Check Out the New Book Release for The Soulstealers by Jacqueline Rohrbach (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: The Soulstealers

Author: Jacqueline Rohrbach

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: April 1, 2019

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 90100

Genre: Fantasy YA, LGBT, Magic, soldiers, power struggle, spirits, Penumbra, slow burn

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Synopsis

Arnaka Skytree grew up believing she was chosen to bring new magic to the world. As the heir to the cult of druids responsible for keeping their floating palace habitable for the wealthy aristocracy, she’s expected to wield her power as those before her did: by culling the souls of peasant women.

But when Arnaka learns more about the source of her magic, and that her best friend’s soul will be harvested, she embarks on a journey to end the barbarous practice and to restore a long-forgotten harmonious system of magic practiced by the original druids. Along the way, she discovers she’s not the only girl chosen to restore balance to their world—many others have powerful magic inside, and with them, she will tear the floating palace from the sky so everyone can live in the sun—out of the shadow of the eclipse.

Excerpt

Soulstealers
Jacqueline Rohrbach © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 1
The Choosing

Flowers bloomed around Arnaka Skytree. Tiger lilies tickled her feet while orchids pried open one eye. Rose, the pricklier of the three, stuck her with one of its thorns. She puffed some air up in its direction, fluttering petals and her bangs. Late for her Choosing, Arnaka forced the insistent garden out of her mind, to focus on the currents of air traveling around her, picking out the magic radiating from the flowers the way her older brother picked out soldiers to die for him—delicately, decidedly.

Strong magic ran in her family. The ritual she had to go to was nothing but a mere formality. She would be a druid like all the other women in her family before her, down to the original matriarch—Arnaka the Creator—whose name she shouldered. She was bound to it the way her magic was bound to living things. Soon, it would be the last tattoo burned by magical fire into her skin.

Squeezing her eyes shut, she pressed her finger deep into the sifted dirt around her, begging the world to swallow her whole. The flowers, sensing her sadness, bowed their heads, but they couldn’t give her what she wanted. Destiny’s feet were too heavy for soft petals.

“Lady Arnaka? Are you here?”

Nara, one of her maids, stumbled into the conservatory. Arnaka felt the young woman’s life force before she opened her eyes to watch the bony girl blunder over the flowers, which recoiled from her steps, lifting their leafy underparts to avoid a trampling. Arnaka gave Nara’s approach a small, fond smile.

When she finally saw Arnaka, Nara jumped as if surprised. Her brown eyes widened, giving her the appearance of a deer about to be speared. “Lady Arnaka. Your mother wants you in the hall for the ceremony.”

“I know.”

“She sent me here to get you.”

“I assumed.”

“Lady Arnaka…” the poor girl prompted her.

Arnaka sighed. Nara, who was brought here as a servant and lived on the daily whims of her captors, had no choice but to play her role in today’s events. She wasn’t trying to drag Arnaka to the ceremony out of spite, avarice, or revenge. Doing her job without getting hurt was her only goal.

Pity softened Arnaka’s voice. “Of course. Tell Mother I’ll be right there.”

Nara hopped from one foot to the other. Voice barely above a whisper, she said, “I’m supposed to escort you, Lady Arnaka.”

Arnaka lifted her head and glowered at the servant, hoping the severe expression might be enough to send her on her way. Having company on the long trek toward the hall forced Arnaka to be strong. Really, all she wanted to do was run, hide, vanish.

You promised, she reminded herself. You promised you’d go through with this, and that you’d keep it from happening to anyone else.

With a wince, the servant tried again. “My lady, please. Your mother. She’ll—”

“Very well. Come on,” Arnaka interjected before Nara completed the statement with “punish me.” Hearing about her mother’s temper coupled with her propensity to harshly correct servants for slight failures would only twist Arnaka’s already knotted emotions.

“Thank you, Lady Arnaka.”

Said as if she had a choice. “You’re welcome.”

Banter wasn’t something Arnaka lavished on the silly, sweet girl. The walk down the hall was silent. Nara didn’t seem to mind the quiet, or notice. Newly employed, she occupied a world where magic was still magical. The diamond archways casting rainbows to the reflective surface beneath their feet dazzled. Gold shone. Ruby and sapphire mosaics sparked her brown eyes to flame. Tiredly, Arnaka grabbed the gawking servant, who tripped over her own feet as she ogled the spectacle, by the upper arm to drag her inside the transport.

“Ceremonial hall.”

In moments, they arrived. In front of them, the entire court gathered. Thousands of nobles, maybe more, in their best attire.

Her mother broke from the crowd and rushed over. “Arnaka, my daughter. You are radiant today.”

Both of them had black skin that always seemed moonlit and black hair that grew in thick waves. Her mother’s was always swept up into elaborate twists. Arnaka cut hers rebelliously short, letting her curly bangs cover her golden eyes, the pride of her family line. Look into your future mirror, the elder druids always liked to say, you are the spitting image of your mother.

Although her mother was undeniably beautiful with her high cheekbones and angular features, Arnaka’s pleasure in hearing about their resemblance waned. She didn’t want to be kin to a monster.

The swirl of Mother’s elaborate gown extended a foot or two in each direction. Mercurial as the woman herself, its folds, bows, frills, and ruffles shifted on whim in color and in style until she settled on a deep royal purple with a long ivory lace train that fluttered in the air like a cobweb in the breeze.

“Wasteful as always, Mother.” Arnaka pointed to the dress, to which she still made minor adjustments. Meanwhile, the living gathered around her looked wary. Druid magic required life, willing or not. “Glad you settled on something before the whole assembly was depleted.”

A few of the nobles glanced at their feet and cleared their throats but did not comment on the awkward exchange. Her brother puffed his chest. “Sister,” he bellowed, not unlike a braying goat. “We have waited for this moment your whole life.”

Lacking the refinement of magic, Escan’s features looked blunt and staggered as though whoever carved him had jittered uncontrollably during the process. Only his eyes, the color of golden flame that was his family’s legacy, rendered him attractive. Every girl wanted babies with ladder-climbing genes and nothing said advancement quite like the bloodline of old aristocracy. Otherwise, her brother lacked figurative magic as well as literal. He was doing his best to steal the moment despite it.

Arnaka looked at the assembly of aristocrats before her. Like her mother, they wanted all the religion with none of the sacrifice religion required. Servants were there to pay the life price for their magic. In a pinch, merchants would do. Who better to understand there was a cost to doing business? This was probably the first time in centuries any of them felt the intrusive pull of magic’s touch at their own doorstep.

Resigned to what was to be, Arnaka raised her voice to carry across the room. “I am here to bring new magic.”

Applause broke out. Arnaka winced away from it, hating the fact they clapped for her, for the evil thing they were about to do. You promised her, Arnaka had to remind herself again. You looked her in the eye and said you’d go through with this, then you’d keep it from happening to anyone else.

She’d been so focused on remembering her vow that she forgot the ceremony. The pain from the burning as her final tattoo, a small circle on her forehead, seared her skin surprised her. More than any of the other tattoos branded into her arms and back, it hurt with pain beyond the smell of her own flesh, beyond the residual throb of the wound. It foretold what was to come after.

As the smoke around her cleared, a young woman a few years older than her was escorted forward. Unnamed at birth, she existed to be Arnaka’s spirit sister until she became a soul familiar, forever bound to serve as an instant source of magic. But Arnaka knew her name, a deep secret between them that she’d sworn to keep. She held onto it even as the knife plunged into the young woman’s throat. She thought it when the soul heeled at her side—Hannah. Again when she went to bed with the thing looming over her shoulder—Hannah. Only once more after that.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Jacqueline Rohrbach is a 36-year-old creative writer living in windy central Washington. When she isn’t writing strange books about bloodsucking magical werewolves, she’s baking sweets, or walking her two dogs, Nibbler and Mulder. She also loves cheesy ghost shows, especially when the hosts call out the ghost out like he wants to brawl with it in a bar. You know, “Come out here, you coward! You like to haunt little kids. Haunt me!” Jackee laughs at this EVERY time.

She’s also a hopeless World of Warcraft addict. In her heyday, she was a top parsing disc priest. She became a paladin to fight Deathwing, she went back to a priest to cuddle pandas, and then she went to a shaman because I guess she thought it would be fun to spend an entire expansion underpowered and frustrated. Boomchicken for Legion! Follow Jacqueline on Twitter.

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In the Artist Spotlight: Paul Richmond. Book Cover and Artist Month Continues. This Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

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Artwork by Paul Richmond

Book Cover and Artist Month Continues

In the Artist Spotlight: Paul Richmond

 

Whether it be firebirds, fairies, pinup boys during the holidays, or dragons among the stars, Paul Richmond‘s covers have never failed to fire our imaginations, heat up our libidos, or just plain make us laugh.  Often glorious in color, sweeping in composition and style, there is just something so amazing, so special, so well, Paul Richmond about everything he does that it’s so easy to pick out a Paul Richmond cover by their distinctive artwork.

I regularly haunt his website to see what new original paintings he has finished so I can gawk and sigh over the  sheer vibrancy and beauty each conveys.  I recommend you all do the same.  You can find his website along with all his media connections below.

For his covers?  Well, they are so many.  From all the R Cooper Being(s) in Love Series (a favorite of mine) to T.J. Klune, to the many Advent Calendar stories to a multitude to authors in between, Paul Richmond has done covers for them all.  I’m only sorry we have room for so few.

I am delighted that Paul was able to take time out of his hugely busy schedule  to answer our questions about being an artist, book covers and much more.  I hope you enjoy his insights.  Here is Paul Richmond, up close and personal!

 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interviews Paul Richmond…

 

How long it takes to put together a cover draft and whether or not they make multiple drafts to show authors/publishers?

I can never predict how long a cover will take because there are a lot of variables that affect it. I do always like to show multiple drafts and work closely with the author to ensure that the cover is a good fit for the story they’ve written.

How much of your covers are original art and how much do you rely on using content purchased elsewhere (like Shutterstock

When I first started doing covers, most of mine were hand-painted, but the trends in our genre have shifted a bit and now I find myself doing mostly photo-based covers except for an occasional fantasy/sci-fi where illustration is still prevalent. Even though a photo-based cover uses stock images, I still consider them to be works of original art because there is often a large amount of photo-manipulation work that gets done in order to make the composite image cover-worthy. Ultimately, no matter how a cover was made, I think the most important thing is how effectively it draws in new potential readers.

How much input comes from  the author and/or storyline?

I work closely with authors because their input is invaluable in the process. I will also make suggestions if they are presenting a concept that won’t work well on a cover. Simple, bold covers work best and sometimes it is necessary to edit down a concept in order to make it work well as a cover image. It’s important to me and everyone at Dreamspinner that authors are happy with their covers and that we create covers that are going to help their books reach new readers.

How did you get to become a cover artist?

My friend Jane Seville was having a book (Zero at the Bone) published by Dreamspinner and she asked me to illustrate the cover. I studied illustration in college and did a lot of freelance work so it was a natural fit. Dreamspinner liked the cover and asked if I’d like to do more. Now I work full time as their Associate Art Director.

What mediums do you use?  

Originally I did my covers as oil paintings, and gradually shifted to working in Photoshop. It’s easier to make changes and more efficient overall. Plus the tools have been greatly enhanced to allow so many different styles of covers to be created digitally.

Do you have a favorite cover you have done?  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve enjoyed all the covers I’ve had the privilege of making, but some of the ones I look forward to the most are the annual Advent anthologies because I get to paint my Cheesecake Boys pinups into hilarious holiday scenes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have a favorite cover artist yourself?

We have so many wonderful cover artists working with us at Dreamspinner I couldn’t possibly pick one favorite. I am constantly amazed and inspired by the diverse styles and creativity of all our artists.

Did you look at book covers or were influenced by book covers as a child?

Yes, books were a huge part of my childhood. I was always reading and always dreaming of making books myself one day. I won a local art competition as a kid and used my $25 earnings to buy a toy typewriter that I used to “make books.” This was always something I wanted to do.

What do you find most rewarding as a Book Cover Artist?

I love art that tells stories, so it is really fun for me to learn about the concept of a novel and then work out how to relay a glimpse of that narrative visually.

For  Cover Artist:

What or how do you see the role of the Book Cover?

I think the role of a book cover is to entice readers, tease them with imagery that suggests the narrative of the story and make them want to start reading.

How has the eBook format changed that , if any?

Simplicity of imagery and clarity of text is very important now because most readers will first interact with a cover as a small thumbnail image as they scroll through covers digitally. If it doesn’t grab them at that scale and entice them to click, it might get passed by.

What trends do you see in Book Covers in the industry? Past, present, and future?  {for example the rise of the naked half male torso, model overuse ,generic covers ,etc.)

Photo-based covers are the norm now in most genres. Striking, simple imagery with bold, clean text is also important. In gay fiction, readers are tired of the two-models-cut-out-over-a-landscape look, especially when it’s obvious that the two models were shot separately because they are in different lighting scenarios. If there are multiple models, the interaction or connection between them needs to be believable. And single model covers often work really well too. 

How do you feel about them?

I like the way our covers are evolving, especially as readership continues to grow and we see gay fiction being added to more mainstream bookshelves.

 

Paul Richmond, Associate Art Director

About the Artist
Paul Richmond is an internationally recognized visual artist and activist whose career has included exhibitions in galleries and museums throughout the United States as well as publication in numerous art journals and anthologies. His work is collected by individuals around the globe. In his role as the Associate Art Director for Dreamspinner Press and their young adult imprint, Harmony Ink Press, he has created over four hundred novel cover illustrations. He is a co-founder of the You Will Rise Project, an organization that empowers those who have experienced bullying to speak out creatively through art. He lives with his husband Dennis in Monterey, California. He works and teaches at Open Ground Studios in Seaside. 

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/paulrichmondstudi

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Paul Richmond, Associate Art Director
Dreamspinner Press – Where Dreams Come True…
International publishers of quality gay romantic fiction since 2007
DSP Publications – Off the Beaten Path. Worth the Journey.
Harmony Ink Press – LGBTQ+ Teen and New Adult Fiction

Cover Artist Giveaway:

Please don’t forget to leave comments or questions for our artists to be entered into our Book Cover Artist Giveaway, a Gift Certificate for $10 the person chosen.  Please leave a email address where you can be reached.  Open until St. Patrick’s Day.
Now for this week’s reviews and tours.  Happy Reading and Listening!
We have more Artist Spotlights Scheduled. The schedule to date (with links in case you missed one):
February 09:  Aisha Akeju
February 10:   Garrett Leigh
February 17:   Meredith Russell
February 24:  Reese Dante
March  3           Paul Richmond
Until next week, happy reading and listening!  Here is our schedule at the blog this week.  Enjoy

This Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

 

Sunday, March 3:

  • Series Review Tour – Pros & Cons by A.E. Wasp
  • In the Artist Spotlight: Paul Richmond. Book Cover and Artist Month Continues.
  • This Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
  • An Alisa Review: Learning Trust (The Knights Club Series#3) by CJ Baty
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review : Dance For You by Colette Davison
  • A MelanieM Review:To Be Honest (#lovehim #2) by S.M. James

Monday, March 4:

  • PROMO Andi Van on Magic Triumphed (The Mages’ Guild Trilogy #3)
  • Review Tour – Chris Quinton’s The Fall Guy
  • Review Tour –  – Better Place (Rainbow Place #3) by Jay Northcote
  • A Lucy Review The 13th Month (Calendar Men #13) by Bailey Bradford
  • An Alisa Review Polar Opposites by Cheyenne Meadows
  • A Stella Review : The Fall Guy by Chris Quinton
  • A MelanieM Review The Rising by Morgan Brice

Tuesday, March 5

  • Release Blitz Order (Tattoos and Ties Duet, Book 2) by Kindle Alexander
  • Release Blitz  – Bitten By Fate – Annabelle Jacobs
  • Cover Reveal – Black by Quin Perin
  • A Alisa Release Day Review:  Jacked Cat Jive (The Kai Gracen #3) by Rhys Ford
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review : American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera
  • A MelanieM Release Day Review: Magic Triumphed (The Mages’ Guild Trilogy #3) by Andi Van
  • A Stella Release Day Review: Stealing His Heart (Connoll Pack #1) by Bru Baker

Wednesday, March 6:

  •  Review Tour – Touch Of A Yellow Sun – V.L. Locey
  • Review Tour – Touch Of A Yellow Sun – V.L. Locey”
  • Release Blitz Request – K.A. Merikan – In The Arms Of The Beast
  • Blog Tour – The Rising by Morgan Brice
  • An Alisa Review Shadowmancer (Paladin Charm #1) by Devin Harnois
  • A Stella Release Day Review: A Model Escort by Amanda Meuwissen
  • A Free Dreamer Review: Blood Lust by L.E. Royal
  • A MelanieM Review : Touch Of A Yellow Sun by V.L. Locey

Thursday, March 7:

  • Release Blitz – Broken by Colette Davison
  • Review Tour – Murder At Oakschott Hall – Jim Austen
  • Bru Baker on Stealing His Heart (Connoll Pack #1)
  • An Alisa Review Coming Out (The Knights Club Series#4) by CJ Baty
  • An Ashlez Review: Broken by Colette Davison
  • A MelanieM Release Day Review:  Freckles by Amy Lane
  • A Melanie Review : Murder at Oakschott Hall by Jim Austen

Friday, March 8:

  • Review Tour – Anna Martin – Helix
  • Release Day for First Strike – Book 3 in the Dragon War Chronicles series by AG Carothers
  • Release Blitz – Sam Burns & WM Fawkes – Prince Of Death
  • An Alisa Review: Finding Forgiveness (The Knights Club #5) by CJ Baty
  • A Free Dreamer Review: First Strike – Book 3 in the Dragon War Chronicles by AG Carothers
  • A Caryn Review :Helix by Anna Martin

Saturday, March 9:

  • Release Blitz – Perilous Hearts (Deviant Hearts #3) by A E Ryecart
  • Release Blitz – A.L. Lester – Shadows On The Border
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review : Better Place (Rainbow Place #3) by  Jay Northcote

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Our Supernatural Spotlight: ECHOES by LA Ashton

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Echoes by L.A. Ashton

Cover Art: Natasha Snow

February 25th 2019 by Ninestar Press

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Blurb

After one thousand years of listless eternity, Oskar is used to his particular brand of loneliness. But a long walk through middle America and a few chance encounters will lead him straight to a man he’d known to be long since dead―his childhood best friend, Aranck.

Being undead hasn’t stopped Aran from living life to the fullest. He has all the money and power his charm and business savvy could earn him, and plenty of friends. Lately, though, something seems to be missing. After a millennium, perhaps the world’s shine has worn off—and that’s when Oskar stumbles back into his life, reminding him of who he used to be.

Together the two vampires remember what it felt like to live, all the while navigating a conflict with the local pack of werewolves. A lot has changed in a thousand years, and only time will tell if those changes will bring Oskar and Aranck closer together, or ensure they remain apart.

About the Author

L. A. Ashton is an LGBT+ author writing LGBT+ fiction. They were born and raised between neat grids of corn and soybean fields. They enjoy rock music, traveling, and anything else that adds color to their daydreams. They believe in the healing properties of art and of having a cat firmly stationed on one’s lap.
Email: Contact@LAAshton.com
Twitter: @LAAshton_

New Release Blitz for Escaping Mortality (The Escape Trilogy #3) by Sara Dobie Bauer (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Escaping Mortality

Series: The Escape Trilogy, Book Three

Author: Sara Dobie Bauer

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: January 28, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 33100

Genre: Paranormal, LGBT, bisexual, gay, vampires, polyamorous, British nobility, established couples

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Synopsis

Their ocean journey was successful, and Andrew and Edmund found an Elder just in time. As they wished, Edmund is now a vampire like Andrew. They have eternity together, but first, they must visit Edmund’s ailing mother in the English countryside with their flock of immortals, including the Elder, who has taken an ominous liking to his new creation.

When they arrive at Edmund’s family estate, his sick mother and her loathsome best friend await them. While ducking religious curses, Edmund struggles to harness an unexpected power gifted him by the Elder. Andrew fears for his beloved as Edmund becomes more and more monstrous—but vampires have always been monsters, haven’t they?

A battle is coming, for Edmund’s heart and his soul, and Andrew will lose neither. He escaped island exile and a near tragedy at sea to be with Edmund, the beautiful young sailor he loves. Andrew will do anything to keep Edmund by his side, but his most dangerous adversary may be Edmund himself.

Excerpt

Escaping Mortality
Sara Dobie Bauer © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
Edmund tries desperately not to shiver, but he forgets himself every minute or so and allows a full body shake that vibrates the wet edges of his hair. We’re back on deck after our desperate leap into the ocean, my sailor and I. A half-hysterical Michelle wrapped us both in the heaviest fabric she could find once we were both safely lifted back onboard with our new passenger: the Elder.

He sits across from Edmund at a large table in our ship’s common area while I stand and glare. Michelle and Felipe linger silently to my left and right.

This Elder is nothing more than a rotting skeleton, covered in loose, hanging flesh. He smells of dead fish and refuses to take his dark eyes off the man I love.

“You are dying,” the creature says, his voice like the swinging of a rusted gate.

Edmund chuckles. “Yes. So you understand why I need your help.”

“Why do you want this gift, dead man? Power? Prestige?”

“No.”

“Then, why?”

“Love.”

The creature’s gaze momentarily swings up, and I stand straighter. For the first time since we escaped the rolling waves, the Elder addresses me: “How frustrating for a strong vampire such as yourself that you cannot save the one you adore.”

I’m about to respond when Edmund speaks first. “I would prefer to keep this conversation between the two of us, if you don’t mind. It is, after all, my life we discuss.”

The Elder studies Edmund and says nothing. For a long moment, he merely observes. Although the blanket covers Edmund’s black, infected flesh, it’s impossible to miss the green pallor of his skin, the purple circles around his eyes, and the color of his lips, now practically white. All signs of the healthy young man I first met are gone.

“You have no fear right now, dead man. Strange for one with so little time left. I tasted it underwater, your fear. Quite a strong bouquet.” A tongue like a slippery snail pokes out from the Elder’s mouth to lick cracked lips.

“You tried to pull me under.”

“You offered yourself.”

“I needed to get your attention.”

I’m not sure, but I think the Elder smiles. He shows his teeth anyway—long, pointed fangs bigger than any I’ve seen. “And now, you have it, dead man.”

“My name is Edmund. And you?”

Again, those eyes—so dark as to be almost black—glance at me. “Brien.” He growls the R. “If the world is still how I recall, Edmund, nothing is free. You woke me with your dying flesh because you need something.” He opens his hands before him, skin wrinkled, sharp fingernails like weapons. “What do I get from you?”

Edmund shivers and groans. When he bends over in pain and rests his forehead on the table, Michelle stops me from rushing forward. “What do you want?” Edmund asks.

As my darling struggles to find the strength to sit, Brien watches with interest—I assume. It’s difficult to tell with the sagging, wet flesh. Logic says the Elder should be dry by now, but he continues to drip foul water as though made of the stuff.

“You can have anything,” Edmund says.

Brien leans forward and sniffs, seeking Edmund’s scent. “I want to kill you.”

I step toward them. “No.”

The Elder stares at me. “No?”

“Edmund requested I do that.” I could say more about how I want to taste his soul, how I want that moment to belong to me and me alone. I want him in my arms the moment he takes his last breath. So many things do I want, and this monster of the sea would steal it all.

“Dead man?” Brien practically purrs.

“Damn it.” Edmund closes his eyes. “Fine. My life is yours.”

“But—”

“It is better than the alternative, love,” Edmund mutters. “Is that all you require?”

“I will travel with you wherever you now go.”

“Michelle?” Edmund says her name but doesn’t turn. I don’t think he’s strong enough to move anymore.

My old friend—once enemy, now leader—steps forward in her sweeping skirts. “Of course, Elder Brien. We are at your service.”

“You might want to…” Edmund coughs. “Find something to wear. They frown upon naked corpses walking around London.”

Felipe laughs—one short burst of amusement.

“Do we have a deal?”

Brien lowers his head. “Yes, Edmund.” He looks up and shows his teeth. “Ah, there it is—the smell. Now, you are afraid.”

Edmund’s eyes are red. I don’t know if he cries from pain or from the thought of his own murder at the hands of a hideous monster. Perhaps he found comfort in the thought of me doing it because he knew I wouldn’t let him hurt. Brien appears liable to chop off each of Edmund’s fingers before letting him die—but I will not let that happen. I will be at his side. I will hold Edmund’s hand as his heart stops beating. Thinking of this, my own chest begins to ache.

My God, what if this doesn’t work? What if the Elder kills my darling and jumps back overboard? What if these are the last moments I have with the only creature I have ever loved? I lean down quickly and kiss Edmund’s forehead.

His hand finds my face. “I’m ready,” he whispers. “Are you?” He smiles at me.

I pick him up and carry him to our room. The others follow close behind. In fact, the entire crew stands in the hall, watching us pass. What’s about to happen hasn’t happened in centuries, and I suppose everyone wants a view.

By the time I rest my shivering love in the center of our bed, someone has given Brien a cloak, although it does little to hide the emaciated ground meat of his face. Michelle comes in but locks everyone else out, for which I am thankful.

I kiss Edmund, and Jesus, he smells almost as bad as the Elder. I kiss his lips softly as he whispers he loves me.

“I love you too. I’ll be right here.” I squeeze his hand and kneel on the edge of our bed.

From across the room, Brien watches me again with what I suspect is delight. I want to bark at him and ask what on earth could be so funny, but I bite my tongue. Now is not the time to provoke the only man who can save Edmund. As he leans forward, I lean back, paying the Elder respect.

He looms over Edmund, but strangely, instead of beginning his feast, he rests on his side and touches Edmund’s hair with his pointed nails. “I am going to kill you now, but I will give you a new life. One without sickness or death. Do you accept this gift I give?”

Edmund nods.

“As I feed, I want you to think. Picture yourself healthy—the way you were before this. Perhaps, the way you were when you first met your vampire.”

“Half drowned on a beach?”

Although I can’t help but smile, the Elder seems confused. “Perhaps not. Picture yourself how you want to be, and in a little while, it will be so. Do you understand?”

Edmund nods again and flails for my hand. I entwine our fingers.

“Thank you for your offering,” Brien says. He then moves faster than even my eyes can manage to follow.

 

Read Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words’ Review here!

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Sara Dobie Bauer is a bestselling author, model, and mental health / LGBTQ advocate with a creative writing degree from Ohio University. Twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, she lives with her hottie husband and two precious pups in Northeast Ohio, although she’d really like to live in a Tim Burton film. She is author of the paranormal rom-com Bite Somebody series, among other sexy things.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr | Pinterest

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New Release Blitz for Half Life by Gregory L. Norris (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Half-Life

Author: Gregory L. Norris

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: January 21, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 14300

Genre: Paranormal, LGBT, witches, zombies, gay, magic

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Synopsis

Whitney Abbott travels to the seaside Maine town of Window to begin a new life in his uncle’s home. Robert Abbott is well-to-do and owns several high-end restaurants. Whitney will start at the bottom and work his way up at the flagship. But from the moment Whitney exits his car in the drive of the big, brooding house, he senses the sinister atmosphere surrounding his relations.

His cousin November, princess of the estate, feigns joy at having Whitney in town. And November’s handsome athlete boyfriend, Griffin, is an enigma. Soon after his arrival, Griffin warns Whitney to leave. With nowhere to go—and certain that his attraction to Griffin goes both ways—Whitney is drawn into November’s malevolent plans. Plans that will pit Whitney against dark supernatural forces in order to save both his and Griffin’s lives.

Excerpt

Half-Life
Gregory L. Norris © 2019
All Rights Reserved

I hit the switch. The familiar cold, white glare from the overhead lights rained across the kitchen, prep station, and the industrial dishwasher, scenes of so many long shifts and leg cramps. The light did little to remove the greater darkness that hung over the back of my uncle’s restaurant. The gloom swirling outside had followed me into Abbott’s Table, one of your finer dining establishments along this part of Maine’s Rocky Headlands. Rain pelted the oblong window above the prep-station sink, where I’d cleaned and breaded untold thousands of shrimp. The ghostly aroma of garlic, lobster, and grilled meat hung over the place. Cloying, with an edge of lemon cleaner.

“Hello?” I called.

My heart hammered against my ribcage. I imagined my balls shriveling up against the root of my dick. An icy finger stroked my spine.

“Anyone here? It’s me, Whitney.”

Identifying myself made the creeping sensation even worse. The darkness had pursued me, constantly there at the periphery hiding in shadowy corners. Here in my uncle’s flagship restaurant after hours, the unwanted attention from sinister powers was more tangible, more intimate. I choked down a heavy swallow to find my mouth had gone completely dry.

“Griffin, it’s me. I saw your truck in the lot,” I said, aware of how my lips risked a smile at the mention of his name. Griffin. My heart raced for different reasons after that. “Griff?”

I checked the kitchen—empty. Willing my legs forward, I pushed past the rightward pair of swivel doors, hearing the awful voice of the restaurant’s manager, Marc with a c—Always keep to the right, that’s how it’s done at Abbott’s Table. The dining room sat dark and empty, chairs stacked upside down over tabletops, the floors swept, mopped, and shiny under the green glow of the exit lights.

I checked the bar and both of the public heads, finding the same result: no Griffin. My pulse continued its mad speed. Danger juice soured in my bloodstream. His truck in the far corner of the Abbott’s Table parking lot could have meant a hundred different things on any other night—Griffin out having fun with some of his hockey league buddies, late fun, guy stuff. I knew he wasn’t with the Ice Queen. No, after what had happened and the kiss that followed, Griffin wouldn’t have gone back to confront my cousin, November Abbott.

That kiss…

For a wonderful instant, the storm cloud dissolved, and I was in my car again, his big hand cupping my cheek, his mouth crushed over mine, claiming me as his and offering me all he had to give in return. I remembered the warm scent of pinesap, of Griffin’s magnificent body, the swell of his erection pressing against me as we kissed, and the certainty that what we both felt, while undeniably physical, went past simple attraction. Dare I again think it? Love.

I loved Griffin, and he loved me.

The rain pounding the world outside the restaurant’s windows unleashed eerie silver dapples across the dining room. I stood pondering, waiting for a sound, a sign. When none came, I turned and hastened back in the direction of the kitchen exit.

“Whitney…”

I dug in my sneaker treads on the rubber mat set between the kitchen and rear door, at first thinking I’d hallucinated Griffin’s voice. But then I faced the direction of the sound and found myself staring at the one corner of the restaurant I hadn’t thought to search: the walk-in refrigerator and freezer.

Reaching the big stainless-steel door seemed to take longer than the actual few seconds. I tugged on the latch. The door resisted, as though someone was pulling at the same time from the other side. The inner voice that had told me a week earlier to turn around, to not travel north to the town of Window, Maine, was back, urging me to get out. Just leave. Run!

I drew in a breath, smelling the rain, the kitchen’s funk, and the trace of clean, athletic sweat from the T-shirt I wore—Griffin’s sweat, and Griffin’s shirt, borrowed on an afternoon that now felt part of another decade. I pulled harder. The door released. A gust of cold, foggy air billowed out.

The front part of the walk-in was already lit up from inside, even though the light switch was off. I pushed through the long plastic strips of the freezer curtain and into the wide space that housed expensive cuts of tomahawk steaks, bins of heirloom tomatoes and other fresh produce from the local farmer’s market, and, I discovered, one sacrificial altar.

I froze, my eyes recording details—the waxy candles, three, burning around the body on the folding table, the sprigs of Datura stramonium Devil’s Snare flowers draped around the nude man’s corpse laid out in a funeral pose. I recognized the patch of hairy, athletic lower leg, upon which a winged lion had been inked.

“Griffin,” I gasped.

A breeze that hadn’t been there the previous second whispered through the walk-in, stirring the leaves of bunches of basil, parsley, and other fresh herbs. My paralysis broke. I moved beside the table, my eyes wide, not blinking. Griffin, naked, his hands folded over his midriff. Even as I reached my trembling fingers toward his and the voice in my head screamed for me to run—run from the restaurant, from Window, Maine, and, above all else, from Griffin—my eyes recorded the pallor of his skin. Griffin’s flesh was gray in the flickering candlelight.

My hand covered his. A chill raced up my fingertips. He was icy to the touch. No, impossible—hours before, in that other era, he’d held me, kissed me. And I had seen proof of our tomorrow together even as the storm clouds raced over our heads. Griffin had pledged his love and promised to return.

I glanced at Griffin’s big jock feet—still sexy despite their grayness, up his legs, past his junk, and all the way to his eyes, clamped shut. I gripped his hands, the fingers interlaced in prayer, and squeezed.

“Griffin!”

The dead man’s eyes shot open. Gone was their beyond-blue color—what I’d come to think of as twin sapphire gemstones. What focused upon me now was a pair of predator’s eyes with a wolf’s silver sharpness. The hands beneath my fingers abandoned their illusion of prayer and seized hold of my arm. I shrieked, attempting to pull away. Right before the corpse’s legs swung out and the altar collapsed, toppling candles, I saw Griffin’s mouth open. He licked his lips. His teeth chattered. The dead man salivated hungrily.

And then his weight spilled on top of me, and he was snapping at my throat.

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Meet the Author

Raised on a healthy diet of creature double features and classic SF television, Gregory L. Norris is a full-time professional writer, with work appearing in numerous short story anthologies, national magazines, novels, the occasional TV episode, and, so far, one produced feature film (Brutal Colors, which debuted on Amazon Prime January 2016). A former feature writer and columnist at Sci Fi, the official magazine of the Sci Fi Channel (before all those ridiculous Ys invaded), he once worked as a screenwriter on two episodes of Paramount’s modern classic, Star Trek: Voyager. Two of his paranormal novels (written under my rom-de-plume, Jo Atkinson) were published by Home Shopping Network as part of their “Escape With Romance” line — the first time HSN has offered novels to their global customer base. He judged the 2012 Lambda Awards in the SF/F/H category. Three times now, his stories have notched Honorable Mentions in Ellen Datlow’s Best-of books. In May 2016, he traveled to Hollywood to accept HM in the Roswell Awards in Short SF Writing.His story “Drowning” appears in the Italian anthology THE BEAUTY OF DEATH 2, alongside tales by none other than Peter Straub and Clive Barker. Follow his literary adventures at http://www.gregorylnorris.blogspot.com.

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Love a Bit of Horror? Check Out the New Release Blitz for Stalker/s by L.J. Hasbrouck (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Stalker/s

Author: L.J. Hasbrouck

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: January 14, 2019

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 113600

Genre: Horror, horror, new adult, gay, trans, post-apocalyptic, zombies, survival, island

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Synopsis

Brian Jameson doesn’t even get a chance to pick a college before a worldwide pandemic breaks out—and his home is Ground Zero. After losing his parents and sister in a whirlwind of devastation, Brian’s war-veteran grandfather takes him under his wing. But when desperate looters attack Brian’s new home, he and his grandfather must flee into a wintery Midwestern wasteland now populated by intelligent infected known as “Stalkers.”

These ghoulish creatures don’t shamble in hordes—they hide in the darkness waiting to strike, teeth bared in ghastly grins. And they laugh while they’re ripping you to shreds.

But with his grandfather’s training, Brian makes it to the home of his estranged childhood friends, twins Louis and Eva. And Brian gets a chance to experience something else he nearly missed: falling in love. Drawn to the determined—and ruthless—Louis, Brian escapes with him in search of an island paradise away from the relentless snow and infected.

But even if they make it there, it may not be the haven they’re hoping for.

Excerpt

Stalker/s
L.J. Hasbrouck © 2019
All Rights Reserved

12/19, Topeka, Kansas

Jameson Residence

1:06 a.m.

The light from Brian Jameson’s tablet danced across his face in varying degrees of intensity: somber blues, soothing greens, and sometimes the alarming tinge of blood-red. The show’s layered soundscape coursed through his earbuds. Drizzling rain enveloped the muted dialogue of two detectives, their shoes crunching against gravel as they hunted an elusive killer. Somewhere offscreen, a gun exploded. Brian’s pulse pounded so hard it blended with the strengthening downpour.

Jesus, I didn’t expect that.

Brian waited for the scene to change, for stunned gasps, for those dainty footsteps to accelerate into a frantic sprint, but the pair of detectives continued their discussion as if they were taking a stroll through a scenic garden.

Brian paused the video and plucked out his earbuds. Silence. Darkness. A small square of light with an image frozen in time tilted against his knees.

Am I going crazy? I swear I heard a gunshot.

Abrupt knocks shook his bedroom door. Brian’s tablet fell to the bed as he swiveled his legs over the edge, muscles tensed—

“Bri! I heard a buncha loud sounds an’ I’m scared!”

Brian clicked his lamp on and rushed to open the door for his younger sister, stumbling over a still-packed suitcase. After he ushered her in, he shut the door. His racing heart slowed as he gripped her fragile shoulders. We might have heard the same thing. Thunder, or maybe fireworks from the redneck neighbors.

“It’ll be okay, Becks. Tell me what happened.”

Becky’s thin eyebrows knit above glistening pale-blue eyes. “A boom woke me up an’ I ran to Mommy and Daddy’s room, but I heard another boom in there an’—”

“Wait—in their room?”

Becky nodded.

Brian jerked his cell phone from the charger. He pressed the “9” from the emergency screen, Becky’s fearful gaze locked on his. A whimper escaped her as footsteps creaked in the hall outside. Shadow sliced the sliver of light beneath the door.

Brian abandoned the phone to reach for the door lock—but someone twisted the knob before he could get to it. A sturdy figure burst in and knocked Brian back. Becky cried, “Daddy!” and flung her arms around their father’s stocky legs. Their mother pushed into the room after him, collapsing to her knees as their father slammed the door and locked it. Brian caught the glint of a gun wrapped in her shaking hand.

While his father paced the room, phone pressed to his ear and daughter wrapped around his legs, Brian guided his mother onto the edge of his bed. Her distant gaze frightened him—she seemed to be looking at something only she could see. A memory, perhaps, something keeping her from the present. Her auburn waves clung to her shoulders in sweat-matted strands. Blood spatter stained the pink and yellow flowers of a nightgown. It framed four crimson gashes gleaming from her porcelain chest.

In the background, Brian’s father spoke to a muffled dispatcher. “My kids are terrified, we’re locked in my son’s bedroom, and there’s a fucking dead guy on my bedroom floor! Why? My wife shot him, that’s why! All I know is I woke up to gunshots, my wife screaming, and some nut springing out of our closet. He scratched her—even tried to bite her! He was out of his mind, stank like…I dunno. I dunno. Can you hurry, please? I’m worried about my wife.”

Brian’s father slumped onto the bed and ran a hand through his close-cropped hair. Becky squeezed between their parents, tiny hands clutching their father’s flannel pajama sleeve while he listened to the dispatcher. His free hand curled into a fist above his bouncing knee, knuckles tightening to white.

Brian’s skin grew clammy. Tingly. He tuned out the sights and sounds around him until they became a blur and buzz, a spinning funhouse tunnel of disorientation. She shot him. This crazy guy that broke in. God, he could’ve come after me and Becks if she hadn’t…

Distracted by the motion of his mother setting the gun on his bedside table, Brian looked at her. He recognized a forced smile he’d seen many times before. “We’ll make it through this one step at a time. We always do.” She glanced down at the bloody slashes, then back up to Brian. “I know this looks nasty, but it’s only a couple of scratches. I’m okay. I promise.”

She pulled Becky to her, giving her the attention their father couldn’t. Despite his muscular build and booming voice, Brian’s father often wilted in stressful situations—like the time he lost his job at the Topeka mall and Brian and his mother found him foaming at the mouth with an empty pill bottle beside his outstretched hand.

Brian’s father lowered his phone and looked at his wife and children, scoffing. “We have to stay in here and wait for them, barricade the door. The dispatcher said we’ll be safe and that we shouldn’t disturb the scene. Can you believe that? They made it sound like you were more of a criminal than the asshole you shot, Ellen!”

“Joel, language.” Brian’s mother covered Becky’s ears. She rested her chin atop Becky’s head and lowered her hands to stroke Becky’s lank hair. Brian’s father sat beside them, staring at the thin blue carpet between his bouncing knees.

“Brian, move your desk in front of the door.”

Any other time, Brian might’ve found his father’s condescension infuriating, but he was happy to have a distraction from the questions stirring within him. He dragged the desk over to the door, hyper-aware and jittery like he’d had too much caffeine.

When he finished, Brian sank onto the foot of his bed. He swept his tablet away, certain he’d never want to finish the episode frozen within it, and curled a quaking hand around his mother’s shoulder. “Mom, tell me what happened. Please.”

She nodded, taking in measured breaths as she threaded her fingers through Becky’s auburn curls. Becky took after their mother both in appearance and spirit. Although Brian possessed the same golden-blond hair and tan complexion as his father, he’d also inherited his tendency toward escapism.

His mother kept him going. She kept them all going. Even though she’d been hurt, she still held her daughter to her, still gripped her husband’s hand in hers, still smiled at Brian.

“Someone must’ve broken in while we were at Nana and Poppa’s,” she whispered. “He hid in our closet, waited until we were asleep… I-I don’t know why he attacked me. But I…I had to protect my family, so I…”

She didn’t say anything else. Becky’s unbearable whimpering forced Brian to voice the panic bashing against his skull. “Who the hell was that guy? Was he some homeless guy that broke in to get out of the cold? Why would he hurt Mom?”

“Bri, if I told you what I saw, you and your sister would have nightmares.” Brian’s father finally looked up and met Brian’s gaze. “Your mother and I will already have them, I’m sure of it. All I know is it was self-defense: they’ll clear your mother, get her checked out at a hospital, and we can go back to normal.” His lips tightened into a strained smile. He’d been fighting to earn Brian’s trust back ever since they found him on that locker room floor, but the sacred trust built between parent and child had been shattered irrevocably.

Brian’s eyes fell from his father’s. They drifted into silence and awaited the police. His gut soured and every nerve in his body tingled until the tips of his toes and fingers felt numb. One second, he’d been watching a by-the-numbers police procedural, the next he might as well have been starring in an episode of his own.

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Meet the Author

Knowledge-seeking animal-lover, supporter of diversity, and OG Floridian. Lifelong gamer who grew up drawing Disney characters, whales, and dinosaurs. Proud INTJ (which I share with the likes of Hannibal Lecter, Batman, and Ellen Ripley).

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Release Blitz and Blog Tour – The Werewolf on Lowre Few Lane by Bryce Bentley-Tales (excerpt and giveaway)

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Book Title: The Werewolf on Lowre Few Lane

Author: Bryce Bentley-Tales

Publisher: NineStar Press

Cover Artist: Natasha Snow

Genre/s: YA Dark Fantasy LGBT

Length: 49,000 words/270 pages

It is a standalone book.

Release Date: October 29, 2018

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Blurb

A haunted house. A portal that lies inside. Four friends must enter both to save their world.

Thirteen year-old Colton has a crush on the new foreign exchange student, Dylan, but soon discovers his new American friend is not your average kid – he’s a werewolf. Their friendship has no time to blossom when Colton and his two close friends accompany Dylan to a haunted house, where they must search inside for a portal that will take them to another world where Dylan’s aunt is captive.

Excerpt

A loud clanging echoed across the yard, and we both cowered behind the stone fence post. Adjacent to the old post, a crumbling stone wall shielded us from anyone standing by the house. When I poked my head around the ledge, nothing but the motionless tall weeds could be seen in the yard and the same gloomy look the house had had before. It was dead quiet. Jade put her hands on my shoulders, her mouth next to my ear. “S-see, I told you. You believe me now? It’s haunted.” I tried to speak, but my mouth was dry. I brought my binoculars up, gripping them hard with both hands. “Probably just varmint inside,” I said.

“Aye. And maybe you and your butterfingers could be captain of the rugby team.”

“Har-har. You think the Kennedy twins really disappeared inside?”

“I told you. I saw them at the house when I was with Erin two nights ago. They said they were going inside.”
“Maybe they’re hanging out at the local pub downtown?”
“Colton, no one has seen those fellas since that night. They went inside and never came out, sure of it.”
I swiveled the binoculars around, peering at the large, arched front doorway, which had a wolf face door knocker. Jade whispered close to my ear, “You see anything?”
“Shhh, I can’t focus with your tongue in my ear.”
“My tongue isn’t in your ear,” Jade said, her voice irritated. After a few seconds, she pushed on my shoulder. “By the way, you find out the new foreign-exchange fella’s story? You didn’t take your eyes off him in class. I missed a lot while I was away.” She giggled. “You fancy him, don’t you?”
I cringed, lowered the binoculars, and spoke in a hushed voice over my shoulder. “Don’t say that out loud.”
“And who’s going to blimey hear us? Just us and the ghouls at 44 Lowre Few Lane.”

Lunchtime came, and I headed to the cafeteria. I scanned the room, searching for Dylan. My heart beat fast. I didn’t see him. Nor did I see anyone I wanted to sit with, or someone, for that matter, who would want me to sit next to them. Ms. Griffin was standing close to several teachers, and I picked up bits and pieces of the gossip. You could count on Ms. Griffin for gathering the latest scandal regarding students, teachers, and anything else, and sometimes she would let things slip to students. Especially if she liked them. She was talking about Brian and the fact that he and his brother had been at that house. I assumed she meant 44 Lower Few Lane. Boys’ laughter reached my ears and I turned. On the far side of the room sat a row of rugby players. My heart plummeted to depths of glumness. Dylan was sitting with them, his back to me. Several of the boys were laughing at whatever story Dylan was telling them. I got my lunch, my head hung down, and I clomped down the hall to go outside. A few boys were forming up teams for rugby and asking for players.A round-faced boy pointed toward me and asked, “What about him?”

I froze in place. A skinny, spindly-legged boy cawed in laughter and slapped the oval-face lad on the back. “Don’t be a muppet. He’s only good at running numbers in his head.”

The two boys faced away from me and continued their search for players.

Always singled out as the smart kid. The brainy one. Tears threatened to sell, but I kept control and headed to my favorite oak tree. I had no chance of winning over Dylan.

About the Author 

Bryce was raised by his mother and father in the countryside near Wichita, Kansas and learned to become an avid reader from his mother and maternal grandfather who carries the last name of Bentley. Stephen King novels still stack his two shelves in his old bedroom at home. After graduating from his high school with a class size of 69, he completed college where he had never came out gay, then took a winding journey over his entire 20s. This took him to Indiana, then to the San Francisco Bay Area where he still did not come out but obtained a master’s degree. He traveled to Bangkok, Thailand during his late 20s to teach English for a year and he met his first boyfriend. Five years later, he completed his doctorate degree in psychology, which was inspired by a youth and young adulthood of feeling internally bewildered. Bryce started dabbling in writing in 2011 or in his mid-thirties. He self-published several works under his name over the last few years, but it was in 2016 he felt like he was finally getting the hang of this writing thing. The Werewolf on Lowre Few Lane is his first work under his pen name of Bryce Bentley-Tales.  His next YA novel with a working title of Orion: The PreRobo Era Boy, is a work he is finishing up currently. Bryce currently lives in Dallas, Texas.

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New Release Blitz for Sentinel (Until You #2) by Karrie Roman (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Sentinel

Series: Until You, Book Two

Author: Karrie Roman

Publisher: NineStar Press, LLC

Release Date: September 10, 2018

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 71700

Genre: Contemporary, bodyguards, hurt-comfort, grief, men with children, rescue operation

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Synopsis

Never allowing anyone too close, Ethan Stone has lived a solitary life since he was disowned by his family when he discovered their darkest secret. He spends his days as a quiet sentinel, protecting others to make up for the ones he didn’t. Love, friendship, and family have no place in his world.

Ben Cronin is a warrior, haunted by a past he excelled at, which almost robbed him of his humanity. He became a professional bodyguard to save lives rather than take them. And he has loved his stoic colleague, Ethan Stone, from the day they met.

When Ethan’s sister suddenly comes back into his life in desperate need of his help, Ethan doesn’t hesitate to do whatever he needs to do. To his surprise, Ben—the man who makes him want things he shouldn’t—is right there beside him, risking everything to help him and finally coaxing Ethan’s feelings back to life.

A desperate race to find his missing nieces leads Ethan to a place he never thought he’d be and takes Ben exactly where he wanted to be—in a life filled with love and desire. But how long can they keep it when evil stalks their every step?

Excerpt

Sentinel
Karrie Roman © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Prologue
“Last question.”

“What now for you, Ryan?”

“Um…the short answer is I really don’t know. I’m going to take some time with Lucas while the show is on hiatus and think about what’s next for me. I hope people will understand why I’ve chosen to step away from the spotlight and will be gracious enough to give me the space I need to work out where to go from here. But for right this minute, Lucas and I are getting on a plane to locations unknown and we’re going to relax and enjoy being us.”

The press conference was a compromise between the very intrusive media and Lucas and Ryan. They wanted some peace, some space to recover from the events of the last couple of months, and now that their show, Witches’ Hammer, had wrapped up for a break, and Lucas had been given a clean bill of health, they were taking some time for themselves. Nobody deserved it more after what they’d been through.

Ethan watched, ever vigilant, as they stepped down from the podium and walked hand in hand toward the waiting car. His gaze rested on their joined hands for a second or two too long, but it was hard to look away from something that he desired for himself so very much. Not that he wanted either Lucas or Ryan. They were both great men and smoking fucking hot, but they weren’t for him. What he wanted was what they had—intimacy and love.

After years of self-imposed isolation from anything resembling a close relationship, Ethan wanted more.

Once his two charges were settled in the car, Ethan climbed into the passenger seat and gave the nod to Max. The big car roared to life and Max deftly drove them toward the airport and their waiting plane.

His former bosses, Patricia and Roger Krispin, had let Ethan go from their security agency when he called to resign, as he’d breached their no-skeletons-in-the-closet rule, but Lucas and Ryan had hired him as their personal bodyguard and had kept the Krispin’s professional teams as backup whenever needed. Ethan would be traveling to Australia with them, and Harry and Christina would meet them there for extra security, if needed.

“Looking forward to the Aussie girls in their bikinis, Ethan?” Ryan asked from the back seat.

“I’m more of a man in…what do you Aussies call them…boardies type of guy.”

“Oh, shit…sorry. Well, there’s plenty of them too. Maybe we can find a hot lifeguard for you while we’re there.” He didn’t need to turn to know Lucas and Ryan would be giggling to themselves, no doubt planning some kind of setup for him. He loved working for these two men and often wondered at his good fortune, especially after the shit had hit the fan following the revelation of who he was.

For almost four weeks, Ryan and Lucas had dominated the front pages and headlined the news. When the media had discovered that Ethan Lockard had come out of the woodwork and was somehow embroiled in the Lovers saga, the scrutiny had begun to border on the ridiculous. Ethan had offered to resign and had given serious thought to running again. It would be harder to pick a new identity and hide this time, but he’d manage. He was so tired of running and so fucking tired of being lonely.

Eight years ago, he’d lost his entire family, and though he hadn’t allowed any of them to get too close, the men and women he’d worked with over the last few years had become a family of sorts. He wasn’t going to let his brother take another family away from him this time.

“Okay, jet’s fueled and ready. Wheels up as soon as you arrive.” Paulina’s voice sounded in his ear.

“Copy. We’re about ten minutes out. All clear,” he replied. Despite the press coverage and the revelations that had been made about him, nobody from Krispins had seemed to care. They’d all accepted his apology for lying to them and admitted they’d have probably done the same if they were in his shoes.

The only person he hadn’t seen or spoken to since his true identity had been discovered was Ben. He hadn’t been back to see Ben since that day at the hospital when he’d been exposed. Ben’s brother, Cameron, had called to let him know the doctors had successfully woken him and called a few more times with updates, but Ethan had refused when Cameron had told him Ben had been asking for him to visit. He was such a fucking coward, but he knew he couldn’t bear to see disappointment in Ben’s eyes. What if Ben hated him for lying and keeping his past quiet? Ethan could stand anybody else’s hatred—but not Ben’s.

The private jet was waiting on the tarmac as promised, and Max drove them virtually to the open door. Ethan scanned the area as the car pulled up. He expected no trouble, and thankfully, he found none. Once satisfied, he stepped out and moved around the front of the car so he could open the back door nearest to the plane. Lucas stepped out, closely followed by Ryan, their hands immediately re-entwined as soon as they were both clear of the car. Ethan felt that pang of envy bite into him again at the intimacy the two men shared. God, he wanted it.

It wasn’t the first private jet he’d been on, but it was one of the nicest. Lucas and Ryan were already seated on the sofa that ran along one side of the cabin by the time he boarded. Ethan took the single seat across from them. He’d seen the bedroom toward the back of the plane as he’d entered the jet and wondered, with a sly grin on his face, how long it’d take before Lucas and Ryan made use of that.

“How are you with flying, Ethan?” Lucas asked as he continued to settle himself in and clip his seat belt.

“No problem with it. I can’t say I’ve done a huge amount, but I don’t mind it. Once the captain turns the seat belt sign off, I’ll pop this chair back, shut my eyes, and keep them closed until we touch down.” Ethan didn’t miss the look the two men opposite him shared, no doubt delighted they would, more or less, have the jet to themselves.

The engines had been idling since they’d boarded, and Ethan both felt and heard them roar to life now.

“All passengers, please ensure your seat belts are engaged and prepare for takeoff,” came a disembodied voice over the PA. The jet eased forward, slowly rolling toward the runway. It turned easily—nothing like the clunky turns of much larger passenger planes—before coming to a brief stop.

As the engines rumbled louder and louder and he was pushed back into his seat as the jet surged forward, increasing its speed to get it off the ground, Ethan had a sudden, inexplicable urge to run to the door and jump from the moving craft. He knew deep in his gut he was leaving something—or someone—behind.

He was sure he had everything he needed, and anything he’d forgotten he’d be able to buy in Australia, but he couldn’t escape that feeling of loss. Then, as he looked over the lights of the city below, he thought about pale-blue eyes that were usually dancing with laughter or mischief but had instead been filled with pain and determination the last time he’d seen them open, and he knew in his heart what he’d left behind—or rather who.

Purchase

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Meet the Author

Karrie lives in Australia’s sunshine state with her husband and two sons, though she hates the sun with a passion. She dreams of one day living in the wettest and coldest habitable place she can find. She has been writing stories in her head for years but has finally managed to pull the words out of her head and share them with others. She spends her days trying to type her stories on the computer without disturbing her beloved cat Lu curled up on the keyboard. She probably reads far too much.

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New Release Blitz for Push Me Pull Me by Amanda Rhodes (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Push Me Pull Me

Author: Amanda Rhodes

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: July 30, 2018

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 20000

Genre: Contemporary, lesbian, pansexual, BDSM

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Synopsis

At twenty-four, Mallory Grant is still struggling with adulthood. She can’t seem to make it in to work on time and deals better with her Tumblr friend on the other side of the world than a face-to-face with a real live human. But when her boss threatens to fire her as a rental agent, Mallory has to buckle down with her new client or end up jobless.

Corinne Ibori is moving to the Chicago area and needs a place to call home. Mallory’s goal is to find just the right location for Corinne’s needs and show her boss she’s turned over a new leaf. Corinne is thirty-five, self-confident, beautiful, flirty, has a French accent, and knows what she wants.

Mallory is finding it hard to believe that what Corrine wants might be her.

Excerpt

Push Me Pull Me
Amanda Rhodes © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Today has to be a new record for me. Forty-five minutes late for work and I’m sitting in the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru behind a line of cars at least a half mile long. One might think I have no respect for punctuality. And they’d be right. I’ve been on a losing streak lately with my alarm clock. It tries so hard to wake me up with the beeping and the screeching.

I have to have my coffee before I meet the day head-on, though. Therefore, I wait. Might as well be productive while I sit here. I text Helena, asking her if she’s seen my Tumblr post with the new pictures of Charlize Theron. She’s cut all of her hair off, and it’s sexy as fuck. Maybe she did it for a new movie role, maybe just to torture me. It’s hard to say.

Helena replies back, “Duh, Mallory. Of course, I’ve seen it.” She immediately saved it to her hard drive for safekeeping. This is why we are friends. Unfortunately, though, she lives on the other side of the ocean so most of our conversations are in the form of emails and texts.

I don’t really do so well with live humans unless I’m getting paid to customer-service them. I’m perfectly content with the friends that live inside my computer as far as my personal life goes. Helena gets me, and I make her laugh. Works out perfectly.

A few more cars move, and I’m almost to the ordering screen. I check the clock. 9:15 a.m. Yikes. This is super late, even for me. Silently, I pray that my boss isn’t in this morning—still traveling or has tripped on her kids’ Legos and sprained her ankle.

“Mallory, I’m sorry, but I’m not going to make it in today. You’ll be able to hold down the fort without me, right?”

“Absolutely, Shelly. You can count on me. I’ve been here for hours now. Everything is going smoothly.”

“Perfect. You’re an amazing employee. I’m definitely giving you a raise and maybe even an expense account. Also, I think you should take a month-long vacation when I get back. Honk.”

HONK. HONK. HONK.

The person who’s waiting behind is obviously super pissed by my delayed response.

“Sorry!” I yell from inside my car where no one can hear me. I wave, hoping they forgive my idiotic daydreaming.

Quickly, I pull through, order my coffee and the bagel I swore to myself I wouldn’t get.

When I make it to work, I realize that my daydream was exactly that. There’s a sticky note lying on my desk from Shelly.

See me when you get in.

There’s no “Thanks!” or her name with a smiley face. She knows that I’ll be aware of exactly who wrote the note. And she knows that I’ll be aware of exactly what I need to see her about.

The sense of dread I feel at moments like this never motivates me to do the right thing (i.e. show up on time), but only serves to remind me of how much I suck at life. That nasty little voice in my head is chanting “loser alert!” over and over.

Staring at the note, I take a minute to contemplate my next move. I could fake the stomach flu, invoking her pity. Well, at least temporarily. I’ll have to face the facts at some point, and that some point might as well be now. Sucking it up, I throw my things on my desk and do the walk of shame to her office.

I could easily walk through this maze of dull gray cubicles with my eyes closed. I’ve done it so many times. The chatter of twenty different people on the phone, scheduling apartment viewings, fills the air. Ben’s giant pair of green foam Hulk hands sit atop his bookshelf. I give them a fist bump. Ben glances up from his phone call, nods, and winks. He’s the only tolerable human here.

Almost every desk has one or two framed pictures of loved ones, boyfriends, kids, husbands. A candid of a group of friends at a wedding taunts me as I walk past Tracy’s desk. She also has a Post-it note holder in the shape of a red high-heeled shoe. She thinks it’s cute, and I think it’s hideous.

Each time I have to make the trip from my desk to Shelly’s, I’m forced to think about the absence of pictures and mementos on mine. Yeah, I could frame a picture of my brother or of my childhood dog, Scrabble, but I don’t actually want anyone here to know that much about me.

Peeking around the corner, I check to see if the boss-lady is on the phone or possibly reaming some other poor soul a new asshole, in which case I can hightail it out of here. No such luck. She peers up from her desk, her face the picture of annoyance. She extends her hand, waving me in.

“Hi, Shelly! You wanted to see me?” I ask cheerily.

“Save it. Sit down. We need to talk.” Her tone isn’t angry, just fed up. Honestly, this makes me feel even worse. She used to like me. And she’s stuck her neck out for me more than once. I’ve disappointed yet another person in my life. I might need to start a spreadsheet in order to keep track.

Awkwardly, I take a seat across from her, trying to work out if I should cross my legs or leave them uncrossed. Which leg position makes a person seem less like a failure?

“Listen,” she says, sighing deeply. “I know this isn’t your dream job. Nor would I expect you to treat being a leasing agent as such. But I do expect that you show some respect for me. I don’t make office hours for shits and giggles, Mal. You had an appointment this morning with a client. She sat in the lobby waiting for you for almost an hour.”

Fuck. Me.

“Exactly.”

I didn’t realize I’d said that out loud.

Purchase

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Meet the Author

Amanda Rhodes watches way too much TV and has a ridiculous amount of books on her to-be-read pile, yet she keeps buying them. She’s been writing since… well for a long time. Amanda loves the paranormal, sci-fi, and fantasy but could never ever write it herself. She’ll leave that up to the weirdos who do it best. Amanda lives in Chicago with her wife, four children, and pitbull who is a lazy bum.

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Cover Reveal for Love Spell by Mia Kerick (giveaway)

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Title: Love Spell
Author: Mia Kerick
Re-Release Date: August 27th 2018
Published by: Ninestar Press
Genre: Young Adult, LGBT

Sales Link:  NineStar Press

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Having come to terms with being gay, Chance César is still uneasy with his gender identity, or, as he phrases it, “being stuck in the gray area between girl and boy.” This concern, however, doesn’t stop him from strutting his fabulous stuff on the catwalk in black patent leather pumps and a snug-in-all-the-right (wrong)-places orange tuxedo as the winner of this year’s Miss (ter) Harvest Moon Festival at the local Beans and Greens Farm’s annual fall celebration, serenaded by the enthusiastic catcalls of his BFF, Emily Benson. Although he refuses to visually fade into the background of his rural New Hampshire town, Chance is socially invisible—except when being tormented or beat up by familiar bullies. But when Chance, the Harvest Moon Festival’s mockingly-elected Pumpkin Pageant Queen, meets Jasper Donahue (Jazz), the legitimate winner of the Pumpkin Carving King contest, sparks fly. Chance wants to be noticed and admired and romantically embraced by Jazz, in all of his neon orange-haired glory.

And so at a sleepover, Chance and Emily conduct intense research on their laptop computers, and come up with an article in an online women’s magazine called “Ten Scientifically Proven Ways to Make a Man Fall in Love with You.” Along with a bonus love spell thrown in for good measure, it becomes the basis of their strategy to capture Jazz’s heart.

Quirky, comical, definitely “sickening” (this is a good thing), and with an inner core of poignancy, Love Spell celebrates the diversity of a gender-fluid teen.

 

What reviewers are saying about LOVE SPELL ~

“Kerick devotes most of the book to sassy fun and first-love desire, but her depiction of the loneliness caused by apathetic parents, the insecurity of extra pounds, the stress of college applications, the meanness of bullies, the importance of forgiveness, and especially the uneasiness of being “stuck in the gray area between girl and boy” make this novel thoroughly enjoyable. The book not only hits upon all manner of teenage angst, but also on the significance of true family values and on the joys of such simple pleasures as high–thread-count sheets, sharing homemade pizza, and playing card games instead of “head games” on a Friday night. The characters are memorable and the dialogue is consistently bright and believable, featuring authentic-sounding teenspeak. The author even defines Chance’s invented vocabulary words (such as “Randatorbs” and “Dooza-palooza”) in a back-of-the-book glossary for readers who can’t keep up.

A comical, thought-provoking YA novel for those who believe in the magic of love without all the hocus-pocus.” – Kirkus Reviews (2015)

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About the Author

Mia Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—a daughter in law school, another in dance school, a third studying at Mia’s alma mater, Boston College, and her lone son still in high school. She writes LGBTQ romance when not editing National Honor Society essays, offering opinions on college and law school applications, helping to create dance bios, and reviewing English papers. Her husband of twenty-four years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about this, as it is a sensitive subject.

Mia focuses her stories on emotional growth in turbulent relationships. As she has a great affinity for the tortured hero, there is, at minimum, one in each book. As a teen, Mia filled spiral-bound notebooks with tales of said tortured heroes (most of whom happened to strongly resemble lead vocalists of 1980s big-hair bands) and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping. She is thankful to Dreamspinner Press and Harmony Ink Press for providing alternate places to stash her stories.

Her books have won a Best YA Lesbian Rainbow Award, a Reader Views’ Book by Book Publicity Literary Award, the Jack Eadon Award for Best Book in Contemporary Drama, an Indie Fab Award, and a Royal Dragonfly Award for Cultural Diversity, among other awards.

Mia is a Progressive, a little bit too obsessed by politics, and cheers for each and every victory in the name of human rights. Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology.

Contact Mia at miakerick@gmail.com. Visit her website for updates on what is going on in Mia’s world, rants, music, parties, and pictures, and maybe even a little bit of inspiration.

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