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Hurry off to queerscifi.com and sign up for the newsletter. Get four free books. (Not all mine.)
When the stakes are this high, you better be sure you can win.
Jackson Murphy lost his parents to a boating accident, but they’re never far from his thoughts. He attends the same university as his parents, joined the same fraternity as his dad, and even lives in his father’s old room, along with his adopted brother Marcus. Life brightens when he meets the man of his dreams.
Edward Knowles trades full-time college for working during the day and community college at night when his father’s factory closes. He intends to stay deep in the closet to keep his job in heating and cooling. But Jack pushes all his buttons.
Jack’s college rival challenges him to bring a date to the upcoming dance. He goads Jack into accepting even though failure means he and Marcus will lose their room and Jack must leave the fraternity.
Jack is falling hard for Ed, but Ed will never agree to go the dance. Ed—not knowing the stakes of the wager—has also made it clear that Jack taking another man will end their romance.
With pressure from friends and enemies alike, will Jack hold on to his legacy… or his heart?
Andy is giving away a $25 Dreamspinner gift certificate, two audio codes, and 3 $5 Amazon gift cards with this tour. Enter via Rafflecopter for a chance to win.
We’re also giving away an eBook copy of (Un)Masked and one copy of Leo Loves Aries, by Anyta Sunday. Comment on the post below or a chance to win.
Jack’s phone buzzed, and he swatted the sound away. Too early in the damn morning. Another buzz. He drowsily pulled himself from sleep. Across the room, Marcus mumbled in his sleep.
Jack checked his phone, body surging to life at Ed’s name on the screen.
Ed: Oh, crap, it’s probably still too early for you.
Jack couldn’t type back quick enough. Ed writing to him this early in the morning, that had to mean something, surely.
Jack: Nah, I’m totally awake. Why?
Ed: Just finished a job. Am close to Harrison….
Jack was already scrambling out of bed, messaging one-handed while he emptied his drawers for a clean shirt.
Jack: Send me your location. I’m in desperate need of caffeine. Bet you could use some too.
Ed sent a grinning dog and his location. Eighteen minutes later, Jack walked into the local Starbucks. He scanned the almost empty store and caught Ed’s broad shoulders at the counter.
Jack strode over and clapped the guy on the shoulder, giving it a lingering squeeze. “I have an eerie sense of déjà vu.”
Ed’s warm shoulder shook as he chuckled. “I haven’t mowed you down yet.”
“No, no, that you haven’t.” Their gazes snagged, and Ed definitely swallowed. Probably too early—in the day and their friendship—to tease.
Jack rocked back on his heels, dug his wallet out of his pocket, and ordered.
When they both had their drinks, they sank into armchairs in the corner of the room.
Ed’s gaze kept dipping to his chest, and Jack’s lips tipped up behind his mocha. “How was your morning job?”
“I was extremely motivated to get the job done quickly.”
Jack’s grin widened, and an ill-timed sip ended up rolling down his chin. He swiped it off. “Do you often have jobs close to Harrison?”
“Not as much as I’d like.” Ed rubbed his palm over the arm of the chair.
“I mean, a lot of the time I have to drive out farther.”
“Well, any time you’re nearby….” He raised his cup.
Ed glanced at his chest again. “I like the look.”
Jack followed the sweep of Ed’s hand and—fuck. His shirt was inside out. “Right. Of course.”
Ed leaned forward in his seat, amusement lighting his eyes as he took in the rest of him. Shivers skittered through Jack, and he held his breath. “I totally woke you, didn’t I?”
The deep laugh Ed gave made it all worth it. “So you’re a high-ranking anchor in your fraternity?”
Jack snorted at the muff. From the way Ed stared at him, it was hard to tell if he’d done it on purpose or really had the term mixed up.
“We prefer to pronounce it ‘archon,’ but either way, I’m one of the fraternity leaders, yes.”
“Do you like it?”
“Which? Being in the fraternity or being an officer?”
Of course he’d want Jack to answer both. “Yeah, for the most part. I mean, there are a couple guys I wish weren’t my brothers, but that’s how it is.”
“How’d you pick that fraternity?”
“There wasn’t really any other option.”
Ed’s brow furrowed. “I thought Harrison had a lot of fraternities.”
“No, not like that.” Jack waved his hand and shook his head. “My dad, both of them were in Pi Kappa Phi. Marcus and I grew up hearing all the stories about their days in the house.”
“Wow, that’s cool.”
“Yeah, they met when they were freshmen and were friends until… well… until my parents died.” He thought he’d been ready to deal with the issue, but confronted with it, he froze.
Ed scooted up on his chair, leaning forward. “You okay, Jack?”
Jack rubbed the ring at the chain around his neck and drew in a calming breath. “Yeah. Yeah.”
Ed seemed to realize Jack needed a change in conversation, because he abruptly started telling Jack how his sister had woken him last night screaming murder. She’d gone to the bathroom at night, and when she walked back to her room, someone was in there, rustling the sheets.
Ed had launched into her room with a bat only to be confronted with their cat. The first time the cat decided not to be shy. In the middle of the night, rolling around Becky’s bed. They laughed so hard, they needed to make a cup of hot milk to settle down again.
“Sounds like you’re a good guy to have around… wayward cats.” And panicking… friends.
Ed sipped his coffee. “What about you?”
“I like to think I’m a good guy to have around too.”
“I’m sure you are.” Ed set his coffee down. “Look, about last night….”
Jack clasped his cup, muscles rigid. Here it was. “Yeah?”
Air blew into the café along with a group of rowdy hipster students toting stainless steel cups. Jack shuffled forward on the cushion to hear Ed better, but Ed’s gaze strayed toward group and his mouth flattened.
Jack cursed the interruption, but it was clear the moment had passed.
“What are your plans the rest of the day?” Ed asked instead.
“The rest of the day?”
Ed laughed, and Jack soaked it up.
“Class, bantering with Brittany—she’s awesome—frat meeting about the spring formal, messing around with the guys. Might squeeze some actual study in there.” A lot of study, actually.
“Messing around with the guys?”
That piqued your interest, did it? Jack smirked. “Play a bit of ball if the weather holds. Get out the PlayStation and hit the video games if it doesn’t.”
“What’s the spring formal?”
Jack groaned. “The bane of my life.”
Andy Gallo prefers mountains over the beach, coffee over tea, and regardless if you shake it or stir it, he isn’t drinking a martini. He remembers his “good old days” as filled with mullets, disco music, too-short shorts, and too-high socks. Thanks to good shredders and a lack of social media, there is no proof he ever descended into any of those evils.
Andy does not write about personal experiences and no living or deceased ex-boyfriends appear on the pages of his stories. He might subconsciously infuse his characters with some of their less noble qualities, but that is entirely coincidental even if their names are the same. And while Andy leaves the hard sci-fi/fantasy for his alter ego, Andrew, in his mind a touch of the supernatural never derailed a good relationship.
Married and living his own happy every after, Andy helps others find their happy endings in the pages of his stories. He and his husband of more than twenty years spend their days raising their daughter and rubbing elbows with other parents. Embracing his status as the gay dad, Andy sometimes has to remind others that one does want a hint of color even when chasing after their child.
Author Website: https://www.andygallo.com
Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/andygalloauthor/
Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/92829509-andy-gallo
Mary Rundle has a new mm paranormal/mpreg book out in her Blackwood Pack series: Ghost Walker.
The Blackwood Pack saga continues…
This is part of an on-going series by Amazon Bestselling Author, Mary Rundle, and catching up on previous titles is advised. Readers of the past books will enjoy meeting old friends once more as the pack does what it does best ̶ caring for one another and helping shifters everywhere.
David spent most of his life as a prisoner, beaten countless times as he was taught by the Sisters of the Four Gods. After learning the truth about what they had planned for him, he escaped and eventually landed in Scotland where he was rescued by kind shifter who gave him a job and a bed. His feeling of safety ended abruptly when he was discovered by the ones he fled.
Zane, the Blackwood Pack’s genius computer programmer, joined his brothers and friends in Scotland on his very first vacation. It had been a long and hard road for him since parents and younger siblings were massacred, but his life was finally coming together Not expecting anything more than fun and sightseeing, he was stunned to find his Fated Mate there.
Before they can claim each other, they find themselves in a terrifying game of cat-and-mouse, trying to elude brutal pursuers who want to capture David and kill Zane. As they fight to stay one step ahead of them, Zane sets out to win David’s heart and restore his confidence and also becomes his protector and lover.
Learning about each other’s abilities and gifts—and about the gods’ plans for David’s formidable new role in the shifter world—they form a unique bond with undying trust and a deep love that will bind them forever together as one.
Narrow escapes, kidnappings, battles, rescues and the revelation of unique gifts from the gods will keep you turning page after page as Mary Rundle weaves another thrilling tale of love and adventure.
Mary is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour – enter via Rafflecopter:
During dinner, Logan kept an eye on Zane and David, wondering what was so special about the newest member of the Blackwood Pack that Jackson would ask for a picture of him. He hadn’t told his brother about what happened when Zane and David shook hands, but he’d get to that when he called him later, back in the privacy of his hotel suite.
“David, are you coming back to the hotel with us tonight?” asked Theo.
Zane spoke up, “We haven’t decided what we’re doing, Theo.”
“Where are you from?” asked Norm, then adding quickly, “Not that it matters but I was just wondering.”
“No problem,” David said, “I’m from a region in Italy called Tuscany.”
“I know all about it,” Kieran said, “It was one of the areas my Shaman made me study. I always wanted to go there to see the Church of the Four Gods. From the pictures my Shaman showed me, it’s magnificent, but he told me I couldn’t really appreciate it unless I stood exactly in the center of it, looked up and turned around in a circle and then I’d understand why so many paranormals chose to follow that religion. Have you ever been there?”
Unsure if Kieran was trying to expose him, David felt the urge to vanish again and it was only Zane’s hand holding his that kept him there giving him a sense of calmness. “Yes, I have,” he answered, “but I never did that. What happens when you do the circle thing?”
Shrugging his shoulders, Kieran said, “I don’t know. My Shaman never told me that, only that I would find understanding, but that doesn’t matter to me, I just want to see the architecture… Oh macushla, did you ever go there?”
“No, but I agree with you—it’s a stunning piece of workmanship,” answered Logan, “and it’s one of the finest examples of Ancient High Gothic Celestial architecture left on earth.”
“It’s a church for paranormals? I never heard of it. Can humans go there too?” asked Theo.
“Only if they’re mated to a paranormal,” Kieran said.
“You mean a shifter can have a human for a mate? Pooh bear, did you know that?” Theo asked.
“No, I don’t remember learning that in school,” Norman answered.
“My Shaman,” continued Kieran, “told me it was more common a long time ago, but after humans started to hunt shifters—and when shifters began to go underground, so to speak—the gods decreed it should stop. They also forbade any shifter from disclosing the existence of another.”
Dakota then joined in. “Slate told me the original owners of this pub were a wolf shifter and a human and that’s what saved it when the war against the Scottish wolf shifters occurred.”
“Very true,” Ian’s mother, Lili, joined in. “Your parents would bring you here, Ian, whenever they had to visit Edinburgh. Do you remember?”
“So that’s why I had a déjà vu moment downstairs,” Ian chuckled. “I was chalking it up to my pregnancy hormones.”
Smiling, Lili’s husband, Samuel, said, “Remember dear, we would come here every year for our anniversary.”
Lili ducked her head, giggling, as she remembered what they did afterwards, and said, “Of course I do…and I also recall how beautiful the nights were.”
Seeing Ian blush at his mother’s comment, Colton smirked at the thought his mate wasn’t comfortable about his parents reminiscing about their sex life, so he steered the conversation back to the original topic. “If I understand you, Kieran, the Church of the Four Gods is also a religion?” asked Colton.
“Uh-huh. My Shaman told me about it but I wasn’t too impressed at the time because my belief in our gods and the Fates was very strong, but seeing the Church of the Four Gods was always something I wanted to do. Hey, macushla, I have a great idea!”
“Oh, no, here we go again!” groaned Theo.
“What do you mean?” Zane asked.
“Anytime, Ki says he has a great idea, beware,” answered Norman.
“P-u-u-leeze, that is so not true,” Kieran said. “I was thinking Logan and I could stop there on our way to Mykonos.”
“Why are you going to Greece?” asked David.
“Oh. My. God. David, you and Zane must come with us since you are newly mated also.”
“What about Slate and me?” asked Dakota. “We’re newly mated too.”
“Absolutely!” cried Kieran. “The more the merrier I’ve always said.”
“Ki, why Greece?” Zane asked.
“It has the very best gay parties with lots of music and dancing, and fabulous theme parties where we can make our own costumes. And then, there are also pool parties with lots and lots of hot sexy men that are about 99% naked.”
“What are they wearing if they are 99% naked?” asked Theo.
“Speedos!” exclaimed Kieran. “Teeny, tiny swim suits that highlight everyone’s assets, if you crotch my drift!” he said, giggling at his play on words.
Theo’s eyes widened then, turning to Norman, he said, “Pooh bear, I want to go there too. Can we, please?”
Norman smirked, he knew exactly why his honeybunch wanted to go. “Sure, if Ki agrees.”
“Oui!” Kieran answered, clapping at the thought of the fun everyone would have.
“Babe, before you buy tickets, I’ll have to check in with Jackson about the work he wants done,” Logan said.
“Oh, I know, macushla,” Kieran said, “I’m just making plans.”
Groaning, Logan murmured, “That’s what concerns me.” Then he lifted his mate onto his lap, nuzzling Kieran’s neck and giving him soft kisses and gentle nips until he got to the mating scar, which he licked.
“Macushla!” Kieran exclaimed, shivering in excitement. “Oh, my gods, that’s what rim…”
Watching Logan place his hand over Kieran’s mouth confused David because, as far as he could tell, Kieran wasn’t doing anything other than talking. Bile rose in him—the sight of physical restraint brought back bad memories of his time with the High Priestess. If the Alpha allows this, I don’t want to be in the Blackwood Pack. Calling forth his ability again, David disappeared, taking Zane with him.
The first book I ever wrote was Dire Warning in 2017 and, much to my delight, it became an Amazon Best Seller. Readers loved it and I was on my way to chronicling the Blackwood Pack, seven brothers who are gay wolf shifters in search of their fated mates– stories about love at first sight with twists and turns, angst and humor, romance and adventure and, of course, happy endings.
Now, six books later, Ghost Walker, another Best Seller, has just been released to critical acclaim. I love the M/M paranormal genre because it gives my imagination a lot of territory in which to roam. My mind can really run wild and come up with some amazing stuff when it doesn’t have to stay inside the box.
My readers tell me they feel like they’re a member of the pack as the stories unfold. As if they’re right there in the middle of the action. Others tell me it’s like watching a fast-paced movie. My writing style pulls no punches– readers love it and are always clamoring for the next book.
Stories come to me as if they were being channeled by my characters, all of whom I love (except for a few villains). They are eager to recount their lives, loves and adventures and are not inhibited when it comes to revealing steamy details.
I currently live in the Northeast and love the beautiful change of seasons, my husband, and our quirky calico cat, though not necessarily in that order. I’m always happy to hear from my readers and can be reached through Facebook, Twitter, MeWe, or my website.
Author Website: http://www.maryrundle.com
Author Facebook (Personal): https:// www.facebook.com/maryrundle69
Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/maryrundleauthor
Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/MaryRundle69
Author Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/maryrundle69
Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43782892-ghost-walker
Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/book/ghost-walker/
Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Mary-Rundle/e/B0763CDQQ6
Title: A Symposium in Space
Subtitle: A Feast of Words
Author: K.S. Trenten
Publication Date: March 25, 2019
Publisher: Nine Star Press
Pages: 22, 784 words
Genre: Ambient science fiction
Blurb: Phaedra and her lover, Pausania are invited to a dinner party. Only this won’t be like any party Phaedra has ever been to. Nor does Pausania want her to go. Phaedra is determined, even if she has to find her own way to this symposium in space. A fateful encounter with the spaceship of her dreams and the wandering philosopher, Sokrat, lead Phaedra to a unique gathering of individuals where thoughts of love are offered up…and consumed.
Tagline: The party continues in a decadent matriarchal future where the guests may find themselves eating their words…literally.
The invitation resembled an eyeball.
A floating, pink orb drifted up to the open panels of Pausania’s apartment and fixed me with its lidless stare.
I froze, unsure how to react. An unfashionable citizen of the Intergalactic Democracy, I still ran around in a vest with pocket protectors, unfamiliar with the latest technology. The bobbing globe made me think of tales of magic from Ancient Earth.
“Phaedra, beloved of Pausania.” A melodic voice, filled with sly suggestion, came from the orb. “I’d be very pleased if you and your lover would attend my symposium in space.”
“A symposium?” I murmured, confused by the archaic word. It conjured more images of Ancient Earth, but this time of our patriarchal past. An era when those who looked down at you were referred to as patronizing rather than matronizing.
Such barbarism was behind us. A new democracy had spread out from Ancient Earth, across space, freeing women from their former bondage to male thoughts and ideas.
The only problem was this democracy was dominated by the wealthy and the powerful, just as too many societies had been in the past. They controlled the spaceways, spamming the universe with their advertising. Their shining, three-dimensional billboards and oversized spacecrafts were everywhere, dominating the skyline.
It was more than a little annoying.
“A symposium is nothing more than a dinner party.” Melodic and laced with sarcasm, my paramour’s voice floated into the room before she made her appearance.
Swallowing a sigh, I turned to face Pausania.
She glided into the room with a lazy grace, loose leggings swishing around her slender limbs. As always, she managed not to drag the tassels at the ends of them across her floor. The pants matched the fawn-colored blouse she wore. Tawny beads weighed down the edges of the tunic.
Pausania’s attire was usually a compromise between fashionable and comfortable. Her blouse complemented her auburn hair, falling in thick, luxuriant waves over her shoulders.
Those russet tresses were coarser than they looked. They still yielded to brushes, combs, or my worshipful fingers. Tiny strands of copper mingled with the auburn locks, giving her head a halo’s gleam.
It wasn’t natural. Very little about Pausania was natural. She still made everything about her appearance seem artless and unfeigned.
A pity the same wasn’t true of her personality.
She stalked toward the orb, carrying a wine glass in one hand. It tilted precariously, threatening to drip its contents upon her elaborately patterned rug.
This irritated me. I’d got her that furnishing, saved up my meager pennies from poetry readings and space runs to see that she had something special to adorn her apartment. True, she’d never shown more than a temporary admiration for its beauty, but her casual contempt was like a slap in the face.
“Phaedra has no interest in your shallow attempts to feed on her emotions, Agathea.” Pausania waved a hand at the orb.
“Agathea?” I swallowed at hearing her name.
Agathea of one of the wealthiest, most prominent citizens of the Intergalactic Democracy. One who could arrange to have my poems broadcast over the biggest billboards that glowed in major cities on major planets.
“The Agathea?” I asked for clarity. “The third-time winner of the Tragedy award? The one who funds and owns most worlds’ rights to the image of Aphrodite?”
“Once again, you’re showing your naiveté, your complete lack of any galactic sensibility.” Pausania glanced upward at the ceiling. Perhaps she was asking the ancient goddesses to give her strength. “There’s only one Agathea. No one else can use her name without incurring a fine as epic as her tragedies.” She smacked her slim hand against her forehead. “Next you’ll be calling life givers women.”
“Huh?” I opened and closed my mouth. “Why would I call women life givers?”
“You may call it a lack of galactic sensibility. I call it a charming display of innocence.” The orb throbbed in midair, quivering with hungry intensity. “Pausania, I simply must have the two of you at my symposium.” A slight note of menace entered the voice. “Do you truly wish to shun my company? I’m collecting guests exalted enough to impress even one as cynical as yourself.”
“Exalted isn’t how I’d describe your collections.” Pausania waved her free hand in languid dismissal. “You’re all about the latest trends. You never touch anything that questions or casts them in an unflattering light.”
“Ah, but would I be inviting Sokrat if that were true?” A sly tone laced with humor emitted from the mechanical device.
I wondered if Agathea had given it her voice. What projected from the orb was such a caressing, sensual tone. It rivaled Pausania’s own for the levels of malice it could deliver, wrapped in a disguise of courtesy. I wasn’t used to this level of complexity in a simple communicator, but I was behind the times. Or so Pausania kept telling me.
Perhaps she was right. I had no idea who Sokrat was.
Pausania did, judging from the way her eyes widened. “Sokrat? How did you manage to persuade her to come?”
“I believe she welcomes an escape from the affections of her overly enthusiastic beloved. Thus she will be honoring us with her presence at this gathering, along with Aristophania.”
At least I’d heard of Aristophania. Her webcasts were hilarious, although Pausania and others muttered that she was quite dated and stale in her routines.
“Sokrat and Aristophania.” What appeared to be an eyelid lowered in a coy fashion over the orb while regarding Pausania. “You cannot accuse either of them of being simply what’s trending.”
“No, I can’t.” Pausania lowered her hand to knot it into a fist at her hip. “Which makes me wonder what you could possibly want with those two cantankerous old life givers. Not to mention Phaedra and myself.”
“I plan to reveal that to all of you…if you come.” The ball moved away to hover in the open window. “I hope curiosity will temper caution.”
The orb moved away from the window, gaining speed when it took to the sky.
Nine Star Press: https://ninestarpress.com/product/a-symposium-in-space/
Amazon: A Symposium In Space
Author Biography: K.S. Trenten lives in the Silicon Valley of California with her husband, two cats, and a host of characters in her head, all wanting attention.
K.S. Trenten’s links
Archive of Our Own: http://archiveofourown.org/users/rhodrymavelyne
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/kstrenten
Nine Star Press Author Page: https://ninestarpress.com/authors/k-s-trenten/
Blogs, Otherwise Known as the Cauldrons of Eternal Inspiration:
This new anthology is one I couldn’t resist hosting here on my blog. See, I live in Colorado, and spent over twenty years in Arizona (loving every hot minute of it, by the way). I’m a bellydancer. And I have participated in NaNoWriMo since 2003.
Wait, what? What’s all that got to do with a new release?
Easy. The authors of this anthology are all NaNoers, one lives in Colorado, one lives in Arizona, and one’s a bellydancer. How cool is that?
Love Shines Through: A Fractured World Anthology
With stories by Kit Campbell, Siri Paulson, KD Sarge, and Erin Zarro
Genre: LGBTQ fantasy romance anthology. Pairings include two F/F, one M/NB, and one M/F.
One-liner: Four romance stories set in a shared universe—a fantasy world shattered into multiple dimensions by a cataclysmic war. The pairings include two F/F, one M/NB, and one M/F.
Publisher: Turtleduck Press ( http://turtleduckpress.com/ )
Canadian Kindle: https://www.amazon.ca/Love-Shines-Through-Fractured-Anthology-ebook/dp/B07PH9YZHH/
Canadian print: https://www.amazon.ca/Love-Shines-Through-Fractured-Anthology/dp/1090133901/
Turtleduck Press web page: http://turtleduckpress.com/wordpress/2019/03/11/love-shines-through-a-fractured-world-anthology/
Back cover copy
The world was whole before the war.
But war is a terrible thing, and terrible things are done in the name of defense and protection. And this war tore the world apart, fractured it, separated families and lives and dreams. The reasons why no longer matter, but the effects still linger. They cause pain, though the war is over.
But despite the monsters and the poisons and the despair, there is a glimmer of light. And hope and love are not gone from the world.
These four stories, set in the Fractured World, explore how light can make it through the darkness. How hope can conquer fear. And most of all, how love can still flourish, even when the world is bleak.
A young woman braves monsters to see the sky.
A reluctant man chooses forgiveness over suffering.
Lovers reunite to save a child and their community.
Best friends risk everything for each other.
Come see the light for yourselves.
from Of Poison and Promises, by Erin Zarro
Disconnected sounds. Breaths. Murmurs. Fire. A labyrinth of darkness. She’d latched on to Nyssa’s voice, her lifeline.
It was warm, Deysi noted. And it did not feel like the forest.
But that was impossible. They hadn’t gotten out of the forest yet—
“It’s poison from the war,” a woman’s voice said. It sounded like Gylla, one of the healers. “I’ve heard about cases like this. The prognosis isn’t good. Possible effects include blindness, paralysis, and death. You don’t have much time.”
“Deysi is strong,” Nyssa said. “She’ll beat this. And so will I.”
“You’re the most stubborn girls in this town,” the woman said. “If anyone would beat it, it’s you two.”
A surge of pride filled Deysi. Of course they’d beat it. They could do anything together.
“You’re going to need a specific talisman for this. It’s rare,” the woman said thoughtfully. “If I’m not mistaken, Deysi’s family had it last. But where, I have no idea.”
“Deysi’s parents are dead,” Nyssa said. “I don’t think Deysi knows where it is.”
“It’s the only one that will work,” Gylla said.
“What’s different about it?” Nyssa asked. “Aren’t all healing talismans the same?”
“Usually, but this one has the power to purify as well as heal.”
It sounded impossible, but Deysi refused to believe that it was.
“We’ll find it,” Nyssa said. “I found help,” she told Deysi softly. Her hand—Nyssa was holding her hand. “You’re all right, Deysi. We just need to find—”
“Enough,” Gylla said brusquely. “Wait for her to wake up. She can’t hear you.”
But Deysi could. That voice—Nyssa—was her connection to life. To…love. To…everything. If she couldn’t hear her, she’d fall back into the blackness of the abyss.
The abyss where she’d found herself.
It had been a never-ending, serpentine maze. No way in and no way out. It just…was.
But she’d heard Nyssa and followed her to the end.
She couldn’t find the surface, though. As hard as she tried, she couldn’t quite reach it—
“But I’m sure she’s hearing me, Gylla. She has to be.”
A bark of a laugh. “Silly girl. Come on. We need to find that talisman.”
“But shouldn’t we wait for Deysi? It’s her family’s talisman. She could help us search.”
“She’s in no condition—”
“No, don’t say it! I don’t want her to hear it,” Nyssa snapped.
Deysi felt a swell of love for Nyssa. She tried so hard to squeeze Nyssa’s hand but…she wasn’t strong enough. Or close enough to the surface.
Shadows surrounded her. She couldn’t see anything. If she could just find the way to the surface—
“She hasn’t got long,” Gylla said softly. “Once the night comes…” She did not finish her statement. “And you…”
“No, I refuse to believe it! We’re young and resilient and she’s got to make it, at least. Please.”
“We will see. Everything hinges on finding the talisman.”
Nyssa sniffed. “I promise you, Deysi, we will get through this. I’m not going to let you go. Never. So fight. Fight hard. We will find the talisman and we will heal you. I swear it.”
How would they find this talisman? Her parents were dead, so their house had been uninhabited for years. And who knew if it was even there?
She tried to remember…it might have been a piece of jewelry.
She vaguely recalled her mother telling her, years ago, that it was the only one of its type in existence.
Her parents had been meticulous about keeping important things like that safe. It had to be in the house.
She couldn’t let this go. She couldn’t die. She made a promise to herself.
To be worthy of Nyssa’s love.
Author Bio – Siri Paulson
Siri Paulson loves nothing more than mixing up genres to see what will happen. She also wears the hats of non-fiction editor by day and chief editor of Turtleduck Press by night. Her other passion is contra (folk) dancing. Thankfully, her long-suffering husband is good at keeping himself occupied. After growing up in Alberta, Canada, she moved to Toronto and achieved her lifelong dream of buying an old house, dubbed the TARDIS because it’s bigger on the inside. Other lifelong dreams include publishing novels (one and counting), travelling the world (so far, so good), and becoming an astronaut (still waiting on that one).
Siri’s debut fantasy novel is set in the same world as Love Shines Through, several hundred years later. City of Hope and Ruin, co-written with Kit Campbell, was published in 2016 and is available at Turtleduck Press.
Her short SF&F fiction has been published in the 2017 “A Holiday to Remember” collection from Mischief Corner Books, in Queer Sci Fi’s flash fiction anthology Renewal, and on Daily Science Fiction. More short fiction and the anthologies she has edited can be found on her Turtleduck Press bio.
O.E. Tearmann has a new MM (trans) hard sci fi/cyberpunk tale out, book one in their “Aces High, Jokers Wild” series: “The Hands We’re Given.”
Aidan Headly never wanted to be the man giving orders. That’s fine with the Democratic State Force base he’s been assigned to command: they don’t like to take orders. Nicknamed the Wildcards, they used to be the most effective base against the seven Corporations owning the former United States in a war that has lasted over half a century. Now the Wildcards are known for creative insubordination, chaos, and commanders begging to be reassigned.
Aidan is their last chance. If he can pull off his assignment as Commander and yank his ragtag crew of dreamers and fighters together, maybe they can get back to doing what they came to do: fighting for a country worth living in.
Life’s a bitch. She deals off the bottom of the deck. But you play the hands you’re given.
O.E. is giving away an eBook copy of “After Hours Game: A Wildcards Christmas: with this tour – for a chance to win, enter via Rafflecopter:
The dark shapes of three drones flitted over the junkyard, blotting out the stars. Aidan desperately turned the keys, slamming his foot on the accelerator. The truck’s engine finally revved. Kevin flung open the passenger side door and leapt inside. “Go, go, go!”
Aidan slammed it into reverse and hit the gas. They jumped backward. Once the truck was far enough away from the fence, he changed gears and wrenched the wheel around. They bumped and rattled into the night as fast as Aidan dared without the headlights on. The heat of the engine would make them easy to follow for the drones’ thermal cameras, but the short-range guard drones couldn’t go too far from their base of operation before their programming called them back. Aidan just hoped they could outrun them.
He gripped the steering wheel so hard it hurt. He could feel the suit tightening down against his skin. His heart pounded in his chest. Kevin’s breathing was ragged beside him. Another burst of bullets sprayed the ground right in front of them. Aidan yelped and yanked the wheel to avoid getting hit. The truck jittered to the side. Aidan slammed on the gas. The desert night sped past in a blur of blue and red under the starlight. Slowly, the whir of rotors faded into the distance. Aidan’s grip on the steering wheel began to relax. Kevin pulled his tab out of the bag and set it on the dashboard, watching as the screen flipped through the security channels they’d hacked into, keeping track of the location of dozens of drones.
Finally, Aidan pulled up under an overhang of red rock and cut the engine. The wide-range security drones were due to make their fly-over soon. Better to stop for a while and recover, get back on the road when it was safer.
They sat in silence for a long time, listening for rotors over the quiet buzz of the night insects. Aidan rested his arms on the steering wheel and propped his chin on his wrist, watching the star-studded sky.
“You all right?” Kevin breathed. At some point during the drive, he had deactivated his slick suit.
Aidan sighed and leaned back so he could manually flip his face screen up.”Yeah. Think so. Banged my knee pretty bad. Your shoulder?”
“Bruised. Doesn’t feel severe.” Kevin shrugged.
“Um, good,” Aidan whispered eventually.
So. They were alive. They’d gotten out with most of what they’d gone in for.
At the expense of a bad bruise across Kevin’s cheek, that or worse to his shoulder, and an action that could have caused so much more.
Slowly, some of his anger seeped back. He took a breath. “You scared the hell out of me back there and acted like a complete gamma, Kev. Don’t do that again.”
Kevin ducked his head in a slow nod. “I’m sorry, Aidan. I—When I saw you like that, I guess I panicked.”
Aidan sighed. Kevin was normally so level-headed. He’d been utterly cool on-Grid, when Aidan had been scared shitless.
So why had he acted like this out here?
On the tab screen, the red dot of a drone approached their location. They waited in breathless silence as the long-range drone passed, not even the sound of whirring to announce its presence. The red dot moved out of range.
Aidan breathed out. Kevin looked up with a smile. So close. They were so close.
“That’s the last of them. A very fine night’s work if I do say so.”
Aidan tried to smile, but it faltered. “I didn’t get the holo board. That was the part we needed most.”
Kevin smirked as he pulled the bag up from the floorboard and into his lap. He rifled quickly through the materials they had managed to grab, yanked, and pulled out the board with a wink.
“Oh, I don’t know about that.”
“What? How…?” Aidan breathed, feeling the wave of defeat that had been threatening lift.
“Fell down the pile when you did,” Kevin whispered, grinning. “I simply grabbed it up. After all, I am the requisitions officer. Snatching things is my forte.”
A rush of joy shot through Aidan. They’d done it. They’d gotten everything. Nose to nose with Kevin, he grinned.
“Holy shit, we- Holy shit! You… wow. Kevin, holy shit! This is like one of your vids!”
Kevin’s eyes glittered like silver in the low light. “You know, if this is a vid, I know how the scene ends.”
“Yeah?” Aidan asked, still giddy with relief.
Kevin was still smiling, his teeth white outlines in his grin. And he was leaning closer. Aidan could feel the heat of his skin, his breath.
“Heroes always get a kiss at the end of the adventure. That’s the convention.” Kevin tipped his head, eyes holding Aidan’s. “Would the hero like a kiss?”
Aidan froze. Was Kevin actually… Was he…?
He wet his lips. His voice escaped as a whisper. “Am I supposed to be a hero?”
Kevin’s smile was soft now, and he was so very close. “I don’t see anyone else in the driver’s seat. So you must be.” Then he pressed his lips against Aidan’s.
Kevin’s lips were hot. Aidan’s brain turned inside out. Kevin was kissing him.
Kevin had started kissing him.
This was real.
He leaned into the warmth with a pleasure that was almost pain. This was only going to be a second, but if only this second would last.
Softly, Kevin drew back. “Was that okay?”
Kevin’s whisper barely made it through the buzzing in Aidan’s brain. He gasped in a breath. “Um, okay. Yeah.” He swallowed hard and forced himself to sit up. “We-we should get going home…”
Kevin nodded, eyes still holding his as he drew away. “I suppose we should.”
O.E. Tearmann lives in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, in what may become the Co-Wy Grid. They share the house with a brat in fur, a husband and a great many books. Their search engine history may garner them a call from the FBI one day. When they’re not living on base 1407 they advocate for a more equitable society and more sustainable agricultural practices, participate in sundry geekdom and do their best to walk their characters’ talk.
Author Website: http://aceshighjokerswild.com/
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There’s this group, you see, called Queer Sci Fi. It’s not all spaceships, any kind of speculative fiction is welcome, as long as it’s got queer characters.
And why am I promoting this, you ask?
Simple. The founder of the group asked me to. So here’s a link for the mailing list. Sign up, get free books. One of ’em is mine.
Um. Yeah. Dumb me kind of forgot it’s okay to promote my own stuff on my own damn blog.
If you see a red glow off in the distance, it’s just me blushing.
So. After a bit over a year of living on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited, almost all my ebooks have now returned to their proper home, Smashwords. (The ones that aren’t there are awaiting new covers.) And as luck would have it, they went live on the first day of the big annual sale. They’re all either free, or half off.
Hey look, J. Scott Coatsworth is at it again!
Javier Fernandez is a climate scientist living in a research station near the South Pole. Since his husband was killed in a car crash, he’s preferred to be alone, and is less than thrilled to have a junior scientist thrust upon him by his rich patron.
Col Steele is a trans man fleeing a bad break-up, ready for the next step in his career, who is ready to spend Christmas anywhere but at home. When a crack in the ice separates the two men from safety, they are forced to come to terms with their own losses and each other.
Scott is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour. Enter via Rafflecopter:
The rhythmic whomp whomp whompof the helicopter’s rotary blades matched the beating of his heart.
I’m here. I’m really here.
He pressed his face to the glass, eagerly taking in the landscape below, capturing the view in his phone. There was no cellular network here, of course, and he had his Sony A73 packed away for the real work, but his phone was good enough to record his own personal memories.
The sparkling blue and white of the Ross Ice Shelf spread out before him, almost indescribable in its frozen beauty. The ice seemed to stretch on forever here in the South, as they called it. On the ice.
The copter had left the Southern Explorer a few minutes earlier, taking off from the grey deck and passing over a span of cold ocean water where a waddle of penguins played in the Ross Sea.
The cliffs of The Ice were white enough—and tall enough—to put the cliffs of Dover to shame with their splendor.
Col checked the temperature gauge on the console. It was a relatively balmy Antarctic day, with the temperature hovering just below zero Fahrenheit.
“First time?” His pilot, Joseph, steered the copter over the ice field with practiced ease.
“Yes. Not yours, I assume?”
“Nope, I’ve done the run to Amundsen–Scott more than a dozen times, people and cargo. Been out to Bettancourt three times now.”
Col nodded. Paul Bettancourt was his benefactor—a billionaire who was keenly interested in the science and effects of global climate change.
He picked me.Out of more than two hundred research scientists, the man had chosen Col to be the next fellowship scientist to join Javier Fernandez at Bettancourt Station for a six-month internship.
It was still sinking in.
The timing couldn’t have been better. Col had no desire to be home for the holidays this year. After a bad breakup with David, he was nursing a broken heart, and was in no mood for Christmas trees and candy canes. Far better the frozen tundra of Antarctica, to match his frozen heart.
The Ross Shelf was much more varied a landscape than he’d expected. The smooth white ice near the shore gave way to a variety of landforms, the result of the ice being pushed and pulled around by gravity and shaped by wind and snow and rain for millennia.
There were mountains and valleys, the peaks white and the shadows a beautiful blue.
In other places, the wind-blown snow created long scallop shapes along the ice.
In at least one spot, a wide, shallow pool of melted water almost glowed turquoise in the sunlight. Not a good sign.
“You see a lot of melting out here?”
Joseph nodded. “More every year. It’s been a slow thaw, but every summer season it goes a bit faster. Lots more icebergs too. Seeing one of those calve off the main shelf is something else. Crack! Thunder!And a great splash of water as it hits the ocean.”
Col grinned. “I’ve seen it in the Arctic. I spent a year based out of Whitehorse, studying the ice sheets up north.”
“Never been. Though I hear the girls in the Yukon are wild.”
Col snorted. “I wouldn’t know.” What he didn’t say was that he’d been one of them, once. On the outside, at least.
That was a lifetime ago.
Now this new life was laid out before him, and he just wanted to move forward.
He captured as much of the landscape as he could manage with his phone, awed that he was finally here. Then he tucked it away to just take in the experience.
“Might wanna get your phone ready,” Joseph said at last. “We’re almost there.” The pilot pointed off to starboard, and a small speck appeared in the distance, alongside a long line in the ice.
“It’s bigger than I imagined.”
Joseph’s eyebrow went up. “Bettancourt?”
“No. The Giant Crack.”
Joseph laughed. “You scientists suffer from a sever lack of imagination.”
Col grinned. “It’s true.” He stared at the Crack. It stretched from one edge of the horizon to the other, a sign of things to come. He’d seen many pictures of it, of course, but seeing it in person. It was awe inspiring, and a little frightening. It had happened two years before, but since then, the shelf seemed to have stabilized again.
It was the reason he was here, as much as his break-up with David.
He snapped a few pics, then looked down at Bettancourt Station.
It was a modest place, maybe the size of a couple RV’s hooked together. It basically was—two modules built by Northrup-Grumann to Bettancourt’s specs, brought in by military copter and hooked together. One served as the laboratory, and the other as living quarters for the scientific team.
Fernandez was there now. His last lab partner, Astrid Danvers, had departed a few days earlier. It had all been in the briefing email.
Col whistled. It was going to be a tight space for his six-month rotation down there.
Still, it would be worth it. Careers were made by postings like this, and he’d have a chance to put his education and experience to work at something that might actually help the planet.
Fuck you, David.
He took a couple more shots, and then settled in for the landing.
Scott 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 gay 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.
Author Website: https://www.jscottcoatsworth.com/
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Jeanne G’Fellers is has just released her new enby/pansexual queer paranormal fantasy book: Mama, Me, and the Holiday Tree.
A dozen handmade holiday ornaments, that’s all, but it might be an impossible task.
Centenary Rhodes and her mother are at constant odds. It’s one of the many reasons Cent left home when she was eighteen. Mama’s difficult for anyone to manage, but now that Cent’s back home, she has to try. Mama, however, won’t acknowledge who Cent’s become, even though she’s repeatedly been shown the truth.
It’ll take more than popcorn strings and paper snowflakes to heal the rift that’s formed between Cent and Mama. It’s going to take bushels of patience, heaps of magic, and assistance from everyone on both sides of Embreeville Mountain to reset the Balance between them.
But with Yule and Christmas just around the corner, it might already be too late.
Join Cent and her Mother for a heart-warming, magic-filled holiday tale of acceptance, family of choice, family of blood, love, magic, and patience all served with a queer Appalachian twist.
Warnings: This novella broaches the subject of mental illness, specifically Schizophrenia, within families and the relationships struggles therein.
About the Series:
Four elements plus one, four seasons, over a hundred lives – Centenary Rhodes has returned home to discover she isn’t who she thought. Join her on a journey through history, family of blood, family of choice, and love that renews. The mountains are alive, y’all, everything hinges on the Balance, and a little moonshine can cure what ails you in this identity-exploring, imaginative queer Contemporary Fantasy series steeped in Appalachian magic and folklore.
Jeanne is giving away two eBook copies of the first book in the series, Cleaning House, with this tour. Enter via Rafflecopter:
A Cedar in the Corner
December 19, 2017: 5:30 p.m.
This is what I get for marrying an earth elemental.I stare with dismay at the dirt trail leading across the porch and through the front door. I don’t get rare gems or sparkling geodes placed lovingly at my feet by my elemental spouse. No, I get a cedar tree, bare roots caked with half-frozen mud, wedged into the living room corner.
Stowne’s dragged a holiday tree into our home while I was at work today.
“No one saw you do this?” I scratch my head as I consider the leaning mass of fern-like, scaly, sticky needles. “And I thought we’d talked about getting a tree tomorrow.”
“No one was here.” Stowne’s grinning ear to sandy ear. “It is a surprise. You have worked so hard lately that you have forgotten how close it is to Yule.”
Yeah, Yule. About that.This is my first Yule with Stowne. No, let me correct that. This will be my first Yule celebration thislife, and they’re trying to make it special for me, so I can’t sound as upset as I’m feeling at present. “Two days. I know. Thanks, honey, but can we do something about the mess?”
“I’ve got it.” Stowne’s fire elemental friend, Pyre, rolls into the living room on a cloud of white smoke, and they’re holding the old half-barrel planter from beneath my Aunt Tess’ trailer’s back porch. “I found something to line it.” Pyre holds up a faded canvas tarp they’ve found Gods know where.
“Thank you.” Stowne’s smile still spans their face. They’re happy about this, about the tree in the corner, the leaky planter, and faded tarp, so I try my best to look happy too. “Go to the kitchen, relax, and drink some coffee, Centenary. Pyre and I will finish setting up the tree.”
“Sure.” I tuck my messenger bag under my arm and head to the kitchen, where Rayne is waiting for me, an earthenware mug of steaming coffee in their translucent, watery hands. Water elementals make wonderful coffee, by the way. Rayne claims the secret is spring water filtered through their form, and I’ve no reason to doubt them.
“Stowne’s really excited about the tree.” Rayne gives me the mug and takes my bag, setting it on the kitchen table. It’s a huge piece of well-loved furniture, a good eight-foot-long trestle, and handmade from American Chestnut, a species that’s widely considered extinct. “They’ve been looking for the perfect one since Samhain.”
“They have?” Who knew there was so much to Yule? Certainly not me, at least that I can remember. See, I’ve got this whole multiple-lives thing I’m sorting through. Most of those lives, I’ve been with Stowne, and I remember a lot, but some issues, like their excitement over holidays, have eluded me. I’ve been reading about different Yule traditions online and in the stack of magical books I left behind, but I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface, and I’ve been asking Stowne questions every night while we cuddle in bed. “They’ve gotten excited every sabbat and esbat since we’ve been together, but they seem even more excited about Yule. Why is that?”
“You don’t remember?” Rayne shifts the lower portion of their form to what resembles flowing blue pants, making it easier for them to sit. “You’ve celebrated Yule with Stowne for centuries, and during your last two lives, you actually let them bring in a tree every year as long as it could be replanted afterward.”
“Yeah, Stowne told me.” I sip my coffee then rise from the table in search of the quart of cream we keep in the homestead’s old Kelvinator fridge. “But that doesn’t explain why they’re so happy.” I add three heaping teaspoons of sugar to my cup, deep in thought as I stir. I remember that Stowne and I built this homestead together in the early nineteenth century. That version of me was Irish and desperate for a home that resembled Ireland, and this place certainly looks like pictures I’ve seen. My motivations might change each life, but I’m in many ways the same, and I always try to come here, to reach Stowne and this mountain. That’s what I’m told, anyway, but I don’t actually know.
My heart, however, says this is correct.
Here’s the thing about me and my memories. This life, I left Northeast Tennessee when I was eighteen years old. Actually, I didn’t just leave, I ran. I ran from my mother and her chronic mental illness, from everyone I thought wouldn’t accept me as genderqueer, from the magic I wasn’t ready to understand, from the looming pile of memories I’m now sorting through. But mostly, I ran from myself. Now I’m back, and I’m trying to cram three thousand years into my head, but I sometimes think space is running out.
“Stowne loves every sabbat, but especially Yule.” Rayne shrugs hard enough to fling water across the table top. “Oops.”
“It needs cleaned anyway.” I return with a dishrag, sitting across from Rayne as I wipe up. “Why Yule?”
“It represents rebirth.” Rayne stares at me with their blue eyes wide and one pale, translucent brow cocked, the look they always give me when I should be remembering something. “Re-birth.” Their stare becomes hard.
“Oh.” I bite my bottom lip to hide my embarrassment. Sure, rebirth. Myrebirth. Stowne sees Yule as a chance to celebrate my return to Embreeville Mountain. I’m almost thirty years old, a tiny blip in the grand scheme of time and infinitely younger than Stowne, even when you add all my lives together, but they want to celebrate like it’s something new. More so this year because it’s our first Yule together as eternal lovers.
Yeah, I’m immortal now too, but that’s a story for some other time.
“So…” I take a deep breath and scratch beneath my undercut at the stubbly hair that’s already growing back. “What do I need to do?”
“Act happy and don’t get in their way.” Rayne takes the dishrag to the old enamel sink, wrings it out, and drapes it over the side before turning to face me. “All elementals love the Winter Solstice, what you call Yule. Even death elementals like Exan. But you don’t remember that either, do you?”
“Afraid not.” I finish my coffee and go to the sink to stand beside Rayne, looking out the window to where the mountain rises behind the house in shades of tired brown splashed with winter evergreen. “I wish I did.” And I really do. It might help me to understand all this. “It’s like Christmas, isn’t it? I mean they’re similar, right?”
“In some ways, yes. But others…” Rayne shakes their head, this time slinging water from their deep blue locks. “Drains and dribbles. I’ll call it back.” They chant low, drawing the water to their form, smiling as it disappears into their bare, puddling feet. “I think you need a holiday refresher.”
“A refresher?” The house smells like cedar so I breathe deep. It’s not a bad smell. In fact, it’s fresh, clean, and familiar. Yes, I remember having a tree in this house before and Stowne’s joy each time. “Are you going to tell me about all those holidays?”
“You’ll do best to remember for yourself.” Rayne smiles as they glide toward the living room. “That tree needs water.”
Born and raised in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Science Fiction and Fantasy author Jeanne G’Fellers’ early memories include watching the original Star Trek series with her father and reading the books her librarian mother brought home. Jeanne’s writing influences include Anne McCaffrey, Ursula K. LeGuin, Octavia Butler, Isaac Asimov, and Frank Herbert.
Jeanne lives in Northeast Tennessee with her spouse and their five crazy felines. Their home is tucked against a small woodland where they regularly see deer, turkeys, raccoons, and experience the magic of the natural world.
Author Website: https://jeannegfellersauthor.com/
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