Release Blitz: Melting the Ice Witch by Mell Eight #paranormal #LGBTQ @GoIndiMarketing @ninestarpress

Title: Melting the Ice Witch

Series: Dragon’s Hoard, Book Four

Author: Mell Eight

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 01/18/2022

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 27400

Genre: Paranormal, LGBTQIA+, mythical creatures, dragon shifters, witches, tundra

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Description

The Tribe of the White Dragon has lived in the frozen wastes of the north for thousands of years, but they are slowly dying without their dragon to protect them from the inhospitable cold.

In desperation, they kidnap Kam, hoping to use him to breed witch power back into the Tribe. But Kam is not a witch, and there is nothing he can do to save them—until he sees the white dragon encased in ice and all alone and a chain reaction is set off that may save them after all.

Excerpt

Melting the Ice Witch
Mell Eight © 2022
All Rights Reserved

“In the before times, when the cold ice and biting wind were welcoming to our kind, dragons flew,” the old storyteller warbled. The man was bent and gray, and his crabbed hands shook on his gnarled staff, but his voice still held the power that had made him the storyteller of the Tribe in his youth.

“The golden dragon rained fire and melted the ice, and the white dragon taught the Tribe the spells to survive the difficult, yet beautiful, climate. Together, the gold and white kept these plains of ice tamed, and the Tribe survived in plenty.”

The old man’s voice reached Kam even from the other side of the fire. Warmth in the ice wastes was hard to come by, especially for one not of the Tribe, so Kam appreciated his place near the flickering flames. His brown hair was city short, which meant his ears and neck were exposed to the cold wind. The barbarians all had hair that reached well down their backs, tied in intricate braids with feathers and stones woven throughout. None had hair more elaborate than Lor, the man with the snow-white hair and ice blue eyes who had the seat of honor next to the storyteller.

“But—” The storyteller’s voice darkened, and Kam felt his chest clench at the ominous tone. “—such times were not meant to last. The golden one gathered his followers around him and declared that for the happiness of dragon-kind they must separate themselves from the wars of humans. No more deaths of dragons, was the golden one’s goal, but the white dragon disagreed with his methods.

“They fought with their words, their arguments echoing through the icy canyons, but neither would back down. The white dragon knew that to abandon the humans was to allow the Tribe, his hoard, to die in the ice wastes. But the golden one wished to keep his kin alive and to do so he needed to rule the humans, not be ruled by human whim.

“The best of friends, and possibly lovers, the golden dragon and the white dragon never spoke again. All but the white dragon flew south, where the plains are formed of grass rather than ice. There they settled in the mountains. They built a city for the humans in the foothills. And the white dragon withdrew to the ice caves, alone.”

The storyteller bowed his head in sadness, but Lor’s piercing eyes scanned the assembled members of the Tribe.

“So we survive.” Lor continued the story. His voice was strong, but as the leader of the Tribe, he had to be. Lor was the tallest and most muscular of all the barbarians, and he was the only witch the clan still had. “Bereft of the dragons who allowed us life in the barren waste of ice and snow, the Tribe learned new ways to survive. We adapted, so after tens of thousands of years, we still live.” Kam looked around at the assembled Tribe and frowned. There were barely sixty people of all ages and genders still remaining in the circle around the fire. He had learned that there was another clan to the northwest with equal numbers. But most alarmingly, there were only two witches left: Lor and the man named Bay who led the other clan. There were no female witches to pass the traits on, nor had any of Lor’s children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren shown any aptitude during Lor’s hundreds of years of life.

The Tribe was dying.

That was why Kam had been brought north. The only way to invigorate the clans was to breed more witch blood into the lines. The hope was if Kam were to have a child with one of the descendants of Lor, maybe a child with powers could be born. But Kam wasn’t a witch, and he hadn’t exactly been asked before he was kidnapped and taken to the ice wastes.

“We live and we are strong,” Lor continued. “The Tribe of the White Dragon does not fade away!”

The barbarians cheered loudly around Kam, but Kam didn’t join them. As the assemblage broke up, Kam returned to his small tent. Once the barbarians had been sure he wouldn’t run away—as if there were some way to survive in the endless ice wastes for a city-bred boy—they had given Kam his own space. The tent was small, with barely enough room for bedding and a small wooden chest filled with the meager belongings he had accumulated in the last few weeks, but it was heavy with furs and thick woolen blankets that kept the cold and the wind out. Kam curled up in his bed, glad when his blankets began to warm with his body heat, and closed his eyes.

The barbarians were nice enough despite the fact that he couldn’t give them what they wanted. And it was better than being back in the city. Kam went to sleep with that thought firmly in mind. As much as he had disliked being kidnapped and taken to the barren north, it was still better than what he endured in the city. His thoughts focused on those times as he drifted to sleep.

«

“Kam, Kam, the witchery man,” the kids sang as Kam walked past them. He ducked his head, but otherwise kept himself from acknowledging their taunts. His mother hadn’t exactly been discreet with her passions, and lying with the resident witch had supposedly produced Kam. Since the man in question was a charlatan and his mother had never actually said he was Kam’s father before they both died…well, all that didn’t matter to everyone else. To them, Kam had witch blood, and in his part of the city, he was someone to be ridiculed.

Kam pushed his way into the small shop where he worked. The bell jingled overhead.

“Kameron, you’re late!” the harpy who was his boss screeched from behind the front counter. As usual, the place was dirty and the goods covered the shelves with haphazard organization. The sour smell that had appeared early last week had only grown worse overnight.

“Sorry, ma’am,” Kam murmured, ducking his head further as he wended his way through the mishmash stacks of random goods and into the back room. The pawnshop bought and sold everything. Sailors on leave after making the journey down the Great River came to the shop to sell what they could so they would have the funds to drink and carouse in the bars and whorehouses that also populated that part of the docks.

It was Kam’s job to clean and fix those often grimy and broken items so the owner could in turn sell them for profit to a higher quality pawnshop in the northern part of the city. It paid well for the woman, but Kam only saw a few coins a week for his work. As the witchery man he was lucky to have a job, so as much as Kam wished, there was no way he could find better prospects.

Kam worked hard for his pay, and at the end of the day his hands ached, but his quota was met. He left the shop at dusk and hurried home. He couldn’t tarry, because the docks became very dangerous after dark, and since his rent was due, he couldn’t afford to stop for dinner anyway.

He walked up the three flights of rickety stairs to his tiny apartment. It was one room, barely large enough to hold his threadbare bedding and one change of clothes, but it was a place to sleep. He had left one window cracked while he was away so the three cats that had crept in during the previous night could leave if they wished. The family of mice that lived under his floorboards were running about, so Kam was careful where he placed his feet as he walked over to collapse on his blanket.

One of the mice climbed up onto his pillow and gently nuzzled him on the nose. The mouse was hungry, too, and was probably looking for crumbs, but Kam appreciated the meager comfort his small friend could provide. Kam smiled, despite his rumbling stomach, as he slowly fell asleep.

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Meet the Author

When Mell Eight was in high school, she discovered dragons. Beautiful, wondrous creatures that took her on epic adventures both to faraway lands and on journeys of the heart. Mell wanted to create dragons of her own, so she put pen to paper. Mell Eight is now known for her own soaring dragons, as well as for other wonderful characters dancing across the pages of her books. While she mostly writes paranormal or fantasy stories, she has been seen exploring the real world once or twice.

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Release Blitz: If a Butterfly Don’t Fly by Mell Eight #Fantasy #LGBTQ @MellEight @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: If A Butterfly Don’t Fly

Series: Out of Underhill, Book Two

Author: Mell Eight

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 04/05/2021

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 41600

Genre: Fantasy, LGBTQIA+, Fae/faeries, mythical creatures, disabilities, magic, performance arts, security guard, musicians

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Description

Merridy has always loved music but can’t sing. The only job in the music business he can get is as a security guard for the Bard and Sons, a premier record label. He keeps their secrets and patrols their hallways, always wishing for a big break he knows will never come.

Changeling’s Court is a brand new band struggling to record their first single. Merridy chances upon a scrap of their lyrics without accompanying music notes and can’t help composing a simple melody for them. If he’s found out, he’ll probably get fired.

Instead, he finds himself in a strange new world of magic and faeries—and danger.

Excerpt

If A Butterfly Don’t Fly
Mell Eight © 2021
All Rights Reserved

Music was embedded in the very fibers of the building.

Merridy took a deep breath as he stepped out of the stairwell and onto the first floor of practice rooms and felt the remnants of the notes played on instruments and sung into microphones swirling around him. They chimed in his ears and seemed to fill the air with a shine he could almost reach out and touch. Merridy wanted to touch it so badly, but instead, he let out his breath and smoothed down the front of his security guard uniform before reaching for the door handle that led into the first private lounge, which belonged to a soloist named Amaryllis.

As he stepped inside, Merridy saw Amaryllis’s bra hanging from the back of a chair. It was lacy across the tops of the cups, the sort of bra that, if the front of her shirt slipped while she was sweaty from singing onstage under the hot lights, might look like a fancy camisole peeking through.

Normally, Merridy didn’t mind the overnight shift as a security guard at the headquarters of the Bard and Sons. There wasn’t anyone else around as he walked through the halls half lit by security lighting and the ambient light that filtered in through the windows from the parking lot outside. He enjoyed the quiet and the solitude—and the music. He couldn’t sing any of the notes aloud, of course, but he could hear each note in his head as if the musicians were still hard at work. Sometimes he took the notes he heard and wrote them down; he had notebooks full of songs he’d heard, of notes that had twined through his mind, all put down onto the bar lines preprinted on staff paper and filed on his bookshelves at home.

He wasn’t used to running into women’s underwear, though. Today, all he had expected coming in was the rather minor suspense of the new band taking over the lone empty practice room. Any sort of excitement to break up the monotony of walking in circles all night was a relief, and finding out what type of band—pop, rock, country—had moved in would be the highlight of his evening. He wanted to know what the remnants of their music would sound like when he stepped into their empty practice lounge, and if it was as good as he hoped, he was looking forward to buying their soundtrack to hear it firsthand.

Of course, what he really wanted was to be playing in his own band in the light of day, rather than sneaking hints of the sounds of other bands as he walked through each room at night, but he was taking what little he could get and trying to enjoy it as best he could.

He quickly checked the rest of the room to make sure it was completely empty, which included looking behind doors and inside the full wardrobe. Merridy closed the wardrobe doors, took one more look around the cluttered lounge, and hurried back into the hallway.

Merridy unhooked his keys from his belt and made sure the lounge door was firmly locked. Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small pad of organizer tabs, the ones usually used to keep school notes organized. He chose a red tab and yanked it free of the roll before sticking it to the underside of Amaryllis’s nameplate. It would warn anyone arriving in the morning that this door should remain closed and locked until Amaryllis herself came to clean up her mess. Not even the morning custodian was allowed to go in to vacuum.

A bra was fairly innocuous, but given who it belonged to, it would probably sell for big bucks online. Merridy’s simple red tab would keep anyone stupid enough to try—like the sound mixer who had been selling used drumsticks on eBay a few months back—from having the opportunity.

With Amaryllis’s room done, Merridy continued down the hallway to the next door. It opened to reveal one of the two recording studios on the floor. He wasn’t allowed to touch any of the electrical parts, like the blinking lights or the slides on the sound mixer board. He didn’t know what any of the buttons did, and if he inadvertently ruined a project left unfinished overnight, he would be in major trouble.

He walked past the electronics and into the inner studio, where the instruments and the microphones for the singers were located. He could almost hear what the room sounded like when the instruments were playing—guitars riffing, drums pounding, and the simple note of a piano or bass holding it all together. The melodies would soar, reverberating through the room as a singer crooned into the mesh-fronted mic stand. Merridy knew what that sounded like from the dozens of auditions he had tried out for, and he’d reveled in each and every experience, but it didn’t matter how good he was on keys or strings. Once the band found out he couldn’t sing, somehow he was never actually chosen.

The imagined music faded from Merridy’s thoughts as that harsh dose of reality set in. He quickly checked that the inner studio was also empty of people and continued on. He left the studio door as he’d found it: unlocked and tab-free. There wasn’t anything sensitive to hide there.

Merridy checked behind every door—including the janitor’s closet—for trespassers. Very famous, platinum-selling artists used the studio space or kept practice lounges in the building. Rabid fans and competitors alike would kill and bribe for even the slightest glimpse of what Merridy saw every night. Some things Merridy wished he could unsee. Stars were very strange people, and he didn’t envy the custodians who had to clean up after them.

He finished his round of the floor where he had originally started, at the lone staircase in the corner. There was an elevator on the other side, but Merridy had to take the stairs up to the second floor first to ensure they were clear. He input his code into the keypad on the door to tell the other security guard manning the phones and desk in the lobby downstairs that he had finished the floor before heading farther upstairs.

The next two floors were comprised of more studio space. He had to flag one room on the third floor where someone had left a bong and some weed lying on a table next to a guitar.

He headed to the fourth floor, which was an exact replica of the prior two. Merridy walked to the first doorway and popped it open with a grimace. Soul Sound was a hard-rocking, hard-partying band, and their practice studio still sounded like it. The music floating through the air was a little shrieky, with high-pitched runs of the guitar accompanied by deep-throated screaming into the microphone. There were plenty of people who liked screamer rock, but Merridy just couldn’t find enough of the melody floating through his mind to enjoy it himself. He tried not to listen for as long as he could manage while he flipped open doors and checked behind furniture.

The job of a security guard was boring and monotonous, and often weird. This first walkthrough of all the rooms was the most interesting part of his night, because he never knew just what he would find behind each closed door. After the surprise was gone, the hours slowly trickled by until the sun rose. The daytime security guards, who only had to sit at the desk in the lobby unless an issue occurred upstairs, would arrive, and Merridy could go home to sleep.

He swept all the rooms on the floor like usual, luckily not seeing anything too startling, until he reached the final door. The nameplate he was used to was gone, and the blank rectangle of wall where it used to be was slightly darker than the paint around it. It had been carefully removed; the holes for the screws didn’t look torn or destroyed. Merridy turned and opened the studio door.

The furniture was different, too, as were the instruments scattered across the room. Antiquities and Wine—the country band that the space belonged to—had needed banjo stands, but those were now replaced by an upright piano. A leather jacket, another thing that didn’t fit with Antiquities and Wine’s chosen image, had been carelessly left across the back of the new couch.

Antiquities and Wine had moved to new studio space recently built farther south, Merridy remembered suddenly. That tidbit of information had gone out in the company’s weekly internal email bulletin. A new band had already taken the space. Merridy wondered who they were. The space felt quiet, almost anticipatory, as the old notes in the air faded without Antiquities and Wine there to renew them. The new band hadn’t yet begun to fill the space with their own sound.

He walked farther into the room, seeing four guitars—a bass, two electric, and one acoustic—on stands and a drum snare on top of the new piano. They were probably a pop-rock or rock band. In the back of the room, near the private bathroom, was a desk strewn with staff paper. Many of the sheets had been crumpled into balls and tossed aside. The ones still flat on the desk had dozens of cross-outs, some lines excessively crossed, the pen having cut deep.

Songwriting obviously wasn’t going too well for the new band.

Well. Either they’d figure it out, or they’d get out. That was the way the business worked. They had been given their chance with the nice studio. If the band blew it, too bad. It was more of a chance than Merridy had ever had. He sighed and resolutely pushed his jealousy away before heading into the bathroom to double-check it was empty. Merridy had a good job. Just because he wanted to switch places with someone in the new band wasn’t reason enough to let resentment simmer and ruin his night. The sink, toilet, and glassed-in shower stall hid no one, so he turned to head back out.

There was one piece of regular lined paper on the desk next to the bathroom door that wasn’t crumpled or covered in pencil scratches. Merridy couldn’t help stopping to read the four simple lines handwritten there.

In my dreams, I know you see me,

And in my hopes, you’ll hold my hand.

Reality hits, so does the truth:

You and me will never be we.

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NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

When Mell Eight was in high school, she discovered dragons. Beautiful, wondrous creatures that took her on epic adventures both to faraway lands and on journeys of the heart. Mell wanted to create dragons of her own, so she put pen to paper. Mell Eight is now known for her own soaring dragons, as well as for other wonderful characters dancing across the pages of her books. While she mostly writes paranormal or fantasy stories, she has been seen exploring the real world once or twice.

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Release Blitz: Witch, Catch, and Cobb by J.K. Pendragon #LGBTQ #Fantasy @JKPendragon

Title: Witch, Cat, and Cobb

Author: J.K. Pendragon

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: December 14, 2020

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 21700

Genre: Fantasy, LGBTQIA+, Fae/fey/fairies/faeries, Fairy tales, Humorous, Magic/ Magic users, Mythical creatures, Witch, Arranged marriage, Royalty, Transgender, Transspecies, #ownvoices

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Synopsis

Destined for an arranged marriage she wants nothing to do with, Princess Breanwynne decides her only option for escape is to run away. After announcing this plan to her trusted cat, Fen, she’s shocked when he asks that she take him along.

Following his suggestion to venture into the lair of the Swamp Witch begins a life-altering adventure and reveals shocking information that will lead to more than one happily ever after—if she and Fen survive.

Excerpt

Witch, Cat, and Cobb
J.K. Pendragon © 2020
All Rights Reserved

I was not accustomed to swamps.

I had been warned about the dangers of swamps, of course, as all children were, and knew the likelihood of traversing the swamp without grave peril befalling me was dismally low. But somehow, in the course of plotting my grand escape, I hadn’t given that fact as much thought as I should have. And to pay for it, I was knee-deep in muck with a cat’s claws digging painfully into my shoulders.

“Don’t make any sudden movements!” said Fen, digging his claws even deeper into my shoulder until I was certain he had latched onto my bone. “It’ll only make it worse.”

“Make it worse?” I screeched at him. “How could this possibly be worse?”

Fen released his front claws from my neck and placed them gently on my head, “I’ve heard about this sort of ground. If I’m right, it’ll be a few hours before it’s swallowed you whole. Whoops!” He had jumped up onto my head, his back legs scrambling over my ear and causing me to shout in pain as his claws grazed me.

“Ouch!”

“Shh, I’m balancing.” He turned delicately on my head and crouched, wiggling his backside for good measure. “Anyway, you don’t know what sort of creatures you’re likely to attract, making so much noise.” He jumped, shoving me deeper into the muck as he did so, and caught a branch, scrambling up and then perching deftly to look down at me. His normally tawny fur was black in silhouette against the full moon, his eyes a green glint in the otherwise dark swamp.

“I should never have trusted you,” I said, glaring up at him. “You’ve led me to my death!”

“I haven’t!” called Fen, sounding offended. “Anyway, you agreed the swamp was the best choice because no one would come looking for us!”

“And no one will find us even if they do!” I squeaked.

“Hush.” Fen took a step forward, and the tree shifted as he arched his back, swaths of witch’s hair dipped into the muck next to me. He took another step forward, and the branch swayed and bowed downwards. “There, see? Grab that.”

I did so, tangling my fingers in the greasy mats. My shoulders shook as I pulled hand over hand to drag the lower half of my body out of the muck. I was glad I had thought to change into my riding breeches before leaving the castle. Fen made a very un-catlike screech and raced up the tree as it buckled further under my weight.

At last I managed to pull myself up and crawl over to where I hoped the ground was more solid. I let go, falling to the forest floor with a whump and sat, collecting myself. Fen landed lightly on my shoulder, and I hissed at him, causing him to scuttle away and behind the tree.

“Don’t do that,” he said presently, his voice muffled by the leaves and bracken. “Show some gratitude.”

“Right,” I said, standing and attempting to brush myself off as best I could. I was also not accustomed to being quite so dirty. “Thank you for saving me from the peril you yourself put me in.”

“You are the one who wanted to run away, Princess, if I might remind you.” Fen emerged from behind the tree and trotted up to me, jumping deftly back onto my shoulder. “I simply agreed to help you out.”

“You think I don’t know that you’ve got some sort of ulterior motive?” I asked him as I began to walk again, keeping a wary eye out for more of the muck I’d sunken into.

“What ulterior motive could I possibly have?” said Fen. “I’m a cat.”

“A talking cat, I might add. Who waited for how many years, twenty? To decide to reveal that fact to me, and not until I had mentioned I might be thinking of running away to the swamp. Why?”

“I liked the sound of it.”

“You liked the sound of this?” I gestured to the seething wet darkness around us and stopped walking. “No, tell me immediately.”

“Hmph,” said Fen. “If you must know, I’m not really a cat.”

“Fen, I’ve been undressed in front of you!”

“Oh, don’t be so full of yourself, Princess.”

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Meet the Author

J.K. Pendragon is a Canadian author with a love of all things romantic and fantastical. They first came to the queer fiction community through m/m romance, but soon began to branch off into writing all kinds of queer fiction. As a bisexual and genderqueer person, J.K. is dedicated to producing diverse, entertaining fiction that showcases characters across the rainbow spectrum, and provides queer characters with the happy endings they are so often denied.

J.K. currently resides in British Columbia, Canada with a boyfriend, a cat, and a large collection of artisanal teas that they really need to get around to drinking. They are always happy to chat, and can be reached at jes.k.pendragon@gmail.com.

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Release Blitz: Daughter of the Moon by Effie Calvin #Fantasy #LGBTQ @effiecalvin

Title: Daughter of the Moon

Series: Tales of Inthya, Book Five

Author: Effie Calvin

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: November 9, 2020

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 75500

Genre: Fantasy, LGBTQIA+, Mythical creatures, shifters, trans, royalty, war mongering, exile, gods, magic, student

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Synopsis

Four months ago, Netheia Isinthi failed to take her father’s throne from her older sister. After refusing to publicly support the new empress, she is banished to Ieflaria’s capital city, Birsgen, where she anticipates a long and uneventful exile.

Klavida of Nalova is a student at the university established by Princess Esofi for the study of magic. She has come from the far north researching Talcia’s creatures—or so she claims. After a chance meeting brings the two together, Klavida wants nothing to do with the angry, ill-mannered princess. But when Netheia offers Klavida access to the royal library, Klavida decides she can tolerate her after all.

As they spend time together, Klavida realizes that Netheia is intensely lonely and has never known genuine friendship. She becomes determined to show her that there is more to life than the pursuit of power and that a peaceful life of freedom can be more satisfying than ruling an empire.

But Netheia’s patron goddess is not ready to accept that she has lost the Xytan Empire—and neither are Netheia’s most ardent supporters.

Excerpt

Daughter of the Moon
Effie Calvin © 2020
All Rights Reserved

NETHEIA

Netheia Isinthi supposed things could be worse.

She could have spent the last three months in a prison cell rather than her own familiar rooms. She could be dressed in rags and manacles instead of a silk dress. She could be awaiting the headman’s axe instead of a meeting with the newly crowned empress.

Outside the door stood four guards—too many for Netheia to fight, no matter how her blood sang at the thought of a challenge. To make matters worse, all her weapons had been removed from the room, even the well-hidden ones.

Ioanna had always been good at finding hidden things.

Netheia paced the room from end to end. Outside, rain fell softly, and a thin layer of silver mist blanketed the palace grounds. If she looked out the window, she could see more guards posted below.

All the guards assigned to her were strangers, obviously hired on to replace those loyal to her. She wondered what had happened to them. Execution seemed unlikely, given Netheia still lived.

Nobody tried to contact her, including her own mother. Perhaps she was similarly confined, but probably not. Most likely Enessa didn’t want to be seen associating with Netheia anymore—once the favored daughter, now a failure, a traitor.

What would her father say if he could see them all now?

Netheia spent most of her time exercising until she couldn’t move, finding the burn in her muscles familiar and reassuring. She examined her arms and legs every day, terrified the long confinement was destroying her body. What would everyone say if she emerged from her room as thin as Ioanna? They might even stop supporting her—for surely they still supported her? They were only biding their time, wise enough to not stand openly against the new empress now that the Order of the Sun was here to be her own personal army.

Nobody answered her prayers anymore.

Netheia swallowed and tried to push that thought away. She ought to be grateful for the respite, but instead found herself fantasizing about ways to win her patron goddess back, to prove her worthiness.

The door opened, and Netheia turned to face the guards standing there.

“The empress will see you now,” one said.

Her fantasies often began this way, and always ended with Ioanna dead on the floor in front of her. In those fantasies, Netheia tore through the guards like they were made of parchment paper, and Ioanna put up less resistance than a rabbit might. But as she observed the guards now, she realized nothing would play out like in her imaginings. They would be on her as soon as the faintest glimmer of rust-red magic appeared at her hands.

Netheia’s stomach churned, but she refused to allow them to see her distress. She lifted her chin and strode past them out of the room.

*

Ioanna Isinthi, firstborn daughter of Emperor Ionnes, sat on the carved marble throne that should have been Netheia’s. She wore a beautifully embroidered crimson-and-violet gown and a heavy golden crown on her head. Netheia had not been asked to attend the coronation, but the noise from the celebrations afterward had reached her rooms.

On either side of the throne stood two paladins from the Order of the Sun, a man and a woman. The woman was some foreigner of no importance, but the man was Knight-Commander Livius. He had been exiled from Xytae about fifteen years ago, along with the rest of the Order of the Sun, after their refusal to fight in the emperor’s wars. After his death, the Order quickly reemerged to support Ioanna—almost too quickly. Netheia suspected her sister had been in contact with them long before their father’s death.

“We have discussed the matter.” Ioanna glanced over at the knight-commander. “And we have decided to be lenient. You were led astray by the priestesses of Reygmadra.”

Netheia wanted to object, but Ioanna went on.

“Your actions have cost the empire valuable resources, and you nearly plunged us all into a civil war. But if you agree to help undo the damage you have caused to our nation, I will be lenient. All I ask is you give me your support, publicly. Our people must know we stand together. Will you do this for me?”

“Yes,” said Netheia.

Ioanna’s face fell. “You’re lying.” She sounded exactly like a disappointed child. “Netheia—”

“Well, what did you expect?” snapped Netheia. “You think I’m going to sit back and watch you undo everything our father accomplished? You think I’m going to tell our people I’m proud of you for spitting on our family legacy? That I don’t know how weak you are?”

“I was strong enough to defeat you,” said Ioanna.

Netheia found herself with no retort.

“Netheia, I didn’t want to do this, but you’ve left me no choice. I am sending you to Birsgen.”

“What?” cried Netheia, shock momentarily replacing rage. They were sending her out of the country?

“Do not argue. It is only a temporary exile. You will remain there until Xytae is stable again. As long as you conduct yourself appropriately, the Ieflarians will treat you as a guest, not a prisoner. Your movements will only be minimally restricted, and you will receive a stipend to live on. Do not throw away this gift, Netheia. We both know your sentence ought to be much harsher.”

Ioanna paused, apparently wanting to give her sister the opportunity to speak. But Netheia had no words for her.

“Perhaps this is foolish, but I hope that when you return, you will be more amicable to an alliance. I do not wish for us to be enemies all our lives. I know you are not ready to think of such a thing yet, but I would like you to reflect on it while you are away.”

Netheia continued to stand in stoic silence. Ioanna rubbed at her forehead with one thin, pale hand. Netheia hoped their father’s generals were making her life miserable. The thought cheered her when she remembered how the army had been ordered to withdraw from Masim, undoing decades of progress in a matter of days.

But really, Netheia had no idea what happened outside her private rooms. None of her friends were allowed to visit her, nor the priestesses of Reygmadra that had been her most powerful allies in the weeks after her father’s death, including Archpriestess Seia herself. She could only rely on what tiny details she managed to press out of the servants delivering her meals and whatever gossip she overheard from behind her door.

At least, she hoped her friends were not allowed to visit her. What if they were deliberately distancing themselves? Netheia shoved the thought away, refusing to even consider the idea.

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Meet the Author

Effie is definitely a human being with all her own skin, and not a robot. She writes science fiction and fantasy novels and lives with her cat in the greater Philadelphia area.

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Book Blitz: Winter Masquerade by Kevin Klehr #fantasy #GayRomance

Title:  Winter Masquerade

Author: Kevin Klehr

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: January 20, 2020

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 32800

Genre: Fantasy, LGBT, Romance, fantasy, gay, party, musicians, mythical creatures, trial, judge, alternative universe

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Synopsis

Ferris wakes on the Sea Queen, an enchanted cruise ship sailing on a chocolate sea. He has no idea how he got here, but he desperately wants to go home to his boyfriend.

The alchemist is the only person who can help Ferris, but he’s been kidnapped. The ransom is high tea with scones and jam.

Meanwhile, the passengers are gearing up for the Winter Masquerade, a ball where love and magic reign.

With a murderous musician, an absent boyfriend, and a mystical party, Ferris soon learns that Wednesday is not the day to fall in love.

 

Excerpt

Winter Masquerade

Kevin Klehr © 2020

All Rights Reserved

 

Pitch black. Then candlelight. One lonely flame lit the face of a plump-faced man in a robe.

“How did I get here?” I asked.

“That’s not important right now,” the monk replied. “It’s where you’re going.” He reached for a journal, which sat on the stool to his right, and set the candle in its place. He flipped several pages and held it to the flame. “Are you fond of voyages?”

I shook like nervous prey. “I really need to know how I got here.”

“You’re a troubled man in need of rest and recreation. And a healthy dose of self-reflection.”

“But—”

“I wish you’d stop asking questions. You’ve never bothered listening to those who’ve responded.”

Harmonious chants filled the silence. These men’s voices calmed me, even though a dozen questions still needed answering.

Another light appeared coming from a round window. I shuffled toward it. There I was in the dark on the other side. I lay sleeping.

 

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

 

Meet the Author

Kevin lives with his husband, Warren, in their humble apartment (affectionately named Sabrina), in Australia’s own ‘Emerald City,’ Sydney.

His tall tales explore unrequited love in the theatre district of the Afterlife, romance between a dreamer and a realist, and a dystopian city addicted to social media.

His first novel, Drama Queens with Love Scenes, spawned a secondary character named Guy. Many readers argue that Guy, the insecure gay angel, is the star of the Actors and Angels book series. His popularity surprised the author. The third in this series, Drama Queens and Devilish Schemes, scored a Rainbow Award (judged by fans of queer fiction) for Best Gay Alternative Universe/Reality novel.

So, with his fictional guardian angel guiding him, Kevin hopes to bring more whimsical tales of love, life and friendship to his readers.

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Giveaway –

One lucky winner will receive a $10.00 NineStar Press Gift Code!

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