New Book Release Blitz for A Dance of Water and Air ( Elemental Magicae #1) by Antonia Aquilante (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: A Dance of Water and Air

Series: Elemental Magicae, Book One

Author: Antonia Aquilante

Publisher: NineStar Press, LLC

Release Date: October 1, 2018

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 83600

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, fantasy, trans, magic, elements, court intrigue, arranged marriage, friends to lovers

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Synopsis

Edmund is heir to the throne of Thalassa and a wielder of Water magic. Devoted to his kingdom and his duty to it, Edmund can do nothing but acquiesce to an arranged marriage with the queen of a neighboring kingdom. The marriage and the child it is required to produce will seal an alliance between Thalassa and Aither that is vital to Thalassa’s safety, and far more important than Edmund’s personal misgivings.

Arden is the younger brother of Aither’s queen and a wielder of Air magic. Raised in the politics of the court to support his sister’s rule, he understands the alliance is important to Aither, even as he worries about his sister marrying someone she’s never met. When Edmund arrives in Aither to prepare for the wedding, Arden is tasked with helping him settle in at court. As they spend more time together, Edmund and Arden develop a close friendship, then stronger feelings, but with Edmund’s wedding approaching, they must hide their feelings, even from themselves.

When someone tries to assassinate the queen, Edmund is blamed, and Arden rescues him before he can be executed for a crime he didn’t commit. To prevent a war between their kingdoms and protect them from a dangerous enemy, Edmund and Arden will have to discover who wants to pit Aither and Thalassa against each other and mend relations between the two kingdoms as they evade those searching for them—all while finding a way to be together.

Excerpt

The Dance of Water and Air
Antonia Aquilante © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
Edmund swam, long limbs slicing through the clear, warm water. His mind quieted in the repetitive motion, in the weightlessness and the comfort of being surrounded by his Element. Everything washed away, leaving him calm and relaxed, the only time he ever was lately.

If only he could stay there.

He imagined it for a moment. Spending his life swimming and sailing. All his time in the soothing embrace of the water, or at the shore or bank, feeling Water’s power, learning to use its magic. It was a lovely dream. A lovely, impossible dream. With that thought, tension—the tension his morning swim had briefly dispelled—came flooding back. He stopped swimming and flipped onto his back, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath before letting it out in a long sigh.

The sigh had barely left him when he heard the scrape of a shoe against stone. He bit back another sigh and flipped over again to straighten and tread water in the center of the large pool. His secretary stood on the tiled terrace. Peregrine knew better than anyone that this time was Edmund’s and wouldn’t disturb him unless it was urgent. Disaster or grave injury were top of the list.

“Good morning.”

“Good morning, Highness.” Peregrine would never call him by name when someone else might hear, and Edmund would never try to convince him otherwise. Edmund was far too aware of the dictates of his own position. And far too grateful to have found a friend in Peregrine to quibble overly about how they had to behave in public. “I apologize for disturbing you, sir, but the king has called for you.”

A summons from Father certainly counted as a valid reason to disturb him, especially with the rising tensions between Thalassa and their neighbor, Tycen. It seemed Edmund would be cutting his swim short this morning. He struck out for the terrace where Peregrine waited, swimming with steady but unhurried strokes. He wouldn’t dawdle, but if there had been reason to rush, Peregrine would have said.

Soon enough, he reached the terrace and pulled himself up to sit on the edge. Peregrine handed him a towel. He wiped his face first and stood to strip off his soaking wet swim pants and dry the rest of him. Peregrine wouldn’t care about Edmund’s nudity, and he didn’t worry that someone else would come upon them. The pool he chose for his swims wasn’t the largest of the many on the palace grounds, but it was the most private. The terrace they stood on was the only one that connected to the palace, and it was shaded from view. The rest of the area was screened with trees and shrubbery. The smaller terraces on the side opposite them were even more secluded. He’d spent much time in the pool, which was fed by the same underground spring as the rest of the palace waterways, and on the terraces over the years.

Once Edmund was dry, Peregrine handed him the robe he’d left hanging over the back of a chair when he’d arrived. He’d also left a book there—he’d been far too optimistic about his time when he came down here, apparently. He thanked Peregrine and shrugged into the blue-green silk. It was new, something he hadn’t really needed, but he liked the color against his brown skin and the feel of the smooth, cool silk.

“Any idea what my father needs?” Edmund stepped into his sandals and picked up his book from the table.

“None.”

He raised his eyebrow at Peregrine in surprise. Edmund could always rely on Peregrine for more information than seemed possible about everyone from the maids to the king. He’d long since gotten over any misgivings about Peregrine’s seeming omniscience and begun to rely on it. For Peregrine not to have an inkling of what was brewing… Odd. And slightly disturbing.

“I guess we’ll find out.”

Not immediately, of course. A summons through official channels called for more formality. Edmund couldn’t appear in the king’s presence in nothing but a thin robe and sandals. Peregrine kept pace as Edmund walked to his rooms, informing him of other court news and gossip that he might find interesting or useful as they walked.

Edmund’s rooms were a floor up from the garden pool. A guard stationed near the door jumped to open it for Edmund as he approached. He nodded but didn’t slow as he sailed through the door, Peregrine at his heels. His sandals made soft tapping sounds on the green and white tile of the entryway. His sitting room opened up in front of him, curtains fluttering in the breeze blowing in off the ocean below. He had no time to relax there or even to eat the breakfast that was sure to be laid out in the dining room. Instead, he turned left, taking the short hallway leading to his bedchamber, dressing room, and bathing room.

He went directly to the bathing room. Wide windows let in sunlight over the large tub, empty because he usually bathed after breakfast. There was no time to fill it, let alone soak. He settled for rinsing the salt from his skin with water from the basin and briskly rubbed a towel over his shoulder-length hair. Having it drip all over his clothing while he met with Father just wouldn’t do. When he’d squeezed as much of the water from it as he could, he left the towel and went to the dressing room.

Peregrine was there, laying out clothes.

“That isn’t your job,” Edmund said.

“I’m aware.”

“I can select my own clothing.”

“I’m aware of that as well. Put them on anyway.”

Edmund laughed and did as he was told. Peregrine was only saving him time and knew what would be appropriate for him to wear, considering the meeting with Father and the day ahead. He pulled on undergarments and slim gray pants and dropped a sleeveless white shirt over his head. Peregrine held out a dark teal jacket for him, helping him shrug into the embroidered silk. Edmund murmured his thanks and fastened the jacket over his chest, fingers working quickly over the row of little silver buttons. When he was finished, he stepped into shoes and fastened the silver and aquamarine drop earrings Peregrine had just pulled from their box into his ears. It was the only jewelry Peregrine had chosen, and as he looked in the mirror, Edmund had to admit he was probably right in that. The clothing didn’t need more.

“Thank you,” Edmund said.

“My pleasure, Edmund.”

“Perhaps I should have you dress me every day. You have an eye for it. Much better than anyone else. Do you think you’d prefer it to being my secretary?”

Peregrine sent a stern frown at Edmund. “Funny.”

It was, for any number of reasons. Only one being that Peregrine was frighteningly efficient in his present position and far too good at it to do anything else. In fact, he was far too skilled to be anything except a royal secretary, and it was Edmund’s good fortune to have him.

“Shall we?” Peregrine didn’t mention that Edmund shouldn’t keep Father waiting, but he didn’t have to.

“Yes. Catch me up on any changes to my schedule as we walk.”

Peregrine did so, barely consulting his notebook. Edmund listened carefully as they left his rooms and strode through the palace corridors. His own wing, reserved for the rooms of the royal children, was quiet as it was only occupied by him and Kerenza. His sister would still be abed—she preferred to rise late when she had the opportunity—and he had no appointments that might bring anyone to his office until later in the day. When they passed out of the wing, the entrance marked by a three-tiered fountain decorated in mosaics of blue and green tiles, the corridors became more populated. But everyone gave way for the prince and his secretary, bowing as Edmund passed them.

Father’s office was near the council chambers and other administrative offices in the main block of the palace. He worked sometimes in the small private library attached to his rooms, but all his official meetings took place here. If Edmund had any doubt that today’s summons was serious and formal, it would have been dispelled by the location of the meeting.

Peregrine knocked when they arrived, and a moment later, the door was opened by Father’s secretary, who bowed and stepped aside. Edmund bowed slightly as soon as he entered the room, then walked closer to Father’s desk. Peregrine remained back near the closed door. Father looked up from the papers he was examining to study Edmund with a keen eye. Edmund was sure Father was cataloging every detail of his appearance from his attire to his still damp hair.

Father was dressed formally, as Edmund would expect. His jacket was green, heavily embroidered in gold and white, the color vivid against his dark skin. The circlet of his rank sat on his head amid black curls now streaked with gray. Edmund had not worn his own circlet, deeming it unnecessary for the day he had planned; he hoped he wouldn’t regret that decision. The set of Father’s features caused Edmund’s stomach to churn unpleasantly.

“You called for me, Father?”

“Yes. Come sit down. I need to speak with you.” The seriousness of his tone did nothing to alleviate Edmund’s sudden concern.

Edmund took the chair across from Father’s desk, hoping he properly concealed his anxiety. He’d been trained all his life to mask every emotion, so he’d best be able to. He looked at Father and waited for him to speak.

“As you know, we’ve been pursuing an alliance with Aither,” Father said.

And, of course, Edmund did know, though he hadn’t been involved in the negotiations. Aither sat at their western border. Theirs was generally a friendly border to begin with, trade flowing freely between the two countries, but Father and his council had hoped that the looming threat of Tycen’s aggression might worry Aither’s young queen as much as it had them and would tempt her into an alliance. Edmund hadn’t been informed about the state of the negotiations in some time. Had they gone horribly wrong?

“We’ve come to an agreement with Queen Hollis.”

“You—” Edmund stopped. He’d been so sure Father was going to say just the opposite that he couldn’t believe what he’d heard. “That’s wonderful, Father. Did the final agreement go as you’d hoped?”

“We got what we needed from it.”

“Good.” And yet the relief Edmund should’ve been feeling didn’t come. Father didn’t look as if he’d just concluded a successful negotiation, didn’t look as if he was pleased by the outcome. Or…no, not as if he was displeased, but too serious. “Is something wrong?”

“Not at all. However, the promises of increased trade and mutual protection were not enough on their own to secure the alliance we needed.”

Edmund wasn’t surprised, though he hadn’t been privy to the particulars of what Father wanted, aside from Aither standing with them should Tycen press their aggression. “What did they ask for?”

“Queen Hollis and her advisors required more assurance of our compliance, and truth be told, I wasn’t upset to have more of theirs. They’re Air wielders, so they’re different from us, but Water and Air are compatible. Even if I would have preferred an alliance with no deeper entanglements.”

“Father?” A rush of cold spread through Edmund’s veins.

“You and Queen Hollis will wed with the expectation of a child being born within two years. The alliance will be secured by blood and all the stronger for it.”

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Antonia Aquilante has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, and at the age of twelve, decided she would be a writer when she grew up. After many years and a few career detours, she has returned to that original plan. Her stories have changed over the years, but one thing has remained consistent—they all end in happily ever after.

She has a fondness for travel (and a long list of places she wants to visit and revisit), taking photos, family history, fabulous shoes, baking treats (which she shares with friends and family), and of course, reading. She usually has at least two books started at once and never goes anywhere without her Kindle. Though she is a convert to e-books, she still loves paper books the best, and there are a couple thousand of them residing in her home with her.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Antonia is living there again after years in Washington, DC and North Carolina for school and work. She enjoys being back in the Garden State but admits to being tempted every so often to run away from home and live in Italy.

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New Book Release Blitz for Death Days by Lia Cooper (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Death Days

Author: Lia Cooper

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: August 6, 2018

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 70000

Genre: Paranormal, college, teaching, magic, dark, slow burn, age gap, vampires, shifters

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Synopsis

By day, Professor Nicholas Littman works as an itinerant professor at a small college in the Pacific Northwest. He teaches seminars on mythology and the intersections of folklore and magic in the ancient world. By night, he’s the local necromancer, a rare magical talent that has left him alienated from other practitioners.

All Nick wants from life is to be left alone to run his magical experiments and teach kids the historical context of magic without anyone being the wiser. Unfortunately, his family is sworn to sit on the council of the Order of the Green Book—a group of magicians dating back to the Crusades—and they aren’t willing to take Nick’s no for an answer.

As though that wasn’t bad enough, a coven of Night Women has arrived in town, warning Nick that there are wolves at his door he had better take care of. But what can one necromancer do when every natural and supernatural card seems stacked against him?

Excerpt

Death Days
Lia Cooper © 2018
All Rights Reserved

One: The Professor
“Today we’re talking about the elision that occurs between Thoth worship in pre-Ptolemaic Egypt and early Greece. Let’s break into four groups for seminar,” Professor Nicolas Littman said, eyeing the half-empty teaching theater. He divided the room with a sweep of his arm and glanced at the clock on the back wall.

“We’ll meet back here in thirty minutes to discuss your thoughts as a group. And I want every small group to come up with a question to pose to the rest of us.”

He felt gratified at the way they began shuffling together into little clusters without further prompting.

“One of you should go use the lounge outside,” he said, waving absently at the small group at the very back of the room.

He didn’t care if they took the direction or not. He trusted in every student’s desire to escape the four walls of the classroom given a millimeter of freedom. All that mattered was that he now had thirty minutes of his own time in which to play hooky.

Nick grabbed a book and the vape out of his bag, and slipped out of the left-hand exit.

Why someone in the administration had decided to give him a corner theater for this class was beyond him. Four credits on Hermetic Mythologies and Cosmologies was hardly in demand. Especially when it was offered as a four-and-a-half-hour option on Saturdays. But if it meant they got a spacious room and the otherwise empty SEM II C building to themselves, he shouldn’t complain. His students could spread out to their hearts’ content, leaving him to steal outside to smoke without anyone around to gripe at him.

“Not even a proper smoke,” he muttered, flicking the round silver device on, warming the metal under his hand.

Nick sat on the concrete with his back to the building’s cement exterior and his knees bent, pressed the tip of the vape between his lips, and held down the button for a long, comforting drag. He closed his eyes to the bright sun and tipped his head back against the wall. Vapor streamed out of his pursed lips in a thick, fragrant cloud and pooled in the air above his head.

“Hiding from the students again?” an amused voice asked from above.

“I’m not hiding,” Nick grumbled.

A thin body lowered itself down onto the ground next to him, all long spidery limbs that folded with the kind of soft careless agility Nick hadn’t felt in a decade or two.

He looked over at his—teaching assistant wasn’t the word. Technically, Josiah didn’t work for him at all. He was just an independent contract student working on an eight-credit history project, but he let Nick use him like a TA so that’s how he always thought of him.

“What do you call this?” Josiah asked, knocking their shoulders together.

“Seminaring.”

Josiah’s face crumpled up with amusement. His flexible mouth stretched into a laugh while his shoulders shook. Nick held out the vape on offer and waited for Josiah to notice.

“Is it peppermint?” he asked.

Nick nodded.

“No thanks.”

“I’m not buying cake or whatever it is you like.”

“Are you trying to say there’s something wrong with cake?” Josiah returned Nick’s stony look with a nonplussed expression.

“It’s unna—”

“First of all: I don’t remember tobacco ever coming in ‘peppermint flavor’ before, and second: everything you do is unnatural, so that’s not a valid argument coming from you, Professor Littman.”

Nick grimaced. “Don’t call me that.”

“Nick.”

He sighed and took another long drag off his vape, waiting for the nicotine to soothe the flutter in his heart that Josiah’s words had kicked up. Nothing he did was natural. The kid had no idea just how right he was. Nick glanced down at his empty hand, automatically checking his nails for pesky traces of dirt, but there was nothing unusual to see. He’d scrubbed up hard the night before. Done a thorough job not to leave any of those unnatural traces that might have given Josiah a better-formed picture of what his professor and academic adviser got up to in his free time.

Shit, even in his head, he sounded like a pervert.

“You’re wrong. Some things I do are perfectly natural.”

“Like what?”

Nick gave the young man a slow look. “You have a very active imagination, Mr. Wexler.”

“The imagination is a hungry organ, seeking perpetual nourishment. I like to think that it’s not so much I’ve got an active imagination, but rather a well-fed one.”

“That you feed on thoughts of me?” Nick smiled, playing the comment off as a joke even though it left something low and hot in his body to sit up with interest. A curl of amused interest that quivered at the thought of a bright young man captivated by thoughts of him, even if they were merely frustrated or prurient or the passing whim of childish fancy, as he suspected was the case.

“Sometimes,” Josiah admitted, looking away.

The two of them sat in companionable silence until the phone in Nick’s pocket hiccupped its alarm to let him know that the requisite thirty-minute small group had passed, and he had to return again to face the lethargy of his classroom.

“Did you need something?” he asked, using the wall to push himself to his feet, and slipped the vape back into his pocket.

Josiah pulled out a sheaf of printouts from his backpack and held them up for Nick to take. “Two new chapters. I wanted to get your thoughts on them before I continue. It took a—the narrative took a direction we haven’t discussed before.”

“All right. I’ll see what I can do.”

“Thanks.”

“Do you want to come in?”

“Nah, I’ve got to meet Jen. Talk to you next week?”

Nick nodded.

Above them, the sky had dimmed as sure as if someone had taken a dimmer switch to the sun. Dark clouds cast a clear, watery gray light over campus, the edges of the quad hemmed in on all sides by towering dark trees that only helped to feed into the illusion of night creeping over them. The air smelled as though it were about to rain, bitterly cold and damp.

“Do you think it’s going to snow?” Josiah asked, climbing to his feet.

Nick shook his head. “Not a chance.”

He filed back into the teaching theater behind the stragglers. Sixty minutes for discussion and in-class readings, and then he’d be free for the rest of the weekend. Nick perched his feet on the edge of his desk, saw the streaks of mud clinging to his shoes, and dropped them again. He cleared his throat and looked out at the crowd for the first person to meet his eyes.

“Ah, Amelia, why don’t you start us off with a brief summary of what your group discussed.”

He folded his arms over his chest and listened with half an ear while his focus strayed repeatedly to the darkening sky and the promise of rain.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Lia Cooper is a twenty-something native of the Pacific Northwest, voracious reader, pop-culture addict, and writer. She cultivated an early interest in writing through fandom and completed writing her first full length novel with the help of NaNoWriMo.

In the years since, she’s dabbled in catering, barista-ing, and working as a pastry chef before finally returning full time to the thing she loves most: storytelling.

When she’s not glued to Scrivener, Lia enjoys playing video games with friends and reviewing books for her booktube channel.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

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A MelanieM Review: Magic or Die (Inner Demons #1) by JP Jackson

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

James Martin is a teacher, a powerful Psychic, and an alcoholic. He used to work for the Center for Magical Research and Development, a facility that houses people who can’t control their supernatural abilities, but left after one of his students was killed, turning to vodka to soothe his emotional pain. The problem is he still has one year left on his contract.

When James returns to the CMRD to fulfill the rest of his contract, he finds himself confronting the demons of his past and attempting to protect his new class from a possible death sentence, because if they don’t pass their final exams, they’ll be euthanized.

James also discovers that his class isn’t bringing in enough sponsors, the agencies and world governments who supply grants and ultimately purchase graduates of the CMRD, and that means no profit for the facility. James and his students face impossible odds—measure up to the facility’s unreachable standards or escape.

When I start reading a novel by a new author, I always try to approach that first chapter with a fresh outlook and happy  expectation that perhaps I’ve found a new writer to add to my TBR pile.  Sometimes it happens and sometimes not.  On the rare occasion I find an author that goes immediately on my auto buy list.  Welcome, JP Jackson to that list.

Magic or Die by JP Jackson is the first in their Inner Demons series and oh my, what a killer of a story and way to launch a series!  Immediately, Jackson gives us a main character in trouble.  James is a sodden drunk living in squalor.  He’s also a powerful Psychic.  One forced to be a teacher to other  young psychics at a Magical Research and Development facility.

The character of James is so well constructed. A drunk using alcohol unsuccessfully to stop the memories of the past from haunting him.  Or are they really just memories?  James is complex, and will show great growth over the course of the book.  And in a way great failure.  He’s amazing and the reader will commit to him utterly.

But James will come to teach a group of young Psychics.  Some wild, vulnerable, compelling, and the reader will come to ,well, if not love them, then, become inordinately fond of them.  We want them to succeed.  All will feel alive, horrifically, hauntingly, alive.

There are multiple stories being told here.  The author does a admirable job of keeping each one appearing throughout the entire story so you are always aware of the many threads flowing through it.  And their importance to the characters and overall arc.

There is one concerning Jame’s missing sister which is a stunner, one about the Covens and one of the pupils Jame’s will teach, more about the facility itself…all these intriguing narrative balls that the author keeps juggling to high suspense and our great entertainment and  sometimes horror.

Yes, I care about each and every one of these people/beings and need to know more.    Especially after that ending.

I used to absolutely hate cliffhangers.  That would  really guarantee a story a lower rating.  But over the years, that slowly changed until I can see my  way past that.  So  yes, this has a cliffhanger.  One that raised many, many questions for me that I hope are  answered in the next story.

Because everything leading up to that ending?  Just incredible!  The characters, the writing and plot!  So I can imagine the author knows exactly where he is going next here.  I want to be there too.

Pick up Magic or Die (Inner Demons #1) by JP Jackson and see why I cringed, cried, laughed, and loved everything about this story.  Then we can wait together until the next one is released!

Cover art is just perfect for the story and tone.  Love it.

Sales Links:

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

Book Details:

ebook, 313 pages
Published July 2nd 2018 by NineStar Press
ISBN139781948608992
Edition LanguageEnglish
URLhttps://ninestarpress.com/product/magic-or-die/
SeriesInner Demons #1

Geoffrey Knight on Writing Action/Adventure Series and his new release ‘The Temple of Time (Fathoms Five #5)’ (guest post, excerpt and giveaway)

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 Temple of Time Tour Banner

TEMPLE OF TIME

FATHOMS FIVE SERIES, BOOK 5

GEOFFREY KNIGHT

GAY ACTION & ADVENTURE

RELEASE DATE: 06.17.18

TempleOfTime_FINAL_cvr 

 

COVER DESIGN:  Adrian Nicholas

AMAZON US: https://amzn.to/2ISL6pG

AMAZON UK: https://amzn.to/2tUSNqU

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Geoffrey Knight here today, on tour with his latest novel The Temple of Time.  Welcome, Geoffrey.

♦︎

Pack Your Passport, It’s Time for Adventure!

by Geoffrey Knight

Hi there, and thanks so much for having me! I’m so excited to be here talking about my new Fathom’s Five book – The Temple of Time.

For anybody who isn’t familiar with Fathom’s Five, it’s my series of gay adventure novels featuring five hunky treasure-hunters who journey across the globe in search of ancient relics and the clues to solve some of the greatest mysteries of all time. To give you an idea, the first book in the series – The Cross of Sins – was aptly described by one reader as ‘Gay raiders of the lost da Vinci code’. That just about sums things up.

By way of introduction, our five Fathom’s heroes are Jake Stone, a New York adventurer and treasure hunter  who has problems learning how to care about anyone but himself; Dr Eden Santiago, the clever and courageous Brazilian biologist and physician; Shane Houston, the Texas cowboy who has a knack for maps and cartography and a love for animals; Luca da Roma, the Italian fashion model and art history expert whose skills uncover the secrets hidden in works of art; and Will Hunter, the college quarterback and ancient history major who knows his way around a pyramid just as well as he knows his way around a bedroom.

Combined, they have all the skills they need to solve some of the greatest mysteries of all time.

Of course, to write an adventure series like Fathom’s Five, there are certain boxes I needed to tick:

  • Hot gay heroes ready to outsmart, outwit and outrun trouble? Check.
  • Insanely over-the-top chase scenes and action sequences? Check.
  • Bad guys oozing with villainy? Check.
  • Far-flung exotic locations full of peril and intrigue? Double check.

In fact, that last point is where I have the most fun with my Fathom’s Five books.

Coming up with the locations for each story is my favourite part of writing an adventure tale. Where will I send my boys next? What will they find there? What kind of action scene can I set in that place?

And so, to give you a little taste of what I mean – but without giving any spoilers away – I thought I’d list my 10 favorite exotic locations (in order of books in the series) that I’ve chosen for some of my Fathom’s Five adventures.

ANKARA, TURKEY

The Book – The Cross of Sins: Fathom’s Five Book One

The Scene – While chasing down a villain who tries to kill him, cowboy cartographer Shane Houston realizes he needs a mode of transport fast or he’ll lose his target. With no car, he grabs the first thing he can find – a camel – to race through the Turkish capital of Ankara creating chaos in the streets.

VENICE, ITALY

The Book – The Cross of Sins: Fathom’s Five Book One

The Scene – Trapped in an underground chamber right beside the Grand Canal, the Fathom’s Five boys must figure out a way to escape. But the clock is ticking, for the chamber wall has a crack in it and soon a trickle of water from the canal turns into a gush, flooding the chamber with our heroes trapped inside.

SIBERIA, RUSSIA

The Book – The Riddle of the Sands: Fathom’s Five Book Two

The Scene – I kick start the second Fathom’s Five adventure with a visit to the remote Laptev Strait Prison, a fictional jail that houses the most dangerous and psychotic criminals in the world. Unfortunately for Shane, the Professor, and British reporter Daniel West, a dramatic prison break frees the prisoners and puts all their lives in peril.

CAIRO, EGYPT

The Book – The Riddle of the Sands: Fathom’s Five Book Two

The Scene – While trying to find a legendary lost pyramid, our hunky heroes find themselves in a forbidden steamy bath house in Cairo where they’re about to get more than they bargained for, in particular Jake Stone whose masseuse has murderous intentions.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

The Book – The Curse of the Dragon God: Fathom’s Five Book Three

The Scene – In order to get closer to a man who has vital information needed to solve the mystery, Jake must enter a deadly dune buggy race over the sand dunes of the Dubai desert where losing is not an option.

BEIJING, CHINA

The Book – The Curse of the Dragon God: Fathom’s Five Book Three

The Scene – Trapped in a seedy gay strip joint called Beijing Betty’s, Shane is drugged and thrust upon the stage, forced to dance and strip his way to freedom if he has any chance of solving the Curse of the Dragon God.

MAURITIUS, INDIAN OCEAN

The Book – The Tomb of Heaven: Fathom’s Five Book Four

The Scene – In the underwater lab of a crazy scientist, Jake, Shane and Daniel find themselves in a flooded section of the facility surrounded by man-eating sharks. Sharks… why did it have to be sharks!

KARACHI, PAKISTAN

The Book – The Tomb of Heaven: Fathom’s Five Book Four

The Scene – Pursued by hooded villains, Jake, Shane and Daniel end up in a bizarre chase in a crowded Pakistani bazaar that sees them make a getaway in a tiny car that barely fits their bulky bods.

LONDON, ENGLAND

The Book – The Temple of Time: Fathom’s Five Book Five

The Scene – The opening scene of The Temple of Time is a flashback that features a young Professor Fathom and explains how he lost his sight while being pursued through the streets of London to one of the city’s most famous landmarks.

THE MATTERHORN, SWISS ALPS

The Book – The Temple of Time: Fathom’s Five Book Five

The Scene – Desperate to outrun a merciless mercenary on the snowy slopes of the Matterhorn, Luca, Sister Margarita and the Professor’s housekeeper – the beloved German cook Elsa – must think outside the square and use a rather unconventional getaway vehicle when it comes to escaping the mountain alive.

So… feel like packing your passport for some globe-trotting action? Then perhaps a Fathom’s Five book is your ticket to adventure. I hope you have some fun, but be warned, the books are very sequential. To get the most out of the series, please read them in order to fully experience the world of Fathom’s Five… there are a lot of little subplots along the way that pay off later in the series.

Happy reading!

BLURB

There is a civilization that vanished without trace. There is a lost temple that can change time as we know it. There is a fragile fraternity that protects the most important secret in human history. And there is one man who will destroy everything and anyone to know the truth—his name is Caro Sholtez.

In his possession are the four pieces of the most powerful mythical clock in the world, and the only person who can stop him from finding the Temple that can unlock Time itself is Professor Fathom.

And so it seems to Caro Sholtez that distractions, kidnappings, killings are necessary to disperse the Professor’s men to keep them from stopping him from finding the one thing he wants—the power to control the passage of Time.

From the markets of Marrakesh to the pot parlors of Amsterdam, from the landmarks of London and Prague to the very cradle of Mayan civilization, join hunky New York adventurer Jake Stone, Brazilian biologist Eden Santiago, Texas cowboy Shane Houston, Italian art expert Luca da Roma, and Californian college quarterback Will Hunter on their greatest adventure yet.

**Please note: This is the fifth book in the Fathom’s Five adventure series. It is recommended to read the series in order to fully appreciate the sequence of events.

 The Temple of Time Teaser 1

The Temple of Time Teaser 2

 EXCERPT

Big Zettie walked toward the dining table with a large tray of tea. Her hands were shaking so much from the news that the cups clattered loudly. Will helped her ease the tray down before returning to his nervous pacing.

Everyone had gathered around the table.

Elsa sat beside Luca, rubbing his back as a mother would care for a distressed child.

Daniel sat beside Shane, squeezing his hand for reassurance.

Jake stood in the doorway, side-stepping from one foot to the other as though ready to make a move as soon as the Professor gave the green light.

At the head of the dining table sat the Professor with Eden by his side.

In front of them were three opened envelopes, and beside each of these was a short letter.

Eden read them aloud one by one for the Professor.

“This was the message left at Will’s house,” Eden said by way of explanation.

“I expected to see Felix,” Will interrupted, his anxiety evident by his quivering voice. “He’s always there, always telling me to slow down… or finish my homework… or eat my goddamn vegetables. The house was so quiet and empty. It was so fucking empty without him.”

Jake grabbed Will’s shoulder and hugged him tight.

The Professor nodded for Eden to continue. “Please read me what it says.”

Eden took a breath and delivered the message. “Dear Master Hunter, if you ever wish to see your faithful Felix Fraser alive again, you’ll solve this riddle… Voiceless I howl, toothless I bite. Cities will crumble in the wake of my might.”

Silence filled the room. “What the hell does that mean?” Jake said, his brain refusing to function and the fuse of his temper quickly burning to its frayed end.

“Patience, Jake,” said the Professor, himself trying to remain calm and composed. “He wants to rattle us. He wants to cloud any sense of clarity we might have with anger and fear. Our emotions are our weakness right now.” He turned to Eden. “Please, Eden. Continue.”

Eden picked up the second letter. “This was the letter left for Shane.”

“That goddamn asshole Claudius Welles handed it to me while I watched the home my father built burn to the ground,” uttered Shane through gritted teeth. “That stupid coward saved himself rather than try to save my mother.”

Daniel clutched Shane’s hand tight. “We’ll get through this. We’ll find your Mom and we’ll all get through this together.”

The Professor said nothing to Daniel’s comment. He could already see how this was playing out. Caro Sholtez was indeed about to divide and conquer in a somewhat ruthless and spectacular fashion.

“Eden, please read on,” the Professor said.

Eden held the second message in his hands. “Dear Mr. Houston, if you ever wish to see your beloved mother alive again, you’ll answer this riddle… Angry I run, cold I am still. But when I am hot, the air I will fill.”

“I think I see where this is going,” said Daniel, his mind clearly ticking over.

“I’ve no doubt you’re correct, Daniel,” said the Professor. “Eden, would you mind reading the final riddle?”

Eden picked up the third letter, the one addressed to Luca.

Luca said nothing. He had replayed the words over and over again in his head so many times he didn’t need to hear it again. He turned away.

“Dear Signor da Roma,” Eden read aloud. “If you ever wish to see your cherished Bride of Christ again, you’ll answer this riddle… My colors I change, by day and by night. My fury is dark, but my silence is bright.”

A sniff escaped Luca. He lifted his face to reveal his glazed eyes and numb expression. After a moment, he uttered quietly, “Sky.”

“What did you say?” asked Jake, unable to hear Luca’s mumbled words from his place in the doorway.

“The answer to the riddle is ‘sky’,” Luca replied in a monotone voice. “I’ve read it so many times, I’ve thought of every possible answer, and the only one that makes perfect sense is the sky. The sky changes color every hour of the day. Yellow at dawn, pink at dusk, blue at noon, black at midnight. When there’s a storm it’s dark and angry, but on a calm, quiet day, the sky is clear and bright.”

Daniel, the puzzle-solver of the group, stood nodding. “He’s right. All the answers are part of nature. Voiceless I howl, toothless I bite. Cities will crumble in the wake of my might. That’s the wind. The answer to Will’s riddle is the wind.”

“It howls and bites and tears buildings to shreds in a tornado,” agreed Will, some hope finally returning to his voice.

“And as for Shane’s riddle, that answer is water,” said Daniel. “Angry I run, cold I am still. But when I am hot, the air I will fill.”

Shane nodded, understanding the references now. “Raging rivers run. Ice is still. And boiling water…”

“Rises into the air as steam,” finished Jake. “But what does it all mean? Sky, wind, water… the answers just leave us with more questions and no clues what to do with them.”

“The clue is in Caro himself,” the Professor said. He turned his head toward Jake and Will and gestured for them to stop pacing and join the others at the table. “Please, gentlemen, take a seat. It’s important I tell you everything there is to know about Caro Sholtez. Or at least everything I know about him.”

“If it leads to Felix and the others,” said Will, quickly pulling up a chair, “then hit us with everything you’ve got, Professor.”

“There is a Temple somewhere in the Mexican jungle known as the Temple of Time. Nobody knows where it is, at least nobody left alive today. The last known sighting of it was by a man named Hernando Cortez in the late sixteenth century. Cortez was a thief who stowed aboard a ship in the Spanish Armada, posing as a Conquistador. He was after gold and silver and bragged that he had plundered a lost temple in what is now known as the Lacandon Jungle in Mexico. Unfortunately for Cortez his bragging was short-lived. The natives soon realized what he had done and quickly captured him, sacrificing him to their gods for his crime. But legend has it Cortez found more than simply gold and silver… according to the stories, he found—and stole—the four pieces of the clock inside the Temple of Time. The natives were furious. They put safeguards in place to stop anyone else from finding the Temple, but the damage had already been done. The pieces of the clock were gone, and Cortez… well… he had no idea how close he came to finding the greatest discovery in human history. You see, according to legend, the Temple holds the key to unlock time itself.”

“What do you mean, unlock time?” asked Daniel.

“I’m referring to the ability to control time. Bend it. Contort it. Travel through it,” said the Professor. “It is a place of untold power.”

“Travel through time?” Shane asked. “Are you serious?”

“I’m deadly serious. And so is Caro. Finding the Temple has been his entire life’s obsession. He has murdered his way across continents to fulfill his quest.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Geoffrey Knight is the author of more than 30 gay fiction novels, novellas and short stories, ranging in genre from gay adventure, gay romance, gay suspense and gay comedies. He is the recipient of two Rainbow Awards including Best Mystery Winner and Best Overall Gay Fiction Runner-up. His work has been featured in several anthologies including Best Gay Erotica 2013, and he appeared as Guest of Honor at the inaugural Rainbow Con in Florida, 2014.

Geoffrey has worked in advertising, politics and journalism, but nothing is as fun as telling stories. He lives with his partner, their baby daughter, two dogs and two cats in a rambling old house in North Queensland, Australia, where the paint is fraying and life is good.

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JP Jackson on His Writing Process and new release ‘Magic or Die (Inner Demons #1’) (guest blog, excerpt, and giveaway)

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Title:  Magic or Die

Series: Inner Demons, Book One

Author: J.P. Jackson

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: July 2, 2018

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 87300

Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, paranormal, demons, witches, magic

Add to Goodreads

 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have J.P. Jackson here today on tour for his latest novel, Magic or Die. Welcome, J.P. Please tell us a little about what your writing process is like?

JP Jackson and My Writing Process

Writing for me is very organic, and raw. I choose not to outline or plot too much of the story in advance.

I take delight and pleasure in watching the words form their own worlds, and having the characters I develop come to life. They are the ones who dictate what action comes next. I have a general idea of where I want the tale to take the reader, but it’s the magical beings and demonic beasties who really own the book. After all, it is their story.

I’m fortunate that I can carve out free time to indulge myself in this creative art form. I love doing it, telling stories. Unlike some authors I know, I quite enjoy the spotlight. I’m 100% an extrovert, and it’s not uncommon to see me at parties and social gatherings ‘holding court’ as my husband would say. I like to gather people and regale them with our latest adventures. Writing is no different. I get to share my imagination and tomfoolery with anyone who’s willing to pick up one of my books.

Do you create an outline first?

I currently have two books out.  Daimonion, Book One of the Apocalypse, which is the first in a trilogy, and is my retelling of how the world ends, and then Magic or Die about a broken psychic teacher and the five students he’s charged with helping. Each of these were pantster created. No outlines, no cue cards with notes. I do write supporting documents, character sheets with details I can refer back to. I may or may not have written a spellbook or two – depending on the characters in the story.  I’ve even done timelines and maps, just to make sure that the story has progressed in an accurate manner. But as I mentioned above, I usually just create my characters and then set them free.

They run amok, creating havoc and chaos.

I just sit back, laugh maniacally and document their lives.

Do you seek out inspirational pictures, videos or music?

Absolutely. I have a Tumblr account [(18+ only, please) http://canuckbear88.tumblr.com/} where I store images that inspire me. I also have Pinterest boards [https://www.pinterest.ca/jacksonbear88/] where I collect images that I pull and use for various characters. I have an extensive music library where I pull together a new playlist for each project. Every time I start a new work, I have to have new music too, so I’m always on the lookout for haunting music.  Here’s my YouTube channel and the Magic or Die playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLMD–CnQs723AsxRz1FEN4dI0Vkrg9rIV. All of this helps put me in the right mood to create fantastical worlds, intricate magic spells and creatures who are more likely to eat you than help you.

Do you just let the words flow and then go back and try and make some sense out it?

As I said above, my writing is organic. I just let it all fall out. But then I’m also a little OCD and so I find myself writing a page or two, and then going back to edit and alter the writing. I hate the little squiggly red lines Word puts underneath things it doesn’t recognize. They drive me nuts, and I can’t look at them. So I have to go back and correct the word. Same can be said for the blue grammar and technical suggestions.  I need to see black and white. That to me is clean, and non-distracting. It allows me to read what I’ve written unencumbered. I know, I’m crazy.

Synopsis

James Martin is a teacher, a powerful Psychic, and an alcoholic. He used to work for the Center for Magical Research and Development, a facility that houses people who can’t control their supernatural abilities, but left after one of his students was killed, turning to vodka to soothe his emotional pain. The problem is he still has one year left on his contract.

When James is forced to return to the CMRD, he finds himself confronting the demons of his past and attempting to protect his new class from a possible death sentence, because if they don’t pass their final exams, they’ll be euthanized.

James also discovers that his class isn’t bringing in enough sponsors, the agencies and world governments who supply grants and ultimately purchase graduates of the CMRD, and that means no profit for the facility. James and his students face impossible odds—measure up to the facility’s unreachable standards or escape.

Excerpt

Magic or Die
J.P. Jackson © 2018
All Rights Reserved

One: Call Back
“YES, MIRIAM. YES, I know. I know it’s been over a year. I’m not sure I’m ready.”

The knuckles on my hand cramped from clasping my cell phone in a death grip. I glanced at my watch. This conversation had gone on too long. In the span of two minutes, Miriam had managed to exhume memories and history I wanted buried and forgotten. I sucked in a short breath as nausea surged like a tsunami of fear. Its behemoth wave washed bile against the back of my throat.

I slumped down the stained and weathered wall of the coffin-sized studio apartment I reluctantly called a home. It wasn’t a bad place to live, except for the cockroaches I found on a daily basis. I’m sure they considered it a veritable paradise. Absentmindedly, I toed an old pizza box near my foot while listening to Miriam. One of the insects scampered across the matted Berber carpet.

Gross.

Cody. A pale ghostlike face flashed before me. His hair, the exact colour of fall fallowed fields, hung listlessly over one eye, as blood trickled out of the corner of his mouth. His chapped lips parted, asking me, “Why?”

I ignored the vision. Well, ignored wasn’t the right word, more like boxed it up with a heavy rock and pitched it into the abyss of my mind with all the other terrifying nightmares.

“I know. I owe you, yes. I’m just not sure—” I crawled over to the upended crate being used as a coffee table, grasping for my last pack of smokes. I lit one, enjoying the soothing crackle of the tobacco as it ignited, and then inhaled deeply.

Ah, yes. Hello, nicotine, my demon friend.

Miriam continued blithering while I half-heartedly listened to her soul-sucking voice. She was demanding my presence.

“What? You mean, tomorrow? Miriam, I don’t think it’s a good idea.” I drew in another steady stream of the toxic smoke. It burned my lungs as the addictive chemicals flooded through my body. I really need to quit. Scraping together the smallest ounce of courage, I attempted to defy her. “No, I can’t.”

A wraithlike hand, desiccated and fragile, inched its way across my shoulder and gripped my tense neck muscle. Its sharp nails dug into my flesh. Its bite, a warning.

Cody’s lifeless lips brushed my ear, sending cold shivers skittering across my back. Eruptions of goose flesh covered my neck and shoulders. His voice was a memory and a sound I would never forget.

“Don’t do this. You’ll kill me again.” His icy breath whispered to me.

Another box, a bigger rock, another addition to the pit of despair in my head.

“No,” I replied to one of Miriam’s inane questions. “There’s an Arcane too? I’ve never been good with them. They creep me out. No, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that. Shit.” Miriam had just described a scene for me. My flesh turned buggy, as if I had chiggers nesting and burrowing deep into my skin. “Oh god that’s gross. It’s also not a good sign.” I pointed uselessly at the wall, waving my finger, trying to make a point to the caller. “I never took the exam for the third class.” Miriam had asked if I’d kept up my licensing. I instantly felt guilty. I should have done it years ago. One thing was becoming evident from the conversation—she needed my help. Help only I could give.

“All right, maybe, I think I can. Consult only. Do you hear me, Miriam? Just a consult.” I had tried desperately to stay the hell out of this. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t want to go back there. “What time? Yes. I’m pretty sure. Miriam—” A thousand reservations ran through my mind, a wild stampede, unbridled, laced with dread and fear. “How many? How many in this class?”

The question sat like the world perched on my shoulders. The higher the number, the bigger the world, the more responsibility, an undeniable possibility of…

“Five! Are you kidding me? I can’t do five. No. No! It’s not possible.”

She was out of her mind.

“Yes, my sister is still on the streets. You know that’s close to blackmail, right?” I stubbed out the cigarette. The lacquer of smoke in my mouth tasted like I had just licked the bottom of an ashtray, and it was suddenly very hard to breathe. Why do I smoke again?

“Fine. Tomorrow. Yes. Ten a.m. Yes, I’ll be there. What do you mean dress appropriately?”

I looked at my cell phone, disgusted as the call ended.

I flipped the device onto the floor as if it had burst into flame and branded the conversation into my hand. I snorted. Like, I’d forget.

Stretching around to the other side of the crate, I grabbed blindly for a bottle I hoped was there. By all the gods’ great divine gifts, it was. And it still had liquid in it. In fact, it was surprisingly half-full.

I tipped the vodka bottle back, allowing its burn to strip away the cancer stick’s smoky film inside my mouth.

Swaying back and forth with my eyes closed, I tried to drown out the endless voices in my head. The words inundated my impending thoughts of doom and failure, and I could feel the chaos and panic mounting. Steadying myself and regaining my mental capacities, I gazed out the window. It was dark already and only six, early evening at best. Yay for daylight-savings time and late fall in Canada. Lights from the downtown cityscape lazily twinkled and danced before me. It should have been a pretty sight, but the darkness always seemed too oppressive, like a shroud. And I knew better. Things lived in the shadows.

I took another swig from the clear glass bottle. The burn hit my throat and disintegrated the bile that had crept up there.

Five very gifted students.

I rubbed the stubble covering my face and took yet another nip. Except it wasn’t a quick sip, it was a good one. A long one.

The window acted like a mirror, and my image reflected against the backdrop of the city skyline. I looked like shit. My short brown hair had cowlicks; thank god I kept it close. But the rest? No wonder Miriam instructed me to clean it up. The shirt I was sort of wearing was only half buttoned and stained in several spots. I had no pants on, but the pair of tighty-whities, which weren’t exactly white anymore, or tight, were ripped and showed more flesh than they were supposed to. Jesus.

How did my life get here?

Five young people had no control of their gifts.

And I had a sister who was lost out in the sparkle-light of downtown’s darkness, up to who knew what, and doing it with god only knew who, mired in her own addictions.

I glanced around my shit-hole apartment, wondering what the fuck I was going to do.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

J.P. Jackson works as an IT analyst in health care during the day, where if cornered he’d confess to casting spells to ensure clinicians actually use the electronic medical charting system he configures and implements.

At night however, the writing happens, where demons, witches and shape shifters congregate around the kitchen table and general chaos ensues. The insurance company refuses to accept any more claims of ‘acts of the un-god’, and his husband of almost 20 years has very firmly put his foot down on any further wraith summoning’s in the basement. And apparently imps aren’t house-trainable. Occasionally the odd ghost or member of the Fae community stops in for a glass of wine and stories are exchanged. Although the husband doesn’t know it, the two Chihuahuas are in cahoots with the spell casting.

J.P.’s other hobbies include hybridizing African Violets (thanks to grandma), extensive travelling and believe it or not, knitting.

 

 

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Release Day Blitz for Magic or Die (Inner Demons #1) by JP Jackson (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Magic or Die

Series: Inner Demons, Book One

Author: J.P. Jackson

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: July 2, 2018

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 87300

Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, paranormal, demons, witches, magic

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

James Martin is a teacher, a powerful Psychic, and an alcoholic. He used to work for the Center for Magical Research and Development, a facility that houses people who can’t control their supernatural abilities, but left after one of his students was killed, turning to vodka to soothe his emotional pain. The problem is he still has one year left on his contract.

When James is forced to return to the CMRD, he finds himself confronting the demons of his past and attempting to protect his new class from a possible death sentence, because if they don’t pass their final exams, they’ll be euthanized.

James also discovers that his class isn’t bringing in enough sponsors, the agencies and world governments who supply grants and ultimately purchase graduates of the CMRD, and that means no profit for the facility. James and his students face impossible odds—measure up to the facility’s unreachable standards or escape.

Excerpt

Magic or Die
J.P. Jackson © 2018
All Rights Reserved

One: Call Back
“YES, MIRIAM. YES, I know. I know it’s been over a year. I’m not sure I’m ready.”

The knuckles on my hand cramped from clasping my cell phone in a death grip. I glanced at my watch. This conversation had gone on too long. In the span of two minutes, Miriam had managed to exhume memories and history I wanted buried and forgotten. I sucked in a short breath as nausea surged like a tsunami of fear. Its behemoth wave washed bile against the back of my throat.

I slumped down the stained and weathered wall of the coffin-sized studio apartment I reluctantly called a home. It wasn’t a bad place to live, except for the cockroaches I found on a daily basis. I’m sure they considered it a veritable paradise. Absentmindedly, I toed an old pizza box near my foot while listening to Miriam. One of the insects scampered across the matted Berber carpet.

Gross.

Cody. A pale ghostlike face flashed before me. His hair, the exact colour of fall fallowed fields, hung listlessly over one eye, as blood trickled out of the corner of his mouth. His chapped lips parted, asking me, “Why?”

I ignored the vision. Well, ignored wasn’t the right word, more like boxed it up with a heavy rock and pitched it into the abyss of my mind with all the other terrifying nightmares.

“I know. I owe you, yes. I’m just not sure—” I crawled over to the upended crate being used as a coffee table, grasping for my last pack of smokes. I lit one, enjoying the soothing crackle of the tobacco as it ignited, and then inhaled deeply.

Ah, yes. Hello, nicotine, my demon friend.

Miriam continued blithering while I half-heartedly listened to her soul-sucking voice. She was demanding my presence.

“What? You mean, tomorrow? Miriam, I don’t think it’s a good idea.” I drew in another steady stream of the toxic smoke. It burned my lungs as the addictive chemicals flooded through my body. I really need to quit. Scraping together the smallest ounce of courage, I attempted to defy her. “No, I can’t.”

A wraithlike hand, desiccated and fragile, inched its way across my shoulder and gripped my tense neck muscle. Its sharp nails dug into my flesh. Its bite, a warning.

Cody’s lifeless lips brushed my ear, sending cold shivers skittering across my back. Eruptions of goose flesh covered my neck and shoulders. His voice was a memory and a sound I would never forget.

“Don’t do this. You’ll kill me again.” His icy breath whispered to me.

Another box, a bigger rock, another addition to the pit of despair in my head.

“No,” I replied to one of Miriam’s inane questions. “There’s an Arcane too? I’ve never been good with them. They creep me out. No, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that. Shit.” Miriam had just described a scene for me. My flesh turned buggy, as if I had chiggers nesting and burrowing deep into my skin. “Oh god that’s gross. It’s also not a good sign.” I pointed uselessly at the wall, waving my finger, trying to make a point to the caller. “I never took the exam for the third class.” Miriam had asked if I’d kept up my licensing. I instantly felt guilty. I should have done it years ago. One thing was becoming evident from the conversation—she needed my help. Help only I could give.

“All right, maybe, I think I can. Consult only. Do you hear me, Miriam? Just a consult.” I had tried desperately to stay the hell out of this. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t want to go back there. “What time? Yes. I’m pretty sure. Miriam—” A thousand reservations ran through my mind, a wild stampede, unbridled, laced with dread and fear. “How many? How many in this class?”

The question sat like the world perched on my shoulders. The higher the number, the bigger the world, the more responsibility, an undeniable possibility of…

“Five! Are you kidding me? I can’t do five. No. No! It’s not possible.”

She was out of her mind.

“Yes, my sister is still on the streets. You know that’s close to blackmail, right?” I stubbed out the cigarette. The lacquer of smoke in my mouth tasted like I had just licked the bottom of an ashtray, and it was suddenly very hard to breathe. Why do I smoke again?

“Fine. Tomorrow. Yes. Ten a.m. Yes, I’ll be there. What do you mean dress appropriately?”

I looked at my cell phone, disgusted as the call ended.

I flipped the device onto the floor as if it had burst into flame and branded the conversation into my hand. I snorted. Like, I’d forget.

Stretching around to the other side of the crate, I grabbed blindly for a bottle I hoped was there. By all the gods’ great divine gifts, it was. And it still had liquid in it. In fact, it was surprisingly half-full.

I tipped the vodka bottle back, allowing its burn to strip away the cancer stick’s smoky film inside my mouth.

Swaying back and forth with my eyes closed, I tried to drown out the endless voices in my head. The words inundated my impending thoughts of doom and failure, and I could feel the chaos and panic mounting. Steadying myself and regaining my mental capacities, I gazed out the window. It was dark already and only six, early evening at best. Yay for daylight-savings time and late fall in Canada. Lights from the downtown cityscape lazily twinkled and danced before me. It should have been a pretty sight, but the darkness always seemed too oppressive, like a shroud. And I knew better. Things lived in the shadows.

I took another swig from the clear glass bottle. The burn hit my throat and disintegrated the bile that had crept up there.

Five very gifted students.

I rubbed the stubble covering my face and took yet another nip. Except it wasn’t a quick sip, it was a good one. A long one.

The window acted like a mirror, and my image reflected against the backdrop of the city skyline. I looked like shit. My short brown hair had cowlicks; thank god I kept it close. But the rest? No wonder Miriam instructed me to clean it up. The shirt I was sort of wearing was only half buttoned and stained in several spots. I had no pants on, but the pair of tighty-whities, which weren’t exactly white anymore, or tight, were ripped and showed more flesh than they were supposed to. Jesus.

How did my life get here?

Five young people had no control of their gifts.

And I had a sister who was lost out in the sparkle-light of downtown’s darkness, up to who knew what, and doing it with god only knew who, mired in her own addictions.

I glanced around my shit-hole apartment, wondering what the fuck I was going to do.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

J.P. Jackson works as an IT analyst in health care during the day, where if cornered he’d confess to casting spells to ensure clinicians actually use the electronic medical charting system he configures and implements.

At night however, the writing happens, where demons, witches and shape shifters congregate around the kitchen table and general chaos ensues. The insurance company refuses to accept any more claims of ‘acts of the un-god’, and his husband of almost 20 years has very firmly put his foot down on any further wraith summoning’s in the basement. And apparently imps aren’t house-trainable. Occasionally the odd ghost or member of the Fae community stops in for a glass of wine and stories are exchanged. Although the husband doesn’t know it, the two Chihuahuas are in cahoots with the spell casting.

J.P.’s other hobbies include hybridizing African Violets (thanks to grandma), extensive travelling and believe it or not, knitting.

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Cover Reveal for Magic or Die (Inner Demons Book One) by JP Jackson

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Magic or Die

Inner Demons, Book One
J.P. Jackson
Release Date: July 2, 2018
Genre: Paranormal, Gay, Magic, Demons, Psychics, Teacher, Covens, Incarceration

James Martin is a teacher, a powerful Psychic, and an alcoholic. He used to work for the Center for Magical Research and Development, a facility that houses people who can’t control their supernatural abilities. He left after one of his students was killed, turning to vodka to soothe his emotional pain. Problem is, he still has one year left on his contract.

It’s not common knowledge, but the CMRD holds final exams for each of its residents and if they don’t pass, they’re euthanized. So when James returns to the CMRD to fulfill the rest of his contract, he finds himself assisting five young adults, confronting the demons of his past, and attempting to protect his new class from a possible death sentence.

James discovers that his class isn’t bringing in enough sponsors; the agencies and world governments who supply grants and ultimately purchase graduates of the CMRD, and that means no profit for the facility. Now, James and his students face impossible odds. Measure up to the facility’s unreachable standards or escape.

At the CMRD, you have to be able to control your Magic or Die.

Meet the Author

J.P. Jackson works as an IT analyst in health care during the day, where if cornered he’d confess to casting spells to ensure clinicians actually use the electronic medical charting system he configures and implements.

At night however, the writing happens, where demons, witches and shape shifters congregate around the kitchen table and general chaos ensues. The insurance company refuses to accept any more claims of ‘acts of the un-god’, and his husband of almost 20 years has very firmly put his foot down on any further wraith summoning’s in the basement. And apparently imps aren’t house-trainable. Occasionally the odd ghost or member of the Fae community stops in for a glass of wine and stories are exchanged. Although the husband doesn’t know it, the two Chihuahuas are in cahoots with the spell casting.

J.P.’s other hobbies include hybridizing African Violets (thanks to grandma), extensive travelling and believe it or not, knitting.

Available to Preorder from NineStar Press on June 25th

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New Release Blitz for The Vampire’s Angel by Damian Serbu (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  The Vampire’s Angel

Author: Damian Serbu

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: March 19, 2018

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 106400

Genre: Paranormal Romance, LGBT, historical, gay, paranormal, vampire, revolution, magic

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

As Paris devolves into chaos amidst the French Revolution, three lives intertwine.

Xavier, a devout priest, struggles to hold on to his trust in humanity only to find his own faith threatened with the longing he finds for a mysterious American visitor. Thomas fights against the Catholic Church to win Xavier’s heart, but hiding his undead nature will threaten the love he longs to find with this abbé. Xavier’s sister, Catherine, works with Thomas to bring them together while protecting the family fortune but falls prey herself to evil forces.

The death, peril, and catastrophes of a revolution collide with a world of magic, vampires, and personal demons as Xavier, Thomas, and Catherine fight to find peace and love amidst the destruction.

Excerpt

The Vampire’s Angel
Damian Serbu © 2018
All Rights Reserved

One: Angel Sighting
14 May 1789

The night at last darkened as Thomas wandered the Parisian streets, feeling the people’s anger. Though the current French environment shunned the wealthy, Thomas’s commanding presence allowed him to walk about with little resistance. Besides, if his personality failed to assuage someone, his American citizenship placated them soon enough. Coming from a land that had already tossed out a king provided him a certain reverence.

The evening proved calm, however, with no one shouting or rioting. Perhaps later, Thomas might venture to the salons for conversation, but for the moment, he watched the common people as he headed from his flat along the Seine toward the Bastille. He sought the poor that evening, not the stuffy rich who bored him even in their nastiness.

Thomas dodged a puddle of mud and almost ran into a wealthy woman.

She grunted but then smiled when she looked up at him. “Pardon me.”

“It was my fault.” Thomas bowed. “I should apologize to you.”

She giggled and walked away, but not before turning around to glance at him one more time.

His reflection in a nearby window reminded him why so many women and men stopped to admire him. His muscular frame, his long black hair tied in a bow at the base of his neck, and his all-black attire, which defied the contemporary fashion of men wearing bright colors, combined to create an allure. Thomas knew he possessed a sex appeal. He captivated them so much they seldom commented with their usual prejudice on his darker complexion.

He turned onto Rue St. Louis and headed north. The houses there were dingier, the streets narrower, and the people dirtier. He traveled well into a residential area and found a secluded corner, the perfect place to watch for that night’s prey.

A few workers stumbled by, already drunk and searching for their homes, then some children frolicked along with a group of women. Still, nothing tempted him. Next, a soldier patrolled the streets and stared at him with suspicion, a prey that proved more to Thomas’s liking. Unfortunately, he saw goodness in the soldier’s face. He would not tempt fate with that one. The young man brushed a lock of blond hair out of his eye and passed as Thomas watched and marveled at his beautiful tight backside when he faded into the night.

Thomas nearly lost his breath when he turned and looked the other way. An angel?

The man had short brown hair, piercing hazel eyes, and soft skin. He carried the slight tone in his muscles, which so attracted Thomas, with a hint of nervousness. Not too masculine, but neither too feminine.

As the gentleman passed, Thomas fell in behind to study him further.

Only after Thomas almost drooled over the beauty in front of him did the clothing hit him. A priest. Thomas shook his head. How on earth did a godlike creature end up serving that vile Catholic Church?

He followed, anyway, hiding among the buildings and trailing so quietly that the priest never suspected a man behind him scrutinized every angle of his body beneath the black robe.

As they passed a narrow street, the priest turned and peered toward the cramped passage, then dashed down it. Thomas rushed to follow and hid in a doorway nearby.

“Can I help you?” the priest asked. “What is it?” He knelt before a young girl, perhaps no more than four, and placed his hand on her shoulder. She sobbed and slumped against the priest, who wrapped his arms around her. “Talk to me. You’re safe. What can I do?”

Her breathing finally slowed. “I’m lost.”

“What’s your name, dear?”

“Delphine,” she whispered.

“Well, Delphine, we’ll find your home. Can you give me some clues?”

Thomas listened as the priest quizzed her. She relaxed as the conversation continued and giggled as the priest joked and moved down the long alley with her, talking to her until he stooped down and picked her up while continuing to chat.

“Do you think we’re close?” he asked.

“I think so.” She looked around, clinging to him.

“Ah! Delphine!” A woman ran toward them, so the priest put the girl on the ground and stood aside as she sprinted to collapse in the woman’s arms.

“Mama,” she shouted.

“I’ve looked everywhere for you,” her mother replied. “What did I tell you about wandering away? We have just moved, after all. You’ll get lost in this big city.” Then she crossed herself. “Abbé, God intervened yet again to save my daughter.”

“Merely one of his servants, Madame.” The sound of his resonant voice sent waves of passion through Thomas.

“How can I repay you?” she asked.

“You owe me nothing,” the priest said as he turned to Delphine. “And you, little one, you must be careful in Paris. You can get lost easily, so stay close to your mother.”

She giggled as he tickled her stomach. “I will, Abbé.”

After they left, the priest turned and his eyes widened when he saw Thomas. He paused.

“Monsieur, pardon me. I didn’t see you.”

“I didn’t mean to startle you, Father. Good evening.” They gazed at each other for a long moment.

“No harm. Good evening, sir.” The priest nodded and walked away.

Too good to be true. Thomas stalked the priest as he turned the corner and entered the gate of a small church. There, Thomas leaned against a building, breathing heavily from the passion that erupted inside him, a longing he must satisfy. He wanted to stand outside the church and wait for the priest, or even knock on the door and talk to him again, but he was too unsettled. He remembered an establishment nearby that would serve his purpose well, so he raced to it, slammed through the doors, and sat before he fell, when a young man of about eighteen years approached him.

“Monsieur, you look unwell. Can I assist you?”

The youngster wasted little time. He needed a bath, but otherwise presented an adorable face and solid little body.

“What are you offering?” Thomas smirked.

“Come, I’ll show you.” He grabbed Thomas’s hand and pulled him up a stairway and into a dimly lit room. “I assume you know this’ll cost you, and that I don’t play the passive role.”

“Quite the entrepreneur. I can pay what you charge.” Thomas closed the door and embraced the youth as he kissed him. With great speed, he threw the youngster onto the bed and tore off both of their clothes.

“Slow down,” the young man pleaded.

Thomas did so and kissed the boy’s neck. His fangs descended, and he softly pricked the dirty skin to taste the blood before he took their interaction further.

“Do you enjoy biting?” the boy asked.

“Only momentarily,” Thomas replied before he plunged his fangs into the vein for a deeper taste.

As the hot liquid flowed across his lips, images of the boy’s life saturated Thomas’s mind. The vision confirmed what Thomas already ascertained. The young man prostituted himself part-time and was a useless degenerate who attacked and robbed innocent people. He assaulted children, including his brother, for sport. Ah, yes. And, of course, he murdered without remorse.

He grabbed the young man’s hair and kissed him, then rolled him over against his will. He struggled for the first time, but Thomas held him tightly.

“I told you,” he said, “I don’t—”

Thomas clamped his hand over the victim’s mouth. “Relax.” He stopped squirming and Thomas let him go. “What if I double the price? Or triple it, even?”

The lad contemplated for a moment. “Triple? Just to bugger me?”

Thomas petted his hair. “Yes.”

“Fine. But I won’t like it.” Yet he ground his ass into Thomas’s crotch.

Thomas thrust inside of him and pounded. The young man wriggled and bit his lower lip, but he never tried to stop Thomas until the vampire finished, his tension released as he exploded inside the nice bubble ass.

Sated, he released the lad, who pushed him off, cursing. “I told you, and I warned you, you ass.” He scrambled off the bed and snatched a knife from under the mattress, and in his nakedness came toward Thomas.

When the youth tried to stab him, Thomas grabbed his wrist and squeezed hard until the blade dropped to the floor. He pulled the young man toward him and stared into his eyes, his expression terrified.

“I thought we had an agreement? Besides, you can’t win. You won’t haunt this city anymore. Go peacefully.”

Thomas bent the boy’s head to the side and plunged his fangs back into the flesh, sucking the delicious blood until the youth’s heart stopped.

Thomas kissed the puncture wounds to heal them and flung the corpse to the floor before dressing, loving that a large city meant no one questioned yet another death. Sexually satisfied and fed, he brushed his clothing off before hurrying down the stairs and out the door without anyone noticing.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Damian Serbu lives in the Chicago area with his husband and two dogs, Akasha and Chewbacca. The dogs control his life, tell him what to write, and threaten to eat him in the middle of the night if he disobeys. He previously authored several novels now out of print, and is excited to reignite his writing with Ninestar Press!

Coming this fall, his latest vampire novel: The Vampire’s Protégé. Keep up to date with him on Facebook, Twitter, or at http://www.DamianSerbu.com.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

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New Release Blitz for The Vampire’s Angel by Damian Serbu (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  The Vampire’s Angel

Author: Damian Serbu

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: March 19, 2018

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 106400

Genre: Paranormal Romance, LGBT, historical, gay, paranormal, vampire, revolution, magic

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

As Paris devolves into chaos amidst the French Revolution, three lives intertwine.

Xavier, a devout priest, struggles to hold on to his trust in humanity only to find his own faith threatened with the longing he finds for a mysterious American visitor. Thomas fights against the Catholic Church to win Xavier’s heart, but hiding his undead nature will threaten the love he longs to find with this abbé. Xavier’s sister, Catherine, works with Thomas to bring them together while protecting the family fortune but falls prey herself to evil forces.

The death, peril, and catastrophes of a revolution collide with a world of magic, vampires, and personal demons as Xavier, Thomas, and Catherine fight to find peace and love amidst the destruction.

 Exclusive Excerpt

The Vampire’s Angel
Damian Serbu © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Garden Meeting

Back at his church, Xavier worked in his small garden even after darkness fell and the nearby lantern barely illuminated the street around it, let alone his humble plants.

“Abbé?”

Startled, he whipped around.

“I’m sorry to startle you again.”

Xavier cleared his throat, nervous. It was the man from earlier in the day, with the long black hair, piercing brown eyes, and American accent. “I didn’t hear you approach.” Xavier wiped his hands on his robe.

They stared at each other until the stranger broke the silence. “Perhaps I should introduce myself. Thomas, Father. Thomas Lord.”

Xavier cocked his head, quizzical. “You’re not from Paris.”

“What gave me away?”

“Your accent. And complexion.”

“I’m here on business.”

“Welcome to Paris. Let me know if I can be of any assistance.” Xavier wanted to say more, to keep the man near him, but he was at a loss for words. How strange.

“I—I wondered if… Can I go to confession? With you.”

Xavier smiled. “You’re not Catholic, either.”

“No,” Thomas said. “I’m not. I’m not Catholic, nor of any religion. And I’m not in Paris on business. I’m here by myself and felt lonely. I saw you protect that little girl earlier this evening and thought perhaps you could show me around Paris. I’m from America and wanted to see the rioting.” He stopped. “Sorry to babble.”

Xavier studied Thomas, noting his musculature, even in the dark. It prompted the most sinful of thoughts. “I doubt you’ll find Paris too welcoming these days, but I’d be happy to show you around.” He paused, considering. “You needn’t lie anymore. Just ask if you want my company.”

“Can you forgive me, Abbé? I was confused about your being a priest and what etiquette to use,” Thomas said, watching for Xavier’s response.

“You weren’t sure if I had the time for a heathen?” Xavier smiled. “Or did you fear some divine judgment? Well, don’t. As I said, I’d be delighted to show you Paris.”

“You don’t mind that I’m not Catholic?”

“Not all of us are so narrow-minded as to demand a certain brand of faith from everyone we meet. All of us are God’s children, after all.”

“What am I supposed to call you, then?” Thomas asked, picking at the sleeve of his coat. “Abbé? Father?”

“Since you don’t seek spiritual counseling, and so long as you promise not to enter my confessional, how about Xavier?”

Thomas grinned and a strange little spark danced down Xavier’s spine. “Agreed,” he said. “What would you think of starting my tour of Paris at the Seine? I love the breeze and view of Paris from there.”

“I’d be delighted.” Xavier nodded and smiled in return.

They sauntered toward the river, engaged in easy conversation. Xavier told Thomas about the riots, about the king, and about his view of the revolution. They chatted about mundane matters with no particular destination or motive. Xavier hated that the night ended when they returned to his church and bid adieu. He hoped, with butterflies in his stomach, to see Thomas again, but his fear of rejection kept him from saying anything further.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Damian Serbu lives in the Chicago area with his husband and two dogs, Akasha and Chewbacca. The dogs control his life, tell him what to write, and threaten to eat him in the middle of the night if he disobeys. He previously authored several novels now out of print, and is excited to reignite his writing with Ninestar Press!

Coming this fall, his latest vampire novel: The Vampire’s Protégé. Keep up to date with him on Facebook, Twitter, or at http://www.DamianSerbu.com.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Matthew J. Metzger on Side Characters and his latest novel Walking on Water (guest post, excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Walking on Water

Author: Matthew J. Metzger

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: November 13, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 88300

Genre: Fantasy, fantasy, mermaids, trans, magic, fairy tales, bisexual

Add to Goodreads

Matthew J. Metzger on Side Characters

My favourite characters are always my side characters.

I know that sounds a little crazy for an author, and I swear I love my main characters as much as anyone else, but—there’s just something special about side characters!

In my latest novel, there’s a whole cast of side characters built out of their own names. The novel is set in a fictional German kingdom. I was learning a bit of German from my helpers at the time, and loved the way a German translation changed the way a word looked and felt. So Doctor became Doktor, but would have been a different word entirely if someone said, “Call a doctor!” Therefore, our hero—who speaks no German at all—takes that to be his actual name. This also happens with a captain and a small child, whose ‘name’ actually means ‘my son.’

I love the visual look of a word, so the switch from Doctor to Doktor made the character for me. His German ‘name’ looks spikier and harsher, so the character became that way as well. By contrast, the long dip of the J in Janez (the prince) made him softer than the original draft, more refined and gentle than I’d originally pictured.

With main characters there’s only so much their name can influence them—they have to be the way they are for the plot, after all—but with side characters, I find there’s more room to mould them into exactly what I see in the name. So Doctor might have been a kindly sort of person—but Doktor is acerbic, harsh, begrudgingly caring, and uses threats and trickery to work his art. The one time he is openly warm in the entire novel is after the queen jabs her brother-in-law in his wounded thigh with a pin to stop him trying to get up before he’s ready. Doktor approves heartily of such methods, and a flash of warmth and even charm is glimpsed. (Then, obviously, it vanishes once more.)

Something similar happened with Captain Kühe. I drew the character out first—this pompous, blithering idiot of a man who’s far too self-important to fit inside his uniform properly—and went straight for an animal I don’t like to name him. Cows. I hate cows. They’re only good for beefburgers, in my opinion. So the name came so beautifully well-packaged: clumsy to pronounce in my accent, difficult to write without a German keyboard thanks to the umlaut, and too short to support its long letters. Gorgeous.

By the time I’d finished the novel, I had a cast of side characters either born from their names, or their names born from them, in a far more raw way than I can do with main characters, who I not only have to like but I have to write their name over and over and over, so it has to be a good one, and a fitting one. That’s much harder.

But my side characters? That’s where the fun really lies.

Synopsis

When a cloud falls to earth, Calla sets out to find what lies beyond the sky. Father says there’s nothing, but Calla knows better. Something killed that cloud; someone brought it down.

Raised on legends of fabled skymen, Calla never expected them to be real, much less save one from drowning—and lose her heart to him. Who are the men who walk on water? And how can such strange creatures be so beautiful?

Infatuated and intrigued, Calla rises out of her world in pursuit of a skyman who doesn’t even speak her language. Above the waves lies more than princes and politics. Above the sky awaits the discovery of who Calla was always meant to be. But what if it also means never going home again?

Excerpt

Walking on Water
Matthew J. Metzger © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

When the sand settled, only silence remained.

The explosion had gone on for what felt like forever—a great boom that shuddered through the water, a shadow that had borne down on the nest like the end of the world had come, and then nothing but panicked escape from the crushing water, the darkness, and the suffocating whirlwind of sand and stones. In the terror, it had seemed like it would never end.

But it did end, eventually. When it did, Calla lay hidden in the gardens, deafened and dazed. She was shivering, though it wasn’t cold. An attack. They had been attacked. By what? Orcas and rival clans could hardly end the world. And what would wish to attack them so?

She took a breath. And another. Her attempts to calm herself felt pathetic and weak, like the desperate attempts of a mewling child. Where was Father? Her sisters? Where even the crabs that chattered and scuttled amongst the bushes? She was alone in the silent gardens, and Calla had never been alone before.

Slowly, she reached out. Slipped through the towering trunks, to the very edge of the gardens, to where the noise had come from. Drew aside a fern and—

Ducked down, clapping a hand over her mouth to prevent the gasp.

A giant beast lay in the courtyard.

Still. Oh, great seas, be still. She held her breath and closed her eyes. It had to be an orca, a beast so huge, and it would see her if she moved.

Yet even in her fear, Calla knew that wasn’t quite right.

Orcas didn’t come this far south—did they? Father had said they would be undisturbed here. Father had said.

She peeked again. Daring. The beast didn’t move.

Nor was it an orca. It was impossible, too huge even for that. Oh, she’d not seen an orca since she’d been a merling, but they’d never been that big. It had squashed the courtyard flat under its great belly, its tail and head—though she couldn’t tell one from the other—spilling out over the rocks and nests that had been homes, once. It would have crushed their occupants, surely. What beast killed by crushing?

Hesitantly, she drifted out of the garden. Her tail brushed the ferns, and she wrapped her fins around them, childishly seeking comfort.

The beast didn’t move.

In fact, it didn’t breathe. Its enormous ribcage, dark and broken, was punctured by a great hole, a huge gaping blackness longer than Calla’s entire body, and wider by far.

It had been slain.

Bloodless. It was quite dead. How could it be dead, how could its heart have been torn out so, without spilling blood into the water? Where was the column of red that marked its descent? Where was—

Oh.

“A cloud!”

It was no beast.

Calla fled the safety of the gardens in a flurry of excitement. No, that great oval shape was familiar. How many had scudded gently across the sky in her lifetime? How many times had she watched their passage from her window? Beautiful, dark, silent wonders. Oh, a cloud!

She rushed closer to look. How could a cloud have fallen to earth? Father had said they were simply things that happened in the sky, and no concern of theirs. But this one had fallen, lay here and near and so very touchable—and now Calla wanted to touch the sky.

It was—

She held her breath—and touched it.

Oh.

Rough. Sharp. Its body was dark against her pale hand. And hard, so very hard. She had imagined clouds to be soft and fluid, to walk on water as they did, but it wasn’t. Huge and heavy, it was a miracle that it walked at all.

And a home: tiny molluscs clung to it. As she walked her webbed fingers up the roughness and came over the crest of its enormous belly, she mourned its death. This must have killed it. Such a deep, round belly—clouds were obviously like rocks and stone, but this one had been cut in half. Exposed to the sea was a sheer, flat expanse of paleness, with great cracks in the surface. A column stuck out from the middle, and two smaller ones at head and tail. It had been impaled by something, the poor thing.

“Calla!”

The hiss reached her from far away, but Calla ignored it. The poor cloud was dead. It had been slain, and whatever had dragged it from the sky must have been immense, to wield spears like those jutting from its body. And it wasn’t here.

Clouds were harmless. Dead clouds, even more so.

“Calla, what are you doing?”

“Meri, come and see!” she called back to her sister and ducked to swim along its flattened insides. Great ropes of seaweed, twisted into impossible coils, trailed from its bones. Vast stains, dark and pink, smeared its ragged edges. When Calla peered up into the sky, at the stream of bubbles still softly rising from its innards, she could see the gentle descent of debris. It had been torn apart.

Orcas? But an orca pack would have followed it down. Sharks? Calla had never seen a shark, but Father had, long ago when he was a merling, and he’d said they were great and terrible hunters. Were sharks big enough to do it?

“Calla!”

That was not Meri’s voice. Deep and commanding, it vibrated through the water like a blow. Calla found herself swimming up the side to answer automatically, and came clear of the cloud’s gut barely in time to prevent the second shout.

Father did not like to call a second time.

“Here. Now.”

She went. At once. The immense joy at her discovery was diminished in a moment by his stern face and sterner voice, and Calla loathed it. She felt like a merling under Father’s frown and struggled to keep her face blank instead of echoing his displeased expression.

“You should stay away from such things. The guards will deal with it.”

“But Father—”

He gave her a look. She ducked her chin and drifted across to join her sisters at the window. The window. Pah. What good was the window, was seeing, when she had touched it?

“What is it?” Balta whispered, twirling her hair around her fingers.

“A cloud,” Calla said in her most impressive voice and then pushed between Meri and Balta to peer out. The guard were swarming over the cloud’s belly, poking more holes in the poor thing’s body. “Something killed it.”

Meri snorted. “Talk sense, Calla.”

“Something did!”

“You sound like a seal, grunting nonsense.”

“I do not!”

“Girls!”

They subsided under Father’s booming reprimand—although Calla snuck in a quick pinch before stopping—and returned to watching.

“Clouds don’t fall out of the sky,” Meri whispered. “It must be a shark. There’s nothing so big as a shark. Father said so.”

“Father also said sharks don’t come this far north,” Balta chirped uncertainly, still twirling her hair.

“That’s a cloud,” Calla said and peered upwards to the sky, her eyes following the great trail of bubbles, “and I bet something even bigger killed it.”

Purchase

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Meet the Author

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

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

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

 

Tour Schedule

11/13 Love Bytes

11/13 The Blogger Girls

11/13 Erotica For All

11/13 Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

11/14 Happily Ever Chapter

11/14 MM Good Book Reviews

11/14 Bayou Book Junkie

11/15 Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews

11/15 A Book Lover’s Dream Book Blog

11/16 Stories That Make You Smile

11/16 Divine Magazine

11/17 Shari Sakurai

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