her,” he whispered before he stuck his lower lip out.

She rolled her eyes. “They aren’t stray puppies, Luis. We can’t help every single one of them.”

Brows cinching, he met her gaze with an icy stare. “Maybe this is why we can see them, to help them move on.”

Though reluctant to admit it, she’d come to the very same conclusion herself a long time ago. With no way of knowing why they could guide ghostly apparitions to the other side, she couldn’t come up with a better reason herself. She glanced over at the redheaded girl and sighed. “Fine, but we need to be quick, and I still want to find those idiots so I can mess up their night.”

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Meet the Author

Jodi Hutchins is a healthcare professional by day and fanatical writer by night. They are also an avid reader, coffee connoisseur, helpless romantic, amateur artist, enthusiastic maker-upper of things, spouse, and parent. The frequent rain of western Washington doesn’t stop Jodi and their wife from gallivanting through the next trail head with their two children.

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A MelanieM Review: The Wolf and the Sparrow by Isabelle Adler

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Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5

Derek never wished to inherit his title as a result of a bloody battle. With the old count dead and the truce dependent on his marriage to the rival duke’s son, Derek has no choice but to agree to the victor’s terms in order to bring peace to his homeland. When he learns of the sinister rumors surrounding his intended groom, Derek begins to have doubts—but there can be no turning back from saying I do.

After the death of his wife, Callan of Mulberny never expected to be forced into another political marriage—especially not to someone like the new Count of Camria. Seemingly soft and meek, it’s only fitting that Derek’s family crest is a flighty sparrow, worthy of nothing but contempt.

Another war with the seafaring people of the Outer Isles looms on the horizon, and the reluctant newlyweds must team together to protect those caught in the circle of violence. Derek and Callan slowly learn to let go of their prejudices, but as they find themselves enmeshed in intrigue fueled by dark secrets and revenge, their tentative bond is all that keeps their world—and their lives—from plunging into chaos.

 

I  enjoyed the sort of mystical historical fantasy novel, The Wolf and the Sparrow by Isabelle Adler. I thought it worked very well on some levels and less well on others.   From the moment I met the main characters of Derek, son of the fallen Count of Camria and now the new “head” of house, and Callen, first son of the Duke of Mulberny, victor of the war, the author eases of us the perspectives of both men and their various different worlds.    The gulf between them necessarily wide due to the losses of war, Derek his father and the fear of losing his small fiefdom and all that entails for his people and family. For Callan?  It’s merely one more political move by his father with himself as the chess piece, one he doesn’t want to make but will for duty.

The young men as characters are well thought out and presented, less so some of the people around them.  I am not sure if this is the first story in a series but much is made of Derek’s brothers, an older scholarly brother Ivo and a sullen teen brother who constantly acts up, putting his brother’s safety and that of any  political agreements in danger.  That it is allowed to continue makes no sense in this narrative other than for dramatic purposes.  The brother is unlikable, the author makes no attempt  to layer him into anything other than a cardboard character and eventually he disappears completely two thirds of the way from the story leaving the reader to wonder why he was inserted at all.  Ivo’s character  did a flip flop at the end and then exited as well after being used as a potential red herring for a relationship with Callan’s sister.  Both examples of throwaway characters that had way too much page time.

The relationship development between Callan and Derek moved along nicely when they were allowed to be out in the field doing exactly what warriors like themselves were allowed to do, bonding over field maneuvers and showing their skills at taking down marauders.  That made complete sense and I loved it.  The other   element I started to get into and I thought was absolutely underused was that of magic.

What a waste.  It was, in my opinion, such a great part of the narrative and yet so underwhelming at the same time.  One, the effects were only related  by one of the  main characters not both.What a loss because while we get the maelstrom of physical, emotional, and magical elements happening from one side, we never get to “see” it from the other’s.  Which is weird because this whole story is a two narrative novel.  Why reduce to one now?  When we want to “see” what is happening at it’s most wildest and wonderful?  Makes no sense.  The best part and powerful potential of this story is lost.  And not for the last time.

If the author was laying the groundwork for a series, that would be different, but I believe this is a standalone novel, so here is all this great promise for magic within this novel and character and quite frankly, it gets tossed away, not one but twice, because the author holds back, throwing out tidbits instead of going full throttle.  This character can control animals, have them do his biding.  Do we see it?  Uh, off stage sort of.  Control the wind and seas?  Does that come into play?  Nope.  Other cool stuff?  Pretty much no.  Just one more “bunny out of the hate” and done.

What a shame.

The end comes off the same way. Characters disappear,  there is an odd resolution that feels sort of inadequate, magically speaking.  and yes, a HEA for this couple, which seems odd, because, other than Ivo, Derek’s family is never mentioned again.

So yes, I enjoyed it but so many questions kept popping back up into my head about other characters, universe building, and the holes in the magic that it wasn’t a smooth read for me. If you are more of a surface reader than I am, perhaps this story is more in your wheelhouse than mine.  Either way, I found it went pretty quickly and the main characters were enjoyable.  I just wish the promise I saw had been fulfilled.

Cover art by Natasha Snow is eye catching and dramatic.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 300 pages
Published November 25th 2019 by Nine Star Press
ISBN139781951057893
Edition Language English

Love Christmas Romances? Check Out the New Release Blitz for Peter Cratchit’s Christmas Carol by Drew Marvin Frayne (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Peter Cratchit’s Christmas Carol

Author: Drew Marvin Frayne

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: November 18, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 36100

Genre: Historical Holiday, LGBT, Christmas, romance, fairy tale, businessmen, ghost, prostitution, poverty, 19th century England, pirates, tear-jerker, time travel

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Synopsis

Peter Cratchit, a young lad preparing to make his way in the world, is the eldest son of Scrooge’s lowly clerk Bob Cratchit. Peter flourishes under the tutelage of his “Uncle” Scrooge and seeks to make his mark as a man of business, like his uncle before him.

One Christmas Eve, as Scrooge lays dying, Peter embarks on a risky ocean voyage that he believes will secure the future for his family. Onboard, Peter finds love, happiness, and success, only to lose it all by the voyage’s end.

Returning to London, Peter shuns his family and instead finds himself living on the streets, haunted by his failures and his dead lover, selling his body just to survive while he waits for the winter cold to claim him once and for all. But winter snows also mean Christmas is coming, and for the Cratchit family, Christmas is a time of miracles. Can a visit from three familiar spirits change Peter’s life again? Is there one more miracle in store for the lost son of one of Dickens’ most enduring families?

Excerpt

Peter Cratchit’s Christmas Carol
Drew Marvin Frayne © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Scrooge was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. He died some two years past on this very day, Christmas Eve. I would it were not so; yet I suspect the old man would not agree. He became rather infirm at the end, frail and forgetful, and though he did his best to remain cheerful, I know he hated to show weakness of any kind. It wasn’t a matter of pride, nor vanity; no, it wasn’t for his sake that he cared so. It was that, as he himself often said, he had become a sort of safeguard, a protector, to his family and to his community, and he hated the thought of us carrying on without him there, watching over us all. And we, of course, would clasp his hand and tell him that he would be looking over us in the next life, and that such thoughts brought us great comfort, and they should bring him great comfort too. And he would sigh, and agree with us, and settle in, at least for a while, until another great spasm wracked his breast, and his chest would heave with immense, raggedy gasps for air, and his worries arose all over again.

He died a good death, if it could be said that any death should be regarded as good. Though I have not spent nearly as many years as Scrooge did on this planet, I have knocked about a bit, and circumstance has shown me both great fortune and great tragedy. And as such, I have come to believe there is no good death to be had in this world. I have seen many poor wretches, past all hope of recovery from whatever it was that ailed them—whether it be an infliction of the body or the soul—beg for death, pray for it, and have watched it come in many guises, be it the cold, or the cough, or the cutthroat. I have seen their prayers answered, even if those answers came in some form of pain they had never envisioned. And yet I say, when the end did finally come, each and every one begged to stay, begged for their final breath to be forestalled, begged to live for even one moment more. Yea, though I have been on this world for less than a quarter of a century, I have come to know its horrors and have learned the greatest horror of all is that there is no world, no life, beyond this one.

Scrooge would not have agreed with this; oft he told us the tale of his visitation by his old friend, Jacob Marley, dead seven years in the grave before his return, and the further visitations by the three spirits who haunted him, also on a Christmas Eve. To Scrooge, there was no greater evidence of providence than this, and he lived such feelings in his heart for the rest of his life. I was glad of it; we all were, all of London town, though those of us who were closest to him felt his change of heart and his largesse most keenly. And many was the time, as a young man, on a Christmas Eve like this one, I sat cross-legged on the floor at Scrooge’s feet and listened to his tales of Christmas ghosts and astonishing spirits, of visitations to the past, and of the wondrous things that are yet to come.

Yet even then, I was a skeptic. After his tale was complete, Old Scrooge, as wise at reading faces as he was at managing his business, would frequently tousle my hair and tell me, “Young Master Peter, you must have the conviction of your faith. It is not enough to simply believe; you must know Christmas, and keep it in your heart all the year long.” Such words were enough for Tim and for the others; but I, I would only smile, and say, “Yes, Uncle Scrooge,” in a manner and tone that were always respectful, but that the cunning old man also knew to be mollifying. And Scrooge would then bend quite low—for he was a tall, wizened old fellow, and I have always been inclined to be undersized—and he would say to me, “You must not fear the world so much, Peter Cratchit.” And I would nod, and he would pat my cheek, or sometimes playfully pinch my nose. But what he meant by those words, I cannot say. In my experience, there is much to fear in this world, and much calamity the world will set upon the unwary soul who is not ever vigilant.

A growl in my stomach disturbed my thoughts. Time to dispense with these ruminations on the past; I was hungry. I willed my body out of its bed, a small recess in the side of a crumbling brick building used for the storage of livestock, a cramped pen to house the beasts before they were led to slaughter. The recess provided some shelter from the elements; there had been rain last night, so it was useful to keep dry, though the rain had been only a drizzle, and the weather was unseasonably temperate for so late in December. That was no small mercy.

The recess had once been a side door, now sealed up, when the building had been used for some other purpose, long forgotten to time. The smell of animal excrement that clung to the building—and to those who worked or, like me, dwelt within her—was formidable, but it also meant the alley I called my home remained deserted during the nightly hours. Safety in this life often comes at great cost. Those who have suffered at the world’s hands know this lesson all too well. The men who tended the animals had assembled a small cleaning station, clean water and a strong lye soap, behind the building, and they charitably did not begrudge my use of it from time to time, provided I did not tarry, and they did not see me. I hastened in my morning ablutions and made my way out to the street.

There was a bakery on Saint Martin’s Close; it was there I would seek to break my fast. Every morning, my repast was the same: two hot buttered rolls and a small tankard of ale. The only difference was whether the baker would tally the cost of his labors on my tongue or on my tail.

I made my way down Carol Street to the main Camden Road. I used to live on this very road, as a youth, but far down the other end from those places where I now worked and resided. Camden Town was named for Camden Road; the road was the heart of the ward, bisecting it in the north and making up the entirety of its western edge. It was impossible to be in Camden Town and avoid the Camden Road. And yet, in all of my wanderings through this neighborhood, I always avoided the familiar façade of my former house, with its chipped paint and ill-fitted front door. I was more interested in the thick, oaken door that led to the alley behind the bakery, where the business received deliveries of flour and other such supplies. I knocked. Some days, the baker answered promptly, as if expecting me; other days, like today, I had to wait. He was a busy man, having woke well before the dawn to assemble his breads and rolls and pastries and cakes. His bakery was a small one, but he did a good measure of custom, enough to keep him in flour and dough and sugar and coal for the ovens. Still, he had only one boy to help him prepare the daily wares—in this neighborhood, even relative prosperity resulted in genuine poverty.

Whether the boy was his son, or some urchin off the street, I do not know. The baker and I did not converse on such matters. It was, in part, because the man’s well of English was so deficient that any conversation would prove inconsequential at best. I could not identify his native tongue, and he spoke only the English of a tradesman and knew the terms for barter and exchange, and little more. My own English improved greatly under the tutelage of Ebenezer Scrooge, who gave me books to read and provided college-trained tutors to sharpen my intellect. I was beyond basic schooling by the time our families came together; but my mind was quick and hungered for knowledge, and Uncle Scrooge filled it with book after book on all manner of subjects—history, literature, economics, philosophy, mythology, the principles of business. I eagerly took it all in, save perhaps the poets, who I found too disordered, too insubstantial, to truly relish. Still, for an occasion such as this, the silver portion of my tongue was not really necessary. It was my tongue’s other talents that the baker was interested in. I suppose, in the end, this, like so much in life, was simply a matter of business. I needed what the baker had to offer; he felt the same. Talk would only prolong the necessities of exchange.

The man finally answered and hurried me inside. In nicer weather, he sometimes took his payment in the alley, but he did not like the cold and the damp, so he ushered me into a cramped cookery room stuffed with coal- and wood-burning ovens. I had no objection to being enveloped in warmth; it made for a pleasant change of atmosphere from my usual status at this time of year.

I could see by the sights and sounds of his distresses that my morning patron was more harried than usual. His eyes were darting around the room. His gestures were quick, and rough, and impatient. He was a large, hirsute man, with a rotund belly and a gray, prickly beard, which, at the moment, was dusted in a rather generous supply of flour.

I was no longer fond of beards; I generally preferred smooth-faced youths, like myself, and not the wooly chins of older men, though, in my line of work, older men were my main custom. And this was business, not pleasure, and the baker felt the same as I, especially today. Even as he penned me into his back kitchen, he continued to bellow orders to the boy out front. I often wondered what the boy thought of our exchanges. Perhaps it was of no consequence to him. Perhaps he was grateful he did not have to provide a similar service. Or perhaps he did. Who can say.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Drew Marvin Frayne is the pen name of a long-time author (Lambda Literary Award finalist) who is finally taking the opportunity to indulge his more sentimental and romantic side. When not writing the author lives with his husband of 20+ years and their dog of 10+ years in a brick home in the Northeast. Find out more on Drew’s Website.

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Ready for a Holiday Treat? Check Out the New Release Blitz for Holiday Gridlock (Cruised #2) by Gretchen Evans (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Holiday Gridlock

Series: Cruised, Book Two

Author: Gretchen Evans

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: November 11, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 18600

Genre: Contemporary Holiday, LGBT, contemporary, holiday, Christmas, age-gap, interracial

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Synopsis

Gabe is way too happy. Mark is as close to a perfect boyfriend as you can get. He’s smart, good-looking, successful, and he cares about Gabe. He’s also way more serious about their relationship than Gabe’s ready for. He wants them to move in together.

The closest Gabe’s ever gotten to living with a boyfriend is accidentally leaving his boxers behind. But he and Mark are way past that. It’s terrifying.

Mark invites Gabe home for the holidays where Gabe gets an intimate look at Mark’s family, his childhood, and how different their Christmas traditions are. It’s loud, overwhelming, messy, and…really nice. Homey in a way Gabe’s never experienced.

But Mark wants more than for Gabe to just have a peek at this part of his life. He wants Gabe to become part of the family, to go to bed with him every night, and wake up with him every morning. He wants all their Christmases to be together. Moving in may be just the start.

It might take a Christmas miracle for Gabe to figure himself out and overcome his fears. Or maybe a little familial intervention.

Will Gabe and Mark take the next step, or will they get stuck in holiday gridlock?

Excerpt

Holiday Gridlock
Gretchen Evans © 2019
All Rights Reserved

DECEMBER 17TH
Pressure squeezed Gabe’s sinuses like a vice. A vice might be too extreme. More like he’d walked into a wall repeatedly, and now his entire face ached.

He blew his nose for the hundredth time. It wasn’t much relief. The best he could do was snuggle deeper into the nest of blankets he’d assembled on his couch and pray for the sweet release of death.

The scratch of a key turning the old, cheap lock on his front door roused him. The light coming through the blinds had dimmed a lot, and the Netflix “Are you still watching?” glared at him from the TV. He must have dozed off watching Planet Earth. Thank God for Nyquil.

No point in getting up. Only one person had a key to his apartment: Mark. If it wasn’t Mark, that meant someone was picking his lock and planned to rob him. Good. They could take whatever they wanted as long as they took this damn cold too.

“Hello!” Mark called from the hall.

Gabe managed to sit up, sort of. “In here,” he called out, voice cracking.

Mark appeared in the living room doorway wearing a devastatingly handsome three-piece gray suit. Gabe was sick, not dead. He could appreciate his sexy his boyfriend in almost any state. Mark gripped a brown paper Whole Foods bag in his hand.

His boyfriend. It was a thrill to think about. How often did a gorgeous, successful man you met on a hookup app turn out to actually be gorgeous and successful? And then be as interested in you as you were in him? Their early days of hooking up in public bathrooms—and one memorable time, a parking lot—were behind them. But those were some nice memories.

They had gone from an awkward “hey, let’s try this” to practically living in each other’s back pockets in only a few months. Gabe hadn’t had many relationships and sometimes felt a little lost at sea. But when Mark was with him, that didn’t seem to matter.

Mark’s legs were long, and Gabe’s apartment was small, so it only took a couple steps for Mark to reach him. He dropped the groceries on the battered coffee table and bent to kiss the top of Gabe’s curls.

“How are you feeling?”

Gabe pulled himself up to sit a little higher. “Like shit.”

Smiling, Mark smoothed back Gabe’s hair. Gabe stretched into it like a cat begging to be petted. It didn’t make his nightmare of a cold go away any faster, but it certainly made him feel better. He didn’t want Mark to stop but… “You’re going to get sick.”

“Maybe, but I take my vitamins.” Mark pulled away, picking up the grocery bag as he walked toward the kitchen. “I brought you dinner.”

Food sounded unappealing. He couldn’t taste anything. Couldn’t smell anything. It was like putting cardboard in his mouth.

Mark slung his jacket over the top of the lonely stool Gabe had at his breakfast bar, leaving him in white shirtsleeves and a vest that hugged his waist perfectly. He propped himself against the counter, rolling up his sleeves. Gabe could see the bulge of the veins in Mark’s forearms from the couch.

“I’m cheating a little.” He pulled a plastic tub with something gross-looking sloshing against its sides and a shrink-wrapped pack of chicken cut into bite-size pieces from the bag. “Premade stock and precooked chicken. Good chicken soup takes time, so we’ll make do with this. Add some fresh vegetables and noodles and it’s almost like the real thing.”

There was nothing like seeing a man who made your heart pound, dressed like that, proposing to make nearly homemade chicken soup just because you were sick. How could Gabe say no to dinner now?

He watched through the tiny opening between the breakfast bar and the kitchen as Mark quietly went about his business. Mark knew where the pots and pans were, where the cutting board and sharpest knife were kept. He knew to use the front left burner because the others were bent and the pot would wobble. Gabe hadn’t realized Mark paid so much attention to his dingy little kitchen.

They cooked dinner together often, but usually at Mark’s much nicer condo. His kitchen had granite countertops and an oven that didn’t burn things. Watching Mark move so effortlessly around Gabe’s space settled something warm and heavy in Gabe’s chest. Something that wasn’t congestion.

He must have dozed off again because suddenly Mark nudged his elbow with one hand and held out a steaming bowl of soup with the other.

“Here. Eat some soup and drink some water; then you can go back to sleep.”

Gabe sat up, his back against the armrest and legs stretched out in front of him, and took the bowl. The steam felt good against his face as he tried to smell it. “You gonna tuck me in?”

Mark balanced his own bowl of soup as he lifted Gabe’s legs to sit on the couch. He lowered Gabe’s legs back to his lap and made sure Gabe’s feet were covered before picking up his spoon. “You are far too sick to be lascivious.”

“Nice SAT word. And anyway, I read an article about how regular sex can help fight off colds.”

Taking a long moment to bring the spoon to his lips, Mark delayed answering. He shot a wicked grin at Gabe after he swallowed. “I thought you were worried about getting me sick.”

Touché.

“How do you feel about sex with hospital masks?”

“Decidedly unsexy.”

“Spoil sport.”

Gabe turned back to his soup. He couldn’t taste it, but it was warm and made his throat feel better. He managed most of it but left a lot of the noodles behind before Mark took the bowl from him.

Sounds of running water and clinking dishes came from the kitchen as Gabe snuggled down in his blankets. He found the remote wedged between the back of the couch and the cushion and clicked on the Antarctica episode of Planet Earth. That was a good one.

He hummed as Mark settled on the couch, putting Gabe’s legs in his lap again.

“This the one with the whales?”

Gabe hummed again, his eyelids sliding closed.

“Do you want me to wake you up before I go so you can go to bed? Or do you want to sleep on the couch?” Mark’s voice was quiet, and his palm rubbed circles on Gabe’s calf, which was not going to help him stay awake.

“How long are you staying?”

“At least until I see some whales. That’s the only reason I came over.”

Gabe tried for a playful kick, but even that took too much energy. It looked more like an uncoordinated leg spasm. Mark laughed at him anyway. Gabe refused to rise to the bait. Instead, he purposefully shut his eyes and went to sleep.

The next time he came to, it was dark outside, but a soft glow filled his apartment. Mark must have turned on a lamp. Gabe stretched his legs. Mark wasn’t on the couch with him anymore. He must have gone home.

There was a little dip of sadness in Gabe’s chest at the thought.

The dip didn’t last long. Mark’s legs came into view next to the couch. Gabe had to crane his neck to see the rest of him.

“Here.” Mark held out a glass of water and two green pills.

Gabe didn’t bother to sit up. He could swallow lying down. It was one of his hidden talents. He popped the pills and tilted the glass back. He spilled some on his shirt but couldn’t bring himself to care.

“How did you know I needed more medicine?”

Mark perched on the coffee table, resting his elbows on his knees and searching Gabe’s face. “Because I love you, and I pay attention. I’ve been here more than four hours and you haven’t had any. I figured it was time. Are you sure you don’t need to go to a doctor?”

Mark had been the first to say I love you, but Gabe had said it right back. Since then, Mark dropped casual I love yous every day. Gabe was more reserved, but Mark didn’t seem to mind. Gabe thought Mark knew even though he didn’t say it all the time, he still felt it.

He took another swig of water, managing not to spill that time. “Nah, it’s only a cold. Give it a couple of days, and I’ll be fine.”

A deep V creased the skin between Mark’s dark eyebrows, and the small lines around his eyes deepened. Gabe wanted to kiss him. Badly. He started to pull himself up, unsure if he’d actually kiss Mark or not, but at least wanting to be on eye level with him.

Mark cupped Gabe’s elbow and helped him sit. He didn’t look relieved by Gabe’s change of position. “I’ll take you to the doctor if you need to go. Whenever you need to go.”

Gabe smiled, but that didn’t seem to convince Mark either. “I’ll be fine. Promise. I already feel better than I did yesterday.”

He rose slowly as Mark pulled on the blankets wrapped around Gabe, keeping them away from Gabe’s feet so he wouldn’t trip. Mark was good at small things like that. Mark was good at everything.

He waited, shoulder propped against the bathroom doorway, while Gabe brushed his teeth. Gabe didn’t have the energy to shower or change from one set of sweats to another to sleep in. He wanted to collapse, face first, on the bed. Instead, Gabe let Mark pull back the covers and usher him in. Like he was a child.

It didn’t feel patronizing or condescending. It was comforting.

“You know, I could do this every night if you’d move in with me,” Mark teased.

Bringing up an ongoing argument with one party sick was unfair.

“You’re taking advantage of my weakened state.” Gabe rolled on his side and hugged a pillow to his chest. “Besides, you could do this every night if you moved in here too.”

Mark sat on the bed, tucked up against the bend in Gabe’s knees. “My place is closer to work.”

Gabe snorted. “You don’t seem to mind the drive anymore.”

“Yeah, but I’d rather have you at home, in a nice big bed on clean sheets, than in a bathroom.” He rubbed his broad palm from Gabe’s knee to his hip. The heat of it soaked through straight to Gabe’s skin.

Love Fantasy? Check Out the New Release Tour for The Midspring Rebellion by Doreen Heron (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: The Midspring Rebellion

Author: Doreen Heron

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: July 22, 2019

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 25100

Genre: Fantasy, LGBT, fairies, royalty, magic, mythical creatures

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Synopsis

Things are amiss in the fairy court, made worse one spring morning when King Oberon’s wife decides to leave him. His decision to gather his thoughts in the human realm lead him into the path, and arms, of workaholic human Nick Chandler. But when Oberon’s throne is threatened, will he be able to retain his kingship and his newfound love?

Excerpt

The Midspring Rebellion
Doreen Heron © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
As it always did, the Wheel of the Year continued to turn.

Midsummer turned to Midfall.

Midfall to Midwinter.

Midwinter to Midspring.

The seasons changed. The years changed. But life in the Fairy Court remained the same.

And this left Titania dissatisfied.

“It is time for a change,” she announced one evening over dinner. Oberon had known something was wrong the moment she dismissed the waiting staff. It had been over three hundred years since they had eaten alone, and even that was because Titania had wanted to discuss the idea of adopting another Changeling. Not that the idea had gone anywhere, of course. Oberon had learned his lesson about taking human children long before that, and he had not been keen to repeat the experiment. It was natural, then, that he held his breath when Titania spoke, and he waited for whatever she was about to decide. “We have become stale.”

Oberon found it impossible to disagree. Being married for a millennium was certainly an accomplishment by anyone’s count—especially when fairy marriages were annulled and then voluntarily renewed on an annual basis. But one thousand years of an arranged marriage was going above and beyond in his royal duties, of this, he was sure.

“What do you propose?” he asked, not entirely sure he wanted an answer. A separation from Titania might allow them both to pursue other interests, but there was no denying that a split in the Royal Court could rip the whole of his already unstable kingdom in half.

“A separation.”

He nodded. He’d known where this was going, and he couldn’t say he was particularly unhappy about it. But he had questions.

“Why now? We’ve been living this same way these last three hundred years. Why propose this now?”

“It is the best possible time. The kingdom is at risk of civil war…”

“…Which is exactly why we should be united.”

“Or is it why this is the ideal time for a split? We would not want to needlessly disrupt harmony in the kingdom. Ergo, if we split while there are already fractures…”

“…we guarantee a split in the kingdom.”

“We hurry along a split we already know is coming.”

Oberon closed his eyes and shook his head. Titania had always been ruthlessly logical. It was one of the reasons his father had chosen her as a perfect mate, and—more importantly—a future queen.

“But…”

“I have met someone else.”

Well, that was the clincher, wasn’t it?

“I have fallen in love.”

“Love?” Oberon frowned at his queen, unsure of exactly what he was hearing. “What of love? We are a king and a queen. Love need play no part in anything.”

“Oberon, even the mortals have abandoned that way of thinking now. It is time for us to catch up.”

Oberon grunted. It pained him to hear Titania speak of love. She’d not as much as breathed the word in five hundred years, not since his trick to cause her to fall for the human Bottom.

“This love. It is not the human, is it?” he asked. “The actor.” His voice dripped with venom as he spoke, though he himself wasn’t sure if he was jealous that she had fallen with such ease or angry that his own magic had been the cause.

“Oberon, humans lead short lives. Bottom died many, many years ago.”

“Then who?”

This time, it was Titania’s turn to shake her head, causing blossoms of pink and orange to fall from her hair and hit the ground.

“Not important,” she said. She stood and pushed her chair back under the oak table, before walking delicately over and taking her husband’s left hand. “I release you.” She smiled. She turned a hand over and undid the leather strap that was tied at his palm. “I release you.” She unwound the leather from his hand, uncrossing the straps that worked up his forearm. “I release you.” She pulled the leather from his bicep, taut with the tension and stress running through his body. She leaned over and kissed his forehead. “Good luck to you, Oberon.”

He stood at the window of his tower, having vanished the glass to get a better look at what was going on. He watched as Titania loaded her trunks onto the glass chariot. He watched as a male fairy, face obscured by some of Titania’s trickery to stop him from being identified, helped to pile the heavier pieces of furniture. He watched as the two of them climbed into the chariot, and as the dragonflies took flight, pulling it into the woods and out of sight.

He thought he should shout. He thought he should swear. He thought he should cry. But he found himself empty. For a thousand years, he had known he could be temperamental or selfish or immature and Titania would always be by his side. Because she had had to. They had vows. But she had met someone better than him, and she was gone.

“I don’t know what to do.”

Ultimately, he chose to do what many do when they find themselves bereft, and he began to prepare himself for bed. He removed his emerald-green robes and ran a damp washcloth across his torso. His muscles contracted at the cold, tightening and becoming more defined than they usually were when hidden beneath his loose robes. Usually, he enjoyed the feeling of his tightening body, but even that was little comfort in the light of being left alone. He unwrapped the leather strap that ran across his waist—a symbol of his perpetual commitment to his kingdom—and draped it across the wooden dressing table. He dipped the washcloth in the water again before removing his loincloth and washing the rest of his body. It was only right to be clean before entering the kingdom of the DreamWeaver, and he was not about to abandon formality and politesse just because he would be alone in his bed tonight. Naked, but dry after patting the water away with a towel, he knelt by his bed.

“I give thanks to the earth, which bore me and gave me life. I give thanks to the great unknown, who guides me and shapes my fate. I give thanks to my ancestors, from whom I descend and for whom I live a life which is not mine, but which belongs to my subjects. These are my thanks.”

He stood and climbed into bed, pulling his mouse pelt blankets over him, and curled up into a ball. Scrunching his eyes together, he willed himself to sleep. It didn’t come easily, as visions of Titania and her paramour danced through his head, but eventually he found himself drifting off.

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Meet the Author

Doreen Heron is a writer who is finally living her dream in Cornwall, England. She is lucky to live in the county she loves, and to be using her writing to entertain her readers.

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A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Through the Tears by Leigh M. Lorien

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Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5 

Rafe’s human lover Eamon disappears through a portal to a differnet world after a ghoul attack. Rafe is a low ranking lord and thinks the king will not help so he decides to rescue his lover himself. As Eamon battles the elements and strange culture of the ghoul world with the help of Beah, a native who helps him, Rafe battles ghouls to learn the secret of portals with his second in command Kiran. Larger evil is afoot than just ghouls jumping worlds to eat humans and what started as a horrible accident, leads into a possible war no one saw coming.

Rafe is called a rin, which is basically a vampire. I liked the lore used here. Even though the ideas aren’t radically unique, there are some interesting takes on common science fiction themes: interdimensional travel, feeding on blood/sex/energy, mind linking/control, bonded mates, turning on magic users, religion to control the population, the feudal type of setting, etc. Eamon is strange at first, full of fear and anger, like he can’t take control of himself and needs Rafe to (mentally) control him. I think this was meant to show him as submissive, but I’m not sure I like this characterization. Taking this out of the equation, Eamon is loyal and brave, even when frightened. I loved the flashback of how Rafe and Eamon met. At the beginning Rafe is cold, calm, and collected even after Eamon disappeares; then he seems to miss him slightly, but does go to look for him. By the end the I love yous are completely over the top, so I wish this had been a little more even handed. It would have made their reunion more impactful. Beah is a great trans character who gets treated horribly by his tribe. Be aware they are several depictions of misgendering, humiliation, and dead naming–although the author doesn’t allow the reader to know the dead name, which I appreciated.

This story could be a self contained adventure, but it’s also a larger story arc that will be picked up in the next book. The side characters like Kiren, Orienna, and the King are all intriguing, but there is little to them in this book. Eamon is the fish out of water in this tale. There is a little of Beah being a fish out of water as well, for some nice symmetry. It’s difficult in a first book with all the world-building, so I am hoping the next book works harder at holding/highlighting the emotional moments between the friends and lovers so they don’t get stomped on in all the politics and intrigue. Those are what gives me something to root for–to hope they win and save the day. There are twelve worlds and this book has only shown small parts of two, so there are so many different possibilities for future stories.

The cover art by Natasha Snow shows a desert through what appears to be a grimy window pane, which I take to be the portal between worlds.

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Book Details:

ebook
Published July 8th 2019 by NineStar Press
ISBN 139781951057015
Edition Language English

Love Mystery With Your Romance? Check Out the Blitz for Palm Trees and Paparazzi (Gabe Maxfield Mysteries #3) by J.C. Long )excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Palm Trees and Paparazzi

Series: Gabe Maxfield Mysteries, Book Three

Author: J.C. Long

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: July 1, 2019

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 61200

Genre: Contemporary Mystery, LGBT, gay, mystery, romance, contemporary, establishes relationship

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Synopsis

Gabe Maxfield remembers Manuel Delgado all too well—since investigating him nearly got him killed. He’d be very happy never to see him again, but that’s not in the cards for him. When the mother of a missing socialite seeks out Paradise Investigations to find out what happened to her daughter, Gabe and best friend Grace Park are going to be thrown right back into Delgado’s world. Personal lives begin to interfere, as well, and soon they’ve got more on their plate than they can handle.

A missing woman.

Delgado’s son.

A romantically awkward Grace.

Gabe’s parents.

It’s just another week for Gabe Maxfield.

Excerpt

Palm Trees and Paparazzi
J.C. Long © 2019
All Rights Reserved

There was a time when throbbing music, frenetically moving bodies, and expensive cocktails would have been my scene—a time that passed a few years back, I’d guess. Actually, you know what? Scratch that. I’ve never been one for clubs. And with my twenty-ninth birthday merely two months away, it was really time for me to close that chapter of my life, anyway.

It was the second week of January, and some people still hadn’t lost the edge from New Year’s Eve. The club was packed full of people even though it was a Wednesday—thanks, no doubt, to ladies’ night and slightly discounted drinks for men.

My best friend, Grace Park, and I managed to snag a table that was far enough from the speakers that we wouldn’t be deafened for days to come by the outing.

Grace sat at the table, stirring the thin black straw in her vodka tonic, which she’d barely had half of. I’d volunteered to drive us tonight so Grace could have a few drinks, and she hadn’t finished her first one in the hour we’d been there.

“You look miserable, Grace,” I said, nudging her with my shoulder. “If you want to go home, just say the word. Really, we don’t need to stay here on my account.”

“I’m fine, Gabe,” she insisted stubbornly, even though I knew her well enough to know she wasn’t. She’d been down ever since New Year’s Eve. She’d been invited to a party by Jin Hamada, our private investigation firm’s resident tech expert and object of Grace’s affection, and had assumed it was a romantic invitation only to show up, dressed to the nines and ready, to discover it was a casual thing he threw for the people who lived in his apartment building. Jin hadn’t noticed, but Grace had been mortified.

It didn’t help that our assistant, Mrs. Neidermeyer, who lives in Jin’s building, did notice and teased Grace about it every chance that she got.

Privately, I thought Grace was taking it a little hard, but who was I to judge? I literally fled the continent to escape a breakup. That didn’t put me in the running for the category of most reasonable reaction to something.

“I thought coming to this club would cheer you up a little bit,” I said, taking a sip of my ginger ale—no alcohol for me, since I was driving. “I hate seeing you so down. I know how much you love music and dancing and clubs.”

Grace snorted. “When we were in college, yeah. But you know, maybe…maybe we’re a little old for this crowd.”

“I was just thinking the same thing,” I admitted. “When did that happen, though? When did we get old?”

“Kind of sneaked up on us, didn’t it? Here we are, just around the corner from thirty. Remember when we watched Friends in high school and we thought they were all overreacting about turning thirty? Now that we’re looking it in the face, I’m starting to think maybe they weren’t overreacting that much after all.”

“It’s not that bad,” I said consolingly. It was a weird reversal for us; usually Grace was the one doing her best to make me feel better, not the other way around. “Think about how high life expectancy is? Nowadays people don’t even really get started before they’re thirty.”

“Not so bad? Come on, Gabe. We’re almost thirty and I’m still single. I do want to have kids someday, you know? That’s getting more and more unlikely the longer I stay single.” She picked up her vodka tonic, tossing it back as if she could wash away the dour thoughts with it.

At least she drank it; that cost me six dollars.

“Don’t you think you’re taking this whole thing too seriously Grace? So you made a mistake and misinterpreted his invitation. You think you’re the first person to ever make that mistake?”

Grace scowled at my reminder. “I looked like an idiot.”

“No one even noticed!”

“Mrs. Neidermeyer almost has an aneurism from laughing every time she sees me!”

“Okay, so no one but Mrs. Neidermeyer even noticed.”

“That old lady is enough.”

“I don’t understand the rivalry you two have.”

“She’s got it out for me!”

“No, she doesn’t. She’s just spirited.”

“She’s medicated.”

I decided to drop the Neidermeyer discussion. It was a sore spot for her, and one that wouldn’t go away—particularly since I basically hired her to annoy Grace. The last thing I wanted to do then was to bring Grace down even more by talking about something that she hated.

I surveyed the bodies on the dance floor, taking in the sights, wondering if I could get a jolt of energy from them by proxy. Everyone seemed to be having so much fun, but then again that’s what clubs were, right? There were no doubt a large number of tourists among the crowd, people itching to get away from the tourist elements of Honolulu and into something that they were familiar with. Sure, the locale might be different, but a club was a club, whether it was in Seattle, New York, Pontiac, Michigan, or Honolulu.

“We’ve got company,” Grace said, drawing my attention from the crowd. I spotted my boyfriend, Maka Kekoa, making his way toward us around the perimeter of the room. A wide smile stretched my lips when I saw him. He was tall, his skin a sun-kissed brown that proudly displayed his Native Hawaiian heritage. His body was lean, hard muscle, kept that way by his rigorous exercise routine, his frequent surfing, and his job on the police force.

Walking behind Maka but still casting a shadow over him was one of Maka’s best friends, Hiapo, a big guy with an even bigger heart who ran an exclusive and popular lu’au on the island. Hiapo was without a doubt one of the cheeriest people I had ever met.

“Yo, howzit?” Hiapo greeted, his naturally loud voice easy to hear over the drone of techno dance music blaring in the background, a remix of a remix of a Cher song, if I had to guess.

“Hey, guys,” I greeted, moving my seat a little so Maka could make room on the other side of the table for himself and Hiapo.

Maka smiled at me, a look that always somehow managed to look sultry and goofy at the same time.

“Hey.” He planted a gentle, chaste kiss on my lips.

Beside me, Grace made a strange sound, a cross between a harrumph and a tsk. Maka cast an amused look her way. “I see your plan to cheer her up is right on schedule.”

“I don’t need cheering up,” Grace huffed.

“Girl, you still pining over that IT guy?” Hiapo asked.

“No,” Grace said at the same time Maka and I said, “Yes!” earning us both glowers.

“Traitors.”

“Listen, you need me to put something together for you? Plan a nice romantic package, like I did for these two here?” He indicated Maka and I with a thumb.

“I appreciate the offer, Hiapo, but that won’t be necessary. I don’t even think he likes me.”

“Have you asked him out?”

Grace squirmed in her seat. “No. But we’ve known each other for three years, and he’s never asked me out in all of this time. I think if he was interested, he would have done something about it already, right?”

“I see one major flaw in that logic, Gracie,” I said. “You like him, but you haven’t done anything about it, either.”

Grace’s brow furrowed as she struggled to come up with a comeback, but I could see in her eyes that she couldn’t. “I just don’t want to waste any more time on someone who might not even like me back. That’s time I could better spend going out with people who are interested.”

“But who you’re not interested in,” I added.

Grace threw her hands up in the air. “Is this beat up Grace night? Are you trying to cheer me up by making me more depressed?”

“Okay, okay, you win. I’ll stop.”

We stayed there for another hour, doing our best to get Grace to cheer up with very limited success. Finally we decided to call it a night. Maka and Hiapo left together, and I took Grace home.

We rode without talking, listening to various covers of songs by the Dynamos. As crazy as it might sound, I hate the Dynamos but really enjoy the songs themselves. I just can’t stand hearing them do the singing.

Finally I couldn’t take it anymore, and just before reaching the neighborhood she lived in I asked, “Are you really going to give up on Jin?”

Grace heaved a sigh, looking out the window, hand propped up under her chin, elbow on the door. With her sitting like that, I could imagine Grace being in a movie, with a deep, soulful soundtrack—maybe something by Adele—playing in the background.

“Don’t you think I should? It seems clear to me that he isn’t interested.”

“It’s not clear to me,” I said, pulling my car to a stop in front of Grace’s place. “Not until you ask him.”

“I’m not going to just waltz up to him and ask him! Don’t be ridiculous.” Grace unbuckled her seatbelt and pushed open the car door.

I shrugged nonchalantly. “Okay, then, fine. Let Mrs. Neidermeyer win.”

She took the bait, just like I knew she would, stopping halfway out of the car and fixing a stern glare on me. “What is that supposed to mean?”

“You’re always saying that she’s against you and doesn’t want you seeing Jin,” I reminded her. I hoped that the best way to build up her confidence was to give her an enemy that wasn’t herself. I didn’t feel too badly about it, considering she pretty much disliked Mrs. Neidermeyer the moment she set eyes on her. “If you just give up without really knowing, all you’re doing is giving her exactly what she wants, right?”

“I’ll think about it,” Grace said after considering my words. “I’ll see you at work tomorrow.”

“Goodnight, Grace.” I sat in front of her place until she was safely inside before driving home. I really hoped Grace did think about what I said and finally took the leap and asked Jin—that or move on, because working with her in this sort of funk was beginning to get a little tiring.

And, if I was being completely honest, it felt really juvenile, like high school all over again. I was ready for Grace to go back to her normal self. Maybe that made me a bad friend, but I looked at it a different way. Grace pushed me to get out of the condo and out into the world of the living once more after I arrived in Hawai’i, and I was returning the favor now.

I only hoped she would appreciate it as much as I did.

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Meet the Author

J.C. Long is an American expat living in Japan, though he’s also lived stints in Seoul, South Korea—no, he’s not an army brat; he’s an English teacher. He is also quite passionate about Welsh corgis and is convinced that anyone who does not like them is evil incarnate. His dramatic streak comes from his life-long involvement in theater. After living in several countries aside from the United States J. C. is convinced that love is love, no matter where you are, and is determined to write stories that demonstrate exactly that. J. C. Long’s favorite things in the world are pictures of corgis, writing and Korean food (not in that order…okay, in that order). J. C. spends his time not writing thinking about writing, coming up with new characters, attending Big Bang concerts and wishing he was writing. The best way to get him to write faster is to motivate him with corgi pictures. Yes, that is a veiled hint.

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