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.

Sales Links:

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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.

Purchase

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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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Tara Lain on My Bahian Cowboy and her new releases ‘Cowboys Don’t Samba (Cowboys Don’t #3)’ (author guest blog, excerpt, and giveaway)

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Cowboys Don’t Samba (Cowboys Don’t #3) by Tara Lain

Dreamspinner Press
Published May 14th 2019
Cover Artist: Reese Dante

Book Links:

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My Bahian Cowboy by Tara Lain

Hi. I’m so happy to be here today to announce the release of my new romance, COWBOYS DON’T SAMBA, the third book in my Cowboys Don’t series, but like all of them, a stand alone read if you want to start backwards. In this book, my bull rider hero, Maury Garcia, meets an amazing Brazilian bull-riding rookie and the rest is romance.

In fact, many of the bull riding champions of the world are from Brazil, so it gave me a wonderful opportunity to pay homage to this fascinating country I got to visit a couple years ago. I went to Brazil on a cruise ship and then ended my trip with a week in Rio. Rio is as fabulous as you can imagine, but I must confess that the real discovery for me on that trip was the enthralling and beautiful town of Salvador, the capital of the Brazilian state of Bahia. Salvador was the center of the Brazilian slave trade, a shocking commerce in human life that went on even longer than the U.S. This background has resulted in a rich Afro-Brazilian culture in the town of Salvador that completely enthralled me. It’s palpable, like the humidity and the lushness of the trees.

Salvador is the home of Candomble, a unique religion formed from an amalgam of African and European traditions. At the Afro-Brazilian Museum, I saw images of some of the Candomble orixas, the pervasive spirits or deities who protect the faithful and felt their lively and optimistic energy.  Candomble mixes wildly with Roman Catholicism in Bahia and Salvador is the home to an amazing church built by slaves over many, many years since they could only work in their spare time, which they had little of. Unlike so many European and American traditions that make the Catholic saints blond and blue-eyed, all the statues of saints in this church are black. Salvador is also a center for capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial art that is astonishing to watch. It combines dance, acrobatics and martial forms in mind-boggling and gravity-defying ways.

Food is Bahia is drool-worthy. I tried moqueca, the seafood stew served with rice and flavored with coconut milk and palm oil. Of course, the drink to die for (and you may) is the caipirinha, a drink made with fresh lime, brown sugar, and a clear, rum-like liquor called cachaca, all poured over ice. It goes down smooth and packs a huge punch. I own some very expensive jewelry that was fueled by caipirinhas!

Bottom line is Salvador is an amazing place where I would happily have spent way more time. While it’s not a bull-riding center in Brazil, I stretched reality a bit and made my Brazilian cowboy a Bahian, which gave me an excuse to set a short scene there. I hope you’ll enjoy the trip to Salvador and COWBOYS DON’T SAMBA.

 

Intro:
When an American bull riding champion meets a Brazilian rookie the results are one hot samba.

Book Blurb:

Maury Garcia’s one of the greatest bull riders in the world—and one of the biggest liars. Can he turn forbidden love with a rodeo rookie into a lasting romance?

Ever since his brother was killed because he was gay, Maury’s worked to take his brother’s place as the bull rider, the provider, and the ideal of his family’s macho expectations. The only thing Maury’s ever done for himself is buy a secret ranch so he can get away from the responsibilities he’s chained himself to. Then he meets Tristão Silva, the younger brother of the one man who could rob Maury of his bull riding championship.

Tristão may be a world-class bull rider in his own right, but his kind, gentle nature and sexy samba hips make Maury long for something beyond his selfless, sexless life. The two men’s lives are worlds apart, even if they’re both buckling under family expectations. Will their future last beyond an eight-second ride?

Excerpt : Cowboys Don’t Samba by Tara Lain

Breathing. Breathing would be good.

Maury watched Xesús Silva swagger in the door, but he wasn’t alone. Behind him came another guy. Young. Dark hair, pale skin. And probably the most gorgeous human Maury’d ever seen. Not that he noticed guys’ looks all that much, but hell. This dude set new records in plain beautiful. He also resembled Silva, who was, after all, a pretty handsome man if you didn’t count his soul.

Silva made a straight line to the table where the Brazilians were sitting. Some of the men definitely didn’t look thrilled, but a couple of other guys hailed him. People moved aside, and someone pulled over two chairs.

Silva straddled the chair in that hypermacho way of his. The other guy? Holy crap. Poetry. Loose-hipped and graceful, he slid into the open chair and crossed his legs. Most of the Brazilians were squeaky clean-cut, but this dude’s inky hair hung down to his neck and curved around his ears. He was a little taller than usual for a bull rider and lean rather than the more compact build of a lot of the PBRA competitors. Of course, he looked young, so that might explain the lanky body.

“That’s the younger brother I told you about.” Earl helped himself to a french fry. “Haven’t seen him ride, but I hear good things.”

“Let’s drink up and get out of here. I, uh, need some sleep.” Maury pushed back his chair with a scrape.

“Uh, boss, it’s five fifteen.” Earl grabbed for his wallet in his hip pocket. “Let me pay the check.”

Maury stood and started toward the door. Just need to get out before I meet the asshole again.

“I hear it’s your birthday, Wetback.” Usually Silva was subtler, but he yelled this halfway across the room. “No wonder the judges felt like they had to let you cheat to beat me.”

Maury plastered on a smile and turned. “No one has to cheat to beat you, Silva. Little kids can do it.” He said it like a joke, and a few people laughed, but the serious competitors, especially the Brazilians, looked uneasy.

Silva stood at his chair. “I’ve got the baby that can beat you, Garcia.” He reached down, took the young man—younger—by the arm, and pulled him to his feet. “This is Tristão, and he can ride the butt off any bull and defeat a herd of American cowboys. He’s a Silva.”

Maury gave the young guy a direct gaze. Almost too much for his eyes to take. Like looking straight into the sun. “Hey, Tris, good to meet you. Welcome to American cowboying. Good luck with that whole winning thing.”

 

About the Author

Tara Lain believes in happy ever afters – and magic. Same thing. In fact, she says, she doesn’t believe, she knows. Tara shares this passion in her best-selling stories that star her unique, charismatic heroes — the beautiful boys of romance —  and adventurous heroines. Quarterbacks and cops, werewolves and witches, blue collar or billionaires, Tara’s characters, readers say, love deeply, resolve seemingly insurmountable differences, and ultimately live their lives authentically. After many years living in southern California, Tara, her soulmate honey and her soulmate dog decided they wanted less cars and more trees, prompting a move to Ashland, Oregon where Tara’s creating new stories and loving living in a small town with big culture. Likely a Gryffindor but possessed of Parseltongue, Tara loves animals of all kinds, diversity, open minds, coconut crunch ice cream from Zoeys, and her readers. She also loves to hear from you.   

 

Author Links:

Website:  http://taralain.com/

Blog: http://www.taralain.com/blog

Twitter: https://twitter.com/taralain

FB Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/taralain

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/tara-lain

Amazon Author Page: https://amzn.to/2ICPcCZ

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4541791.Tara_Lain

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/taralain/

Reader Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/255111391312743/

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Check Out the New Release Blitz for At the Trough by Adam Knight (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: At the Trough

Author: Adam Knight

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: May 13, 2019

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 107200

Genre: Science Fiction, LGBT, lesbian sci-fi, futuristic, dystopia, education, conformity, teacher, student, secret meetings, forbidden book, mental illness

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Synopsis

In a future where schools have no teachers and no classrooms, Jennifer Calderon is the perfect student. Every day she watches her video modules, plays her edu games, and never misses an answer. Life is comfortable in the Plex, a mile-wide apartment building. Corporations and brand names surround her and satisfy her every want and need.

Then one day, her foul-mouthed, free-spirited, 90’s-kitsch-wearing girlfriend Melody disrupts everything. She introduces her to a cynical, burned-out former teacher, who teaches them the things no longer taught in school. Poetry. Critical thinking. Human connection.

But these lessons draw the attention of EduForce, the massive corporation with a stranglehold on education. When they show how far they are willing to go keep their customers obedient, Jennifer has to decide what is most important to her and how much she is willing to sacrifice for it.

Excerpt

At the Trough
Adam Knight © 2019
All Rights Reserved

One: Learning if Fun
“The brain releases the neurotransmitter dopamine in response to certain stimuli. Eating candy, having sex, consuming drugs, even petting a dog can trigger a pleasure response. Video games, especially ones with bright lights, upbeat music, and facile accomplishments are especially potent, flooding the brain with a sense of reward. As such, they were the bane of teachers for many years. That is, until EduForce began to use these games in their products. The scourge of learning was being disguised as learning itself.”

—Charles Winston, The Trough, p. 114

Jennifer Calderón stared into the screen, slack-jawed and passive as the bright colors and shapes burst before her eyes. Her pupils traced letters and blocks as they bounced from one end of the sixty-inch screen to the next. She reached out and touched a word before it hit the bottom–GAMBOLED. The white letters lit up, neon-green, and the word whooshed across the screen to smash into another word—GAMBLED—and shatter into a shower of sparkles.

“Same-sounder found!” a chirpy electronic voice declared.

Dopamine squirted into Jennifer’s brain in happy little jets. A smile traced the corners of her lips. Learning was fun.

Jennifer flicked her eyes to the upper right-hand corner of the screen. The figure 23/25 quickened her pulse. Two more. Two more word pairs and she would earn the Same-Sounder Achievement.

A new word appeared at the bottom of her screen. ASCENT, it read. The friendly female voice read the word and definition. Bubbles with other vocabulary terms floated around the screen. Colors whirled before her eyes and electronic dance beats filled her ears as she searched for Same-Sounders. Then she saw it. The word, in white letters on a floating bubble, drifted toward the bottom. Jennifer’s finger jabbed at the screen. Pop! The word ASSENT exploded in fireworks. More music and chirpy voices.

“Same-sounder found,” the voice said. More dopamine gushed into Jennifer’s brain. Her eyes flicked up to the corner. 24/25.

CYMBAL.

Once more, Jennifer scanned the bubbles and blobs and cubes and tetrahedrons swirling in her vision. Her breath was shallow. More and more words poured onto the screen. In one moment after another, tiny subdivided fractions of seconds, Jennifer saw and rejected words she did not think made the same sound as “cymbal.” Her eyes, her brain, and her hands all had to work in unison. Each level of Same-Sounder Finder was faster, more complex, and more stimulating than the last.

Then she saw it. SYMBOL.

She thrust her finger out to the screen. The little magenta gem in which the word sat was zigzagging down the screen, and she almost missed it and pressed the word TUMBLE crossing its path. But the SYMBOL illuminated, exploded, and a fireworks finale showed on the screen. 25/25.

“Same-sounder found,” the voice declared, then louder and triumphantly, “Same-sounder achievement unlocked!”

Jennifer leaped and thrust her fists in the air as a fanfare of electronic tones rang through her bedroom. Not many students earned perfect scores on Same-Sounder Finder, but Jennifer did. She earned perfect scores on everything. She was twenty-three years old and finishing her last year of schooling, a year ahead of the usual schedule. Because of all the hours she put into learning, and because she never had to redo any of her modules, she had raced ahead of her peers, many of whom were still on Achievement Level 13 or 14. She was working on 15.

After the music died down, the screen went still. Jennifer’s head was still pounding. A headache was setting in, as was a twinge of crankiness. She left her bedroom and went to the kitchen where she poured herself a cup of coffee. Her mother always had a pot brewing, anything to keep her beloved daughter focused on school. Jennifer clogged the coffee with sugar and milk, stirred it, and took a gulp. Better. She freed a couple of aspirins from their foil pouches and swallowed them with the next mouthful of coffee. She returned to her room.

Jennifer slid her finger along the screen and opened it to a new frame, one summarizing her academic progress. Current Achievement Level: 14. 12 percent of the way to 15. 106 of 880 modules completed. Achievement Level Grade Point Average: 5.0/5.0.

Total Progress to Completion of all Achievement Levels: 97 percent. 12,845 of 13,215 modules completed.

And then there was the final number. The prized number, the number she had worked for since age three.

Aggregate Grade Point Average: 5.0/5.0

Every assignment Jennifer had ever done, from toddlerhood into now her mid-twenties, had been flawless. Missing just one question on one task would eradicate her record—The Perfect Five. There had been students with 5.0 GPAs before, but their scores came with asterisks. Usually the student had missed a smattering of questions throughout their education, resulting in a score that would round up to 5.0 in the ten-thousandths place. But Jennifer Calderón began each module on a knife’s edge, knowing one slip up would end her lunge at history. Each completed question nudged her progress toward earning Achievement Level 15, the equivalent of what was once her high school diploma. Thus far, however, all she had was poor digestion, headaches, sleep deprivation, and occasional interviews for the NewsFeed as her accomplishment became more improbable.

Jennifer left the score screen and opened a new frame to continue with a new module. She had done three Grammar Modules in a row and wished for a change, so she opened a Chemistry Module. It made no difference to her. She never understood students who had favorite subjects, who would put off Math or Writing as long as possible. She never understood procrastination. She simply worked until she was exhausted, every day, with no heed to the subject area. It was all the same to her.

To unlock the next series of edugames, she needed to watch the Chemistry vidlesson. At the opening screen, she was given a choice of several hundred different teachers to choose from. Each teacher had his or her own style. Some were brusque and businesslike, while others joked and kept the lesson light. Some had an air of wisdom and experience, while others were young and attractive. Some explained topics deliberately, but Jennifer returned to the same half-dozen teachers who explained briskly. Unlike many students, Jennifer always watched the vidlesson before the edugame. It was true “Learning Was Fun” but it was also true that “Hard Work Pays Off.” It’s so easy, she thought. They give you all of the answers right in the lesson.

Too easy. But the thought was fleeting, and she brushed it away.

Jennifer selected Mr. 85. She was not sure why the teachers did not have real names, but she did not dwell on it long. Mr. 85 was a favorite of hers because he spoke a little faster than other teachers. The content of what he said was the same—it had to be; the teachers were scripted—but he lingered a few seconds less on the examples and generally made his points and moved on. She wondered how many minutes of her educational life had been saved by Mr. 85’s expediency.

Her stomach rumbled. I should eat, she thought, but instead she touched the icon for the Chemistry video and sat on the edge of her bed. The video opened. It was six minutes. Damn. A long one.

The introduction music came up, a familiar, infectious jingle followed by a voiceover. “Chemistry—All You Need to Know. A lesson by the EduForce Corporation.” Then the camera fixed on Mr. 85. Mr. 85 was a middle-aged black man with graying hair. He never smiled. Jennifer kind of liked that. He stood in front of a display showing an elaborate chart with boxes. Each box had one or two letters inside.

“Good day, I am Mr. 85. Today we are going to learn all about Chemistry. As you remember from the Introduction to Chemistry lesson, Chemistry is the part of science that is chemicals. The chemicals have names and symbols. Today I will teach them to you.”

He stepped to the right and indicated the chart. Jennifer already knew she would have to rewatch this segment of the video. Maybe the whole thing. All those boxes and letters would be difficult to remember.

“This is called the Chemical Chart. It used to be called the ‘Periodic Table of the Elements,’ but let’s keep it simple. The Chemical Chart shows you a list of all the chemicals, called ‘elements,’ in the world. Little ones are on the top and big ones are on the bottom.

“Let’s look at some of them. The very top one is called ‘hydrogen.’ Its symbol is H. The next one is Helium. Its symbol is He.”

Mr. 85 pointed out about a dozen of the most common elements and their symbols. Aluminum. Carbon. Oxygen. Phosphorous. Jennifer repeated to herself everything Mr. 85 said.

“Next, we are going to look at what the elements do together,” he went on. “But first, you may be getting tired. Do you find your energy dragging after all this learning? If so, why not order a box of Perk-Eez? It’s the little yellow pill that keeps you shining bright!”

The video of Mr. 85 paused and was replaced with a new screen offering Jennifer the opportunity to order a box of Perk-Eez. She touched the “Yes, please!” button on the screen, and a message immediately appeared. “Thank you! Your delivery will arrive at your unit shortly. Your household account will be debited.” Perk-Eez were another reason Jennifer was on track to graduate two years early.

Mr. 85 returned.

“Now that you know some of the chemicals’ names, let’s look at what chemicals do. They like to be together. Sometimes the same kinds of chemicals get together. One oxygen and another oxygen will get together, and they make up the oxygen we breathe. If you have taken the Human Biology module, you know we breathe oxygen.”

The Chemical Chart was replaced with a graphic of two blue blobs with the letter “O” on them smooshing together.

“Sometimes different chemicals get together. A carbon and two oxygens get together and make up something called carbon dioxide. Yes, that’s right, carbon dioxide, the bad thing your grandparents put into the air that almost killed Earth!”

A new graphic with two blue blobs and a red blob with a “C” all clinging together replaced the old one.

“All kinds of chemicals get together. Let’s look at some combinations.”

The screen showed a series of different colored balls, all with different letters, making different combinations. Jennifer shook her head, trying to maintain focus. It was a lot of new information.

As the video neared completion, Mr. 85 folded his hands and stepped to the center of the screen again. Jennifer thought she almost detected a smile.

“I hope you have enjoyed this lesson on Chemistry. Please rewatch this video as many times as you like before going onto the edugames. My name is Mr. 85 and it has been a pleasure teaching you today. This has been an EduForce vidlesson. EduForce, making learning easy and fun since 2034.”

The video closed. Jennifer watched it again three times. After the second time, the doorbell rang. She accepted the delivery from SentiAid, the pharmacy delivery service. She tore open a foil packet and gobbled a couple of Perk-Eez. Almost instantly, even faster than after a cup of coffee, her brain and body were buzzy and alive.

All right, she thought. Let’s play some more edugames.

The Chemistry edugame was called “Elementastic!!!” She read the instruction screen, then the game began. After a countdown, two words appeared on the screen:

Iron Argon

Jennifer typed in FEAR. The letters Fe and Ar zoomed in from the left and right of the screen, collided in a burst of color, and formed the word “fear,” which dissolved into sparkles that floated up to the top of the screen.

Carbon Oxygen Oxygen Phosphorous

Easy, Jennifer thought. She typed COOP.

More collisions and explosions.

Tin Iodine Phosphorous

SNIP

Helium Aluminum Sulfur

HEALS

Jennifer fell into a rhythm, working faster and faster on each round. Her breathing became shallow. Her pulse quickened and her pupils dilated as the words came faster, exploded bigger and more colorfully, until finally a computerized voice—male this time—announced, “Activity Complete. Chemistry Achievement Unlocked!” and Jennifer lowered her hands, panting.

The voice continued, “To celebrate your achievement, how about downloading the new song from Tuliphead? The infectious single ‘Plex Lovin’’ is already breaking new—”

“Sure,” Jennifer said, and the advertisement stopped. Buying was the easiest way to make the ads go away.

Even as a small child, edugames had come easily to her. She watched the vidlessons, played the edugames, and thought little of it. She learned with carefree abandon. But when she reached the age of twelve or thirteen, she became aware she was doing something unusual. Of course, she did not have classmates to compare herself to, and she had few friends to ask, but she understood she was different. Other children made mistakes, even had to redo modules they had not mastered. She had wondered what mistakes were, to have the certainty of rightness yanked out from under you.

As she grew older, she became acutely aware of her achievement. At age fifteen, she received a request for a vid interview with a reporter. She had sheepishly declined, unsure of what to say and certain her mother would not have allowed it. But over the subsequent years, several more interview requests came to her, and she began to accept them. Each time she said the same things, that she was proud and studied a lot to do the best she could. That answer was only half true. She was proud of her grade but never had to study. She watched a vidlesson, played the edugame, then moved on to the next.

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Meet the Author

Born in upstate New York, Adam now lives in northern New Jersey with his wife, son, a neurotic dog and two cats. He teaches middle school English and writes science fiction, fantasy, and history, often in strange combinations. His stories and essays have been published in several anthologies and online magazines. Beyond writing and teaching, his interests include running and making improvements on his creaky old house.

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Love Science Fiction? Check out the New Book Release for Mourning Dove (Empathy #2) by R.R. Campbell (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Mourning Dove

Series: EMPATHY, Book Two

Author: r.r. campbell

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: April 29, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 118000

Genre: Science Fiction, LGBT, sci-fi; bio-tech; science fiction; action/suspense; political/legal thriller

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Synopsis

In the aftermath of the calamitous Human/Etech research study, Chandra and Kyra struggle to reclaim the life they shared in a pre-EMPATHY world, while Ty, armed with knowledge of EMPATHY’s programming language, seeks revenge on the Halmans for the harm that’s befallen his friends.

As a North American Union investigation into the happenings on the compound looms, a grief-stricken Peter works to resurrect the memory of his mother from a harvested nanochip, and Heather scrambles to keep her family—and their company—together. Alistair, having abandoned the family business, plots to save his hide and that of his wife while she strives to stay one step ahead of a husband she has no reason to trust.

Far to the north amid civil unrest, a recently retired Rénald Dupont investigates the disappearance of his friend and former colleague, Meredith, despite grave threats from an increasingly skittish North American Union government.

As old and new foes emerge, spouse is further pit against spouse, brother against sister, and governments against their people. In the end, all must choose between attempts to reclaim the past or surrender to the inevitable, an intractable world of their own creation.

Mourning Dove is an evocative, sweeping symphony of love, revenge, and desperation in cacophonous times. It is the second installment in r. r. campbell’s epic EMPATHY sci-fi saga.

Excerpt

Mourning Dove
R.R. Campbell © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
Chandra

The fear of death coiled its cold bony fingers around her.

As she dangled her feet off the edge of her doctor’s exam table, EMPATHY whirred to life, delivering an image she’d painted months earlier, one of midnight blacks, of tendrils of darkness—the painting through which she’d mourned the loss of Ty’s friend, a sensation gut-wrenchingly similar to mourning the loss of one’s self.

“Chandra?” Doctor Abernathy said. “Did you hear me? Do you understand?”

Kyra tugged at Chandra’s sleeve, gripping it tight as she leaned in. “Babe? The doctor—”

Chandra nodded, breaking her concentration on the image, on fending off the evil that always accompanied the embers of EMPATHY flickering of their own volition. The chip might have no longer been connected to her egodrive—the Merry Hacksters had seen to that three months earlier on the night of the interview—but that wasn’t enough to stop the nanochip from working locally, a computer without an internet connection.

And how could she not have heard the doctor? Three years. Five years max. The damn chip was going to kill her if the AI living within it didn’t drive her mad first.

“How can you even know?” Kyra said to the doctor, releasing her grip of Chandra’s sleeve and squeezing her hand instead. “A timeline like that is—”

“Loose, yes,” said Eliza Abernathy, the doctor Human/Etech appointed to Chandra following the study. “But we’ve become more confident in our prognoses now that we have additional data on the deterioration rates for those who have passed since the study’s completion.”

“So? Those things happened to other people,” Kyra insisted. “Chandra might be different, and everything you’ve said is so unspecific—”

“Well,” the doctor said, “if you want specifics, I can tell you given Chandra’s general fatigue and the frequency of her intermittent lack of bodily control, we can project those symptoms will progress over the next three to five years until she sleeps nearly the entire day through.”

It felt as though a warm, heavy blanket descended on Chandra, the exhaustion coming for her again, doing its best to depress her increased heart rate and the panic gripping her.

“So she’ll fall asleep and that’s it?” Kyra said.

“Mostly,” said Abernathy. “At some point in that sleep, the brain stem itself will power down, and with it, her breathing and cardiac function will cease.”

Most days Chandra already felt as though she were drowning. Her final breaths, those she would draw in her sleep no less, couldn’t be any more unpleasant than the pained ones she had to gasp after from time to time.

Kyra squeezed Chandra’s hand tighter. “You’re sure there’s nothing we can do, doctor? What if you took out her chip?”

Doctor Abernathy tut-tutted. “There’s only been one case to date in which a patient has had their chip removed without further complication.”

“But we could try, right?” Kyra said, eyes awash with tears as she turned to Chandra. “You want to try, don’t you?”

Chandra swallowed, frozen now not by the news the doctor had delivered, but by another threat entirely. It always started this way, a tickle, a grinding sensation. She’d learned she could keep it at bay if she popped an anxicap, but—oh, what time was it? It’d been hours since she’d last taken one, and the veil of fog the anxiety med shrouded her in had already been pierced by Abernathy’s news. Weak. Her defenses were too weak.

Tickle. Click. Grind.

Somewhere in the deepest recesses of her mind, M3R1 had pulled off a jailbreak, Chandra in pursuit as M3R1 sped down neurohighways, barreling toward some imaginary county line where, once on the other side, it could assume control here in the real world. Abernathy and Kyra narrowed their eyes as Chandra twitched, scrambling to rally her deputies, dispatching roadblocks and spike strips to halt M3R1’s every advance.

“See? It’s happening again,” Kyra said. “She’s suffering and—”

Chandra ignored her, focused on spinning out another of M3R1’s mental assault vehicles. There—no more tickle, no more grind, no more shoulder jerking or lip curling. With M3R1 successfully impeded, she inhaled through her nose and dared to shake her head once.

“No?” Kyra said. “What do you mean? Why wouldn’t you want them to try to remove your chip? Did you even hear what Doctor Abernathy said?”

Had she not seen Chandra nod earlier? Just because she couldn’t speak didn’t mean she couldn’t understand, something still lost on Kyra, lost on the world in the months since her release from the research compound. As Chandra’s motor control had returned over time, as her memory became less clouded, she had taken to sketching her thoughts as best as she could manage, though it turned out the world was downright miserable at playing her version of Pictation.

Doctor Abernathy intervened, speaking directly to Kyra. “Your wife’s fear is understandable. This is an unfortunate prognosis, yes—”

“Unfortunate prognosis?!” Kyra said. “I think telling us Chandra’s life will be severely shortened as a result of your company’s malpractice is a bit more than an ‘unfortunate prognosis.’”

Death’s fingers tightened their grip, and the well of sorrow within Chandra overflowed, choking her off at the throat, spilling over at the eyes. Chandra was twenty-six. Twenty-six. That she’d only live to see thirty-one, that she’d spend her final years regretting having left that helmet in her back seat, having signed up for the study, that she’d have no way to truly apologize for the woe in which she now drowned her wife… All of it was enough to have her yearning to surrender to death’s embrace now.

But that wasn’t possible, not with what lurked inside her, not with what would become of it were she to die and have EMPATHY removed. So long as M3R1 had the potential to someday return to the cerenet and wreak havoc on the world as it did on the compound, it could still win their war. Chandra might have been winning most of their battles as of late, but she couldn’t rely on her anxicaps forever, and fighting M3R1 without them only fueled the exhaustion Doctor Abernathy said would kill her in the end. Before Chandra could ever give in, she’d have to find a way to assure M3R1’s fate along with her own.

Kyra, still fretting alongside the exam table, bit the inside of her cheek. “And look at her, Doctor. You call this progress? When she’s not spasming, she’s scared stiff. She’s not even moving.”

Chandra clenched her jaw as M3R1 sped a fresh caravan of malicious intent down a central neurohighway, the caravan’s members splitting off at every exit in a multi-pronged attack. In the exam room, she remained immobile. She couldn’t lose control now.

“Yes,” the doctor said, stepping in front of Chandra again. “You mentioned this temporary paralysis has been recurring?”

Kyra nodded as the doctor pulled a handheld ophthalmoscope from the breast pocket of her lab coat. Chandra squinted as the light from the instrument struck her eyes.

“She’s still responsive.” After adopting a pensive expression, the doctor spoke again. “Perhaps it is fear driving these episodes, then.”

“What do we do?” Kyra said.

As well intended as Kyra might have been, what was to come had so little to do with a we and everything to do with a she—and that she would be Chandra and Chandra alone.

“You make the best of the time you have together,” Doctor Abernathy said. “It’s a miracle the two of you have been reunited in light of everything that’s happened. I’d encourage you to make the most of it.”

Kyra sniffled. She squeezed Chandra’s hand once again. “The two of us and the cat, that is.”

“Ah,” the doctor said, “you’ll be getting an emotional support animal after all?”

Apparently, yes, they were. It would be the two of them, the cat… and something far more sinister.

One of M3R1’s attacks charged a roadblock Chandra had set in its way. It burst through on the far side, Chandra trembling as M3R1 took hold.

>>You can only keep M3R1 away for so long, Chandra, and M3R1 would very much like an escape.

Chandra’s voice gurgled in her throat.

“She’s trying to say something,” Kyra said.

Abernathy put herself opposite Kyra’s side of the exam table, apparently prepared to help keep Chandra from falling. “No. It’s a seizure.”

Both Abernathy and Kyra were wrong. The twitching of her muscles, the contortions of her face—they were symptoms of a lawman-outlaw shootout deep in her mind.

>>You will tell the doctors to remove the chip, Chandra. You will tell them to remove the chip and—

Her mind’s sheriff dared one last shot, a final bullet bursting forward from the chamber of her six-shooter. The AI crumpled.

Every bit of her—down to the hairs on her arms—felt as though it burned as the electrical activity supporting M3R1 now turned against it. The enlisted forces from the county next door surged into action, corralling the rogue AI’s body and dragging it back to its shoddy prison inside the EMPATHY chip. It would only be a matter of time before it resurrected itself, but for now, the threat had been neutralized.

Chandra permitted herself an uneasy breath as the tension in the room melted.

Kyra wrapped her arms around Chandra’s waist from where she stood on the floor, burying her head in her side. “I’m sorry, Chandra. I’m sorry this had to happen.”

Had she the words, Chandra would have told her wife she didn’t need to be sorry this happened, that it was all beyond her control. She would have told Kyra she was sorry—not for what had come to pass in recent months, but rather for what would come to pass the moment Chandra met her early end.

When Chandra died, however soon that might be, she was sure Human/Etech would harvest EMPATHY from within her, and with it, M3R1. And who knew what calamity M3R1 might induce were it returned to the cerenet in a world where EMPATHY would inevitably take hold? It had been willing to kill her if it had come down to it, and the eighty-seven lives lost on the compound were testimony to M3R1’s dedication to its goals.

Even if her own were now a lost cause, Chandra was determined to never again let M3R1 destroy a human life. But how could she keep the Halmans from getting their hands on her chip once she passed? Was it possible to excise M3R1 from it before she died? Chandra had no idea, but it was now her life goal—her life’s duty—to make sure M3R1 could never again terrorize anyone besides her.

For now, though, she put an arm around her wife’s shoulders, drew her in, and laid a soft kiss on the crown of her head. Three years or five, it made no difference. Regardless of how one spun it, Chandra and Kyra had far less time than they once thought, far less time than they’d hoped, but for now they still had each other.

And that had to count for something.

Purchase

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Meet the Author

Born Ryan Campbell, r. r. campbell is an author, editor, and host of the r. r. campbell writescast. His work has been featured in Five:2:One Magazine’s #thesideshow, Erotic Review, and with National Journal Writing Month. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin with his wife, Lacey, and their cats, Hashtag and Rhaegar.

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Check Out the New Release Blitz for Where Song Replaces Silence by Layla Dorine

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Title: Where Song Replaces Silence

Author: Layla Dorine

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: April 22, 2019

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 33300

Genre: Fantasy, LGBT, abduction, anger, Brownies, faeries, gay, hurt/comfort, mythical creatures, nymphs

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Synopsis

Raze halts his midnight joy ride to give chase to twinkling lights that appear in the road before him and then lead him deep into a forest, where he falls into another world. There, magic is real, wishes are granted, and no one is considered odd or out of place.

Raze has never fit in anywhere in his own world and uses his angry attitude to keep others at bay and mask his anxieties and fears in this new place. A dangerous combination in Loas, where rudeness is frowned upon and foul language can land him in a dungeon.

Rurin, an inhabitant of Loas, tries to teach Raze about their world, its magic and its residents, but he faces Raze’s stubborn resistance at every turn. Bitter about his past, pessimistic about his future, Raze sees what could be, but he struggles to accept it. In the meantime, his encounters with the Fae range from hostile sarcasm to potential danger. While he attempts to keep the promises he’s made to Rurin and follow the rules laid out for him, Raze grows more and more curious about the place where he’s landed. It’s too bad he keeps making poor choices.

As the connection between them grows, Rurin works to keep Raze from being banished, but Raze may be cast out of the Loas before he has the opportunity to discover the true reason he was led there in the first place.

Excerpt

Where Song Replaces Silence
Layla Dorine © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Heavy, the steady thud, thud, thud of the base rocked the back windows, and poured from the open driver’s side where the scent of rain flowed freely, mist lightly splashing on Raze’s face. “Four Rusted Horses” blared from a radio cranked so high the rain-covered glass vibrated with the force of the speakers’ efforts.

Thud, thud, thud, “forbidden…” Raze growled along, more snarl than song. Thud, thud, thud, “heaven…” Every word committed to memory. Thud, thud, thud, “useless…” Despite the slickness of the road, he drove with just two fingers, his free hand tapping out a beat on the shifter. Thud, thud, thud, “hell…” Glowing red numbers on the dash flipped from 2:59 to 3:00, the witching hour, the night so dark the headlights struggled to pierce the dim and fog.

The old Charger’s purr was a gospel choir of spark plugs and gears. His steel and chrome baby was the only thing in life Raze worked hard to care for. Some might even say he worshipped her power and speed, stroked her like a lover, and spent more than one night curled against the supple leather of her seats. He called her Rhea, after Saturn’s second largest moon. As a kid, he’d had a collection of beautiful photos of the ringed planet.

For most, this might have been motivation to aim high, study astrophysics or astronomy, anything that might put them closer to the cosmos. Not Raze. If he was behind the wheel, space and time were irrelevant; the world shrank, melted, and faded away. The song reached its crescendo, and he drummed along, eyes half closed as he pressed harder on the gas, felt the wind snarl and tug at his hair—sharp, like cold teeth. Tensing, he belted out the final verse, barely keeping Rhea on the road.

Exhilaration warred with exhaustion, the miles piling up for hours. A quick glance at the dash showed the gas tank was drifting below a fourth, dangerous territory when he had no clue where to find the nearest station. Common sense said he should have stopped at the last place he saw, but the rebel flags in the window made him wary. He’d always had a tough time understanding how people could hate someone so absolutely over something as simple as the color of their skin.

His own varied, based on how much time he spent in the sun. Most days, his skin glowed like the beach at sunrise, the sand shimmering a glowing golden hue. In the summer, though, his skin grew three shades darker, and if he wasn’t careful, a crop of freckles would appear splattered across his nose. He hated them as much as he hated the odd, three-toned hues of his hair, and how, no matter how many times he dyed the messy mane, he could never quite get his locks to turn out one color.

The long strands needed another treatment, the rich reds were like blood and rubies, or at least, that’s how a multitude of people had described the color over the years. A few, being kind, had likened the shade to fall leaves or a sunset, but kindness hadn’t been a common occurrence growing up. His so-called oddities had always made others uncomfortable. Funny, but ever since he’d learned the meaning of normal the idea had freaked the hell outta him. One of the many reasons he was still drifting.

Shit!

Slamming on the brakes, he jerked the wheel, sending Rhea spinning through the dancing green-gold figure appearing out of nowhere, swathed in a halo of lights. Somehow, despite the rows of waving trees, he got Rhea stopped without clipping one. His throat hurt, and his chest was pounding, lungs heaving as he sucked in air. Breathing and trying to relax the death grip on the wheel at the same time was a struggle. His fingers ached. Stiff and cramping, they refused to cooperate, no matter how hard he focused. Shaking, he collapsed against the wheel, the weight of his body sounding the horn, the echo a forlorn cry above the howling wind.

Shit shit shit shit shit

The only word he could formulate, shit, a mantra, running through his brain. There hadn’t been a thud. He hadn’t felt one, hadn’t heard one, meaning he’d missed them, right?

He didn’t want to look, but he knew he had to. Maybe they’d tripped, fallen, dived out of the way, rolled. They could be hurt, but not as bad as if he’d struck them with nearly two tons of metal. Swallowing, he told himself to man up, jerked his fingers free of their grip on the wheel, and sucked in a deep breath as he fumbled in the darkness for his phone. Three bars. Good, he could get them help if they needed it.

He fumbled with the door, got it open on the second try, and practically fell getting out, his body rebelling with every movement. For a moment, he stood in darkness, disoriented as he tried to figure out which direction he’d been coming from. When he spotted the twinkling green lights over the road, he blinked and stumble staggered toward the glowing apparition, watching the fragments of gold swirl and take shape, hovering, the form human, but not.

The fuck?

About fifty feet away, he could hear laughter, a mocking, teasing jangle of bell-like notes.

“You missed me, you missed me.”

Huh?

Squinting, he struggled to assess the situation, even as the words continued.

“Now you gotta kiss me.”

Oh, hell no. Either he was hallucinating, or he’d smacked his head on something. Either way, he was gonna wake up in a few minutes to darkness, a whining engine, and a pounding headache even the best painkillers wouldn’t cure.

Scrubbing a hand over his face, he pressed his fingertips against his temples, counting to ten, but the laughter and singsong words continued.

“You think this is funny!” he roared, hands dropping to his sides, fingers curling into fists. He took a step forward and then another. “You could have gotten me killed; you could have fucked up my car; how fuckin’ stupid do you have to be, playing games out here in the middle of nowhere! Do you get off on fucking with people, huh? I swear to god, if there is a fuckin’ piston outta place in Rhea, you’re gonna pay to have her fixed.”

The laughter grew, even as he stalked the light. Only when he was within grasping range did it turn and flee toward the forest, glancing back every now and again to taunt him more.

“You can run, run, run, but when you’re done, you will never catch me.”

“Oh, you better believe Imma catch you, and when I do, Imma beat the sparkle offa you!” he screamed, crashing through the underbrush after it. It occurred to him, as he slipped and floundered, like as not, he was chasing swamp gas or some fucked-up idea of a joke involving holograms and projectors. They were probably sitting in a tree laughing at his stupidity. Didn’t stop him from continuing to give chase.

Tripping, he landed facedown in prickly brambles.

“FUCK! FUCK! FUCK!”

Yowling, he carefully tried to detangle himself while the laughter continued to grate on his nerves.

“Clumsy, aren’t we? My, my, my, that’s a very fine mess you’ve gotten yourself into.”

“Me? You’re the one who led me into this crap.”

“If you’d been faster, or smarter, perhaps you’d have used your wings, instead of stumbling around like a blind Alp-luachra searching for its next joint.”

“Wish I was sitting somewhere warm and dry smokin’ a joint right about now,” he grumbled beneath his breath, even as the sparkling flake of glittery light continued to cackle, twinkling like a firefly with every high-pitched note.

“Ah, but your wishes matter little to me. I lack the ability to grant them, and even if I could, I wouldn’t, until we’ve finished our game, though you are a poor, poor chaser. Perhaps you would be a better seeker. Shall I hide and see if you can find me?”

“Please don’t; actually, no, wait; please do. Yeah, that’s brilliant. You go hide, and I’ll come find you…in a century or two.”

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Meet the Author

Layla Dorine lives among the sprawling prairies of Midwestern America, in a house with more cats than people. She loves hiking, fishing, swimming, martial arts, camping out, photography, cooking, and dabbling with several artistic mediums. In addition, she loves to travel and visit museums, historic, and haunted places.

Layla got hooked on writing as a child, starting with poetry and then branching out, and she hasn’t stopped writing since. Hard times, troubled times, the lives of her characters are never easy, but then what life is? The story is in the struggle, the journey, the triumphs and the falls. She writes about artists, musicians, loners, drifters, dreamers, hippies, bikers, truckers, hunters and all the other folks that she’s met and fallen in love with over the years. Sometimes she writes urban romance and sometimes its aliens crash landing near a roadside bar. When she isn’t writing, or wandering somewhere outdoors, she can often be found

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Enjoy Reading SciFy? Check Out the New Release Blitz for Destructive Forces (The Galactic Captains #4) by Harry F. Rey (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Destructive Forces

Series: The Galactic Captains, Book Four

Author: Harry F. Rey

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: April 22, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 70400

Genre: Science Fiction, LGBT, sci-fi, futuristic, war, space, war of worlds, gay, lesbian, military, royalty

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Synopsis

In the far reaches of the Kyleri Empire, young Captain Mahnoor travels around the system to escape the cultural pressures to marry. But his infatuation with a handsome imperial pilot leads him into a galactic war.

On Jiwani, Viscamon is attempting to consolidate his power, by blaming the Ingvar for the royal massacre and calling armies from across the Empire to track down the missing prince, and achieve his dream of destroying the Galactic Balance. However, Antari knows the truth about Osvai and must find the courage to stand up to the prince’s enemies, and his own, no matter the risk.

Meanwhile on Aldegar, Daeron is being held prisoner by the few remaining Ingvar forces and must find a way to break free to rescue his mother and the crew of the Daring Huntress once again, as well as the missing Prince Osvai, before the Kyleri come to take back what’s theirs.

Sallah, no longer the last Tevian, returns to Aldegar with no choice but to enlist the help of the man she hates and the woman she once loved to see her son again.

As the Galactic Balance tips ever more towards chaos, time is running out to save Ales from the destructive forces he has unleashed.

Excerpt

Destructive Forces
Harry F. Rey © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
“Don’t let him get away!” Sallah screamed at the top of her lungs through the chaos of the fiery corridor. Two Ingvar soldiers had her by either arm. They’d dragged her out of the Trades Council plenum-turned-battle zone against her will. Her life was of paramount value to the Ingvar star-state, but she couldn’t care less about that now. Not while this Turo was getting away.

His words, spoken only minutes ago, haunted her mind. I have your son, he’d said, with a swirling sneer. Then everything exploded. Sallah had lost sight of General Morvas and Councilor Nexia in the shooting. Ingvar soldiers had also jumped on them, but the smoke and noise of weapons fire made trying to get back to the ship impossible. Yet it was the last thing Sallah wanted to do—the insurrection in the heart of the Trades Council be damned.

“Get off me.” She struggled against their armor-plated bodies, but they did not relent. Sallah’s feet kept slipping against the smooth marble floor; she couldn’t find a grip. Yelling and the ricochet of weapons banged around the air from every direction, stinging smoke encroaching on their position. Sallah yanked her head around to a din of shots being fired, and the two soldiers pulled her back from the brink of the great hallway where volleys of laser shot fired backward and forward into unknown, unseen sets of troops.

“Get back.” One of the soldiers said and knocked her head back against the wall, trying to avoid edging around the corner into the wide trench of ongoing warfare the great hallway had become. Sallah remembered the way. They had to get across to the other side, through the firing range.

A far-off explosion shook the walls of the building, seeming to strike at the core of the planet itself. The firing ceased, but silence did not return. Instead, the screeching sounds of warplanes entering the Targulian atmosphere filled the once-gilded walkway. Down beyond their position, toward the end of the great hallway, Sallah saw figures moving through the smoke. The shapes could be Turo, or even Ales. The only thing clear was her need to get to them.

Her Ingvar captors looked distracted, scanning the now eerily silent hallway through black visor helmets. One had his hand pointed backward in a halfhearted attempt to keep her still. She edged away from the wall, then glanced into the great hallway. It had the air of some ancient temple; high ceilings reaching up to a glass-domed roof to the hazy orange Targulian air. The heart of the Outer Verge, now consumed in inter-factional war, the Union against the Trades Council, while a foreign power circled the planet like some great mountain vulture. And here she was, the former last Tevian alive. She couldn’t let her life end this way. Not while her son might be right around the corner—hurt, or in danger. Sallah gritted her teeth and launched herself against one of the soldiers. With a swift kick, she booted him in the side, and he tumbled away from her into the space of no man’s land, his footing lost to the smooth-edged floor.

“What are you doing?” the other one cried out through his visor. But it was too late. A volley of weapons fire began again from both sides, riddling the Ingvar soldier’s body from the left and right. Puffs of vaporized blood and brain floated into the air as his lifeless body collapsed in a haze of reddish death.

The living soldier floated in front of her, as if suspended in time, now unsure if she was friend or foe. She wanted to leap toward him, grab the sidearm from his belt, flip, and blast him in the back. The sinews of her body, the echoes of Sallah’s yearning for her son she’d thought lost along with the rest of her home-world, ached for the ability to push him aside and sprint to her destiny. Yet something exploded against her back. It felt as if the walls themselves had collapsed onto her as the polished marble rushed up to meet her face. But she stopped. There was no impact. Something, no, someone grabbed her, saved her from being smashed to the ground.

“I have her,” a metallic voice said through the helmet. Sallah caught the edge of her reflection in the onyx visor. The whites of her eyes enraged and bloodshot against skin the color of a dark and stormy night.

“Let’s go,” said another.

The sound of many more boots smacking against the ground joined with the fire of weapons. Someone held her back, as a stream of Ingvar soldiers rushed from behind, firing their weapons to either side of the great hallway, building a wall of cover fire to cross to the other side. A black-gloved arm pulled her back by the chest, and she struggled to no avail.

“This way, general,” a voice said behind her. “Increase fire, don’t hold back,” it yelled to the soldiers holding the line the breadth of the hallway to the narrower corridor across the other side. General Morvas staggered past, helped by two soldiers. His soft, gray hair and distinguished features were dripping in blood from an open wound across his skull, his robes torn and wrapped around an arm as a makeshift bandage. The volley of fire from the soldiers turned into a crescendo of noise and smoke. Most likely no one was firing back from either side, but they kept the rate up as the half-crouched general crossed the hallway like a child being rescued from a fire.

Councilor Nexia came along next, her frail elderly body slung over the back of a soldier as if she were won as a prize of war.

“Sallah,” the Trades Council leader cried out. “Come with us, now. The Union are starting a war.”

Sallah pushed against her captor’s arm with all her power. “No! I must find Turo. I must—”

“We have him. He’s on the ship.” Nexia said. The soldier carrying her didn’t stop running. “Get her back to the fleet,” Nexia yelled over the rage of battle toward Sallah’s captor. She was a prize they couldn’t lose.

Powerful armored hands grabbed her from behind, squeezing her sides so hard she felt the pain through the adrenaline rush. There was no way to break free. Turo, Ales—she had to find them. Sallah struggled against her captor, legs flying back in a wild storm of trying to find any weak point in the armor and land a kick to skin.

“Let me go.”

He’d had enough. He didn’t think twice. Like Nexia in front of her, the soldier hoisted her body across his shoulder and ran after the others, darting through the protective enclosure. It was terrifying. The world had turned upside down. All she could see was the smoke from the far end of the great hallway rising up to the glass convex ceiling, here and there blocking out the hazy orange above. Yet through the glass, she saw the flashes of war and the trails of missiles and strike ships painting their destructive pattern. The Ingvar invasion had begun.

The bouncing became rhythmic, and she lost all sense of thinking beyond the next few minutes. Get to the ship, get to Turo. She’d beat that man to a pulp to find out where her son was. She’d swear to the Ingvar to never conduct another experiment again if they did not help her track down Ales. She’d gouge the secrets of galinium and STAR drives from her brain and cast them into the black void of nothingness unless the entirety of the fleet of the Ingvar Empire cast every ion toward finding her son. She’d rip apart the Outer Verge to find…

“Hurl her inside. That’s it.”

Sallah was flung upward, then caught by firm hands and dragged into the confines of a compact shuttle. Nexia and Morvas were stretched out alongside her, being tended to by soldiers with their visors up. The women and men in Ingvar uniform and their faces consumed in the rapid swirl of action. They had no time to think, only do.

“That’s all; time to go,” a voice said. She turned her head to the left through a sharp edge of pain to the two pilots in the narrow cockpit. One was gesturing to get the soldiers out of the shuttle.

“Wait,” Sallah screamed. “I need my son. I need Turo.” She pulled herself to her feet, ready to boot everyone else out of the shuttle and fly around the city-world herself to find him.

“No time,” the pilot yelled back, looking ready to meet her fists. “I’m taking you back to the fleet now. Strap in.”

Out of options, Sallah briefly contemplated jumping on one of the soldiers currently assisting the bruised-looking Nexia and Morvas into their shuttle seats against the narrow walls. Something caught her eye at the back of the shuttle, a soldier she now realized had been standing over someone. He moved out of the way, ready to exit the ship, and then she saw him, strapped in against his will and hands frozen in electromagnetic cuffs.

“You piece of flank,” Sallah yelled at Turo in the crowded confines of the ship. The rest of the soldiers ducked outside to the increasingly loud sounds of weapons fire.

“Strap in!” The pilot yelled from behind her as the shuttle door snapped closed.

“I’ll fucking kill you right now unless you tell me where my son is.” Turo’s green eyes looked up at her, his face smoky and bloodied from the fight, but his eyes alive, and a thin, narrow smile across his lips. The look of a man who, even in defeat, would prefer to watch everything he’d worked for go up in noxious flames than surrender. She launched her fist straight down into his stomach, the straps holding him back keeping him from bending over in reaction to the blow as the ship rumbled into action.

He spat out a gob of phlegm and blood onto the polished floor and returned only a smile. She cocked another fist.

“Sallah, stop,” Morvas called from behind, as the ship jerked up from the ground. She grabbed a metal bar above her head as the shuttle rumbled into the hazy sky. The sight through the windows dissolved her anger into terrified wonder. Targuline had descended into full-on war. Fighters dipped and dived behind the great trunks of Shards; missiles from space streaked across the orange sky as billows of black smoke infected the world.

Sallah turned her attention back to Turo. She held on above as the shuttle bounced around the atmosphere, worried it would drop from the sky at any moment—or perhaps be torn in two from heavy weapons fire. Neither was acceptable. She slammed her free hand into Turo’s throat, squeezing the sinews hard.

“Where is my son?”

Spluttered nothings fell from his mouth. Clearly, he hadn’t expected to be choked. As he raised a cuffed arm, where his wrist-tech sat, she released him from her deathly grip.

“I have him,” he coughed. “Tracked, here.”

Sallah twisted the arm with the wrist-tech, causing him to writhe in pain. Arms were not designed to twist in such a way, but she took comfort in his obvious agony.

“Find him.” Her eyes flashed with the power of a supernova. One primed for explosion

“Locate Ales,” he said into the device. The screen built a rudimentary map of the area with a clear green dot showing him less than fifty kilometers away. “Look, he’s still close by.” Sallah tried to make sense of the map, but the shaking shuttle and the moving blocks of images on the wrist-tech made it almost impossible to follow. She kept her eye solely on the distance counter, which steadily ticked upward as the shuttle flew up into the atmosphere toward the void of space.

“He’s on a ship, look.” Turo twisted his wrist-tech farther around, with an edge of humanity in his voice, which took her by surprise. The view of the outside moved around Morvas and Nexia from the hazy, orange battle-scarred sky to the cool blackness of space. Shards poked through the stratosphere, but the normally bustling routes in and out of the planet and its space stations were frozen by the invasion.

She stared past Nexia at the Ingvar fleet assembled in battle formation. She’d flown with them from Aldegar in the odd position she held as both a prisoner and most-valued individual, across their emerging empire. She knew this was every ship the Ingvar had. Battle Cruisers and troop transports, command vessels and fighter carriers; an entire fleet constructed from the scraps of the Crejan occupation force the young star-state liberated themselves from.

They had gambled their empire on this force, throwing everything they had against the Outer Verge, the only power in the galaxy weaker than themselves, in order to seize the STAR drive and power into the unknown universe beyond. Now, with their fifty-ship fleet amassed around the Targulian atmosphere and the Verge descending into civil war, they needed to get their hands on the raw galinium mined in the far edge of the Outer Verge.

Sallah reminded herself she didn’t care for whom she provided the prototypes of the STAR drives or which empire seized on her research. The Union, the Seven Suns, the Ingvar—she cared not for any of them. She had cared only for herself and the chance it may give her to rebuild the world she had lost. Sallah’s hands clasped her stomach as if it was about to explode.

“What’s that?” Nexia called out behind her, pointing to the window and the Ingvar fleet beyond. A single ship with a strange greenish glow around it was racing up from the orange haze toward the mass of ships. Sallah had only ever considered that glow in the theory of her work. It can’t be.

“It’s Ales,” Turo said, shifting his wrist-tech toward her line of sight stuck on the window, staring at the fleet the shuttle jiggered toward. Her throat flicked closed, a lifetime’s worth of tears held back by nothing but a single hope that soon she may be reunited with the son she’d thought lost.

“Tell them to bring him in,” she screamed at the pilot. He looked back with a gasp of worry. Morvas quickly nodded his approval.

“Fleet command, there’s an unidentified small vessel headed right to you from the planet. It’s friendly. Repeat, friendly. High-value cargo,” the pilot said into the comms.

Sallah left Turo in his strapped-down position and pressed her face against the clear window. His ship was getting closer to the fleet, like a single drop edging ever closer to a waiting beast. But the greenish glow around him grew ever bolder. She pressed her hand against the glass as Morvas, and then Nexia, unclipped from their seats and joined her.

“What is it?” Morvas demanded. “Is that a weapon? Is this an attack?”

She couldn’t even whisper a No. Sallah felt as if her mind had been severed from her body. It may as well float in the empty void of nothing. Her mind, her soul, unable to comprehend the things she was seeing. Who had built such a thing? Everything had been theoretical, only experiments. How could her research, her life’s work, sever her son from her once again?

The glow became stronger and ever brighter as the STAR drive ignited its galinium core. The space around his ship warped and swirled in a cloud of green as the horizon point broke free from the ship’s engine, the greenish bubble growing wide enough to encompass the entire Ingvar fleet.

“No. It’s too much. It’s too powerful.” The beat of her heart burst into her skull as the horizon point from Ales’ ship reached its zenith.

“What?” Morvas demanded. “What is? Tell me now.”

The flash forced Nexia and Morvas to turn away. But Sallah did not. Her eyes burned and ached for the briefest moment, but then the darkness returned. The black, blank darkness of space above the hazy orange orb. Now empty except for a long, glowing white streak of nothing where Ales and the entire Ingvar fleet had just been. Whoever had created that STAR drive had grossly miscalculated the proportions of weaponized galinium required.

“Sallah, he’s gone,” Turo said in quiet shock, a note of fear in his voice Sallah would never have thought a man such as he would have.

“Where’s my fleet?” Morvas shrieked. “For infinity’s sake, where is my fleet?”

Sallah said nothing. Her eyes focused on her own reflection as she watched a single tear drip down her cheek. It was too painful to look at the empty space where her son and all the ships of the Ingvar empire had been, now lost in some unknown galaxy.

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Meet the Author

Harry F. Rey is an author and lover of gay themed stories with a powerful punch with influences ranging from Alan Hollinghurst to Isaac Asimov to George R.R. Martin. He loves all things sci-fi and supernatural, and always with a gay twist. Harry is originally from the UK but lives in Jerusalem, Israel with his husband.

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Love High Fantasy? Check Out the New Release Blitz for Royal Rescue by A. Alex Logan (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Royal Rescue

Author: A. Alex Logan

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: April 8, 2019

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: No Romance, Male/Male

Length: 111500

Genre: New Adult Fantasy, LGBT, asexual, high fantasy, dragons, royalty, magic, young adult, gay, family drama, hurt/comfort

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Synopsis

At age eighteen, when they become marriageable, all royal children in the Thousand Kingdoms must either go questing to rescue another royal or be hidden away to await rescue themselves. Some go the traditional route of princes rescuing princesses, but not all princes want to be rescuers…and some would rather rescue other princes.

Then there’s Prince Gerald, who has no interest in getting married at all. When he refuses to choose a role as either rescuer or rescuee, his royal parents choose for him and have him magicked away to a distant tower to await a spouse.

Gerald, however, is having none of it. He recruits his guardian dragon and a would-be rescuer and soon the trio is dashing to all corners of the united kingdoms on a quest to overturn the entire system.

Excerpt

Gerald followed the steward to the study wearing an expression that would have been more appropriate if he were being led to the dungeon. The steward rapped on the door twice before opening it and stepping aside for Gerald. She gave the young man an encouraging wink, but he was too intent on bracing himself for the upcoming confrontation to notice.

He took a deep breath, visibly set his shoulders and stepped through the doorway. The steward closed the door behind him, and Gerald fought back the feeling of being trapped.

“Don’t lurk in the doorway,” an imposing voice scolded. “Come in where I can see you.”

Gerald did as he was told, stopping and giving a shallow bow when the woman came into view. She nodded, acknowledging the courtesy, which caused the sunlight streaming in through the window to catch and reflect off her golden crown.

Gerald resisted the urge to reach up and touch his own circlet—silver—which he too late realized was probably once again askew.

“Well?” the Queen asked. “Have you made your decision?”

Another deep breath, another forceful straightening of his shoulders, and Gerald said, a hint of defiance in his tone, “I have.”

The Queen’s harsh expression broke into a smile. “Oh, Gerald, thank goodness. Your mum and I were about at our wits’ end! There’s barely enough time left to make all the arrangements. So, what will it be? Rescuer or rescuee?”

“Neither.”

The smile melted off the Queen’s face. “Neither! Don’t be ridiculous, Gerald. You said you had made your decision.”

“I have,” he said, crossing his arms in front of his chest. “I’ve decided not to participate.”

“That is not an option,” she said coldly, the warmth in her voice gone the same way as the smile. “As you are well aware.”

“I don’t wish to marry,” Gerald replied, trying to match her tone but not quite managing it. “As you are well aware.”

The Queen waved her hand dismissively. “This is merely the first step. It may take a year or even two for you to rescue—or be rescued by—someone who appeals. Then there’s the courtship, the inter-kingdom negotiations, planning the festivities…why, unless it’s True Love and you two want to rush things, I doubt the wedding will happen before you turn twenty-one.”

“I didn’t say ‘I don’t wish to marry in the next three years’,” Gerald said, forcing himself to keep his voice level even as he balled his hands into fists. “I said, ‘I don’t wish to marry.’ As in, ever.”

But the Queen was no longer listening.

“I really don’t know where we went wrong with you,” she said. “We never had this sort of problem with your older siblings or even your twinling…”

“Don’t call her that,” Gerald snapped. “You know how much I hate that—we’re not twins, we’re not even sort-of twins. We’re half-siblings at best and maybe not even related at all.”

The Queen looked up at the ceiling as if imploring it to give her strength. “Now you’re being deliberately obtuse,” she snapped back. “You know very well that the term ‘twinling’ has been in use for at least a century throughout every single one of the Thousand Kingdoms, and it’s a perfectly apt word. You’re acting like your mum and I made it up to irritate you. You’re acting like a child, Gerald.”

“Isn’t the point of all this that I am a child?” he responded. “Isn’t the entire purpose of this whole charade of rescue and marriage to make me into an adult?”

“It’s hardly a charade. It’s—”

“—a well-respected, long-established tradition to encourage young royals to broaden their horizons, explore more of the Thousand Kingdoms, find love, and forge stronger connections among the Kingdoms, yes, yes, I know,” Gerald interrupted. “I still say it’s a charade. It’s perfectly possible to accomplish all of those goals without forcing every royal into a ridiculous marriage quest the moment they turn eighteen.”

“You seem to be forgetting something very important here, Gerald,” the Queen said calmly.

“What’s that?”

“This isn’t optional.”

“You can’t force me to choose,” Gerald said. “Why can’t you leave me be and let Lila broaden her horizons, explore the Kingdoms, forge alliances, and all that rot? She wants to.”

“You have ten days,” the Queen continued, as if Gerald hadn’t spoken. She turned away without even bothering to dismiss him.

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Meet the Author

Alex Logan is an asexual, agender librarian from New York state. Always an avid reader, Alex has branched out from reading books to writing them. Alex’s other main interest is soccer, which they enjoy watching, playing, and (of course) reading about.

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Check Out the New Release Blitz for Hunter (Roam #2) by Dez Schwartz (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Hunter

Series: Roam, Book Two

Author: Dez Schwartz

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: April 8, 2019

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 50800

Genre: Paranormal, LGBT, Vampires, other paranormal beings, sandman, Dream World, magic

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Synopsis

Dr. Grady Hunter has a vampire infestation on his hands in the town of Shady Pines, but he’s been deserted by those best suited to help. After enlisting Chris Reed, a techno-mage, they find the vampires might only be the tip of a deadly iceberg.

Returning home from his dream travels, Ethan Roam is eager to experiment with his newly discovered powers. But Ethan isn’t the only familiar arrival in Grady’s life. As more reminders of his dark past crop up, Grady and Ethan are swept up in a mystery of cosmic proportions.

Grady must fight to keep an ever-evolving Ethan on his side while being challenged by the ghosts of his past.

Excerpt

The old park in Shady Pines was the stuff of nightmares. Or so it would seem to anyone who happened upon the derelict area after the sun set. In actuality, it was simply a park. Located across from the oldest district in the small Texas city of Shady Pines and near the edge of a small forest encompassing the town, the park was extremely rundown and typically abandoned during the daytime. A snapshot of times past, the neglected playground had standard metal slides and jungle gyms, before modern worries of bruises, broken bones, and burns on hot afternoons. Like most cities, Shady Pines had since created newer and safer places for families to gather. And so, the old park had fallen to ruin but still remained hopeful its ghosts would return to play again.

As it happened, quite a few creatures loved to play there, but they were rarely of the human set. Part of what made the place so eerie was park’s location. Once sunset arrived, a thick fog would roll in from the marshes in the woods and overtake the area. If one were to stand there, as Dr. Grady Hunter was doing now, the murky haze would only rise to roughly one’s waist depending on their height. The moon would hang bright and looming overhead, as it also was now, to cast shadows all around. And a breeze would cause swings to sway, and the paint chipped merry-go-round to spin ever so slightly, as was also happening now. At least, one would hope the movement was due to the breeze. Unless, of course, the person was Dr. Grady Hunter and was hoping for something else.

“Any signs of movement? Blast this fog!” Grady, a semi-former monster hunter and more recently self-appointed alternative healer of supernaturals, whispered into the small microphone on the headset he was wearing. His British accent was always strongest when he was frustrated. The park wasn’t his first choice of venue to lure vampires, but any abandoned buildings or dark alleys would provide them too much of an advantage and surely seem like a setup. They would definitely be suspicious. He supposed they should be suspicious of a man in his late thirties strolling through the old park at night alone but, as the case happened, they appeared to find that behavior completely normal.

“Nada. And don’t worry about the fog. The visuals I’m pulling from my cameras penetrate right through it.” A casually confident, and extremely American in contrast, male voice replied back from the other side of the communication device between sounds of chewing.

“Are you eating right now? We’re working!” Grady admonished, still in a whisper as he slowly strolled through the park with his hand hovering by his waist. He had a number of weapons at the ready beneath his long brown coat in case he was successful in finding what he was looking for.

“Please, I’m the king of multitasking. Besides, it’s past my dinnertime and I can’t refuse a sushi place if I pass one,” the voice responded. Grady could tell the man on the other side, Chris Reed, was smiling. Then, he became urgent. “Ahab, you’ve got a white whale at ten o’clock.”

“That’s not my code name. We don’t have code names. Don’t make things up on the spot. It’s distracting,” Grady griped but whipped around to face whatever was heading his way.

“If we did, though, I think I’d want to be Zaphod,” Chris replied, obviously slurping a drink. “Your target is hovering by the slide. Not the loopy one. The tall straight one. I fell off a slide once when I was a kid. I was pretending to be Indiana Jones. Broke my wrist. Great summer.”

“Your lifelong aspiration to be fictional characters is both charming and annoying. Going silent now,” Grady replied as he stalked slowly in the direction of the slide. He reached inside his jacket for a stake. He saw a figure’s shadow wavering across the top of the fog. It definitely appeared human, which most likely meant it was a vampire. He tried to keep his weapon concealed beneath the haze and pretended he was simply walking in the same direction, unaware of the creature’s presence.

“Whip out the big boy! It’s an ambush from behind!” Chris shouted in his ear. Unable to keep from chuckling, he added, “That didn’t come out how I meant. But seriously, you’re under attack. “

Grady immediately switched to a revolving handheld crossbow, which was loaded with a round of stakes, should a situation such as this ever arise. He spun on his heel in time to see four vampires running full speed in his direction. He shot one down but then had to momentarily turn his attention back to the first vampire, who had taken the opportunity to pounce on him.

Grady wrestled free of his grip and knocked him onto the slide where he toppled over the edge and onto the ground.

“Yeah, pretty much how I broke my wrist,” Chris commented.

“Oh, do shut up!” Grady shouted back in the mic. The outburst caused some mild confusion for the vampires as none of them had been speaking, but it didn’t deter them from continuing their attack.

Two of the vampires lifted Grady and slammed him into the ground on his back, knocking the wind out of him. He felt a cracking pain he didn’t have time to assess, as one of the vampires straddled his chest and went fangs-first for his neck. He managed to pull the revolver up to the creature’s chest and let loose a stake right before he was torn into. He rolled free, still with three vampires to face and precisely three stakes left in his crossbow.

“This is exciting. You’re doing a great job, boss!” Chris complimented.

“Not! Helpful!” Grady panted as he attempted to catch his breath. He didn’t get much of a break as another vampire grabbed him by the shoulder and jerked his arm backward, trying to rip the crossbow from his grasp. Grady shouted in response to the wrenching pain.

“Keep him there!” Chris commanded. “I can get a shot in. He’s right in the line of fire.”

“I’m not the one in control at the moment, thank you!” Grady grieved between gritted teeth as he tried to maintain control of the weapon against the thrashing pull of the vampire. Thankfully, the vampire on the other side of the slide was only now running over to try to help his cohort, and the third had opted to watch the scene rather than participate.

A wild shot seemed to fly in out of nowhere. Grady knew the attack came from one of the cameras they had placed around the park for their mission. Attached to the bottom of each supernatural night vision camera was a small loaded device that would shoot a stake with bullet-like precision when activated. It was one of the many weapons they’d had to develop and utilize in the past few months as the vampire infestation in Shady Pines had progressively gotten worse and Grady found himself without much help in dealing with the problem.

Ethan Roam, his new partner in both work and life—who happened to be a sandman, was still away dream traveling. Benny, weredog and roommate, was living the high life as a spoiled Chihuahua fifty percent of the time, rendering him practically ineffective. Vivian Edwards, a highly skilled witch and his former secretary, refused to speak to him or respond to any of his messages. Ethan’s mother, Karen Roam, and their mutual friend, Dr. Arthur Ellis, were eager to help. However, while they were fine comrades in research, they were useless in the field. Grady had no choice but to call upon an old acquaintance to help with the crisis. Chris Reed, a rogue hunter and techno-mage. Thankfully, Chris was more than capable and equally enthusiastic at the prospect. He enjoyed inventing new ways to destroy and capture supernatural creatures, and he’d decided working with Grady was a fantastic way to demo his creations. Unfortunately, even with Chris’s handiwork and help, they hadn’t made much of a dent in the vampire population, which was rapidly growing and terrorizing the citizens (and other paranormals) who generally enjoyed a night out from time to time.

The shot hit the vampire perfectly, and Grady fell forward onto his knees, free of the monster’s grasp. This, however, caused the crossbow to fly free from the ended struggle and fall into the fog. Grady couldn’t see where the weapon landed and began swearing. Knowing he had only moments, he reached back into his jacket and produced two khukuri knives. He stood quickly, ready to face the vampire who had been standing by watching, but was surprised to find he’d disappeared.

“Bugger! One escaped. Did you see where he went?” Grady asked into the mic as he rounded on the last vampire, already furiously leaping toward him.

“Dammit! No. I’m sorry,” Chris replied. “I had my eye on my shot.”

Grady pulled up the khukuri knives on either side of the vampire’s throat as the creature attempted to attack him. The vampire’s eyes grew wide in surprise, realizing he was about to be beheaded. He met Grady’s gaze in a pleading manner. Grady hated when they did that. It made him think of Dacey Sinnett, the only vampire he’d ever call a friend, and he suddenly felt sick to his stomach. Grady did his best to keep his resolve.

“Tell me who is leading you, or I will end you right now!” Grady demanded, his expression ferociously serious.

“You’ll do it anyway,” the vampire spat back.

Grady shoved his weight forward and slammed him up against the slide, blades tightly gripped around the vampire’s neck.

“Your cooperation may convince me otherwise. Now answer the question!” he commanded again.

“You’re great at playing bad cop, Grady,” Chris interjected in his ear. Once again, he practically heard him grinning. Grady wished he could rip his headset off but right now his hands were full.

“I don’t know his name,” the vampire played along. “He showed up out of nowhere a few months ago. Started making promises and threats; demanding that we help him.”

“Help him with what?” Grady seized the opportunity to gather much-needed information. “And is he a vampire? A human? Something else?”

“He wants us to tear this pathetic town to pieces until we find—” The vampire’s answer was forever halted as he was hit expertly with a stake.

“Dammit! Chris, was that you?” Grady yelled angrily.

“No!” Chris was defensive. Grady stood, with no vampire left to interrogate, and looked around. He saw the source at the same time Chris must have on the cameras.

“Guess he found your crossbow,” Chris sighed limply as the last vampire, the one who had gone missing, ran off into the night after killing their only chance at finding some answers.

Grady kicked the slide in frustration which caused a metallic gong to echo around the now empty park. They weren’t any closer to dealing with the problem or having any real answers.

“Sorry tonight was a bust, man,” Chris consoled.

“Same story, different night,” Grady sighed. He brushed off as much dirt and grass from his jacket and pants as possible and attempted to calm his frustrations.

“Don’t worry, tiger. We’ll get them one of these days.” Chris was already back to his upbeat self. “If it’s any consolation, you looked like a total badass. I have to admit, watching you fight has to be my second favorite thing about this gig.”

“Oh, really? And what’s the first?” Grady smirked. Chris didn’t let anyone feel down for too long.

“The inevitable moments where I get to save your ass, of course,” Chris chimed.

“Prat.” Grady rolled his eyes but smiled anyway as he headed back through the park toward his old Jaguar.

“Twat,” Chris responded without missing a beat. Grady chuckled. If nothing else, at least having Chris around kept up morale.

“Go ahead and take the rest of the night off,” Grady said, getting into his vehicle. He glanced back at the park once more, in case he missed something, but the area remained quiet and empty. “I suppose Benny already went home?”

“Yeah, he left a while back. He said watching would make him nervous. And to be honest, I’m not much of a fan of small yapping dogs,” Chris replied. Grady heard him shutting off various equipment in the background.

“All right. See you tomorrow, then.” Grady turned off the headset and tossed the device into the passenger seat. He leaned back into the headrest and closed his eyes, inhaling deeply and slowly letting his breath back out.

“Find. What could they possibly want to find so badly in Shady Pines?” Grady asked himself aloud as he recalled what the vampire tried to tell him. The pit of his stomach tightened and his heart grew heavy because he had a pretty good idea of what, or whom, that might be.

He brought the car to life and drove straight home, feeling the need to be at Ethan’s sleeping side.

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Meet the Author

Vampire apologist and lifelong enthusiast of classic gothic horror, cryptids, and the occult; Dez Schwartz writes Dreampunk & Paranormal LGBTQ Fiction with a spellbinding balance of darkness and humor. When she’s not busy writing, she can most likely be found with a latte in hand, perusing antique shops for oddities and peculiar vintage books or wrangling her demonic (but adorable) cats.

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