New Release Blitz for Sweethearts by Gemma Gilmore (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Sweethearts

Author: Gemma Gilmore

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: January 29, 2018

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 62600

Genre: Contemporary, LGBT, YA, high school, friends to lovers, alcohol use, visual arts, coming out, teen pregnancy, coming of age, slow burn

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Synopsis

When seventeen-year-old Ingrid Harper realizes she may not have the talent to pursue a scholarship for the most prestigious art school in Australia, she turns to pink hair dye as a distraction.

Her new hair captures the attention of a fellow art student, Kat, who introduces Ingrid to the LGBT clubbing scene, and although Ingrid enjoys partying with her new friend, she becomes caught up in confusion about her sexuality. Her fear is overwhelming—she can’t think about anything else.

Until her best friend, Summer, reveals that she is pregnant.

As her best friend faces the realities of being pregnant at seventeen, Ingrid is shown the true definition of courage. It motivates her to come out about her sexuality—she likes girls. Only girls. Now she just has to work out what that means for the other areas of her life.

Excerpt

Sweethearts
Gemma Gilmore © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
I am desperately trying not to attract attention.

My arms are folded across my chest. My chin is tucked into my neck. I am leaning against the brick wall as I watch her sing. It takes every ounce of strength I have to keep my face still, hiding any expression that bubbles to the surface. Any reaction I have to her lilting voice is shoved down, adding to the pit in my stomach.

The younger students are sitting respectfully in their seats. They are still too naive to question the teachers when they are told they must be present. I know better than to think that this school performance is anything special to Amber Freeman. She’s been singing since before she could walk, and although I am always the first viewer, her YouTube videos are gaining more and more popularity with every upload. This is just practice to her. A warm-up.

The spotlights are trained on her, and she throws her hands up whilst the climax of the song cascades from her talented lips. I let my eyes flicker shut and Amber’s voice surrounds me, caressing my ears as she sings deeply. Her voice is crashing through me, tingling across the skin on my arms and seeping through my body, calming me.

My head has fallen back against the wall, and I remain frozen there as I listen to her sing. In this moment, nothing else matters. With my eyes closed, she’s right next to me. Singing softly, untying the knot that’s sunken deep into that pit in the bottom of my stomach.

“Ingrid? What the hell are you doing?” The voice that hisses right next to my ear jerks me out of my daydream.

I jump with shock and wrench my eyes open, tearing myself away from the peaceful moment. In front of me, my best friend Summer stands, her arms folded across her chest and her eyes wide in that you are busted expression.

“Jesus,” I mutter. “I thought you had better things to do than sneak up on people. Way to give me a heart attack.”

“I thought you had better things to do than stand here creepily at the back of the gym listening to Amber sing,” Summer challenges me, an amused smile dancing across her full lips.

“You snuck up on me and you’re calling me the creep?” I snort. “Come on, let’s get out of here.”

The quicker I can get Summer outside of this gym, the quicker I can shove away the fact that she caught me watching Amber’s performance. We duck behind the last row of seating and out of the door in the corner of the room, swiftly ignoring the Emergency Exit Only sign. We’ve done this so many times now that it’s like second nature.

Outside, the rain lashes against the building. The wind howls so loudly that I’m surprised no one noticed our little escape from the gymnasium—then again, they never do. For Summer, there’s more to life than just sitting in a desk at school. Any chance my best friend has to escape the mundane restrictions of life is an opportunity she must take. She’s never been the kind of girl to follow the traditional paths.

Then again, neither have I.

My thoughts still spin as we duck through the car park and head out to the tin shed at the back of the school. Summer knew exactly where to find me during Amber’s performance. She knows that I watch Amber. While everyone else in our grade snuck off to make out in abandoned classrooms or smoke cigarettes behind the main building, I followed the crowd into the gymnasium with one intention.

Why did I need to watch her?

“I had a headache and the gym was dark.” I shrug off Summer’s curious stare as we take shelter under the tin roof. The rain really lashes down now, bouncing off the pavement and whipping through the trees. “It was better than watching you make out with Jackson for an hour straight.”

My snide comment is low but, right now, I’ll do anything to take the attention away from me.

“You had a headache, so you decided to listen to Amber sing?” Summer rolls her eyes at me. “Makes sense.”

She fidgets with her oversized tartan scarf, staring out into the rain. Maybe I’m not the only one who is trying to avoid things today.

“You were in there too,” I argue half-heartedly. “What’s your obsession with her?”

This time, Summer does turn to me. “I’m obsessed?” She snorts. “Ingrid, honey, if I’m obsessed, then you’re deranged.”

“Then I’m deranged.”

Summer rolls her eyes, signalling the end of that particular conversation. “Whatever. Your deeply disturbing issues are the least of my problems right now. Look, Ingrid, I think I’m going to have to take a test.”

Red splotches gleam against Summer’s pale cheeks, and I watch her carefully. She tugs on that scarf like it’s strangling her.

“Like an STD test?”

“Are you stupid?” I know her voice is harsher than intended, and I brush it off with a blunt laugh. “A pregnancy test.”

“Oh, for god’s sake, here we go again. You and Jackson really need to invest in some efficient birth control because this I’m pregnant freak-out that you have every month is getting boring.”

“Trust me, I know.” Her tone is suddenly tense, and she blinks back emotion. “But right now, I’m pretty sure I have the devil’s spawn growing inside of me, so I’m allowed to freak out. I’m two weeks late.”

I raise my eyebrows. She’s never been this late before. “Jackson is not the devil’s spawn. You know he loves you. But I highly doubt you’re pregnant. It’s all the stress from thinking you’re pregnant every month starting to get to you.”

“Yeah, okay, whatever.” She says, throwing her hands up in defeat. “I knew I shouldn’t have said anything. I don’t know what you’re moping about—we got a free class and you got to watch Amber singing. It’s a damn good day for Ingrid Harper right now.”

“Listen, I really did just have a headache. I don’t care about Amber’s singing. And you and Jackson were quite obviously distracted. You didn’t seem to have pregnancy on your mind during that public make-out session. Or maybe you did. Either way, I think it’s a damn good day for both of us, don’t you think?”

I know what Summer is doing. She is the ultimate denier of reality. More than that, she is aware that I will follow along with every topic change she throws at me. I get distracted easily, apparently.

Summer laughs, but the smile doesn’t quite reach her eyes. Distraction is inevitable right now, for both of us. These are not issues we should be faced with at seventeen years old. Summer’s mother is getting married soon, so that’s just one more thing to top off what I’m coining Summer’s Distressing Summer.

We stand silently as the rain pours over the sides of the flimsy tin roof. Muddy water pools right to the edges of the door. It’s mid-December. While politicians are throwing around the term climate change like it’s currency, I stare at the pools of water near this emergency exit, wondering if our town has sufficient flood safety plans.

“Come over tonight,” she murmurs. “Please, Ingrid.”

“You’re buying me McDonald’s.” I sigh in return. The truth is, I have my own things to worry about, whether Summer is pregnant or not. She’s been with Jackson for three years—that’s three years they have successfully been together and prevented pregnancy. It’s not a possibility. It just isn’t.

Summer is wild, just like her name. Her light-brown hair is constantly tangled, but her dominating blue eyes seem to distract everyone.

But today, she stares out at the grey sky and nervously chews at her lip, clutching that damn scarf so tightly that I know she’s already certain about this pregnancy. More so than I’ve ever seen before. Her blue eyes don’t seem so bright today.

“I heard Jackson was thinking about transferring to the art school. I didn’t think that boy had an artistic bone in his body.” I smirk, desperately trying to relax Summer. I don’t know what to say when she’s so shut off like this. My lie is smooth, slipping off my lips easily.

“Yeah, he does comics. I don’t know, I guess they’re funny.”

“It’s our last year of high school. Surely he’s left it a bit late?” I frown in earnest now.

What Summer doesn’t know is that I’ve known Jackson a lot longer than she has. I know that he’s been wanting to do art since he started high school, but his military-driven father would never allow it—he’s all about physical education, mathematics, and science. He used to drill that into Jackson every time I was around; none of this fairy fluff nonsense, he would say pointedly.

“Look, Ingrid, I don’t really want to talk about Jackson right now,” Summer snaps, finally releasing the titan grip on her checked scarf and running a frustrated hand through her frizzy hair.

“Do you even want me to stay tonight then?” I throw back. “I can’t deal with you when you’re being like this. Either let me in or let me go. I’ve got shit to do.”

To my complete surprise, Summer snorts as she turns to face me. “Just shut up and come and sleep over at my house. I need your brutal honesty, but I also need you to do literally everything I say right now. You know I’d do the same for you.”

I don’t bother telling her that to be in her position, I’d actually have to get closer than two feet to a guy, but I think she already knows that.

“Look, I don’t like that you called Jackson the devil before. I don’t care if he’s annoying sometimes, if you are…pregnant…it’s definitely not the devil’s spawn that could be growing inside of you. And that’s all I’m going to say about that,” I huff.

“Okay, I didn’t know you were Jackson’s number-one cheerleader, but whatever.”

“Yeah, whatever.”

Purchase

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Meet the Author

Gemma Gilmore is graduated from university with a degree in Journalism and a passion for writing and travelling. In 2016 she was awarded a highly competitive residency with the Tasmanian Writers Centre. When she’s not writing YA fiction, she’s spontaneously booking trips across the world so she can draw inspiration from new cultures and places.

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BLITZ Tour for Beneath the Surface (The Outsider Project #1) by Rebecca Langham (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Beneath the Surface

Series: The Outsider Project, Book One

Author: Rebecca Langham

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: January 15, 2018

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 93700

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Sci Fi, interspecies, captivity, teacher, politics

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Synopsis

When a change in collective conscious sends the Outsiders, a group of aliens, to the shadows below the city, humans reason that the demonization of their peers is simply more “humane.” There’s no question, nor doubt. Just acceptance.

Lydia had embraced that sense of “truth” for as long as she can remember. The daughter of a powerful governor, she has been able to live her life with more comforts than most. Comforts can be suffocating, though, and when the opportunity to teach Outsider children in their private, “humane” community becomes available, she takes it.

What she finds beneath the city is far from the truth she had grown to know. There she meets Alessia, an Outsider with the knowledge and will to shake the foundation of all those who walk above ground. The two find a new and unexpected connection despite a complete disconnect from the technological world. Or perhaps in spite of it.

Still, it takes a lot more than an immutable connection to change the world. Lydia, Alessia, and a small group of Outsiders must navigate a system of corruption, falsehoods, and twists none of them ever saw coming, all while holding on to the hope to come out alive in the end. But it’s a risk worth taking, and a future worth fighting for.

Excerpt

Beneath the Surface
Rebecca Langham © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Prologue
Alessia’s mother roused her from a peaceful sleep. “Darling,” Rey whispered. “They’re coming for us. We need to move.”

Alessia blinked several times, forcing the tiredness from her eyes as she looked about the dimly lit cave. Outside, an owl hooted and tree branches fought back against a gust of wind, but she heard nothing else.

“We’ve talked about this,” her mother said, guiding her up from a nest of blankets and cushions. Alessia had never heard Rey so concerned. “You need to get moving.”

“But I want to stay with you,” Alessia replied. Her mother, and the reality of the situation, were coming into focus.

“I know, Lessi. But if you do, it’s more likely they’ll track us all down. Start down the eastern tunnel. Go carefully and try to stay as quiet as possible. You know where to meet us when they’ve left.”

Living in a cave may not have been especially comfortable, but at least they knew their way around in the area closer to the cave mouth. Within minutes of leaving her mother’s side, she felt lost, having no experience of navigating this area of the system.

Alessia slid a hand along the smooth, slime-covered rock of the cave wall. Shuffling along at a snail’s pace, she played a life-threatening game of hide-and-seek. The edge of her shoe acted as a poor guide, but it was all she had to help her avoid any sudden drop-offs. A depression in the stone could be anything from a small trench to a gaping hole one could fall through for hundreds of metres. Caves were like wild animals. They could protect you, take small bites out of you, or swallow you whole. For a moment, she wasn’t sure what was more terrifying: being captured, or trying to find a place to hide.

She inched along the wall as quietly as possible, until the echo of hurried footsteps brought her to a halt. Her legs felt like hollow reeds, liable to snap at any moment. Be calm. It’s just how sound works down here. The humans could be anywhere. You’re safe, she told herself, it’ll be all right.

The footsteps faded, leaving only the steady dripping of water from stalactites. Alessia put a hand to her chest and willed her heart to slow its exhausting pace. She didn’t want to pass out before she had moved deep enough to avoid detection. It took all her strength not to call out for her parents, to see if they had been rounded up, or if they’d managed to find somewhere to hide.

Get moving. She probed forwards with her foot once more.

No matter how many times she blinked, Alessia’s eyes would not adjust to such thick darkness. Her family rarely ventured so deep underground, and for good reason. Supplies were scarce, reserved for passages closer to the surface, and not to be wasted in such labyrinthine zones. With no food, water, or even so much as a torch, she had to move far enough into the tunnels to hide, but not far enough to lose all hope of finding a way back out.

The ground gave way, and her leg plunged through the earth, taking her courage with it. Her arms flailed as she fell, seeking something to stop her fall, but they found no purchase. Alessia cried out as her backside hit the wet rock, her leg lodged in the hole she had fallen through.

An icy sense of fear stabbed at her chest. They’d probably heard her. With eyes clenched shut, she forced herself to take slower, deeper breaths. One. Two. Three…she counted to twenty before she let herself believe no one was running towards the sound she’d sent reverberating through the space.

Finding the ground, she pushed herself up. A bolt of pain shot through her thigh. The unpleasant sound of fabric tearing frightened her more than the warm blood gushing over her knee. Alessia bit her lip to hold in another cry.

Damn it to hell! The thought screamed its way through her body. She felt the waxy indignation of it in every muscle. She pictured her mother’s face, paler than ever, as she had pulled Alessia to her just before they parted ways; a tight hug goodbye before tossing their wrist-lights to the ground. Alessia shook her head, banishing the image. Rey, her mother, was fighting her own battle somewhere else. She couldn’t even hazard a guess as to why her father wasn’t there when she’d been roused. She was on her own.

Alessia needed to focus on reality. It was pointless to wish they’d stayed together.

Trying to pull her leg out again might cause more damage, and then she might be unable to walk, which meant death. If she didn’t, though, she would be trapped in that spot, left to her own thoughts until her body gave out. There wasn’t a choice. She had to free herself and it was going to hurt.

A flash of light swept across the wall in front of her. The sudden severity of it burned her eyes and she clenched them shut. When she opened them again, two more beams of light joined the first. She had been walking towards a dead end draped in sand-coloured sulphurous flowstone. And now they’d cornered her. It was over.

“Boss! I’ve found one!” came a bombastic voice. “Down there. Looks like a teenager.”

Heavy footsteps moved closer, dashing through puddles and navigating uneven ground. They’d found her. The human government had changed its mind about her family’s freedom, as they’d been bound to do eventually, and they’d hunted them down. Her fear evaporated with each outward breath, with each jump or sweep of the torchlights. The terrifying darkness that enveloped her had been broken, and for the moment, that was all that mattered.

“It’s the daughter,” said another voice, more mature than the first. Alessia glanced at the dancing beams of light, two of them growing larger and rounder as the United Earth Alliance’s bounty hunters closed in on her.

Alessia’s leg throbbed. She bent her elbows, leaning back to rest on her forearms. Tightness had taken hold of her body, and it brought on a manic kind of exhaustion. Two men approached and stood before her. The older of the two, a sweaty beast of a man, took another step forwards. He bent down and examined what could be seen of her leg before dimming the light and turning it towards her. After the dense darkness, it was too bright, and she turned away.

“Well, then. Premier Abel will be pleased we found you all alive, Alessia.” His voice dripped with pleasure at his own achievement. She released a soft sigh. The UEA had gone back on its promise to her family. They’d get nothing from her.

Dropping the light between his legs, he leaned forwards and rocked on the balls of his feet. Stale remnants of musky cologne made Alessia’s stomach clench, but she kept her face as still as she could. Her discomfort belonged to her alone.

“It’s for the best, girl,” he told her. “This isn’t exactly an ideal way to live, is it? In the dark. Now, let’s see about getting you out of this hole.” The man stood, removed a handkerchief from his pocket, and then wiped the condensation from his glistening forehead.

“You’re not going to kill me?” Alessia asked, her mouth dry.

“Kill you?” he laughed. “Of course not! We’re not monsters.” He faced the other man. “Spray the wound and get her out of there, Mick. Let’s see about taking these people somewhere safe and protected.”

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Rebecca Langham lives in the Blue Mountains (Australia) with her partner, three children, and menagerie of pets. A Xenite, a Whovian and all-round general nerd, she’s a lover of science fiction, comic books, and caffeine. When she isn’t teaching History to high schoolers or wrangling children, Rebecca enjoys playing broomball and reading.

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Release Blitz for Life After Humanity (Thorns and Fangs #3) by Gillian St. Kevern (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Life After Humanity

Series: Thorns and Fangs, Book Three

Author: Gillian St. Kevern

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: January 15, 2018

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 119000

Genre: Paranormal, vampires, supernatural beings, werewolves, alternate universe, cliffhanger ending

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Synopsis

Ben is a recovering vampire determined to pick up the pieces of the life that came to a halt when he was murdered over a year ago—even if that means distancing himself from his few remaining friends. Nate, struggling to navigate his new identity as a Class 3 Unknown paranormal, knows it will take more than mastery of his affinity with plants to convince Ben they belong together.

When Ben’s application for human status is denied, he must fight to leave the paranormal world behind him while Nate’s generous impulses drag him into conflict with a werewolf pack with designs on ruling New Camden. As Ben’s vampire family draws closer to finding him, his vampire instinct awakens—throwing his continued existence into jeopardy. The hunt for the missing werewolf continues, and Nate and Ben become pawns in Councilor Wisner’s plans to take control of the city. Their only hope is each other—if they can see that before all is lost.

Excerpt

Life After Humanity
Gillian St. Kevern © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
Someone had broken in.

Ben stood in the doorway of his New Camden apartment. The door swung open at his touch, even before he’d fished his key out of his pocket. Beneath his feet, the protective wards laid around the apartment throbbed like an open wound. Someone had forced their way past Ben’s carefully laid defenses—someone who was still there.

Damnit. Ben set his briefcase down noiselessly beside the door. Just one day. One day without anything supernatural happening. Is that too much to ask?

He didn’t move, using his senses to probe the darkness beyond the door. Vampire—or werewolf? He hadn’t felt any interference with his wards until he’d reached his apartment. That ruled out a magical practitioner or any lesser supernatural being that would have needed to unpick the spell piece by piece. Please, not another demon. None of the boxes dotted around the living room were big enough to hide an intruder. Unless they crouched behind the sofa or pressed against the wall in the shadows, they weren’t in the living room.

Keeping his attention focused on the apartment, Ben fished for his umbrella stand and the cane leaning against its back. It looked benign, as if it had been forgotten by an elderly visitor, but when Ben twisted the handle, he released the long blade hidden within.

Not Ben’s first choice of weapon—the blade was too long and too dainty—but it was a weapon, able to stand up to vampire or demon. If this is a werewolf, I am in serious trouble. The stale air of his apartment lacked the distinctive ripe odor of werewolf. Still, Ben couldn’t rule it out.

Why would a werewolf break into my apartment? True, Ben had a past as a supernatural investigator for ARX and had killed a few werewolves in his time—but that was the past. There was nothing linking his life now to ARX—was there?

Ben slipped noiselessly into the dimly lit living room, heading for the sofa. Nothing there—or in the shadows. He scanned the room, but everything looked as it had that afternoon when he’d stepped out to meet his accountant. All I did was my taxes! Where’s the harm in that?

But bringing his financial records up-to-date for the year he’d been dead had taken all of the afternoon. Ample time for whoever it was to find a hiding place. Ben stood motionless in the living room, straining with his senses for any clue to the intruder.

The open doors of his apartment were in deeper shadow than the rest of the living room. Reaching for the light switch was tempting, but Ben’s eyes were now accustomed to the dark. Readjusting would cost seconds he wasn’t sure he had. His eyes fell on the stacks of paper on his living room table.

At first glance they seemed undisturbed, but a closer look revealed a few papers had drifted to the side. Disturbed by a breeze? Ben turned to the kitchen door. A sliver of light was just visible through the crack beneath.

A trap. There was nothing of interest to any supernatural being in the kitchen, so it would be the last place he searched. His guard down, his senses dull, he’d be unprepared for whatever waited beyond. Or—Ben frowned as he approached the door—was there another explanation?

A faint sizzling sound emanated from beyond the door, followed by the heavy smell of garlic.

Ben’s nose twitched. A werewolf would not cook an enemy dinner. A demon wouldn’t know how. A vampire might—but a vampire would not use garlic.

I’ve got a bad feeling about this. Taking a deep breath, Ben slowly levered the handle down and let the door drift open. His fear was confirmed.

Nate stood at the counter, his back to the door. The strength implicit in his broad shoulders and muscular arms was softened—but not disguised—by the domesticity of his actions. As Ben watched, Nate lay down the knife and used the chopping board to slide his neatly diced peppers into the frying pan. At his elbow a pot boiled merrily.

Far more dangerous than any werewolf. Ben swallowed, finding it hard to speak. He felt as if he were caught in a spell, unable to do anything but watch.

Absorbed in his task, Nate seemed unaware of Ben’s presence. He was dressed down, wearing a faded T-shirt that hugged his torso. The edges of his jeans were frayed, hanging down over his bare feet. His hair hadn’t been styled, and it curled up at the base of his neck. Finished adding the mushrooms to the pan, he stirred its contents and then stretched out a hand to the basil growing in a pot on the windowsill. The window reflected his smile, inward and alarmingly personal.

Ben swallowed. Nate had broken in—so why did he feel like the intruder?

Dangerous. Ben dug his fingers into his arm. Focus! Casual worked annoyingly well for Nate, made more effective by the knowledge that Nate made a point of looking good. There were few people who got to see Nate dressed down. But Ben couldn’t think about that, or how right Nate looked in his kitchen. He had to get Nate out of his apartment before it was too late.

“What happened to seeing less of each other?”

Nate started, snatching his hand back from the basil. He turned, and Ben’s initial flash of triumph gave way to alarm. Nate’s eyes were a great weapon. Hazel and framed by dark, almost decadently soft lashes, they radiated whatever Nate felt with an immediacy that was hard to resist.

“Jesus, Ben! You scared the shit out of me—” He came to a halt. “Is that a sword?”

Ben looked down at the blade in his hand. It wouldn’t help him now. “It’s a family heirloom. Used to be my grandfather’s.” He turned back toward the front door.

“And you just keep it there by the door?” Nate followed Ben to the kitchen door to watch.

“In case of intruders.” Ben sheathed the sword and dropped the cane back in the stand. He shut the door. His heart raced. Ben took a moment to summon all his anger. I was this close to a day without anything supernatural happening! “You’d better have a good reason for breaking into my apartment.”

“I do.” Nate stood in the kitchen doorway, one hand resting against the frame.

“Let’s hear it then.”

“I had a bad feeling this afternoon. A premonition.”

Not this again! “It wasn’t a premonition.”

“It felt really real. I was just watching TV and all of a sudden, these words popped into my mind. You were gone and I wasn’t going to see you again. It really freaked me out.”

“Enough to add breaking and entering to your criminal file?”

Nate radiated hurt. He wrapped his arms around himself. “I had to see you. No one answered the door, so I tried calling. When it had been a couple of hours and you hadn’t answered your phone, I—well, I got worried.”

“And that’s when you broke in?” Ben pulled his phone out of his pocket, tapping in his pin.

“That was an accident. I had my hand on the door, and I was thinking about how much I wanted to be on the other side, and the door just…relaxed.”

Eight missed calls… Ben jerked his head up. “Relaxed?”

“I tried the handle and it opened.” Nate’s eyes settled anxiously on Ben’s. “Did I break anything?”

Ben looked down at the welcome mat beneath his feet. He didn’t need to lift it to know what he would find. His runes, intact but faintly smudged. “Only the natural laws regarding the magical properties of runes.”

Nate scratched the back of his neck. He dropped his gaze, shuffling his feet, but was unable to keep from looking up to check Ben’s expression. “Are you mad?”

Embarrassment looked wrong on Nate. Ben was reminded of a dog caught doing something he knew he shouldn’t be—and felt the tight knot of anger in his stomach undo. Curse him! If Ben was going to get out of this encounter unscathed he needed his anger. “Of course I’m mad. My apartment is my place. Coming home to find someone’s forced their way in is…not good.” Not good? That wasn’t going to convince anyone—least of all anyone with Nate’s perceptive nature.

It was hard to read Nate’s expression. “I made dinner. As an apology.”

At least he realized he needed to apologize— No! I have to be firm. “I think your apology is burning.”

“Shit!” Nate ducked back through the doorway to attend to the frying pan.

Ben took the opportunity to escape.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Gillian St. Kevern is spending Christmas in her native New Zealand, where the seasonal festivities include pavlovas, walks on the beach, and a distinct lack of sweaters, seasonal or otherwise. She will almost certainly get sunburnt at some stage.

Gillian reads and writes a variety of genres. She’s a huge fan of paranormal with an emphasis on vampires. The third and fourth books in her vampire series, Thorns and Fangs, are due for release in January and February 2018. She also explores Welsh Mythology in the on-going Deep Magic series. In 2018, she plans to explore another beloved genre―vintage mysteries. She loves discovering new books and authors, so please get in touch if you have any good book recommendations to share!

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Hannah Carmack on Tagging, Writing, and her new release Seven-Sided Spy (guest blog)

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Seven-Sided Spy by Hannah Carmack
NineStar Press
Release Date: January 15th

Buy at NineStar Press

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Hannah Carmack here today to talk about her new release Seven-Sided Spy and her thoughts on writing, tagging and unhappily every after.  Welcome, Hannah.

Hannah Carmack on Unhappily Ever After

At first, I thought the tagging was a mistake. The manuscript was back from the proofer and below Heat Level: 0 (Which is a measure of spicy romance scenes, not general warmth of the novel’s content,) was a list of tags:

Abduction, historical, spies, no HEA or HFN, revenge, gay, lesbian, eating disorder, secret agent, graphic violence, m/c dies.

M/C DIES. My immediate thought was ‘Uh, spoiler?’ As fast as my fingers could type, I wrote my editor asking if there’d been an error in tagging. I was surprised to learn that there hadn’t. Now, my editor is the bomb.com and my press is flippin’ the best, so I was surprised that they’d include a tag that gave away so much. Especially in a book where the ending is so emotionally charged. Coupled with the no HEA or HFN (which stand for Happily Ever After and Happy For Now,) I was certain that we’d given too much away.

Then, it happened. As I sent the Advance Reader Copies out, tags included, I had a reviewer write me back. They expressed immense gratitude that I’d included the spoiler-y tags and decided that they needed to pass on the novel at this time in their life. Which I completely understand, respect, and applaud them for. Self-care comes first, kids.

The tags that I initially pushed back on were in fact that the tags that mattered the most. Had I not included them, my book, whose goal it is to bring pleasure to readers, could have hurt someone. In the times we’re in, it may be best to take the Adam Silvera Approach. Being completely upfront with your readers about anything that could be seen as upsetting or distressing –Dog deaths included– is one of the kindest things you can do. 

Blurb

In the midst of the cold war, the CIA’s finest and most fatal female agent, Diana Riley, vanishes. Kidnapped by the KGB and taken to the backcountry of North Carolina, she and her team of unsavory partners are forced to undergo illegal experimentation.

But, when the experiments leave them horribly deformed and unable to reenter society without someone crying monster, the previously glamorous and high-maintenance spies must escape KGB captivity and avoid recapture at the hands of Nikola, a ruthless KGB agent with an intense and well-justified grudge against her former flame.

New Year’s Day Release Day Blitz for The Calling by MD Neu (except and giveaway)

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Title:  The Calling

Author: M.D. Neu

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: January 1, 2018

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 108300

Genre: Paranormal, paranormal, gay, dark, immortal, magic users, psychic ability, vampires

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Synopsis

Being a nobody isn’t Duncan Alexander’s life goal, but it’s worked for him. He has a nondescript job, a few good friends, and overall he’s content. That’s until one fateful trip to San Jose, California, where he is “Called” to meet the mysterious Juliet de Exter. Juliet is a beautiful, wealthy, powerful Immortal who is undertaking The Calling—a search for a human to join her world of Immortals. Inexplicably, Duncan’s calling is more dangerous than any of the Immortals, even Juliet, ever thought it would be.

There is more to this nobody, this only child of long-deceased parents, than anyone thought. When Duncan experiences uncontrollable dreams of people he doesn’t know and places he hasn’t been, Juliet and the other Immortals worry. Soon, his visions point to a coven of long-dead witches. The dreams also lead Duncan to his one true love. How will Duncan navigate a forbidden romance with an outcast Immortal? How will he and the others keep the balance between the Light and Dark, survive vicious attacks, and keep the humans from learning who they truly are? More importantly, who is this implacable foe Duncan keeps seeing in his dreams?

Excerpt

The Calling
M.D. Neu © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
What is death?

I once believed there was only one definition: your body stops functioning, your soul leaves and what’s left turns to dust. That was what I thought, until it wasn’t.

I’ve discovered when you’re a nobody, the world can be an amazing place if you want it to be. Your life can change in a heartbeat and not make the least bit of difference to anyone but you, or so it would seem.

That was my case.

I’m by no means whining or complaining. I had a job, a small place to live, and friends, but no real family, and that was something I desperately missed and wanted. My life wasn’t bad and I was happy. However, I was just a random person, one of the many faces you see on the street and never glance at twice. It was dull. Of course, as with me, the majority of society didn’t know our world had hidden secrets, unseen by most.

The other important thing I want you to realize about me is that before I met her, I wasn’t a lucky man, not with money and certainly not with love. I made enough to live on, but never enough to take fancy trips. My idea of travel was staying at home and watching movies. That was my price range. And as for love, it was forgettable.

The day my life changed was like all the others, until it wasn’t. It was August 19. The year isn’t important. But we had finished celebrating the Olympics, and in a few short months, the country would be picking between the lesser of two evils for president.

I sat at an outdoor café in Santana Row. I’d spent the afternoon going on a tour of the Winchester Mystery House. Once my stomach had started to growl, I decided to grab a bite to eat.

I had come to San Jose, California for a vacation that I couldn’t afford and didn’t particularly want to take. Why San Jose? Why not San Francisco or Monterey or Vegas or Yosemite? To be honest, I don’t know, but it’s like everything inside and around me pulled me there. Out of the blue, I got emails from the San Jose Visitor Bureau. My dreams were filled with images of the city and the surrounding hills and mountains. It seemed that old song, “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” by Dionne Warwick constantly played. Still, San Jose isn’t the place most people consider for a ten-day vacation, especially someone alone who had never been to the Bay Area before.

Despite my appreh, from the moment I arrived, I immediately felt at peace. I’d never been this calm or relaxed anywhere before, not even at home. There was another reason for me coming here, one I didn’t understand yet, at least not on a conscious level.

I would find out why soon enough.

I don’t want to get things out of order, so back on point. I sat at this Italian-style outdoor café watching people walk by, enjoying the scent of roses and vanilla that filled the air. The aroma tickled the back of my brain. I smelled it everywhere, which should have been my first clue that something was different.

After enjoying my Italian-style chicken marsala, and while I sipped my strawberry lemonade, I felt a sharp pull in my brain. It wasn’t like I heard voices—it was more like vague images filled my head: a house, a woman, gardens, a gate, hills covered in trees, and a pair of eyes. My hands shook, and my glass fell to the floor and shattered. An intense pressure grew between my eyes, and I pinched the bridge of my nose to ease it.

When the tug came, three things happened to me at once.

First, I had the realization that I had an important meeting in Los Altos Hills. I had never heard of Los Altos Hills and even had to look it up on my phone to see if it was real. I would have to check my GPS when I returned to my rental. I knew the address of the house and who I was going to meet. She had blonde hair and mysterious eyes. I knew her, but I didn’t understand how.

Second, the waiter came to my table.

“Sorry about the drink,” I said.

He gave me an odd look and informed me my meal had been paid for and to enjoy my evening. Flabbergasted, I stared at the server.

I glanced around the café and wondered who paid the bill and why. I wasn’t even done yet.

“Mr. Alexander, are you all right?” The waiter scanned me up and down. “Do you need me to call someone? You look pale.”

“No.” I shook my head. “I’m fine.”

How did the waiter know my name? Stranger still, when I checked the table, my drink sat there and nothing had fallen to the floor. I wasn’t sure what was happening.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. Sorry. Just a headache,” I said.

“All right. I hope you have a pleasant afternoon.” He smiled and started to walk off but turned back. “Oh, I almost forgot. I’m supposed to remind you about your meeting tonight.”

A lump stuck in my throat, and I nodded. It was spooky, but I wasn’t scared.

The last thing: I got a text from my closest friend, Cindy Martin. Good luck tonight. I’m sure it’ll be you.

I remember thinking, What does she know that I don’t?

I’ve known Cindy for years, and for her to say anything that short and sweet was rare. In fact, I don’t suppose I ever got a message from her without any emoticons.

As bizarre as all of this was, I realized that no matter what, everything and everyone I cared about would be okay. Clearly, there was something more to this trip and my being here. I didn’t know what. But it wasn’t just some free meal. It was bigger than that. If I was selected for what? I had no clue. And if I wasn’t, then I would get to see them again. There would be no questions.

Part of me wanted to worry, but I wasn’t bothered, which in itself surprised me. I’ve been a pessimist for as long as I can remember. It probably had to do with the strange death of my father when I was a kid. A death never fully explained. So, for this not to make me worry was one more mystery. What was about to happen was something that would just be. Instead of freaking out and worrying, I was calm and accepting of whatever adventure or fate awaited me.

Even though I was short on time to get to the house in Los Altos Hills, I wanted to enjoy my lunch. Reflecting on it now, I’m pretty sure that was the cynical part of my brain trying to exert some kind of control. I took my time, finished my meal, and when I was done, I tipped the server and left.

I walked back to my rental car. I wanted to take in as much of the classical European architecture and lush landscaping of the outdoor mall as I could. I managed to get a few decent cell phone pictures of the place.

I stopped my lollygagging and got moving. I had someplace to be and what appeared to be no choice in the matter. Before you go crazy, understand this wasn’t like one of those stupid movies that you watch, shaking your head, yelling at the screen for them not to go into the dark forest or spooky house or whatever. It wasn’t like that.

I’d like to hope I’m explaining this well enough so you don’t sit there and think, “Oh this is stupid. I’d never do anything that dumb.” It wasn’t like I had a choice. I had to go—something compelled me to her. I had to meet this woman, calling me. It was hard-wired into me, no matter how much I tried to slow down or stall, I moved forward.

I moved toward her.

When I finally got in the car and took a breath, I wasn’t clammy or shaky, and my heart wasn’t pounding in my chest. I should have been anxious, but I wasn’t. I was fine.

Knowing without understanding what I had to do, I headed to the freeway.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

M.D. Neu is a LGBTQA Fiction Writer with a love for writing and travel. Living in the heart of Silicon Valley (San Jose, California) and growing up around technology, he’s always been fascinated with what could be. Specifically drawn to Science Fiction and Paranormal television and novels, M.D. Neu was inspired by the great Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas, Stephen King, Alfred Hitchcock and Kim Stanley Robinson. An odd combination, but one that has influenced his writing.

Growing up in an accepting family as a gay man, he always wondered why there were never stories reflecting who he was. Constantly surrounded by characters that only reflected heterosexual society, M.D. Neu decided he wanted to change that. So, he took to writing, wanting to tell good stories that reflected our diverse world.

When M.D. Neu isn’t writing, he works for a non-profit and travels with his biggest supporter and his harshest critic, Eric, his husband of eighteen plus years.

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Book Blitz: Blackwelder 2164 by Christopher D. J (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Blackwelder 2164

Author: Christopher D.J.

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: January 1, 2018

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 51200

Genre: Science Fiction, military, gay, war, aliens, romance

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Synopsis

When it comes to hitting his target, Spencer Blackwelder can’t miss. But when it comes to hitting the mark in other areas of his life, his aim is way off, which is definitely a problem when you’re a military sharp shooter preparing for war with an alien species.

As penance for past mistakes in friendship and in love, Blackwelder makes the bold choice to relocate to Fort Felix, a military base on Neptune’s moon, a decision that could end up costing him his life. Once there, he meets: Juan Miguel Arías, to whom he takes an immediate liking; Vernita Burton, a true friend; and the men and women of Brant Squad, a group of lovable losers that he eventually takes under his wing.

Blackwelder is surprised to discover he has something to live for again, but all of that is threatened when war finally arrives on Fort Felix’s doorstep. Can Blackwelder find the hero within in time to save his squad, his planet, and the man he loves?

Excerpt

Blackwelder 2164
Christopher D.J.© 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One: Out of the Dark

“All right, Jinx Squad, listen up,” said First Lieutenant Robby Macke as he stood before Sergeant Spencer Blackwelder and the other crew members. “As you know, an abandoned Elumerian starship floated into the Barack’s space sector forty-eight hours ago. It’s been subjected to long-range and short-range drone scans, and we know that the propulsion and guidance systems are damaged beyond repair. There are several vacant exterior ports, suggesting the crew evacuated. Zero life signs on board. We are the lucky squad who get to be the first to dock with it. Our mission is to search the vessel, determine its threat level, collect any useful data, and return to the Barack. Any questions?”

“Just one, sir: with those giant sat dishes Miller uses for ears, there’s no need for us to actually dock, is there? He can just conduct an audio scan from here,” said Mudunuri. The other squad members laughed as Miller, the pilot, whipped his head around to shoot Mudunuri a scathing look.

“Is this the comedy hour? Or are we here to do a job?” Blackwelder asked. “Knock it off.”

“Sorry, Sergeant Blackwelder.”

Macke smirked. “Don’t be absurd, Mudunuri; Miller couldn’t possibly pull that scan off from here. He’d need to be, what, at least three clicks closer?”

Miller shook his head from the cockpit. The other soldiers sniggered.

“Lieutenant Abernathy, com check, if you please.”

Abernathy adjusted her headset, then pressed and held a yellow button until it turned green. “This is Jinx Squad on Raider-1 to Barack actual. We’re conducting a com check; do you read, Barack?”

“Raider-1 this is Barack actual, we read you. Coms are go, over,” said a voice over the open channel.

Satisfied, Abernathy slid her hands along the console to a different cluster of brightly lit buttons. “Jinx Squad, internal com check, channel three. Confirm.”

“Coms are go,” they all said in unison. Over her shoulder, Blackwelder could see several lights flash green on Abernathy’s console.

“Coms are go, Lieutenant,” Abernathy said to Macke with a wink.

Raider-1 was a small ship with cramped quarters. There was a cargo hold beneath the floor of the ship, but its capacity was limited, not that they were expecting much of a physical salvage. Four soldiers shared the seating compartment with Blackwelder. Macke stood over the backs of the pilot and Abernathy, talking navigational tactics. They sat close together, their knees touching and occasionally banging into one another as the ship jostled. Several lit panels—some with loose-hanging cables—beeped above their heads. Expecting the atmosphere aboard the Elumerian ship to be completely inhospitable, the Allied Earth soldiers were wearing their space suits, sans helmets, and held their heavy-duty laser rifles at the ready.

The air was rife with tension; they had joked before, but Blackwelder knew it was a weak ploy to cover their mounting fear. None of them had ever stepped foot onto an alien, enemy vessel before. Blackwelder felt the concern himself, of course, but had to master it. Macke might have been the one giving the orders, but Blackwelder knew he’d be the one to keep them on point.

“Don’t forget to breathe, Jinx,” Blackwelder said to them all. “This is nothing more than a standard recon mission. You’ve trained for this.” A couple of them nodded, but they seemed little put at ease by his words. He took a quick look at Macke, though the lieutenant didn’t turn to meet his glance.

“And if any one of you shoots one of your own, I guarantee you you’ll be eating nothing but veg-ox for a week.”

A couple of them chuckled at the comment. “But what if you like veg-ox?” one of them said softly.

“Shut up, DeFrank,” Mudunuri said.

“Target in range, LT. Better get strapped in,” Miller said. On screen, Blackwelder could see a massive vessel that was rounded and bulbous on one end and through the middle, but that tapered off toward the tail. Cascading rows of spikes adorned the middle of the craft on both sides. The spikes, rounded at the edge and faintly glowing from their center, could almost be mistaken for fins. In fact, the whole ship had the look of a mutated whale, which reminded Blackwelder of the aquatic life they’d discovered years ago in some of Earth’s more polluted oceans.

Macke nodded and turned to take his seat, the only available one being next to Blackwelder. Blackwelder looked up at Macke; he kept his expression blank, but inside he was laughing. He could see a moment of nervousness sweep over Macke’s face, but he mastered it immediately and took his seat. Blackwelder couldn’t help himself; he found Macke’s discomfort utterly amusing. Raider-1 docked with the Elumerian ship shortly thereafter.

Macke stood up quickly from his seat and grabbed his helmet “Miller, Abernathy, you stay with Raider-1 and monitor us. Mudunuri, you’re with DeFrank. Pazmiño, you’re with Sergeant. Blackwelder and Wine, you’re with me. We’ll split up, clear the ship section by section, and rendezvous on what we’re eighty-seven percent sure is the bridge. Questions?”

Mudunuri opened and closed his mouth. Blackwelder could see the confusion mounting as he childishly raised his hand. “Uh, sir? Normally in the incursion scenarios, I partner with Pazmiño.”

Jumping to his feet, Blackwelder cut across Macke before he could answer. “This isn’t a scenario, dusties! In live missions, you take the orders given to you.” He took a step closer to Macke and leaned in to whisper: “Though, sir, the familiarity of the old pairings may be an advantage for us in this situation. One less thing for them to think about. Unless there’s a particular reason you want to readjust the teams?”

Macke glanced at Abernathy, who was close enough to overhear them. Her expression was quizzical, as she too seemed to be confused by the sudden change in the lineup.

“Besides,” Blackwelder said, “it will be easier for me to keep you alive if I can watch your back.”

“Yeah, okay,” Macke said impatiently. “Old pairings: Mudunuri/ Pazmiño, DeFrank/Wine, and Wellie, you’re with me. Let’s get in there and get this done, people.”

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Christopher D. J. was born and raised in the South, calling multiple cities home between North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida, but none more so than Daytona Beach, where he graduated from Mainland High School. Christopher went on to complete his BA at Duke University and his MPW at the University of Southern California. Christopher is the author of Blackwelder: 2164 and Between Two Brothers. He briefly worked in the entertainment industry before turning his attention full-time to higher education; he currently has the pleasure of serving first-year students and families at California State University, Los Angeles as the Assistant Director for New Student and Parent Programs.

Christopher lives in Los Angeles, CA, where he enjoys comic books, movies, cheeseburgers, French fries, and not having to worry about mosquitoes.

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Book BLITZ Get Up by Reece Pine (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Get Up

Author: Reece Pine

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: December 25, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 69500

Genre: Contemporary, LGBT, MM, contemporary, wilderness, child abuse, mental illness, PTSD

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Synopsis

Recently dumped (again) for being cold, Guy gladly accepts his publisher friend’s request to go to a remote hut in wintry Nunavut to find out whether aspiring novelist Cam Campbell is a plagiarist. By agreeing also to help the eccentric ecologist survey wildlife for a month, Guy buys time to assess Cam’s innocence and hear stories about Cam’s late father–Guy’s favorite fantasy writer and the man whose book Cam is accused of stealing.

Guy’s investigation is soon biased by his attraction to Cam and the growing concern about Cam’s odd behavior. At times, Cam dissociates and is icier than Guy could ever be, yet he’s the only one who’s ever recognized, at a glance, the emotions burning beneath Guy’s surface. Guy knows he’s the best person to help Cam abandon the dangerous wilds outside and address those in Cam’s head, but he also knows that he’ll lose the chance if he comes clean about his ulterior motives for getting close to Cam. How can he convince Cam to come in from the cold… and why are they both really out there anyway?

Excerpt

Get Up
Reece Pine © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

At least he wasn’t nervous about meeting the kid anymore. He’d stopped feeling anything at all besides dread and the wheels of the suitcase he’d slung over his shoulder bruising his numb ass with every stumble. Finally, Guy glimpsed smoke wisping from a rustic pipe chimney a hundred yards farther than the thousand miles he’d already come. His brogues, so iced over they looked like glass slippers, skidded on the porch’s wooden boards. The leather-gloved hand he threw forward to balance himself rattled the doorframe with a thudding knock, sending ice shards showering behind him from the rafters overhead.

“Hell-lo?” he croaked. “Cam-meron C—”

The alluring burst of firelight that greeted him as the door opened was immediately extinguished by someone squeezing the swollen wood shut behind themselves as they stepped forth. Guy was suddenly too surprised to be awestruck over meeting Alessandro De Carli’s son at last. He was glad his frozen eyelids couldn’t blink, because the guy—the specter, presumably Cameron Campbell—might disappear if he did. For a second, he wondered if he’d knocked on the wrong gingerbread house door, only there was no other shelter for fifty miles.

Cameron Campbell was known to be even more reclusive than his late father, but he wasn’t actually supposed to be mythic. The tiny guy blocking the door with sturdy, unlaced boots looked like a wood nymph. Eyes as blue as distant stars stared at him unabashedly. Maybe the reason no journalists had ever snapped pictures of the kid, and why he had no online presence, was because he couldn’t be caught on film.

“Incredible.” Cameron must have read Guy’s mind, and he pressed rosebud lips together in exasperation. “Are you alone? Did you hitch here? There’s no corpse in a cab parked on the highway I need to go rescue? Insane.”

Guy respectively nodded and shook his head, hoping the well-earned insult was aimed at the driver on his way west who’d dropped him at the side of a barely used road, far from the highway. Guy had considered himself lucky to thumb a ride at all out of the tiny settlement of Ipasila, built around a gas station, which was the closest town to Campbell and two hours’ drive from the Hudson Bay hamlet of Arviat in southern Nunavut. In hindsight, the man had been almost as reckless as Guy himself had been for not driving him straight to the police. Instead, Guy had been let out of the relative safety of a truck armed with nothing more than the GPS tracker Guy had brought with him and prayed was accurate.

“C-Cameron…” Not Cameron, Guy revised. A Cameron was a strapping guy—like a Brad or a David—or a blonde woman. This pixie prince was either a Cam or a question mark. His eyes looked magnified behind the lenses of large glasses, the arms of which must have burned cold against his temples because Cam removed them—only for his naked eyes to be comically large. It was still possible he wasn’t even De Carli’s son, since he looked nothing like him. Wrote nothing like him either, which was why Guy was here. “You’re C-Campbell, right? De Carli’s s-son?”

It was Campbell’s turn to draw back in surprise. “Are you from a newspaper?”

“Am I s-selling subscriptions?” Traipsing from cabin to cabin after dark? “D-does it matter? Let me in.” Heat from indoors infused the porch floorboards and bled into Guy’s damp soles, announcing itself as pain in his brittle toes.

“I don’t do interviews about my father.” Cam reached inside the hood of his puffy coat, just a shade lighter than his luminous, creamy skin, to pull a long coil of black hair forward. It hung like gossamer over the gray scarf around his shoulders.

He’d let down his hair, so now Guy could enter, right? “Do I l-look like a journalist?”

“Nah, you look too honest.”

Guy’s brows were too frozen to frown at the sarcasm. He knew damn well he had a poker face. That was the problem; now that he was literally incapable of moving his face he probably looked normal, not dangerously hypothermic.

“I’m with your p-publisher.”

“You’re from Ames? In that case, first, tell Claire she should be fired and charged with attempted murder for sending you. Secondly, and for the hundredth time, I canceled the submission for Close to Home. I didn’t mean to send it to you guys in the first place. Third, stop hounding me about it.”

“Fourth, f-fuck off,” Guy anticipated his next order. “I c-can’t. And I’m from F-Fairbanks Press.”

“Ha! Are you guys even still publishing me?” Cam swept his bangs behind an ear, which was slightly pointed at its tip.

Of course, it is. “You’re the one who n-never answers emails.”

“Internet’s intermittent out here. And there’s nothing wrong with that manuscript that isn’t Fairbanks’ fault.” Cam pursed his lips, which were tinging blue before Guy’s eyes, and nuzzled his chin into his scarf. Guy was torn between thinking it served him right to be cold and wanting to offer his firstborn as passage to the gatekeeper who halted Guy’s shuffle forward by holding up a gloved palm. “Uh-uh, no way. You ought to know the drill, New Yorker. You are, aren’t you?”

Guy was as native a New Yorker as anyone who’d moved there in adulthood and would never live elsewhere. A load of the population was in the same burned boat as him, so yes, he could claim to be from New York, but that was irrelevant while the heat fleeing his eyes stung.

“S-so?”

“So the same rules apply here as there,” Cam continued, as though this were a holiday home in Connecticut. “You know, I met a hiker from Texas here who’d never even seen snow before, but he knew enough about it to come in September, not March. Why do you think I can’t get any volunteers to assist me at the moment?”

Because not only did this waif conduct questionable wildlife research in the middle of nowhere while purportedly editing a novel, but he also lived at the end of a spur trail a mile west of an icy road to nowhere.

Cam stamped his feet, blowing into hands he cupped over his mouth. “Come on.”

What did the little sylph want? For Guy to roll a seven? Produce a magic key?

“For God’s sake, guy, you need to strip!” Cam finally twisted the door handle behind him, spilling back into an amber glow. Guy tumbled in after, out of the deadly night air.

Instantly, his coat became the warmest bath Guy had ever had the pleasure of sinking into. Flames in the hearth curled into come-hither licks Guy’s jellied legs couldn’t obey. There was enough ecstasy to be had where he wilted against the closed door. The sensation wrenched him from numb to overwhelmed in a blink, and thrust him the closest to an imminent powerful orgasm he’d been since…he didn’t want to know.

Cam busied himself over at a kitchen counter, ignoring Guy, who stood, shaking in the doorway, suddenly struggling with a boner that had sprung from pure physical shock, surprising and mortifying him. He had to admit he could see how post-hypothermia blood rushing around could cause such a phenomenon, but man, did it have to? Thankfully, melting into a hunch helped hide it when Cam reappeared in front of him wearing only a few layers of sweaters and brandishing two steaming mugs of coffee.

Its intoxicating aroma further confused his senses by going straight to Guy’s cock. Now, there’s a new kink. He failed to convince himself his hand quivering was an aftereffect of the cold, not the sight of the now gloveless, pale hand offering a chipped mug with the handle out for Guy to grab. Cam raised an eyebrow at Guy’s taking it with his left hand.

“Oh, you’re a lefty?”

“I guess,” Guy said, distracted by just how fine Cam’s fingers were…and how Cam’s palm was apparently immune to the hot ceramic he held courtesy of calluses, frostbite, or immortality. “Looks nice….”

“Not too strong?” Cam asked, a smile curling the corners of his mouth.

“N-no such thing.” Guy slurped half the treacly concoction before gasping, “Thanks.”

“Sit.” Cam nodded to a couch piled high with blankets resembling a laundry pile. There was nowhere to sit except on top of them. “And I wasn’t kidding before. You need to strip, like, five minutes ago. Show me some skin.”

“What?” Skin?

“And a business card.”

Shit. Guy had no such thing—he should have made Huw make him a mock-up one before coming. If Cam was astute enough to ask questions like that, it might be hard to deceive him as planned. Plausible excuses whirled in his mind, but were as hard to grasp as the snowflakes he ruffled loose from his hair, stalling for time. He was surprised they hadn’t melted, since his scalp was beginning to burn….

“Of course, I’d prefer skin first. And so would you,” Cam said.

“I’m here to work,” Guy retorted, reinforcing the lie to himself.

“How do you know De Carli was my father?”

Guy blinked. “Isn’t he?”

“My pen name’s Cameron Stewart. I know my real name’s on the contract I signed with you guys, but that’s Cameron Campbell.”

“That’s De Carli’s son’s name.”

“It’s also as common as mud. How do you know I’m him?”

“Because…” Heat surged through Guy’s veins, and flashes from the fireplace in his periphery blinded him. Flames shot up his spine, turning his thoughts to smoke. His erection stirred as he willed it to subside. Instead, his heartbeat faded, which was a lot more alarming. “Because…”

Struggling to balance his tilting mug on the surging, damp footwell he slumped down upon, Guy bit at his glove to peel it from his roasting hand. It dangled from his lip, and he batted it away to better claw at his collar, trying to escape its stranglehold. Sweat made it slippery in his shaking hands, and he panted more feverishly than he had while staggering outside, where everything was white—as white as everything was turning now.

“Hey, stay with me, guy.” Cam rose from his slouch against the back of the sofa, surrounded by a blizzard of stars that swarmed Guy’s vision. He was warmth personified, the most enchanting thing in the dreamscape Guy had navigated to get here, and he was still miraculous, even now that everything had become a nightmare. His own sharp intake of breath echoed from afar as Cam lunged toward him through the static.

“I hoped you were him,” spilled in a murmur from Guy without his control. Strangely, Cam seemed to slip farther away the closer he got, as Guy sensed himself falling. It looked like he wouldn’t manage to save De Carli’s son after all. Well, he thought as all light vanished, at least he’d managed to meet him. And he got to die in the arms of a beyond-beautiful man.

No, forget that, his consciousness broke through. De Carli’s son was stunning, strange, and fascinatingly all the way out here. Never mind the fact Guy couldn’t write, he was going to live and find out what made Cam tick if it was the last thing he did.

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Meet the Author

Reece is allegedly a descendant of Ann Boleyn. If you have any ancestors who were in England circa 1500, then there’s a 50% chance you too are distantly related to Anne Boleyn. In fact, if you’re of European descent, then you and everyone else of European descent share a single ancestor, who lived around 1400. And in 3,000 years’ time, all of humanity will be able to trace their lineage back to someone who is alive today. Reece thinks it would be cool if that person was G-Dragon.

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On Tour with Curses, Foiled Again by Sera Trevor (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Curses, Foiled Again

Author: Sera Trevor

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: November 27, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 98700

Genre: Paranormal, vampires, witches, undead, abduction, paranormal, addiction, ghosts, homophobia, immortal, magic users, dark, drug/alcohol use, dark, blood play, curses

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Synopsis

Felix is a vampire—a fierce creature of the night who strikes terror into the hearts of everyone unlucky enough to become his prey. Or at least, that’s what he thought was true, until he met John. John is completely unimpressed with Felix, much to his dismay. Felix becomes fixated on proving his ferocity to John—and when that doesn’t work, he strives to make any impression on him at all.

John is a witch, and as all witches know, vampires are notoriously stupid creatures who only have the power to hurt those who fear them. Besides, he’s under a curse much more frightening than any vampire. Felix’s desperate attempts to impress him annoy John at first, but gradually, they become sort of endearing. Because of his curse, John has pushed everyone in his life away. But Felix can’t be hurt, so there’s no harm in letting him hang around.

Felix is technically dead. John has nothing left to live for. But together, they might have a shot at life.

This dark and witty vampire romance for adults is complete at 100,000 words, with no cliffhanger. Despite some dark twists and turns, it ends with a solid HEA.

Excerpt

Curses, Foiled Again
Sera Trevor © 2017
All Rights Reserved

One: The Witch Boys of Sunset Boulevard

Someone smelled delicious.

Felix really ought to have been sated. He had fed that night already, but in spite of his satiety, the new aroma tempted him like nothing before. It was the same dark tang that normally inspired his appetite, but with a sweet note buried in the scent—like an orange at the peak of its sweetness, right on the cusp of rotting. It didn’t take him long to discover the source of the aroma; it was a young man in a hooded sweatshirt, making his way down Sunset Boulevard. He walked with remarkable confidence for being on his own at two o’clock in the morning. Felix grinned. He liked the confident ones; their shock when confronted with the likes of him was always amusing.

He raced ahead of the young man with superhuman swiftness, jumping in front of him with his fangs bared. Felix loved this part, right before the attack—the moment when human confusion and animal terror mixed together as his victim realized their fate. Any moment now, he would scream. Or at least, he would try to. By then it would be too late.

The young man jumped and inhaled sharply at Felix’s sudden appearance. But once he’d given Felix a good once-over, he let out his breath in a relieved puff. There was no screaming, no futile attempt to flee or freezing in terror. In fact, it was Felix who froze in place, confused by the young man’s strange reaction.

As Felix tried to gather his wits to think of what to do next, the young man brushed past him and continued on. Felix shook himself out of his muddle. He brought a hand up to his mouth, feeling to make sure his fangs were still bared. They were. Perhaps the young man hadn’t seen him clearly; the lighting here was particularly poor, and mortal vision was not very good.

He zipped ahead of the young man and jumped out at him again, making sure he was directly under a streetlight. He raised his arms and hissed for good measure.

“You can stop doing that,” the young man said. “I’m not afraid of you.”

“Oh really?” Felix sneered, although in honesty he was taken aback. “We’ll see if your bravery lasts when I sink my fangs into your yielding flesh!”

He attempted to pounce, but nothing happened. He tried again, but his limbs just wouldn’t cooperate. As he stood there in confusion, the young man stepped around him and continued walking.

Once Felix had collected himself, he set out after the young man again, this time trotting beside him. The young man paid him no attention.

“Have you put a spell on me?”

“No.”

“Then why can’t I attack you?”

“Because I’m not afraid of you,” he said. He wasn’t even looking at Felix. “Vampires can only attack people who fear them.”

Felix scoffed. “That can’t be true.”

“Think about it. Can you ever remember a time when a potential victim wasn’t afraid of you?”

“Not that I recall.”

“Then if you only ever confronted people who were afraid of you, how would you have found out you couldn’t attack someone who wasn’t?”

Felix turned that over in his mind. It did make a certain amount of sense.

They continued to walk together. Felix tried to startle him a few more times, hoping it would raise enough fear for Felix to strike, but it didn’t work. The young man’s face remained expressionless, as if Felix weren’t even there. He was a remarkably good-looking fellow, with sandy-blond hair and blue eyes. He was so pleasant to look at that Felix eventually ceased his efforts to frighten him in favor of simply gazing at him. His sweatshirt was not zipped all the way, but the T-shirt underneath was too baggy to give even a suggestion of the body it concealed. He wished the young man would take it off, or at the very least remove the hood.

After some time, they came to an apartment building. The young man approached one of the doors on the first floor. “Well, I would say it was nice meeting you, but it wasn’t, really,” he said as he took out his keys. “Good night.” He unlocked his door.

Felix blocked the door with his body, preventing the young man from entering. “You’ve led me straight to where you live,” he said in his scariest voice. “I could strike when you least expect it, in your very home. Certainly that will frighten you enough for me to attack!”

“Vampires can’t enter a home unless you invite them. Did you really think I wouldn’t know that?”

Felix scowled. “How do you know all this?”

“None of your business. Now unless you want to stand around here until dawn, get your hand off my door and go away.”

“Maybe I do want to stand around here,” Felix said. “You can’t make me leave.”

The young man rolled his eyes. “Fine.” He leaned on the wall a few steps away from the door and took a pack of cigarettes and a silver lighter out of the pocket of his hooded sweatshirt. He perched a cigarette between his pink lips and lit it.

Felix remained where he was. The young man didn’t even spare him a glance as he smoked his cigarette, gazing instead at the smoke as it left his lips and dissipated into the night air. Felix felt annoyed; surely he was more interesting than a cloud of smoke!

“Why are you out alone so late?” Felix asked. “While you may not be afraid of vampires, you are still vulnerable to mortal attackers.” An idea flashed through Felix’s mind. “What if I got a gun? Would you be afraid of me then?”

The young man rolled his eyes again. “Why are you so intent on killing me?”

“I don’t want to kill you. I want to drink your blood.”

“And that’s not the same thing?”

Felix had to think about it. “No, I don’t think it is,” he said. “It’s true that my victims swoon, but I’m fairly certain they survive.”

The young man raised an eyebrow. “You don’t know for sure?”

“There isn’t much reason for me to linger after I’ve fed, is there?”

“I guess not.” He took another long drag of his cigarette. “So why do you want to drink my blood? You’ve already fed tonight.”

Felix looked at him with surprise. “How did you know that?”

“You’ve got blood on your chin.”

Felix wiped his face with the hand that wasn’t holding the door shut. Sure enough, it came away red. “Doesn’t that make you feel at least a little scared?” he asked plaintively.

The young man finished his cigarette with one final inhale, dropped the butt on the street, and then stubbed it out with his toe. “Sorry to say, but it takes a lot to make me feel anything at all.” He pulled out his pack of cigarettes again and took another one. “Would you like one?”

The young man offered the pack and his lighter. Felix stared at the cigarettes and then back at his face. The young man put his hand forward farther. “Go on. Take one.”

Felix frowned, wondering at the young man’s sudden generosity. John stood just out of reach, so Felix had to step closer to him to accept the pack and the lighter. Felix’s fingers brushed over the skin of the young man’s hand. It was so warm.

“Thank you,” Felix said, a little dazed.

“No problem.” The young man’s smile was dazzling.

Felix smiled back and turned his attention to the pack of cigarettes, pulling one out and readying the lighter—

—and then, quick as lightning, the young man slipped inside his apartment and slammed the door shut behind him.

Goddamnit!” Felix shouted after him, pounding on the door. “Come back out here!”

There was no answer. Felix stomped around in a circle, cursing. Once he composed himself, he went back to the door. “Well, I’m keeping your cigarettes! And your lighter! And you’ll never get them back!”

This also failed to get a response. Felix examined the lighter. On one side there was a figure etched into the metal: a dragon, or a demon. Some mythical creature, at any rate. On the other side, there was an engraving: To John. Love, Rob.

A gift, then. Perhaps he could use its sentimental nature to his advantage. “I really mean it!” he shouted. “I’ll throw this lighter in the sewer!”

Still no response.

With a huff, he zipped away. His preternatural speed meant he only had to travel a few moments before he reached the estate in Beverly Hills where he resided with his sister, Cat, and her husband, Richard. The sprawling wrought iron gates were shut, but unlike the young man’s closed door, the gates posed no barrier to him. He launched himself upward and over the curled letters that spelled out the name of the estate: HAPPY ENDINGS. Under it was the image of a boar, cast in iron. The sign’s rusted state made the promise of the words ring a bit false. Nevertheless, it was the only home he had, and he had no desire to meet the dawn.

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Meet the Author

Sera Trevor is terminally curious and views the thirty-five book limit at her local library as a dare. She’s a little bit interested in just about everything, which is probably why she can’t pin herself to one subgenre. Her books are populated with dragons, vampire movie stars, shadow people, and internet trolls. (Not in the same book, obviously, although that would be interesting!) Her works have been nominated for several Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards, including Best Contemporary, Best Fantasy, and Best Debut, for which she won third prize in 2015 for her novella Consorting with Dragons.

She lives in California with her husband, two kids, and a cat the size of three cats. You can keep up with her new releases and gain access to bonus content by signing up for her newsletter.

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Tour Schedule

11/27 The Blogger Girls

11/27 Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

11/27 Bayou Book Junkie

11/27 Love Bytes

11/28 The Novel Approach

11/28 Divine Magazine

11/28 Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews

11/29 Stories That Make You Smile

11/29 Shari Sakurai

11/30 Erotica For All

11/30 Happily Ever Chapter

12/1 MM Good Book Reviews

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Cheryl Headford on Worldbuilding and her release Fairies at the Bottom of the Garden (guest post, excerpt, and giveaway)

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Title:  Fairies at the Bottom of the Garden

Author: Cheryl Headford

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: November 13, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 84700

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, gay, fairy, British humour, fantasy, abuse

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Worldbuilding by Cheryl Headford

I was born, brought up, and still live in the Welsh Valleys, surrounded by mountains, woods and fields. There are many “secret” places and everyone knows there are fairies everywhere and you have to keep part of your garden wild for them. The place where Draven has his unusual picnic is based on a place I used to go to a lot. It’s called Nant-Y-Gwyddon (roughly translates as Mountain Stream of the Druid (or knowledgeable one)) Very sadly, the last time I went there a flood had washed away the path and collapsed the tree that held up the side of the valley at that point. The stream is still running as far I know but there’s no way to get down to it or any bank to sit on if you could.

I’ve never been to the precise city where Keiron lives. I’m not sure it exists. However, it has all the things cities have, like Italian restaurants, parks and smog.

Through various circuitous routes, I’d been led to remember a lilac tree I had outside my window when I was growing up and that led to me thinking about the whole garden, and in particular the bushes at the end where the fairies lived. At the time (until I was 16) we had an outside toilet, at the end of quite a long garden path, and I will never forget running up and down it at night, with my lantern watching for fairy lights or goblins trying to trip me up with their long, knotty fingers.

That night, I had a dream about a fairy peeping out from those bushes into my old garden and watching a man. The fairy sneaked closer and closer but was never caught. The next day, I painted a picture of the fairy and wondered what would happen if he got caught. Of course, it was set in my old house, but not the place I used to live, which wasn’t a city. I will never live in a city because I am far more fey than human in that respect.

As far as plot was concerned that was pretty much as far as it got before I started to write. I had a very strong connection with Draven from the start, and I knew him very well from all the fairy stories, tales, memories, musings I have collected over my years of interest in fairies and folklore. Keiron, I came to know more slowly. As I am a pantser rather than a plotter, the rest pretty much wrote itself as I went along.

Synopsis

All Keiron wants is a quiet life. Fat chance with a boyfriend like Bren. But if he thought Bren complicated his life, that was nothing compared to the complications that begin when he opens the door to what he thinks is a naked boy claiming to be his slave.

Draven is a fairy with his sights set on the handsome human who keeps a wild place in the garden for fairies. When Draven slips through a fairy gate into the city, he sets in motion a series of events that binds him to Keiron forever, and just might be the end of him.

While Draven explores Keiron’s world with wide-eyed wonder, Keiron does everything he can to keep Draven’s at bay, until the only way to save Draven and bring him home is to step into a world that should exist only in children stories.

Excerpt

Fairies at the Bottom of the Garden
Cheryl Headford © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

Keiron hurried home at the end of a very long day, anticipating some peace and quiet. He liked a quiet life, so what had possessed him to take on a boyfriend like Bren Donovan was anyone’s guess. Whatever else it might be, life with Bren was certainly not quiet, and it was slowly wearing Keiron out.

It was almost a relief Bren wouldn’t be staying at the flat that night. Although they were practically living together, Bren had his own place and sometimes felt the need to stay there. This was usually because a member of his family—or particularly flighty friend—was coming to stay. It wasn’t as if his family wasn’t aware of their relationship, but Bren was shy about “rubbing it in their faces”. Keiron didn’t understand because Bren’s mother seemed to like him a great deal and considered him to be a stabilising influence on her son.

Keiron was a conservative person and so different to Bren, they might as well live in different worlds. As for Bren’s friends, they were usually very like him—loud, messy, and irresponsible. Keiron couldn’t stand them. He was lucky if nothing got broken, and they always left the flat in a complete mess. If Bren wanted to live in a pigsty, so be it. He could do it in his own home.

This weekend, with the bank holiday, Bren was getting both. His friends were congregating on Saturday. Then his parents and sister were coming on Sunday, and staying through until Tuesday morning. Keiron had a Bren-free weekend and was looking forward to it.

If it hadn’t been for their differences on this point, they’d have moved in together a long time ago. Bren chafed for it, but Keiron couldn’t handle his flat descending into chaos, and it wasn’t even as if Bren helped tidy up afterwards. Keiron cringed at the thought of having that chaos and therefore stress every day.

Not only that, but Bren was the most jealous person Keiron had ever come across. Keiron was constantly accused of looking at other men, and God forbid he spoke to one. Bren was a firebrand, completely living up to his fiery red-headed Irish-descended promise. Sometimes it was exciting, even invigorating, yet at other times Keiron longed for the peace and stability he used to have before Bren burst in on him. Maybe at twenty-two, he was just getting old.

Keiron ordered takeaway and, while he waited for it to arrive, wandered down to the bottom of the garden, a beer in his hand, his hair damp from the bath. The sun was still high and warm enough for him to be wearing a thin T-shirt and shorts. The smell of a barbecue drifted over from a neighbouring garden and his mouth watered.

Savouring his drink, he sank onto the stone bench under the rose arbour. It afforded a good view of the whole garden. It was a big one. A long lawn stretched ahead of him to the decking immediately outside the house, where a large wooden table, a number of items of garden furniture, and a shiny silver gas barbecue sat.

Sometimes, he had Bren’s friends around for a barbecue. They weren’t so bad out here in the garden, although they made such a mess of the barbecue itself that it took him days to get it properly clean. He smiled to himself. Sometimes, living with Bren was like having a teenage son. Fortunately, Bren was very good at things he’d hate to think any son of his could do.

The lawn was bordered on either side by flower beds and bushes, which hid the wooden fences separating his garden from the ones on either side. To his left, screened from the arbour by a yew hedge, was a garden pool with a rock fountain and fat koi swimming under lily pads. There used to be more fish—before Bren’s friends found the pond. He pursed his lips at the thought.

To the right was a shrubbery. A large variety of plants made up a wild area of about thirty square feet. Bren loved it, of course. He’d burrowed into it and, within a week, had made a green cave right in the middle. He’d floored it with an old piece of carpet he’d found on a skip. It had taken a long time and a lot of carpet-cleaner to persuade Keiron to enter it, but he had to admit, making love outside under the bushes in the darkness was something he’d come to enjoy very much.

Bren had been surprised he had such a wild place in his neat garden, in his neat life. Perhaps it was the thing that sealed the deal with Bren, who’d been reluctant to get involved with someone so unlike himself, and likely to “cramp his style”.

“But why?” he’d asked. “It doesn’t seem like you to have a wild place like this. It’s so out of place—with the garden and with you. Why haven’t you ‘tamed’ it? Everything else in your life is tame. You’re the most vanilla person I know—except for this.”

They were in the “cave” at the time. It was dark but warm, and they were holding each other in the afterglow of amazing sex. Keiron had smiled lazily and sighed.

“My mother used to live out in the country somewhere when she was a child. My grandmother never took to city life. She told me once there was no room in a city for life, real life. Nowhere for roots to reach the earth. No place for the fairies.”

“Fairies?”

“Oh yes, she was very superstitious about fairies. Never had anything made of iron in the garden. Put out saucers of warm milk if there was a deep frost or snow. And always had a wild place in the garden—for the fairies.”

Bren had smiled at him. “I never thought you had any of that in you, Keiron. I guess there’s hope for you yet.”

Keiron had grinned and held Bren tightly in his arms.

Keiron smiled at the memory and took a drink of his beer. Something caught his eye, and he turned towards the shrubbery. He was sure he’d seen something move, shooting across his vision, behind the trees. He stared hard, but there was nothing there. It must have been a squirrel. He saw them now and again, scrabbling for nuts under the hazel tree or acorns from the enormous oak that overhung the garden from next door.

With a sigh, he settled back and took another drink. His stomach rumbled, and he glanced at his watch, wondering when his pizza would get there. The deliveryman was a regular, and if there was no answer at the door, he’d text to say he’d arrived. So Keiron could relax and not worry about—

There was definitely something there. It moved again. He’d seen it—a flash of white. A cat? Most of the neighbours had cats, and they liked to hang about in the shrubbery, waiting to pounce on unsuspecting birds. It had taken a lot of work to get rid of the smell of cat pee from the carpet.

Ah well. Although…something nagged at the back of his mind. It wasn’t a cat. It couldn’t have been a cat because it hadn’t looked like a cat. It had looked like a person. A small person with a pale pointed face. But it had only been a fraction of a second, a flash, an impression. It was nonsense, of course.

Maybe it was one of the fairies. He smiled.

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Meet the Author

Cheryl was born into a poor mining family in the South Wales Valleys. Until she was 16, the toilet was at the bottom of the garden and the bath hung on the wall. Her refrigerator was a stone slab in the pantry and there was a black lead fireplace in the kitchen. They look lovely in a museum but aren’t so much fun to clean.

Cheryl has always been a storyteller. As a child, she’d make up stories for her nieces, nephews and cousin and they’d explore the imaginary worlds she created, in play. Later in life, Cheryl became the storyteller for a re enactment group who travelled widely, giving a taste of life in the Iron Age. As well as having an opportunity to run around hitting people with a sword, she had an opportunity to tell stories of all kinds, sometimes of her own making, to all kinds of people. The criticism was sometimes harsh, especially from the children, but the reward enormous.

It was here she began to appreciate the power of stories and the primal need to hear them. In ancient times, the wandering bard was the only source of news, and the storyteller the heart of the village, keeping the lore and the magic alive. Although much of the magic has been lost, the stories still provide a link to the part of us that still wants to believe that it’s still there, somewhere. In present times, Cheryl lives in a terraced house in the valleys with her son, dog, bearded dragon and three cats. Her daughter has deserted her for the big city, but they’re still close. She’s never been happier since she was made redundant and is able to devote herself entirely to her twin loves of writing and art, with a healthy smattering of magic and mayhem.

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11/13 Happily Ever Chapter

11/13 Stories That Make You Smile

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

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Title:  Walking on Water

Author: Matthew J. Metzger

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: November 13, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 88300

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

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Matthew J. Metzger on Side Characters

My favourite characters are always my side characters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Synopsis

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

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

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

Excerpt

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

Chapter One

When the sand settled, only silence remained.

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

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

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

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

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

A giant beast lay in the courtyard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The beast didn’t move.

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

It had been slain.

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

Oh.

“A cloud!”

It was no beast.

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

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

It was—

She held her breath—and touched it.

Oh.

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

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

“Calla!”

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

Clouds were harmless. Dead clouds, even more so.

“Calla, what are you doing?”

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

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

“Calla!”

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

Father did not like to call a second time.

“Here. Now.”

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

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

“But Father—”

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

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

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

Meri snorted. “Talk sense, Calla.”

“Something did!”

“You sound like a seal, grunting nonsense.”

“I do not!”

“Girls!”

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

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

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

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

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Meet the Author

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

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

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

 

Tour Schedule

11/13 Love Bytes

11/13 The Blogger Girls

11/13 Erotica For All

11/13 Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

11/14 Happily Ever Chapter

11/14 MM Good Book Reviews

11/14 Bayou Book Junkie

11/15 Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews

11/15 A Book Lover’s Dream Book Blog

11/16 Stories That Make You Smile

11/16 Divine Magazine

11/17 Shari Sakurai

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