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.

Purchase

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

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.

Purchase

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

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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Buy Links

NineStar Press 

Amazon US 

Amazon UK 

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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Twitter: @BryceTales

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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

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble

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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New Release Blitz for Love it Like You Stole It by Ki Brightly (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Love It Like You Stole It

Author: Ki Brightly

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: July 9, 2018

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 99400

Genre: Contemporary, contemporary, blue-collar, mechanic, classic car love, age-gap, mobsters, crime, family drama

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Synopsis

Michael Levine is backed into a corner. He started tearing apart cars for the local mob with the best of intentions—to save up money to pay for his mechanic certifications and impress his crush and mentor, Ben. But Michael soon finds himself in way over his head. He knows stealing is wrong, but it’s only cars, and the insurance will pay to replace them, right? What started out as a small job to make some extra bucks soon turns into a nightmare he’s not sure he’ll ever be able to find his way out of.

Ben Jelen isn’t sure where his life is going. On the surface everything looks fine. He has a successful business, he’s raising his niece into a strong person, and he has a boyfriend most guys only dream of—sexy and rich. But nothing feels right. The only things that really keep Ben’s attention anymore are his classic Road Runner, his niece, and Michael—his Meeko. Ben took him under his wing forever ago, and their love of old cars and fast driving has forged a strong bond. Ben’s days don’t feel right if he doesn’t get to see Meeko at least once. But something seems drastically wrong in Meeko’s life, and Ben hopes he can put the pieces together to help him before it’s too late.

Excerpt

Love It Like You Stole It
Ki Brightly © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Prologue
BEN JELEN

“It’ll be a month, Bennet.”

I clutched the small silver bolt so hard it cut into my palm. The pain wasn’t enough to distract me. Rick’s bottom lip jutted out. It always did when he was on a roll. He crossed his heavy arms, eyes shadowed by his ball cap. With a sigh, I ignored my big brother, cutting my attention to the object of our current bitchfest. Vandi, his daughter, lounged nearby with tiny pots of fingernail polish out on the dusty, paperwork-covered desk.

“I’ll be good, Uncle Ben,” she chirped, her bow mouth turned up into a wide smile. She almost wasn’t a little girl anymore. It wasn’t long ago that I’d sit with her and do the painting. The sun cutting into the garage through the open bay door lit up her gold curls making them shine brightly. Her eyebrows furrowed in concentration as she dabbed a little brush covered in pink paint at her thumb. In her white summer dress, she couldn’t have looked more out of place.

I bent back over the motor of the beat-up, blue Ford Taurus and stared at it without seeing much of anything.

“It’s damned good money. They need mechanics for when the machinery goes down. If her mother hadn’t—”

“Rick,” I warned. Vandi’s head snapped up at the mention of her mom. I had no intention of mopping up tears today. He leaned a hip against the front quarter panel of the car and rested an elbow there, sending me a winning grin. It was the same bullshit one I used when trying to get my own way. “I’ve known you your whole life. That shit don’t fly.”

He chuckled, but his smile didn’t waver as he leaned in close, pushing his cap back with a thumb. I caught a whiff of the cologne I used and sighed. He’d raided my dresser again. Looking at him was like looking in a mirror—his brown eyes and long face with its blunted nose were just like mine, except mine was cocked a little to the left. He wiggled his eyebrows, and I blew out a hard breath.

“Those oil rigs are dangerous, and ask next time you steal my stuff.” I poked him on the shoulder with my ratchet as he shrugged, not at all bashful about his thievery.

“It’s a month on, three weeks off. And with the bonuses, I could be pulling in over a hundred grand next year. We can get the garage set up right, get more clients in…I won’t do it forever.”

I frowned and rubbed at my chest. He winced and scowled right back, like maybe he understood why I was upset. The idea of Rick being away for more than a few days made me nauseous. We’d always been a little too close, and it only got worse after Mom died. I sneaked a look at Vandi to see what she was thinking about all this, but she didn’t seem to be listening.

“I’m not sure it’s worth it,” I muttered. Shit. Money. We sure could use more of it.

A low humming started up from Vandi—a familiar song from the radio. “Check it out!” She flashed her pink fingernails at us. Rick turned and nodded at her.

“Real pretty, baby doll,” he said fast, not quite covering up the irritation in his tone. Her smile vanished.

I smacked his arm, but he was back to cajoling me with his half grin. I smacked him upside the head, sending his ball cap flying, but he ignored it and patted my cheek.

“I want this garage to get off the ground,” he said, “and so far, we’ve only been getting in about five or six people a week because we don’t have a lift. I had to send Mrs. Hopper to fucking Firestone because we didn’t have the right size tires.” He waved his hand toward the empty space stretching out behind us that practically begged to be filled with equipment. “We don’t have half the shit we need…”

“What if you’re out there in the middle of the ocean and there’s a hurricane or a blowout or—”

“Get back here you four-eyed fuck!” someone shrieked from outside. The low voice cracked on the swear word.

“What the hell…” I turned to look over my shoulder, and the bolt from the oil filter slipped from my fingers. With a ting, it disappeared into the abyss of hoses in the engine. “Shit.”

I slammed my ratchet down on the motor casing, and the air compressor at the rear of the work area chose that moment to kick on, filling the old cement-block garage with its chugging clatter. I strained my ears, but the voices outside were drowned out. “Turn that off, Rick.”

Nodding, he headed back to flip the switch. Vandi craned her neck forward to look out the wide door.

“He thinks he’s too good to talk to us. Mickey Mouse won’t open his mouth.” The bully’s voice dipped deeper on that last word, and an instinct for trouble sent me striding out the door into the gravel parking lot, past the few sad vehicles waiting for their turn in the repair shop.

Across the small side street, three teen boys surrounded another one on the sidewalk. He was hunched in on himself with his arms crossed protectively over his gut, his stance practically screaming, “Hammer me.” One of the boys—short, with a mean twist to his lips and a cheap buzz cut on his carrottop—smacked the glasses off his prey. Sparkling in the late afternoon sun, the lenses sailed in an arc and landed in the street.

“Should we do something?” Rick’s long shadow loomed near mine, arms crossed.

“Come on, hit ’em back,” I muttered, clenching my fists. “Protect yourself.”

Instead, the kid just rubbed at the bridge of his nose with one hand. He was coltish and stretched thin, like he’d grown too fast. But he was tall, and if he would throw a punch, he’d have reach. He didn’t move to defend himself or say a word, though, simply stared at his feet. I glanced at Rick, but when I looked back, the tall boy was shaking his head. Sunlight caught and glimmered on blue highlights in his black hair. The short asshole shoved him hard while the other guys circled, grunting out guttural encouragement that puffed up Mr. Attitude.

Outrage propelled me toward them at a fast clip.

“Ooooh, fuck,” Rick said on a chuckle.

I hadn’t planned on anything more than bitching out the bullies—until the short kid threw a hard jab. The tall one gasped and staggered back a step at the blow, but one of the kids in the circle shoved him upright so he could take more abuse. Wincing, the tall kid shook his head so hard he seemed to make himself dizzy. He staggered to the side but righted himself at the last second.

“You’re no better’n me—us.” The short kid hopped up and down imitating a wet chicken, darting his gaze around the circle. “You’re no better than us!” He screamed out a war whoop as he lunged forward to land the next punch. The tall kid took it on his left cheek and—pow!—crumpled to his knees.

“You little shits! Knock it off!” I ran toward them, hands pinwheeling, but had to slow down as a car shot by, going way too fast on the narrow street, separating me from the teenagers. Crunch. I winced and sighed as I jogged past the flattened glasses. No coming back from that.

The kids stilled as I approached—became panicked, malicious little statues. But when I stepped onto the sidewalk, fists balled up at my sides, my shadow fell across them, and the obnoxious brats scattered, helter-skelter—like I might actually chase them down and dish out a taste of their own medicine.

“You better run, you little pricks. Stay off my block!” I yelled after them. “I’m badder than you’ll ever be!”

Purchase

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Meet the Author

Ki grew up in small-town nowhere pretending meteor showers were invading aliens, wild flowers were magic potions, and secret agents hid around every corner. (Ki probably read more than was healthy.) They had one amazing best friend, one endlessly-out-of-grasp “true love,” and a personal vendetta against normalcy.

College was a catapult out of that sleepy little hamlet into a slightly larger, more entertaining city—Erie, Pennsylvania.

In their adopted hometown they enjoy the sandy beaches, frigid winters, and a wonderful fancy water addiction. Ki shares life with two sweet Muses, their Sugar Plum, and two children. Every day with these wonderful people is full of adventure.

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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

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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.

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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

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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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Highlight Tour for Mercs by Dorian Dawes (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Mercs!

Author: Dorian Dawes

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: June 4, 2018

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 72100

Genre: Science Fiction, sci-fi, military, gay, trans, aliens, space

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Synopsis

Famous bounty hunter Talisha Artul is not having a good day. A hostile alien planet full of bandits and refugees, an entire group of mercenaries all told to kill her and take her armor, and it’s barely even noon. All she wanted was to earn a paycheck and make her mother proud. They’ve barely shared a kind word since she came out of the closet as trans and took her mother’s name.

Now she’s travelling with an android cowboy with split-personality issues and an eight-foot-tall warrior woman to beat a group of vengeful pirates and the galactic federation’s military forces to uncover an ancient alien temple. Talisha soon learns that despite her legal standing, there is little that separates her from these marginalized cutthroats and outcasts. They’re all victims here, all pawns in their shadowy employer’s game.

Excerpt

Mercs!
Dorian Dawes © 2018
All Rights Reserved

“Were these seriously the best mercs you could hire?” The cigarette moved in the corner of Madame Inspector’s mouth as she spoke. She flicked her fingers across the pile of folders strewn across her desk. “Absolute rubbish.”

A little man with lily-white skin stood fidgeting with his spectacles in the doorway, clutching a briefcase close to his chest. Madame Inspector scared the living hell out of him. She liked it that way and would have smiled at his discomfort if she thought it’d make him squirm just a little bit more.

He took a tentative step, but she held a palm up and he froze where he stood. Good dog.

“Madame Inspector, I assure you they are highly qualified.” The overhanging lamp cast a glare over his glasses. “I’ve assembled before you the most dangerous individuals in the galaxy.”

Madame Inspector scowled, spreading out the files and pictures of each motley outcast passing themself off as a mercenary. “These bozos are more danger to themselves than anyone else, Mr. Snidely. Crooks and ruffians.”

“That’s why they’re perfect for the position,” Snidely said. He mustered up the courage to give her a wicked smile. “They’re completely disposable. Should be easy to turn them on one another when we’re done.”

Madame Inspector leaned back in her seat. She tapped the ashes of her cigarette into the tray and stared at him until his smile melted into open-mouthed fear. She said nothing, waiting for him to wither before the cold deadlights of her eyes.

“Mr. Snidely,” she said, a voice like gravel. “Not once have I witnessed one with as much audacity…or initiative. Good work. You’re dismissed.”

Snidely bowed his head and ducked hurriedly out of her office. She frowned as he left. The kid had gumption, ambition. They could be useful qualities in the right doses. She’d have to test him.

Archimedes IV, a war-torn rock populated by refugees and outlaws. It’d been deemed unfit for life by the Council of Thirteen following a resource war that’d decimated the planet and irrevocably altered the landscape. Some forests remained, having evolved to meet the harsh environmental conditions. The trees had become predators themselves, feeding off unwary travelers.

With its constant dangers and inhospitable environment, Archimedes IV had been abandoned by the Intergalactic Peacekeeping Federation, which made it the ideal location for all sorts of criminal scum to stash their ill-gotten gains. So long as they hid away in backwater filth, the law paid them no mind. It was out of their jurisdiction.

Talisha Artul had no jurisdiction. If the job told her to go, she’d go. The IGF had found her as reliable a resource as her mother. Abandoned science station deemed too dangerous to send in a full squad? Talisha was there with her arm cannon and jet pack.

Becoming a space-faring licensed bounty hunter had a few perks. The pay was decent—a huge bonus considering over half her funds were split between expensive hormone treatments and helping support her mother’s orphanage. Being able to traverse the galaxy and visit other worlds definitely ranked high on the list. Getting shot at on a daily basis was a minor drawback in comparison.

Reservations about this latest assignment scratched at the back of her mind as she sorted through the information provided to her on her tablet. An anonymous corporate employer had contacted her, leaving the legality of the assignment in question. She’d have to make a call to the appropriate channels to make sure her licensing fees had been taken care of. New information presented itself that she’d be assigned to a task force after previous assurances that she’d be working alone.

She threw the tablet against the ship console. “Shit!”

Talisha preferred working alone for multiple reasons. Silence kept her head clear and victory assured in any firefight. Other people introduced far more variables than she was comfortable with.

Maybe Mom would know what to do.

Talisha grabbed the headset from a compartment just above her and slipped it over her head. She made a sour expression at the tablet as she slumped back into her seat. A few moments later, her mother’s voice crackled into her feed.

“Talisha? Thought you’d be on-world by now,” Ms. Artul said.

“Mom, when is it okay to back out of an assignment?”

“Uh-oh. What happened?”

Talisha filled her in on the particulars of the assignment, making notes of the new last-minute information.

Her mother thought about that one for a while. “Your reputation is pretty strong right now. You could probably afford to back out.”

“What about you?” Talisha asked. “How’s the orphanage doing?”

“Expensive. Feels like there’s new orphans every day. People keep dying and leaving behind their little ones. This planet’s in need.”

“Do you have enough to make it through the month?” Talisha propped her elbows against the console and scratched the back of her neck with one hand.

Ms. Artul muttered under her breath in Swahili, then spat out, “Don’t you dare. If you don’t feel good about this mission, don’t take it.”

“You can’t order me around, Mom. I’m just being stubborn and paranoid…like you.”

“I wish you hadn’t called then.” There was a lengthy pause. “Fucking hell, kid.”

Talisha’s eyes watered. These were the types of conversations that drove people to drink. She gritted her teeth and pursed her lips, fingers shaking.

“I’m taking the job,” Talisha said, then threw the headset against the console.

Bluebird had seen her fair share of overcrowded dung heaps in her time—claustrophobic messes violating every single fire safety law in the galaxy; easy places to get stabbed and looted before you even had a chance to know what had happened. Folks in a hurry could trample your corpse without even noticing. By contrast, the spaceport on Archimedes IV was practically empty. A dumpster left at the back end of the long passage looked like it’d been overflowing for years. Shit and graffiti marred the walls, and it was nearly impossible to see through the teller’s window for all the grime and filth covering it.

Bluebird sniffed. She might come to like it there. Smelled just like home.

The poor terminal worker did a double take at her through the glass. “P-p-passport.”

By this point, Bluebird had become well accustomed to most people’s reactions to her appearance. She was proud of the severe scarring that marred one side of her face, the mark of a fine battle. Bluebird also knew that most people had never seen a Karstotzkiyan in their lives and were unaccustomed to seeing eight-foot-tall women with striking blue hair and hardened jowls. It’s where she’d gotten the nickname Big Ugly Bluebird. She liked it.

“Identification provided!” She slammed a meaty hand against the counter and slid a thick wad of papers through the slot beneath the window.

He stared at the mess of documentation and sighed. There were official licensing documents in the scattered heap to be certain, but there were also receipts to fast food joints, hair salons, old concert tickets dating decades back, etc. Bluebird grimaced, feeling a twinge of guilt. It’d take this poor man hours to sift through it all. She rummaged around in her pockets from some additional cash and deposited it atop the mess of documentation.

He sighed. He gulped, staring at the blue veins bulging beneath her thick muscles and the giant satchel strapped to her back. She did her best to give him a reassuring smile but was certain she only came across as even more imposing. Oh well, it couldn’t be helped.

He put a stamp on top the chaotic mess of pages and handed them back to her. “You know what, this is fine. Have a lovely stay on Archimedes IV.”

“You are most efficient. Thank you!” She gave him a thumbs-up and snatched the documents beneath her arm. She sauntered out the spaceport with a satisfied smile.

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Meet the Author

Dorian Dawes is a self-described social justice witch and full-time gender disaster who never grew out of their goth phase. In addition to fiction, they have also written for tabletop rpgs and several published essays on feminism and LGBT issues. When not writing they can be found playing video games and plotting the revolution of the proletariat.

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