Release Blitz: Becoming Human by Holly Gray #LGBTQ #UrbanFantasy @HollyGrayAuthor

Title:  Becoming Human

Author: Holly Gray

Publisher:NineStar Press

Release Date: September 21, 2020

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 73800

Genre: Paranormal, LGBTQIA, romance, paranormal, action, urban fantasy, lesbian, animals, bodyguard, interracial, magic, mythical creatures, pets, road trip, slow burn, shifter/animals

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Summary

Jack Whitaker lives a grayscale life. But a violent, yellow-eyed woman; a tea-drinking animal in human form; and a woman in brown with devastating powers of healing have Jack rethinking the boundaries of reality.

Marin, the woman in brown, is supposed to be the most important leader Jack will ever meet. She’s certainly the kindest, so Jack accepts the task of protecting her for a month from a violent duo with a supernatural ability to track their prey.

Jack and Marin travel the country, healing humans and animals, meeting everyday heroes and villains and everyone in-between. Jack isn’t sure if the world is ready for a woman like Marin, let alone whether she is.

Excerpt

Becoming Human

Holly Gray © 2020

All Rights Reserved

“Do you believe in magic?”

Jack didn’t believe in a lot of things: politics, soul mates, religion. Stage magic, all of it. She sure as hell didn’t believe in anything supernatural.

Work, traffic, humidity—those she believed in. Not that she didn’t employ a little whimsy in her life. She liked reading novels, especially a rousing space opera or an angsty, dystopian handwringer. Any piece of fiction penned by Noelle Stevenson, illustrated or digital, enjoyed a prominent place in her leisure time. She loved science fiction movies as social and creative commentary. And the wicked special effects.

Fellow Floridian Carl Hiaasen she found funny and topical. Had she any close friends, she could have discussed some of his biting social commentary.

But believe in any of these fictions, magical or not? Of course not. Jack Whitaker was a rational person. The walls in her tiny apartment, bare of anything but two Firefly posters and a magazine clipping of a black-and-white picture of blues singer and lesbian icon, Gladys Bentley, echoed only her voice, both literally and symbolically. Work as a security guard satisfied without stimulating. On the occasions she felt a tingle for socializing or, heaven forbid, physical touch, she booted up her laptop and binge-watched the latest postapocalyptic series.

Once, she had believed in big ideas like spirituality and a wife and kids. She’d since grown up.

Most of this changed in mid-July on her way home from work at the aquarium in Timuca, a small city in Northern Florida. The day started off as tidily as usual, although traffic seemed a bit less hectic and the day much sultrier than usual.

“Do you believe in magic?”

By the end of the day, when someone with feral memories posed the question to her, she answered differently than she would have just twelve hours prior.

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Meet the Author

Holly began writing novel-length romances in junior high. She continued scribbling wild tales on her college-ruled notepads till those pesky college and career things got in the way. Finally, after earning her PhD in sociology, Holly gave herself permission to get a life. She has since published four novels, one short story, and several poems. Now a boring academic and a not-entirely-boring political activist, she spends just about all her waking hours doing one or more of the following: teaching, writing, volunteering, protesting, and tending to the whims of her fur masters.

Holly lives in South Dakota with her wife and numerous fur kids.

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Release Blitz: The Sorcerer’s Guardian by Antonia Aquilante #LGBTQ #FantasyRomance @antoniaquilante

Title: The Sorcerer’s Guardian

Series: Chronicles of Tournai, Book Four

Author: Antonia Aquilante

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: September 14, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 111400

Genre: Fantasy, LGBTQIA+, Fantasy, romance, family-drama, gay, cisgender, magic, cat shifters, magician, captain of the guards, storm, antagonists to lovers, court intrigue

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Synopsis

Savarin honed his Talent through years of study, and to achieve his goal of becoming the most powerful and accomplished sorcerer in Tournai, he made magic his life. Among the wealthy and noble circles he moves in, no one would suspect the handsome, refined, arrogant sorcerer’s humble beginnings—which is how Savarin prefers it. He wants to be seen only as the man he’s made himself. When Tournai’s princes task Savarin with studying and strengthening the spells that protect the principality from magical attack, he is more than happy to do so. The spells are complex, centuries old, and exactly the type of puzzle Savarin is eager to solve. But to his annoyance, the princes insist Loriot accompany him on his journey.

Second son of a minor noble family, Loriot worked his way up the ranks of the royal guard to captain with single-minded determination and takes pride in his service to the crown. He must obey the prince’s orders to protect Savarin, despite believing his skills would be best used elsewhere and his wariness of magic. UnTalented himself, Loriot has learned not only the benefits of magic but also its potential for harm—and how to counter it. He still believes it’s best to avoid most magic entirely, which is difficult when he’s tasked with playing guard to a powerful sorcerer.

Loriot and Savarin clash repeatedly during their journey, but the simmering tension between them doesn’t only stem from their work, and passion develops into feelings neither expected. But Savarin must still secure Tournai’s magical barrier, and his only solution will endanger both him and the royal family.

Excerpt

The Sorcerer’s Guardian

Antonia Aquilante © 2020

All Rights Reserved

As afternoon waned into evening, Loriot approached his house on Dove Lane. Weariness dragged at him with each step. He hadn’t slept more than a few minutes in the last few days, and now that the crisis had passed, he felt the fatigue down to his bones. But the lack of sleep was worth it for the good outcome of the situation.

He trudged up the few steps to his front door, its rich blue color recently freshened, and let himself in. The key turned smoothly in the lock, and the magical protections on the house recognized him as belonging, allowing him inside. He shivered, even though he didn’t feel anything as he crossed the threshold; perhaps someone with a Talent would, but he had neither Talent nor any sensitivity to magic.

Inside, the house was quiet. The formal parlor was empty, which was unsurprising as they rarely used it—only when Joceline and Oriana chose to entertain. He wanted more than anything to go up to his bedchamber and collapse into his bed for the next few days, but he couldn’t. Couldn’t even collapse for a few hours without checking on his family. But he knew where at least one of them was likely to be at this time of day.

The sitting room at the back of the house was quiet, too, so quiet he could hear the scratch of his sister’s pen on paper as he stepped into the doorway. Joceline sat at her writing desk, papers spread around her, pen flying across the page. Despite the silence, she didn’t notice him. A good writing day, then. He hated to disturb her, but she’d want to know he was home.

“Story going well?” he asked, keeping his voice quiet so he wouldn’t startle her. He’d learned it was better to have to repeat himself than to scare her when she was absorbed in a world of her own creation.

But he didn’t have to repeat himself today. She glanced up immediately, her gaze hazy and then sharpening. “There you are! I was wondering if you were ever coming home.”

He hadn’t been gone so long—only a couple of days—but he did try not to let a day go by without returning for at least a little while. He stepped farther into the room and sank down into a comfortable chair. “It was unavoidable. You got my notes?”

“Of course. You know I was just teasing.” Joceline narrowed her eyes and studied him with an intensity he could almost feel. “Is everything all right? You look exhausted, and I heard yesterday the guard was searching everyone leaving the city.”

He scrubbed a hand over his face. Sitting had been a mistake. His eyelids wanted to droop; his body wanted to melt into the cushions. “There was a kidnapping.”

“Not Prince Julien?”

“No, no. And it’s fine now,” he reassured her, trying to keep her from coming out of her chair in her alarm at a threat to the heir to Tournai’s throne. “It wasn’t a member of the royal family at all.”

“But you were involved?”

As captain of the royal guard, Loriot normally wouldn’t be directly involved in such a situation. “The baby taken was the daughter of Prince Amory’s friend, Master Tristan. The merchant. Though if what I saw means anything, he’ll likely be a member of the royal family soon.”

“Really?” Joceline leaned forward, her interest of a different kind now. “There’s going to be a marriage? To whom? The princess?”

He shook his head. He didn’t need to tell her what he said should go no further. He didn’t ever tell her anything truly secret, but Loriot didn’t see the harm in a little meaningless court gossip now and then, especially since she wouldn’t spread it. “No. Lord Etan.”

She sat back with a huff. “Well, they really are bucking tradition, aren’t they?”

He let out a short laugh. But what she said wasn’t untrue. Both Tournai’s prince and his cousin, a royal duke, had married men in the last couple of years, and now it seemed Lord Etan, another cousin of Prince Philip’s, would do the same. Loriot couldn’t think of a time when such a thing had happened, as the royal family and nobility tended to marry those who could provide bloodline heirs for their titles—and some families were even more conservative, only marrying women.

“Good for them,” Joceline said. “I hope they’re happy.”

“Now that Tristan’s daughter is back with them, I believe they are.”

Concern flooded back into her pretty face. “You found her? And the person who took her?”

“Yes, with Master Savarin’s help.” He’d gotten over any resentment he might have had that he needed the help of magic long before today and was happy to use any tool he had access to. Savarin, the most powerful sorcerer in Tournai, was not someone whose help should be turned away, and Savarin never withheld it, serving Tournai whenever he was called upon.

“The sorcerer? How did he help?” Joceline sat forward, a gleam in her eyes he recognized well. She wasn’t simply curious; she wanted to know because she might use the information in a story.

“Joceline.”

“What?”

He sighed and shook his head. “He used his magic to try to track the kidnappers and then to try to find the baby directly. He pointed us in the right direction, let us know where to search for them.” Loriot didn’t bother mentioning the help they’d received from someone else, a scholar at the university. If he read Savarin right, Savarin would be finding Master Corentin at the university soon and asking him about the magic he used, because it also sounded as if Savarin hadn’t heard of anything like it.

“Interesting.”

“Let me guess, your new story has a sorcerer character.” He arched an eyebrow at her, his mildly disapproving tone mostly put on. Which she would know, as she was aware how proud he was of her accomplishments.

“I have an idea that would call for one. What’s Master Savarin like?”

“I don’t know him very well.” He tried to think of anything he knew about Savarin beyond the surface. “He’s powerful and arrogant with it.”

She shrugged. “I’d be surprised if he wasn’t. Aren’t all powerful sorcerers arrogant about their power?”

“I wouldn’t know. I don’t know any others.” He resolutely pushed his newly acquired knowledge of the royal family’s secret Talent from his mind. He didn’t need Joceline seeing a hint in his expression and trying to badger the information out of him. He would never tell, but life would be easier if he didn’t have to fight Joceline about it.

“All the ones I’ve read about in stories are. Especially the evil ones.”

“Tell me you’re not going to base a character on Master Savarin and make him evil.” Making the most powerful sorcerer in the country an evil character in a book sounded like a horrible idea.

Another shrug. “Powerful sorcerers always seem to be evil characters. Or self-sacrificing ones who save the day.”

Loriot shook his head and heaved himself to his feet. If he didn’t move, he’d end up sleeping right there. “Alain is upstairs?”

“Yes. But wait,” she called after him as he walked toward the door. “You must know something else about Master Savarin.”

“I really don’t.” He didn’t turn.

“Is he handsome?”

Savarin’s image filled his mind—his height and broad shoulders, perfectly carved features, blond hair he thought would be soft under his hands. His stride hitched, but he shook the image away and ignored Joceline calling after him. Perhaps she would forget the idea entirely if he didn’t encourage her.

He doubted it, but he could hope. The idea of Savarin as a character in a book on the shelf of a bookshop made him cringe.

Trudging up the stairs took the last of his energy, but he forced himself to bypass his own bedchamber. He couldn’t go to bed without seeing Alain. Not after so long away, not even if it hadn’t been very long. The door to the room at the back of the house was partially open. He peeked in as he pushed it open the rest of the way. The room was tidy, except for a veritable city built of blocks in the middle of the rug. The nursemaid noticed him first, but Alain wasn’t far behind. He looked up, his bright-green eyes—twins of Loriot’s own—lighting up, and something inside Loriot melted, just as it always did under those eyes.

“Papa!”

With ease of long practice, he caught the five-year-old bundle of energy that came flying at him and swung his son up into his arms. He cuddled him close for as long as Alain would allow. As tired as he was, he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. “There’s my boy. I missed you. Show me what you’ve been doing.”

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NineStar Press | Amazon

Meet the Author

Antonia Aquilante has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, and at the age of twelve, decided she would be a writer when she grew up. After many years and a few career detours, she has returned to that original plan. Her stories have changed over the years, but one thing has remained consistent—they all end in happily ever after.

She has a fondness for travel (and a long list of places she wants to visit and revisit), taking photos, family history, fabulous shoes, baking treats (which she shares with friends and family), and of course, reading. She usually has at least two books started at once and never goes anywhere without her Kindle. Though she is a convert to e-books, she still loves paper books the best, and there are a couple thousand of them residing in her home with her.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Antonia is living there again after years in Washington, DC and North Carolina for school and work. She enjoys being back in the Garden State but admits to being tempted every so often to run away from home and live in Italy.

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Release Blitz: Forbidden Need by Lee Colgin #paranormalromance #LGBTQ @leecolgin

Title: Forbidden Need

Series: They Bite, Book Three

Author: Lee Colgin

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: September 7, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 53900

Genre: Paranormal, LGBTQIA+, vampires, shifters, were-coyotes, romance, paranormal, fantasy, mates, HEA, slow burn

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Synopsis

As Rudy adapts to life in a new town, he lays eyes on a man whose very presence steals his heart. The man is bewitching. Bewitching…and grumpy. Samuel has no interest in the coyote shifter who’s been following him around like a lovesick pup, even if he is adorable. Adorable…and persistent. Born a vampire before the Great Wars, Samuel’s had plenty of time to make enemies. If he can’t discover and kill the one who’s been stalking him, it could be Rudy who pays the price. Samuel doesn’t do relationships, and he won’t bend the rules for Rudy, but that doesn’t mean he wants the coyote hurt. Stuck together as Samuel plots revenge, Rudy finally has his chance to win over his mate. Can they harness the power of their fated bond, or will Samuel’s dark past overcome the future they’ve yet to claim?

Excerpt

Forbidden Need Lee Colgin © 2020 All Rights Reserved Rudy Admiring the quaint architecture along each side of the narrow street, Rudy strolled through the small town he would call home. He’d chosen Stonesburg to be near his friends from university, but he couldn’t fathom why they’d picked it. The old mill town rose and fell with the textile industry. When the mills closed, humans abandoned the place and supernaturals moved in. The rolling hills of a nearby mountain range held some appeal, but Rudy found the nightlife lacking. He wandered downtown in search of the Eternal Knight Club, where he’d meet the other coyote shifters for drinks. Crisp night air chilled his nose and flushed his cheeks. Spying two ornately carved doors that stood out from the other entryways with their whimsy, Rudy found the place. He pulled open the massive mahogany door and stepped into a spacious, dimly lit interior hazy with cigar smoke. Spotting his rowdy group holding down a corner booth, he headed their way until a fleeting glance toward the bar revealed a sight that stopped Rudy in his tracks. Who is that? An exquisite being perched elegantly on a stool, smoking a pipe, his attention on the bartender. Rudy couldn’t help but gawk. Black shining hair, dark as charcoal, fell in waves past his shoulders. He leaned toward his companion with his spine straight, shoulders squared, and one leg crossed neatly over the other. As if he knew someone stared at him, his brown eyes flashed upward and homed in on Rudy. The stranger’s face went from neutral to annoyed in a flash. Rudy knew he should look away, but he couldn’t tear his eyes from the vision before him. And the vision before him was clearly irritated. Unable to resist, Rudy drew close. The man’s glare darkened. Rudy turned his hands out, palms up in an “I mean no harm” gesture. He glanced at the fellow in the next seat and to the bartender, who both watched his approach, then focused his gaze back to the pretty… Hmm, what was he? Vampire? He had that otherworldly stillness older vampires possessed. Desperate to make a good impression, Rudy meant to say something clever, but words tumbled out before his brain caught up. “Who are you?” The man glanced over his shoulder to the bartender. “Mabel, is he talking to me?” “I’m afraid so,” she replied. “Can’t you make him leave?” Her eyes narrowed. “Be nice.” With an exasperated sigh, the man turned back to Rudy, lips pressed in a hard line, one ebony eyebrow raised. “Well? Let’s have it. What do you want?” Rudy found him more striking up close, his dark features a beautiful contrast against skin so pale he nearly glowed. “You’re the most handsome person I’ve ever seen.” That was true enough, but it wasn’t only his looks drawing Rudy in. There was something else tugging on his insides, fueling his need to be close to this stranger. The man rolled his eyes. “You must get out more. Or on second thought, don’t.” “Can I buy you a drink?” Rudy asked, hopeful. The gorgeous creature opened his mouth and drew back his upper lip, revealing fangs. He all but hissed, threatening. The sight only enthralled Rudy further. Definitely a vampire. “No drink, then. How about a smoke?” Rudy offered instead. The man narrowed his gaze and lifted the cigar he already had. If you could say “duh” with a facial expression, he’d done it. “Right. Dance with me?” Rudy extended a hand in one last bid to keep his attention. “I think not.” The vampire turned back to the man sitting next to him, who radiated amusement with the whole situation. Realization dawned, and an unwelcome tension invaded Rudy’s chest. Perhaps this vampire was here with the other man. “Oh, I’m sorry! You’re here together?” His hands fluttered between them. “I didn’t mean to… Well, I’m sorry.” The other man grinned. “No, no, he’s all yours.” Laughter filled his voice. “Single and ready to mingle. Isn’t that how the saying goes?” The raven-haired vampire stared daggers at his friend. “Benjamin, really?” he chided before shifting his attention back to Rudy. “Listen, pup, since you don’t seem to pick up on much, I’ll speak plainly. I’m not interested. Fuck off.” Rudy’s face fell. “You don’t have to be mean.” He couldn’t hide his disappointment. The desire to be near this vampire didn’t diminish even after the rejection. “If you change your mind, I’ll be over there.” Rudy motioned to the table of coyote shifters in the corner. “I’d love to dance with you.” The vampire’s exasperated expression burned into Rudy’s memory with an unpleasant flush of heat. Discouraged, he slunk to his friends, all of whom had watched the exchange and were in various states of laughter and confusion. “Did you seriously hit on that vampire, Rudy?” asked Emerson. “What were you thinking? You’re lucky he didn’t squash you like a bug, because it looked like he wanted to.” “Slide over, Em.” Rudy nudged his way into the booth. “He’s cute is all.” He shrugged, downplaying the inexplicable attraction, meanwhile glancing over his shoulder to make sure the vampire hadn’t left. “You’re crazy,” said Morris from across the table. “That’s a good way to get yourself killed. You go pissing off vampires for fun nowadays?” Carlotta elbowed her boyfriend and gave Rudy a sympathetic smile. “He seemed kind of rude.” “Rude?” Morris scoffed. “Murderous would be more accurate.” “Can we drop it?” Rudy squirmed in his seat. “It didn’t work anyway.” “What didn’t work? What were you hoping to achieve?” Emerson asked. Rudy’s shoulders lifted. “Wanted to dance is all. He said no. End of story.” Mabel came to collect drink orders with humor twinkling in her eyes. “Sorry, champ. You picked an impossible target. What can I get for you folks?” His friends requested refills, and Rudy asked for a beer and hoped the conversation would veer to something less embarrassing. It did, thanks to Carlotta, who mercifully changed the subject. “How do you like Stonesburg?” “It’s great!” he lied with enthusiasm. The town wasn’t all that impressive, but he’d needed a change, and Stonesburg was as good a place as any. “I mean, there’s you guys and the mountains, so I’m sure I’ll love it soon enough.” “Wait until you get settled,” Morris encouraged. “We’ll shift and take you for a run in the forest.” “Sounds great.” Rudy grinned. “It’s past time I stretch my legs.” Mabel set an ice-cold beer in front of him and placed the other drinks around the table. They thanked her, and Rudy took a big gulp. Delicious. His eyes drifted back to the grumpy vampire at the bar. Mabel noticed and laughed under her breath. “Wasting your time on that one, babyface. He doesn’t date, not in the time I’ve known him,” she said, not unkindly, but Rudy didn’t care for her message nonetheless. “Why not?” She shrugged. “Don’t know. And I wouldn’t ask if I were you. You don’t want to get on his bad side. He’s dangerous.” Rudy tucked into his beer as she left, letting the conversation happen around him. It was nice being with friends again. He’d been sad and lonely at home with his family. Risking another glance to the bar, he caught the vampire staring back at him.

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NineStar Press | Amazon

Meet the Author

Lee Colgin has loved vampires since she read Dracula on a hot sunny beach at 13 years old. She lives in North Carolina with lots of dogs and her husband. No, he’s not a vampire, but she loves him anyway. Lee likes to workout so she can eat the maximum amount of cookies with her pizza. Ask her how much she can bench press. If you enjoyed this book, pick up Lee’s debut novel Slay My Love to find out what happens when you’re attracted to the very person who want to kill you an enemies to lovers 56,000k novel available now.

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Release Blitz: M4M by Rick R. Reed #LGBTQ #ContemporaryRomance @rickrreed

Title: M4M

Author: Rick R. Reed

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: August 31, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 63500

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, MM romance, online dating apps, deception, HIV, men over 40, grief

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Synopsis

Three great stories. One great love. VGL Male Seeks Same Poor Ethan Schwartz. It seems like he will never find that special someone. At age forty-two, he’s still alone, his bed still empty, and his 42-inch HDTV overworked. He’s tried the bars and other places where gay men are supposed to find one another, but for Ethan, it never works out. He wonders if it ever will. Should he get a cat? But all of that is about to change… NEG UB2 Poor Ethan Schwartz. He’s just had the most shocking news a gay man can get—he’s been diagnosed HIV positive. Up until today, he thought his life was on a perfect course. He had a job he loved and something else he thought he’d never have: Brian, a new man, one whom Ethan thought of as “the one.” The one who would complete him, who would take his life from a lonely existence to a place filled with laughter, hot sex, and romance. But along with the fateful diagnosis comes another shock—is Brian who he thinks he is? Status Updates Ethan finds himself alone once more and wonders if life is worth living, even one with a cat. Via a Facebook friend request, an old nemesis appears, wanting to be friends. Ethan is suspicious but intrigued because it seems this old acquaintance has turned his life around…and the changes just might hold the key to Ethan getting a new lease on life…and love.

Excerpt

M4M Rick R. Reed © 2020 All Rights Reserved Ethan Schwartz was alone. At forty-two, the state of being alone was almost like having another person by his side, a person he was growing to know more and more intimately with each passing night in his too-big-for-one bed. In fact, Ethan sometimes wondered if being alone was his natural state of being. Perhaps it was simply his fate to spend his evenings in front of his brand-new forty-two-inch Toshiba HDTV, watching classic 1940s movies from an endless queue at Netflix. He wondered if his life would ever change. Maybe he would continue to go to work at his job as a publicist for several Chicago theater companies, come home about seven o’clock, nuke a Lean Cuisine, fall asleep in front of the TV, and repeat the routine until he expired. He had thought, as he tossed in bed at night, in those endlessly stretching hours slogging their way toward dawn, of getting a dog or even a cat. He envisioned himself walking into his apartment door at night, greeted by a French bulldog’s grin or the slightly harlotish leg rub of a Maine coon. But an animal just didn’t seem like—well, it just didn’t seem like enough. In the above scenario, he also imagined a man coming in the same door minutes later and Ethan getting the four-legged companion riled up by saying “Daddy’s home!” No, Ethan knew—in his heart of hearts—he wanted an animal of the two-legged variety, one who would talk back to him, one he could spend long autumn weekends in Door County with, one he could take out to dinner parties and bring home to his family at Christmas. He wanted an animal that wouldn’t shed and would need little housebreaking. Well, at least not much. At forty-two, Ethan had lowered expectations. He also dreaded the thought of subjecting some poor tabby or Boston terrier to a solitary existence much like his own. After all, the stand-in-for-a-boyfriend pet would spend most of its time roaming the apartment by his or her lonesome and staring mournfully out the window because of Ethan’s long hours at work. He knew from experience that subjecting an unsuspecting animal to an existence akin to his own would be cause for calling out the SPCA. So Ethan would have to go on dreaming of meeting Mr. Right in human form and continue to watch as those dreams faded into wispy gossamer as the years relentlessly marched toward old age. Already Ethan found it necessary to use a moisturizer on his face and a depilatory on his back. His dark brown hair he kept buzzed close to his skull in an effort to minimize its traitorous thinning. Starting at around age thirty-two, every year he’d added a pound or two to his five-foot-ten-inch frame, and every year that pound or two became harder and harder to lose, in spite of long, sweaty hours on the treadmill or a diet consisting chiefly of the frozen culinary delights of the people at Smart Choice, Lean Cuisine, or South Beach Diet. Heading toward middle age sucked…especially when you were doing it alone. Tonight Ethan dug in the Doritos bag for one remaining chip of decent size while glued to the adventures of Ugly Betty. Why couldn’t he at least find a nice nerd, as Betty once had? Why couldn’t he at least have a little drama at work, like the Mexican magazine assistant faced every single day of her charmed life? Ethan’s days were spent trying to chat up theater critics in hopes of persuading them to write a review or feature on whatever play he was pushing that week. Or he holed up in his cube and wrote the same press release over and over, with only the titles, venues, and dates changed. When he had taken the job ten years ago, he’d thought the free nights out at the theater would be a great way to get dates. He’d assumed he would meet lots of handsome actors, and they would all want to cozy up to the publicist who could get them so much press. He’d thought wrong. Ethan got up and shut off the TV and threw his Doritos bag in the trash. He stretched and looked out the window. His move to this North Side Chicago neighborhood had been another misguided romantic maneuver, one that started full of hope and confidence and had been dashed by cold reality. He felt even more isolated and alone as he looked down from his studio apartment on Halsted Street, the blocks between Belmont and Addison that Chicagoans referred to as Boystown. When he had rented the little studio above a gay bookstore a decade ago, he had reasoned that wrangling a date would be no more difficult than hanging out his third story window with a smoldering gaze and a come-hither pout. He had reasoned wrong. Shortly after Ethan had moved in and hung his first Herb Ritts poster, Boystown had begun quickly gentrifying itself. Most of the gays moved farther north to Andersonville or even Rogers Park. Sure, gay bars still lined the street, and the teeming throngs continued to taunt him with luscious examples of masculinity on the prowl, but it had been a long time since one of the minions had made his way up the creaking stairs to Ethan’s studio. Oh, he supposed he could throw on some jeans, T-shirt, and his Asics and run across the street to Roscoe’s or any of the other watering holes lining the rainbow-pyloned avenue, but he had been to that dry well too many times to even consider it. Every year, it seemed, there was a new crop of gorgeous twentysomethings laughing and drinking…and practiced in the art of ignoring nice but nondescript men like Ethan. One could only endure so long the hours of standing against a wall, Stella Artois in hand, trying to look approachable and then never being approached. It didn’t do much for the ego. And it didn’t do much for the wallet. Or the self-esteem. Or certainly the romantic, or even sex, life. No, the bars had long ago lost their allure, becoming more and more an exclusive club for younger gays looking to hook up, or dance, or text message each other…or whatever other ways they found these days to make Ethan feel old. Besides, Ethan hoped for a more meaningful connection. And with each gray hair, each crow’s-foot and laugh line stamped upon his features, he despaired of ever finding it. He padded into the little bathroom and gasped as a cockroach beat a hasty retreat into a crack between the baseboard and linoleum-tiled floor. He shook his head and thought that even the bugs wanted nothing to do with him. He looked at his tired face in the mirror and laughed. “Jesus,” he said to his reflection, “you’re pathetic.” He held his aging mug up to the light cast by the overhead fixture and said, “What’s wrong with everybody? You’re not so old. You’re not so bad.” And indeed, Ethan spoke the truth. He looked every bit of his forty-two years, but that was still pretty young, wasn’t it? Didn’t somebody at the office just yesterday say something about forty being the new thirty? And his face, while certainly not Brad Pitt sexy, was pleasing, with a nice cleft in his chin, a strong nose, and deep blue eyes framed by long black lashes. His lips were a bit thin—a gift from his German father—and he could probably use some sun to give his pasty complexion a little pizzazz, but all in all, it wasn’t a face one would run from, screaming into the night. It was every bit as cute as a Tom Hanks or Will Ferrell. Ethan pulled his toothbrush from the medicine cabinet and decorated its bristles with orange gel—when had toothpaste gone orange?—and gave his teeth a savage brushing, even though his dentist always admonished him about that, telling him a slow, gentle course was the way, lest he wanted to erode his gums entirely away. But Ethan had never been able to dissuade himself from the idea that the harder the brush, the whiter the teeth. He spit and wiped his mouth on the hand towel and headed back into the common area to pull out his queen-size—hush!—futon for another night of lonely slumber. Tomorrow, he thought, he had to do something about his depressing state. And he did not mean moving out of Illinois. Somewhere there had to be a companion for him, just waiting. His dream man wasn’t in all the places he had fruitlessly checked, like the bars, backstage, and in his office. But he was out there, and like Ethan, he too was pulling the covers up by himself and thinking the answer to the riddle of how to escape a solitary existence was just within reach. Just before he fell asleep, he wondered if his mystery man also cynically told himself the same thing every night. “Shut up!” Ethan cried into the darkness. And then whispered, muffled into his pillow, “Tomorrow will be different. I just know it.”

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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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Release Blitz: Drifter by Eden Winters #LGBT #Rockstar #ContemporaryRomance

Title: Drifter

Author: Eden Winters

Publisher: Rocky Ridge Books

Release Date: 7/7/20

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 238

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Rocker

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Synopsis

Some legends never die.

Killian Desmond met his end in the fiery crash that killed his band, or so the newspapers say. Now a nameless drifter, he plays one pick-up gig after another in a haze of pain and regret, moving on the minute someone says, “You sound like that guy from Trickster.”

Getting outed cost Mike Rose his musical family. A bassist without a band, he’ll play any kind of music to earn a paycheck, but Trickster’s music provides light during the darkest moments of his life.

A chance meeting brings together two lost souls who spark enough heat to set their guitars on fire. Their chemistry, both onstage and off, feels like something written in the words of a song and gives them courage to face life again.

But to seize their future, they have to confront their past.

Excerpt

The throbbing beat blended with screams from the crowd; a crowd hidden by bright lights. Sweat and cologne and beer filled Killian Desmond’s nose. Familiar sounds. Familiar scents.

Home.

Did he love this life or hate it? Who cared, he’d never known another. Back to back with his brother Elliot, he shredded his electric acoustic guitar, improvising for the fans. The strings bent to his callused fingertips, note after note falling from his guitar.

Elliot kept up. Elliot always kept up. Others might get lost in Killy’s musical fantasies, but El gauged Killy’s intentions by the way he moved, held his shoulders, or gestures, like pausing to flip his sweat-dampened hair out of his eyes.

The drummer and keyboardist faded away, letting El set the tone with a deep bass beat.

Killy strutted to the front of the stage. Hot lights illuminated him from behind, shining on sweat-soaked skin. “What you wanna hear?” He didn’t need the words to know they’d be sticking to their prearranged lineup. At their manager’s urging, he’d saved the best for last.

Highway!” roared through the arena.

He grinned and cupped a hand to one ear. “What’s that? I can’t hear you.”

Highway!” roughly six thousand voices cried out in unison, louder this time.

“Aw, c’mon, now,” Killy teased. “We’ll play whatever you want, but you gotta tell us.”

The thunderous chant of “Highway! Highway! Highway!” threatened to blow the roof off the building.

Strolling over a few paces and throwing an arm around his brother, Killy said, “Well, I reckon we better do as they say.”

“Since when have you ever taken orders?” Elliot shot back.

Faster than most could follow, Killy slung his guitar back into place and launched into their best-known riff.

The screaming nearly deafened him. He tried again. On his sixth attempt the crowd settled enough to begin.

He grinned. Adoration and energy flowed from the crowd, straight into his veins, to gather strength and escape through his fingers and his voice.

His deep growl purred through the arena, pouring out the melody he’d written in a single night in a hotel room God knew where. High on life, cheap vodka, and the rush of their first big show, he’d settled onto the bed in the dark, except for the flickering image of a black and white movie on the TV, sound turned down, and began strumming.

The words flowed out of him unbidden, leaving him raw, shaken, and in possession of a number one hit.

He didn’t sing or play Highway—the melody made him its bitch, possessing him, demanding release into the world.

Who was he to refuse?

“Some were born to sand and wind, on the sea they make their home

Some may live a hermit’s life, on a mountain all alone

Or in a glass and metal cage, high up in the sky

Packed in tight with a thousand souls, all trying to get by

Nine to five may work for some, but that don’t work for me

Saddled to day in day out, no, I need to be free

Living a life all on my own, free of family, lover or friend

On the highway I was born, it’s there I’ll meet my end.”

Alone, just him and the highway, until the chorus.

“On the highway I was born, it’s there I’ll meet my end.”

Elliot’s sweet tenor wrapped around Killy’s pack-a-day growl, blending together seamlessly.

The audience joined in, chanting, “Highway! Highway! Live and die on the highway!”

Rob kept pace on the drums, a musician not really worthy of the band they’d become, and Ace, a friend and one hell of a musician, wound his way through the twists and turns on his keyboards.

“The only home I’ll ever know stretches from sea to sea

No start, no end, no in between, just miles of road and me

Living a life all on my own free of family, lover or friend

On the highway I was born, it’s there I’ll meet my end

Highway! Highway! Live and die on the highway!

Highway! Highway! Live and die on the highway!

Highway! Highway! Live and die on the highway!”

The mass of humanity might have started chanting again for all Killy knew. His world boiled down to this moment, the music, his brother, his friend, and the life laid out for him long ago, the first time his mother brought him and Elliot onstage.

They’d stayed. She’d gone.

Here they still stood, though she didn’t.

Never would again.

Nope, no bad thoughts. Just the music.

Note after note poured from him like rain, blocking thought and feeling.

He crashed to his knees, striking a chord and letting his guitar speak for him. Caught in the spotlight, he leaned back in a signature move his manager made him practice, making his shirt ride up to show some skin, while his hair fell back, glittering like gold in a strategically placed spotlight.

The blue streak, his own addition, voiced his defiance at being a commodity.

He should’ve been exhausted after the show they’d put on, but in that moment, he swore he could go all night.

He jumped to his feet, racing across the stage and running through part of the guitar solo for those seated to the left of the stage, then reversed course to the right, repeating the solo.

Arms reached for him, a thousand voices calling his name.

Rejoining Elliot centerstage, he launched into the chorus and let the others join him.

After extending the song by two more choruses, he finally wound down.

An announcer stepped up on stage, to catcalls, whistles and ear-splitting shouts. “Let’s hear it for Trickster!”

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Meet the Author

You will know Eden Winters by her distinctive white plumage and exuberant cry of “Hey, y’all!” in a Southern US drawl so thick it renders even the simplest of words unrecognizable. Watch out, she hugs!

Driven by insatiable curiosity, she possibly holds the world’s record for curriculum changes to the point that she’s never quite earned a degree but is a force to be reckoned with at Trivial Pursuit.

She’s trudged down hallways with police detectives, learned to disarm knife-wielding bad guys, and witnessed the correct way to blow doors off buildings. Her e-mail contains various snippets of forensic wisdom, such as “What would a dead body left in a Mexican drug tunnel look like after six months?” In the process of her adventures she has written twenty gay romance novels, has won Rainbow Awards, was a Lambda Awards Finalist, and lives in terror of authorities showing up at her door to question her Internet searches.

When not putting characters in dangerous situations she’s a mild-mannered business executive, mother, grandmother, vegetarian, and PFLAG activist.

Her natural habitats are airports, coffee shops, and on the backs of motorcycles.

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Release Blitz: Bigger Love by Rick R. Reed #LGBTromance #youngadult

Title: Bigger Love

Author: Rick R. Reed

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: June 15, 2020

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 60100

Genre: Contemporary YA, LGBTQIA+, high school, gender-bending, school play, performance arts, romance, young love

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Synopsis

Truman Reid is Summitville High’s most out-and-proud senior. He can’t wait to take his fierce, uncompromising self away from his small Ohio River hometown, where he’s suffered more than his share of bullying. He’s looking forward to bright lights and a big city. Maybe he’ll be the first ever genderfluid star to win an Academy Award. But all that changes on the first day of school when he locks eyes with the most gorgeous hunk he’s ever seen.

Mike Stewart, big, dark-haired, and with the most amazing blue eyes, is new to town. He’s quiet, manly, and has the sexy air of a lost soul. It’s almost love at first sight for Truman. He thinks that love could deepen when Mike becomes part of the stage crew for Harvey, the senior class play Truman’s directing. But is Mike even gay? And how will it work when Truman’s mother is falling for Mike’s dad?

Plus Truman, never the norm, makes a daring and controversial choice for the production that has the whole town up in arms.

See how it all plays out on a stage of love, laughter, tears, and sticking up for one’s essential self…

Excerpt

Bigger Love
Rick R. Reed © 2020
All Rights Reserved

“There’s a man in your room. I can smell him.”

Truman Reid confronted his mom, Patsy, in the kitchen. Early morning sun streamed in brightly through the kitchen window over the sink, making Truman long for the relative freedom of summer that was about to be put to rest that very day.

Patsy glowered at him from the stove where she was scrambling eggs. She didn’t often get up to make him breakfast, but Truman had figured—at least at first—that she was doing so because this was Truman’s first day back at school. He’d be a senior at Summitville High. First days of school had always been a source of high anxiety for Truman, who’d been bullied and teased mercilessly throughout almost the entire four years. But now Truman wondered if Patsy had risen early to fix bacon and eggs because she was hiding a man in her room. You know, to distract him. This wasn’t a usual experience for his mom, Truman was sure, and he wondered if he’d embarrassed her. But he couldn’t help but wonder how a man in her room might affect his exclusive hold on her. Would he still get her undivided attention, you know, if this was a “thing”?

Of course, Patsy, lovely, diminutive, with curly black hair and wide eyes, had every right to have a man in her room. Even if that man smelled of cigarettes and motor oil. But she didn’t have the right, Truman opined, to keep secrets from him. A mother should never keep secrets from her boy, right? Wasn’t that one of those unwritten laws?

“That may be. Or may not be,” Patsy said, giving the eggs one final push-around with a spatula before dumping them on a plate. She sighed and eyed him. “I have a right to my privacy. You don’t need to be privy to every detail of my life. I show you that respect and expect the same in return.”

She’s reading my mind. Again. “Oh, I didn’t mean to pry, Mama. I just wanted to say it’s okay if you did have a man sleep over. It’s not like I would mind. It’s not like we’re not both adults around here. We have separate bedrooms and separate lives.” Truman almost choked on the words.

Patsy set the plate of steaming eggs before him. Truman saw, to his delight, that the four pieces of bacon Patsy had fried up before the eggs were all for him.

Patsy smiled, but there was something just a tad bit evil in it. “Thank you, sweetie. I’m so glad to have your go-ahead if I want to whore around.” She chuckled and returned to the counter where she’d left her mug of coffee. She leaned against the counter, mug in hand, and took a sip. Patsy was all of thirty-four years old but looked at least ten years younger in the dappled morning light, and Truman felt a rush of love for her. The bond they had was kind of a you-and-me-against-the-world one. Truman felt he could say just about anything to Patsy, and he knew she felt the same; witness the “whore” comment. What kind of mother said that to her son?

Truman wasn’t sure, but he was glad he had one who did.

Besides, between raising him, which could be, um, challenging at times, and working at the Elite Diner in Summitville’s tiny downtown, she had little time for romance. Given that Truman’s father was still a mystery to him—and to Patsy—he assumed that, once upon a time, she did have her whoring-around days, but he’d seen little evidence of them.

Until this morning.

“So who is he? Can I go take a peek? Is he hot?” Truman laughed.

Patsy answered the three questions in short order: “None of your business. No, you can’t. Yes. Very.” She took another sip of coffee and tightened the sash of her white chenille bathrobe. Truman noticed she was wearing a little makeup this morning—mascara, some blush, a hint of lip gloss. She hadn’t overdone it. Truman would say she looked “dewy” if she asked. “You need to eat up and get in the shower, young man. The bus will be here—” She turned to look at the wall clock on the soffit above the sink. “—in twenty minutes. I know you need your primping time.”

Truman dropped his fork to the table. “Seriously? Only twenty? Good Lord.” He wrapped his bacon up in a paper towel and headed for the single bathroom. Patsy blocked his way. “Since when do we leave our plates on the table? What? You think I’m your servant?”

“Mom!” Truman whined. “You know I need time to get ready. Please, please, please take care of it for me. I’ll love you forever!”

“Okay. This once. And sweetie, I’d thought loving me forever went without saying. But you cook and clean up tonight.”

“Deal.”

Truman rushed to the bathroom, wondering if Patsy would use the time to sneak her man out of the house. Too bad the only window looked out on the backyard. It was frosted glass anyway.

He hoped his mom had found someone to love.

He hoped his mom hadn’t found someone to love.

It had been just the two of them for so long, Truman didn’t know if he could cope with someone else vying for Patsy’s affections. He felt a little sense of violation at the thought.

In the bathroom, Truman laid out on the counter all the stuff a boy would need to make a suitable senior-year debut: eyeliner, clear mascara, blush, and the lip gloss that added no extra color to his lips but made them shine.

He stepped into the shower after brushing, flossing, and exfoliating his face.

Purchase

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

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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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.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Kobo

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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Release Blitz: Lighting the Lamp by K.R. Collins#LGBTQ #ContemporaryRomance

Title: Lighting the Lamp

Series: Sophie Fournier, Book Three

Author: K.R. Collins

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: May 25, 2020

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 100100

Genre: Contemporary Sports, LGBTQIA+, Contemporary, sports, romance, lesbian, bisexual, demisexual, ice hockey, coach, teammates, slow burn

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Synopsis

Entering her third season, Sophie Fournier has almost everything she wants. She’s the captain of the Concord Condors, she’s roommates and linemates with Elsa Nyberg, the elite Swedish winger she’s wanted to play alongside since the Zurich U-Tourney.

There are two major things she’s missing, though. She doesn’t have her next contract lined up, and she still hasn’t won the Maple Cup, hockey’s most coveted prize. If she wins the Cup, she’ll have leverage going into her contract negotiations. And, in case she needed more motivation, this is Benoit Delacroix’s final season as a Concord Condor, and she’s determined he won’t retire without lifting the Cup.

Excerpt

Lighting the Lamp
K.R. Collins © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
The 2013 draft in Orlando, Florida marks the third one Sophie’s attended. She made history in 2011 when she was the first woman drafted into the North American Hockey League. Last year, she was given the honor of selecting Elsa Nyberg for her team, the Concord Condors.

This year, Sophie’s responsibilities are fewer, but she’s still here representing the League. Unlike other players, who watch the draft from their couches or receive alerts while on the beach or touring wine country, Sophie is here in a crisp black pantsuit, a red pocket square her only flash of color.

She’s here so the Commissioner can lay a heavy hand on her shoulder and lean in for pictures to prove how progressive his league is, as if one woman among hundreds of men is progress. Well, it is progress, but it isn’t nearly enough.

There will be more women drafted today and tomorrow, and Sophie’s confident at least one of them will play against her this season. She refuses to hope Elsa will keep her promise and make the jump from the Swedish Hockey League to the NAHL this year, but she has high expectations for Alexis Engelking.

The American is slated to be drafted high. Lenny Dernier, infamous for his rants on The National Sports Network, is already wringing his hands over her upcoming inclusion among hockey’s best. Once, forgetting she was mic’d up, Engelking dropped an f-bomb on live television. Dernier accused her of being “a terrible role model for our Canadian children” as if every Canadian who has played the game is an angel.

Indianapolis files on stage to make the first selection of the draft, a long procession of middle to upper-aged white men in suits. The TVs behind the stage show Engelking sit up straighter in her seat as if she’s anticipating her name being called. Her hair is chopped short, jagged angles as sharp as her cheekbones.

A different camera shows Chad Kensington, another American, slumped in his seat. His blond hair is parted to the side and slicked to stay there. His mother elbows him, and he makes a half-hearted attempt to sit up straight.

“Thank you, Orlando, for hosting us today,” Indy’s owner says. The crowd, predictably, cheers. When he thanks the Commissioner, the crowd boos, also predictable. Sophie doesn’t remember the Commissioner facing constant heckling when she was younger, but he’d made himself no friends when the League ground to halt during the 2010-2011 season.

Indy’s owner steps aside so his grandson, a cute kid with chubby cheeks and a Renegades ball cap on his head, can step up to the mic. They have to lower it for him, and the boy checks the cards in his hands before he looks over his shoulder. His grandfather smiles encouragingly. “Um, first overall, the Indianapolis Renegades select Chad Kensington.”

Kensington stands up and shoots the nearest camera a pair of finger guns. His smile is as greasy as his hair. Sophie’s seen enough tape to know he’s talented, but he struts up to the stage as if he thinks the League should be grateful to have him. His suit is too big in the shoulders and too long in the leg as if he expects to grow into it. He’s dwarfed by the men on stage; the only ones he’s taller than are the owner’s two grandkids. He taps the brim of the grandson’s hat. The owner’s granddaughter hides behind the man who Sophie assumes is her father.

Sophie discreetly checks her phone as she waits for all the hoopla to finish. Being at the draft always brings back memories of her own. She wasn’t sure she’d be invited until a few months before and, even once she was there, it wasn’t a guarantee a team would select her. In case being the first woman to try to play in the NAHL wasn’t enough of a barrier, the Commissioner required teams to apply to be co-ed.

The Concord Condors were the only team able to draft her, and she sat in the stands as they made selection after selection, never calling her name. It took two hundred and twenty-four names until hers was called. Instead of being drafted first, or even first round, she was dead last.

She shakes the memory aside as Seattle comes on stage. Sophie quits feeling sorry for herself. Barrett Corderman is the one who deserves her pity as Seattle drafts him. She’s making a name for herself in Concord, pulling her franchise from the depths of the League and turning them into a real contender. Seattle, on the other hand, is where players have their love of hockey sucked out of them.

Indianapolis makes another appearance for the fourth pick, gained in a trade last season. This time, the owner ushers his granddaughter on stage, and Sophie has a good idea of where this is headed. When the girl calls out Alexis Engelking’s name, Sophie allows herself a smile. Engelking marks the fourth woman drafted into the League, and the highest selected of them all. There’s a tightness around Engelking’s eyes as she accepts her jersey as if she felt she deserved to go higher.

Welcome to the club.

*

Concord drafts a defenseman with the first of their first-round picks. With their second, they select Tanner Bechtol. He’s small like Kensington, and his hair falls into his eyes, only for him to shake it back out of his face. He looks overwhelmed by everyone on the stage, and it takes two tries for him to pull his jersey over his head.

It isn’t exactly a promising start, and she expects a lot out of him. This is one of the picks which came from trading their captain, Matty, at the deadline last year. Bechtol stumbles off the stage. He would’ve tripped and face-planted in front of the cameras if Mr. Wilcox didn’t steady him. Sophie keeps her expression tranquil in case anyone is watching her, but inside, she scowls. This is who they gave Matty up for?

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Meet the Author

K.R. Collins went to college in Pennsylvania where she learned to write and fell in love with hockey. When she isn’t working or writing, she watches hockey games and claims it’s for research. You can find K.R. on Twitter.

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Release Blitz: Forbidden Love by Lee Golgin #LGBTQ #urbanfantasy

Title: Forbidden Love

Series: They Bite, Book Two

Author: Lee Colgin

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: May 18, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 52800

Genre: Paranormal, LGBTQIA+, paranormal, urban fantasy, friends to lovers, werewolves, vampires, slow burn, college, supernatural

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Synopsis

When an esteemed vampire doctor treats an injured young werewolf, desire sparks between them.

Dr. Benjamin Arleth has devoted his life to finding a medical cure for his species’ most devastating weakness—sunlight. Finally, one of his pharmaceuticals shows promise, but sabotage looms large in the lab.

Wolf shifter Nathan Cramer is ready to finish grad school and begin his career when a trip to Center City’s Peace Conference goes awry. Weak and bleeding, Nathan knows his wounds could prove fatal. Dr. Arleth is his only hope.

Can love flourish between enemy species despite a society in turmoil? Could vampires walk in the daylight or will darkness reign? It’s a race to find answers, and Ben will have to put his trust in Nathan if they’re going to make it out alive.

Forbidden Love is a MM urban fantasy/paranormal romance and the second book in the series They Bite but can be enjoyed as a standalone.

Excerpt

Forbidden Love
Lee Colgin © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Benjamin

Elbow deep in test tubes and chemicals at his state-of-the-art laboratory, Doctor Benjamin Arleth startled when his alarm went off. Time for patient rounds. He hated to abandon his work when he was making so much progress, but duty called. The long sought-after drug to render a vampire resistant to sunlight would have to wait another night.

The supernatural realm’s most accomplished vampire doctor had no surgeries on his docket this evening. What he did have were several recovering patients to check on: a grouchy were-leopard who’d been impaled by a hunter’s arrow, and a friendly young Living vampire who’d undergone corrective surgery for metatarsus varus, or in layman’s terms…pigeon toes.

Benjamin went to check on the young vampire first. Knocking on the open door, Ben stepped inside the generic white hospital room. “Hello, Olivia, how are you feeling tonight?”

She grinned at him from under her nest of blankets. Olivia was small for her seventeen years, partially due to rotated tibias, but she had a big personality. Blonde curls spilled over her shoulders, and an incorrigible sense of humor sparkled behind pale golden eyes. She was fully grown, a condition that had to be met before her legs could be fixed and, more importantly, before she could be Turned. The poor girl was bored, stuck in the hospital recovering, and eager to get back to her life.

“I’m good, Doctor Arleth. I’ve been walking without any help. Can I go home today?” She looked hopeful.

The doctor tutted and shook his head, approaching her bed. “It’s too early for you to be walking unassisted.” She started to protest, but Ben continued, “You could do damage and set back your healing if you aren’t careful. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.”

Olivia groaned. “But it’s so dull here.”

“Tell me about it. I’ve been stuck here a lot longer than you.” He made a face at her, and she laughed.

“This sucks,” Olivia said with typical teenage angst. “You’re cute though, in that tall, dark, and handsome sort of way. You could get a life outside this place if you wanted.”

“How do you know I don’t have one already?”

“Call it a lucky guess.”

“Moving on.” Ben reached for her blankets. “Let me examine your legs. Then you can walk with me and show me how you’re healing.”

“Deal. Anything to get out of this room.”

Ben picked up her left leg gingerly. The flexible cast allowed him to take her knee through its full range of motion. He flexed and pointed her foot.

“How does it feel? Any sensitive spots?”

She shook her head. “Nope, I’m telling you it feels great. You must have done a really great job.”

“Good.” He put the other leg through the same exercises, watching her face for a reaction. If there was one, he didn’t catch it. Either she healed quickly or she’d mastered hiding discomfort. You’d expect the former of a Turned vampire, but a Living vampire like Olivia would take longer to heal. The girl was either lucky or deceptive; he’d find out as he watched her walk.

“All right.” Ben set her leg carefully back onto the bed. “Time to boogie. Show me what you’ve got.” He reached for her hand and helped her to her feet.

She took a step forward. So far, so good. After walking several laps of the medical center’s recovery floor, Ben believed her progress genuine. He’d miss her. Olivia was pleasant when she wasn’t busy teasing him.

The were-leopard, however, he’d love to get rid of.

The cat had been on a drunken joy run when he’d crossed into unprotected forest, human game lands. Shot through with an arrow, not only did he almost die, but the human who’d shot him had to have his memory wiped after seeing a leopard turn into an angry, naked man. He was lucky the hunter kept his shit together to call for help; otherwise he’d have died from internal bleeding. He’d been a terrible patient, complaining about everything from inadequate pain medication to the lack of decent food. What did he expect? A steakhouse?

Ben walked into the leopard’s room, eager to be done with him. “Jason, how are you tonight?”

The cat scowled as he scooted upright in the bed. “How do you think? I’m in pain. This place is stingy with the meds.”

“Pain medication is often ineffective on were-creatures. We simply have nothing else to give you.”

“A drink wouldn’t hurt.”

Ben clenched his jaw. “Still against hospital policy, I’m afraid. Let me check your wound, and I’ll see about releasing you.”

Jason pushed the covers down, and Ben got to work. The wound, though still inflamed around the edges, had closed nicely. Ben palpated the were-leopard’s abdomen, checking for signs of swelling or bleeding. Jason complained but didn’t seem overly sensitive. It should be safe to release him. Thank god.

“Good news, you’re healing well. We can send you home tonight. How about that?”

“About damn time, I’m ready to get out of here,” Jason said. “I need some real food and a good screw.” He added an obscene gesture Ben found distasteful.

“Hold off for now. I’ll send a nurse to fill you in on the physical restrictions until you’re completely cleared. Come back in a week for a final check to make sure there’s no lasting damage. Until then, be careful not to aggravate the wound.”

“Right, I get it. Careful when I’m screwing. Noted.”

Ben schooled his features to neutrality. It would be unprofessional to lecture manners to a patient, even if they deserved it.

When Jason didn’t get whatever response he’d been hoping for, he changed the subject. “Are you going to the Peace Conference this weekend? The nurse said they were bringing in extra doctors. Could get rowdy!”

“I am. I’d have gone, even if I wasn’t on call.”

“Shitty thing they’re considering. Breaking the Edict of Secrecy. Stupid idea,” the leopard huffed.

Ben did not point out that the very reason the were-leopard landed in the hospital to begin with was because he’d broken the Edict of Secrecy. Allowing a human to see him shift was against the law.

Supernaturals kept themselves hidden from humanity, but was that wise in light of the technological revolution? It was a matter of time before a human filmed something on a cell phone, and they’d be exposed. If they chose to reveal themselves, the narrative could be controlled. If humanity found out by accident, it could all go terribly wrong. Many in the community had strong feelings on the subject, including this exasperating were-leopard.

“Perhaps you should come and listen to the presentations. I’m sure there’s more to it than we know.” The Edict of Secrecy had served its purpose. They must let it go. Knowledge was power and all that.

“I’d rather stab my eye out than listen to that horseshit,” Jason said.

“To each their own, but continued peace is in everyone’s best interest. We don’t want another Great War.” He glared at the cat, daring him to disagree. Vampires and were-creatures were historical enemies, but a Peace Accord maintained armistice between the species. Battle surgeons told nightmarish tales of the Great Wars.

Ben jotted down his final notes in Jason’s file and left the clipboard for his assistant, Amelia. “Take care Jason and heal well. I don’t want to see you here again.” Usually that statement was more a joke, but this time, he meant it.

“The feeling is mutual, Doctor.”

Ben hadn’t been expecting thanks, but the were-leopard’s complete lack of self-awareness annoyed him. Glad to be done, Ben made a quick trip to the nurse’s station to leave his patient updates so he could return to his research, his life’s work; a drug to allow Turned vampires to walk in the sunlight again…his holy grail.

Ben lost himself in the research.

He had dozens of theories to deliberate and countless components to try before he’d risk another test of the drug’s efficacy. Sunlight could reduce a young vampire to ash within moments, and an ancient would be dust in less than an hour, so each failed test proved lethal to some criminal soul.

The Vampire Council provided test subjects from their prisons, but Ben wouldn’t take a life lightly, no matter their crimes. As the death toll added up, guilt sat heavier in his chest. The formula had to be right before he’d ask for another trial.

Another alarm rang, jarring him from work. Only a few hours remained before dawn, and he had to leave now if he was going to meet Samuel for smokes. He’d told Samuel he’d be there. Benjamin hated to leave his research—had to tear himself away from it—but Samuel wasn’t the kind of vampire you wanted angry with you, so Ben wouldn’t stand him up. He cleaned and stored his equipment, turned off the lights, locked up the lab, and headed for their favorite haunt, the Eternal Knight Club.

See Olivia, I do have a life.

Purchase

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Meet the Author

Lee Colgin has loved vampires since she read Dracula on a hot sunny beach at 13 years old. She lives in North Carolina with lots of dogs and her husband. No, he’s not a vampire, but she loves him anyway. Lee likes to workout so she can eat the maximum amount of cookies with her pizza. Ask her how much she can bench press.

If you enjoyed this book, pick up Lee’s debut novel Slay My Love to find out what happens when you’re attracted to the very person who want to kill you an enemies to lovers 56,000k novel available now.

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Release Blitz: The Cupid Crawl by Hank Edwards #LGBTQ #RomCom @hanksbooks

Title: The Cupid Crawl

Series: A Williamsville Inn Story (can be read as a stand alone)

Author: Hank Edwards

Publisher: Startled Monkeys Media

Release Date: 4/20/2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 189 pages

Genre: Romance, romantic comedy

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Synopsis

What happens when a confirmed hook up app user falls for a man who is his polar opposite?

Carter Walsh will be alone on Valentine’s Day, and his plans include a candy sampler of hook ups.
But after learning about the Cupid Crawl—a bar crawl covering a half dozen bars, gay and straight—he changes his plans.

During the crawl, he runs into:

An ex-co-worker nemesis who resurrects—loudly—an unfortunate nickname she bestowed upon him years before.

Several hot men eager for a quick hook up.

And one man absolutely not Carter’s type, but who manages to pique his interest and, possibly, steal his heart.

The Cupid Crawl is a funny, sweet, and steamy opposites attract, slight age gap story that takes place in the Williamsville Inn series world, and features characters from the Christmas stories “Snowflakes and Song Lyrics” by Hank Edwards and “Snowstorms and Second Chances” by Brigham Vaughn.

Excerpt

The organizer, Vic, led the way, squeezing past the men and women standing in the doorway and forging a path for Carter to follow. At first, Carter thought he was way overdressed. The men he slid past were shirtless, some wearing just white loin cloths or even cloth diapers along with feathered wings strapped around their broad chests. These men gave him a brief glance, maybe a quick smile, but were busy talking to each other or women who were also baring a lot of skin. Didn’t these people realize it was February in Boston?

When he reached the bar, Carter was relieved to see people wearing shirts and pants instead of just diapers and short shorts. Vic leaned in over the bar and said to the bartender, “Don, this is my good friend, Carter. Put his first two drinks on my tab.”

“Oh, you don’t have to do that,” Carter insisted. “I have money.”

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Carter,” Vic said. “The first two drinks are on me to help you relax. I’m going to make a round of the bar, but when I return, I hope to find you talking with someone, and not just leaning on the bar all alone.”

“I know how to socialize,” Carter said.

“Oh, I’m sure you do.”

Vic winked again before threading his way through the crowd, greeting people as he slid past them. Carter ordered a beer from Don, and then fished a couple of singles out of his wallet for a tip. He lifted his bottle to salute Don and had just taken a swig when a piercingly high voice shrieked from just behind him. The sound startled him so much he choked on his beer and started to cough. He turned, coughing and sputtering, and squinted through his tears at the woman standing behind him.

Auburn hair done up tall, bright green eyes that could be nothing other than colored contact lenses, a pert, upturned nose, and a broad mouth filled with teeth laser-whitened to solar flare level.

Carter’s heart stuttered with surprise and dread as he struggled to clear his airway.

“I saw you walk in and had to come over and see if it was really you!” she exclaimed.

With a final clearing of his throat, Carter managed a smile and said, “Lizzie. Hello! What a treat to see you.”

Lizzie’s smile widened even further and she crossed her arms. It was then Carter noticed she wore what looked like a sports bra with a pair of white wings strapped to her shoulders, and a sheer white shift around her waist that showed off a pair of black panties trimmed with lace.

“As I live and breathe,” Lizzie said with a shake of her head. “Carter the Farter.”

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Meet the Author

Hank Edwards (he/him) has been writing gay fiction for more than twenty years. He has published over thirty novels and dozens of short stories. His books fall into many sub-genres, including romance, rom-com, contemporary, paranormal, suspense, mystery, and wacky comedy. He has written a number of series such as the suspenseful Up to Trouble, funny and spooky paranormal out for you gay romance Critter Catchers, Old West historical horror of Venom Valley, the erotic and funny Fluffers, Inc. series, and the funny and thrilling Lacetown Murder Mysteries series co-written with Deanna Wadsworth. No matter what genre he writes, Hank likes to keep things sweet, steamy, and fun. He was born and still lives in a northwest suburb of the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan, where he shares a home with his partner of over 20 years and their two cats.

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