Release Blitz: Foxfire in the Snow by J.S. Fields #LGBTQ #Fantasy @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing @Galactoglucoman

Title: Foxfire in the Snow

Series: The Alchemical Duology, Book One

Author: J.S. Fields

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 07/19/2021

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: F/NB

Length: 88800

Genre: Fantasy, LGBTQIA+, fantasy, dark fantasy, nonbinary, lesfic, science magic, magic users, witches, sword and sorcery, long-time friendship, family drama

Add to Goodreads

Description

Woodcutter or witch? Alchemist or scientist? Can Sorin’s duality save their nation?

Born the heir of a master woodcutter in a queendom defined by guilds and matrilineal inheritance, nonbinary Sorin can’t quite seem to find their place. At seventeen, an opportunity to attend an alchemical guild fair and secure an apprenticeship with the queen’s alchemist is just within reach. But on the day of the fair, Sorin’s mother goes missing, along with the Queen and hundreds of guild masters, forcing Sorin into a woodcutting inheritance they never wanted.

With guild legacy at stake, Sorin puts apprentice dreams on hold to embark on a journey with the royal daughter to find their mothers and stop the hemorrhaging of guild masters. Princess Magda, an estranged childhood friend, tests Sorin’s patience—and boundaries. But it’s not just a princess that stands between Sorin and their goals. To save the country of Sorpsi, Sorin must define their place between magic and alchemy or risk losing Sorpsi to rising industrialization and a dark magic that will destroy Sorin’s chance to choose their own future.

Excerpt

Foxfire in the Snow
J.S. Fields © 2021
All Rights Reserved

One: Fire
Steam twirled from the bones in my cauldron. The heavy smell of their marrow sagged in the air. Gods, I hated the smell of the solvent, but it would be worth it once the bone oil evaporated, taking that horrible dead fish smell with it and leaving behind the final, extracted compound. I’d never get the smell out of the woodwork, but at this point, I didn’t care. Mother was weeks late returning home. Again. She could yell at me when I returned. If I returned.

I coughed into the steam as it curled through my lungs. I needed fresh air, and soon, or I’d end up facedown on the hemlock floor I’d hewn and laid myself in my thirteenth year. A knot curled inside me, and I swallowed bile and frustration. Fine. I’d be done with distillation for the day, but I still needed to perform a fungal extraction with the solvent to impress Master Rahad at the fair tomorrow. I’d been aiming to attend the alchemical guild fair since I turned twelve—the year I should have declared a guild and begun my apprenticeship. I’d never made it. Each year, Mother found another marquetry to work, another finish to make, another tool to sharpen. This year, I was seventeen. I’d barely left this forest, this house, in five years. This year, the queen’s master alchemist had a position open and wanted someone with fungal expertise.

Someone like me.

This year, I was going.

I removed the thin olive branch from my collection basket that would earn me my apprenticeship, despite my older age and guild lineage. The branch shone mottled blue green, almost a lime color in patches, with a blue as dark as evening sky in others. Along a four-centimeter band sprouted cup-shaped fungal fruiting forms, tiny enough to be overlooked by untrained eyes. With a pair of tweezers, I plucked the blue-green cups from the branch and dropped them into a second pot of the very combustible bone oil distillate. The smell of dead fish rose up and stung my eyes, but I couldn’t look away.

As each cup sank, the color seeped from them into the solvent and expanded outward in concentric rings. The pigment slowly dropped down until the liquid looked like the deep blue of Thuja’s lake. I held my breath as the fruits bubbled back to the surface. The first turned white, the second turned white, and the third and fourth—white as well. I waited, still hardly daring to breathe. One minute, then two. Please…

The solution’s color remained stable.

I dropped my head back and exhaled at the ceiling. The trickiest part was over, and if the solution set well, it would be ready by morning. Success! I carried the extract to the windowsill, opened the pane, and began the evaporation process. Tomorrow…tomorrow would be a wonderful day. A defining day. Tomorrow, I would leave the woodcutting guild and finally, finally, get to be an alchemist! A guilded alchemist! I would not spend the rest of my life bound to this wooden house, with its wooden tools, stuck within this simplistic, wooden trade any longer.

Three loud raps sounded on the front door. Visitors? At this hour? They were in for a rude surprise, the idiots. If they were here for me, it was because the villagers had a clear misunderstanding of what alchemy entailed. I had no potions to offer them. Cauldrons and a stinking house didn’t put me in the witch guild, despite the villagers’ insistence to the contrary, and even if I had been a witch, I still would not have been party to their foolish fascination with magic.

However, if the visitors were here for Mother and her marquetry business, they’d leave disappointed. She had neglected to finish several large commissions before her abrupt departure. Contracts were coming due that I would not fulfill, and her clients didn’t tolerated delays well. Mother took these walkabouts yearly, but she usually returned before the fair. This time, she was overdue.

I pulled at the door handle and lifted, and the thick wood glided open. A breeze came in first and blew mist right in my face. Behind the damp stood two men, squinting at me from the doorstep. They were Queensguard, both of them, dressed in the signature fitted red cloaks, though the waterproofing layers had worn off some hours ago. Both were mud-covered and had sodden pants and boots. They were sloppy, for Queensguard, and they were overdue. Mother had finished the queen’s commissioned piece just before she left, and it had yet to be collected.

The taller guard moved to step into the house, flipping a layer of long, wet hair over his shoulder with a splat. The smell must have hit him right then, as he stepped back into his partner and kept going for three steps. The shorter guard stumbled into Mother’s blackberry bush and had to rip himself free of the thorns. The taller sneezed, then spat, and then sneezed again.

For Queensguard, I was decidedly unimpressed.

“What sort of witchery is that!?” he demanded, coming no closer. “Where’s the woodcutter?”

I frowned and crossed my arms, careful not to crush any of the pouches of fungal pigment that dangled from my leather bandolier.

“No witchery,” I responded coolly. “I made bone oil. I discovered it. It’s a type of alchemy. I’m not guilded yet, but I have a trader’s permit.” Which I did, in the back room, but I’d be hard-pressed to find it under all of Mother’s unsharpened tools.

The tall one glared and rubbed at his nose.

The short guard stepped to the doorframe, bit back a grimace, and tried to restart the conversation. “Apologies for the hour. We’re looking for—”

“She’s not here.” I cut him off, hoping to forestall awkward questions I couldn’t answer. “She left under the last full moon, for professional obligations. It is unknown when she will return. I apologize.”

“Are you her daughter then?” the short one asked.

My stomach twisted. I was no one’s daughter, and that word would stick in my chest for days. It would squirm there, under bindings and layers of clothes, and make me second-guess myself at the fair with every introduction and every awkward stare at my body. In that moment, I hated them, these two men, so sure of their position despite the mud and the hour. Daughter. No. I had never been one and had no intention of starting now.

“Sorin the…”

“The alchemist,” I finished for him.

“I am her heir,” I said through gritted teeth when neither responded. “I have the queen’s last commission. Will you be taking it tonight?”

The men exchanged a glance, but neither answered. The second man sneezed, sending a spray of water across the threshold. I rubbed my palm on my forehead. If they were going to get the house dirty just by being outside, it made no sense for them to stay there. Bones were one thing; mud was just unprofessional. I stepped back and gestured to the small brown oak dining table—the one with the white streak down it where I’d first discovered what the refined, clear parts of bone oil could do to fungal pigments—and grabbed my cloak from the wall.

“Sit,” I said as I fastened the oblong buttons at the neck of the cloak. The men moved in with heavy steps, which grew increasingly hesitant as the fish smell concentrated. They sat and stared at me with disgusted, pained expressions as mud dripped from their boots onto that stupid handmade floor. I’d have to refinish it now.

I didn’t bother speaking again.

Daughter.

Let them sit in the bone oil stink, pooled in their own mud. I turned and left the house, heading to Mother’s woodshop. My feet crunched along the woodchip path, the ground cover damp but still springy. I tried to let the smells of the forest—especially the earthen smell of fungal decay—take my mind away from the word I so hated.

The men had parked their cart, and their ox, near the door to the longhouse Mother used for her shop, but I could still maneuver around it. The sun had already set, but moonlight streaked through the needled canopy of conifers and across my path. Ten short steps brought me to the double doors made from cedar plank. I stripped the padlock from the right door, the one that had been fastened since Mother’s departure, and entered.

I’d not been inside the shop for a month, and the smell of cedar and wood rot reminded me why. Here were my mother’s heart and legacy, as her father’s before her, and her grandmother’s before that. The whole place felt tattered and used and smelled worse than the bone oil.

In the back, near an old leather chair, was where her mother had been born some eighty years ago. To my right, just in front of a treadle lathe, was where my grandfather had died.

Mother had birthed her children here too—myself and the son she gave to another guild for an apprenticeship, and taken none of their children in return.

The whole building was familiar, like an old wool blanket, but scratchy just the same. This was a legacy of guild woodcutting, and the queen’s mandate of matrilineal inheritance, and I didn’t belong here. A woodcutter was not who I was, a daughter was not who I was, and while the former hurt less than the latter, both made me want to pull at my skin and scream.

Mercifully, the commissioned panel was right where I had last seen it. It was complete, save for a finish. An oilcloth lay on the floor near the door, already coated with paraffin. I picked it up and draped it over the panel, taking one last look at the cut veneer so expertly placed and dyed in the shape of a parrot on a branch.

The parrot’s feathers and the leaves of the branch were blue green. That was my contribution. There were no pigments, natural or otherwise, that could make that color save the elf’s cup fungus. The queen’s order had specified a parrot, in real colors.

She’d asked the impossible of my mother: we had delivered. I had delivered. Pigmenting fungi and their use in woodcraft was a trade secret of the woodcutter’s guild, but the ability to take those pigments from the wood and use them for other purposes—the solvent that entailed—that was mine alone.

With the cloth wrapped around the panel, I hauled the piece back to the house and propped it against the door. The Queensguard had tried to close it, but it had snagged halfway when the bottom of the door caught the ground below. The wood had swelled, as in any wet season, a common problem in the temperate rainforests of Thuja as well as the tropical ones of Sorpsi’s capital. Yet, they’d not even reasoned through simply lifting the door up as they pulled it closed. What was wrong with these men? Queensguard should have been much better educated than this. They should have known about the door, and the forest, and how to address me. Trekking from the village of Thuja to Mother’s house, at night, in the forest mist could addle anyone’s mind, but these two… I wiped mist from my nose and frowned. They weren’t quite right, and I didn’t care for that feeling in my own home, with no one else about. Giving them the panel was the quickest way to get them to leave.

I pushed the door back open, lifting as I did so, and propped the panel against it so it couldn’t swing shut again. The cool, damp air would help fumigate the house and would keep the bone oil from combusting as it dried.

“It’s here and ready.” I pulled enough of the cloth off so the two guards could see the detailed work underneath. It was best to get them on their way, whomever they were. Mother could chase the panel down later if needed. I was done with babysitting her business and hiding away in her house—hiding from the Thujan villagers, hiding from the capital city, hiding from my life.

The Queensguard, however, no longer seemed interested in the panel or me. The idiots had reached into the extract and removed my bones. They’d pieced parts of a skeleton back together—a primate, of course. Two small hands, a foot, and half the skull were laid out across the floor as if alive. The smaller guard, hunched over his bone puzzle with his comrade, had shoved his hands into the bone oil and now had the puffed cheeks and grayness of one about to vomit.

“That’s none of your business,” I grumbled. “And I’d appreciate it if you didn’t mess my floor.”

Gods, why did people have to be so nosy?

“Smells of fish, but these are no fish bones,” the shorter guard said. He held up a piece of a hand and bobbed on his haunches as he turned to look at me. “Explain.”

“It’s a monkey,” I said flatly.

“Which you used for your witchcraft?” said the other as he, too, turned around. “Expansive knowledge here, of magic. This dwelling isn’t licensed for that type of activity, and you don’t bear the witch guild mark.” His tone was more curious than accusatory, but I didn’t care.

“I’m currently a trade alchemist,” I repeated again, as if talking to a particularly stupid villager. “Which we are licensed for because, otherwise, we couldn’t protect any of the wood. How do you think wood finishes are made?” When the guards continued with their stares, I looked to the ceiling and grunted. “Just take the panel. Go. Don’t get it too wet, and make sure the court carpenter lets it sit for a few weeks before coating it. If you really want paperwork, I can have a copy of the permit for trade work delivered to the Queensguard hall tomorrow.”

“I don’t think so.” The guards stood and kicked at the bone pile. Neither one had looked at the panel yet. The hair on my arms rose. That was a fourteen-hundred-stone commission, lying against the door, open to the elements! That was more than the entire town of Thuja made in one year.

They hadn’t come from the palace; that was now abundantly clear.

I took a step toward the door, making sure to keep my growing unease from showing on my face. Knife in the boot, I reminded myself, for I’d been out foraging this morning and had not yet removed it. People aren’t so different than monkeys. Of course, I had never killed any of the animals I used for bone oil, but then again, none of them had ever called me a daughter either.

“What guild did you say you belonged to?” the tall one asked as he eyed my throat. I brought my hands up to cover the unadorned skin and flushed with embarrassment. I didn’t need a reminder of my failure to declare to my Mother’s guild, or any other, for that matter.

“I’m unguilded,” I muttered, unable to meet the man’s eyes. Anyone could be a trader, but to join a guild you had to first be an apprentice, and I had no formal education. “Since you’re not Queensguard, why are you here?” And why pretend, especially if you’re not going to steal the panel?

The man snorted. “The grandmaster of witchcraft asked to meet with the master woodcutter. I don’t want to return empty-handed, so our girl alchemist might make a reasonable substitute, guilded or not.”

I dropped my hands to my sides and raked my fingernails over my pants. There shouldn’t have been a grandmaster of witchcraft because the unbound guilds—witches and alchemists—weren’t beholden to any of the three countries and therefore couldn’t set up a guildhall. But that didn’t matter right now because my skin was too tight, all of a sudden. I gripped fistfuls of cloth to steady myself, to keep my hands busy so they wouldn’t find the skin of my arms. I snarled at the men, though tears collected in my eyes. Girl. Daughter. They burned as deeply as the smell of the bone oil. As interesting as the grandmaster of witchcraft might be, I didn’t care anymore about anything these men had to say.

“Get out,” I hissed. I marched to the door; I would throw them out if I had to. But the shorter guard grabbed me by the wrist before I reached the threshold.

“No!” I pulled back, turning to slap him, and just as I spun around, he let go.

Laughter chased after me as I stumbled and caught my ankle on the doorjamb. My equilibrium was off from the bone oil fumes, and I hit the ground, elbow first. Now I too was slicked with mud and wet wood shavings, which kept my feet from finding purchase as I tried to stand and face the demeaning laughter. The tears I was determined not to shed burned my eyes.

Before I could get my feet under me, thick fingers dug into my arms and I was hauled up and dragged forward. Their hands were wide, and their arms much stronger than my own, and when I pulled, their grips tightened. The mist was thick in my mouth as I sucked in gasps of air, trying to kick or somehow injure the men who held me.

“I’m not worth anything. The only thing of value is that panel!” I yelled.

“A master woodcutter would be worth more than a confused imitation,” the taller one said. “We’ll work with what we have.”

“I am not a woodcutter!”

We were at the cart now, and when the shorter man reached past my head to grab a rope that hung over the side, I bit his hand, separating flesh. The not-guard screamed and dropped my right arm. Blood splattered across my front as he flailed. The tall one tried to grab my wrist, but I fell to my knees, grabbed him between the legs, twisted, and pulled.

He collapsed, howling, and I skittered back toward the house.

“Leave!” I screamed at them. These things weren’t supposed to happen at Mother’s house. Wasn’t that why I was always here—to avoid this? What was the point of giving up apprenticeships, friendships, if I was going to be accosted in my own home?

The tall one gasped and grabbed me by the front of my shirt just before I cleared the cart. I wrapped my fingers around his and tried to pull free, but he slapped me across the face and, for a moment, I couldn’t see. I babbled instead.

“I have money,” I said. “In the house. I have wood species from across the world worth double their weight in stones.” I have solvents I could melt you with if you’d just come back inside.

“We will have Amada the master woodcutter,” the short one said with a gap-toothed grin. “She’ll come for you, if nothing else, seeing as how well she’s kept you to herself all these years.” He grabbed my legs and, with the taller one, dumped me into the cart. The taller man secured my ankles to iron weights anchored to the cart bed, punched me in the stomach, and left me to lie, staring dumbly at the canopy overhead as he went to assist his partner. Mother would come for me, certainly, but it was the other part of the man’s words that clouded my thoughts.

The cart began to move, jostling over the uneven forest floor. As I tried to regain my breath, my mind jumped, irrationally, back to the house.

“You forgot the panel!” I wheezed over the noise of the grunting ox and snapping branches. To leave it seemed like a stupid waste, even if they had no interest in it themselves. It’d taken us two years to make that thing, Mother and I. Someone should have it, even if just ignorant kidnappers. It was worth more than my life, certainly. I had no guild mark, no formal apprenticeship, no friends to come looking for me, and an undocumented journey-woodcutter was worth only as much as their master was willing to pay. They were going to be very disgruntled when Mother did not appear. And if they found her…gods, if they found her… What did witches want with a woodcutter?

I had my breath back, so I sat up and leaned over the side of the cart. Even with the moonlight, it was too dark to see more than outlines, but I could just make out the taller one breaking away and moving back toward Mother’s house.

Panic gave way to puzzlement as he entered. Had they changed their minds about the panel? I squinted into the night. Was he moving the panel then, or going past it? I’d not yet lit any oil lamps for fear of combustion during the extraction, and so the spark from the guard’s flint burned my eyes. Something caught in the guard’s hand—perhaps a ribbon of paper or a sheet of Mother’s veneer. Whatever it was, the man tossed it inside the house.

“No!”

I screamed it, I think. My throat hurt, either way. The guard jogged back to the cart, and I screamed again, nonsensically. The idiot. The absolute uneducated toadstool. If he didn’t quicken his pace, if we didn’t—

Mother’s house exploded.

Purchase at NineStar Press

Meet the Author

J.S. Fields is a scientist who has perhaps spent too much time around organic solvents. They enjoy roller derby, woodturning, making chain mail by hand, and cultivating fungi in the backs of minivans. Nonbinary, and always up for a Twitter chat.

Website | Twitter

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Blog Button 2

Release Blitz: Long Night at Lake Never by Eric David Roman #LGBTQ #horror @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Long Night at Lake Never

Author: Eric David Roman

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 07/12/2021

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 50100

Genre: Contemporary Horror, LGBTQIA+, horror, horror fiction, queer horror, queer lit, lgbt horror, gay horror, gay lit, dark horror, revenge, slasher, scary, supernatural, camp horror

Add to Goodreads

Description

Welcome to Camp Horizons, where they pray all day…and get slayed all night!

Nestled against scenic Lake Never, recently outed Tyler Wills has arrived at the secluded conversion camp, where the delusional staff of counselors believes he and his fellow camper’s queer affliction can be healed solely through the power of prayer.

After a full day spent rallying against sadistic deprogramming therapies, the deranged camp director, and planning his escape, Tyler discovers a larger problem—a mysterious stranger has rolled into camp with a grudge to settle and a very sharp axe.

When night falls, the terror and body count rise. And Tyler, along with his fellow campers, find themselves trapped between a brutal, unrelenting killer and their holier-than-thou prey as they desperately search for a way to survive the Long Night at Lake Never.

Excerpt

Long Night at Lake Never
Eric David Roman © 2021
All Rights Reserved

God Hates Faggs

Tyler Wills had not gazed out the car’s window for a solid hour, but when he finally did, those three words angrily mocked him. Each word with its own crudely hand-painted sign, and each one staked in the ground along the roadside. The message, along with the overall cheap tackiness of the signs, churned his stomach.

And they couldn’t even spell it right. Assholes.

After tilting his head back, he nestled against the leather headrest of his father’s Mercedes and rolled his eyes, thinking about life and its accompanying bullshit. How much he wanted to be free—eighteen was ten months away. How much easier everything would be once on his own. Life, his way.

A glance out the window and another sign met his eyes, this one reflective green. It announced they were twenty-five miles from their destination: Camp Horizons. The crude signs, which at first appeared random, now made more sense. Tyler could have groaned or sighed loudly, but no one cared or listened. His parents remained silent the entire three-hour trip, and no noises Ty made were going to change that fact in the last thirty minutes. No radio. No small talk. Only the car’s interior noises, their collective breathing, and the curt driving directions of the British-voiced GPS.

Nadine Wills sat stone-faced and stared out the windshield, only letting the occasional sniffle escape her nose to show she was still alive. Tyler expected a ride filled with screaming and admonishments against his character, but instead, he got the Wills silent treatment. In the two weeks since the night Tyler was brought home by the police, she hadn’t acknowledged him once. She did not listen to him that night either. Once the door opened and she saw Ty there looking small and pitiful with the bulky police officer behind him, she slapped his face and demanded he go to his room. He didn’t, remaining hidden on the stairwell, giggling to himself, as the cop explained to his parents their seventeen-year-old son had been caught in the park giving, as the officer described, “vigorous oral sex.” He emphasized the word vigorous multiple times, either driving home the point he’d witnessed the offensive act, or to show how impressed he’d been by the skills displayed but remained obligated to uphold the law.

Tyler lamented life was not more like porn. If his had been, the cop would gladly have joined in, and Tyler wouldn’t have faced his third strike with Michael and Nadine. The previous two were for his attitude, minor offensives, but this infraction came with the threat of an indecent exposure charge, for which he got let go with only a warning. However, the more significant issue was the revelation their only son was queer. He knew the ordeal would cost him this time, which it did.

One day after the incident, as the event became referred to, Michael barged into Tyler’s room, a disgusted look etched into his worn and wrinkled face, and his laptop clenched in his hands. Tyler rolled his eyes as his red-faced father, livid at his only son for being a filthy fucking cocksucker (his exact words), showed him the website for Camp Horizons, a “rehabilitation” center for homosexual youth. Tyler understood exactly what a pray-the-gay-away-style conversion camp consisted of. He was an educated young man and was aware of what kind of rehab went down at places like those. The blood drained from his face as Michael smirked at Ty’s horrified reaction. Nadine wasn’t present for Michael’s fiery antihomo tirade about how the camp would be healthy for him. Tyler figured a silent or else came attached to the demand he agreed to be fixed. He hoped Nadine would swoop in for a rescue, tell her husband he was being ridiculous as she had in the past and that would be all. But Ty didn’t count on her this time; he knew she wouldn’t leave the safety of the bedroom where the surplus of Xanax kept her numbed and staring at the ceiling in mindless wonderment.

The week until they left for the camp had been hell. They took everything from him: the car went first, the phone next, along with all the electronics, and like a prisoner, his remaining freedoms were stripped away. Tyler spent the week locked in his near-empty bedroom. The severity of his punishment pissed him off and it wasn’t due to premarital sex or getting caught by the police. If he’d been blown by a girl, sure there would have been some yelling and tears since Nadine cried at fucking everything. But once she settled, his father would have come into his room and congratulated him on becoming a man and probably expunged any punishment with a hearty high-five.

No, their anger, their disgust came from the fact Tyler was gay. What infuriated them more, Ty had no issue with his sexuality at all. To them, being queer equaled unacceptable, and yet, he held no shame whatsoever. For the past two years, he’d tried on multiple occasions to come out but always retreated at the last minute. He understood the truth: Michael and Nadine were bigoted archaic assholes. The kind who spoke disparagingly about queer people whenever they showed up on a television show or in a movie. “Ugh, do we need more of them?” Nadine would say as she fidgeted in her spot until the offensive parties left the screen. His father would mumble fags under his breath, and so Tyler would sit there being hurt and annoyed by the two people who were supposed to love him more than anything.

And he thought, foolishly, he could make it to eighteen and get out before he ever had to tell them. His libido thought otherwise. The allegations were true. He’d done everything the cop accused him of—and more—before the offensive flashlight so rudely shined on them in the plastic playhouse atop the slide. Tyler picked at the seams on his jeans and thought about Daniel, his long-time crush, who had finally agreed to meet him.

Closing his eyes, he pictured Daniel’s slender face, his deep eyes, and his full lips, which felt as nice as Ty had hoped. Without any of his devices, there’d been no way to see how much trouble Daniel had gotten into with his family. And no means to apologize or tell him how he’d not stopped thinking about their brief night. Nadine and Michael hadn’t merely sent Tyler away; they’d successfully cut him off from the world. He wouldn’t know if there may have been something more with Daniel than a few quick make-out sessions behind the lunchroom and a sloppy half-finished blow job.

He opened his eyes when his father’s voice demanded he wake up though he had not been sleeping. A large wooden sign filled the front windshield as they passed, declaring they’d reached Camp Horizons. In the camp’s heyday, the hand-carved sign had been brightly painted with yellows and blues, depicting a serene sun setting on a group of cabins. Each ray of the sun became a cross the closer to the camp they reached, but the current state of the sign showed those days were long gone. Now the sign’s faded paint showed off how dried and cracked the wood had become. The sign hung crooked, drooping on one side from damage to one of the posts, which no one had bothered to fix. Past the broken sign were a few hundred more feet of dense forest, which sent a chill, cold and icy, traversing up Tyler’s spine and sent shudders through his body. The camp was more isolated than he realized, and the fact unsettled him. An apprehensive knot formed in his chest and told him this place wasn’t right.

The Mercedes followed the curve of the camp’s driveway, and Tyler saw a trio of cabins nestled together along the rim of the circular drive. Behind them, sloping down the uneven terrain to the edge of Lake Never were several more. From the window, Tyler spotted a round-faced man in his late thirties, with a short beard and thinning hair, wearing a bright-yellow shirt and tan khakis, waving happily at them. Michael pulled the car around until he faced the way they’d come in. He shoved the gearshift into park, pissed off at it and blaming everything in the world for his son being a queer.

Michael turned to face Tyler in the backseat. For a moment, Ty thought his father would finally speak to him, and he did, but not with any words. The anger and disappointment were painted all over his face as they’d been for days, and the look told Tyler without question, you’d better not fuck this up too. Tyler blew him a kiss and flung his car door open, happy for the fresh air. As his parents slammed their doors, the man from the porch trotted down to them.

“The Lord has blessed us with a beautiful day, hasn’t he? Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Wills. Welcome to Camp Horizons,” he said warmly, his greeting coated thickly by a Southern accent as rich as syrup smothering a stack of pancakes. He extended his hand and shook Michael’s, and then Nadine’s, who barely registered a response. “Robert Kendall, the camp director here at Horizons. But please, Bob is fine. Been going by it for years. And this young man must be Tyler.” Bob swung his hand over to Tyler, an obviously super fake grin smeared across his round face.

Tyler refused to shake any hands. Instead, he let his focus drift around the camp as Bob spoke to his parents. If Horizons had any glory days, they were long gone. There was not one cabin which didn’t need some form of repair or wasn’t boarded up. Every surface needed a paint job, and the grounds were overgrown, except in the prominent areas along the front to keep the entrance looking deceptively beautiful. Tyler’s sneakers dug into the gravel of the drive, his thoughts only on running away, as Bob led them to the office sitting to the left of the largest cabin, which he referred to as Integrity Cabin.

For a religiously run camp, Tyler found there was not much around touting the place’s pious nature past the crosses on the camp’s entrance sign. In his head, he half expected to see nothing but crosses—hung to everything, twenty feet tall—but the camp appeared subdued.

He recanted this opinion once inside Bob’s office. The room was adorned with an obscenely large and ornately framed painting of Jesus Christ on the rear wall. Between the pictures of the camp through the years were photos of the Guides who had worked there, small but ornate crosses, placards with scripture quotes, and religious-themed motivational posters, which encouraged all to Pray it Away with the power of God.

Situated at his desk, Bob was tiny in front of the looming Jesus, who glared down on them, and the desk was covered with files, papers, and a complete set of apostle bobbleheads.

The Wills family sat quietly as Bob beamed at them with a righteous awkwardness for a silent minute. Exhaling loudly, he leaned his head up to the heavens as he began, “The Lord is here today. Yes, he is. He is always present when one of his disciples begins their Journey.” The word, said often, was always accompanied with a pompous weighted reverence. “Tyler, Horizons exists to restore those trapped within sexual sin. Our program is specifically designed to cater to those that have fallen prey to the sinful cult of homosexuality.” He bowed his head, raised his right hand, and shook like an evangelist on Sunday morning television, casting away queerness like one would cast off the evil eye.

“Homosexuality is a vile disease, and through the power of prayer, we can get Tyler onto the path of righteousness and return him to the arms of our Lord.”

“Kinda thought the idea here would be getting me out of the arms of men, but hey, who am I to argue?” Tyler could do nothing but laugh off the absurdity around him.

“God sees you, Tyler Wills, and your soul is in peril. Do you want to spend eternity in damnation and hellfire? Let’s try to approach this with some decorum. Our mission here is to save your soul.”

Tyler rolled his eyes at the idea of his soul needing saving—an impulse reaction but one that earned him a hard smack across the back of his head from his father.

“How long does this process take, making them straight again?” Michael asked with an annoyed tone, suggesting he expected to literally drop the offensive party off and leave. Nadine sat quietly, not looking at her son, husband, or Bob’s suntanned face. She stared up at the large painting of Jesus, dopey eyed in her sedated state. “Tyler had an incident,” she whispered softly.

“I got caught vigorously sucking some cock,” Tyler boasted as his father fumed, and Nadine covered her mouth and shook her head.

“An incident,” Michael spoke over him, “that concerned us enough to bring him here for treatment.”

Bob put his hands together in a prayer stance and once again sounded like a preacher. “The path to religious righteousness is a thorny one. Romans 12 tells us, ‘Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.’” He quoted the Bible with the slimy ease of a used car salesman trying to offload a lemon.

Michael rudely cut through the religious platitudes. “And what kind of time frame does that entail?”

“Bob,” Tyler interjected before the camp director answered, “my parents are extremely uncomfortable. Neither of them is religious enough to know what Romans means. What they want you to tell them, and in the simplest words possible, is how long this introduction will take. They’re so uncomfortable. I mean, look at how much they want to leave.” The retort was worth the second smack to the head.

“The Journey is two and a half weeks, but they are laborious weeks for sure.” Bob cleared his throat. “Now I’m required to make clear that neither I nor my Guides are actually licensed therapists. We’re merely servants of God, who’ve gone through the Journey and are invested in keeping the camp running so other young people will have a safe space to embark on their own path back to the Lord.” He rattled off a few other disclaimers rapidly before sliding across the desk three papers he advised were confidentiality agreements, each stating the Wills would not divulge their therapeutic techniques.

Tyler figured his father listened and honed in, as Tyler had, on the unlicensed and unregulated part, which to anyone else would have been a huge red flag. He hoped that would have shown his father how ludicrous the entire idea was, and how potentially dangerous. Except Tyler imagined his father hoped the so-called techniques included a little bit of physical punishment. “Fucking kill them all, and we wouldn’t have this problem,” Michael Wills had once proclaimed at the breakfast table in front of his son and wife after becoming annoyed with the ongoing coverage over the fight for marriage equality.

“We here at Horizons have developed our own patent-pending, seven-step rehabilitation program, which will take Tyler on a voyage of self-discovery where he will once again find, through prayer, and our assistance, God’s eternal love. And in that love, he will find the courage to reject these deviant homosexual impulses, falsely implanted within him by Satan.

“All of our Guides have taken the Journey. They are trained to assist other young men and women going through the process. Luckily for Tyler, our attendance is rather low this cycle, which is all the better to give those here a truly one-on-one, immersive experience, which will return him to our Lord and Savior. Through God’s beautiful bounty, we are blessed to be here providing this service to his flock.”

“I’m pretty sure this shit is illegal.” Tyler’s already upset stomach tied itself in more knots listening to the eerie way Bob referred to God so subserviently that it didn’t seem to Tyler like they had the healthiest relationship. Whomever Bob was referring to wasn’t the God Ty knew, and everyone in the room would be gutted to know how well Tyler was versed with the Bible, but he kept that to himself.

“Language,” Bob chided. “We keep our words G-rated at Horizons.”

“Fine, I’ll reiterate—isn’t conversion therapy illegal?”

“No laws have been passed as of yet…in this state anyway,” Bob quickly pointed out smugly before shifting his attention to Michael and Nadine. “As you may have observed driving in, Lake Never is rather large. We are secluded here on the south side. As such, there is no access to the internet. No televisions. No radios. No distractions. And any fraternizing, in a physical manner, is strictly forbidden.”

Tyler sat back in his chair, believing he had found his way out. The first guy he found to be willing—bam—he’d get kicked out.

“Expulsion is not the punishment,” Bob declared as if reading the blueprints of Tyler’s escape plan directly off his face. “The program resets, and our Journeyer must begin again. And if this causes them to go over their allotted time, there will of course be a small fee. We will need to collect Tyler’s phone and any other electronic devices he may have. There is a landline here in my office. If you are so inclined to check on Tyler’s progress, you may call, but the Journeyers are not permitted access to it.”

Tyler laughed. They wouldn’t give a shit about his progress once they drove off. “Don’t have to worry about that, Bob. These assholes don’t care if they hear from their faggy son or not.”

“Language.” Bob’s demeanor flipped, and the word came with a more pointed tone making it clear foul language wouldn’t be tolerated again.

“Tyler, shut up,” his father demanded. “And after these two weeks he will be straight, correct?”

“Oh yes,” Bob assured Michael. “We here at Horizons are God’s mechanics, determined to help fix our brothers and sisters who’ve been led astray.”

“There is nothing fucking wrong with me. I happened to luck out and got these two braindead assholes for parents.” Tyler went to stand up and storm out. Michael proved quicker, snatching his arm roughly, forcing him down into his seat.

“Sit the fuck down right now,” Michael yelled, never once looking at his son. “You will take this seriously. You will follow the rules, and you will not come home until—”

“Until what?” Tyler pulled his arm back. “Until I magically like pussy? There is nothing wrong with me the way I am.”

Michael wound up his hand again and started to say something when Bob jumped in. “Mr. Wills, please. Tyler, we will not accept this kind of talk or behavior at Horizons. That is no way to speak to your parents. One of the commandments is to honor thy mother and father. They are your moral compass.”

“You’re fucking joking, right?” Tyler sat up in the chair and laughed. “Moral compass? My mother over there dopes herself every day to ignore the fact that my father is sticking his dick into every woman he meets. She doesn’t care about this as long as her meds are refilled, and the credit card doesn’t get declined. I do believe gluttony, infidelity, and generally being a shitty person are sins too, are they not? Where’s the rehab camp for these asses?”

Nadine shifted in her seat and exhaled loudly as she turned her face away when Michael sent the back of his hand across Tyler’s face, effectively silencing him. Bob didn’t comment on the slap, waiting a moment until the air settled before he continued.

“We are not here to discuss semantics, Tyler. We’re here to talk about you starting your Journey toward being a straight and God-fearing member of society.”

Tyler rubbed the side of his face, still hot from Michael’s hand, and shrugged the slap off. “I get your gig; you pick and choose what parts of the Bible you feel like enforcing. The rest doesn’t matter, right?”

Bob, still sporting his Cheshire-cat-like phony grin, studied Tyler as he slid the confidential agreement across the desk toward Michael. Bob motioned to the pens in the cup in front of him. “We are going to require our fee up front.”

Purchase at NineStar Press

Meet the Author

Eric David Roman.com spent twenty years wandering the wrong paths; he tends to get lost a lot (he’s from Florida). He worked the wrong jobs (as it turns out, streetwalking is not a profession for just anyone) and avoided his true passion—writing, or as he refers to it, devouring sleeves of gluten-free Oreos in a dark closet whilst crying. After hitting a low point while trapped in retail management hell (a harsh rock bottom), he rearranged his thinking (now with 75 percent less anxiety and depression) and switched his focus fully to writing; well, as much as his gAyDD allows. And now, you’re reading his bio, so things are progressing nicely. He is the author of the outrageous novella Despicable People, the new novel Long Night at Lake Never, and multiple upcoming works. Eric remains socially distant in Northern Virginia (don’t stalk him, you’d just be disappointed), where he lives, writes, and loves a mix of all things horror, campy, and queer. He spends the days with his adoring husband and loveable cat (both of whom remain indifferent to his self-proclaimed celebrity).

Website | Facebook

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Blog Button 2

Release Blitz: Power Play by K.R. Collins #sports #LGBTQ @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Power Play

Series: Sophie Fournier, Book Five

Author: K.R. Collins

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 07/05/2021

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 81300

Genre: Contemporary Sports, LGBTQIA+, contemporary, sports, ice hockey, international tournament, injury, demisexual, questioning, bisexual, asexual

Add to Goodreads

Description

After two seasons without winning another Maple Cup, the pressure is on for Sophie Fournier to win the NAHL’s biggest prize. It’s her sixth season in the North American Hockey League, and she knows what she needs to do, and how to do it.

Only, she isn’t the only one feeling the pressure to win. Coach Butler’s job is in jeopardy if he can’t repeat the success from Sophie’s third season. As his vision for the team drifts away from Concord’s identity, Sophie is left with a difficult choice.

Does she unite the team behind Coach Butler’s vision and risk losing her team’s identity? Or, does she unite the Condors against their coach and risk her captaincy and her future with the team?

Excerpt

Power Play
K.R. Collins © 2021
All Rights Reserved

And that’s how it’s fucking done.

Lexie’s text is accompanied by a link to an article: Indianapolis’s Young Stars Sign Matching Contracts 10×10. Lexie dragged Chad Kensington into her contract negotiations and demanded they be paid equally.

Sophie texts back.

Good for you.

She means it. Sophie was the first woman to re-sign, and her team undervalued her. The contract Lexie signed is what Sophie deserved. Her term and salary are much lower. She was told to be grateful she was re-signed at all.

This will mean a resurgence in questions about her contract. With so few women in the League, reporters jump at every opportunity to compare them. And, knowing Lexie, she’ll jump at the opportunity to measure herself against Sophie. At least it’ll be a break from talking about another disappointing season.

Sophie made history in 2014 by winning the Maple Cup. It was Concord’s first Cup in franchise history, and she did it alongside Elsa Nyberg. They were the first two women drafted to the North American Hockey League and the first two to win the League’s most coveted prize.

The following year saw a second-round exit. Last year they made it to the Conference Finals, but they lost in five games. This year will be their year again. They locked up Teddy and Kevlar last summer, and Elsa’s negotiating her contract now. They have a strong core. They’ll win another Cup.

She isn’t sure how much longer she’ll last if she doesn’t.

Growing up, her dream was always to play in the NAHL. She fell in love with hockey the first time her brother took her on the outdoor pond with him. The NAHL became her ambition as she watched the Montreal Mammoths lift the Cup, year after year, in their historic Cup run. Her mémé spoke of the players in reverent, hushed tones. She bought Sophie her first jersey and took her to her first professional game. She saw the way the whole city loved their team and told herself one day it would be her lifting the Cup. And she has.

But once isn’t enough. She has a Maple Cup ring, proof of the achievement. She has NAHL records and scoring titles and a sandwich named after her at the arena, but she also has two disappointing seasons, and people are looking for someone to blame. Sophie, as the captain, is an easy target. So is the coach.

She and Coach Butler haven’t always been on the same page over the years. He’s a demanding man who knows how to wring the best out of his players. He’s blunt and brash and, in his opinion, is always right. He’s a contrast to Sophie who grew up learning to moderate herself. On the ice, she can be dynamic but off it she’s composed and calm to the point of being boring. The difference in personality has put her and her coach at odds in the past, but this season they have the same goal: win the Cup and silence the doubters.

Sophie’s phone buzzes with another text from Lexie.

You should come train with me. You might learn something.

There isn’t enough room for anyone else next to your ego.

Lexie sends her a couple of laughing emojis.

Next summer. I’ll even let you crash my Cup party.

Sophie rolls her eyes.

*

Lexie isn’t content heckling Sophie via text. She does a bunch of interviews after she signs her contract, and she pokes at Sophie in every single one.

“Sophie Fournier is the only other woman to sign a contract extension, and yours is much better than hers,” Carol Rogers from After the Whistle says. “You haven’t had nearly the same success she has. How did you convince the front office to give you this deal?”

“Everyone knows Concord lowballed Sophie, and she let them. It meant I wasn’t going to use her as a comparable. Indy drafted Kenny and I together and put us on the same line. We negotiated together. We’re equals.”

“You two have certainly become synonymous with Renegades hockey. Do you worry with your contracts Indy won’t have the room to sign Steele next year? Is this the beginning of the end of the red, white, and blue line?”

“There’s room for the players we need.”

Sophie watches and reads everything Lexie does and uses it to compose her counternarrative.

“Your contract is back in the news,” Ed Rickers says over the phone. Sophie can hear the smile in his words. “Do you regret signing it?”

“No, I’m proud to be a Concord Condor. Being the first woman drafted into the NAHL means I’ve navigated many other firsts. I’m glad Lexie was able to sign a good contract.”

“And yours?” Rickers prompts.

“It was a good contract for me.” I’m being paid to do what I love. Is there anything better? “And it was a good contract for the team. We had the space to extend Teddy and Kevlar last summer, and Elsa’s signing her extension this summer. I want to be a Condor for life, and I want to keep this core together.”

“Are you suggesting Engelking’s contract will hurt her team?”

“I was talking about my contract, not Lexie’s. I know I make an easy target, but I did think before I signed. Was the money or term as high as Dmitri Ivanov’s or Lexie’s or Kensington’s? No. But money wasn’t my only consideration. Concord has become my home. I want to make my career here.”

Rickers reads between the lines of her answers, adds a journalistic flair, and publishes an article propping up Sophie’s team-friendly deal and predicting how long until Lexie and Kensington’s contracts sink the Renegades.

It doesn’t take long for Lexie to call her. “So, I’m a selfish, money-grubbing bitch?”

“And I’m a spineless, desperate one.”

“I really pissed you off, didn’t I?” Lexie sounds happy because she’s a hyper competitive freak. “That or you don’t want to admit how shitty your contract is.”

“We’ve been over this. It was the best they offered. I would’ve signed for twelve years if they asked. But there’s a difference between what I feel and what I say. It’s called having a filter.”

“It’s called being a liar. Did you tell Nyberg she should accept the first shitty offer to keep the front office happy?”

“After your signing, I’d say she’s looking at twelve years, twelve million since she has a Cup and an Alain Benoit to her name.”

“Are you going to bring any of this fight into the season?”

Lexie hangs up before Sophie can answer.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Books2Read

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. Find K.R. on Twitter.

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Blog Button 2

Release Blitz & Review: Sea Lover by J.K. Pendragon #LGBTQ #paranormalromance @JKPendragon @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Sea Lover

Author: J.K. Pendragon

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 06/28/2021

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 27300

Genre: Paranormal, LGBTQIA+, MM-trans romance, merman, fisherman, interspecies, fantasy

Add to Goodreads

Description

Ian is happy with his life in a remote Canadian fishing town, where he has only the sea and his fishing crew for company. People say being alone is terrible, but he’s never had any problems with it.

Then his peaceful life is thrown into upheaval when he finds an injured merman washed up on the shore. With no idea what else to do, Ian takes the merman home and nurses him back to health.

But as he helps S’mika heal, a bond begins to form, and Ian starts to wonder if maybe there is more to life than being alone…

Excerpt

Sea Lover
J.K. Pendragon © 2021
All Rights Reserved

He found the merman on the beach as the sun was setting orange over the horizon and the waves were turning a deep green with foamy, silver tips. The tide was going out, and every time the waves washed over the body lying prone in the surf, they took swirls of dark blood with them.

Ian’s first thought was that it must be a seal, injured and washed up on the beach. He resolved to come back in the morning, drag the thing up to his cottage, and burn it so it didn’t rot and stink to high heaven for the next couple of weeks. But as he got closer, another wave washed in and rolled the figure up and over, so that it was lying on its back. As it rolled, Ian saw a long, spindly arm drop to the side and a mess of shiny, black hair.

He dropped the net and tackle he was carrying and ran, his heavy fishing boots sinking into the sand and catching on the rocks and seaweed as he sprinted towards the figure. He fell to his knees at the man’s side as the waves washed up over his body once more and was distracted for a moment, frantically checking vitals before he glanced over and saw the tail.

Ian sat back on his knees and gave a weak laugh. It had to be a joke. Some very realistic art project that had befallen unfortunate circumstances. But then the figure breathed and convulsed forward, coughing and spitting. Ian stared as the man, or boy—he didn’t look older than twenty—frantically pulled himself over onto his side and pressed his head to the sand, gagging. Then his face tightened, and he made a keening, painful noise, before glancing down at the thick, blubbery, black tail.

Without thinking, Ian lunged forward. “Don’t move,” he said hoarsely, and the boy looked up at him, his dark eyes showing no sign he understood what Ian was saying. His hair and skin were both dark, too, and Ian wondered briefly if the tail was some sort of cultural attire. Or maybe there was a movie filming in the area that he hadn’t heard about? Then he decided that it didn’t matter, because the boy was obviously badly injured, and he needed to get whatever it was off. He reached for his knife at his side and swore when he realised he’d left it in the bag with his tackle.

“Shit. Lie back.” He gently pushed on the boy’s shoulders so he understood. The boy complied, lying back with another whine of pain as Ian moved his hands down his torso, desperately trying to find the place where the brown skin met black pelt. He couldn’t.

“What is this?” he asked, flabbergasted. “How do I get it off?”

He glanced up in time for the boy to make a twisted face. The boy opened his mouth, obviously frustrated, and let out another high-pitched cry, followed by a noise that was halfway between a growl and a bark. Then his head whipped back, and he convulsed again, bringing the full weight of his tail up, and Ian saw the injury—a gash, deep enough to cut through the muscle and possibly tendons. It was difficult to see the depth of the injury, because blood was gushing up out of it as he thrashed.

The blood spattered Ian in the face, and he wiped at it, stunned. This was not normal. Being a fisherman meant he had to be able to handle himself in tense and stressful situations, and usually he was great at it, but this…? This was something else.

“Hey,” he said sharply as the boy writhed on the blood-soaked sand, obviously in terrible pain. “You need to stop moving. You’re only going to make it worse. Do you understand me?”

He didn’t know what he was going to do. He couldn’t possibly carry him, and trying to move him would only make things worse. He had his cell phone on him, but there was absolutely no reception out here. He should go and get help. Get his truck and drive it into town, letting emergency services know. But what would they do with something like this? Ian stared at the limp tail on the sand, blood gushing out of the warm, velvety, and obviously very real tail. His mind was in a fog, and all he could think about were news crews and scientists and Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

The boy was looking up at him now, his eyes glazing over a little.

“I-I’m gonna be back,” Ian stammered, standing jerkily. “Stay here.”

He ran the rest of the way home, not bothering to pick up the net and tackle he’d left on the ground, not letting himself think about anything until he’d jumped up into the seat of the old Chevy pickup and revved the engine. He stared at his wild eyes in the review mirror for a moment, wondering if he was going crazy. Then he put the truck into gear and screeched out of the driveway.

The seal-boy wasn’t moving when he got back. Ian drove the truck up next to him on the beach, tires skidding in the soft sand, and jumped out to check on him. His eyes were shut, the silvery sand coated his face and body, and his skin was cold and clammy. But he was still breathing. Ian got up again, pulling his heavy raincoat off as he lowered the tailgate. Then he went to the boy and wrapped the raincoat around him, moving his arms into position and rolling him onto the coat and into a bundle.

He staggered a little as he lifted. He was strong, but the boy was deadweight, and the tail was ridiculously heavy. The bleeding seemed to have slowed, and Ian hoped it wasn’t because he had bled out completely. He dropped the prone body onto the tailgate and jumped up to roll him onto his back again, checking for vitals. He was still alive, breathing shallowly, but Ian didn’t know if he was going to make it. Normally, he’d apply a tourniquet to the limb, but in this case, that didn’t seem to be an option.

He swore and pulled the tailgate shut, jumping over the side of the truck bed and hurtling himself into the cab. He tried to drive carefully, but he knew it wasn’t going to matter how gentle the ride was if the boy bled out before Ian could get at him with his medical supplies.

The sun had set completely by the time he pulled up to his cottage, and the porch light flicked on as he hurriedly unlocked the door and let himself in, swatting at the mosquitoes buzzing around him. He grabbed at the old striped couch, dragging it around so it could be easily accessed from the door, and then rifled through a cupboard, pulling out the old, dusty first aid kit.

When he got back out to the truck and lowered the tailgate, the boy was awake again, staring at him with glazed, frightened eyes.

“Come on,” said Ian in what he hoped was a gentle voice. He reached out and slid the raincoat forward, hauling the whole bundle up into his arms. The boy groaned, his voice sounding more human now, and distinctly pained, and Ian carried him into the house.

He kicked the door shut behind him and deposited the boy as gently as he could onto the couch. His hands were bloody again—Ian noticed as he fumbled for the light switch, illuminating the room with dusty, orange light that definitely wasn’t bright enough. Next to the couch, there was an old end table with a lamp, and he grabbed for it, fumbling to knock the shade off and set it up next to the tail, which was drooping off the couch and oozing blood onto the hardwood floor.

“Okay,” he said as he reached for the first aid kit. “It’s been a few years since med school. How many…five? I dropped out too.” He gave a hoarse little laugh. The boy was looking down at him through groggy eyes, and Ian knew he didn’t understand a word he was saying. But talking helped. “Not that I have any idea how to patch this up anyway,” he continued, pulling on his gloves hurriedly and opening a package of sterilized wipes. “I was trained to treat humans. And I’m guessing you are not that. This is gonna hurt, by the way.” A morphine drip would be nice. So would a sterile hospital bed. But this was as good as it was going to get.

The boy hissed as Ian wiped the wound clean, and when Ian pulled out a needle and cotton thread, he lifted his arms and tried to sit up.

“No!” said Ian sharply, raising a hand, and the boy sank back down, his eyes wide in a mixture of anger and fear. Ian finished sterilizing the needle and thread and held them out to show him. “I’m going to stitch the wound shut. I need to, okay? Or it’ll keep bleeding.”

The boy didn’t look reassured.

“I’m trying to help you,” said Ian firmly, eyes locked with him. “You need to trust me.”

“Trust me,” repeated the boy, so accurately that, for a moment, Ian thought he must speak English after all. He looked like he was thinking hard, which must have been difficult, considering the amount of pain and blood loss he’d suffered. Then he glanced down at the wound and back at Ian.

Ian took that for permission and started stitching. The boy was quiet as he did it, and Ian was worried he’d fallen asleep again. It was best he stay awake, at least until Ian could get some water into him. But when he glanced up, the boy was staring at him, flinching only slightly as the needle pierced the flesh.

“I’m Ian,” said Ian, touching his hand quickly to his chest. “I-an.”

“Ian,” said the boy, emphasizing the an a little too much. His voice was clear, and surprisingly deep, considering how young he looked. “Sss…” he said, and broke off into a hiss as Ian tightened and tied off the first stitch. “S’mika.”

“Smika?” mumbled Ian, wiping away a trickle of blood and pulling another stitch through.

The boy frowned at him. “S—” He made a glottal stop. “—mika.”

“S’mika,” said Ian, and laughed a little at how ridiculous this was. “What are you, S’mika?”

S’mika rattled off something in a language that Ian was absolutely certain he’d never heard before, but S’mika’s tone suggested he’d said something like “I can’t understand you, dumbass.”

Ian shook his head and continued working, his hands thankfully steady. S’mika groaned and lay back, and Ian quickly tied off the last stitch and moved up to check on him. He was shaking, and the skin around his mouth was dry and crusted white. A hand on his forehead confirmed he was clammy and feverish.

“Damn it,” said Ian, and he stood and rushed to the sink to pour a glass of water. He brought it back to S’mika, who looked at it, confused. “Like this,” said Ian, taking a drink of the water.

After watching carefully, S’mika took the glass in shaky hands and brought it to his lips. He made a face at it, as if it wasn’t acceptable somehow, before downing the whole glass and passing it back to Ian. Ian took it, feeling like he was the one in shock, and went back to bandaging the wound. “We need to elevate your…um, legs,” he said, once he’d finished taping the gauze to the soft pelt. “It’ll help with the blood loss.”

S’mika looked annoyed that he was talking so much, so Ian shut up, and S’mika let him lift his tail gently onto the arm of the couch. He’d never been too up close and personal with a seal, but he was pretty sure this was a seal tail. It was thick and blubbery, ending in two stunted flippers with claws. “I must be high out of my fucking tree,” he muttered. “Maybe I’ll wake up in the morning and this’ll all have been a really weird dream.”

He glanced at S’mika to see that his eyes were closed again, and Ian decided to leave him like that. If he died in the night…well, Ian would deal with that if it came to it. He suddenly felt incredibly tired. He’d been up before dawn and pulled a long day, and although he’d just celebrated his twenty-ninth birthday a month ago, he was starting to feel the wear and tear of hard living in his bones.

“I’m going to bed,” he said, gesturing at the door to the bedroom. “Call me if you need me.”

S’mika just looked at him, eyes heavy, but reassuringly a little more alert. “Ian,” he said, and Ian supposed that meant “Thank you.”

Purchase

NineStar Press | Books2Read

Book Review – 4 stars

Sea Lover is a quick, feel-good read.

The beginning was a bit awkward for me, but by the second chapter the author had immersed me in the story. I loved how sweet and innocent S’mika was compared to Ian’s more jaded personality. They were opposites in every way but complimented each other nicely. The way S’mika accepted that Ian was transgender was exactly what Ian needed. To be accepted and loved without conditions.

It was my first time reading anything by this author. I’ll definitely have to check out more if their books.

Sea Lover had a happily-for-now ending that left me feeling warm and fuzzy.

Disclaimer: I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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.

Twitter | Instagram

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Blog Button 2

Release Blitz: Did It All Before by Cynthia Hamill #LGBTQ #contemporaryromance @cynthiawhamill @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Did It All Before

Author: Cynthia Hamill

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 06/28/2021

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 115800

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, contemporary, gay, British, doctor, photojournalist, healing, hurt/comfort, PTSD/Post Traumatic Stress, angst, slow burn, friends to lovers, soulmates

Add to Goodreads

Description

Award-winning photojournalist Scott Rowe is struggling with the physical injuries and emotional scars caused by the terrorist attack that killed his interpreter, Omran Saleh. A long succession of doctors and surgeons have put his body back together, but to Scott, his mind seems beyond repair. Panic attacks ambush his days, and nightmares haunt his fitful sleep. He can’t bring himself to touch his broken camera, let alone consider returning to work. His only sanctuary is the darkroom, where he can escape the secret he carries surrounding Omran’s death.

Dr Jason Andrews is determined to bring Scott back from the brink. His alternative healing methods are like nothing Scott has ever seen, and at first, Scott feels foolish lying on Jason’s table with hot rocks in his hands or acupuncture needles in his skin. But one thing keeps Scott coming back: the detailed visions that appear like movies in his mind, of himself in other times, cultures, and continents, and Jason himself, whose relentless hope steers them through the storms of Scott’s recovery.

As his health improves, Scott begins to wonder what his visions mean. Are they vivid daydreams, figments of his exhausted mind? And why does he only have these visions when he is with Jason?

Scott hopes the answers will give him a reason to make peace with Omran’s death and begin to truly live again, instead of merely surviving. But what if they also give him a reason to love?

Excerpt

Did It All Before
Cynthia Hamill © 2021
All Rights Reserved

Scott opens his eyes slowly as he steps out of the darkroom. The small lamp on his bedside cabinet provides only a shadowy glow over the flat, and he shuffles toward it with a yawn, finally ready for sleep.

When he’d started renting this place in Camden three years ago, it was meant to be somewhere to crash between jobs, a glorified storage locker with a shower. It’s square and plain, his bed on one side and galley kitchen on the other, decorated only with photos and trinkets from his travels. After the accident, when it became clear he’d be grounded for a few months, he transformed the bathroom by draping a blackout curtain around the door and setting a plank over the bathtub for his chemical trays. There, he can flip on the fan and work for hours, just feet away physically but miles away mentally from his bed, where insomnia and nightmares crowd out any hope of sleep.

His darkroom habit is his only connection to photography these days. He hasn’t picked up his camera since he left the hospital in January; it’s in pieces, after all, his £3,200 digital Canon collecting dust in his cupboard. Scott never did find out who collected it from the scene and sent it along with him in the ambulance. They shouldn’t have bothered; he can’t bring himself to touch the thing, even to throw it out. Instead, he finds solace in the undeveloped film from his 35mm Leica.

Film is reserved for London, family, and home, where there are no publishing deadlines to meet or editors to please. He has compiled quite a collection of undeveloped rolls over the last few years; being home only a day or two at a time had given him a chance to take pictures but not develop them before he’d be on his way again, so his desk drawer holds a grab bag of birthday parties, impromptu picnics, and London day trips. He never knows what will appear on the long strip of film, but he knows what won’t. There will be no Ukraine, no Kabul, no Delhi; no plane crashes, no war zones, no children dying in poverty.

Last night, the roll he processed had turned out to be all Olivia and Thomas, two years ago at Christmas. Scott’s heart clenched pleasantly when the images appeared, remembering how he and his sister had sprinkled jelly babies and crisps in the garden for reindeer food because Thomas thought that’s what they’d like. Tonight, Scott picks out a few frames to print for Olivia, of their mum filling stockings and Thomas’s astonished reaction to his new toy train. He spends time printing the images, making sure the contrast is perfect. His eyes finally get heavy as he places the last few photographs on the drying rack.

The sky is not yet lightening. Scott picks up his phone from the bedside cabinet to check the time. Thursday, the 19th of May, 4:07 a.m. An appointment reminder lights up, and shit, today is his first session with the new guy Dr Coulter wants him to see.

At least the appointment isn’t until two.

After he crosses the day off his calendar with his black Sharpie (he’s up to day one hundred fifty-nine) and sends a quick goodnight message on WhatsApp, Scott arranges himself in bed, flat on his back with his bad arm propped up on pillows. He’ll get a few hours of sleep after all.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Cynthia’s love of romance began in eighth grade when she chose to read Jane Eyre instead of Huckleberry Finn. Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë, and Daphne du Maurier shaped her passion for love stories that feature mysterious plots and unforgettable characters. At thirteen, she couldn’t have imagined a world where books appear on screens at the touch of a button, but decades later, romances of all genres fill her (digital) shelves while her dog-eared, well-loved copy of Jane Eyre still lives on her bedside table.

Cynthia’s art history degree landed her a museum job in New York, but she left the Big Apple when her own love story took her to the prairies of the Midwest. She now lives a stone’s throw from the Mississippi River, and you can find her poring over art books, reading tarot cards, taking nature walks with her family, and reading and writing love stories.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | eMail

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Blog Button 2

Release Blitz: When Robbo Met Daniel by Liam Livings #friendstolovers#LGBTQ @LiamLivings @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: When Robbo Met Daniel

Author: Liam Livings

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 06/21/2021

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 71100

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, Vacation, out for you, coming out, first time, friends to lovers

Add to Goodreads

Description

Robbo is broken. He’s split up with his girlfriend. Given up on love. Forever. And now he must pretend to be happy for a friend’s week-long birthday celebration.

Daniel’s boyfriend refuses to go to the celebration with him. Another nail in the coffin for their relationship. So he brings his best friend, Sam. They notice the heart-broken straight guy has attractively filled swimming shorts and a body to draw their sunglasses-obscured gazes.

If Robbo can put aside how he thinks others will see him if he comes out and if Daniel can escape the history of his dead relationship, maybe they have chance.

When Robbo Met Daniel is a stand-alone gay romance with a curious man who’s only ever been with women and a flamboyant gay man who’s looking for someone to be kinder than his useless boyfriend. A dash of well-meaning friends and forced proximity could mean a happy ever after.

Excerpt

Chapter One
Monday Morning

Robbo stood back so he could stare at his suitcase, resting on the not very comfortable pull-out futon he’d been sleeping on. He threw four T-shirts, three pairs of shorts, and flip-flops into the case.

There was a knock on the door.

“All right,” Robbo replied.

Caspian opened the door. “Nearly packed?”

“Yeah. Some Lynx Africa, my shaving kit and I’m done.”

Caspian pushed the clothes into the suitcase. “And sun cream. Maya’s been on about factor fifty for weeks.” He rolled his eyes.

“I’ll borrow yours if that’s OK.” Robbo was already borrowing his friend’s spare room and bed, so what harm would a few squirts of sun cream be?

“’Course mate.” Caspian smiled weakly.

“Thanks.” Robbo turned to face the bed, his back towards Caspian. “Still think I’d be better off here. Don’t feel much in a party mood.”

“Lulu wants you there. Shaun told me. Said he’d told you.”

“Haven’t heard from him.” Robbo thought it worth trying one last time to get out of the trip. After the upheaval with Becky, he could have done with a week of work and of being alone in Caspian and Maya’s spare room. Just himself and his thoughts moping quietly on the futon.

“He told me he’d called you,” Caspian said. “Still, you know what he’s like. Probably didn’t know what to say.”

Robbo turned and perched on the bed.

“Shaun won’t mind if I don’t go. Lulu’s not going to miss me.”

“Shaun will mind, because Lulu will mind. Forty is a big deal.”

“Ancient.” Robbo let out a small laugh and rubbed his hands on his thighs. “Lulu’s a bit of a cougar, isn’t she?”

“Shaun loves her. That’s all that matters, mate.” Caspian’s stern stare told Robbo all he needed to know.

“Sorry. I’m not myself. Bit cynical about couples, you know?”

Caspian manfully patted Robbo’s shoulder.

“It’s easy to pack. All I’m doing is moving stuff from that suitcase—” He pointed to the large one in the corner. “—to this one.” He indicated the small one on the bed. “Every cloud…”

“Won’t be long till you’re back on your feet. Best this way. You did try.”

Robbo felt the familiar sadness building in his eyes. He didn’t want to dissolve into another snot and tears covered heap like he had when he’d called Caspian, asking if he could crash in their spare room after leaving the flat he’d shared with Becky, his girlfriend. He swallowed, blinking the tears away from his eyes. “I tried. Lots of things. Lots of times.”

“Enough of this. Or I’m gonna have to hug you again, and we know how awkward that gets. Do you want me to bring out the big guns and hug you?” Caspian held his arms out, waggling his fingers comically.

Robbo shook his head. “Fuck off. I’ll live.” They stood in silence for a moment.

A woman’s voice floated from the far side of the flat, telling them the taxi was booked for an hour, and if they weren’t ready, she’d be leaving without them. But not Robbo. Maya—Caspian’s wife, could have organised her way out of any situation—including making sure Robbo wasn’t allowed to wallow in his sadness. On their futon.

Caspian raised his eyes, gesturing towards his wife’s voice. “Best get on.”

Robbo let out a long, exhausted sigh, knowing he had to put a brave face on things and that staying here being miserable wouldn’t do him any good. He collected his razor and shaving gel and pushed them into the duffel bag, squashing everything else in the process.

Caspian said, quietly now, “Mate. I’ll lend you my gel if it helps with the packing.”

Without turning to face his friend, Robbo removed the can of gel, nodded, then said, “Ta mate.”

“Lads weekend. Like before. Do you good. Trust me.” Caspian closed the door behind him.

Robbo turned back to his packing and focussed on the friends he’d soon be seeing, mentally ticking off their names in turn, then wondering why that didn’t sound quite right. And then, with a heavy heart, he remembered he’d excluded their wives and girlfriends. The pairing of names that meant they had someone. Caspian and Maya sounded much better than simply Caspian.

Robbo and Becky.

Robbo.

Maya’s voice, louder now, carried through his closed door, “Twenty minutes. Taxi. If you’re not ready in ten, I’m packing your case, and don’t think I’m beyond rifling through your pants.”

Robbo—knowing Maya meant every word she said, and once he was in the sun and swimming in the pool in Spain, he would indeed feel better than stewing in his own sorrowful juices in this box room alone—threw his phone charger, headphones, and a paperback into his case. “Packed and ready!” He zipped up the bag and carried it to the living room where Maya and Caspian stood next to theirs.

*

Daniel had been trying to persuade his boyfriend, Terry, to start packing for most of the last week. He had, at this point, already resorted to begging, bribing, and finally offering sexual favours. None of which had changed Terry’s opinion. Daniel fixed a stare at Terry. “The change of space will do us good.”

“Why?” Terry stuck his bottom lip out.

“I’m sure we can work things out. Bit of sun, some swimming in the pool. A beer in our hands and we’ll soon remember why we love each other.”

“You might,” Terry shot back, without humour or eye contact.

“Come on. Meet me halfway,” Daniel said, now kneeling at Terry’s feet.

Terry turned his head away. “I’m done. I can’t talk about this anymore. In fact, despite your romantic ideas about us sitting in Spain and working it all out, I don’t think there’s anything to discuss. Nothing of any value at any rate.”

Daniel slowly stood. “I’ve told you before; I’m not happy with this.” He gestured to Terry.

Terry’s legs were crossed, his arms folded, and his bottom lip still remained resolutely stuck out almost as far as his nose. “I knew it was a mistake when you started seeing that counsellor for your fear of flying issues.”

Daniel bit his tongue, considered his next move carefully, then said, “You’re not used to me telling you how I feel.”

“Fuck me gently. Daniel, it’s all you ever fucking well tell me. You’ve written me a letter. I’m expecting an interpretive dance routine next to make sure I understand how you feel. There’s nothing more to say. I’m done. We’re over.”

Although it bristled slightly, Daniel forged on. “So why don’t you want to do anything about it?” Quietly now, he added, “If you love me.” Didn’t Terry love him?

“We’ve been through this. Besides, I’m doing nothing wrong. It’s you who’s changed since getting these stupid ideas from that stupid woman.” Terry pouted, then checked his nails ostentatiously. “Better for you to fly alone, get used to flying and living without me. No point hanging on to me being by your side when I won’t be afterwards. We’re done. Really done. I’m sure your fear-of-flying woman would approve.”

Daniel realised he wouldn’t get any further with this line or argument since it hadn’t worked before and hadn’t worked now; they’d had this “we’re over” discussion before. So instead, he thought he’d appeal to Terry’s loyalty to his friend. “Lulu’s been planning this party for months. She picked the dates based on your availability. She’s always saying she doesn’t see you often enough. Come, if not for me, for her. Promise I won’t talk about any of this us stuff out there. Come for Lulu.”

“I’m done with this. Us. This conversation. We’re finished. Fuck Lulu, I’m not coming. She’ll live. Plenty of other uni friends there. Doubt she’ll notice I’m not there. I’ll text her now.” Terry, in a huff, large even for him, left the room.

Well, that had been Daniel’s best shot. That had taken everything he could muster and had still failed. Still, another new thing to discuss with the fear-of-flying woman next month, but now he had to call Sam. Going alone was the biggest challenge, getting used to flying, to being, without… But although he thought he should be, Daniel was far from ready for that. Far from ready to give up on him and Terry. Because surely Terry still loved him, didn’t he?

He scrolled through his phone, his thumb hovering over the S while Terry banged and crashed in their bedroom.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Liam Livings lives where east London ends and becomes Essex. He shares his house with his boyfriend and cat. He enjoys baking, cooking, classic cars and socialising with friends. He has a sweet tooth for food and entertainment: loving to escape from real life with a romantic book; enjoying a good cry at a sad, funny and camp film; and listening to musical cheesy pop from the eighties to now. He tirelessly watches an awful lot of Gilmore Girls in the name of writing ‘research’.

Published since 2013 by a variety of British and American presses, his gay romance and gay fiction focuses on friendships, British humour, romance with plenty of sparkle. He’s a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and the Chartered Institute of Marketing. With a masters in creative writing from Kingston University, he teaches writing workshops with his partner in sarcasm and humour, Virginia Heath as http://www.realpeoplewritebooks.com and has also ghost written a client’s 5 Star reviewed autobiography.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Blog Button 2

Release Blitz: Weekend Girl by Alex Powell #LGBTQ #contemporaryromance @aa_powell @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Weekend Girl

Series: Weekend Girl, Book One

Author: Alex Powell

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 06/21/2021

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: M/NB

Length: 57200

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, Canada, alloromantic, aromantic, agender, pansexual, genderfluid, college, sexual harassment, manties, cross-dressing, transgender, #ownvoices, new adult

Add to Goodreads

Description

Ashley Kingston is a genderfluid university student with a major crush on attractive and charming Nolan. He seems just too perfect to be true. What happens when Ash meets Nolan while dressed as both a man, and a woman? And even more confusing, what happens when Nolan seems enamoured of both versions of Ash? A twisty-turny romance filled with fun and shenanigans.

Excerpt

Ashley Kingston sat in the bustling Davie Street cafe staring into his—Wait!

No.

Their cup. Their.

They had managed to misgender themself again, and honestly, it was getting old. Realizing they might not be a cis dude was like trying to find a bra that would fit their frame—sometimes it poked them in places not meant to be poked.

Speaking of bras, Ash had two new ones in their bag on the floor next to their feet. Normally, Ash wouldn’t have gone to a store to purchase clothes not meant for men, but their friend Bei Bei had gotten Ash’s measurements and pretended the bras were for her. One was a perfectly sensible beige number, but the other was fire-engine red, at Bei Bei’s insistence. Ash was nervous about trying them on, even when no one else was around, but what were they to do? Progress was progress.

They glanced over at their friend from the corner of their eye. Bei Bei was on her phone texting someone, running her hand through the short hair on one side of her head. Her undercut was brand spanking new.

Still not used to it? Ash frowned. The two of them were both trying something on for size. Bei Bei said she wanted to be the butchest of butch lesbians. She’d gone into the salon and had all of her long black hair cut off just that morning. Ash had watched as Bei Bei transformed before their eyes. What was it like to have long hair?

Ash ran a hand through their own dark-brown hair and sighed. Maybe one day.

“What are you moping for?” Bei Bei demanded. “We just had shopping therapy. I thought for sure you’d be happier now.”

“I’m not unhappy,” Ash started.

“But you are,” Bei Bei finished.

“I was just thinking—” Ash sighed again. “—what it might be like to have long hair, and I just…” They shrugged.

“Is that all?” Bei Bei said. “We can get you a wig.”

“I’m a starving student! As if I could afford a quality wig!”

“It doesn’t have to be expensive,” Bei Bei said. “I’ll help you find something nice but affordable online.”

“Okay,” Ash said, somewhat mollified. “I guess I was just blowing things out of proportion—again.”

“You really need to chill.” Bei Bei patted their arm. “I know, anxiety sucks.”

“At least my meds are somewhat stable. I have a mate back home who can hardly go outside some days.”

Bei Bei nodded sympathetically. The two sat in silence for a few moments, and Ash took a sip of their now-lukewarm London Fog. They licked a bit of foam off their lip. The world went on by outside the cafe window, and Ash watched from their place perched atop a bar-style stool, elbows resting on the counter running along the inside of the window.

“Ooh,” Bei Bei said. “She’s hot.”

A very tall Black girl with bantu knots and long legs walked by outside. Ash nodded. She was very attractive, and her barely there black shorts hugged her hips. Ash, who had known they were pansexual long before they figured out their gender, considered themself an equal-opportunity lover.

That is, when they even had a lover. Ash struggled to keep relationships, and they could never figure out why. It wasn’t a lack of attraction, and Ash enjoyed dating. But something always made the situation go sour.

The girl stopped for the traffic light on Davie and Granville, and Bei Bei and Ash looked on with interest. A loud group of tourists passed by the window, and when the group cleared, the girl looked back at them. Ash pretended to be very interested in the dregs of their drink.

Of course, Bei Bei kept on staring.

The girl turned and came towards them. Ash didn’t know what to do, so it was lucky their attention was on Bei Bei. The girl came into the cafe, making her way to where Ash and Bei Bei were sitting.

“Can I help you?” the Black girl asked.

Bei Bei’s eyes sparkled. “I’ve lost my phone. Do you mind calling it for me?”

The girl’s mouth twitched. “That the best you got?”

“Not by a long shot,” Bei Bei replied.

Bei Bei and the girl, who eventually introduced herself as Ouma, flirted away beside Ash. Ash pretended they had no idea who Bei Bei was, in spite of the fact she was sitting right there next to them.

Bei Bei kept running her hand through her newly shorn hair and biting her lip in obvious signs of attraction. Ouma was standing beside them with her hip cocked, head tilted. Ash looked at their phone and their Twitter page for a bit, waiting for Bei Bei and Ouma to finish with their flirting.

“Bye,” Ouma said, flashing a wave as she walked out the door.

“Oh my god, you are incorrigible,” said Ash as soon as Ouma was out of earshot.

“Got her number though,” Bei Bei smirked.

Ash rolled their eyes.

“You’ve got game, girl.”

“You just need more confidence, Ash,” Bei Bei said. “You’re plenty attractive to those who like enbies.”

The real problem was that Ash didn’t look non-binary. They looked like a cis guy. That could cause them trouble in the long run.

“I guess?” Ash said with another shrug. “I’m mostly worried that… Well. I’m trans. It’s a thing that gets a lot of people killed in a lot of places, especially when it comes to dating and sex.”

“Truth bomb time, I guess.” Bei Bei scratched the side of her head. “It’s hard enough being an Asian lesbian. Being trans is a whole other thing.”

Ash just nodded, tried to take another drink, and grimaced when they found their cup empty.

“I’d date a trans lesbian,” Bei Bei continued. “I know it doesn’t really make me special or anything. But I know of a ton of TERF lesbians who wouldn’t.”

Ash made a face at the mention of TERFs. They had enough to deal with at university without having to listen to some transphobe calling herself a feminist saying that trans people were gross. They felt gross a lot of the time anyway, but it got worse when people started calling trans people trash. Ash’s anxiety always skyrocketed if they saw people arguing on social media about it.

“I just want to find a person who would accept me for being genderfluid,” Ash said. “I’m always worried that anyone I’m interested in will turn out to be one of those binary sex-pushing assholes.”

It happened sometimes on Twitter. Somebody with a cute profile pic turned out to be awful, and it always made Ash angry, but also ashamed in a strange way. They hated that they felt ashamed sometimes of something like their identity, but it was still there sometimes, throbbing in their chest.

“I get it,” Bei Bei said. “I know you gotta be careful. But don’t shut yourself off completely.”

“I guess,” Ash said. “It’s not like I’m even used to thinking of myself as non-binary in the first place.”

“You have to start somewhere,” Bei Bei said.

Ash acknowledged this with a nod. Bei Bei got up to get another iced caramel macchiato, and Ash stared out the window at the people going by. Things were tough right now, so Ash had to be tougher.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Alex is an author of LGBTQ+ romance. They live in northern Canada where it snows six months of the year. Currently, they are pursuing a PhD in English, but that won’t stop them from writing about space vampires or cyberpunk hackers or whatever else pops into their head. Mostly a SFF writer, Alex sometimes dabbles in other genres including contemporary romance.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | eMail

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Blog Button 2

Release Blitz: Finding the Wolf by Mell Eight #paranormalromance #LGBTQ @MellEight @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Finding the Wolf

Series: The Dragon’s Hoard, Book One

Author: Mell Eight

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 06/14/2021

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 24600

Genre: Paranormal, LGBTQIA+, dragons, werewolves, magic/magic users, interspecies, immortal, royalty, virgin, war

Add to Goodreads

Description

When Prince Leon disappears, his people turn to the dragons for help. Nyle is the unlucky dragon tasked with finding Leon, a duty he dreads as it forces him into the confounding human world and far away from his collection of pretties.

Locating a missing prince should be a simple matter, but if Nyle has learned anything about humans since being forced among them, it’s that they needlessly complicate everything. When he finally locates the errant prince, however, what Nyle finds is a treasure worth all the complications—and worth protecting at any cost.

Excerpt

Finding the Wolf
Mell Eight © 2021
All Rights Reserved

Nyle walked through the crowded bazaar with an eye on his coin purse. He had heard stories of humans who stole such things and did not wish to be the first of his kind to experience such ill luck.

He also kept an eye on the crowds. He doubted he would locate his quarry on his first foray into the human market, but there were clues he could find by simply being aware.

For example, the way the fishmonger in the corner stall blatantly gripped his meat cleaver as a group of ragged children exited an alleyway and dispersed into the bustle was probably a good indicator. Nyle would keep an eye on those children—they might have something to do with the disappearances of purses—but the man at the fish stall might have some interesting information. Nyle decided to head there first.

Someone jostled Nyle on their way toward a dour woman selling ribbons and beads across the way. He grimaced and held back a growl. They were humans, creatures clearly not versed in the niceties of society, and while their ignorance didn’t excuse them, it did allow Nyle to rationalize not taking the oafs who rudely bumped him to task. He had a job, and giving in to the urge to roar and breathe flames was not conducive to completing his task.

Nyle was dressed like a human. A loose pair of pants and a shirt that laced up the front comprised his costume, and if the fabric was of a tighter weave than the rest of the local class of humans, at least he looked the part.

“I’m searching for a young man,” Nyle said when he reached the wooden stall covered in fish. The fishmonger had known which children to watch. Perhaps he would also know Nyle’s target.

“Yeah?” the man asked. “Well, I haven’t seen any men around today.” He looked straight at Nyle, a male and only one of dozens who frequented the market, as he spoke.

Nyle guessed that was what humans called digging for incentives. His own kind didn’t much care for the art of blackmail.

Nyle reached into his carefully guarded purse and brought out two uncut copper coins, each enough to buy a small fish. He flashed the coins at the man and leaned forward.

“A tall man with very long black hair and blue eyes,” Nyle said as he pressed one coin to the wood surface of the stall.

The coin vanished into a gut-stained hand. “I seen him two days ago,” the man replied, eyes fixed greedily on the coin Nyle still held. “Not since then.”

Nyle set the second coin on the stall, but kept a finger on it. “Any idea where he could have gone? Or who else I could ask?”

The man tensed and kept his gaze fixed on the second coin as if he knew not to look into Nyle’s gold-colored eyes. Nyle slowly dragged the coin away from the man.

“The red-light district,” the man gasped out as if forced, his eyes stuck on the shiny coin. “You ask round there.”

Nyle released the coin, and the copper flashed in the late-morning sun. The fish man’s eyes remained riveted for another second before he shook himself free of the compulsion. The second coin vanished as quickly as the first, and the man looked up and caught Nyle’s eyes.

A mistake, but Nyle would use the fish man’s ignorance to his advantage.

“That boy ain’t right,” the man slurred, caught in the golden shine that filled the eyes of all Nyle’s kind. “Wild,” he continued, spilling everything he knew to the sheen in Nyle’s eyes, “as if a beast were trying to break free and fly away.”

Nyle blinked and looked away as the man sagged behind his booth. Nyle wasn’t feeling in top form either now. Catching someone with his eyes was more effective than using copper, but it cost him so much more magic. Nyle decided to return home for some rest before heading to the red-light district. Besides, he had heard humans preferred the nighttime for such activities.

Nyle didn’t really understand humans, but he was still young and would learn all there was to know eventually.

Purchase

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.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Blog Button 2

Release Blitz: The Mayor of Oak Street by Vincent Traughber Meis #agegap #LGBTQ @convince415 @GoIndiMarketing @ninestarpress

Title: The Mayor of Oak Street

Author: Vincent Traughber Meis

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 06/14/2021

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 88400

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, age-gap, coming-of-age, coming out, college, political, friends to lovers, period piece, reunited

Add to Goodreads

Description

In the 1960s, Midwestern boy and Boy Scout, Nathan delivers newspapers and mows lawns. Nathan uses his cover to move about yards and sneak into the homes of his neighbors, uncovering their secrets.

In high school, one of the local misfits introduces him to diet pills, which help him overcome his shyness. In an amphetamine high, he meets Cindy, who he hopes will steer him along the “morally straight” path of the Boy Scout Oath he swore to.

Nathan is infatuated with a young doctor down the street, Nicholas (Dr. B), who embodies all the things his mother would love him to be. On one of his secret forays in Dr. B’s house, he hides in a closet and witnesses his idol having sex with man while the wife is out of town. Dr. B’s affair leads to tragedy, forcing the doctor to leave town.
At college in New Orleans, Nathan meets a group of rebels and expands his drug use. Marc, a bisexual Cajun charmer becomes Nathan’s first male sexual experience, but promptly leaves town.

Nathan has a chance encounter with Dr. B, who has moved to New Orleans. Dr. B is in a relationship, but still closeted. Frustrated by Dr. B’s cool reaction, Nathan goes on a six-month binge of amphetamines and anonymous sex. On one night of debauchery, he overdoses and ends up in the emergency ward.

Nathan’s near death rallies Dr. B and Nathan’s other friends to force him into rehab. On the way home from work, Nathan witnesses the gruesome aftermath of the 1973 Up Stairs Lounge fire that devastated the gay population of New Orleans. As a result of the fire, Dr. B’s live-in boyfriend leaves town, freeing Dr. B to explore his feelings for Nathan.

Excerpt

The Mayor of Oak Street
Vincent Traughber Meis © 2021
All Rights Reserved

The Sangamon flows muddy and rank through the corn and soybean fields of central Illinois, giving its name to my city and the lake it fills on the south side before continuing its meander west. One of its tributaries, the even lazier and muddier Harold’s Creek, ran practically up to my back door in its own journey through the woods behind the homes on Oak Street.

The afternoon sun filtered through the tall trees, warming my shoulders as I walked along the creek, imagining building a raft like I had seen my brother and his friends do a few years before. I would ride it down the creek to the Sangamon and into the Illinois, eventually reaching the Mississippi. The Mississippi would take me to New Orleans, a city memorialized in song, literature, and film as a place of wonder. It wasn’t that I needed to run away like Huckleberry Finn. I hadn’t yet learned to hate everything the Sangamon gave its name to. It was a boy’s fantasy brought on by the heat of summer and the mesmerizingly sluggish flow of water.

I heard a branch snap deep in the woods. I often saw hobos from the nearby Wabash Line wandering in the woods, and my mother told me I needed to avoid them, but I sometimes watched them from behind a clump of bushes. My eyes darted around the area and saw nothing. I glanced at my watch. Time to go. For most kids, these were the carefree days of summer, but I had things to do. From the creek, I walked up the hill, through our backyard, and out to the street.

Mrs. Sloan’s heavy oak door hung wide open while a screen kept the swarms of late summer flies and mosquitoes at bay. I put my face to the mesh in what felt like an invasion of her privacy, causing me to tingle from the top of my head down to my big toes.

“Hello? Mrs. Sloan?” I shouted into the dim interior of the hall.

No answer.

I opened the screen door haltingly and stepped inside. The door creaked shut, sounding painful in the silence of the house. I took a step, and then another. My legs shook. I peered to the right into the living room and left into the dining room. A force had taken control of me and pushed me on, my sneakers barely touching the carpet.

I went as far as the kitchen, passing two empty bedrooms on the way. Her purse sat on the yellow chrome Formica kitchen table, the keys to her Oldsmobile right next to it. Out the kitchen window, I searched for her floppy straw hat in the sunny backyard. She was neither in the garden where she often tended her vegetables nor in the lawn chair where she sometimes sat, large sunglasses on her nose and a cocktail in hand. I took note the lawn needed mowing.

Nylons hung over the bathroom shower curtain rod, hypnotically swaying in the breeze from the open window. Though we called her Mrs. Sloan, I had never heard of a Mr. Sloan. My father once complained about entering the bathroom and finding my mother’s nylons drying in plain sight. I wondered if Mrs. Sloan was sad living alone or happy she had the freedom to do what she wanted.

I should have been scared of her coming home and finding me lurking in her house, but a stronger force blocked the fear, a compelling energy moving my mind and body, making me feel impervious to danger. I continued down the hall to the living room, stopping to gaze at each of three framed needlepoint messages: “There’s nothing to fear but fear itself,” “A cheery smile makes life worthwhile,” and “You belong among the wildflowers.”

I had come to Mrs. Sloan’s door in my rounds, collecting for my paper route. She was a month behind in her payments. And I rationalized my invasion of her home out of concern for her welfare. My mother once said she wouldn’t be surprised to find her passed out drunk on the front lawn one day. My brother in high school sometimes came home from a night of drinking with his buddies and would collapse face down on his bed in our shared room without removing his clothes or shoes. One time, he ended up on the floor. Perhaps Mrs. Sloan had fallen like my brother. Perhaps she had fallen asleep in the bath and was at risk of drowning like I had seen on a television program.

I spent a few more minutes in the house before exiting through the front door into the calm and quiet on Oak Street. I continued up the block to do the rest of the collections. That night I drew a floor plan of her home, noting doors and windows. My brother called me a weirdo when the first thing I looked at in the Sunday paper was the page with the floor plan of a new house on the market while he went for the sports section, my father the news, and my mother the book reviews. I also scribbled notes about Mrs. Sloan’s house: the color and shape of her purse, the black-and-white photo of a somber older couple in the living room, the buff-colored nylons, the approximately twelve-inch cross hanging over her bed, and the needlepoint messages.

Before I entered my teenage years, I would know my way in and out of most every house on the block without being discovered. It was the Midwest. It was the ‘60s. Crime happened elsewhere. In addition to delivering papers, I mowed lawns. I could cross barriers, move within fences, and befriend dogs. Access. Getting inside the house was usually the easy part.

Everybody told me my paper route and lawn-mowing jobs would be good experience though I had no idea how much I would learn about myself, about others, about life, the good and the bad. I could assume the face of the upstanding neighborhood boy, appearing at their doors to collect subscription payments, smiling and making small talk while below the surface I was another person, motivated by desires they would never understand.

The second time I entered a home was as spontaneous as the first. It was the Pruitts’. While mowing the front lawn, I noticed Mrs. Pruitt lock the front door, take her two identically dressed little girls by the hand, jump into their Ford station wagon, and drive off. When I got around to the back of the house, I spotted the kitchen door standing open, beckoning me. I turned off the mower so I would hear if the car returned. I went into the kitchen. My mother would die rather than let our kitchen fall into such disorder; the sink filled with dirty dishes, and the kitchen table covered with open schoolbooks and scattered papers.

A half-full milk carton sat on the counter. I opened the fridge and saw a whole shelf of soda pop. I took an orange Crush and drank it as I did a quick tour of the house. Not much interesting. The rest of the house was as messy as the kitchen. I finished the soda outside, threw the bottle in the trashcan, and finished mowing the lawn. Before I went to bed that night, I drew a floor plan of their three-bedroom and put it in a folder with Mrs. Sloan’s.

I thought of these intrusions as accidents, isolated incidents that wouldn’t be repeated. But images of those escapades kept dancing through my head, enticing me to do it again. The rush of danger, the real possibility I might be caught, was like a drug. At the time I was still ignorant about drugs and addictions, but my body clearly knew sensations it wanted to revisit. I managed to stave off my urges for a few months. I turned twelve over the summer, and several of my customers who had heard it was my birthday tacked on a bit extra to their payments.

Lawn-mowing season came to an end as the weather turned cold, and we had our first snowfall. Soon after, I started receiving calls about paper holds for the Thanksgiving holidays. To me, they might as well have been invitations. I prayed it didn’t snow as the soft whiteness would show the hard dirty prints of my boots, a trail of my activities. I had to start thinking about such things: tracks I might leave, who in the neighborhood tended to snoop out their windows, or how often people left doors unlocked, windows open.

I made a point of being friendly with the dogs on my street as I knew my extracurricular activities at houses with animals could be a problem. The Jackmans had a golden retriever. I’d received notice to put their paper on hold for five days, making me guess they weren’t going to leave the dog in the house for that length of time.

When I did my collections the week before Thanksgiving, I casually mentioned to Mrs. Jackman that I had received the hold notice. People loved to give out information they didn’t have to. She revealed they were going to their lake house in Arkansas. Butch was curled up at her feet. He raised his head as she took a ten out of her wallet and gave it to me. She told me to keep the change, and I thanked her profusely while I tore off her receipt.

I reached down to pet the dog. “I guess Butch is going to get a vacation too.”

“Oh, yeah. He loves it down there.”

Bingo, I was in. After our Thanksgiving meal, Dad and my brother watched the football game on TV while Mom cleaned up. I went to my room, saying I was going to read. Nobody thought it was odd. In my family, everybody did pretty much what he or she wanted. Normally, after a Thanksgiving meal, Dad and my brother passed out in front of the TV, and Mom curled up in a chair to read after cleaning up the kitchen. They had all had a lot of wine at dinner, including David, who my parents allowed to drink though he was only sixteen, something about him learning to drink responsibly at home keeping him from being irresponsible when he went out. I wasn’t sure that was working.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Vincent Traughber Meis started writing plays as a child in the Midwest and cajoled his sisters to act in performing them for neighbors. In high school, one of his short stories won a local contest sponsored by the newspaper. After graduating from college, he worked on a number of short stories and began his first novel. In the 1980’s and 90’s he published a number of pieces, mostly travel articles in publications such as, The Advocate, LA Weekly, In Style, and Our World. His travels have inspired his five novels, all set at least partially in foreign countries: Eddie’s Desert Rose (2011), Tio Jorge (2012), and Down in Cuba (2013), Deluge (2016) and Four Calling Burds (2019). Tio Jorge received a Rainbow Award in the category of Bisexual Fiction in 2012. Down in Cuba received two Rainbow Awards in 2013. Recently stories have been published in three collections: WITH:New Gay Fiction, Best Gay Erotica Vol 1 and Best Gay Erotica Vol 4. He lives in San Leandro, CA with his husband.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Blog Button 2

Release Blitz: No Flag by Liz Borino #LGBTQ #contemporaryromance @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: No Flag

Series: After Everything, Book One

Author: Liz Borino

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 06/07/2021

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 67100

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, contemporary, family-drama, military, war, violence, terrorists, disabilities, amputee, bartender, Dom/sub relationship, domestic discipline, OCD

Add to Goodreads

Description

Captain Mike Kelley does not ignore his intuition, so when sexy bartender Will Hayes captures his heart, Mike embarks on a mission to win him over to a Domestic Discipline relationship. Will accepts with one caveat: Mike must promise not to renew his army contract.

Mike agrees, until the army invokes the stop-loss military policy to involuntarily extend his commission and send him back overseas, rendering him powerless and threatening everything he and Will have built. Will, left alone to cope with a new café, must rely on the support of old friends who may no longer be trustworthy.

A horrific terrorist attack on Mike’s outpost changes everything, leaving them both at a loss.

Mike awakens in a hospital with a devastating injury and no recollection of the attack. As the only survivor, his memory may be the key to national security. Mike struggles to cope with his injury and Will struggles with his new role in Mike’s life.

For Mike and Will, “No Flag” meant “come home alive.” Will has Mike back rather than a folded flag, but in the aftermath of war, can they rebuild the life they had before?

Excerpt

No Flag
Liz Borino © 2021
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
The News

July 7, 2012

Bombs exploded on the evening news, one after the other. Body parts flew past the camera. The headline across the bottom of the screen read: “20 Army Intelligence Officers Dead.”

“Early this morning, a bomb exploded in the Army Intelligence building, killing twenty American soldiers from Platoon 518,” the blonde newswoman reported.

Will Kelley squinted as the fuzzy security images played behind the woman’s head, searching through the chaos for reassurance. Nothing. His heart pounded and he tried to swallow but found only dry air in his mouth and throat. The female reporter described the weapons used and structural damage done in vivid detail, which made for sensational television, but failed to answer any questions for the people at home. Victims’ families had to be notified before the media could release their names. So, Blondie would lose her job if she read the list in front of her.

“What the hell are you doing, man? We open in thirty minutes and you’re watching television?” Seth, his roommate, demanded from the doorway of the living room.

“Answered your own question, didn’t you?” Will responded.

“Are you ready?”

“No.” Will did not take his eyes off the screen. “I’ll drive myself.”

“When?”

The report flashed to an increase in allergies in children, so Will switched to another station while typing “Attack on American S2 Building in Afghanistan” into Google. It wouldn’t be that easy though. So, Will tried several more combinations of search terms before finding a video shot by an insurgent involved in the attack. The camera shuddered. Focused on different areas of the chaos. Men ripping clothes off soldiers. Looting. Bodies blown to bits. A man removing computer hard drives. And only one face. On the severed head of Major Evans.

“Will!” Seth jabbed him in the shoulder with a pen. Will forced his eyes away from the computer. “What happened?”

“Mike’s platoon was attacked. Twelve survivors.”

“Shit,” Seth said. “Can you call…?”

Will took a slug from the nearby water bottle. “Who? No one will talk to me. I’m not my husband’s family.”

Seth stared at him for a long moment and said, “I’ll have Casey cover for you.”

Will stood and shook his head. “Why? I can’t do anything here except watch the same videos over and over. May as well see if I can make some money.” He shut his computer and set it on the side table. “Meet you there. I won’t be too late. Promise.” He had to stop himself from scoffing as the meaningless word left his lips.

“Will…” Seth began.

“You wanted me to move, I’m moving! Go. I’ll be there.” He walked toward his bedroom, Seth’s gaze burning into his back. Stopping to throw a glance over his shoulder, he added, “Don’t tell Casey. I can do without her mother-henning me.”

“Will…”

“Please, Seth.”

“Sure.”

“Thanks.” Will climbed the steps and closed his bedroom door. He leaned against the wood cutting him off from the rest of the world. His gaze roamed the four walls decorated with art prints, a whiteboard, and his wedding picture. Will strode over and fingered the golden frame. Behind the glass lay a photograph of Will and Mike in tuxes in the middle of their first dance. Their smiles easily outshone the gold on the frame. Mike had always been handsome with broad, built shoulders and muscular pecs, leading to abs you could grate cheese on.

But none of that stood out to Will, not on their wedding day of the year before. Mike’s blue eyes radiated a strength and hope. Will removed his wedding band to read the promise inscribed: No Flag.

Please keep your promise, Mike, Will thought as he took a deep breath and tore himself away from the picture and the crushing memories it brought. He had a job to do tonight.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Liz Borino has been telling stories of varying truthfulness since she was a child. As an adult, she keeps the fiction on the page. She writes stories of human connection and intimacy, in all their forms. Her books feature flawed men who often risk everything for their love.

When Liz isn’t writing, she’s waking up early to edit, travel, and explore historic prisons and insane asylums—not (usually) all in one day. Liz lives in Philadelphia with her two cats.

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Blog Button 2