Release Blitz: A Face Without a Heart by Rick R. Reed #LGBTQ #paranormal

Title: A Face without a Heart

Author: Rick R. Reed

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: June 1, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 56700

Genre: Paranormal Horror, LGBTQIA+, photographer, drag queen, dancer, addiction, drug use, dark, suspense

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Synopsis

A modern-day and thought-provoking retelling of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray that esteemed horror magazine Fangoria called “…a book that is brutally honest with its reader and doesn’t flinch in the areas where Wilde had to look away…. A rarity: a really well-done update that’s as good as its source material.”

A beautiful young man bargains his soul away to remain young and handsome forever, while his holographic portrait mirrors his aging and decay and reflects every sin and each nightmarish step deeper into depravity… even cold-blooded murder. Prepare yourself for a compelling tour of the darkest sides of greed, lust, addiction, and violence.

Excerpt

A Face without a Heart
Rick R. Reed © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Prologue
GARY

There is blood on my hands. I look down at a body, a body that’s become a thing—monstrous, ugly, inanimate. It could be a sculpture, a figure formed from wax or porcelain. The soul inside is gone, leaving a shell. I wipe a line of sweat from my forehead with a trembling hand, trying to tell myself these things, trying to believe that what lies at my feet is nothing more than an object, something to be reviled, something not worthy of further consideration.

It’s not easy to believe. Although the corpse does not have a twinkle in its eye or the simple rise and fall of a chest, it’s hard to remove myself from the plain fact that the body possessed those movements, those simple signs of life, just minutes ago. Distance, for now, seems more a matter of location than of feeling. The body at my feet wears the badges of its untimely demise—a dented face, a split-open skull, blood and grayish-pink matter seeping out. The bruises have already begun to rise, ugly yellow-pink things all over the body.

I stoop, plunge my fingers into the deepest hole, the one on the belly, to feel the warmth and the entrails. Amazed that the breathing has stopped. Amazed that I have such power.

I lift a finger to my mouth and slowly run it over my lips, the blackish liquid warm and viscous, metallic to the taste. I recall the vampire films I loved as a youth, never really believing such a thing could exist.

Now I do.

I have stolen a life so that my own might continue. There is something vampiric in that, isn’t there? Because without this theft of a beating heart and an expanding and contracting pair of lungs, I would be unable to live.

Isn’t that the real essence of the vampire?

It seems too quiet here, deep in the basement of a high-rise. A dull clanging is my only accompaniment, pipes bringing warmth and water to tenants above, whose lives continue, ignorant, untouched by my murderous hand. And that’s the amazing thing, the thing that causes my breath, when drawn inward, to quiver.

Life goes on, in spite of this monumental act, just a quick, surprised scream and a heartbeat away.

There is blood on the walls, spattered Jackson Pollock-style. Who can say what is art and what is murder?

This so-called victim who now lies in final repose on a cold concrete floor, staring vacantly at nothing or perhaps at the hell that will one day consume me, can no longer chastise me, can no longer beg me to drop to my knees with him and pray, pray for forgiveness, imploring Jesus to lead me down the path of the righteous.

It’s not too late, he said before I brought the mallet down on his skull, cracking it open like a walnut, slamming it into his windpipe, his gut, an eye socket, his shoulders as he fell, anywhere the mallet would ruin, destroying, sucking life.

He was wrong. The final irony of his existence, I suppose, is that he thought he had the power to do anything, to change another person, whom, I must admit, he cared very deeply about.

No, that power rests in my hand, the death-dealing claw that changed him. And people whine about how change never really lasts when it comes to others, how they always unfortunately revert to their old ways, the ways you don’t want them to be. Anyone who has ever tried to change another knows this to be true. Oh certainly, the change may last a week, a month, even a year. But soon the real person comes back, the one who has been waiting in the wings for just the right cue, the one that will allow him to say “Ah fuck it, I’ve had enough.”

But the change I’ve wrought in my friend can never be undone. He is dead and always will be. I have a power of which psychiatrists and psychologists can only dream. And I accomplished my transformation in a matter of seconds, behind a red-tinged curtain of rage.

Pretty sly, eh? For a man who’s spent most of his life doing nothing but looking after his own selfish needs and pursuing his own pleasures, it’s a pretty accomplished thing. Decisive. For once, a man of action.

I nudge him with my foot and am amazed at the heaviness my friend has taken on in death. His body doesn’t want to give, to roll; it has become a body at rest…forever.

I turn and head back upstairs. There are matters to attend to…clothes to be burned, an alibi to be concocted. People will want answers. And conveniently, I will have none. Knowledge is a dangerous thing. What was it my other friend once told me? “The only people worth knowing are the ones who know everything and the ones who know nothing.”

I know nothing about this. And now I must go back into the realm of the living to ensure my ignorance remains secure.

But alone, I know that ignorance is one of the few luxuries I can no longer afford. Alone, I have only the luxury of time to contemplate how it all began.

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Meet the Author

Real Men. True Love.

Rick R. Reed is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction. He is a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Entertainment Weekly has described his work as “heartrending and sensitive.” Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…” Find him at http://www.rickrreedreality.blogspot.com. Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA, with his husband, Bruce, and their fierce Chihuahua/Shiba Inu mix, Kodi.

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Born a Halfling by M.D. Stewart #bisexual #pansexual #gendernonconforming #PNR #LGBTbooks #DragQueen #RomanceBooks

Born a Halfling (Paranormal B&B 4)

Publisher: Changeling Press
Cover Artist: Angela Knight

 

Michael: After a troubled childhood and becoming a Marine, I returned from war injured and alone. I found myself again when I discovered Drag. I love being a Queen almost as much as I love the boy I’ve dreamed of since I was a child. Now he needs my help and I’ll fight hell itself to save him.

Te’Garth: My mother is a demon, my dad is an angel, and their love is legendary. I hope to have that kind of passion with Michael, a man I’ve shared dreams with since childhood. But first I need to reverse a forced mating claim, or death will take me from my true love.

Jessie: I met Michael in Afghanistan, and helped the injured Marine heal in body and soul. Together we explored our forbidden desires until he was sent home months later. We lost contact, only to meet again at Chasers, a gay bar, where he’s a Drag Queen and I provide security. I still want him — and the man he’s in love with. But something dangerous is hunting Garth. If I want to save them both, I must overcome my fears. Even if it means risking more than my life…

 

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or preorder for October 4th at retailers

   

 

EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2019 M.D. Stewart

Michael

I rolled over and hit the alarm. I usually worked until almost dawn and slept until the afternoon, but my boss had wanted me to come in early to help interview some new talent. I’d get today off with pay. I usually didn’t mind, but today I felt so drained I could hardly move. I knew it was from the reoccurring nightmares I’d had last night.

I hated gory horror movies, having lived my own horrors in Afghanistan. But dreaming of huge green-skinned men chasing me? In my nightmare, I could never outrun them and I could never find anywhere to hide. It brought up so many memories of the helplessness and constant fear of combat, and I didn’t want to go there. But last night, the dream had played in a loop every time I’d close my eyes and drift off to sleep.

No more Sushi before bed.

I made a note to call my therapist and get back on the sleeping pills that helped suppress my dreams. I used to enjoy my dreams, when I believed that my Halfling lover was real. I didn’t like where my thoughts were heading, so I dragged myself out of bed.

I stumbled to the bathroom to take a leak and brush my teeth. As I washed my hands, I looked in the mirror. I was dead tired and glad I didn’t have to go to deal with makeup before leaving the house. Fuck it, I didn’t think I’d even shave. I grabbed the tube of hemorrhoid cream and slathered some under my eyes to reduce those dark bags of fatigue.

I brushed my long blond hair, grabbed an elastic band and put it in a sloppy man bun. Strolling into the kitchen, I scratched my stomach and yawned. Thank God for automatic coffee makers: my life-saving brew was waiting for me. I grabbed a mug, filled it and didn’t even wait for it to cool before I took my first sip.

My phone rang, and I spent a few minutes looking for it. I was so tired and pissy, my silk robe got in my way, so I ripped it trying to pull it off. I’d be really fucking mad about it later after the caffeine worked its magic. By the time I grabbed the phone from the floor, I had missed the call. Fuck. I’d call them back after I drank my first cup, maybe even my second. I didn’t have to wait, though, as it rang again. I hit the screen.

“What?” I growled, but it was early. Especially for me. “I’m not done with my first cup of coffee.”

“It’s after ten, so it’s not early. Asshole.” My friend Conner’s voice did little to help my mood.

“Just because I like to fuck assholes doesn’t make me one. Get that straight, dipshit.”

I heard him laugh. “You’re the one who told me to call and make sure you were up. I’ve been up and at work for almost three hours. Motherfucker.”

Our habit of name-calling actually made me want to smile. “I’ll fuck anyone but your mother. Twatwaffle.” I was just full of jokes today.

“God, I hate waking you up. You’re so sarcastic. Has anyone ever told you you’re a bitch?” Conner was laughing, but I could tell he meant it.

“Only every fucking day. That’s why I’m single. No one can put up with me. In the Marines, I had to get up at five in the morning. I don’t have to do that shit anymore, and I like my sleep. Fucking sue me.” I yawned and gulped my coffee.

“Fine. Well, your grumpy ass is up, and I need to get back to work. Stories don’t write themselves. Fuckface.” Conner was the best journalist I’d ever met. He’d started at the Charlotte Observer as an intern in high school and got a job as a reporter his senior year in college.

Conner and I met several years ago when he came to Chasers to interview the staff about our project for Pride. Chasers Charlotte NoDa focused on different community projects annually. Conner’s story made the front page of the Observer’s Lifestyle section. His piece won several journalism awards, including the national Human Interest Writing Ernie Pyle Award.

Conner and I hit it off from the moment we met since he seemed to like my snarky attitude. He was straight, but I didn’t hold that against him, or so I tell him every chance I get.

Unfortunately, this morning, he didn’t appreciate my Herculean effort to not reach through the phone and strangle him. “Whatever, ConMan.” I used my term of affection so he’d know I wasn’t really angry with him. “Have a good day at work. And I have it on good authority that I have a great ass, not that you’ll ever know.” I hit the red button to hang up and dropped the phone on the couch. Draining my mug, I made my way to the coffee pot for another shot of caffeine. I trudged back to the couch and thought about setting the alarm to sleep another fifteen minutes when my phone rang again.

“Son of a bitch.” I grabbed the phone and didn’t even look at the screen before I answered. “Conner, you needle dick, stop calling me. I will kick your ass. You and I both know I can and will do it.”

“I’m sorry. I must have the wrong number.” The female voice in my ear had me cringing.

“Aw, fu… uh, I mean, I’m sorry ma’am. I thought you were a friend of mine.” I sighed as I gulped more coffee.

“Oh, wow. Sounds like a heck of a friendship.” I could hear the amusement in her voice. “I’m the one who’s sorry. I thought I called the phone number someone gave me to get personal security. I may have transposed some numbers.”

“Yeah, that must be it. I’ve never done personal security before. I mean, I could if I weren’t working till four in the morning.” I yawned and stretched again.

“I must have woken you. No wonder you’re upset. I’ll let you go. And I’m so sorry for bothering you.”

“No ma’am, no bother. Have a good day.” I ended the call and decided I had time to drag my happy ass to the shower, even if I wasn’t going to shave. If people didn’t like looking at my morning scruff, fuck ‘em.

The shower did little to improve my mood, but at least I felt more awake. Mostly. I grabbed my large to-go mug and drained the coffee carafe into the spill-free mug and headed out the door.

Grumpy as I was, I loved my house. In San Fran, I’d had a condo in a big sub-division, but here, I could afford a nice home in a nice neighborhood. Nothing fancy, but much nicer than where I grew up.

I looked around at the well-manicured lawns of the houses on my street. I stopped, listening to the children playing in the yards. I never really paid attention to the kids before, since I’d leave for work around eight at night. The bar itself opens at nine and closes at two-thirty, but I always stayed late and made sure the guests made it to their cars safely. I always had to unwind with cheesy ‘80s movies too.

Thus, my early morning bedtime — and why ten a.m. was such an ungodly hour for me to be awake.

As I pulled into Chaser’s parking lot, I was trying to suck the last few drops of coffee from the damn too-small mug. It had to be empty, because, trust me, I can suck the last drops out of anything. Foxy had better have a pot brewed and waiting, or there’d be hell to pay.

Carl Fox might be the manager of the bar and my boss, but I could still kick his ass.
I slammed my car door before making it to the back entrance and stopped by the employee lounge.

“Damn, you look like a hot mess.” Foxy’s voice sounded behind me. His amusement didn’t help my mood.

“Fuck you, Foxy. I’ve only had a few hours of sleep. But your life is spared, since I see the coffee is made.” I poured half the pot into my to-go mug and turned to face my boss.

“You’re a surly, bitter man in the mornings.” He filled his own mug and sipped it and grimaced before he turned his attention back to me.

“It’s a good thing I work nights then, isn’t it?”

He rolled his eyes at my comment and moved in for a hug. I slid my free hand around his shoulders and gave him a tight squeeze before releasing him and gulping down a few more sips of caffeine.

“God, Foxy, you never get better at making this shit. It’s not so hard.” I shook my head but took another drink. “So, how many performers do we have scheduled today?”

“We have a few queens coming in. I have about ten go-go boys scheduled, too, but they’re all dancing at the same time. Then Manny is going to teach them a short routine and see who can pull the moves.” He looked down at his tablet. “I have a part-time bartender scheduled around two and a few bouncers and security guys who will be talking with Dan.”

I was happy to hear about the extra security; maybe I’d get home an hour earlier.
Dan was a mountain of a man who was head of security. He’d been with Chasers from the beginning. The business was starting to gain more ground, and we needed more security to protect the drag performers and go-go boys, and even make sure the clientele got to their cars safely.

I was surprised we’d gained so much new business, especially in a conservative small town in the south. But I was happy too. It showed progress, no matter the current upswing in hate rhetoric.

“Okay, who’s first and when are we going to start?” I chugged from my coffee mug and tried to hide my yawn.

Foxy chuckled and started another pot of coffee. I groaned, wishing I’d thought to do it before he did. My coffee was so much better.

“First appointment in about twenty minutes. Finish your brew. I don’t want you to scare these poor guys before we even get them to sign their contracts.”

 

More from M.D. at Changeling Press…

My vivid imagination combined with my love of reading and sci-fi. As a kid, I spent hours writing stories and poems while listening to my large collection of vinyl record albums.

My goal as an author is to tell stories that help others find enjoyment, or to escape life for a little while. I want the characters in my head to become as real to the reader as they are to me, and I hope they find another heart to settle into. I also want to interact with the people who read my books, because you never know where your next friend will come from.

You can find M.D. at the listed links, and you can also check out her Pinterest.

You can contact M.D. by clicking this link.

Website: https://www.amazon.com/author/mdstewart

Blog: http://www.mdstew.art.blog