Blog Tour for That Feeling When by S. M. James (author interview, excerpt and giveaway)

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BLOG TOUR

Book Title: That Feeling When

Author: S. M. James

Publisher: May Books

Cover Artist: Story Styling

Genre/s: YA, LGBT, contemporary romance

Length: 77,000 Words/343 pages

Release Date: September 16, 2018 (Available now in paperback)

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue  Words is happy to host S. M. James today. Thank you for stopping by! Tell us a little about yourself and your writing goals.

Congratulations on your new release. Please tell us a little bit about it. What’s your favorite aspect or part of the story? Do you have a favorite character? Who/Why?

Yikes, yeah. It’s nerve-wracking stuff, especially as this book kicks off a 6-book series of stand alones PLUS their short stories. So we’ll see how that goes.

That Feeling When is a dual POV YA, which alternates chapters between Landon and Archie as they figure out who they are, and how far they’ll go for love. As for a favourite character, I don’t think there’s any way to pick. I finished writing this book and actually missed these guys, which is one of the totally weird and wonderful things about being a writer. And now I’ve finished writing To Be Honest, I feel the same way about those guys.

As for my favourite part, there’s a certain scene involving a camera, an audition, and a whole lot of trust, that really builds Archie and Landon’s relationship up to another level and was a lot of fun to write. It was great to see Archie finally let go of his insecurities.

  • What is your favorite underappreciated novel?

Noah Can’t Even by Simon James Green. Holy moly that book was hilarious and I seriously rec it everywhere I go. I can’t remember a book actually making me laugh out loud before—the situations Noah kept getting himself into just got more and more ridiculous. And the sequel lived up to it, which is always a great surprise. I need to reread this one soon.

  • Does your research lead to bizarre internet searches? If so, tell us about some of your wackier searches, or ones that would make you nervous if your computer were ever confiscated by law enforcement.

Heh, umm. You could say that. There have been bombs, automatic weapons, and disposing of bodies, because what else do characters in a fantasy novel need to know? For one of my genre novels I had to look up how long it took for a dead body to decompose, and there was this post about ‘Coffin births’ and DON’T LOOK IT UP because gross! So gross! (And if you did look it up, sorry to scar you for life but you were warned.) As you can tell, I’m still not past it.

The most interesting thing I’ve researched for contemporary is anterograde amnesia. Some of the stories from people living with it were almost beyond comprehension. For my next novel, I’m continuing my research into Cystic Fibrosis and the impact it has on day to day life.

  • Who would play the main characters in a movie about your book?

Haha there’s a reason I don’t cast movies.

I feel like I should have a Pinterest board for this kind of question but it is appallingly hard to find Aboriginal actors. I did watch an interview with Mark Coles Smith once, who may not look exactly like Landon, but had the same kind of boyish charm.

For Archie, man, take your pick. Brenton Thwaites, Billy Unger, Nick Robertson. If they can manage surly and vulnerable, we’re good.

  • What is your favorite quote?

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry. But why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

(Five guesses what this is from).

 

 

Blurb

Dance Academy reject, Archie Corrigan, resents the stereotype guy ballet dancers are gay. Because he isn’t. At all. Forced to reassess his life goal at Camp Crystal Cove, it’s by sheer dumb luck he meets Landon Summers, who turns everything Archie was sure of into chaos.

Poor boy turned teen heartthrob, Landon Summers, is the name on everyone’s lips. With his unexpected leap to fame, his agent advises him to keep his bi status on the down low. Not a problem! Until Landon meets Archie.

Their unexpected friendship leads to an inevitable kiss, but their moment is caught in high definition and used as fuel for blackmail. If the truth gets out, Landon’s career could be over, and Archie will be forced to acknowledge the one thing he’s fought to deny.

But how do you go back to your average life once you’ve experienced That Feeling When … you’re finally happy?

Buy Links – Available in Kindle Unlimited 

Amazon US

Amazon UK 

Excerpt

Landon Summers is into guys. I think he likes you.

And while Meredith didn’t say anything about me, there was something way too

knowing in her look. Everyone else seems too into their own lives to be paying us any

attention, and even when we’re announced winners of the trivia, my celebration doesn’t

crack the surface chill that’s taken over me.

Meredith’s wrapped her arm through mine, and she’s cheering with the others, one hand

in the air.

I’m a week in the past. Watching Landon pull on that stupid costume in the dark. The

spark in his eyes as he thanked me. The brush of his skin on mine.

How was that only a week ago?

Why can’t I go back and enjoy that moment more? Savor my time with him?

Really take it all in, before he went and messed it all up.

About the Author

SM James in an Australian author who writes books for teens about squishy sweet characters. While not writing, SM is a readaholic and netflix addict who regularly lives on a sustainable diet of chocolate and coffee. Member of SCBWI. Unapologetically dishing out HEAs for LGBT+ characters.

Social Media Links

Blog/Website

Facebook

Instagram

Giveaway

Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway for a chance to win one of the following prizes:

1 x Paperback copy of That Feeling When (US only)

2 x $15 Amazon gift card (international)

3 x eBook copy of That Feeling When (international)

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Book Blast – A Thread in Time (The Chronicles of Darius #14) by Jess Thomas (book trailer)

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BOOK BLAST

Book Title: A Thread in Time (The Chronicles of Darius #14)

Author: Jess Thomas

Publisher: Self-Published

Cover Artist: Jess Thomas

Genre/s: LGBT, Fantasy, Science-Fiction, Romance

Length: 86,456 words/472 pages

Release Date:

Add on Goodreads 

Blurb

Trend is finally back with his clan and the man he loves, and the clan has grown into something that even the Jewel couldn’t imagine. He has a family that loves, cares for, and protects him. They will do anything to keep him safe, even go to the fourth. When Zihen, Vega’s mate, is taken, some of the elders of the clan have no choice but to try to get him back. Vega is determined to get him back and is bent on revenge, even if it means his life. 

Meanwhile, Darius is being cared for by Gak the family friend and physician in his medical facility. Vien, Issaguard, and Chin-Me are dispatched to watch over him while the search for Zihen goes on. The rest of the family left on Eiravia have taken the precaution of staying in the great library for safety in case of trouble, and have to deal with the uncertainty of what their mates are facing in the fourth while coping with personal demons. 

Come be a part of these adventures and more in Darius’s journey in A Thread in Time!

 

WATCH THE TRAILER VIDEO HERE

 

 

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US

Amazon UK 

 

Excerpt

This is my continuing journal about the people I love and of my life. I have a large family, and even though I don’t talk about all them in a particular journal or just mention someone once or twice, they are around me, interact with me, and I love each and every one of them. If I wrote everything that everyone said, my journals would fill our library shelves. Some have said they haven’t read very many books in my style; that it’s hard to get used to. I invite you to read a few of my chronicles and become part of my world. Be part of my family, because you see, this isn’t just a story, it’s a celebration of life.

My name is Darius or for those who knew me on Eiravia where I was born, Paden. It used to seem strange that I had two names but now it seems right. I don’t think I’d give up either name because it would be a part of my life that I’d have to leave behind, a part of my life that will always be precious to me.

I was taken off the planet of Eiravia with two other children, the last three born on a planet of immortals. Maybe it was nature’s way of saying we couldn’t populate the universe, maybe it kept us unique, or maybe it was just a fluke. They shoved us on a ship bound for our sister planet Earth to forget who we were and where we came from, but home always has a pull. Together with Cas, Garrick, and I made it back home and realized where we belonged all along.

 

About the Author

Jess Thomas was born in the mid-west and she has a natural love for nature and animals. A gentle creature born to loving parents who believed in seeing the world for all its beauty, she learned the imperfections in life were something to be treasured and seen as a learning experience. An artist from an early age, she went to art school where she got a degree in drawing and painting, photography, and in Art Education. In 2009 she laid down her paintbrush and she picked up writing and channeling her creative energy in a fresh direction. A new writer, she pours sensitivity and her love of the world she has created into her emotions and the characters who live there.

 

Follow Jess on Facebook  

 

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KICKSTARTER BLOG TOUR for Themensha by MxKnowitall

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BLOG TOUR

JUNE 1 – 10

Book Title:   Themensha

Author/Artist:  MxKnowitall (a pen name of Morven Moeller)

Publisher:  Dreampunk Press

Genre/s: SciFi/Fantasy, Slice-of-Life, LGBT, Speculative Fiction, Fiction for a Cause.

Estimated Length: 120  pages

Themensha is a graphic novel written and drawn by a young artist in memory of their grandmother and for Dementia Awareness. Morven Moeller (pen name MxKnowitall) is the author and an artist who creates gender non-conforming art. The book is based on real events and in memory of their grandmother.  It’s about a grandmother with Dementia/Alzheimer’s and her interactions and legacy left on her transgender/non-binary grandchild. People will ‘pre-order’ the book through the Kickstarter for the first run. The publisher said they’d double the print run for anything over 100 orders. The author plans to sell any additional books in the Dreampunk Press online store or in-person at conventions (which they go to regularly to sell their artwork).  Morven is hoping for at least 60 pre-orders, or even better, 250 because it’ll be a better print quality. However unlike other pre-orders, these will cost the same as the actual book, $12 (plus shipping).

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Blurb

Themensha explores the themes of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, LGBT acceptance, family, and purpose.  Follow Leigh through the last month of their gramma’s life, where they find emotional strength, insecurity, and purpose.

KICKSTARTER BLURB

The purpose of this Blog Tour is to promote the Kickstarter project running from June 1 – July 1.

PLEDGE YOUR SUPPORT AND RECEIVE

AN EBOOK,  SIGNED PAPERBACK,

DIGITAL ART PACK, OR FOIL POSTER PACK

depending on how much you pledge.

See the link for more details

THE KICKSTARTER LINK  

Excerpt

“It’s sad, but it’s okay that it’s sad.  Because my love from my gramma becomes compassion for others in need.  Because my love for my gramma becomes advice for a friend. Because my love for my gramma becomes a new closeness to others.  And it’s love like that that heals and mends and brings us together. So, not a drop of my love from my gramma is wasted.”

A black and white page from the graphic novel

About the Author

MxKnowitall, aka Morven Moeller, is a young artist out of Hampton Roads Area of Virginia. They are agender, preferring they/them pronouns, however they don’t consider that a huge part of their identity and other pronouns are also acceptable.  They have a degree in Applied Mathematics and are finishing graduate study in Mission Analysis and Engineering. This may seem somewhat peculiar, but most things about Morven are peculiar. They have multiple LGBT novellas spanning from middle-grade to new adult genres and currently eat a lot of rice and veggies due to a cacophony of medically-necessitated dietary restrictions. They are a huge anime and animation fan, and that appreciation is often an influence on their work. Their interests often include LGBT topics, autism awareness, anime fandom, fanfiction, and their loving friends and family.

Social Media Links

Facebook PROJECT PAGE

Facebook Author Page

Author’s Amazon Page

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Blog Tour – #IsHeHereYet: Being the person you want to be with by Dr Tony Ortega (guest post and giveaway)

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BLOG TOUR

Book Title: #IsHeHereYet: Being the person you want to be with

Author: Dr. Tony Ortega

Publisher: Ortega Psychology LLC

Genre/s: Non-Fiction,  Self-Help, LGBT, Dating/Relationships, Motivational, Psychology

Length:  172 pages

Goodreads 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Dr. Tony Ortega here today talking about his latest book. Welcome, Dr. Ortega.

♦︎

The top seven tips leading clinical psychologist and spiritual coach Dr. Tony Ortega gives to people who are fed up with jumping from one disastrous date/relationship to another.

Top seven tips…

I get it. You are over dating in general. You want the merry go round of disastrous first dates to end and find “the one.” Here are some tips to decrease the discouragement you may be feeling.

Tip 1: Don’t let the past get in the way of your present. Not every date will be a disaster.

Many times, we approach dating from our perspectives on the past. We keep a self-imposed imaginary scorecard to measure future paramours. But the key is to approach each new dating experience as just that—a new dating experience. Be present to what is in front of you. I have had disastrous first dates that were amazing learning experiences. I have also had amazing first dates that led nowhere.

Tip 2: Don’t take the date so seriously. Treat it like a job interview.

When we think we click well with a person prior to meeting them for a date, we automatically want them to be the one. We think, “Gee, we are clicking so well via phone/text/messaging. This has got to be the one.” But electronic connection does not always translate to actual physical connection. By approaching dating as a job interview, it decreases the pressure of this date being “the one.”

When we are dating, we are essentially interviewing candidates for a position in our “corporation.” For anyone who has ever had a management position in their actual work life, we know that not all candidates who apply for the position are appropriate. Some of the candidates may look good on paper but when they come in for their interview, we see that what they put on their resumes was a very nice elaboration of actual details and not factual. So, we continue to interview candidates. Dating works the same way.

Tip 3: Stop taking rejection so personally.

I heard it said somewhere that rejection has nothing to do with you (unless, of course, you show up for your first date smelling like crap and acting rude). Rejection is one of you saying no to the notion of you and them as a unit. They are not rejecting you as a person. They can’t reject you as a person because they are not you. Only you can reject you personally. I have faced rejection many times and have felt devastated. However, thanks to social media, I was able to see later that I truly dodged massive bullets.

Does everyone who is attracted to you get your reciprocation? Does everyone you are attracted to reciprocate? It’s not realistic that everyone we are attracted to will be attracted to us and vice versa. Besides, we don’t want to keep that initial type of attraction that we may be having; we want to develop a deeper attraction to the person as we get to know them.

Tip 4: We don’t get it right every time.

Okay, folks. For any of you who are physically active, whether it be some form of exercise or a sport, did you get it right the first time? How long did it take you to get competent in what you are doing? Dating is not a genetically encoded ability like being right-handed. It’s a skill we build over time, so don’t be so hard on yourself if you don’t get it right every time. You will get better with practice. So why continue to go on dates? To develop the musculature.

Tip 5: What’s your motive for dating?

Maybe the reason you keep going on one disastrous date after another is because you are approaching dating with the wrong motives. There’s this amazing book called #IsHeHereYet: Being The Person You Want To Be With, which talks about being the best version of yourself first and then seeing what shows up in your romantic life. All kidding aside, though, think of why you want to date. Are you dating because you want to share your life with someone, or are you wanting to not be single, and be like everyone else? If you approach dating with any sense of self-lack and you hope a relationship will cure that, you will attract one disastrous date after another.

Tip 6: How are you showing up for the date?

I have been on dates where the dude is super arrogant and as much as I would love to bone him, I know it won’t go beyond the boning. I have also gone on dates with guys who are clinging and needy, and I clearly do not go beyond that first date. No boning required. And then I have been on dates where the man was unapologetically himself, super authentic, and fun to be around. Ask yourself: Who is the person who is showing up for this first date (meaning you, by the way)? Are you showing up for the date arrogantly, clingy, or unapologetically you? Your presentation can do so much to steer the direction of the date.

Tip 7: It’s not the end of the world.

Folks, it’s dating; not solving world hunger. If you go on bad dates, what did you lose? A few hours? A few dollars? The reason why folks get so overwhelmed with dating is because they are so invested in them working out for the wrong reasons. Regardless of your motives or results, it’s not the end of the world if you have one disastrous first date after another. At some point, if you do the work, you will get different results.

Blurb

#IsHeHereYet: Being the Person You Want to Be With is an extremely raw (and funny) look at the perceived epidemic of being single in our quest for love. It dismantles the notion that there is something that we need to do in order to bring in “The One.” Instead, it challenges you to be “The One” and see what shows up then. Regardless of the outcome, the end result will be the best version of you possible. This book is geared toward single and partnered people alike. Through personal and professional accounts of real life situations, as well as thought expanding exercises and meditation tools, the reader will leave with a greater understanding and concept of themselves. They will be able to “date themselves” and create the space to naturally attract loving and authentic relationships.

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Availability: Paperback, eBook, International distribution

Amazon UK 

Amazon US

Excerpt

They say your deepest pain becomes your greatest purpose. And this pain was fucking deep.

The catalyst of this book was a breakup. It is ironic that a breakup influenced the development of a relationship book; or, maybe not so ironic. For centuries, artists have created beautiful things from unrequited love. A broken heart has been at the foundation of many of history’s greatest masterpieces.

So, here is a little history: I pride myself on being a very accomplished man. Most of my endeavors are met with a great deal of success. However, there was one area that had eluded me most of my life: relationships. I was convinced I was doomed to be single—as every relationship with a guy I ever had ended in a disaster. I was so miserable being single that I would do everything in my power not to be single. When relationships ended, I did everything I could to avoid the pain. I thought I wasn’t good enough for relationships.

I lived in this story for many, many years. As relationships kept failing, I would shake my fist at God, or see myself as “different” or “less than” because of it. This all led to me getting into some very dark places in my life.

The evening of Friday, November 2, 2012, I was sitting on the toilet in my apartment in Queens, half drunk on frozen margaritas, smoking a Marlboro Light, and arguing with my “boyfriend” over forty dollars. (I use the word “boyfriend” in quotations because it was a relationship he had no idea he was in.) At that moment, I woke up—with a deep knowing that this relationship was over. I felt so pathetic that I ended the conversation, took a long last drag off the cigarette, and knew something had to change.

I decided to take hold of the wheel of my life and change direction. Over the next couple of years, the right people, the right books, and the right programs came my way. While some bounced in and out just to jumpstart my spiritual path, others have remained, mainly my study of the metaphysical text A Course in Miracles. It was the teachings in this text, combined with my spiritual and metaphysical work, which led me to unravel the things I was using to numb out and begin to feel more alive.

After beginning my spiritual journey and immersing myself in A Course in Miracles, I decided to work with a life coach; someone who seemed to have the well-rounded kind of life that I wanted— including a wonderful relationship. A relationship was one of the things I had not yet been able to successfully work out at the time, maybe because I was avoiding, or too busy working on myself. Through my work with this coach, I was able to rewrite the scripts I had been living under for most of my life and dive head first into the dating pool. It was easy at first, and I still stumbled on many occasions as my dating muscles had atrophied quite a bit in the years that I had not exercised them, but I kept taking that next right step.

On March 3, 2016, I met Fernando, the man of my dreams (or so I thought back then). While we had been talking for months online, we had not met before our date. I turned him down for sex over and over again as I was initially not really into him. But I began to think he seemed to have all the qualities I wanted in a man, which is why I continued to hold off on a one-night stand. He was equal parts sexual and spiritual. He was gainfully employed and seemed as motivated to work on himself as I was.

Fernando even matched most of the qualities I had listed in my “Manventory” I had completed New Year’s Day 2016 (more on Manventories later). I figured, Let’s meet and see what happens. When I first met him, I was like, Homeboy photographs a lot better than he looks in person. After chatting with him for a while over drinks and then ending the date with an intense make-out session in the streets of New York City, I was smitten.

However, there were some speed bumps along the way. He was dealing with some personal issues that I felt would get in the way of anything blossoming from our union, but something told me to give him a chance. I made myself wrong for feeling this way and dove in with my eyes closed. We had a lovely relationship that lasted sixty-nine days. It wasn’t perfect, but it broke my then eight-year dry spell, and I was in love.

After a few weeks, he even said, “I love you.” This was thrilling because no one had said that to me in such a long time. I thought that I had achieved the prize from all my hard work since that fateful Friday night in 2012. I had learned my lessons from all my previous failed relationships and now found what I was longing for.

He even gave me the title of “boyfriend,” which only lasted seventy-two hours before he decided to take it away.

I turned into a state of fear for the remainder of the relationship and he ended things quite abruptly on May 10, 2016. I was devastated.

For the next six weeks, I felt completely at a loss over what to do to manage the pain. I numbed it through alcohol and sex. When I was more rational, I searched the Internet for books on gay relationships and breakups, but everything was so out of date. My coach was very supportive, but he was still in his wonderful relationship, and I felt like I couldn’t relate to him because he had what I wanted and but just lost. This is no reflection of his capacities as a life coach. On the contrary, the man is simply amazing. I just had to go through the emotions.

I decided that if there wasn’t a good, up-to-date, dating and breakup book for gay men, then I would write it. I was fed up with the “single-to-relationship” books that were currently on the market. It seemed that all of these particular books were “do this and get the relationship.” I decided it was time to write a dating and relationship book that was more along the lines of “do this, be the person, see what shows up.” At the time of writing this book, I am still single and dating.

About the Author

Dr Tony Ortega is a first-generation Cuban American gay man. He is a licensed clinical psychologist, life coach, and author who has been in practice since 1992, currently serving the LGBTQ population in his private practice located in Brooklyn, New York. Tony (along with his teaching partner, John Davisi) is the co-creator of the movement, RawSexySpiritual: Spirituality for Gay Men (www.rawsexyspiritual.com). Tony combines cognitive behavioural techniques along with active coaching and metaphysical principles in his work with clients. Additionally, Tony provides spiritual life coaching for individuals seeking a different way to live. He works with his clients within these three principles: Rewrite Your Story, Find Your Voice, and Live Authentically.

Social Media Links

Website

Online profile

Twitter

Facebook

GIVEAWAY

Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway for a chance to win a paperback or an ebook version of #IsHeHereYet

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RELEASE BLITZ for A Tiny Piece of Something Greater by Jude Sierra (exclusive excerpt and giveaway)

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A Tiny Piece of Something Greater

Publisher: Interlude Press

Release Date (Print & Ebook): May 17, 2018

Length (Print & Ebook): 258 Pages

Subgenre: LGBT, Interracial/Multicultural, New Adult

Editor’s Note: Some readers may find some of the scenes in this book difficult to read. We have compiled a list of content warnings, which you can access at interludepress.com/content-warnings

All buy links or pre-order links:

Interlude Press: store.interludepress.com

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2FbYh4V

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/791892

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/a-tiny-piece-of-something-greater/id1348808986?mt=11

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/a-tiny-piece-of-something-greater

Indiebound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781945053603

Book blurb:

Reid Watsford has a lot of secrets and a past he can’t quite escape. While staying at his grandmother’s condo in Key Largo, he signs up for introductory dive classes, where he meets Joaquim Oliveira, a Brazilian dive instructor with wanderlust. Driven by an instant, magnetic pull, what could have been just a hookup quickly deepens. As their relationship evolves, they must learn to navigate the challenges of Reid’s mental illness—on their own and with each other.

Jude Sierra talks A Tiny Piece of Something Greater: I want readers to walk away with a deeper appreciation and understanding of what it is like to thrive with mental illness—or strive toward it—and what it is like for two people to be and fall in love in these situations. I’d love for readers to come away knowing that love doesn’t cure mental illness, nor should it. Reid and Joaquim love each other as they are.

 Exclusive Excerpt :

“Reid!” Joaquim stands a few steps down, not wanting to have to go all the way to the beach only to climb back up.

“Coming!”

By the time Reid’s all the way up, he’s slightly out of breath but smiling. “I am ready for my surprise. You didn’t install a sex swing in my grandma’s condo, did you? I’d have a hard time explaining that away.”

“No, you pervert.” Joaquim takes Reid’s hand. The sun is setting, leaving a lovely glow at their backs and a slightly dimmed living room. It lends the perfect ambiance. He covers Reid’s eyes.

“Really?”

Joaquim glances behind himself as he walks backward while leading Reid in.

“Okay, we’re going to die like this,” he mutters. “Close your eyes.” He comes around Reid, covers his eyes with his palms, and then leads him forward. “Sit,” he whispers once they’re in the middle of the living room.

“On a chair?” Reid waves a hand around blindly.

“No, on the floor.”

Joaquim kneels and helps Reid onto the floor. Once they’re down, he presses himself against Reid’s back and whispers into his ear, “Now.”

“J…” Reid says. All around them are small white candles in glass jars. Joaquim bought out the store with his measly savings. More than a hundred candles are on the table to their right, on the shelves by the TV, and surrounding the carefully laid, soft plaid blanket beneath them. Their light butters the hush of sunset through the glass doors at their backs. Strewn everywhere are rose petals and shells. Joaquim painstakingly removed the petals from the flowers, trying not to bruise or tear them; his fingers bear pinpricks from their thorns. At Shell World, he endured Delia’s teasing after exacting a promise not to say anything to Reid about what he was planning. The stillness of Reid’s body, though, speaks of the worth of the time spent.

“I’ve never…” Joaquim starts.

“No one has ever—” Reid breaks off, his voice is thick and unsteady. He turns his face to tuck it into Joaquim’s neck. “How did you know?”

“That you’re a hopeless romantic even though you try to hide it?”

“Yes.”

“Because you’re terrible at hiding it,” Joaquim says. He holds Reid’s hand in tender counterpoint to the light amusement in his voice.

“Fuck. I guess my cover is blown.” His eyes, bright with tears, don’t shy from Joaquim’s.

“I hope,” Joaquim says, and touches Reid’s cheek, “that you know you don’t need a cover with me.”

Reid smiles, but looks away. Too much? Joaquim isn’t pressuring. He’s offering. He’s laying something bare.

“I do.” Reid kisses him.

 

About Jude Sierra:

Jude Sierra is a Latinx poet, author, academic and mother working toward her PhD in Writing and Rhetoric, looking at the intersections of Queer, Feminist and Pop Culture Studies. She also works as an LGBTQAI+ book reviewer for From Top to Bottom Reviews. Her novels include HushWhat it Takes, and Idlewild, a contemporary LGBT romance set in Detroit’s renaissance, which was named a Best Book of 2016 by Kirkus Reviews.

Connect with Jude: Site | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Facebook | Pinterest

Giveaway Prize of A TINY PIECE OF SOMETHING GREATER by Jude Sierra (5 eBooks + $25 IP Web Store credit Grand Prize):

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A MelanieM Review: Magic Ties Together by Nina Begonia

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Rating: 2 stars out of 5

Ira has one eye, a back-alley accuracy charm, and a policy of taking what he can get.

Lajos has a sword, a stoic façade that crumbles quickly under pressure, and a mysterious past.

When a routine monster attack leads to the men being magically bound together, unable to part without being violently ill, Ira is horrified. Worse, the link means they can sense each other’s every emotion. And as time goes on, Ira starts to wonder which emotions are truly his, and which are just a result of the magic…

I just love fantasy and always search out new stories and new authors. So I had high hopes for Magic Ties Together by Nina Begonia.  It had a neat, interesting premise that linked the couple right from the start…a type of magic handcuffs.

But while this story did contain some nice elements and places where my interest was definitely piqued, for the most part, it was jammed full of just a weird mixture of not enough world building (had no idea of the sort of world these characters really existed in) and one in which we got far too many extraneous details.  Really should have been the other way around.

The characters started having sex almost immediately, because the bracelets “made them do it”.  Trust me, not sexy at all.  Then there were hodgepodgy creatures whose physical descriptions made even less sense than some of the world building (what there was).

The characters had potential but didn’t seem to reach it imo.  This story is 100 pages yet it felt as though the author was trying to jam 500 pages worth of things the author had in mind for the story that just kept flowing on, regardless of whether it fit or not into the current scenes or storyline.

The ending was probably the best thing about this story.  It was the most pulled together.  The characters felt as though they might actually care about each other but everything leading up to it is such a narrative quagmire.

Not a story I would recommend.

Cover art: Aisha Akeju.  Gorgeous cover, definitely eye catching.

Sales Link:  Less Than Three Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 103 pages
Published April 4th 2018 by Less Than Three Press (first published April 2nd 2018)
Original TitleMagic Ties Together
ISBN139781684312382
Edition LanguageEnglish

New Release Blitz for Big Man by Matthew J. Metzger (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Big Man

Author: Matthew J. Metzger

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: April 9, 2018

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 58100

Genre: Contemporary, LGBT, contemporary, YA, coming-of-age, bisexual, trans, high school, sports/martial arts, depression/grieving, #ownvoices

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Synopsis

Max Farrier wanted to follow in the family footsteps and join the Navy once, but he’s better off focusing on just surviving his last year of school and going to work in Aunt Donna’s shop once it’s over.

After an incident at school puts Max in the hospital, Aunt Donna’s had enough. She signs him up for private lessons at a Muay Thai gym. Boxing—she says—will change everything.

But it’s not boxing that starts to poke holes in Max’s stupor—it’s his sparring partner. Cian is fifty percent mouth, fifty percent attitude, and isn’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with a bully in the street. Cian takes what he wants, and doesn’t let anyone stand in his way—not even himself.

Excerpt

Big Man
Matthew J. Metzger © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Prologue
This was how everything started—on a Friday afternoon, at the very end of school, three days into the summer term and in the middle of an unreasonable, unseasonable heatwave. It had been a Friday like any other until Tom Fallowfield stuck his boot in.

Literally.

It went a bit like this, to Max’s admittedly patchy memory of the entire incident.

At three thirty-one, the bell rang, and he was dismissed out of his maths class. Friday was a notorious day for people being bored and at a loose end, so Max had (as was his habit) hurried off to his locker to try to get out of school before anyone caught up to him.

At three thirty-six, Max reached his locker. His fingers fumbled with the lock in a hurry, the metal loose in his grip because it was so ridiculously hot. Sweat was dampening the hair at his temples.

At three thirty-eight, his fingers slipped on the waxy cover of his geography textbook and sent the whole pile tumbling to the floor.

And at three thirty-eight and a half, a dirty Adidas trainer pressed down on said textbook just as Max reached for it.

That was kind of when Max knew he was a bit fucked.

“All right, Fatso?”

He didn’t have to look up. The trainer narrowed it down to one of two people who would stomp on the textbook he was trying to pick up, and the deep, drawling voice—like some villain out of a film—narrowed it down to one. Jazz Coles. And Jazz Coles was bad news.

Max swallowed convulsively and gathered the rest of his things to his chest protectively. He staggered back to his feet and turned to shove them all back in his locker. His hands were shaking. There was sweat breaking out on the backs of his thighs and under his arms, pooling in the joints and fleshy bits.

“Oi. You gone deaf, Fatso? All that grease clogged your ears?”

“M’just in a hurry, Jazz,” he mumbled.

“You what?”

“I said I’m just in a hurry,” he said a bit louder and squashed his other books into the locker haphazardly. The corridor was slowly emptying, and the emptier it got, the faster his heart was beating.

“You’re fucking rude, you are. You ought to look at someone when he’s talking to you. You want Tom to teach you some manners? Tom’s good with manners.”

“Sorry,” Max mumbled, turning hastily before the threat could be carried out. The metal of his locker bit uncomfortably into his back, pressing grooves into his skin, and he could feel his shirt beginning to stick to him. “I’m in a rush, that’s all.”

All three of them were there. Jazz Coles, Aidan Hooper, and Tom Fallowfield. Fallowfield was in Max’s year, the other two the year above. They went to some football club or something together—Max wasn’t sure. All he knew was that Jazz was the clever one, with the orders and the insults, while Aidan was the sidekick who screeched like a hyena and kept them supplied in fags and weed on a regular basis from his older brother’s grow. And Tom…

Tom was the dangerous one. When the insults stopped, Tom started. And nobody wanted Tom to start anything.

“Not got time to talk to us, then?” Jazz drawled. “Why’s that? You busy?”

“I—yes. Yes, just busy, that’s all, busy weekend…”

“Busy doing what? Got a new girlfriend?”

Tom snorted. Aidan cackled and said, “Eurgh, Jazz, man, I’ll bring up my lunch.”

“Imagine that sweaty sack of lard slithering and grunting on some poor girl. You’d crush her, wouldn’t you, Farrier?”

Max’s face heated up, and his hair stuck to his scalp. He could faintly smell his own underarms, and the metal gluing shirt to back was beginning to heat up too, at Jazz’s cool, slow delivery.

“Fatso Farrier, the flat-fucker. ’Cause that’s what she’d be once you were done. Best stick to boys, yeah? Let your boyfriend fuck you, then nobody’ll suffocate.”

“I don’t have a girlfriend. Or a boyfriend.”

“Would you like one?”

“I—no, I, uh—”

“Just as well,” Jazz continued blithely. “Nobody has a drowning-in-folds fetish. So if it’s not a girlfriend or a boyfriend with some sick kinks, why’re you too busy to talk to us?”

The corridor was empty. Max started to panic.

“Answer me, Farrier!”

“I—just—plans, you know, plans…”

“What plans? Sale on at Greggs?” Jazz asked. “New bakery opened up? Or is Mummy taking pity on her lonely little wobblebottom, and baked you a chocolate cake?”

Aidan gave a whooping cackle, and Jazz kicked the forgotten geography book towards Max. It skittered across the dusty floor, hitting Max’s shoe with a dull thump.

“Best not leave that here,” Jazz said. Hands in his pockets, pale face regarding him through narrowed blue eyes, he looked calculating—and Max couldn’t figure out what he was calculating. “Oi! Fatso! Pick it up, then.”

“Thank you,” Max mumbled, hoping it would buy him a bit of a reprieve from…whatever Jazz was planning, and stooped to pick it up. His fingers scrabbled uselessly on the plastic cover, wet with anxiety.

“Thank you?” Jazz echoed. “Very polite, Fatso. Might want to make it sound fucking sincere next time.”

“Here, Jazz, fancy a game?”

That deep rumble was the only warning Max got before Tom’s boot—because of course Tom, totally mad, sadistic Tom Fallowfield, wore boots to school on a regular basis—connected with the side of his head.

Hard.

Max would have liked to say that pain exploded in his head, that he saw visions of God or heard the heavenly choir, that it was like dropping into a Tim Burton movie.

Actually, he just heard a massive bang.

And then he woke up in the back of an ambulance and knew he was in deep shit.

That was how it started.

Purchase

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Meet the Author

Matthew J. Metzger is an ace, trans author posing as a functional human being in the wilds of Yorkshire, England. Although mainly a writer of contemporary, working-class romance, he also strays into fantasy when the mood strikes. Whatever the genre, the focus is inevitably on queer characters and their relationships, be they familial, platonic, sexual, or romantic.

When not crunching numbers at his day job, or writing books by night, Matthew can be found tweeting from the gym, being used as a pillow by his cat, or trying to keep his website in some semblance of order.

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New Release Blitz: Midnight Twist by Rian Durant (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Midnight Twist

Author: Rian Durant

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: April 2, 2018U

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 19700

Genre: Paranormal, LGBT, fantasy, humor, demons

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Synopsis

Jaydon can’t afford to lose a bet he’s made, so when the sweet as sin Eluin offers him The Contract, it may be exactly what he needs. Or is it? Things get a little twisted with the cheeky demon being around.

The number of demons in Jaydon’s apartment grows, with Eluin’s big brother Eluel and his wayward lover Sam showing up. The couple is at a breaking point in their own on/off relationship and this time getting back together seems as probable as hell freezing over.

Excerpt

Midnight Twist
Rian Durant © 2018
All Rights Reserved

It all started with an espresso machine, even though I’d seen him drinking espresso only once in all the time we knew each other. Then he complained for three days that he hadn’t tasted such swill in his whole life. The fact that I’d made it for him with all my love didn’t cause him to show an ounce of tact.

I felt in my gut it was a tremendous mistake to enter the mall, but even if I’d tried to avoid it, I doubt he would’ve taken my opinion into account. He would’ve thrown a temper tantrum of magnificent proportions, which wasn’t a pretty sight. I’d been a witness and a victim of such antics once, only it was in front of a restaurant, which I hadn’t dared come close to ever since.

The glowing look in his eyes while we passed by the shop windows made my heart sink, because I couldn’t afford most of the things he stared at, especially with the plans we had for the rest of the week. My lovely boyfriend possessed a seductive appearance and a good heart, but his perceptions were terribly distorted due to eighteen years of systematic spoiling at the hands of his parents. He used to reassure me this wasn’t going to come between us since he was madly in love with me, but he couldn’t be further from the truth. After the ironic remarks I had been subjected to in the past few weeks, I knew I wasn’t going to get away with it.

I didn’t want to lose him, but it was clear that if I didn’t overcome my financial issues, his love for me would vanish into thin air together with his rebellious spirit, and he’d settle with any of the “appropriate partners” his parents tried to match him with. Once, one of his father’s business tycoon friends with his three hot lovers landed in front of my door and pounced on me, obviously not familiar with the appearance of his intended chosen one. I led a fierce battle using all means possible, which ended up being the shoehorn lying next to the shoes at the front door, in order to preserve my honor. Things deteriorated when Lyte came out of the bathroom in his short, sexy bathrobe to check why I was wreaking such havoc. We had to barricade the door and listen to a serenade for more than an hour before the police came to take them away.

I turned to Lyte with a smile, intending to remind him of that time the tycoon came calling, but when I caught his hand, he didn’t react at all. He had already seen it. He gazed at the window with an oblivious smile, and then raised his finger and pointed at it. A second later he issued a brief statement with a determination I’d rarely heard in the voice of another human being.

“I want it!”

At first, I couldn’t understand what the item in question was, wavering between a weird CD player, a hat rack, or Darth Vader’s helmet. But when the price tag next to it caught my attention, I shivered.

“You want an espresso machine? What do you need it for, sweetheart?”

“It will look great in the kitchen, don’t you think? The color scheme is the same, and besides, it’s so fancy with all these buttons!” He clapped. “You are going to buy it for me, love, won’t you?”

“But you don’t even drink coffee, sweetie.”

“It doesn’t matter. I can make tea in it. I mean, I’m sure it has such a function.”

I was positive it had a TV-watching function at least, judging by the price, which caused me severe trauma. I tried to sound as gentle and as reasonable as I could.

“We can’t buy it now, dear.”

His amazing blue eyes shot a quick malicious look at me, and he pouted. “So it wasn’t enough for you to turn me into a housewife, was it? Now you refuse to buy me this little sweet espresso machine. Did I understand you correctly?”

I didn’t know why he was always harping on it, given that there wasn’t an ounce of truth in his accusation, unless lying on the sofa with the remote control all day long was termed housekeeping these days. If it wasn’t for me, we would’ve both been dead by now because of the weird things he tried to cook a few times right after he’d moved in with me. I hardly let him do anything around the house, as I preferred to leave him enough free time to study. Week in, week out, he’d go to class to sit for some exams. There was a time when I suspected he was taking them in another way, not fit for a mixed audience, but he finally succeeded in persuading me in the opposite by quoting the declaration of human rights by heart.

I looked at him with regret and repeated to myself he wasn’t guilty in the least. His parents had driven him to this state of mind. I tried to hug him, which, naturally, I was denied.

“Are you really going to be mad at me over some stupid espresso machine?”

“It is not stupid!” he snapped. “You are stupid.”

I laughed, hoping he was joking like he sometimes did, but this time it was different. I suppose this was the proverbial last drop, so when we got home, he locked himself in his room without giving any explanation. After about an hour, he came out dragging his big red suitcase behind him.

“Eh? Sweetie pie…”

He hissed in my face like a kitten deprived of its food, with an expression showing me that if I breathed a word, anything I said would be used against me as he stomped past me, out the front door, slamming it behind him. Apparently, he’d realized there were two alternatives to obtaining his beloved espresso machine. One was to go back to his family, and after an enlightening reprimand on how he shouldn’t choose penniless partners like me, they would give it to him as a present. The other was to use his infinite charm and extort some other idiot with enough money into buying it for him.

I could get a credit card and buy the accursed gadget, but his leaving was a mixed blessing. I might’ve gotten him back, but next week he could decide he couldn’t live without some other splendid invention of modern science, and I couldn’t count on giving in and buying him every single thing he set his heart on.

Part of me wanted him back, but another part insisted that walking away was the best thing he’d ever done for me. We’d had great moments together, especially in the beginning, but to be honest, I’d wondered whether it wasn’t better we called it a day. Exhausted by all the thoughts swarming inside my head, I went to bed. The most difficult part was sleeping alone under the cold sheets after having someone to cuddle with for such a long time.

Purchase

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Meet the Author

Rian is one of those who are both blessed and cursed by the insatiable desire to write. Short stories, sometimes longer stories and yeah, primarily M/M (you can insert more Ms if you like) romance stories.

Always having a plot in mind sometimes proves being hard when having a day time job but Rian manages them both for the time being, assisted by the
priceless support of her soul mate, large amounts of coffee and pure obstinacy.

What makes Rian smile is a sunny day, a beautiful flower, a piece of chocolate, a nice song, a good book and anything that could be the reason for that spark in the eyes, accompanied by the exclamation: “Oh my, I just saw something!”

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New Release Blitz for On a Summer Night by Gabriel D. Vidrine (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  On a Summer Night

Author: Gabriel D. Vidrine

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: April 2, 2018

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 56200

Genre: Contemporary, LGBT, contemporary, YA, trans, bisexual, asexual, coming-of-age, coming out, family drama, HFN, #ownvoices

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Synopsis

Fourteen-year-old Casey is determined to have fun this summer going to camp with his best friend, Ella. His overprotective mother frets that attending this one instead of trans camp like he’s always done will cause problems, but Casey has his heart set on going stealth anyway.

His mom just might be right.

All Ella wants is love for her best friend, and she’s determined to set him up with someone, despite Casey’s protests that he just wants to have fun, not get involved in a summer romance. But things get complicated when camp bully Ryan focuses his energies on the two friends. At least Casey’s cute bunkmate, Gavin, appears interested in getting to know him better, making Casey rethink the whole romance thing.

Until he finds out Gavin and Ryan are good friends.

Summer camp turns into so much more when Casey has to decide if Gavin is worth pursuing, friend of a bully or not.

There’s just one more problem: Ryan knows Casey is transgender.

Excerpt

On a Summer Night
Gabriel D. Vidrine © 2018
All Rights Reserved

“Do you have your socks?” my mother called up the stairs.

“Yes, mother!” I shouted back down at her. Of course I had socks. But I double-checked the large footlocker anyway, scrabbling through it until I found them. They were buried under my binders, but there they were.

“Don’t forget towels!” came another shout up the stairs.

She knew me well. I always forgot something. I went back to my bathroom and rummaged around in the linen closet until I found enough towels for the trip.

When I got back to my room, Mom was staring down into my trunk, her hands on her hips. “Anything else?” she asked, eyeing how much was in it.

“I hope not.”

I tossed the towels in the trunk, only to be crushed into a hug from her. “I’m going to miss you Casey,” she said into my hair.

I patted her awkwardly. She meant well, but ever since I announced my desire to transition two years ago when I turned twelve, she’d gotten super overprotective and clingy. “I’ll miss you too, Mom.” I did mean it, but it was going to be a relief to be away from her for almost two weeks. Even though I’d never been away from my parents that long before, not even at trans camp.

She squeezed me harder until I gasped and then let me go. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

“For the millionth time, yes,” I said, rolling my eyes.

“Okay. I’ll get your dad to get this down the stairs,” she said, and then she was gone in a whirl of brown hair and scarves.

I shook my head at her back and pulled out my phone to text my best friend, Ella.

Me: Almost ready. U?

I knew she wouldn’t answer right away (she actually hated her phone, the weirdo), so I nervously went through my list again to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything. I needed a distraction.

While I was rummaging, my dad, a big guy who had prematurely gone bald so he always wore an ugly hat, had lumbered up the stairs and was frowning down at my trunk. “Are you sure you need all that?” His voice was very deep.

“Yeah, Dad.” My phone buzzed in my pocket, but I ignored it. “It’s almost two weeks.”

“Twelve days,” he said.

“Yeah, I know.” I scratched at my head, slightly embarrassed to talk about my transition stuff with my dad. “I, you know, need some extra stuff.” I thought of the binders lying next to my socks.

He glanced at me and nodded, and then looked quickly away. He hadn’t been as supportive of my transition as my mom. When I first told him, he blurted, “But you’re a girl.”

We stood there in awkward silence for a moment as I wondered what I should say to him, father to son. But he hadn’t yet called me his son.

He cleared his throat, still not looking at me, and then crouched and heaved up the trunk onto a roller cart he’d carried up the stairs. It was going to be a pain getting it down on the cart, but at least he wouldn’t kill his back picking it up this way.

I helped him maneuver it down the stairs, wishing not for the first time I could start hormones. I wanted to be as strong as my dad, but I wasn’t old enough yet. Well, I was, but my parents wouldn’t approve it until I was sixteen. I figured Dad was the one holding out, because Mom would give me whatever I wanted.

Two more years.

When we finally got the trunk down the stairs, I pulled my phone out. Ella had texted back.

Ella: Yeah, loading the car. Are you ready?

Me: Yes! Just gotta say bye.

Ella: We’ll be there soon.

“Ella and her parents are going to be here soon,” I told my parents.

Mom had argued long and hard about how I was getting to camp. She wanted to take me, but I wanted to go with Ella and her parents. My friend and her brother had been going to this camp for years, and her parents knew exactly how to get there. Mom pursed her lips and crossed her arms over her chest. “Okay. Are you sure you have it all?”

Annoyance flared up. “Yes!” I said.

“Don’t take that tone with your mother,” Dad warned.

I closed my mouth and let the anger subside. It wouldn’t do to get into an argument with them now. They’d probably not let me go, whether or not they had already paid for my spot. And summer camp wasn’t cheap; I’d seen prices on the website.

“Sorry,” I mumbled, and Mom pulled me into another hug.

“Be safe, okay?” she said. “I wish you wanted to go to the trans camp instead.”

“Mom, please!”

“Okay, okay, I know. You want to go to regular camp like any regular boy.”

“I went to trans camp last year,” I said.

“I know, and you loved it. That’s why I wish you’d go again.”

“Stop worrying so much, Mom,” I told her. “The kids won’t hurt me.”

She didn’t look convinced when she finally let me go. It was true; trans camp had been fantastic. But everyone there knew I was trans. I wanted to go someplace where I didn’t always feel trans. I knew it was impossible, but I wanted a shot at it. All the other kids at trans camp had loved it, because they’d said they could shed their trans identity there. Since everyone was trans, we got to talk about other things. It made it less special, which was, in reality, a relief.

And that was the problem for me. I just wanted to be like any other boy. And all the other boys went to summer camp like the one I was going to, not to trans camp. I wanted to be a boy with the other boys.

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Meet the Author

Gabriel D. Vidrine is a trans masculine scientist, dancer, and writer but is working towards reversing that order. They teach and perform belly dance all over the country, but still manage to cram in writing time whenever and wherever possible.

They are an avid reader and writer, and love science fiction, fantasy, horror, and paranormal romance, but will give any genre a try.

Gabriel lives with their husband, video game systems, and ridiculous cat, Selina, in Chicago, IL.

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New Release Blitz for Bank Run (Expanding Horizon #2) by Alli Reshi (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Bank Run

Series: Expanding Horizon, Book Two

Author: Alli Reshi

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: April 2, 2018

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 19400

Genre: Science Fiction, LGBT, science fiction, disability/PTSD/post-traumatic stress, military, hurt/comfort, interracial/intercultural, crime, HFN

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Synopsis

Mark Noland doesn’t know how he always ends up in these situations. All he wants is a few quiet days on Rescon with his new boyfriend Gavnson. But he’s just finished a job, and the rest of his team wants their pay.

A simple trip to the bank shouldn’t be much trouble, and then it’s back to peace and quiet. What could possibly go wrong? The answer to this is apparently robbery, kidnapping, and a foot chase across town. A run to the bank takes on a whole new meaning when you also have to thwart the bad guys.

A simple crime unravels to something much more. Amidst the chaos, Mark and Gavnson not only end up with new friends, but a renewed focus on Gavnson’s ongoing PTSD issues—once they finally have a moment to themselves.

*Bank Run is the second installment in the Expanding Horizons series and is best read after book one, Oops, Caught.

Excerpt

Bank Run
Alli Reshi © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
Fire and metal shrapnel rained down, pinging off the roof of my small fighter ship.

“Everian Gavnson— The second Squadron is surrounded by the enemy. They are also advancing against the third. What are your orders?” Caspian Dal’s voice came crackling over the damaged coms line.

“Fourth squadron— Provide support for the second. Come in from the enemy’s right, and you can break up that dogfight. My men with me. We’re going to come in from the low left across the gorge. We can bottleneck the enemy there and stop their advance,” I called the orders across the channels.

A resounding “Yes, sir!” was the answer as the other fighter ships split off in their new assignments.

I angled my ship across the sky, leading the first squadron toward the swarm of ships. Blue mixed with white, though the blue was slowly overtaking the other. The infiltration of Zux pilots was taking its toll on my men. The battle for Rescon had already cost us so much. Our objective was to stop them in the skies so they couldn’t get to Rescon’s surface. Swooping under the belly of a few blue Zux ships, I opened fire on them, ripping through the metal and breezing by the ships as they crashed. The added forces were pushing back the opposition.

“Sir, your six!” the warning whined on the line. Reacting before glancing over, I angled my ship away from the oncoming attack. When I did look, I realized no amount of quick maneuvering would save me. A ship from higher up had collided with those below it, dragging and catching them as the tangled mess of metal fell from directly above me toward my ship.

Pushing the thrusters hard, I moved as far away from the trajectory as I could. I wouldn’t clear the area in time, but if I could minimize the damage, I could make an emergency landing. The wreckage struck the side of my ship, tearing the wing clean off. One of the engines ignited in the impact. Fire spread across the windshield. All I could see was fire. The fire. Fire everywhere—burning, trapping, killing.

I bolted awake, off-balance, and confined. I fought against the restraint, pushing and tugging until I felt cold air against my skin. Then, something was on my shoulder holding me. Pushing me back. I lashed out an arm against it.

“Gav, Gav hold still. Calm down. You’re all right; breathe, Gav. Can you hear me?” a voice said. Mark’s voice. The initial panic slowly faded from my mind. It was Mark’s hand on my shoulder. The sheets from my bed were tangled around my legs. Taking a deep breath, I reached a hand to Mark’s, suddenly realizing how shaky my own was against his steady one.

“Yes, I’m fine,” I said, clearing my throat.

“You sure? You’re trembling. Was it that dream again? You wanna talk about it?” Mark asked, leaning toward me. I shrugged off his hand, pulling away.

“No. Everything is all right, Mark. I’m going to take a shower. You can go back to sleep now.” I pushed off the blankets and forced myself to walk steadily to the adjoining bathroom.

After locking the door behind me, I turned on the shower and sat on the tile floor in the far corner of the room, my back against the wall. Curling in on myself, I was no longer able to fight the shaking of my body. My vision blurred, and I couldn’t focus on any one thing around me. All my senses screamed that everything was too much, too loud, too everything. Hopefully, the sound of the water muffled any sobs that escaped. My chest hurt from phantom pains and how hard it was to breathe. It was as though my lungs had forgotten how to, or not wanting to, would rather stop and close in on themselves.

Worst of all, I could feel the fire burning on my arm, searing through flesh. The cold wall behind me did little to help. The war was over, yet I couldn’t escape it, dogged by fire and failure in my sleep.

I don’t know how long it was before I could focus again and the shivers stopped. The burning on my arm had lost intensity, fading rapidly as I focused on taking deep gulping breaths, even though it stung. Mark hadn’t come knocking at the door, so it couldn’t have been that long.

Stripping off my sweat-dampened clothes, I finally stepped under the freezing spray of water. I found that I much preferred cold showers after the war and the hospital. I also refused to own another sponge of any sort, throwing them and any kind of liquid soap out in favor of bars and rough towels if necessary.

It had been about a month since Mark and I had agreed to start this relationship. Even with the time we spent apart for our respective careers, it was working out well. Better than I could have hoped. My off-planet missions were few, as I preferred to stay close to home. There was more than enough to keep me busy here with Stella Corps, while Mark chose any jobs across the quadrant that caught his fancy. Being that Mark’s starship was his home, when he wasn’t out on a job, he spent most of his time with me at my home. His team didn’t seem to mind the extra time spent on Rescon either.

Having Mark with me was a welcome change from the silence that permeated the building without him to fill it with laughter and conversation, however it didn’t stop the nightmares. I always felt guilty for waking him; it was unfair to him after all the help he gave me. Especially on nights like last night when he came in late, tired from a job, and well-deserving of some rest. He didn’t need me waking him up over something I should have long gotten over. In truth, I had been lucky; I knew that.

I had come home when so many hadn’t. I only had scars where so many had lost limbs. It was pathetic to still be holding onto fears when the danger had long passed.

I quickly finished my shower and turned off the water, not wanting Mark to worry and come investigating.

Drying off, I glanced at my reflection in the mirror. Dark hair plastered against my forehead. A once perfect complexion was now littered with appalling scars. Thankfully, the ones on my face were hardly noticeable if you didn’t know to look. The rest of me had not been as fortunate.

The burn marks were far more distinct over my left side. Trailing from my neck to almost my hip in patchy grooves, they also took up most of my arm and spread across my chest. I turned away from the mirror, tying the towel around my waist.

I should have the mirror removed the next chance I had—a sentiment I always had after a shower, but never managed to go through with. It was too easy to indulge in the shame of what my image now was. In any case, Mark would question it, and that was something I would rather avoid. I paused at the door, listening for any noise coming from the outer room.

Hearing nothing meant Mark must have either left the room or gone back to sleep. I cautiously opened the door, and the sun’s morning light filtering in through the window showed an empty room. Faint voices floated in from the direction of the kitchen.

I dressed quickly, worried that Mark might walk into the room before I was ready. A long-sleeved thin shirt hid the worst of the scars and simple pants covered the few on my legs. Having not yet let Mark see all of my scars, I was careful to always be clothed around him. Mark had said that he wouldn’t mind seeing them, but I was not ready to show more of myself to him. I still worried about his reaction. After combing my hair into something respectable, I walked toward the voices, steeling myself to greet the added guests.

“I’m just saying you don’t even know his first name, man. I’m not complaining about not having to listen to you talk about your sex life all’o the time now. But you sure ’bout this, boss? Relationships ain’t one-night stands—you gotta be serious here. Gotta be able to trust a person.”

I recognized Ken’s voice without having to turn the corner and paused in the shadows. I shouldn’t have to eavesdrop in my own house, yet I wanted to hear the honest conversation that wouldn’t happen with me there. Wanted to know what his teammates thought of me, though it did not appear to be a conversation in my favor.

“Dude, are you still harping on this?” Mark huffed. “Ken, let it go. The name thing is cultural, okay? Lots of Resconians don’t say it until they’re married. It’s like a super personal thing, and I can respect that. Stuff like this takes time, you know. Ain’t like I’m laying all my secrets out on the table either. You gotta build the trust slowly, and I trust him to tell me when he’s ready.” I could imagine the scowl he had as he crossed his arms.

Considering that Mark was more given to casual and informal mannerisms, I had been surprised at how easily he had adapted when I explained why Resconians only used surnames. It was an old social norm that revealing a given name was the truest form of trust and love. It gave me a small thrill to call Mark by his name privately—knowing it was his preference as well as a sign of his trust. I found it endearing how he mixed his habit for nicknames yet considered my preference. Still, our relationship was far too new to tell him my given name, or call him by his while in company.

“I believe what our esteemed mechanic is trying to say, is that we worry about you. You’re not only our boss; you’re our friend as well. As a friend, we want you to be in a healthy relationship. Given your previous lovers, this is a drastic change.” The higher-pitched voice chiming in told me that Tamaroa was here too.

“I know it’s different,” Mark said, his voice strained. “It’s weird for me sometimes, too, you know. Coming back to the same place all the time. And missing him. Lonely is something I’m used to having an instant fix for, but I can’t do that anymore because Gavnson matters. I want it to work with him. So, let me figure it out myself and drop it, all right?”

Knowing he missed me when he was away—same as I missed him—was an odd comfort. And it was reassuring that he would defend me, even though I sometimes thought his coworkers might have a more accurate opinion of me. After a few moments of silence, it was obvious they had dropped the topic. I might as well greet my guests properly.

Rounding the corner to enter the kitchen, I saw Ken and Tamaroa at the table, while Mark was standing by the stove, making something in a pan. Rescon had more than its fair share of interspecies travelers. But that still didn’t take away the strangeness of having others at my table.

I was so often alone in this room that the brightness of the fox’s dark blue fur and the woman’s rich orange skin would take some getting used to.

“You didn’t tell me your team would be visiting this morning, Noland,” I said, not wanting to sound accusing, but a warning would have been nice.

“Sorry, I didn’t know either, and some people don’t know what manners are. So, they invite themselves anywhere.” Mark sighed and gave Ken a pointed look. He momentarily abandoned breakfast to come to my side and give me a hug. His warmth was a welcome balm to my unsettled nerves. “Are you feeling better now? Is it okay for them to be here? I can kick them out if you want, no problem,” Mark whispered and then kissed my cheek.

He had no concern with showing affection any time he wanted. For the most part, I liked the attention too much to scold him for it when there were others around.

“No, it’s fine; I don’t mind,” I said quietly, giving him a one-armed hug in return before letting him go back to the stove. “It’s a pleasure to see you as always, Tamaroa, Ken.” I greeted the two as I sat at the table across from them so I could watch Mark.

“Sorry for the intrusion,” Tamaroa responded, brushing back her hair, a dark red against her skin. “Ken can be quite demanding when he wants something. Mark never said, but how did everything turn out on your end with our last joint effort? Was there any information missing?” It was easy to forget that Mark’s well-spoken navigator was also a highly trained assassin.

“No, you both did admirably,” I said. “As far as our technicians have found, nothing was leaked and all the files were still intact. Thanks to all your efforts, you prevented the potential exposure of a number of secret operatives.” I had assumed Mark would have told them about the successful conclusion of our mission long ago, but this at least gave me the chance to thank them in person.

“I imagine Stella would have just as many enemies as allies, and any information about your movements could go for a high price.” Tamaroa’s tone was far too light for a matter that could have been life or death to many officers. Then again, perhaps I shouldn’t expect differently from a woman in her profession.

“Unfortunately, yes,” I said. “Since Mark is always very vague about his work, I don’t suppose you’d be willing to make a few things clearer?” I could feel Mark’s eyes on me, and even though we’d both agreed that sometimes there were parts of our jobs we couldn’t talk about, it didn’t always stop professional curiosity. Tamaroa’s only response was a small smile that said I would not be getting any answers from her.

“All right, enough chitchat,” Ken huffed, his tail thumping against the leg of his chair. “I want Mr. Domestic over there to hand over our share of the pay from the last job. I ain’t looking to spend the day with no Stella officer in a stuffy house. Just ’cause you’ve turned sweet on the military sort, don’t mean I have. I got shit to do.” Ken had not warmed up to me nearly as much as Tamaroa had. Mark reassured me this was friendlier than Ken got with most.

“Hey, that Stella officer is my boyfriend, and I like his company. So, shut your muzzle. Besides, we just got here, and I’m sorry, but some of us like to sleep. Banks don’t even open until, like, nine anyways—so hold your tail.” Mark slid what was in the pan onto a waiting plate. Ah, he was making those fluffy flat breads he called pancakes. Terran food was odd.

I don’t think I had seen him cook anything that didn’t require some breed of fowl eggs. And he was always complaining they weren’t the same as chicken eggs, whatever those were. Mark had tried to describe chickens to me once, and for as much as I recognized that fauna was different across the galaxy, small flightless birds were not something I could easily conceptualize.

I knew that some planets domesticated their fowl, but the fear of them had been ingrained in me since childhood. It wasn’t an ungrounded fear, as the Ioxerous birds were as large as the average man and viciously carnivorous. They were the smallest breed of bird on Rescon. Thankfully, the mountains were the only place you would find them. These differences had led Mark and me to a have a few circular discussions about the merits of domestication of fowl.

Mark insisted on cooking, going so far as to favor old-fashioned methods of manually making the food, instead of letting the automatic kitchen equipment prepare the dishes for him. I had no love for cooking, so I left him to his strange cuisine.

“Oh, I’m sure you and pretty boy did plenty of sleeping. Then again, you were awful quick to open that door, and all rumpled too,” Ken said, winking at Mark. I tensed at the unknowing reminder that I had awakened Mark this morning. Even though he was still tired from his last mission, he hadn’t said anything about it. Yet, I could see the weariness as he moved about. It appeared I was nothing more than a bother.

“Okay, you’re done. Out. We discussed this— No suggestive or lewd comments that make Gav uncomfortable. So, out now. Before I skin you, and we’ll have a side of fox to go with breakfast.” Mark waved the spatula at Ken, whose fur bristled in offense.

“I think we’ve stayed long enough.” Tamaroa stood. “Enjoy your morning, Mark, and a pleasure to see you again, Gavnson. We’ll be on our way now.” She grabbed Ken by his scruff and lifted the four-foot Vanaska fox easily, ignoring his demands to be put down as they left the house. Mark chuckled at the antics.

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Meet the Author

Alli has always had a love for just about any story she can get her hands on. Be it from books, TV, or even video games—if there’s a good story, she will love it. Given that, it’s easy to see how Alli moved on to making stories of her own.

Raised in a small Colorado town, Alli also has a love of the outdoors and enjoys hiking. Nowadays she lives in a bigger city and fits in just fine there too, liking how close and comfy everything is. Often at home with her two cats, Alli is never far from her computer whether for work or for play. She believes the truth is a multifaceted thing and always works to write the world, and subsequently the truth of the world, as she sees it.

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