RELEASE BLITZ: Hot Blood by A.E. Lister #BDSM #kink #LGBTQ @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Hot Blood

Series: The Braided Crop Ranch, Book Four

Author: AE Lister

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 02/07/2023

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 50300

Genre: Contemporary, BDSM, pony play, kink, photographer, hurt/comfort, grief, public sex, voyeurism

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Description

Oliver Lambert has taken his photography skills and run with them. By the time he’s thirty, he’s made a name for himself and now has jobs whenever he needs them. He likes to be behind the camera, watching the world through a safe lens, protected from actually engaging with it.

An unexpected referral takes him somewhere he never expected—a kinky fetish ranch in the Muskokas, where men pay to play pony and trainers teach them how to behave.

Adam Marsland needs a visual record of the Braided Crop Ranch and it’s been a while since the website photographs were updated. When he’s given Oliver’s name, he immediately hires the man to come for the summer session to immerse himself in the ranch and its activities.

Oliver is out of his depth, but the challenge of photographing the beautiful men at the BCR is something he can focus on. Safe behind the lens of his camera, Oliver finds the ranch to be seductive and shocking. He can’t help admitting a fascination for the people who make the Braided Crop Ranch what it is.

But just because he knows how to take a great photo doesn’t mean he’s prepared for everything he encounters, especially when it comes to a recalcitrant ponyboy named Puck.

Contains: voyeurism, second-hand embarrassment, awkward conversations, a very introverted photographer, and several surprising developments, along with all the regular kink and pony play elements.

*Note: The timeline of Hotblood is prior to the events in Stable Hand but should be read either as the fourth book in the series or as a standalone.

Excerpt

Hot Blood
AE Lister © 2023
All Rights Reserved

Editing digital photos to make fruits and vegetables appear perfectly ripe, juicy, and seductive was not where I thought my life would end up.

When I’d chosen photography as the focus of my fine arts degree at the University of Waterloo in Southern Ontario, I had imagined somewhat more exciting subject matter. But most of my assignments these days involved long hours spent hunched on my elbows in the dirt, taking alluring shots of farm produce.

On my very fancy and expensive computer monitor, a ray of morning sunlight bounced off the red skin of a plump tomato. I’d tried several filters and a range of exposures to get it just right, but something wasn’t working.

I clicked on another set of tools and looked for a different approach. While I perused the list, my phone pinged from where it lay on the desk.

I glanced at the screen to see a text from an unknown number:

Mr. Lambert, is it OK if I give you a call in a few moments? My name is Adam Marsland. I was given your name and contact info by Jaden Stevenson. I’m looking for a photographer.

Since referrals had gotten me to where I was in my life at the moment—a recognized purveyor of outstanding photographic interpretations of reality—I texted Mr. Marsland back immediately.

Of course. Give me five minutes.

I input Adam Marsland as a contact and stood from my chair. My neck cracked when I stretched it to the side, and again when I repeated the motion in the other direction. I was only thirty years old, but sitting in one position for too long was bad for anyone. I reached my arms up and over my head, feeling the pull in my muscles.

Moving into the kitchen of my small condo on Toronto’s East Side, I grabbed a tumbler, pressed the button on my fridge for cold water, and watched the stream of liquid splash into the glass. It would be fortuitous if Mr. Marsland could offer me a contract for some images. I was booked up until mid-June but, after that, things looked a bit sparse.

I carried my drink to the living room window and gazed out on the city. Living on the fifteenth floor afforded me the luxury of a stunning view, even if the square footage was small. At least the finishes and upgrades in this unit were of the highest quality and done according to the latest trends. I’d been able to furnish the tiny apartment with quality pieces, like the Eames chair and a tan leather love seat from West Elm, since I didn’t need many.

When my ringtone sounded, I walked back to my desk, put the glass down, and pressed the answer button, remaining on my feet since I’d been sitting for the past hour and a half.

“Mr. Marsland,” I said.

“Mr. Lambert. Good afternoon. How are you today?”

“Fine, thanks. What can I do for you?” I asked, taking a sip from my glass.

Mr. Marsland cleared his throat, and I heard the click of a pen. “I’m hoping you can come to my ranch and take some photos for me. You come highly recommended.”

I smiled, because it was always nice to hear that. “Thanks. Jaden mentioned me?”

“Yes. He thinks you’d be perfect for what we need.”

“I’m pretty booked up at the moment. What time frame are we looking at?”

“I’d need you to spend part of the summer here, if you’re available, and interested. You’ll be compensated well and we can put you in a room at the main house during your stay.”

Perfect.

“I do have most of the summer free at the moment. Are you talking three weeks? Six?”

Papers rustled on Mr. Marsland’s end. “Six weeks. From mid-July to the end of August.”

I walked back to my computer and put the glass down beside it. “And I’d be photographing horses? Riders? The landscape, too, I suppose?”

There was a pause, and he laughed. “We’re not that kind of ranch, Mr. Lambert.”

I narrowed my eyes at the red tomato that had tortured me with its saucy round form all morning. Mr. Marsland’s comment intrigued me.

“Call me Oliver. And what exactly do you mean?”

“The name of my…business…is the Braided Crop Ranch. We’re really a club, of sorts, with a resort hotel on the premises.”

Hmm. “Oh. And you offer riding as part of the resort experience?”

Mr. Marsland laughed. “No. No riding. Only ponies.”

“I’m sorry. I’m a bit confused about—”

“We’re a fetish ranch, Oliver. Pony play. Human ponies. In leather harnesses and other…accoutrements.”

I blinked quickly, my eyes flitting from the tomato to the glass of water on my desk as my mouth went dry.

“Oh. I see.”

Holy… That was not where I thought this conversation was going. A fetish ranch? My mind conjured up bizarre images of people in horse costumes. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that.

Adam laughed again. “Look, why don’t I text you the link to our website, where we have some older images, and you can call me back if you’re interested. And just text me a ‘No, thanks’ if you’re not.”

That…made sense. My mind reeled from the information but also honed in razor-sharp on the fact that this would be a very different assignment from anything I’d done in the past.

“All right. That sounds fine.”

“I hope to hear from you within the next hour. But if I don’t, no harm, no foul. What we’d be looking for are updated, artistic images for the website and our brochures—maybe a selection of shots to sell in our gift shop. Have a look, and if you think you can work with us, call me back. At any rate, it was great to speak with you, Oliver.”

“Same, Mr. Marsland.”

“Adam. Please.”

“Okay. Thanks, Adam. I’ve got your text, so I’ll have a look.”

“Excellent. Hope to speak to you soon.”

I closed the call and clicked the link in the text from Adam. My browser opened, and a “Welcome” page loaded.

The Braided Crop Ranch scrolled in elegant but readable script overtop an idyllic scene of what looked like a regular farmhouse and barns in a woodland setting. Then a warning window popped up, informing me I had to be eighteen or older to enter the site.

Hmm. Well, I was thirty, so I clicked it.

Welcome to the Braided Crop Ranch.

A fetish farm for pony play enthusiasts…

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Meet the Author

AE Lister/Elizabeth Lister is a Canadian non-binary author with a vivid imagination and a head full of unique and interesting characters. They have published many other books, one of which (Beyond the Edge) received an Honorable Mention from the National Leather Association–International for excellence in SM/Leather/Fetish writing.

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RELEASE BLITZ: Prisoner by GiGi DeGraham #ParanormalRomance #Gay #GenderQueer #Suspense @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Prisoner

Series: Steele Pack, Book One

Author: GiGi DeGraham

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 01/31/2023

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 88800

Genre: Paranormal, contemporary, romance, gay/questioning, genderqueer/genderfluid, asexual, interracial, action/adventure, suspense, prisoners, prison/prison escape, grieving, graphic violence, rape attempt, PTSD, off-grid living/isolation, subsistence/hunting, winter, one-bed, soulmates, friends to lovers, second chance, mysterious wolves

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Description

Most prisoners believe their punishment is unfair, but for Ryan Tarkett, it’s true. While serving his sentence, an attack sets off a chain of events and forces Ryan to speed up the timeline on an insane escape plan. Spurring him on are memories of his past, his one love, who he met in juvie, and the driving desire for freedom. When Ryan believes he has nothing left to lose, escape from prison becomes the only option.

Ryan’s desperate journey isn’t easy as he tries to evade capture. Past regrets and confusion about his sexual orientation dog him as he deals with the loss of Thomas. When a stranger gives Ryan the chance at a new life, somewhere he might begin to feel safe, he may learn to trust again.

But in his mountain hideaway, Ryan feels as if he is being watched. Something lurks in the surrounding woods. Flashes of a figure give the impression he is being followed or, worse, hunted. Alone and lonely, Ryan fears he is losing his mind. When his new shadow seems intent on sticking around, Ryan starts to suspect this is no ordinary Wolf.

Prisoner is a different kind of love story, where a mystery waits to unfold.

Excerpt

Prisoner
GiGi DeGraham © 2023
All Rights Reserved

Prisoner 793 lay on his cot in his cell, staring up at the rough joint that drew a harsh line across the concrete ceiling. His eyes traced the stone seam, and by now, he knew every bump and divot of the rugged line. Immeasurable minutes of his life had been spent with his eyes affixed on the thing while contemplating his time. Because of all he did not possess, other than a bundle of letters, this was something he had plenty of. Time there was measured in years still left to serve. Twelve down, and thirty-eight to go. Thirty-eight years to look forward to staring at that same ragged seam across the ceiling they hadn’t even taken the time to trowel smooth when they built this godforsaken prison.

His bed, this meager cot, with its navy-blue ticking, was a place he both hated and would defend to the death because it was his. Prisoner 793 had spent the better part of the last two years on this cot, and he would not let some new chester come in and try to take it. Hell, he wouldn’t let anyone take anything from him, and neither would his cellmate, who he internally called Big Bastard.

It was a place that 793 had earned, this thin bed on the top of the double bunk. Big Bastard had kept his bottom bunk with just a look, and he might have grunted once the first day a new, unwelcome prisoner was added to their cell. The new guy didn’t even consider it, tangling with the bigger man, so he’d looked above, to 793’s cot, to him, the lesser of the two evils in the room. Now, the new guy slept on the floor temporarily on a flat mat that kept him from freezing solid in the night. The surface was always cold, even cool-to-the-touch on nights in mid-August. They kept it cold in prison to keep men tamed.

During summer days, the floor just sweat, making everything smell worse than it already did. But this new man was there for something the warden liked to call “overcrowding,” and for the last three months, 793 had fought the same man. Clearly, the problem wasn’t going away. Not until the warden got the additional funding he’d been lobbying for to add yet another wing in this constant effort to house more men.

These floor mats had a crinkling, silver film that rustled every time one of the transfers shifted in their sleep or even took a breath. It had put Big Bastard in a foul mood for three straight months, and more than once, he’d huffed, gotten up, and kicked the shit out of the new prisoner who couldn’t be still or breathed in or out too loud. Big Bastard hated the guy. He either liked or simply tolerated 793, who hadn’t slept on a mat, not once. From the first day 793 had arrived at this medium-security prison, he’d handled business and secured his cot with his fists.

It was like anywhere. When you transferred into a new place, you started over. But before, at his first prison—a maximum-security federal penitentiary called Supermax, deep in the south of Louisiana—793 had fought and lost many times. With every loss, he’d slept on something less than desirable. It was there at Supermax that 793 began working out in his cell. When he’d earned privileges, he started lifting weights in the yard until he could fight with a properly placed fist, a fast elbow, and a debilitating knee. These were the skills required to win and keep the cot for himself. It had taken a few pretty good ass-whippings for him to figure out just how to fight—because fighting in prison was its own kind of animal.

This new inmate, Dean Harrold, had narrower eyes than most, hardened thin slits that seemed to always tell on him. Harrold had serious issues with authority and had killed his father during a domestic dispute. His father, who had worked high up in the government, had friends who hadn’t taken any mercy on his murderous son. Dean Harrold was a lifer with nothing left to lose. Harrold was a muscular guy, on the tall side, but he fought with his anger rather than any real skill. He was bigger than 793 but less than Big Bastard. Harrold was never satisfied with anything and constantly complained. He was entitled and mouthy, irritating, even to the guards. Dean Harrold was just a prick.

Big Bastard had already beat him with a shoe until Harrold understood he had to keep his trap shut. The beating had been insulting and demeaning, and Harrold simmered over it like a scorned woman as the shoe-shaped bruise darkened down his cheekbone. Big Bastard was currently in the hole for it, as Harrold had snitched, and the cell was quieter afterwards. Harrold continuously gave 793 the stink eye and made crude comments. This happened so often 793 would just get his eyes closed, and pop them back open as Harrold spouted off more of his hate. Harrold was pissed that 793 hadn’t tried to stop the beating.

“Useless mute,” Harrold had barked up at him.

Harrold was going to die in here; he was only a year older than 793, just twenty-eight, and would never be a free man again. He wasn’t lucky, but he hadn’t gotten the death penalty—the big bitch—so that was something. Still, 793 didn’t care for him.

But Harrold was here now, this last stop in life. He worked in janitorial services, and word was he might be moved out of their cell by the end of the week. Friday couldn’t come soon enough. Funny that he never attempted to sleep on Big Bastard’s cot while he was gone. He begrudgingly slept on the mat, most likely thinking 793 would rat. He wouldn’t have had to. Big Bastard would have known; he’d been there far too long for anyone to pull one over on him. Number 793 hoped Harrold would be gone by the time Big Bastard got back from the hole, and they could both get back to their somewhat normal peace and quiet.

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Meet the Author

GiGi DeGraham lives, plays, and learns in New Orleans. She is a proud southerner and enjoys fixing up old houses and writing. Most of her story and character ideas develop while sanding and painting. She loves to roller skate and has a favorite author-named cat called Irving, after Washington Irving. You’ll always find her with an audiobook in her ear and listening to everything narrated by Kirt Graves.

GiGi prefers the outdoors when the weather permits, going on rock and fossil hunts or visiting local rock shops. Otherwise, she’s clacking away at her keyboard until the wee hours. GiGi firmly believes downtime should be spent on a porch swing. GiGi is a life-long supporter of the LGBTQ+ community.

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RELEASE BLITZ: Gods of Inthya by Effie Calvin #Fantasy #romance #LGBTQ @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Gods of Inthya

Series: Tales of Inthya, Book 5.5

Author: Effie Calvin

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 01/17/2023

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 38600

Genre: Fantasy, anthology, Fantasy, gods, magic, romance, short stories

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Description

At the beginning of time, the gods came together to create Inthya, a world where magic is common and hatred never had the opportunity to take root.

But the Inthyan gods are young and imperfect. With countless failures behind them and unspeakable horrors lurking outside the borders of creation, they must not allow this world to meet the same fate as the last—without alerting their mortal worshippers that anything is wrong.

Nineteen short stories from the perspectives of the gods themselves, some humorous, some horrifying, and all united by a theme of protecting the mortals who love them unconditionally.

Excerpt

Gods of Inthya
Effie Calvin © 2023
All Rights Reserved

Inthi, God of Creation and First of the Ten, does not generally manifest in cities. This is somewhat paradoxical, considering most new ideas come from places where mortals gather in large numbers. But Inthi is a quiet, thoughtful sort of god and has trouble focusing when surrounded by too much noise and commotion. Even when they are called to a mortal’s private workshop, away from shouting vendors and screaming children, they cannot block out the soft but persistent hum of countless souls going about their daily business outside, each mind a bright beacon of wants and worries and dreams.

But today, unfortunately, they must make an exception.

Inthi is intimately familiar with their own Great Temple in Birsgen, and the enormous district surrounding it. Some call it the Flame District, but others simply call it Inthi’s District. Most large cities have one, a place where smiths and artisans and inventors come together to work and exchange ideas.

As Inthi approaches their temple, they hear mortal voices raised in argument. Standing on the steps are two people—a neutroi that Inthi recognizes as their own archpriest here in Ieflaria, and a priestess of Eran dressed in silver robes. The priestess is the source of most of the noise, waving her clenched fist in the archpriest’s face.

Inthi’s archpriest, however, is unimpressed. They wave a hand dismissively and say, “Your concerns are unwarranted.”

The priestess’s cheeks redden. From the rage that emanates from her mind, Inthi can tell reason has failed and now she is about to start cursing. Inthi walks up behind her and rests a reassuring hand on the prophet-priestess’s shoulder. “It’s all right,” they say. “I will handle it.”

Eran’s priestess looks at Inthi with wide, disbelieving eyes. She takes a step back, too dumbfounded to speak. Inthi’s own archpriest has not recognized them, but she has. With more effort, they can disguise themselves completely, but Inthi is not inclined to do so today.

“I appreciate your efforts,” they add. Only rarely do Eran’s priests take an active role in events. Most adhere to the philosophy that attempting to alter the future is pointless at best and disastrous at worst. This priestess must have decided that no outcome is worse than what she’s already seen in her dreams. “Excuse me.”

Inthi walks past the bemused archpriest and enters the temple. Inside is warm from the heat of dozens of forges, and every stone is steeped in magic. Countless prayers have been uttered within these walls. Generations of priests and artisans have labored here. Even if the temple was disassembled and all the stones cast into the sea, it would take centuries for the magic to dissipate from the air.

After taking a few moments to admire the new bronze statues decorating the temple’s anteroom, Inthi takes a side door into a hallway. All around them, mortal minds buzz with ideas; mortal hands wrest iron and copper into new shapes. It is still early, but most of them have been awake for hours. Some have not slept at all.

Inthi could have manifested directly at the source of the problem, but there is time enough to enjoy being in the temple. They pass a few priests in orange robes, but most of the mortals are dressed practically, with heavy leather gloves and large aprons. Some carry boxes, or tools, or push carts filled with scrap metal to be melted down and turned into something useful. Inthi brushes each mind as they pass, appreciating every mortal’s unique focus.

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Meet the Author

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

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RELEASE BLITZ: These Young Wolves by Glenn Quigley #LGBTQ #EnemiestoLovers @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: These Young Wolves

Series: Knights of Blackrabbit, Book One

Author: Glenn Quigley

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 12/20/2022

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 84900

Genre: Historical, LGBTQIA+, Cornish coast, clockpunk, spec fiction, bears, sailors, law enforcement, historical, non-explicit, enemies-to-lovers, crime, redemption, revenge, tattoos

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Description

One year ago, Vince Knight walked away from his role as crime lord of Port Knot. In his absence, the gangs he founded went to war, and frightening new factions have risen from the ashes to tear at the town’s throat like hungry wolves.

Now Vince is back and has taken command of the Watch—working side-by-side with the very people who spent years trying to put him behind bars. Unbeknownst to him, Captain James Godgrave has been given his own team to deal with crime in the town, but while he and Vince share a common goal, they are not allies.

The murder of one of James’s crew puts Vince in a delicate position. Facing pressure from the council, the townsfolk, and the Watch itself, Vince must find the killer because if he doesn’t, James will, and Vince’s tenure as Watch Commander will be the shortest in history.

As Vince and James clash in their public and private lives, Vince starts to understand the damage caused by his abdication as crime lord, James sets about putting down the gangs once and for all, and the mysterious power behind the new factions exacts a terrifying plan that will change Port Knot forever.

Excerpt

These Young Wolves
Glenn Quigley © 2022
All Rights Reserved

He clicked his pale, meaty fingers twice, sending Crabmeat running along the narrow Entry while he hurried up the dry, cobbled road. He readied himself at a corner and stuck out the tip of his octopus-handled cane. A young man with a thatch of blond hair slammed into the cane at full speed, turning head-over-tit onto the cobbled road. A necklace and a handful of coins spilled out of his pockets, splashing into a horse-made puddle. Crabmeat—a tubby, short-nosed little bulldog—darted after him, barking furiously.

The young thief rolled onto his back, holding his shin and crying out, before being lifted wholly off the ground and slammed against the nearest wall. Vince Knight spoke with a voice like rolling thunder, “Assume you know the way to the Watch House?”

No one in the town of Port Knot could remember a warmer October than that of 1781. As the hazy sun rose in a saffron sky, the harbour stretched its cranes like waking arms and prepared for another day. Already several tall ships had docked and become targets for hungry gulls searching for scraps.

The briny air, awash with the stench of yesterday’s catch, stung Vince’s nose in a familiar and welcoming way. With his bag over his shoulder, he took the thief by the scruff of his neck, and marched deeper into town.

The crowds of traders, dockworkers, and sailors sundered themselves before him and fell quiet when he drew near. He kept his head down and carried on walking. He no longer needed the aid of his cane but thought it added some sophistication to his appearance, especially given his newest acquisition of a patch over his left eye.

Had he not already towered over the townsfolk, his clothing would still have set him apart. Sartorially speaking, he never truly overcame his brawler beginnings. His cream-coloured top shirt had seen better days and his black trousers had long ago begun to fray their edges. Yesterday, he’d attended his brother’s handfasting on the nearby island of Merryapple, and he’d accidentally left his favourite claret overcoat behind. Not that he needed it that morning. His tricorne cap, cracked and scaly in places, covered his snowy white hair and kept the morning sun from his lone icy blue eye.

Port Knot’s sole Watch House sat at a crossroads on the west side of town. Three storeys tall, it had a low front door painted in cornflower blue and a single window set with rusted iron bars. Above these, the sand-coloured bricks rose to an arch and then to a gable, in a wholly unnecessary architectural flourish. Like most buildings in town, thin copper pipes ran across the surface like veins under sallow skin.

The bridges of Port Knot infested the town like rats. Long, short, arched, flat, and each one different from the last. Lickbeer Bridge connected the road above Vince’s head to the first floor of the Watch House and protruded from the side of it like a hernia. The arch had been carved to resemble the open mouth of a bearded man, swallowing all who travelled through.

As with the rest of the town, the Watch House had been built too close to the surrounding premises, and indeed the entire street had the appearance of an overstuffed bookshelf. Within, Vince found a grimy pit of browns and mustards. The Watch House saw hardly any sun, so a plethora of lanterns fought bravely against the gloom.

Vince all but threw the thief onto a chair. “Stay,” he said, pointing. “Or else.”

Crabmeat sat in front of the thief and growled.

Vince let his bag of clothes slump to the dusty floor. He tapped his octopus-handled cane on the knotted wooden floorboards. “Anybody in?”

A voice from a backroom called out to him and presently a slim, dark-haired woman in her early twenties greeted him. She wore oversized tan trousers held up by braces, a striped shirt splattered with oil, and a pair of goggles perched on top of her head. She gripped a hammer in one hand and scowled.

“Got you a present,” Vince said, nodding to the thief.

“Ah, sure that’s very kind of you, altogether.” She raised the hammer a little and steadied herself. “And who might you be, now?”

“Vince Knight. Watch Commander.”

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Meet the Author

Glenn Quigley is an author and artist originally from Tallaght in Dublin, Ireland, and now living in Lisburn, Northern Ireland with his partner of many years. His first novel, The Moth and Moon, was published in 2018. When not writing, he paints portraits in watercolours and tweets too many photos of lighthouses. He maintains a website of his latest work at http://www.glennquigley.com.

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RELEASE BLITZ: Three Kings by Freydis Moon #Fantasy #LGBTQ #polyamorous @GoIndiMarketing @ninestarpress

Title: Three Kings

Author: Freydis Moon

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 11/22/2022

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male, Male/Male Menage

Length: 38300

Genre: Fantasy, LGBTQIA+, fantasy/PNR, trans, gay, polyamorous, cozy romance, witches/modern witchcraft, cottagecore, shifter, interracial, magic, magical flora and produce, Icelandic folklore, lighthouse/small coastal town, stormy beaches, sexual tension, selkie

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Description

A polyamorous modern-day fairytale filled with magical flora, cozy romance, and Icelandic folklore…

Ethan Shaw—lighthouse keeper and local witch—lives a charmed life in his chilly, coastal hometown. Blessed with a flourishing garden and a stable livelihood, Ethan can’t complain. But when his husband, Captain Peter Vásquez, brings home a wounded seal after an impromptu storm, Ethan is faced with a curious situation: caring for a lost selkie named Nico Locke.

As Ethan struggles with the possibility of being infertile, insecurities surrounding his marriage, and a newly formed magical bond with a hostile, handsome selkie, his comfortable life begins to fracture. But could breakage lead to something better?

With autumn at their heels and winter on the horizon, Ethan, Peter, and Nico test the boundaries of a new relationship, shared intimacy, and the chance at a future together.

Excerpt

Three Kings
Freydís Moon © 2022
All Rights Reserved

Ethan Shaw carried two knives, one for lilies, the other for veins. The blade in his left hand curved like a smile, clipping stems at a sweet, diagonal angle. The second weapon was concealed in a petite leather sheath, tucked neatly in his right palm.

The ritual called for innocence, and he had none to spare, so he searched the shoreline for white-petaled flowers—speckled with saltwater, yawning toward the sky—and remembered the folktale that wormed through Casper, spoken quietly at the pub, hollered by sailors on the docks, cooed in the apothecary, and sung by children on the playground.

Those Casper lilies, the story went, are filled to the brim with what we’ve lost.

Like snakes, the townsfolk shed their innocence, leaving it to stew in the bay, sink into the soil, and beat against the lighthouse. And like snakes, the lilies drew their outgrown magic into tangled roots and narrow stems and gilded pollen: an ouroboros consuming itself.

Most people refused to use the term—magic—but Ethan found it appropriate. Harvesting long-gone energy from a living thing felt like its very definition. Using said magic to reanimate a corpse felt less like magic, though, and more like recklessness.

He yelped and flailed before he hit the water, bracing for the icy shock. Panic shot through him. Salt water rushed into his nostrils, and seaweed snagged his ankle. Swim, idiot. November wind nipped his face when he breached, sucking at the air, clutching drenched flowers to his chest. Casper lilies never promised to be easy, of course. But Ethan Shaw still cursed as he slushed through tidepools and mud. He sighed, relieved, when his soggy shoes hit the gravel path outside the tower.

“We need a lightkeeper, Ethan,” he mocked, shouldering through the wooden door. He left his boots in a puddle on the cheeky welcome mat: You Better Be Beer! “It’s a solid wage, Ethan. Not like it’s a—” The first knife clattered on the rectangular table, then the second. Sopping flowers landed with a splat next to an unopened power bill. “—hard gig, Ethan. Just take it.” He whined through the last three words, mimicking his mother, and trudged into the washroom.

He hadn’t the time for a bath, so he peeled the wet shirt from his back, unzipped his jeans, and wrestled out of his drenched binder. The chilly water had reddened his beige skin and left his boyish face chapped and raw. Droplets clung to his chestnut hair, shorn behind his ears and around the back of his skull, and worn long at his crown, hanging in messy strings over his brow. He slicked his hair back with an annoyed swipe and scrubbed lingering sea grime away with a warm cloth. He dried with a towel that smelled like gardenia and tobacco, like Peter, and set his palms on the vanity, studying his reflection. Rabbit-framed, small-chested, wide-hipped, and delicately masculine, Ethan Shaw wasn’t the optimal lightkeeper type, per se. He hadn’t a beard, only annoying stubble, and carried himself on dainty, soft-pawed feet. Much as the townsfolk whispered about lilies, they whispered about him too.

Witch—hissed like a match strike in the nave and murmured by joggers at the park—wasn’t entirely untrue, but Ethan still preferred friendlier terminology. Alchemist, maybe. Magician, even.

“Take the job, Ethan,” he mumbled and huffed at the mirror. “Surely the lifestyle suits you.”

A job doing, literally, anything else would’ve suited him better.

The front door heaved open, and the clip-clopping of heavy boots filled the living quarters. “Why is the floor wet?” Peter repeated the question, hollering through the lighthouse, “Darling, why is the floor wet?”

Ethan rolled his eyes. “I slipped,” he called, toeing the washroom door ajar.

Peter rounded the doorframe, square glasses crooked on his nose. Surprise shot to his face, but the expression faded, chased away by a frown. “You didn’t,” he warned, snaring Ethan’s reflection in a hard glare. “Ethan, we talked about this—”

“I don’t need your permission,” he snapped and slipped past Peter, striding confidently into the adjacent bedroom. He opened a drawer and fingered through his clothes, settling on a red sweater and corduroy trousers. “I’ve got the flowers; I know the ritual. Either have faith in me, or say I told you so if it doesn’t work, but hovering like a—” He batted at Peter’s broad chest. “—damn moth won’t change my mind. How was work?”

“Long,” Peter bit out. “Choppy water makes for terrible fishing, as you know. Even the local wildlife can’t handle the riptide—as you know—and consistently get thrown ashore, as you know, and—”

“You brought it home, not me.”

“I brought it home while it was still breathing,” Peter said, exasperated. He trailed Ethan into the closet, craning over him while he searched for wool socks—matching, preferably—and then into the kitchen, sighing dramatically at the waterlogged lilies. “Where’d you put the poor thing, anyway? Is it still in the garden shed?”

“No, I tossed it in the bathtub.” Ethan shot him an impatient glare. “Yes, of course, it’s in the garden shed, Peter. You think I’d let a selkie loose in our home? Give me some credit.”

“Okay, wait, hold on—wait.” Peter feebly attempted to catch him while he bounced around the kitchen.

Ethan yanked a bowl out of the cabinet, slid both knives behind his leather belt, unfastened the lavender from a rope above the sink, and stuffed his mortar and pestle underneath his arm. Before he could make for the door, two palms clasped his waist, turning him, and his beautiful, ridiculous husband wrinkled his nose. His copper cheeks were sea-bitten, angular bones pressing hard against his skin. As always, Peter Vásquez looked dashing, exhausted, and worried.

“Ay Dios mío, just wait, okay?” Peter asked.

Ethan arched an eyebrow. After a strangled pause, he lifted onto his tiptoes. “You brought it home,” he whispered and pecked Peter on the lips.

“It’s a leopard seal, Ethan. Not a selkie,” he said patiently, as he would to a toddler. “And it’s dead because animals that get caught in bad weather sometimes die.”

Ethan patted his cheek. “Sure, yeah. So, the next time you’re caught in bad weather and someone plops you on my doorstep, I’ll cash in your life insurance and call it a day. How’s that sound?”

Peter winced. “You’re impossible.”

“And you’re in my way.” Perhaps that was a little too far, considering. But impossible? Ethan scoffed. He wasn’t the one who’d mistaken a fae-beast—an extraordinarily obvious fae-beast, by the way—for a run-of-the-mill seal, and he wasn’t the one who’d whimpered when said not-seal had stopped breathing, and he certainly wasn’t the one who’d dragged a goddamn selkie home from work.

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Meet the Author

Freydís Moon (they/them) is a biracial nonbinary writer and diviner. When they aren’t writing or divining, Freydís is usually trying their hand at a recommended recipe, practicing a new language, or browsing their local bookstore.

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RELEASE BLITZ Blood Harvest by Meghan Schubert #LGBTQ #urbanfantasy @GoIndiMarketing @ninestarpress

Title: Blood Harvest

Series: The Harvest

Author: Meghan Schubert

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 09/27/2022

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 79200

Genre: Paranormal, LGBTQIA+, paranormal, urban fantasy, lesbian, vampire, shifter, angel, succubus, roommates, blood, death, conspiracy

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Description

If you were losing your humanity, how hard would you fight to hold on to it? What would you be willing to do, to give up, to make sure you remained the human you were, rather than the demon you seemed to be turning into? Hope McKinley, former advertising student turned newly undead, finds herself wrestling with these questions and so much more.

Blood Harvest delves into the depths of the human psyche and grapples with the struggle between light and dark in all of us as seen through the eyes of one forced out of the human race and fighting to return.

Excerpt

Blood Harvest
Meghan M. Schubert © 2022
All Rights Reserved

“Shh.” He trailed the finger down my chin and rested it in the crook of my neck. I suppressed a shudder. He leaned in, too close for comfort, hands gripping my hips tighter and guiding my pelvis toward his while his lips grazed my neck. My stomach flipped. My insides felt like they were on fire.

Did he just sniff me?

“Ian, what’re you—”

“Quiet.” He kissed me once, twice, his lips caressing, teasing, the heat in me rising, then turning into a sharp, stabbing pain. A pain that shot through my shoulder, up my neck, and exploded into the back of my head. My eyes widened and then closed tight, mouth open in a silent scream as I tried to breathe. I forced myself forward, trying to push against him, but he was heavier than me, and all it seemed to do was aggravate him. Ian slammed his weight against me, and I yelped as the bricks dug into my back. The way he had me pinned, I couldn’t even shift enough to get a knee in his groin.

Shit, now what?

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had people bite me in a kinky sort of way, but this was so much more. He was drawing blood, my blood, his mouth hot and wet on my neck. The gentle motion of his lips sent waves of electric heat through me, cascading down, the pain giving way to a pleasurable numbness, and I thrust my hips against him hungrily as his teeth sank deeper. I groaned, my body slumping against his as my legs started to give out. It hurt like hell, but it felt so good. I just didn’t want to fight anymore.

Everything began to blur and melt away as I succumbed to the bliss. It felt like falling; you know the end is coming but you just don’t know when. Is this what it’s like to die? What a way to go.

Before I was able to let myself completely go, something hot and sticky pressed against my lips. It smelled of old pennies and leather and cologne. Smelled like Ian. Without warning, a hand fisted into my hair, forcing my mouth on the warm liquid. I had no desire to taste it, but something inside compelled me, drew me to it. It smelled so good.

The liquid burned the whole way down, igniting my throat and stomach. I was torn between wanting to throw up and wanting to drink more. This was insane. What was I doing?

The mingling of pleasure and pain was almost too much, and soon I was seeing white. Still, I refused to let go.

Wait. Let go? What am I holding?

I finally blinked bleary eyes open to find myself sucking on Ian’s bleeding arm, my fingers clutching him like a vise. I still refused to let go. In fact, I started sucking harder, drawing more of his blood into my mouth, throat convulsing, burning, as I gulped it down.

After what seemed like several excruciating hours, he pulled away, and I whimpered like a kicked puppy. He knelt and kissed me gently, licking the excess blood from my mouth.

“I’ll be back, Hope. Until then, take care of yourself.”

I felt him run his hand through my hair and then the cold cement as I hit it hard.

I know what you’re thinking, but this isn’t your typical vampire love story. In fact, love is a laughable concept for me, especially after the shit I’m about to get dragged through.

But you can see for yourself. Let’s start from the beginning, shall we?

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Meet the Author

Meghan Schubert, born in 1985 in the greater city of Philadelphia, has always been a nerd at heart. Dubbing herself an “elder millennial,” Meghan grew up with a love of video games, horror, and Goosebumps books. In high school, she wrote short stories for the school newspaper before working her way up to editor. That love turned into a passion when she took up Video Game Design in college, where the premise of her first novel came to light. Her pursuit of game design was short-lived, however, when Meghan realized that programming was not her forte; the stories behind the games were. Thus, a writer was born.

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RELEASE BLITZ: Listen – The Sound of Fear #anthology #horror #LGBTQ @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Listen: The Sound of Fear

Author: R.B. Thorne, Lauren Jane Barnett, E.E.W. Christman, Eule Grey, Ridley Harker, Jon James, T.S. Mitchell, Alex Silver, A.R. Vale, Edited by Elizabetta McKay

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 09/20/2022

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male, Female/Female, M/NB

Length: 75300

Genre: Horror Anthology, LGBTQIA+, historical, US circa 1800s, romance, gay, horror/thriller, in the closet, shop workers, old curiosity shop, knives, haunted object/ poltergeist, contemporary, lit/genre fiction, London art gallery, confinement, disorientation, fear, mental anxiety, mystery, suspense, British, mystery, cold case, lesbian, blogger, small town, over 40, pregnancy, gothic/horror elements, YA, paranormal, nonbinary, trans, queer, hearing impaired, students, haunted school, all-girls boarding school, mean girls, religious references, Deaf, ghost story, pets, historical, gothic romance, lesbian, European expats, OCD, longtime couple

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Description

A knocking. A ringing. A steady drip-drip-drip. These are the sounds that haunt us. Drive us mad. Draw us in like the songs of sirens, hypnotic and deadly. And we must either give in, or resist with everything we have…and hope it’s enough.

Listen: The Sound of Fear offers ten stories written exclusively by trans and nonbinary authors that explore the chilling, perplexing, terrifying nature of sound.

Excerpt

Kill Your Darlings. When two shop workers in 1894 New York discover a haunted phonograph, they must race to solve the mystery of its tragic past before it’s too late to save their budding romance—and their lives.

Exhibition. A performance artist inspired by the inhumane treatment of refugees finds her gallery transformed into an equally inhospitable environment. Trapped inside the confines of her Plexiglas box, she struggles to piece together what is happening—and how to keep herself alive.

On the Other Side of Sound. A ringing in the ears; a coded message from beyond explanation. It will only ruin your life if you let it.

Her Little Joke. When Mave Kitten is asked to investigate a creepy phenomenon, little does she know to what depths the trail will lead: Ghosts, a haunted well, ignorance, a flapping bird. What of the woman in green?

M/other. I am alone. I do not know exactly how long I have been alone. My husband and child are…gone. Aren’t they? As a storm rages outside my decaying house, I begin to hear and see things that cannot possibly be there. Or can they?

Holy Water. Adolescence can be hell. Adolescence in an all-girl’s Catholic school as a trans teen surrounded by mean girls is a special kind of hell—especially when your school is haunted.

Snipper-Snapper. Cats make the best pets—loving, thoughtful, and loyal. Amour even brings home his own takeaway meals. Except for the stains, and damage to the shag pile, Mummy couldn’t be happier. Everyone needs a playmate.

The Knocking Bird. Knock three times to keep yourself safe. Follow your love across the sea. Obsession threads through nearly every aspect of Steffi’s life. But what happens when it drives her to do the unthinkable?

Bride of Brine. Sylvie hasn’t heard the song of the siren in years. But when she’s called home to help her estranged father find her brother, she’s faced with an impossible choice: save him, or save herself.

Haunt. When Kevin inherits his family home and decides to fix it up with his partner, he quickly discovers that the past can haunt you in more than one way—and he must choose, once and for all, exactly who he is.

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RELEASE BLITZ: Space Stars by Mell Eight #SciFi #LGBTQ #pornstar @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Space Stars

Author: Mell eight

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 07/05/2022

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 37800

Genre: Science Fiction, LGBTQIA+, space travel, robotics, musicians, celebrities, established couple, spies, secret agents, nerds, scientists, porn star/sex industry

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Description

This book is two short stories with one thing in common—the stars in space shine brightly, whether you’re on planet or soaring on a ship.

Cole’s star is rising like a rocket as his band tours the galaxies to sing to their adoring fans. Except, Cole’s real job isn’t lead vocals—it’s espionage.

Tarle’s star fell long ago after a horrific accident during a mecha showcase event for his new robot. Then he meets Aster, a porn star on the run. Hiding away together is far more appealing than being alone, but no one can hide forever.

Excerpt

Space Stars
Mell Eight © 2022
All Rights Reserved

“They’re definitely building something dangerous,” J said to begin the meeting as he walked into the spacious, albeit bland, room. There weren’t any windows, and the only ornamentation on the white walls was from the holoprojector across the room. He faced a long table with six chairs around it. All six were filled with stone-faced men and women who turned toward J when he stopped walking at the head of the table.

J touched the control panel for the holoscreen to turn the machine on and pointed out the building construction clearly visible from the spy satellite holograph that appeared seconds later.

“Planets have new construction all the time,” P cut in as she pushed her glasses higher up her nose. “With growing populations it’s inevitable, and planet 501b is certainly growing.”

“Look here,” J said as he pointed to the upper right-hand corner of the three-dimensional picture. The projector obligingly zoomed in to the location.

“Ah,” P murmured as she sank back into her seat. “Building a crono-generator is another thing entirely. But what could it be for? They’ve never been a particularly peaceful people,” she said, referencing 501b’s penchant for starting wars over the merest of slights, “but they’ve never been crazy enough to build a crono-bomb before. That could create a black hole large enough to engulf an entire galaxy!”

“How long have you had this picture?” Y asked slowly while he carefully studied the crono-generator.

J sighed. “Long enough that officials on 501b have already captured and executed six of our spies during their investigations of this issue. That’s why this task force was called to meet today. We need to find a way to infiltrate 501b to figure out if they have any plans to attack.”

“They did threaten the galaxy president two months ago in response to the president’s comments against their most recent war,” P mused.

“It’s more dire than just that,” Y said in his slow and contemplative voice. “As you all know, 501b is not actually a planet. Planet 501 was uninhabitable; only its second moon, known by the locals as Kamura, could sustain human life.”

“Moon settlements are always in desperate need of water resources.” P gasped as the full picture finally came clear for her.

“Exactly,” J cut in. “Our planet, 214, also known as Lacustrine, is almost entirely comprised of freshwater lakes, which 501b dearly needs, and our intelligence says they’re interested in acquiring. I’m afraid they don’t have any qualms about what methods they use either. So, the question remains: How do we infiltrate Kamura in order to find more information and, if necessary, destroy their crono-generator before they’re capable of building the bomb?”

P’s phone went off, a pop song currently topping the charts sounding into the worried and contemplative silence left after that final statement. One frequency was all that could reach through the protections built into the meeting room, and P’s phone only went off in an emergency anyway, so no one begrudged her the time she took to walk into the corner and answer her phone.

She didn’t turn on the holograph card to speak face-to-face, which was no surprise considering the nature of her clients, and everyone in the room tried not to listen in when she murmured into the phone. They all had something much more important to think about anyway: the answer to J’s question.

After a few seconds, P returned to her seat. J looked around at the assemblage, waiting for someone to finally say something.

L slowly tapped her finger on the table, and everyone’s attention turned to the elderly woman. L didn’t speak often, but when she did, they listened. This time was no different.

“We must use an unconventional means to sneak our spy in, and I do believe P’s impromptu phone call has given me an interesting idea. Popular music stars are welcomed across all galaxies. Often, they are begged to hold a performance on various worlds. We should put together a band, make them famous, and arrange for them to travel to 501b.”

J joined the others in giving L perplexed looks, but a smile slowly began to grow across his face. The idea was extremely farfetched, yet the very thought of how crazy a plan L had come up with decided him. If he didn’t think the idea viable, then how could anyone on 501b have plans to prevent it?

“That…” He paused to savor the idea a little further. “That is the most perfect plan I have ever heard.” He turned to the other members of the council. “What do we need to do to accomplish this?”

“A band, first of all,” P murmured. “That means at the very least a singer, a guitar player, a bass player, and a drummer if we want something conventional.”

“They’ll need a hit song,” Y added. “And a full album.”

“And good publicity,” P agreed. “I can get them a spot on the Morning Mumble, which will put them into the limelight, but the band has to be capable of proving their abilities, or they’ll go nowhere afterward.”

“So first we need a band,” J stated. “Any suggestions on who we could hire? We need people with musical talent, so we may have to go outside our regular recruits for this one.”

P nodded immediately. “The Star Slashers recently broke up and their drummer is pretty good. He also played for the Black-Hole Surfers,” she added when she received only blank looks. The Star Slashers had never been destined for greatness, but the Black-Hole Surfers had been legendary up until their singer and lead guitarist had overdosed on poorly cut and excessively laced Star Shine and the band dissolved. “His name is Kingsley,” she finished with a smile, “and he’s from this galaxy, so he’d probably be willing to work with us.”

J hummed thoughtfully. “We’ll start background checks on this Kingsley. Any other suggestions?”

L leaned forward with a groan. “I have a grandchild who promised me he would become a rock god by the time he turns thirty,” she said with quite a bit of exasperation in her voice. Her son worked for the agency, and she evidently expected her grandchild to do so as well. That didn’t seem to be in her grandson’s plans. “Solomon plays guitar and his mother tells me he’s quite good. I suppose if the ambition is present, we could give him this opportunity.”

“We have guitar and drums,” J said. “Any suggestions for the other roles? Can you think of any trained recruits we could call in to take the major roles in this operation?”

“It’s not a suggestion,” P cut in, “but we have to find a singer who is pitch-perfect without modifications or he won’t make it. We can’t just pull anyone from our basic training program and implant electronic vocal cords.”

“This is going to be an interesting search, then,” J said with a sigh. Not only did they need a band, but they also needed to find someone who could infiltrate the secret facilities on 501b without getting caught. It wasn’t going to be easy.

The meeting broke up soon afterward. P was the first person to rush out, her phone in hand. Whatever emergency she’d been called about must have been important. Considering P’s clients…well, J hoped there wasn’t a galaxy about to implode somewhere.

Z was J’s colleague from the same agency. He hadn’t spoken during the meeting, but Z was notorious for pulling J aside later to voice his thoughts. J wasn’t surprised when Z joined him in his walk down the empty hallways of the building.

“I might have an idea for a bass player,” Z murmured in his usual half-audible tone. “She’s a spitfire though. Barely passed her basic training before she quit, so I’ve no idea if the girl would like the idea, or if she’s what we want for this mission.”

“Submit her name and have a background check run,” J replied. “We’ll find some way to convince her and…” He paused, his head cocked to the side. One hand flashed upward to grip Z’s arm. “Do you hear that?” he asked excitedly.

Z tilted his head to listen and slowly nodded. “It’s probably a radio someone left on.” He sighed. “But it won’t hurt to go see.”

They both turned the corner, following the sound of someone singing. The door to the men’s locker room was left partially ajar, and J pushed it open the rest of the way so he and Z could walk into the space. J expected to see a holodisk left on inside one of the recruits’ lockers, so he was surprised when a young man, fresh from the showers with his back to J and Z, had his head tilted back and his mouth wide open as he sang.

His tone was pure and clean—perfect.

He was drying his brown hair with a towel, his eyelids closed. His naked back was thin but well sculpted, although the loose pants he wore hid his lower body from J’s perusal. A pair of old-fashioned Coke-bottle glasses sat on the bench next to him.

There were two gyms attached to the locker room, one for the regular staff and one for the special recruits. This far into after-hours, only the special recruits had access. Whoever the man was, he piqued J’s interest.

J glanced over at Z and saw that Z was just as mesmerized by the beautiful singing. Z finally glanced back over and nodded. Whoever the recruit was, he was about to be given a new mission.

The singing stopped as the young man finally finished drying his hair. He put his towel down and patted his hand across the bench until he found his glasses. Then he turned around to find his shirt and jumped when he caught sight of J and Z.

“Sorry,” the young man said, his face rapidly going red as he ducked his head. He got to his feet in a hurry, finding parade rest with his feet even though he was staring at the ground instead of facing straight forward.

“Not at all,” J replied. He stepped closer to the recruit, studying him closely for a long moment, which only made his face grow even redder. “What are your vitals, recruit?” J finally asked.

“Name: Cole! Just finished basic training two days ago, sir!” Cole said sharply, even though he still wouldn’t look J directly in the face. He had been trained well, if not perfectly. “I haven’t been assigned to a vector yet, sir.”

J glanced over at Z after that admission. Normally recruits knew their vector location a good few months before the end of their training. He was also still using his full name rather than a code name, which he would have been given as part of his first vector assignment. Z nodded discreetly. He would start a background check on Cole to figure out what had prevented normal procedure in his case.

“Thank you, Cole,” J said with a dismissive nod. “We’ll be in touch.”

J and Z walked off, leaving behind the man who was to become their lead singer.

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Meet the Author

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

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RELEASE BLITZ: Music From Stone by Brenda Murphy #LGBTQ #ContemporaryRomance #BDSM @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Music from Stone

Series: University Square, Book Four

Author: Brenda Murphy

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 07/05/2022

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 67900

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, Romance, contemporary, family-drama, BDSM, interracial, lesbian, stone mason, concert pianist, stalker, PTSD, over 40, performance arts, visual arts

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Description

Celebrated concert pianist Nüwa Zhou had it all. Until she didn’t. Forced out of the closet while testifying at the kidnapping and murder trial of her obsessive former assistant turned stalker, she retires from the high-pressure world of performing to recover at her parents’ estate.

Stone mason, and frustrated sculptor Julia Johnson, spends her days stone building walls and patios while dreaming of quitting her day job.

After a chance encounter with Julia leads to more, Nüwa imagines a life with Julia. When her stalker returns, determined to kidnap Nüwa and end anyone who stands in his way, Nüwa will do whatever it takes to keep Julia safe, but will it be enough?

Excerpt

Music from Stone
Brenda Murphy © 2022
All Rights Reserved

“Who is Father talking to?” Nüwa Zhou stared out of the sliding door at the woman standing on the terrace, her short auburn hair a mass of curls that brushed the tops of her broad shoulders. Her stance was confident. Dressed in jeans and a T-shirt tight enough it drew Nüwa’s attention, she rested her hands on her hips across from Gerald Zhou. Her wide shoulders and sculpted arms tested the limits of the fabric of her shirt. Afforded the opportunity to stare openly, Nüwa savored the view, admiring the curves the woman’s loose jeans failed to conceal. Slightly taller than Nüwa’s father in her thick-soled work boots, the woman glanced back at the house. Nüwa held steady, confident the reflective window coating would hide her gawking.

“Former student. Inquiring about the cottage,” her mother called from the kitchen bar.

Nüwa tugged the belt of her robe tighter. “Early for a meeting.”

The not-so-subtle sound of her mother’s scoff drifted across the kitchen. Nüwa rested her chin on her chest. The unspoken scolding for sleeping late pricked Nüwa’s heart. A night owl born to a family of larks. Her sleep patterns had been her curse since childhood.

She lifted her gaze back to the scene outside.

Gerald Zhou stood close to the woman, occasionally gesturing to the yard and the firethorn maze covering the lower half of their estate. Wind pushed dark heavy clouds across the sky and a gust rattled the sliding door in its dull aluminum frame. He turned and pointed to the house. Nüwa stepped back and away from the glass into the shadows of the living room. She walked to the counter dividing the kitchen from the rest of the house.

“Have you eaten?” Her mother glanced up from her laptop screen.

Nüwa took a breath and blew it out. “Not hungry.”

A frown creased her mother’s sculpted eyebrows. “Don’t forget to eat.” Her gaze shifted to the window. “Your father needs to wrap it up. I don’t like the color of the sky.”

Nüwa perched on one of the stools at the counter and glanced at the sky. A green hue tinged the dark clouds. “It’s ugly.”

Fat drops of rain hit the glass as the peal of a weather warning spit out of her mother’s ever-present phone. Nüwa’s stomach twisted as adrenaline surged in her body. Storms were the worst. Lightning flashed. Nüwa placed her hands flat on the counter and started counting silently.

“Four. Not far away.”

The click of the computer keys increased. “I need to get these figures to Rowan.” Her mother continued to pound the keyboard as another flash of lightning lit up the kitchen with a sick yellow glare.

The skin on Nüwa’s arms prickled. The grate of the sliding door in its tracks sounded in the room a second before a crash of thunder rattled the house.

“Three.” Nüwa turned to the sliding door. “It’s moving toward us.”

“It’s crazy out there. Wait it out with us.” Gerald touched the arm of the woman from the terrace. “You remember my wife, Lian Tan? I don’t think you’ve met my daughter. Nüwa, this is Julia.”

“Hi Ms. Tan, nice to see you again. Nice to meet you, Nüwa.” Julia inclined her head to greet Nüwa’s mother before she turned and met Nüwa’s gaze.

Nüwa stared at Julia, the thin wet fabric of the T-shirt even more distracting now Julia was standing in front of her. “You’re wet.” Her face burned as soon as the words were out of her mouth. “I mean—” She scrambled around the end of the counter, snatched a clean dish towel from the basket next to the sink. “Here.” Nüwa held the towel out with both hands.

The tips of Julia’s fingers brushed the back of Nüwa’s hand as she took the towel from her. “Thank you.” She held Nüwa’s gaze for a moment, the hint of a smile twisting her lips before she dried her face.

Nüwa studied the tops of her house shoes and knotted her hands together as an awkward silence sucked the ease out of the moment. She crossed her arms over her chest, hugging herself, knowing she was acting weird, helpless to stop it.

The faint sound of a tornado siren spared Nüwa further torment.

“Basement.” Lian stood, tucked her laptop and a thick folder under her arm, before she walked to the end of the counter. She pressed the series of buttons under the countertop. The end of the cabinet slid aside revealing a stairwell. Gerald followed Lian.

Nüwa slid off the stool and followed her parents down the stairs leading to the storm cellar. She ducked her head as she entered the stairway. “Watch your head,” Nüwa called over her shoulder.

Heavy tread on the stairs behind her and the faint scent of lavender and sunscreen tickled Nüwa’s nose as Julia followed her to the safe room. Halfway down the steps, the lights flickered out, plunging the stairwell and room below into blackness.

“Damn it. Gerald, where did you put the lantern?”

“Use your phone.”

“Left it on the counter, and didn’t we talk about this? Use your phone.”

Her parents shifted their bickering to Mandarin. Nüwa prayed Julia didn’t understand as they devolved into one of their ongoing arguments.

Nüwa extended her hand behind her, and her fingers bushed the soft denim of Julia’s jean. “Take my hand. Stay close. The stairs turn here.”

Julia clasped her hand. Her broad callused palm rested against Nüwa’s hand. Nüwa led Julia down the stairs and toward the sound of her parents arguing. As they reached the bottom of the stairs the harsh light of an electric lantern flared to life, throwing twisted shadows over the walls.

Gerald closed off the door leading to the rest of the basement, sealing them in the long narrow windowless room. “There. Nüwa, lock the door behind you.”

Nüwa threw the deadbolt and sealed the door leading up to the kitchen.

Lian stood at the far end of the room, the glower on her face matching the ferocity of the storm. Arms crossed, she lifted her chin as she observed Nüwa and Julia. Her gaze landed squarely on their clasped hands.

Julia squeezed Nüwa’s hand once, then released it. “Thank you.”

Lian turned away from Nüwa, picked up a yellow wireless radio, and shoved it into Gerald’s hands. “Get the weather radio working.”

The echo of hail pelting the house increased in volume and drowned out Gerald’s reply. A roaring sound filled Nüwa’s ears, a steady hum. The hairs on her arm stood on end. Pressure in her ears increased to the point of pain and she swallowed, trying to clear them.

The ceiling over their head creaked and groaned as the vibration intensified. The house shook, rattling the shelves holding the food and water they kept stored in the small room. Nüwa wrapped her arms around herself to stop her trembling. Cans of food vibrated off the shelves and crashed to the floor, wrenching a cry from her, and she covered her eyes.

A warm hand settled on the middle of her back. Nüwa jerked away from the touch and bit down on her lip to stifle her yelp. The roaring increased, as if a train was bearing down on them. Nüwa dropped to her knees, covered her head with her arms, and folded herself into the smallest ball possible. The thin carpet over the concrete did nothing to ease her knees and sharp pain lanced through her. Her breathing was rough in her ears as her fear turned in on itself and drove every other thought from her mind. In the space of seconds, the patter of the hail softened, and the roaring stopped, leaving a heavy silence behind.

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Meet the Author

Brenda Murphy (she/her) writes erotic romance. Her most recent novel, Double Six, is the 2020 Golden Crown Literary Society winner for Erotic Novels, and Knotted Legacy, the third book in the Rowan House series, made the 2018 The Lesbian Review’s Top 100 Vacation Reads list. You can catch her musings on writing, books, and living with wicked ADHD on her blog Writing While Distracted. She loves sideshows and tattoos and yes, those are her monkeys. When she is not loitering at her local library, she wrangles twins, one dog, and an unrepentant parrot

I hope you enjoy reading this book as much as I enjoyed writing it.

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RELEASE BLITZ: Turtle Bay by John Patrick #LGBTQ #historical @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Turtle Bay

Series: Tides of Change, Book Two

Author: John Patrick

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 06/28/2022

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 85400

Genre: Historical, LGBTQIA+, gender-bending, cross-dressing, businessman, humor, law enforcement, political, PTSD, Postwar America, sexual discovery

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Description

It’s 1947, and New York City is awaiting the construction of the new United Nations building, the FBI is actively pursuing Communists and Soviet spies as the Cold War begins to build, and homosexual men have even more reasons to hide who they are.

Uptight FBI Agent Arthur Mason is so deep in the closet he doesn’t even realize he’s in one. Clueless about his own sexuality, he’s surprised at his reaction to both Hans Schmidt and his twin sister, Ada. Under pressure from work, Mason investigates Hans and his boarders, including the highly suspicious Hank Mannix, a known member of the Communist Party. Though Mason can’t seem to locate Ada, he can’t stop thinking about Hans and keeps going back to visit.

Hans Schmidt is a cross-dressing German immigrant running a boarding house for “a certain type of man,” and he wants nothing to do with Agent Mason and his ill-fitting suits and bad haircut. Until he begins to see Mason more as a man and less as a government official.

Hans enjoys dressing as a woman from time to time, and once his feelings for Arthur begin to change, he realizes he needs to share his Ada persona if they are to have a future together.

Secrets on both sides must be revealed and cherished beliefs challenged if these two men are to find the love and happiness they deserve.

This story can be read on its own; however, characters from book one, Dublin Bay, play a prominent role as secondary characters, so it’s recommended to read that first.

Excerpt

Turtle Bay
John Patrick © 2022
All Rights Reserved

Hans

Even after five years in America, Hans still startled every time the telephone rang—an abrupt, clanging sound insisting on attention. Why couldn’t a country capable of producing an atomic bomb be able to create a more discreet way of letting a person know about an incoming call? He vaguely remembered the phones in Ireland giving a soft chime first, before beginning to ring in earnest, but his time there had been short and chaotic, always one step ahead of capture, so he couldn’t be sure.

He didn’t remember the sound of telephones in Germany at all, even though he knew one hung on the wall in the university’s administration office. He pictured it there next to the corkboard but couldn’t reconstruct its sound.

He hoped the new dial telephone would have a more melodious tone. Assuming the phone company ever got around to swapping out his candlestick model for something more modern as they had been promising for months.

The telephone sat atop the counter in the small reception hallway. Hans swiveled his stool and picked up the entire device, bringing the mouthpiece forward and lifting the receiver close to his ear. He was surprised a call had even come through; most of the operators had gone out on strike.

“Schmidt’s Boarding House, Hans Schmidt speaking.”

“Hans, old boy! It’s Wally, up in Albany.”

“Oh, Wally, so good to hear from you. Is this business or pleasure?”

“Business, I’m afraid. I have a live one for you. And don’t forget I’m still on a party line here.”

That was code for anyone could be listening. Hans appreciated the reminder. The boarding house had its own private line, and he sometimes forgot most people outside the city still used party lines. As if to prove the point, Hans heard muffled soft breathing in the background.

He sighed and glanced at the wall clock, mentally rearranging his calendar for the afternoon. “Hold on.” He placed the transmitter back on the desk, switched the receiver to his left hand, and pulled a pad and pencil out of the drawer. He leaned closer to the mouthpiece so he could still be heard. “A day or two’s notice would make a nice change. But go on.”

“Sorry, there was no advance notice this time. He came right up to the counter and said, ‘One-way ticket to New York City, please, next available bus.’ You’ve got two more hours. I’m certain of this one, Hans. We served together.”

“Oh, were you…?”

“No. Nothing like that,” Wally responded. “But I knew, of course.”

“I understand. Greyhound?” Hans asked.

“Yes, arrives at three thirty.”

That was good news at least. The Greyhound terminal was next to Penn Station, which was only a half-hour walk if he hurried.

“Would you recommend Ada or Hans?”

“Oh, Ada for sure, dear boy. This one seems quite skittish. A direct approach won’t do. He needs to see what’s possible,” Wally replied. “He’s a good kid, Hans. Don’t let him get swallowed up by the Y.”

“Understood, and thanks for the tip. What will he be wearing?”

Wally laughed, and the connection broke up a bit. “Oh, not to worry. You can’t miss him.” Hans heard a click as someone hung up, or perhaps someone else picked up to check if the line was available.

“Will you be coming down yourself anytime soon?” Hans asked. “You absolutely must see David Brooks in Brigadoon. He’s in a kilt most of the time. We could make a weekend of it.”

“That sounds grand! Maybe next month.”

They exchanged a few additional pleasantries and ended the call.

Hans needed at least an hour to get Ada ready, and he was thankful he hadn’t yet put on cologne. He’d planned a shopping trip this afternoon to resupply a few staples—coffee, tea, and biscuits for the ladies’ reception parlor—but that could be rescheduled. But he couldn’t put it off for too long; the ladies did not like to run out of biscuits during their social hour.

As he descended the stairs to Ada’s room on the garden level—a New York euphemism for below ground—he was reminded how much easier things were for men. He wore a simple gray suit with a narrow navy tie, appropriate for all seasons and conservatively bland. Why, a fellow could disappear into any crowd wearing such an outfit.

Ada, though—she had a much tougher go of it. It was spring, technically, but still quite chilly. She’d need something…delightful. Yes, Hans thought, that was the right word. Not too frivolous, but sufficiently feminine to show the world there was still joy in beauty. But she’d also need to wear an outercoat and sensible enough shoes for a bit of a walk. She wouldn’t want to invite scrutiny, but she’d want people to see her and appreciate the effort she’d made.

Hans stepped into Ada’s room and opened the closet. He considered his options. He’d have to use last spring’s coat; he hadn’t had the time or funds to completely reoutfit this season. But it would do the job. It was robin’s-egg blue with a fitted waist rather than a belt. Five oversized white buttons ran down its length. Sadly, American fashion houses continued to insist on outrageously padded shoulders even now, nearly two years after the war’s end.

A thrill ran through Hans as he stood in front of Ada’s closet. It always did, right before the transformation.

He eyed the spring dress he’d bought two weeks ago and knew it would be perfect. He took it out of the closet and laid it flat on the bed. It was a creamy off-white cotton, with a hint of pink. It dropped to midcalf and had a layer of tulle underneath the skirt—an extravagant use of material that would have been unthinkable only a year ago, when rationing and scarcity were just starting to give way. Large red cherries created a pattern, and a back zipper allowed for a smooth, uninterrupted front.

Hans removed his suit and his baggy, shapeless boxers, making a mental note to remember to take the clothes back to his own room, behind the kitchen. He spent the next half hour on underclothing and shapewear, then makeup, and finally a softly curling blonde wig that matched his natural hair color.

Hans was more comfortable dressed as a woman than he was dressed as a man. He always had been; it’s what got him in trouble back in Germany.

Dressed as a woman, Hans absolutely sparkled. His slight frame and delicate features fit Ada better than they fit Hans, and more than once he wondered what it would have been like to have been born as Ada. He’d met men who claimed to actually be women, deep inside, but he didn’t fully grasp that. At the heart of it, Hans liked being a man and being attracted to other men. He just liked dressing and acting like a woman sometimes.

It was enough for him.

The dress itself—the item everyone saw—was the easiest part but for the back zipper, which he managed eventually.

He slipped on square-heeled navy shoes, tied a gauzy pink scarf around his hair as protection against the breeze, and then headed out the door.

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Meet the Author

Author John Patrick is a Lambda Literary Award finalist living in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts, where he is supported in his writing by his husband and their terrier, who is convinced he could do battle with the bears that come through the woods on occasion (the terrier, that is, not the husband). An introvert, John can often be found doing introverted things like reading or writing, cooking, and thinking deep, contemplative thoughts (his husband might call this napping). He loves to spend time in nature—“forest bathing” is the Japanese term for it—feeling connected with the universe. But he also loathes heat and humidity, bugs of any sort, and unsteady footing in the form of rocks, mud, tree roots, snow, or ice. So his love of nature is tempered—he’s complicated that way.

John and his husband enjoy traveling and have visited over a dozen countries, meeting new people, exploring new cultures, and—most importantly—discovering new foods.

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