PROMO: Infernal Hope

Promo

Infernal Hope - Sionnach Wintergreen

Sionnach Wintergreen has a new MM paranormal historical fantasy romance out, Love Songs for Lost Worlds book 3: Infernal Hope. And there’s a giveaway!

Ex-necromancer Frank Hope risked his life to help his demon lover Kasimir return to his homeland, a dimension humans call Hell and Kasimir calls the Eternal Realm—a beautiful medievalesque land. Now, because Kasimir is the heir apparent to a vast, wealthy kingdom, the two live in luxury in a palace by the sea. But darkness haunts them.

Necromancers, humans sworn to capture and slay demons for Earth’s energy corporations to use as fuel, continue to strike the Eternal Realm. Strife between the Eternals’ kingdoms grows as well.

When war breaks out with a neighboring land, Frank and Kasimir are forced to make hard choices that threaten their relationship—and even their lives. Is their love truly meant to be? Will the universe that once smiled upon them turn against them?

This is the final book in the Love Songs for Lost Worlds trilogy and combines elements of fantasy, paranormal, and gay romance within the framework of an alternate 1980s world.

Warnings: Violence, gay bashing, suicidal ideation, foul language, explicit sex, light bondage, vomiting, suicide attempt and sexual assault

About the Series:

Kasimir, a demon boy, secretly watched a human boy, Frank through an interdimensional window. While Kasimir struggled with an abusive father, Frank grieved his father’s death. Little Kasimir watched…and fell I’m love.

Years later, Frank, who always felt like a loser, discovers he has a special power—commanding demons. That’s a valuable skill to corporations like DemonCo who slay and process demons to be used as fuel. When fate brings Kasimir and Frank together, they meet as enemies, but Kasimir believes they are destined to be lovers.

With themes of redemption, courage, and true love, this paranormal fantasy series is set in an alternate 1980’s Texas and the mystical Eternal Realm.

Get It At Amazon

Book One | Book Two


Giveaway

Sionnach is giving away a $15 Amazon gift card with this tour:

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Excerpt

Palace of the Kingdom of the Onyx Moon

Kasimir

 I hold Frank in the dark. He still has dreams of his former life, nightmares. He doesn’t usually wake up, he just fights things in his sleep, moving jerkily and making unintelligible noises. I put my arms around him and snuggle him against my chest. After a few minutes, he relaxes.

I relax, as well. I hate whatever things lurk in his past that disturb him so. We are living a beautiful life with each other. He seems happy—ecstatic even. But when he sleeps, he’s still pursued by whatever things haunt him.

Things haunt us here, but he is unaware of them.

He doesn’t know the Vanishings have increased, or that we stopped going to the village because the animosity toward him there had begun to worry me. When someone calls him a Necromancer, he corrects them happily—‘ex-Necromancer.’ He doesn’t realize that doesn’t matter to nearly everyone here. To my mother, Rahvel, Bedon, Varalica, and me, he’s a hero. To everyone else, he’s still a villain. And I know that would break his heart.

I’ve instructed Bedon and Varalica not to discuss the Vanishings in front of Frank. He’s blissfully unaware of how dangerous it is to live beyond the palace’s shields.

The only things he fears are in his dreams, and I will have it that way for as long as possible.

So I hold my beloved, and press my lips to his head, his face, and tell him ‘I’m here,’ in hopes my words create a lifeline to the pleasures he loves so much in our world.

I can’t fully partake in those pleasures myself. I love Frank dearly, but I can’t relax here like he does when he’s awake.

I’m free of my betrothal and want to frolic with Frank for as long as I can. I live in fear of the next time my father wants to forge alliances with my hand. Although I’m allowed a measure of say in such things, I still fear confrontations with my father. Frank has my heart, will always have my heart, but I worry how long our freedom will last.

However much I love being here with Frank, I never wanted this. When I Vanished from the Eternal Realm, when Frank summoned me, I was terrified. Once I learned I would not be processed for fiendium but would be his familiar, instead, I was actually happy. Not only was I with the man I had fallen in love with when we were children, I no longer had to worry about being king. I didn’t have to deal with my father’s constant mocking. All I had to do was love Frank.

Now, it’s all back on my shoulders—all of the responsibility, all of the abuse, and the prospect of being married off to someone else. Sometimes, I almost wish he hadn’t saved me. I wish he had gone to Eden and let me die.

I can’t tell him any of that. He’s haunted by enough without my adding worries. For now, there’s only us and our love.

#

Next day – The King’s Beach

Frank

I flop down on our blanket. “I don’t know if I’ll ever come again,” I tell Kasimir. “I’m all out.”

Kasimir turns over, his dazzling eyes alight with mischief. “Twenty minutes from now you’ll be all over me again.”

“Yeah, well…okay. But right now, I feel completely drained.”

“So do I. I wish it were lunchtime already. I’m famished!” He lifts up on one elbow. “You seemed to quite enjoy that sparkling wine yesterday. Would you like me to ask Bedon to get some more of that for us?”

Before I can answer, a man flies from the cliff above us and lands neatly next to us. He’s wearing the colors of the king, black and emerald green. Livery, I think I’ve heard Kasimir call it. I think he’s a messenger. His skin is darker than Kasimir’s, almost bronze, and his bat wings are nearly black. Like all of the eligos, he’s striking and handsome. And again, I feel like the luckiest guy alive, because Kasimir, surrounded by men who all look like underwear models, has chosen me.

It seems so weird now to think I was ever a Necromancer. That I ever worked for DemonCo and thought about killing Eternals to make fiendium. The human world runs on fiendium, on the lives of the eligos and all of the other inhabitants of this world. It’s just a world, like ours, but we somehow decided it was ours to pillage and justified our greed by saying they were demons, evil incarnate, when they’re actually just people and animals from another world.

I catch my snap, then. I haven’t actually been listening to what Mr. Bronze has been saying, but Kasimir stands up, raining sand, with an alarmed expression on his beautiful face. “I see,” says Kasimir. “I need to change clothes….”

“Wear your armor. They leave in an hour.” He turns toward the cliff and raises his wings as if to fly. “Oh,” he faces Kasimir again. “He said to bring your pet monster.” With that he flaps his wings and flies back toward the cliff.

Awww. Kasimir’s asshole father’s term of endearment for me. Great. What now? “What was that all about?”

“We need to fly back to the palace,” says Kasimir. His wings shoot out behind him. They look like giant hawk’s wings, feathered instead of webbed like most other eligos and copper striped with gold. They’re breathtaking. It doesn’t matter how fucking awesome they are, however, I still hate flying. I endure it, but it still makes me feel faint. I hate heights, which kind of sucks when the love of your life has wings.

“What’s going on?”

He spreads his arms so I can hug him while he carries me. “Father is confronting an army from the Kingdom of the Red Moon. He wants us to ride with him.”


Author Bio

I’m Sionnach (prounced SHUHN ukh) and I’m a trans male author of romance and fantasy. Most of my books are gay romances because they’re so much fun to write. Opposites attract is my favorite trope with hurt/comfort right behind it. Few things are as fun to me as bringing men to life and pushing them into each other’s arms. I love happily ever afters and believe true love is absolutely real.

Before I started writing full time, I volunteered as a grant writer for animal rescue nonprofits. I love animals, and they inevitably find their way into my stories. I share my life with my husband and seven spoiled cats. I’m also the emotional support human to a crazy husky. He/him

Website: https://www.SionnachWintergreen.com

Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100010515095870

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/everwintergreen

Twitter: https://twitter.com/everwintergreen

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sionnachwintergreen/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15258737.Sionnach_Wintergreen

QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/sionnach-wintergreen/

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Sionnach-Wintergreen/e/B01FOU8PS4

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PROMO: Pierced Peony

Promo

Pierced Peony - Dahlia Donovan

Dahlia Donovan has a new queer cozy mystery out (ace, biromantic, lesbian), Motts Cold Case Mystery Book 2: Pierced Peony. And there’s a giveaway!

On a casual walk along the Cornish Coast, Pineapple “Motts” Mottley stumbles upon a body and a perilous new murder case in the second novel in the Motts Cold Case Mystery series.

As spring rolls into summer, Motts settles into her cottage. She’s enjoying a daily stroll when a body in the sea destroys her peace and quiet. It brings yet another mystery for her to solve.

How does a woman who vanished from Polperro three years prior wind up battered by waves?

Motts is drawn into the investigation despite her best attempts. She finds a family in turmoil and loads of suspects. With no easy answers, she tumbles further into chaos and ever closer to danger.

Can Motts find the killer before she’s the one put on ice?

Will she survive a bone-chilling brush with death?

Publisher | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CAN | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | QueeRomance Ink | Universal Buy Link | Goodreads


Giveaway

Dahlia is giving away a $10 Amazon gift card with this tour:

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Excerpt

Pierced Peony meme - Dahlia Donovan

A cat, a turtle, and a stranger face off in the garden. The stranger blinks first. Right. The joke still needs some work.

“Do you always let your turtle and cat out in the garden together?”

“They’re friends. They like to gossip.” Motts set her trowel to one side and got to her feet. She dusted the grass and dirt off her knees. “They both need fresh air and sun in moderation. Are you lost?”

The man didn’t seem lost despite having popped up beside the back fence around her garden. He looked like a police officer. Though not quite as broad-shouldered, he stood as tall as Teo Herceg, the detective inspector she’d met in April and had been dating for over a month.

“I’m hoping to speak with Pineapple Mottley.” He sounded like a policeman. His suit, while nice, appeared rumpled from driving; his short grey hair, however, was gelled and styled perfectly. “I’m Detective Inspector Dempsey Byrne with the Metropolitan Police’s cold case unit.”

“Cold case?” Motts’s heart stuttered in her chest. She rubbed her fingers together nervously. “Jenny. You’re here about Jenny.”

Jenny Cleverly had been her lone best friend through her early childhood. Motts had stumbled across Jenny’s lifeless body on her way home from primary school while walking through a park, hidden behind a hedge. She still had nightmares about finding her.

The unsolved crime had haunted Motts. She’d developed an obsessive curiosity about cold cases as a result. And at least once a year, she searched online to see if anyone had been arrested for Jenny’s murder.

“Ms Mottley?”

“Motts.” She had a sudden sense of déjà vu; she’d had a similar conversation with Teo in April. He’d been investigating the murder of a Rhona Walters, who’d been buried in the garden behind her cottage. It had been an auspicious start to her life in Polperro. “Cactus.

Her beloved Sphynx cat had leapt onto the fence and then over to the detective’s shoulder. Detective Inspector Byrne didn’t bat an eyelid. He simply reached up to pat Cactus on his head.

Well, he certainly approves of the random strange man intruding on our afternoon.

Intruding inspector intrudes introspectively.

Introspectively?

Not my best alliteration.

“I don’t often see a flowerless garden.” He glanced slowly around at her rows of fruits and herbs. “None at all?”

“My allergies try to drown me if I’m around them for too long.” Motts kept flowers far away from her cottage. Real ones, in any case. She made and sold origami and quilled floral arrangements as part of her small business, Hollyhock Folded Blooms. “Why don’t you come in for tea? Cold case curiosities can converse comfortably.”

Don’t frighten the fancy London detective with your peculiarities.

The judgmental voice in her head sounded suspiciously like her mum, who meant well but couldn’t always relate to Motts’s more unique traits. She didn’t understand her wayward autistic and asexual daughter. Motts had given up trying to fit into neurotypical moulds.

I am who I am.

Alliterations and all.

Oh, fun accidental alliterations are the best.

“I wouldn’t want to impose.”

“Wouldn’t you?” Motts stared blankly at the man, unable to decide if he was being polite or not. “You drove from London. At least a five-hour drive on a good day. Tea isn’t imposing. Sleeping in my garden and trampling the herbs would be.”


Author Bio

Dahlia Donovan

Dahlia Donovan wrote her first romance series after a crazy dream about shifters and damsels in distress. She prefers irreverent humour and unconventional characters. An autistic and occasional hermit, her life wouldn’t be complete without her husband and her massive collection of books and video games.

Author Website: http://dahliadonovan.com/

Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/dahliadonovan

Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/DahliaDonovan

Author Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dahliadonovanauthor/

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8184061.Dahlia_Donovan

Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/dahlia-donovan/

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Dahlia-Donovan/e/B00KFNZFHU/

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PROMO: Fix the World

Promo

Fix The World

Other Worlds Ink has a new hopeful sci-fi anthology out: Fix the World. And there’s a giveaway!

We’re a world beset by crises. Climate change, income inequality, racism, pandemics, an almost unmanageable tangle of issues. Sometimes it’s hard to look ahead and see a hopeful future.

We asked sci-fi writers to send us stories about ways to fix what’s wrong with the world. From the sixty-five stories we received, we chose the twelve most amazing (and hopefully prescient) tales.

Dive in and find out how we might mitigate climate change, make war obsolete, switch to alternative forms of energy, and restructure the very foundations of our society,

The future’s not going to fix itself.

Publisher | Amazon | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Liminal Fiction | Thalia | Goodreads


Giveaway

OWI is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card with this tour:

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Excerpt

From “Rise”

by J. Scott Coatsworth

The rumbling increased to a roar, and more dark patches appeared in the green lagoon waters. So expensive. So laborious to stabilize what was left. But every bit worth it, in this moment.

A great spume of water sprayed high enough to throw a shimmer of mist across her face as the first part of the old city broke the surface. As the spume cleared, the top of the Campanile di San Marco rose above the water, green roof gleaming like new. A nice touch. The Restoration Guild must have worked overtime on that one. Its golden weathervane was gone, but the bas relief of the lion of St. Mark made her clutch her heart.

“Mamma, what’s the lion for?” She licked chocolate off her hands, desperate to make her afternoon snack last just a little longer.

“It’s the symbol of the city.” Mamma put her hand on Cinzia’s chest, patting it—boom boom, boom boom. “The beating heart of who we are.”

Cinzia stumbled. It felt like yesterday.

“You okay?” Gio’s brow creased.

“I… sorry, yes. So many memories.”

Skipping over the bridges. The bad days of the quarantine. The corner market where mamma used to do her grocery shopping…

The Flood.

Another building broke the surface nearby—the Santa Maria della Salute, the beautiful basilica. Water poured off the gorgeous green domes in a thundering flood. They were mostly intact, though one of the smaller ones had a gaping hole—water poured out of it, cascading down to the lagoon like a waterfall, joining the general uproar of the Rise.

“Look, Kendra. You can see the outlines of the Canal Grande now.” The old waterway—the pulsing artery of the city—snaked away from them like a backwards ’S.’ In the distance, she could make out the edge of the Sestriere Cannaregio, the district where her mamma had lived in a modest apartment in an old stone palazzo that looked out on a concrete courtyard.

Waters rising, as it rained for close on a month, coming ever closer to their own second-floor balcony.

What if the water doesn’t stop coming?” Cinzia stared out at the concrete courtyard, where the seawater swirled and churned.

“Don’t worry about that, tesoro. The water always stops, eventually. Now come here and help me with dinner.”

She had been lucky. She had survived.

All across the lagoon, the buildings of Venice were rising from the water. Many were broken, piles of bricks and debris covered with algae and surprised fish that flopped around on suddenly exposed land. The outlines of the city were becoming clear as water poured out of the buildings, churning the lagoon into a muddy, frothy mess.

A row of palazzos along the edge of the Canal Grande collapsed, sending up a deafening roar as they crumbled into rubble. Cinzia stepped back instinctively, pulling Kendra with her as the platform rose thirty meters into the air to avoid the cloud of debris that briefly rose above the lagoon before settling back to earth.

“Nothing to be alarmed about. Not all buildings were stabilized prior to the Rise.” Doctor Horvat’s lined face nodded reassuringly from the hovering screen before them, her voice broadcast across the world and to the Lunar colonies far above. “We expected some collapses. We will keep you away from the dangerous areas.”

“What if the city doesn’t stop rising?” Kendra grasped the railing, her gaze locked on the scene below.

Gio knelt next to the girl. “There’s no chance of that. The polyps have a very short lifetime…”

Cinzia was grateful to him. He probably understood the science behind all of this far better than she.

Her mind drifted.

They ate the last of the almond cantucci, savoring the hard cookies even though they were stale. Cinzia was still hungry, but she knew better than to ask for more. There was no more.

Outside, the rain had finally slowed to a constant drizzle.

Mamma ruffled her hair, managing a wan smile. “I need you to stay here, Cinzia. Someone will come for you, I promise. I will find us help.”

The helicopters had stopped coming days before, and the boats that had been plentiful the first few days, with men telling them to stay put, had bypassed their part of the city ever since.

The rumbling subsided.

Cinzia opened her eyes and looked around. For just a moment, there was absolute silence on the traghetto, along the shore, and on the sky board.

She looked over the railing.

Venice—her Venice—lay before her. It was in sad shape. Many of the landmarks she remembered were tarnished or broken. Whole zones of the city had collapsed, and except for Piazza San Marco, a green film covered the risen city. She was a ghost of her former glory.

But she was there, as solid and real as the hand before Cinzia’s face.


Author Bio

Bryan Cebulski is a rural California-based journalist from the Midwest who writes quiet queer speculative and literary fiction.

Scott Coatsworth lives with his husband Mark in a yellow bungalow in Sacramento. He was indoctrinated into fantasy and sci fi by his mother at the tender age of nine. He devoured her library, but as he grew up, he wondered where all the people like him were. He decided that if there weren’t queer characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends. A Rainbow Award winning author, he runs Queer Sci Fi, QueeRomance Ink, and Other Worlds Ink with Mark, sites that celebrate fiction reflecting queer reality, and is a full member member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).

Rachel Hope Crossman grew up in Athens, Greece and Berkeley, CA as the child of a linguist and an actor. Her imagination, marked by the stones of the Acropolis, the granite slabs of the Sierra Nevadas and the blues of the San Francisco Bay, is the all and everything that fuels her engine. A preschool teacher, then substitute teacher, Rachel ultimately followed her Montessori bliss to teach elementary. Mother of four grown children and author of Saving Cinderella: Fairy tales & Children in the 21st Century, (2014 Apocryphile Press), Rachel currently writes eco-fantasy and science fiction stories. 

Jana Denardo is Queen of the Geeks (her students voted her in) and her home and office are shrines to any number of comic book and manga heroes along with SF shows and movies too numerous to count. There is no coincidence the love of all things geeky has made its way into many of her stories. To this day, she’s still disappointed she hasn’t found a wardrobe to another realm, a superhero to take her flying among the clouds or a roguish star ship captain to run off to the stars with her. 

J.G. Follansbee is an award-winning writer of thrillers, fantasy and science fiction novels and short stories with climate change themes. An author of maritime history and travel guides, he has published articles in newspapers, regional and national magazines, and regional and national radio networks, including National Public Radio. He’s also worked in the high-tech and non-profit worlds. He lives in Seattle.

Ingrid Garcia helps selling local wines in a vintage wine shop in Cádiz and writes speculative fiction in her spare time. For years, she was unpublished. But to her utter surprise—after years of receiving nothing but rejections—she’s sold stories to F&SF, and the Ride the Star Wind and Sword and Sonnet anthologies. She tweets as @ingridgarcia253and is busy preparing a personal website and—dog forbid—even thinking about writing that inevitable novel

Jennifer R. Povey was born in Nottingham, England, but she now lives in Northern Virginia, where she writes everything from heroic fantasy to stories for Analog. She has written a number of novels across multiple sub genres. Additionally, she is a writer, editor, and designer of tabletop RPG supplements for a number of companies. Her interests include horseback riding, Doctor Who and attempting to out-weird her various friends and professional colleagues.

Mere Rain is an international nonentity of mystery whose library resides in California. Mere likes travel, food, art, mythology, and you. Feel free to reach out on social media. Mere Rain has published speculative short fiction with The Mad Scientist Journal, Mischief Corner Books, Things in the Well, and Mythical Girls.

D.M. Rasch writes feminist speculative fiction for LGBTQ+ young adults and adults, exploring where the social and political meet the personal. Her characters are often found doing their best in worlds that challenge them to become their best selves. Queer representation and reaching out to LGBTQ+ youth drive her writing, informed by her MFA in Creative Writing from Regis University and two bossy sister kittens who like to edit. She identifies as a genderqueer lesbian, currently writing and working (remotely) in the Denver, CO area as a creative mentor, coach, and editor in her business, Itinerant Creative Content & Coaching LLC.

Holly Schofield travels through time at the rate of one second per second, oscillating between the alternate realities of city and country life. Her stories have appeared in Analog, Lightspeed, Escape Pod, and many other publications throughout the world. She hopes to save the world through science fiction and homegrown heritage tomatoes.    

Anthea Sharp is the author of the USA Today bestselling Feyland series, where a high-tech game opens a gateway to the treacherous Realm of Faerie. In addition to the fae fantasy/cyberpunk mashup of Feyland, her current novels are set in the shadowed enchantment of the Darkwood, where dark elves and fairytale elements abound.  Anthea lives in sunny Southern California where she writes, hangs out in virtual worlds, plays the Irish fiddle, and spends time with her small-but-good family.

Alex Silver (he/him) grew up mostly in Northern Maine and is now living in Canada with a spouse, two kids, and three birds. Alex is a trans guy who started writing fiction as a child and never stopped. Although there were detours through assisting on a farm and being a pharmacist along the way.    

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PROMO: Confined Desires

Promo

Confined Desires - Katherine McIntyre

Katherine McIntyre has a new FF contemporary romance out: Confined Desires. And there’s a giveaway!

Sky’s crush on her best friend has always been unrequited… until they’re stuck in quarantine together and sparks fly.

Sky’s high school bestie is moving back to the area and staying with her for a few weeks. Easy, right? Not when she’d held a torch for the woman since high school. The moment Mia walks through Sky’s door, those unrequited feelings return full-force. So, when a spreading virus keeps them confined in Sky’s apartment even longer, Sky is screwed.

Mia returns home after a bad breakup, but Sky is the only one who offers a safe place to land. However, the seven years they spent apart has her looking at her best friend through a different lens, attraction sparking with every inside joke, shared dinner, and cuddle on the couch.

That flare of desire fast turns physical. They can’t get enough of each other. Yet, whenever Mia tries for the “where is this going” talk, Sky dodges. Sky lost her sister in high school, and ever since, she’s become ace at keeping dates at a distance. Yet if she doesn’t manage to push past her own fears, she might lose her one shot at happiness with the woman she’s waited a lifetime for.

Publisher | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CAN | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Universal Buy Link | Goodreads


Giveaway

Katherine is giving away a $10 Amazon gift card with this tour:

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Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d47177/?


Excerpt

Confined Desires meme

Mia twined her arms around Sky and leaned her head against her shoulder. “See, this is why I missed you so damn much.”

Sky froze, unable to move. Part of her melted at this touch, while the other freaked out. The last thing Mia needed was her best friend dumping a lifelong crush on her lap. This close, she could feel the woman’s sleepy heat, and the sweet scent of peaches wafted off her. Sky’s mouth watered—the response instinctual. She forced her hand up to run her fingers through Mia’s silken strands. That was friendly, right?

“Missed you too, babe,” she murmured.

“So, wait, are you working tonight, or no?” Mia asked, pulling away to grab her mug.

“Uh, no,” Sky murmured, mind racing as she tried to come up with an excuse to leave.

Mia tapped the edge of her mug with her fingernail. “Then maybe we could take the day to play catch up?” she asked. When Sky didn’t respond, the words refusing to leave her tongue, Mia’s eyes widened. “I mean, as long as you didn’t have plans or anything. I know I kind of dropped this on you. Fuck, I don’t even know if you’re seeing anyone or who you hang out with anymore.”

“Pitifully single,” Sky responded. “My girlfriend and I split up last year, and I’ve been so busy with work that I haven’t been able to get out to the bars or clubs in Philly at all to jump back into the dating scene. Trust me, you haven’t missed much.”

“Bullshit,” Mia said, placing her mug of coffee down. “Get dressed. We’re heading out to Lucky’s, and I’m buying you breakfast.” Her blue eyes twinkled as she doled out the commands, and Sky’s heart thumped harder.

Sky scratched the nape of her neck. “Yes, ma’am.”

She headed to the bedroom, cursing her lack of an excuse. A large part of her was thrilled to be spending all of this time around Mia after so long. Yet the other part of her just wanted to solder metal sheets around her heart.

As if she’d stand a chance with Mia Brownstone living at her house for the next two weeks.


Author Bio

Katherine McIntyre

Snarky women, ragtag crews, and men with bad attitudes.

Katherine McIntyre is a feisty chick with a big attitude despite her short stature. She writes stories featuring snarky women, ragtag crews, and men with bad attitudes—and there’s an equally high chance for a passionate speech thrown into the mix. As an eternal geek and tomboy who’s always stepped to her own beat, she’s made it her mission to write stories that represent the broad spectrum of people out there, from different cultures and races to all varieties of men and women.

Author Website: http://www.katherine-mcintyre.com

Author Facebook (Author Page): http://www.facebook.com/kmcintyreauthor

Author Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/pixierants

Author Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/authorkmcintyre

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6473654.Katherine_McIntyre

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Katherine-McIntyre/e/B00J8U4VNU

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PROMO: When Heart Becomes Home

Promo

When Heart Becomes Home - Pat Henshaw

Pat Henshaw has a new MM contemporary romance out: When Heart Becomes Home. And there’s a giveaway!

Is there a time limit on love and forgiveness?

Fifteen years ago, Manny didn’t show up to take Wes to the Shelby High School prom as he promised. Instead, Wes found Manny’s letter jacket at their meeting spot without a note or any explanation.

From college to his current job in Monterey, California, Wes has carted the jacket around as a memento of his teenage love and rejection. This year he decides enough is enough. He’s attending the high school class reunion, returning Manny’s jacket, and going home free to find the real love of his life.

When Manny sees Wes at the reunion tour of the new high school facilities, he’s determined not to let his teenage lover leave without them clearing the air and possibly getting back together.

Through reunion activities such as a quiz bowl, meet-and-greet meals, and a formal banquet with a prom-like ball as well as outside activities like the quinceañera of Manny’s niece, Wes and Manny work through the lies and misunderstandings of the past.

With so much to reconcile and forgive on both sides, will they end up together? Or go their separate ways with only memories of the past?

Universal Buy Link | QueeRomance Ink


Giveaway

Pat is giving away two $10 Amazon gift cards with this tour:

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Excerpt

When Heart Becomes Home meme - Pat Henshaw

Manny and I had never talked about college or the future. We’d been too centered on sex.

Because of all my wanderings through the past, it took me a few seconds to process what he’d told me. He’d written me a letter, and on the night of the prom, he had put it with the jacket at our prearranged meeting place.

He’d left the jacket—for me. He hadn’t crushed it into the ground in some undecipherable message. He’d left it with a note for me.

What had happened? Who’d come along and taken the note? And tried to blot out the jacket? Why hadn’t he or she taken it, too?

There was still a lot of food left on our plates when we both stopped eating and sat staring at each other.

“Okay, please tell me what happened from your side. What did your letter say? I have to make sense of this.”

He put his hand on the table, open for me to grab it with mine. We needed to hold on as we looked down at the rift that had separated us for fifteen years.

“What the letter said was I was stupid and asked you to forgive me. I knew I was gay. You knew I was gay. Hell, most of the town and the class probably knew, too. Everyone but my mother who insisted I wasn’t. According to her, none of the Garcias or the Escobars had ever been. She had read about homosexuality running in family lines. We had no gay men in the family. Therefore, I could not possibly be gay.” His thumb started rubbing over the back of my hand. “But I am. I knew it then. And I know now she knew it.”

The last part was said so low and his thumb over my skin was so seductive the words at first bypassed my brain. He kept speaking, so I had to scramble to keep up.

“Her big ambition for me wasn’t to get into a good college and have a fulfilling career like some parents wanted for their kids. No, it was for me to be a chambelane for as many of the daughters of friends as she could arrange, pick one of the girls, get married, and have as many kids as the girl would allow.” His thumb stopped, and he stared into my eyes.

“All I wanted to do was go on dates with you and for us to go to the prom. Together. As boyfriends. That’s all.”

His soulful eyes reflected the conflict between him and his mother.

“In the end, she won a tiny victory that has nicked away at my soul. When it came time for me to stand like a man, I failed. I cut myself down to her size. I agreed to play her game of life.” He looked away and sighed. “I learned the quinceañera waltz. I partnered her friends’ daughters. She smiled at me and bragged about her dutiful son. She dangled me by the strings she had woven since I was a baby.”

A short silence descended on us. I had nothing to say and knew he had a lot more to tell me.


Author Bio

Pat Henshaw

Pat Henshaw has spent her life surrounded by words: teaching English composition at the junior college level; writing book reviews for newspapers, magazines, and websites; helping students find information as a librarian; and promoting PBS television programs.

Pat was born and raised in Nebraska and since then has lived at various times in Texas, Colorado, Northern Virginia, and now Sacramento, California. Over the years, Pat has traveled to Mexico, Canada, Europe, Nicaragua, Thailand, and Egypt, and Stowe, Vermont, where she now has family.

Author Website: https://www.pathenshaw.com

Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/pat.henshaw.10

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PROMO: Legacy

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Legacy - M.D. Grimm - Saga of the Bold People

M.D. Grimm has a new MMF sci fi romance out, Saga of the Bold People Book 2: “Legacy.” And there’s a giveaway!

What does a former assassin do when he’s not out there… well… assassinating? Saving his species from extinction, of course.

At least, that’s what Leopold wants to do with every molecule in his body. But the task won’t be fast or easy, and he can’t do it alone. Enter Mastrodai—a mrrog prince who has absolutely no desire to rule, much to his father’s exasperation. He craves the ability to prove his worth as a mate and to somehow atone for his actions that led to Leopold’s torture at the hands of an enemy. Making humans official would be a good start.

But politics rule no matter what the species, and Mastrodai has to maneuver carefully and risk what he has built to give his mate what he deserves. And when he realizes both he and Leopold have deeper feelings for Alex, one of Mastrodai’s human slave women, he knows his future is out among the stars with his humans, not planet-bound with his kin.

Unfortunately, before they can set their plan into motion, Leopold receives a vision that sends him reeling and questioning everything he knows about himself. A vision he must investigate, back to where he began—Lex, the backwater planet where he spent his early years, and where he swore never to return.

About the Series:

Leopold is a human in an alien-dominated InterGalactic Community. He gained a reputation as the assassin Voidstriker, until his identity was revealed. He soon finds himself reassessing his life, his mission, and his own identity. Having spent his entire life driven by hate and fear, he soon finds himself motivated by hope and love. He decides on a new mission in life: freeing the human species. It will be a long, hard road, and one he can’t walk alone.

Even as his allies grow in number, he will most depend on his mates–Mastrodai, the mrrog prince, and Alexandra, a fellow human, his best friend, and their lover. Along with Sasha, a young girl with extraordinary abilities. Leopold is no stranger to challenges but this might be his greatest trial yet.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | QueeRomance Ink | Liminal Fiction | Smashwords | Goodreads


Giveaway

M.D. is giving away a $10 Amazon gift card with this tour:

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Excerpt

Legacy meme - M.D. Grimm

The explosion thundered against my eardrums, cutting off my conversation with a large group of crop tenders. All of us flinched and I spun around as the boom thrummed through the air, and every mouth gaped, even mine, when the enormous fireball shot into the sky. Flaming debris rained down on the dry stalks, reaping chaos in seconds.

“Save what you can!” I said in Veruvian, the official intergalactic language. I ordered my bodyguards to split up and keep their eyes peeled. Then I sped toward the origin of the explosion, quickly outpacing Wekladai, my chief bodyguard. I lowered to all fours and raced into the danger zone, dodging and weaving around scalded metal and open flame. A growl sat contained in my chest, vibrating against my lungs. I bared my teeth, blood and death on my mind. Who would dare?

Who would dare?

Smoky hot air burned my nostrils and irritated my throat. I narrowed my eyes in deference to the discomfort, shrugging it off. I’d felt worse. The mrrog academy and my rite of passage had beaten weakness out of me. Not to mention my father’s lessons. I reached the epicenter to find that nothing but rubble and blackened ground remained of the supply building in that quadrant of the moon. I recognized a couple of corpses in the mess as I picked my way through.

My growl finally loosened, and I resisted panting to save my throat and nose. I would personally slice apart the culprit. It could only be sabotage. A competitor, perhaps, angered that I’d received the contract from the InterGalactic Council instead of them.

I straightened and stared in disbelief. Was my security so lax as to allow an enemy to saunter right in? I walked over to the top of a shallow rise to stare out at the acres of crops set in quadrant EC-1. The fire was out of control all around me, the smoke and heat flaming my rage deeper.

Wind rose up and blew away much of the smoke. Movement caught my eye, and I looked down the incline. I froze, staring at the creature standing not far away, next to an old, unused shack. A strange land cruiser sat right next to him. It was a male; of that I was certain. And… could he be… a human?

Yes, he was a human. And a thief. Familiar rejlfei hung from his shoulders and arms, the straps straining against the weight. Did he merely come to steal from me?

Hair as black as the void covered most of his pale face, and brilliant blue eyes reflected the distant sun’s light, reminding me of stars. He was tall for a human, with broad shoulders, and a lean body clothed in a black bodysuit. His face was sharply angled, and yet everything was well-placed, coming together in harmonious union. His expression was stony, and his posture spoke of confidence and strength. The aeunn in his hand never wavered as he kept it aimed at me.

Standing before me was no cowed human afraid of his own shadow. No. He was a predator, one made of grace and purpose and a formidable persistence. Why he was on my moon I couldn’t say, but he wasn’t leaving it. He wasn’t getting away.

I crouched slowly, not wanting to startle him. One good leap and I would be on him. Even as the human must have guessed my intent, because his eyes abruptly shot wide, the wind blew again, hurling his scent into my face. I took a deep breath. His aroma was dense and organic with metallic and synthetic undertones along with a masculine musk that caused me to salivate. It made me think of thunderous nights when electricity charged the air, where passion danced between lovers, a wild and furious battle of wills and the need to dominate. It was violent and edgy, tense and defiant. Alive. Real.

My vengeful rage morphed into a sharp, all-consuming need, and it nearly knocked me on my ass. The wind brought his scent to me once more, and one word repeated again and again in my mind.

Mine.

My body responded in a way it hadn’t in years. Not since Nandeely. Every lover after her had been an itch to scratch. But this human? I had to possess him. I had to claim him now, before he got away. Before another dared touch him. Images of what I’d do once he was under my control caused my cock to slip out of its sheath. I growled at myself. It had been a long while since such control was beyond me. And I needed it now more than ever.

“Mastrodai! What did you find?”

I startled at Wekladai’s voice as he joined me on the hill. Only then did I realize that the human was on his land cruiser and speeding away, clearly determined to escape.

“What was—?”

“Come!” I charged after the human with Wekladai on my heels. My hesitation and the human’s distracting scent had cost me. I snarled and leapt, landing right where the human had once stood. I raced after him but it was no use. I wouldn’t catch him. Despite my speed, his cruiser was just too damn fast. He tore up more crops on his reckless ride, and I took another deep breath, focusing on his vibrant aroma instead of the smoke and burnt metal. Unfortunately, he was soon out of sight but I couldn’t stop running.

“Contact Jauntai!” I snarled at Wekladai. He stopped and I continued on. I followed the human’s trail, easily distinguishing his fragrance amid the acrid burning of the crops. It was a warmth in my blood, a song in my head. I couldn’t analyze the effect he had on me, not yet. I was hunting, and I needed to focus.

The fire swept across the land far too rapidly for me to compete with. The trail was gone in an instant, his scent taken away, only smoke and heat in its place. I stood and growled, frustrated and angry at myself. Surprise had slowed my reactions and now my prey was gone. Prey that should not have found his way on my moon in the first place.

Unacceptable. All of it.

The obvious failure on all fronts burned my pride, and I dragged a hand over my hair. I turned around and huffed a deep breath at the wreckage. Duty first. Always duty first.

I will find you, human.

I hurried back, wary of becoming trapped by the flames. I resigned myself to an unpleasant call to my emperor. I met Wekladai on the way back, and from the look on his face, I rightly surmised the human had slipped through Jauntai’s fingers.

“Why did you hesitate?” Wekladai asked.

I growled. He wasn’t impressed. He was much older than me, about the age of my father, and had known me all my life. He used to be a compatriot with my father before I asked him to head my bodyguard team. He was the only one I allowed to be familiar with me. But right then I wanted to claw his face.

“Mastrodai?”

I turned away. “I must find him. Now. Immediately. Send probes. Look at the satellites and see if they caught anything. I want that blasted human!”

He blinked and tilted his head, ears straight and pointed forward. “Why do I sense more than anger in your urgency? Why do I smell your arousal?”

I spun around and gripped his throat, baring my teeth. He gripped my arm and bared his own, daring me to start something. Our claws slid out, and I was seconds away from brawling.

“Do not question me, Wekladai,” I said. “Not now. Not in this. Find. Him.”

Wekladai growled and covered his teeth. I let go and stalked back to the spot I’d first seen him. It didn’t take me long to find an aeunn that was clearly not one of mine. I carefully picked it up, trying not to handle it too much. I sniffed it. Oh, yes, that was him.

Why hadn’t he shot me? He wouldn’t have missed.

“Jauntai is looking over the recordings now.”

I nodded. Without a word, I walked away, holding the aeunn delicately.


Unique Content!

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Good day lovely readers! Thank you for joining me. I am M.D. Grimm and I am here to promote my newest release, “Legacy.” This is book two in my “Saga of the Bold People” 6-book sci-fi/romance series, and the follow-up to my amazingly popular “Leopold.” I am thrilled to finally be able to present it, and I can say that much sweat, blood, and toil went into this one. While “Leopold” took me nearly a decade to finish, “Legacy” was about a year. I think. Hard to keep track sometimes. And they are basically the same length! Whew.

To celebrate my newest release, I thought I’d share a bit about me. Namely, answering the question: if you had the opportunity to live one year of your life over again, which year would you choose, and why?

Hands down, it would be 2010. Specifically, that summer. Why?

Ireland. ‘Nuff said.

Kidding. I had the wonderful chance during my Junior year of college to study abroad in July in Galway with an optional week before that in Dublin. Of course, I took that option as well. I learned about the opportunity during my Sophomore year when a professor of Irish Studies visited my English Lit class. In fact, he was the one to start the program and was, in fact, from Ireland. His family moved to the US when he was a child. However, he doesn’t have an accent. He said, and I quote, “Kids can be mean.”

Ouch.

I made sure to take one of the professor’s classes so I could get to know him and pick his brain about the program. He’d been running it for years with another Irish counterpart in Ireland. I had the choice of taking two classes out of five at Galway University. I chose Irish music and Irish Gaelic. The others were Irish history, Irish literature, and another option I don’t remember.

And then it happened. For someone who’d never even been in an airport before, I decided to take a plane over the Atlantic Ocean to another country. Sure, I had a slight panic attack before even getting on the plane but… I got over it. Heh.

Both of the flights to Ireland were delayed so I was hours later than my planned landing time. I ended up being the last person to arrive in Dublin. Thankfully, my professor was there to greet me at the airport. He also paid for our cab to the hotel. He is such a classy man.

The week in Dublin was packed full of events and wonderful moments. I had the foresight to bring a journal to write down everything at the end of every day. I didn’t want to forget a single moment.

When we hopped over to Galway, we started classes, and I managed to squeeze in a couple of independent tours for myself in combination with the two official tours. I visited Inis Mór, the largest of the three Aran Islands, and the Cliffs of Mohr. Independently, I visited the Giant’s Causeway with a four other people and also visited the town of Tuam twice by myself.

Unfortunately, I somehow missed visiting Blarney Castle and the Blarney Stone. Oh no. Now I have to go back. *snort* One of these days, I plan on returning and fixing that monumental error.

Certainly, I have a few regrets, mostly in not packing every day with new experiences. Sure, I paced myself but I also could have upped the speed a time or two.

I have to say that what struck me the most during my trip to the Giant’s Causeway was that moment we crossed from the Republic of Ireland into Northern Ireland. All the Irish flags turned into British flags. Talk about whiplash. And we needed to exchange our Euros for pounds. Same island, completely different atmosphere. Oh! And you know those stone walls that cut across all the green green fields? No gates. You just knock down a section of the wall, step through, and then build it back up again. The cultural difference (from US) is amazing.

The tour guides we had were great. Sociable, amusing. They probably said the same stuff several times a day and hundreds of times a month, and yet they still injected enthusiasm and encouraged questions. One of the nights, after class, I stayed at the university bar with a fellow student and we had some drinks and chatted up the bartender. He closed the bar around ten but the three of us stayed talking until after midnight. Had a Guinness… of course.

Gosh, there are just too many stories to tell. That trip absolutely blew my mind in the best ways. I highly recommend that if anyone gets the opportunity, to take that leap and visit Ireland.

After it’s safe, of course.

Enjoy the pic!

Glendalough – You see that hole in the stone? That’s not a window. That’s a doorway. This is where monks brewed Jameson whiskey!

Please make sure to sign up for my newsletter. That is the best place to receive the latest information before anyone else.

I plan on republishing my entire Shifter Chronicles, On Wings Saga, and Eye of the Beholder in 2021, with updated and expanded text for most of them. Keep your eyes peeled for those!

I hope you stay safe and healthy, and may dragons guard your dreams,
M.D. Grimm


Author Bio

M.D. Grimm has wanted to write stories since second grade (kind of young to make life decisions, but whatever) and nothing has changed since then (well, plenty of things actually, but not that!). Thankfully, she has indulgent parents who let her dream, but also made sure she understood she’d need a steady job to pay the bills (they never let her forget it!).

After graduating from the University of Oregon and majoring in English, (let’s be honest: useless degree, what else was she going to do with it?) she started on her writing career and couldn’t be happier.

Working by day and writing by night (or any spare time she can carve out), she enjoys embarking on romantic quests and daring adventures (living vicariously, you could say) and creating characters that always triumph against the villain, (or else what’s the point?) finding their soul mate in the process.

Author Website: www.mdgrimmwrites.com

Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001710645622

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Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/m-d-grimm/

Author Liminal Fiction (LimFic.com): https://www.limfic.com/mbm-book-author/m-d-grimm/

Author Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/M.D.-Grimm/e/B00I0KZMY6/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

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PROMO: The Hunter’s Gambit

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The Hunter's Gambit - Nicholas McIntire

Nicholas McIntire has a new queer fantasy book out, The Archanium Codex book 1: “The Hunter’s Gambit.”

Aleksei Drago never expected an easy life, but he never expected what he got. Growing up amongst the Ri-Vhan of Seil Wood, losing his mother and just as suddenly being torn from the forest folk, Aleksei had no choice but to make the best of the unpredictable path in life.

But what happens when the monsters and figures of fiction become horrifyingly real? Can Aleksei find the right path? When his life and the lives of his family and friends are at stake will he fight, reforging himself into the man Prophecy demands he become? In a world of magic and Magi, of Angels and Demons alike, how will a simple farm boy survive his own contorted destiny?

This is the story of a seemingly-simple world gone mad, and the reality that every action, no matter how apparently benign, can serve to unravel terrifying truths. This is the story of Aleksei Drago, farmer, Hunter, and so much more.

Publisher | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CAN | Google Play | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Giveaway

Nicholas McIntire is giving away two $20 Amazon gift cards with this tour – enter via Rafflecopter:

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Excerpt

Henry spent the rest of the day watching his son closely. Something was undeniably troubling him, but until Aleksei decided to open up to him there was nothing he could do.

“He’ll tell you in his own time, Henry.” he muttered under his breath.

So he waited. Every now and then he would engage his son in conversation, but every time he thought Aleksei might be on the brink of telling him something, the conversation fled to some superficial topic. Did he think it would rain by Market Day? Who did he think would bring the biggest pig to the Harvest Festival? Did he think Mother Margareta would come to bless their fields before the first frost?

Henry answered each question as though it was the direction he meant to steer the conversation, and refused to allow his frustration to surface. But by the end of the evening, he was no closer to understanding his son’s troubles than he’d been that morning.

Finally Aleksei rose from his seat before the fire, put his book away, and went to bed. Henry watched him go, more troubled than ever. The boy had never gone to bed without a word before. He always had some last comment to make, even if it was just to wonder at the next day’s activities.

Henry sat before the dying embers of the fire well into the night, thinking. He didn’t remember falling asleep, so when the voice woke him his eyes started open.

Hello, Henry.

He looked around, trying to get his bearings.

Gone was the heat of the hearth, the comfort of his chair. Instead he stood in an enveloping fog of shimmering gold.

He could see no one.

“Where am I?” Henry demanded.

A dream, Henry. This is merely an illusion. I apologize that I cannot offer you more comfortable surroundings at the moment.

“Who are you?” Henry called, feeling a touch foolish, shouting at phantoms.

His question went unanswered.

Henry, I’ve come to ask a favor.

“Who are you?” Henry repeated flatly.

There was a moment of hesitation before the voice responded. A man much like yourself, Henry Drago. One who only wants what’s best for your son.

“Speak then.”

When the favor was uttered, Henry blinked in confusion. A thousand questions bubbled to the surface, yet he found that he only possessed the strength to ask one.

“Why?” he choked, surprised by the weakness in his own voice.

The air before his face shimmered and distorted, as though he were looking through intense heat. Slowly, images formed. Images of Aleksei. An Aleksei he didn’t recognize.

“Why are you showing me this?” Henry managed.

Because I want you to see what your son could become. The man he could be, if you’d only let him. If you just do as I say.

“I don’t trust you.” Henry barked back. “I can’t even see your face.”

Another image shimmered into being. A man, though Henry saw nothing remarkable about him. The man leaned forward and whispered in his ear, and Henry heard the unmistakable ring of truth.

In that moment he thought he might have preferred a dagger to the heart. It would have been far less painful to simply die at the end of a highwayman’s blade than to agree to this. Either way, he would lose the most precious thing he had.

“Bargain struck.” Henry whispered bitterly, a tear winding its way down his cheek.

You’re doing your son a great service, Henry Drago.

The man even sounded earnest.

Henry started to say something, but even as he opened his mouth, darkness swirled around him. He slipped back into the empty chasms of sleep.

#

Morning greeted Aleksei gently, rousing him from a dreamless oblivion. It had taken him hours to finally find some rest, and his relief was immeasurable when he woke without encountering the specter of the green-eyed man. His wish had been granted. The man was gone.

He made his way down the narrow stairway and walked into the kitchen, frowning at what greeted him. Their rough wooden table was laid out with provisions for what Aleksei could only guess was a journey.

But a journey where? His father hadn’t said anything about travel. There was still wood to chop and hay to store. The first snow might be weeks away, but there was no telling when the winds would usher in the chill of Northern air. Working outside in the cold was not something he, nor any farmer, relished.

“I see you’re up.” Henry said from behind. Aleksei jumped.

He turned, “Da, where are we going? I thought we were going to finish the hay this morning.”

His father shook his head and smiled, though Aleksei caught the deep sadness in Henry’s eyes. “We aren’t going anywhere, Son. You are.”

Aleksei frowned, “Me? But I thought—”

His father tried to hold the smile, but it was forced, “You’re needed, Son. In the North.”

Aleksei thought his heart would stop. He forgot to breathe. He could hardly process what his father had just said.

You know the truth he speaks, Aleksei.

Aleksei fought back a sob of frustration. He thought he’d freed himself of the damned voice, but now he knew the truth. He would never be free from it. It would hound him until the end of his days, or until it drove him mad, whichever came first.

Or until you simply do as I ask.

“Why?” he finally managed.

His father looked out the kitchen window, and Aleksei followed his gaze. Dash waited patiently outside, a saddle fitted snugly about his muscular frame.

“Because you’re needed, Son. It’s the only answer I can give you.”

“I’m not needed here, Da? Don’t you need me?”

Henry bit back the pain in his voice, “You are more of a help than I can say, Aleksei, and I love you dearly. But no, I don’t need you. Not like this. If you stayed here, you’d be wasting something…extraordinary. And honestly, I think you’d know it too. They need you in the North, Son. And their need is much more important than mine.”

Aleksei stood there, stunned by what his father was saying to him. And then the questions came pouring forth. What did Henry mean by ‘extraordinary’? What had his father learned? What was still being kept from him?

“And I’m sorry I can’t give you the answers you want, Son. But I think you know who can. Find him.”

“But how can I….” Aleksei began, fighting back the tears springing into his eyes.

“You’re strong, Aleksei. You’ve always been strong. That won’t fail you now.”

Henry swallowed back his own tears and tried to smile again, “Now you’d better get on the road. The sooner you get beyond the Southern Plain, the better. You don’t want to be riding under the Harvest sun too long if you can help it.”

“But where am I going?” Aleksei cried, his voice breaking. It was happening too fast. His life was slipping through his fingers moment by moment and there was nothing he could do about it.

“North, Son. North. You’ll know where you’re headed as you get closer. That’s all I know to tell you.”

Aleksei looked into his father’s eyes and saw the sadness, the regret that burned within him. His father wanted to know just as badly as he, to know just what sort of place he was so blindly sending his son.

Finally, after a long silence, Aleksei nodded. “Alright, Da. If you want me to go, then I’ll go.”

“I’ll never want you to go, Son.” Henry whispered, his face contorting with pain. He had already lost his wife, and now he was losing his son, too. Aleksei would still be alive, but he would be so far away.

“But promise me something, Aleksei.”

Aleksei nodded, “Anything, Da.”

“If you find this place and if it’s not what you want, what you need, promise me you’ll come back. Even if this isn’t what you want either, at least we can figure that out together.”

Aleksei finally allowed a tear to wind its way down his cheek, “I promise, Da.”

Henry stepped forward and wrapped his arms tightly around his son, hugging him as close as he could, as though any moment Aleksei might turn to mist and vanish forever. Henry stepped back and managed a sardonic smile. Aleksei might remain solid as stone, but surely enough he was about to vanish.

#

Henry didn’t watch his son ride away. In truth, he couldn’t bear it. As long as he’d never seen Aleksei leave he could always pretend the boy was out in the barn, or by the pond he’d swum in as a child. It was a good hour before Henry allowed himself to sit down in his chair and sob.


Author Bio

Nicholas McIntire

Critically-acclaimed author Nicholas McIntire has been writing fantasy since he was 8 years old. The bones of the Archanium Codex were first created when he was 16, and in the past 20 years, he has taken that initially simple idea and crafted it into a fully realized world, finished the sequel, earned three degrees (one in Russian, Eastern European Studies, two in Nursing), and lived life to its fullest. Now writing full-time, Nicholas is ready for share is vision of the Archanium Codex, a 10 book series. The first book of the series being The Hunter’s Gambit.

Nicholas, lives in Fort Worth, Texas, but writes in both Fort Worth and Fort Davis, TX, where his family has a small place situated at 5200 feet in the Davis Mountains – and, yes, Texas does have mountains.

Author Website: https://www.nickmcintire.com/

Author Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NGMcIntire/

Author Twitter: @nickmcintire

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17088295.Nicholas_McIntire

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Nicholas-McIntire/e/B07X7D7CH6

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PROMO: Expression: Telepaths Rising

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Expression: Telepaths Rising - Colin D. Vaughn

Colin D. Vaughn has a new queer multi-racial sci fi book out: “Expression: Telepaths Rising.” And there’s a giveaway!

It’s the year 2113. Telepaths are real. They’re exalted. Feared. Hunters. Hunted. Kingmakers and slaves. With his expression, Ken is catapulted into the ranks of a tiny elite. With immense telepathic potential, he will have to learn how to use his powers and whom to trust. And quickly. Because there are enemies, both within and without, and they’re not going to wait.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CAN


Giveaway

Colin is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour:

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Excerpt

Expression: Telepaths Rising

Tarrington placed his datapad on the table. “This begins the psychic assessment of Kenneth Jared Kawashima. Nigel Tarrington, Authorized Facilitator of the Ministry of Citizen Services and Mauricio Vargas, an Authorized MCS Liaison from the Ministry of Psychic Affairs, presiding. Also in attendance are the subject’s father, Takahiro Kawashima; mother, Claire Alma Reed; and sister of minor age, Stephanie Fusako Kawashima.”

Tarrington turned to me: “Kenneth, pursuant to the Telepath Registration Act, as a suspected telepath you are required to undergo psychic assessment. You may not decline, delay or obstruct this hearing in any way. You may, however, have the presence of counsel at this proceeding. If you do not have one available to attend within 24 hours, one will be provided to you by the Ministry. Please touch the datapad and state whether you request or waive counsel.”

All of this was rather pro forma – I was surrounded by my family and it wasn’t as if a lawyer could stop or save me from this process. Not that I wanted it to stop. I touched the pad. “I waive counsel.”

The datapad chirped: “Identity confirmed. Waiver of counsel acknowledged.”

Tarrington turned to my parents. “Please touch the datapad to confirm that you have no objection to this proceeding, its recordation, or your son’s waiver of counsel.”

My parents touched the pad and it chirped: “Identities confirmed. Acknowledgements confirmed.”

Tarrington smiled, “Well, now that all that fussy business is complete. I will turn things over to Mr. Vargas.”

Vargas smiled at me, and then, clear as a bell in my head, I heard him sing a jaunty tune: I am the very model of a modern major general. I am the very model of a modern major general.

I laughed and asked him, “So you’re a general, eh?”

He smiled: No, more like a lowly foot soldier, little brother. Ask me a question. In your head – look into my eyes and say the words of your question one at a time. Remember, don’t speak.

I looked him straight in the eyes and thought: Where. Are. You. From?

Honduras. Suddenly I could see a wide stretch of forest, leading to deeply forested mountains, their tops veiled in low-lying clouds. Though I knew I was still crouched on the floor of our living room, I cool also feel moist spongy earth under my feet, a cool breeze across my cheek. This is my home. Well, actually, my hometown is the metropolis of Gracias a Dios, but the rainforests on the outskirts are what I think of as “home.”

For a moment, I almost felt like it was my home, too. I, who had only ever left Tennessee for our family’s annual trip to the Japan Territory, almost ached to return and hike those forests. Gracias a Dios. Thank you.

It wasn’t until Vargas smiled and said aloud: “My pleasure” that I realized that I had spoken to him mind-to-mind again, but in a natural, almost instinctual, way.

Was this what it meant to be a telepath? This incredible sharing, this intimacy? I felt as if Vargas – no, Mauricio– was some long-lost friend. Could he sense the same about me? I was just about to ask him for more when Tarrington clapped his hands once and said, “I take it that it was a success? He’s a true expressive?” I came to and looked around. My family was just staring at me. At me and Mauricio.

Mauricio nodded, then reached and touched the datapad: “Confirmed that subject’s telepathic gene has expressed, as verified through the receipt and transmission of audio, visual and tactile stimuli between subject and myself.”

Tarrington said: “Excellent! Now, Ken… I may call you ‘Ken,’ yes? . . . You understand that you will be more fully and properly assessed by the Psych Ministry at a later point?” I nodded. He then continued, “However, for myMinistry’s purposes an initial, somewhat rough assessment is necessary. Mr. Vargas will perform this. I am sorry for any discomfort.”

Mauricio then said aloud: “Ken, I will now force myself onto you” – at my sister’s gasp, he addressed everyone and continued – “in a very safe and controlled way, I assure you all. Though unpleasant, I will not harm Ken, I promise you.” Then turning to me: “Ken, what you must do is push me away. Pretend there’s a door that you’re trying to push closed. Or pretend there’s a pot on a heating unit bubbling over that you need to slam a lid onto. Or think of it however you think right – trust your instincts. OK, here goes.”

Then, before I could even begin to ponder what Mauricio was getting at, I saw his green light brighten and felt him touch me as he did before, but somehow both heavier and louder than before. Where before I felt like I was sharing with Mauricio, walking in his shoes, I now felt like he was walking on me. Instead of beautiful forests, I saw a man wielding a leather strap. The man – Father! – started hitting me over and over with the strap, shouting. It hurt! God, had this really happened to Mauricio? Or was this all part of the test? I couldn’t imagine my own gentle father or mother (however strict) ever acting so. But – ow! – the bastard kept hitting me! And I felt so angry, that he was hitting me, that he might possibly once have beaten my friend this way. I jumped up and yanked the strap from him. I then pushed him and lashed the strap across his face. He started to back away and I lunged after him hitting him again and again with the strap…”


Author Bio

Colin D. Vaughn

Colin is a Midwesterner by birth who lives in Washington, D.C. with his husband. Lawyer by day and aspiring writer by night (and lunch break). Since discovering Asimov and Tolkien as a child, he’s had a lifelong love of science-fiction and fantasy. And he has enjoyed the explosion of wonderful stories featuring fellow LGBT and people of color.

But the more he read, the more he realized that he had his own tales he wanted to tell. And themes he wanted to explore – power and temptation, social progress, the fall of civilizations, ways to love, futurism, beloved community, and many more.

He very much hopes you enjoy his story!

Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/colin.vaughn.5203

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Colin-D.-Vaughn/e/B08FJBW69M/

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PROMO: Prince Ivan, A. Wolfe, & A Firebird

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Prince Ivan, A. Wolfe & A Firebird - Eric Alan Westfall

Eric Alan Westfall has a new queer fairy tale out: Prince Ivan, “A. Wolfe & A Firebird.” And there’s a giveaway!

Dear Reader,

What do you get when you combine a greedy Great Tsar, his two cheating, bullying older sons, his youngest esser (shh! no saying that aloud) son, stolen gold apples, a Firebird quest, A. Wolfe who has the power t’assume a pleasing shape, a magickal sandstorm, as well as two bands and a full Symphony of Gipsumies?

A rollicking, roisterous Russian Fairy Tale, with vigorous esser activities in tents, halls, bedrooms and alcoves, with and without the assistance of PSTs. Plus princely parades, a duel over Gus, new lyrics to an old drinking song, and the possibility of bits of blood, gobs of gore or moments of mayhem. As required by CORA (the Code of RFT Authors), should these occur, your author will give you timely warning.

Ah. Still not ready to part with your kopek-equivalent? Consider the fun you’ll have reading chapters like:

  • “To Kvetch, Or Not To Kvetch? A Reader’s Choice”
  • “Ivan Has A Close Encounter Of The F-Word Kind”
  • “Second Direction Questers vs. The Caliph’s Sayer Of Sooths”
  • “Will Sasha Succeed In Seducing Prince Ivan?”
  • Bad Prince Ivan! No Touch Cage!”
  • “A Travel Pause For Gratuitous Sex In The Tent—Which Does Not Advance The Plot—At The Insistence Of The Characters”
  • “A Necessary Interlude To Consider The Age-Old Questing Question: What The [Expletive Of Your Choice, Dear Reader] Do We Do Next?”

If you buy it and try it, you’ll like it, or so says your most talen…er…humble author.

p.s. If Karrie Jax and I have covered you and blurbed you to buy, look for “Dear Reader, Along The Way, Did You Happen To See The Allusion To Olivier?” in the TOC. It’s a spot-the-allusions chance at gift cards of $25, $15, or $10.

166,000 words of story fun and frolic, plus a 2160-word teaser from another MM fairytale: The Tinderbox.

Amazon | Smashwords | Universal Buy Link


Giveaway

Eric is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour. Enter via rafflecopter:

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Excerpt

Prince Ivan, A Wolfe & A Firebird meme

IVAN PUTS HIS HORSE AT RISK, AND MEETS A. WOLFE

“A wolf who talks,” Ivan said, his voice all full of surprise.

“I am not a wolf, Prince Ivan, I am A. Wolfe.”

Ivan lifted an eyebrow, in his long-perfected “inquiring princes want to know what you mean” mode, while wondering what effect it might have on such an enormous beast. Well, not a beast, exactly, since it could talk.

No reaction, except the bright gold eyes—so like one of his father’s apples, well-polished after plucking, or the gold circles in the Firebird’s tail—stared back, unblinking.

Since his eyebrow inquiry failed to a verbal response, it was Ivan’s turn to talk. Politeness had worked with the Firebird, when used in place of “I am royal, hear me roar” arrogance, and might be best for Ivan’s well-being in the current situation, conversing with a wolf, the top of whose head was above Gus’ shoulder.

“‘A wolf who talks,’” yes. My exact words, Sir Wolf.”

The wolf opened his mouth. Wide. No mere flash this time. Ivan was fully fanged. As they had only just met, he could not tell whether he was being fang-grinned for a reason he could not fathom, or fierce-fanged to frighten him. If it was the latter, there was a glimmer of starting-to-work happening.

But the wolf’s voice was neither fierce nor fun-filled when he hid most of his fangs and talked again. His tone was a goblet of great size, filled not just to the brim but overflowing—with more coming from somewhere so the over kept on flowing—with…patience. The kind of patience you use for, with, and on, those who are not very bright. Indeed, those who are so dim that if their brains were used to provide light for reading at night they’d be as effective as an inch-tall stub of a quarter-inch wide candle, set in a candlestick in the bowels of a cavern on the far side of a mountain range five-and-a-half eighths of a continent away.

“When you bathe, do you clean your ears, Prince Ivan?” [See above for how he said it.]

“Uh…what?”

A sigh was heard.

Ivan wished he’d brought along a sigh that big, but then, since it was a large wolf letting it loose, accompanied by, Ivan was almost sure, a hint of a scent of pasta, pesto, garlic and butter, Ivan might not have been able to use it with the same effect. The sigh might almost have been designed to complement the show-patience-to-the-afflicted voice.

“Do. You. Clean—”

“I heard you the first time, Sir Wolf. I just don’t understa—”

It was the wolf’s turn to interrupt. “It’s clear you don’t understand, young prince. I was trying to ascertain whether your inability to understand plain Russian was based on a physical defect—stuffed ears, whether unclean or for another reason, bad hearing, something of that sort—and if not, on some mental lack which in theory requires me to be considerate and gentle.”

There was a tiny pause, so infinitesimal Ivan would have had no chance to get a syllable of a word in edgewise, sidewise, upwise, or downwise, even had he tried. “You do understand kindness and gentleness are not traits associated with a wolf, and especially not A. Wolfe?”

At the end of this series of insults, the Great Tsar would have raged, calling on his ever-present Imperial Guards to “Rid me of this wolf!”

Anatol would have ranted about the presumptuousness of peasants who did not know or stay in their proper place, probably forgetting who had just offended his sense of propriety.

Vlad would have grabbed his sword, and whether from horseback, or following a grandiose leap to the ground which displayed his awesome athleticism for the admiration of any viewers lurking in the vicinity—it was his policy to always act as if he was being viewed with admiration—would have started hewing and hacking away.

In part because Ivan suspected the outcome would have been the same with all three of those scenes—dead soldiers, dead royal family, likely including bystander youngest prince—Ivan chose the fourth door…and laughed.

He couldn’t say why he saw—thought he saw—a twinkle of humor in the great golden eyes. But he must have been right, because the wolf didn’t leap up, all howling, growling and slavering, and drag him off Gus before doing the devouring which would logically follow offending laughter.

Ivan forced a halt to his own humor. With gasps interrupting his initial words, he said, “My apologies, Sir Wolf. I was not laughing at you. It was an image in my head of my family’s reactions to your words, and yours to theirs. However, with all the respect to which you are entitled, which seems to be at least a reasonable amount”—Ivan was willing to be reasonable, but not obsequious—“I have no mental or physical defect which interferes with my hearing or my understanding. Perhaps the, ah, flaw lies in your explanation of what you mean? Or, you might consider, the lack of one?”

Ivan gave the wolf a princely grin of satisfaction with his response.

Wolfe gave the prince back a wolfeish huff. “I’ll entertain the possibility you might be right, if you’ll entertain the possibility you are not listening as well as you should.”

Ivan nodded.

“Very well. Repeat after me, ‘A wolf is not the same as A. Wolfe.’”

“A wolf is not the same as a wolf.”

Wolfe sighed again. He apparently had an inexhaustible supply, in a wide range of sizes.

“A wolf is an animal, Prince Ivan. It resembles me, but is far smaller, roams the forest, howls from time to time for various reasons, and at times for no reason at all. Perhaps because it doesn’t reason. I am a wolfe—with an ‘e’ at the end. Which means I have magickal skills. My name is: A…full stop…Wolfe.”

Ivan grinned again. “Your first name is Afullstop? What an unusual name. Not Russian, is it?”

No. Not an ‘uh’ sound, but a long a-sound, which rhym… You’re teasing.”

Ivan learned another lesson in wolfe-prince relations. A wolf-with-an-e-at-the-end could grin, without his fangs looking all fearsome.

Ivan widened his own grin. “I am. So what does long-A stand for?”

“Aleksandr.”

“A handsome name for a handsome wolf-with-an-e.”

Ivan paused. He shouldn’t, he really shouldn’t, but he decided he would, anyway. “Sir Wolfe, now that I know your name is A. Wolfe, and since we are being so precise with our pronunciations, are you really quite certain I shouldn’t call you ‘A. Wolfie?’ To be sure the final ‘e’ gets its just and proper due?”

Ah. So that’s what a Wolfeish glare looked like with a fillip of fang.


UNIQUE CONTENT!

A Pause to Provide a Reassuring Response for the Horse Kvetchers in the Crowd

The author extends his apologies, dear reader, for this interruption. But the kvetchers in the crowd, whinging on and on about the horses, are a probable distraction for other readers who, unlike you, are incapable of fully focusing on the tale while extraneous noise is being made. So, if you will be so kind as to bear wi—

The horses belonging to the princes. As you will recall, the horses were…

Oh. You don’t.

Ah.

Well, in that case, this interruption will serve as a reminder for those who perhaps don’t care as much as they should about tales which seem to include the abandonment of two fine animals to an unknown, and potentially dire fate, given the RFTness going on. This will also be a reassurance for those more vocal in their concerns over the possibility of off-page horse endangerment.

As it so happened—and as you know, you may trust the author to true-tell all this tale’s events occurring on and off the pages—not long after the brothers were swept up and swirled away by the sandst…

No. There has not been a precise allocation of the passage of a particular amount of time sufficient to serve as a definition of “not long.” Suffice it to say—and with all the authorial respect appropriately due to the kvetchers in the crowd, when this author decides something sufficeth, more than a mere sufficiency of sufficing has thereby been accomplished—the not-longness was not short enough to make subsequent events even more improbable than they already are because of the fairy taleness occurring, but also not long enough for the horses to experience more the mildest need for something to eat or drink.

If the author may now proceed?

Thank you.

As the author was saying, not long after the brothers were swept up and swirled away by the sandstorm, a band of Gipsumies happened by.

A happenstance of any form, of course, is by its very nature naturally nothing more than an alternative form of coincidence, but one which carries with it far less sheerness.

The Gipsumies—sometimes referred to by the ignorant as Roaminies, which they find offensive—were experienced travelers and well aware they were well beyond the far edge of All The Russias in the third direction.

Their band arrived at the site of the happenstance—the location of two saddled, bridled, Imperial warhorses—with all its instruments in tune, and being played with vigor, especially the violins, and with the men, women, and other genders, dancing with spectacular (of the non-Russian-axe variety) leaps and bounds, swirls and twirls and intricate steps. The perfect-pitch singers sang a series of songs during the course of the happening-by arrival, with also-perfect timing so they all finished simultaneously with a final stamp of the dancers’ feet, and a long-lasting high or low note from the singers.

No. There is no definition of how long the last notes lasted.

Great Tsar’s War Hammer, as named by Vlad—the horse much preferred his actual name, Nikki, but he answered to the other one because he had no choice—had seen a Gipsumy arrival before in Moscow and was impressed. Unaware this was only a rehearsal, he rose a bit on his back legs, and slammed his front feet down, giving them his stamp of approval.

Gleb, who answered to Anatol’s choice of Imperial Storm Racer, had seen that Moscow arrival alongside Nikki, but was less impressed with this one. He gave it only a modest half-stamp of a left foreleg of approval.

Rehearsal and arrival complete, the members of the band swiftly put their instruments away, stripped off their costumes and handed them over to the cleaners, and donned working garb in dull, drab colors, designed to make them easily overlookable in civilized circumstances. That done, the pre-selected men and women—it was the other genders’ turn for a day off from this task—spread out to investigate this most excellent finding in many a happening-by.

What the surroundings said to the Gipsumy investigators in subtle signs was threefold.

First fold, “There’s no one anywhere around who might claim to be the owner of the horses.”

Second fold, “There are some owner-type footsteps leading from the horses to the edge of the desert, but there are no steps indicating an owner’s desire to return to two valuable horses before anyone happens upon them and concludes they were abandoned. There are no signs of steps to the right of the desert line, nor steps to the left, or steps out into the desert. Therefore, the only conclusion to a reasonable degree of Gipsumy investigatorial certainty, is that the owners stepped out onto the sand and were likely sucked down.” (One lithe, elegant, more fey than the Fae, Gipsumy man sighed at the thought of such a sad ending to a sucking.)

Third fold, “Inasmuch as horse abandonment is a clear sign of intent to relinquish ownership thereof to anyone who thereafter happens by, and we, having thereafter happened by, it unquestionably follows the horses, and everything on them, are ours.”

Experienced in avoiding ownership confusions caused by returning persons denying horsical abandonment, the members of the band took the time for a brief meal and taking care of those needs which cannot be mentioned. After hitching Nikki and Gleb to the back of the chief’s caravan, and storing the saddles, bridles, saddlebags, and everything else in secret compartments scattered throughout the rest of the band’s caravans, they left the scene of the happenstance.

Some time later—

No!

they reached actual civilization, and thanks in part to the parchment provenance carefully crafted on the way, the Gipsumies made a more than healthy profit off an investment of the few rubles spent keeping the horses healthy and happy on the journey.

As paid-up members of GAPCHBOP—the Gipsumy Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Happened-By Beasts and Other Property—this band took more than the minimum amount of time mandated by GAPCHBOP rules to ensure that the new owner of both horses would treat them with love, care, and good food, water and grooming.

The author adds his personal assurances that many years after the events in this tale were concluded, Nikki and Gleb died of comfortable old age, surrounded by several herds’ worth of horsical friends, acquaintances and a great many descendants, the pair having been most active in their post-prince years.

Moving along, dear readers, moving along…


Author Bio

Eric Alan Westfall

Eric is an American Midwesterner, and as Lady Glenhaven might say, “He’s old enough to have sailed with Noah.” In the real world he writes for a living, with those who would claim what he writes is fiction. His partner of thirty years—who died unexpectedly in 1995—enthusiastically encouraged him to try to get his writing published (mostly poetry back then, plus some short stories), but he didn’t have the guts to do so until 2013. At this point he’s not sure which was officially first, The Song, or Like a Mountain, Waiting.

Starting then, he’s published 13 novels and novellas, 1 poetry collection, 2 short story collections, and 3 short stories. God willin’ and the crick don’t rise, 2020 will also see The Tinderbox out and about. But since real life is, as we all know, a pain in the (anatomical site of your choice)…no guarantees.

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PROMO: New Release! Brains and Brawn

Promo

Brains and Brawn - R.L. Merrill

R.L. Merrill has a new MM rock and roll book out: “Brains and Brawn.” And there’s a giveaway!

Billy “Brains” Brennan has achieved rock stardom in not just one, but two chart-topping bands, but events from his past have him convinced he’s living on borrowed time. Brains and his brothers-in-Hush are ready to take the last cross-country Warped Tour by storm…until the actions of two drunk dudes with bad attitudes set off a chain of events that leave him incapacitated…and face-to-face with a handsome stranger who inexplicably feels like home—and not the home Brains fled at sixteen.

Chief Petty Officer Paul McNally has spent his 25-year career as a Navy Corpsman responding to emergencies and caring for wounded soldiers. When fate has him in the right place to provide aid to a fallen rock star, it sends his life spiraling on a trajectory he never planned for. Instead of concentrating on his impending retirement and a second career, he’s now playing nursemaid to a fascinating younger man…and falling in love—a fact he can’t seem to figure out how to explain to his adult son.

A health scare, band drama, and pain from both of their pasts threatens to end Brains and Paul’s fledgling relationship. Fate brought them together. It will take trust, honesty, and hope to keep them together.

Amazon | Universal Buy Link


Giveaway

R.L. is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card with this tour – enter via Rafflecopter for a chance to win:

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Excerpt

Brains and Brawn meme

Paul’s head whipped around when he heard the first scream. He watched in horror as the tent Bowie had just been standing in front of—Hush’s tent—collapsed and a crowd of people fell.

Without hesitation, he ran for the tent. Then he spotted Bowie standing over some big guy.

“You okay?” he yelled to him.

Bowie nodded, his big blue eyes wide as he looked back at the disaster.

Security began barricading the area around the tent and moving the screaming fans away from the scene. Adults attempted to pull the kids out of harm’s way.

That’s when Paul saw the tabletop on the ground and a pair of black-clad legs sticking out from underneath.

Oh God.

Guys in bright yellow security shirts lifted and pulled the rest of the tent out of the way. Paul rushed toward the broken table and sank to his knees next to Brains.

“Can you hear me? Are you with me?”

Brains locked gazes with him, and Paul felt pain in his right hand. He looked down to see Brains squeezing the life out of it.

“Please don’t leave….”

Medical staff approached in blue cargo pants and polos and swarmed the members of the band and their staff, several of whom were on the ground. Two women approached Brains with medical kits, and Paul started to move back, but Brains’s grip grew tighter.

“Please don’t leave me!” Brains said again, more insistently. He was panting, his face losing color, and Paul feared he was going into shock. He glanced at the table on his legs and at the staff who were preparing to lift it off him.

Paul worried perhaps the worst had occurred, but the fact that Brains was still squeezing the shit out of his hand was a good sign.

Brains coughed as he brought his other hand up to grasp Paul’s. “Please!” His appeals were growing in urgency.

Paul leaned a little closer to his face and pressed his free hand to Brains’s cheek. “I’m not going anywhere, okay? But they’re going to lift the table now. You ready? Try not to move.”

Brains nodded—another good sign—but Paul pressed a hand to his shoulder. “Stay still.”

The staff guys counted to three, and then they lifted the table.

Brains let out a guttural shout, and tears streamed down his face as he winced in agony.

Paul breathed a sigh of relief to not see any blood or rips in Brains’s pants. He half expected to see a bone shard sticking out. But they weren’t out of the woods.

“Brains, listen to me, okay?”

“Billy.”

Paul frowned. “Billy?”

“My name is Billy. Please—”

“I’m not leaving you, but these medics here are going to look you over, and they’re probably going to poke and prod you a bit.” He nodded to the young women in Rock Medicine shirts who stood by, hesitating to approach. Paul heard sirens in the distance, which meant better-trained professionals were on their way, but Brains—Billy—needed to be assessed immediately.

“Sir, we need you to move—”

“He’s not going anywhere!” Brains shouted at them.

Paul addressed the one with the first-aid kit. “My name is Paul McNally. I’m a Navy corpsman, and I’m trained in triage and emergency medical treatment.” And I’m not leaving his side.

The young women looked to each other and then crouched down next to Billy. One of them placed a hand on Billy’s arm.

“I’m going to touch you, okay?”

“He’s staying with me, you got it? He’s staying.” Billy’s chin quivered as he spoke to the medics. The two women looked at each other with eyes wide.

Paul was losing circulation in his hand, but he wouldn’t have left Billy if the entire venue burst into flames. The way he was reacting… Paul had been through countless emergencies and could recognize when there was a psychological issue at work that needed attention.

He looked around for Bowie and saw him with Dimples, watching from a distance. Relieved that he hadn’t been hurt and seemed to be doing okay, Paul turned his full attention on Billy.

One of the women took Brains’s vitals, and the other ran her hands over his body, checking for injuries. She barely spoke to Brains, and Paul was perturbed at the way they were assessing him.

“Billy, can you wiggle your toes for me?” Paul asked.

Brains nodded, and then Paul looked at his Vans-clad feet. Thankfully, he saw movement on both.

Paul smiled down at Brains. “You’re doing great. You know what today is?”

“A fucked-up day? I had a bad feeling this morning….”

“Seems like it was warranted.”

Brains’s deep blue eyes fixed on Paul, and his breathing seemed to slow for just a moment. Paul hoped that meant he would maybe be able to relax—

“Sir, I’m going to need to put a collar on you.”

Brains flinched when the medic touched him. “I’m fine, just let me up—”

Paul placed a gentle hand on his shoulder, and it was enough to keep Brains from trying to sit up. “Billy? It’s important that you lie still and let them put a collar on you. With this sort of accident, they need to keep your spine aligned to avoid any further injury, okay?”

Brains began to pant and tugged Paul’s hand as though he wanted to try to pull up, but when he tried to move his legs, only the right one moved, and he screamed in pain.

“Look at me,” Paul said, getting closer to his face. He needed to distract him, to make Brains focus on him. “Brains, they need to take you to the hospital—”

“No. No, no, no, please,” he whispered. “I can’t go, please, Paul, please—”

“I’m not going to leave you. I won’t let them hurt you, okay? They need to take you in for X-rays to make sure nothing’s broken.”

Brains’s voice sounded like that of a frightened child. Something was seriously wrong. He pulled on their joined hands again, and the medic placed a hand on Brains’s chest to keep him from moving.

“Sir? You may have a spinal injury, so we have to place you on this backboard with a collar to protect you. If you won’t cooperate, we’re going to have to sedate you.”

“Can you give us a minute?” Paul asked the medics, irritation clear in his voice.

“We need to get him to the ambulance,” the medic closest to him said, and then was distracted by the band’s manager. She gave the medic Brains’s information and shot a worried look Paul’s direction. His full name was Billy Brennan.

Paul ground his teeth together and took a breath to calm himself. “I understand. Will you give me a moment to speak to Mr. Brennan? I’d like to avoid the use of sedatives.”

She nodded, and they stood and backed away a few feet to confer.

Paul squeezed Brains’s hand and placed the other on his forehead.

“Hey, man. The sedatives are a drag. This will all go better if you let them collar you and get you on the backboard. Hopefully everything is fine. The fact that you’re moving your toes and strangling my fingers leads me to think your spine is just fine, but it’s procedure. I swear I’m staying with you.”

Billy swallowed hard, his eyes wild. “I know I’m acting crazy. There’s a reason, I just… please.”

Paul smiled at him. “You haven’t seen crazy until you’ve got a wounded Marine pulling his pistol and pointing it at your face while you try to remove a sliver from his other hand.”

Brains’s eyes bugged out. “A sliver?”

Paul shrugged. “It was a four-inch piece of shrapnel, but I’d still call it a sliver.” He winked, and Brains barked out a laugh. Good, keep that smile. “You going to let them collar you and take you for a little ride?”

Brains’s smile faded. “Just please stay with me. Can you? Will you?”

If Paul hadn’t already been 100 percent in on this mission, he was now.


Author Bio

R.L. Merrill brings you stories of Hope, Love, and Rock ‘n’ Roll featuring quirky and relatable characters. Whether she’s writing about contemporary issues that affect us all or diving deep into the paranormal and supernatural to give readers a shiver, she loves creating compelling stories that will stay with readers long after.

Winner of the Kathryn Hayes “When Sparks Fly” Best Contemporary award for Hurricane Reese, Foreword INDIES finalist for Summer of Hush and RONE finalist for Typhoon Toby, Ro spends every spare moment improving her writing craft and striving to find that perfect balance between real-life and happily ever after.

She writes diverse and inclusive romance, contributes paranormal hilarity to Robyn Peterman’s Magic and Mayhem Universe, and works on various other writing and mentoring projects that tickle her fancy or benefit a worthy cause.

You can find her connecting with readers on social media, educating America’s youth, raising two brilliant teenagers, trying desperately to get that back piece finished in the tattoo chair, or headbanging at a rock show near her home in the San Francisco Bay Area! Stay Tuned for more Rock ‘n’ Romance.

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