Tag Archives: FF

New Release Blitz: Stray by Nancy J. Hedin

Stray | Nancy J. Hedin

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: August 12, 2019

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 65,800

Buy Links:

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Blurb

Lorraine Tyler should be in vet school, but she stayed behind in her home town of Bend, Minnesota to care for her nephew, spend time with her lover, Charity, and give her momma a chance to complete nursing school.

Lorraine is content until her momma brings home a steady stream of bachelors to straighten her out. Charity is out of town more and more, and Lorraine’s brother-in-law is looking for a new mom for Little Man. To make matters worse there’re new people in town. A politician is drumming up fear and hate, a social worker is flirting with Lorraine, and Lorraine’s new friend, Ricky, is beaten into a coma.

Lorraine suspects Ricky was beaten because of being gay. Lorraine is determined to find out who did it, protect Ricky from the hater who might try to finish the job, and she’s worried she might be next on the hater’s list.

Stray is a story of politics fueling hate, competing romantic interests, and regular people examining their hearts, souls, and hormones. Will the people of Bend harbor the fear-rattled haters of some, or will they provide sanctuary for all?

Excerpt

Stray
Nancy J. Hedin © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
It was supper time on a weeknight and there were two vehicles I didn’t recognize and a hearse parked next to our farmhouse. It wasn’t really a hearse, it was Pastor Grind’s tan Toyota, but any visit from him meant bad news. God how I hoped Momma had started a book club or extorted people to attend a Tupperware party. More likely she was bringing me a parade of potential husbands. She wanted to straighten out her queer daughter, me. I didn’t know if she was acting alone or if she’d again claim she had God on her side. Maybe she got Pastor Grind to agree to marry me to one of those men on the spot.

“Lorraine, Lorraine!” Momma came rumbling out of the house onto the open front porch, waving her arms. “Don’t change out of your college clothes. We have guests for dinner.”

It’s not like I routinely changed clothes in the yard. I parked my truck in between Dad’s beat-up pickup and Momma’s dented station wagon. Momma had parked on half the pink flamingo pair of lawn ornaments Dad had installed the day before.

“We’re having chicken. Ricky wants to learn to make my gravy.” Momma wiped her hands on her denim apron.

Before I could ask her who Ricky was—like I didn’t already know he’s some guy she found at college and deems him a good husband for me—the only requirement being a penis in his pants—she put her hands on her wide hips like she had more to say. “That Charity girl is here too, but she’s not staying.” Momma swiveled around and marched to the house.

My girlfriend, Charity, was there. Finally, some good news. At least it meant she was driving her dad’s car and he wasn’t with her. There was no way that holier-than-god man would come to the queer’s house and have his daughter with him.

Dad and my three-year-old nephew, Little Man, came out of the barn with the dogs, Sniff, Pants, and Satan. Dad was telling Little Man some damn animal story—something about what they can tell from smelling another dog’s pee. Little Man and the dogs came running to me. “Raine, Raine, we’ve been throwing balls for the dogs.”

Most days I took care of Little Man, but Tuesday was a school day for me at the junior college where I had enrolled in as many math and science classes as I could manage until I left for Grayson School of Veterinary Science in Duluth. Grayson wasn’t a top ten veterinary school, but it was my first choice because I didn’t have to have a bachelor’s degree before entering their program. That was good for me since I had already delayed my college entrance by a couple of years because of the needs of my family.

Grayson accepted two years of college level science and math and allowed degree candidates to take summer classes for the entire four years of pre-veterinary science programs. It floated my boat, but what really got me excited was if I was short on the college level courses, which I was, they’d let me take skills and knowledge testing which would count toward coursework. All those things I’d learned from helping Twitch with his vet business could be parlayed for course credits. Sweet.

Little Man hugged my legs. When I looked at him and Momma and Dad, I had a hollow ache in my chest for who was missing. My twin sister, Becky, was dead. She left behind a dope of a husband and the sweetest little boy I could imagine existed in the world. My brother-in-law Kenny’s truck was gone. He must have still been at work at the lumber yard.

I scooped up Little Man. He wore the matching blue and white T-shirt and pants I’d put him in early in the morning, but he was filthy from playing. As I kissed his doughy neck, I sniffed him to know what he’d done while I was away. I detected the scent of outdoors, dogs, dirt, and snickerdoodle cookies, an average day.

I dropped him off in the mudroom. He climbed the green plastic, frog-faced step stool so he could reach the mudroom sink to wash his hands, and I looked for Charity. Charity leaned against the kitchen counter. Damn she looks good. I forgot all about supper. My whole body hungered for her touch and the sweet things she always said to me. I wanted to wrap my arms around Charity and kiss her until my lips fell off.

No kissing for me. Momma came back in the kitchen looking like she owned and ran the place, which she did. Momma and Charity were as far apart from each other as possible in the room and despite the temperature outside being near eighty degrees, the air temperature between them was colder than a well-digger’s lunch, as my dad would say.

“Hi.” I touched Charity’s shoulder. “I’m glad to see you. Why are you driving your dad’s car? You about scared me to death.”

She smiled and squeezed my hand quick, her eyes glued on Momma. “Dad needed my truck to help somebody move some boxes or something.”

I smelled her shampoo and she’d just put on some lip gloss I wanted to methodically taste and remove.

Momma gave the queer girls only cursory attention. I almost snuck a kiss, but I realized half a man twitched and kicked on the kitchen floor. The other half of him was tucked in the cabinet under the sink. When the top of him emerged I about lost my mind.

Christ, she’s at it again. This time the man was old enough to have possibly signed the Declaration of Independence, or at least the Constitution.

“Momma, I hope you haven’t been trying to find a date for me again.” Next, I addressed the fossil under the sink. “Ricky, I’m sorry you come all this way for nothing but a busted sink.”

Just then Little Man came in the kitchen. Momma’s face brightened as she whisked Little Man into her arms. He dried his wet hands on the front of Momma’s good apron—the full-length one with chickens embroidered on it and pockets on both sides of the skirt. Next Momma pulled me into the utility room with her and Little Man. “Excuse us.” She slid the accordion door closed.

Oh Christ, she’s going to murder me. No. She wouldn’t murder me in front of Little Man and so many witnesses in the house, but there was a fair chance she was going to lecture me and possibly brain me with one of her sacred books. She appreciated the Old Testament shock and awe. She didn’t much go for the patient tolerance of God’s later work or “the mushy parts,” as she called them. However, she did like the way her slim New Testament fit in the oversized pockets of her denim apron, and she liked the way it fit nicely in her hand when she wanted to swat someone, usually me. But she didn’t hit me. Instead, she reminded me of the way her mind worked and how she got everything done with speed and efficiency.

“That’s not Ricky. It’s Harold. Has it ever occurred to you, Lorraine, that we needed the sink replaced?”

That’s Momma for you. She could probably kill more than two birds with one stone. She weaseled getting our sink fixed and paraded a bachelor for my appraisal. She was so efficient, I was surprised there were any birds left.

Momma continued, “Besides, you can’t marry Harold. He’s already engaged to a gal from the square-dancing club.”

“Square dancing,” Little Man said.

Little Man, at three years old, needed an interpreter. I caught most everything he said because I listened to him most days. He had acquired a new habit of repeating parts of whatever he’d heard somebody else say.

“Well, do-si-do and an allemande right if I’m not relieved.”

“Smarty pants,” Momma said. “Behave yourself. It wouldn’t hurt you to try to make friends with our guests. Supper is almost ready.”

“Great. I want to sit by Charity.”

“She’s not staying.”

What? Hadn’t we made any ground at all? Couldn’t my girlfriend at least enjoy a meal at our house? It’s not like we would make out at the dinner table.

Momma pushed me out of the utility room, put Little Man down with half a cookie, and helped Harold get up off the kitchen floor.

“Can’t you stay for supper?” I asked Charity.

Charity glanced at Momma. Then she looked at her feet and bit her lip.

Those lips. I knew how pillowy soft and warm they were. The first time she ever kissed me it felt like I had known her mouth forever.

Charity turned her back on Momma and she half whispered and half gasped, “Lorraine, are you ever leaving for college? This is too small, too much.”

“How can something be both too small and too much?” I tried to joke, but Charity wasn’t having it.

“I don’t know, but Bend is and you need to decide. I’m going home.” Charity headed to the door.

I wanted to remind her I was moving as fast as circumstances would allow. I’d enrolled in as many science classes as the junior college offered while I worked with Twitch…and I minded Little Man. But I didn’t speak up for myself.

“Are you still coming over tomorrow?” I whispered. “Little Man has some new plastic animals. I’m thinking of decorating the kitchen like an African safari.” My scheme kept Little Man busy and allowed me to study animal physiology and anatomy at the same time.

“See you tomorrow.” Charity called over her shoulder with very little enthusiasm.

I watched Charity through the window walking away. My heart raced. I almost ran after her, but then Momma grabbed me and harped at me to go sit in the dining room and talk to the guests. Why is everybody so mad at me? Why is everyone pressuring me to move faster or be different? Momma wanted me to not be queer and marry a man. Charity wanted me to leave Bend before I had Little Man settled. I took deep breaths and prepared to enter the dining room.

About the Author

Nancy Hedin, a Minnesota writer, has been a pastor and bartender (at the same time). She has been a stand-up comic and a mental health crisis worker (at the same time). She wants readers to know that every story she writes begins with her hearing voices.

In 2018 Nancy’s debut novel, Bend was named one of twenty-five books to read for Pride Month by Barnes and Noble and was named Debut Novel of the Year by Golden Crown Literary Society and Foreword Indies Honorable Mention for GLBT Adult Novel of the Year.

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New Release Blitz: The Grim Assistant by Jodi Hutchins

The Grim Assistant | Jodi Hutchins

Tales from the Grim

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: August 5, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 71,700

Buy Links:

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble

Add to Goodreads

Blurb

Postal carrier and amateur surfer, Samantha Diaz, lives an uncomplicated life. Well, other than helping her sister with childcare, crushing on her unavailable customer, Lauren Brennan, and catching as many waves as possible before hurricane season begins. Suffice to say, she isn’t looking for much more, but when Lauren invites her to a monthly game night at her house, Sam happily agrees.

When Sam sets out on an early morning surf, the last thing she expects to do is die, but a sudden thunderstorm thrashes offshore, creating a riptide that steals Sam’s life. She awakens to a snarky woman named Margo speaking cryptic nonsense.

Not only does she claim to be one of the many Grim Reapers, or Grims, in the world, Margo makes Sam an offer: she’ll bring Sam back from the dead, as long as she becomes Margo’s temporary assistant. Sam accepts but soon realizes the deal was too good to be true, and the consequences she faces may be worse than the death she dodged.

Excerpt

The Grim Assistant
Jodi Hutchins © 2019
All Rights Reserved

The planks of the boardwalk were hot against Samantha Diaz’s feet as she bounded up the stairs, surfboard tucked beneath her arm, water trickling over her shoulders. The calm waters and equally serene beach left her with only the early morning anglers standing out at the ocean’s edge, casting their lines along the jetty.

“Same time on Friday?” her best friend, Josh Keller, asked as he ambled up the stairs after her, his bushy blond hair stuck to his face and neck. A trill from a bicycle bell filled the air, coalescing with the call of a flock of seagulls harassing a group of teens munching on breakfast. The oily aroma of freshly fried doughnuts mixed with the scent of crisp saltwater as Sam took a deep breath.

She smiled broadly. “Absolutely.” Beads of seawater dripped down her dark brows, and she swept her hand across her forehead in a feeble attempt to dry it. The pair crossed the boardwalk, heading down the long ramp to the parking lot.

Reaching her Jeep, Sam tossed her board in the back and grabbed a towel, drying her face and ruffling her unruly crop of black hair. People flooded the tall staircase, beach tags fastened to their large bags overflowing with colorful shovels and towels. She grabbed a dry shirt, pulling it over her head to cover her bikini top before putting her wallet in the damp pocket of her board shorts. Josh stood staring at her. “Damn, what I would do to get a tan like yours,” he mumbled sheepishly.

Sam chuckled, noting the red tinge forming along his pale, freckled shoulders, and then glanced at her own tanned skin. “I don’t know, man, I’ll always be jealous of your freckles,” she joked, elbowing him in the arm. “You want to grab some breakfast?”

“Sure, why not?”

Sam and Josh followed the influx of people. She was determined she would get herself a fresh bagel before heading home for a shower and babysitting her nephew. Cyclists pedaled down the bicycle lane on the wood, and early morning joggers were swiftly being replaced by excited children heading to the beach or the waterpark. The tiny hole-in-the-wall bagel shop Sam frequented was set back beside one of two amusement parks on the boardwalk, and she stepped into the short line. Depending on what time she had to be in to work, Sam’s summer mornings always started the same if Josh was available. She didn’t surf without him by her side unless there were lifeguards present. The last thing she wanted was to get caught in a riptide and end up miles offshore.

The two moved into the queue of people, and Josh turned to her. “How’s it going with Katie?”

Sam’s stomach sank at the mention of her older sister, and she shrugged. “I don’t know. The divorce is official, but now it’s all parenting plan crap and custody issues. She’s stressed out.”

Josh gave her a sympathetic grimace, causing her to wonder if he regretted asking her the question. “Yikes.”

“Yeah. They had a meeting with her ex’s lawyer, and I don’t know how it went yet.”

“Hey, Sam,” a voice called from behind her. Sam whipped around as her friend, Lauren Brennan, stepped into the line where Sam was already standing in wait. Lauren’s long chestnut hair hung over her shoulders, her wide smile reaching her vibrant green eyes.

“Lauren.” Sam’s tone came out a lot more breathless than she intended. Josh must’ve noted the change in her demeanor, so he nudged her in the back with his elbow.

“They have the best pork roll egg and cheese sandwiches,” Lauren said, curling her lips upward, a delicate dimple surfacing as she smiled.

Sam nearly sighed with longing, her heart rate quickening, and she swallowed back her feelings. The blue sundress Lauren wore hugged her body, the color accentuating her lovely summer tan. She’s off limits.

“They sure do. Order anything good lately?” Sam agreed.

Nodding enthusiastically, Lauren said, “Actually, I did! I ordered this new lesson kit online and a few other things for the classroom.” Sam had been delivering Lauren’s mail since the science teacher moved to Ocean City from New Brunswick two years prior. “And a few new books. Speaking of books, how’d you like the one you borrowed?”

“I absolutely loved it. Is it just me or is my taste in books rubbing off on you?” Sam said. Josh sighed indignantly. Sam held in a retort while she waited for Lauren to reply. Lauren blushed, and the sight had Sam nearly swooning. “I have to say your taste has rubbed off on me. My true love will always be gritty literary fiction, but you’ve got me hooked on those dark fantasies now.”

“Hey, I forgot about that thing I have to do,” Josh interjected. When Sam gave him a puzzled smile, he continued, “You know, the thing? I’ll see you Friday.”

“Oh, all right. Aren’t you going to get breakfast?” Sam asked. He shook his head and waggled his eyebrows, head jerking toward Lauren. His gesture wasn’t as discreet as Sam preferred, but she didn’t believe Lauren noticed. She knew he was leaving because of her interaction with Lauren. Before she could say more, Josh moved out of the line and hurried toward the ramp leading to the sidewalk.

She moved forward in line, ordering her food and stepping aside while Lauren ordered hers. While they waited, Sam leaned against the railing. “I’ve got a new one I know you’d love,” she said.

“A dark fantasy? You’d better bring it by the next time you work. I ordered a bunch of stuff, so I should be seeing you sometime next week,” Lauren added, pulling her purse strap over her shoulder.

“Okay, I will. Maybe Boo will let me pet her this time,” Sam chuckled, referring to Lauren’s skittish cat. In the last two years, the cat only let Sam touch her four or five times.

“Don’t take it personally because she doesn’t even let Bethany pet her.” Yep, there was the pesky reminder of her unavailability. Sam laughed regardless of her feelings toward Lauren’s girlfriend. It wasn’t as though she didn’t like her for the sole reason of being with Lauren; Bethany and Sam had known each other in high school and the memories were anything but fond.

“Boo’s such a cutie. Maybe I’ll start bringing some cat treats again,” Sam offered. The young man behind the counter caught Sam’s attention and handed her the pork roll she ordered. “Thanks.” She grinned at Lauren, continuing their conversation. “That’s how I got Boo to let me close at first.”

“School starts on Wednesday, but you should come by one night and have a drink with us, maybe play some cards. I always try to plan a game night once a month, especially when school is back in session.” Lauren took her food from the man, then faced Sam as they moved out of the way of other customers.

“I’d love to,” Sam said honestly. Sam enjoyed Lauren’s friendship, despite having to tolerate Bethany in small doses. She and Bethany may have had their differences, but they were adults now.

“What about, say, next Saturday night? I’m heading to Newark this weekend for a family barbeque, but I’ll be home Tuesday.”

“Yeah, sounds perfect.”

They stood staring at each other for longer than etiquette warranted, triggering Sam to wonder if Lauren felt the same attraction as she did. She hastily dispelled the fleeting thought and smiled. She’s simply a friend and can’t be more. “Well, I’ll let you get on with your day. I’ve got babysitting duty with my nephew, anyway.”

“I’ll see you later this week, I’m sure. Don’t forget the book,” Lauren said. She turned, heading down the boardwalk. Lauren left, the sway of her hips causing her skirt to swish back and forth with each step, and once Lauren disappeared in the flowing crowd, Sam headed to her Jeep.

The drive back to her house was quick and she was fortunate she missed the tourist traffic. Although Ocean City, New Jersey, was a busy tourist spot during the summer, Sam couldn’t see herself living anywhere else. The tiny seaside town was home to her and her sister, the beach and the community far too important to leave behind and live in a larger city.

She parked her car on the side of the road, finding a spot relatively close to her sister’s little condo, and she ambled up the stairs, leaving her surfboard in the back of her Jeep. The steps leading to the porch creaked beneath her feet, the white paint peeling off the railing and the stucco face of the home. The three-bedroom condo was large enough for her sister and nephew to live in comfortably. Sam had been staying with Katie for a few weeks at a time to help with her nephew and to covertly keep an eye out for her sister’s mental health. The divorce was taking its toll on Katie, but Sam knew her sister would never ask for help.

“I’m glad you’re here. I’ve got to run and get gas before I head over to work,” Katie said as she bustled around the living room, grabbing a laundry basket full of clothing from the couch and tossing it on the kitchen counter. Already clad in blue scrubs, her black hair pulled back in a tight ponytail, Sam figured Katie must’ve been anxiously waiting for her to get there.

“Sorry. I stopped to grab some breakfast. Is the little man awake yet?”

Without glancing up from her task, Katie shook her head. Sam stopped, placing her keys on the island in the kitchen leading off the living room, and she really took in her sister’s appearance: red-rimmed eyes, wrinkled scrubs, head lowered.

“Katie.” Her sister finally met her gaze. “How’d the hearing go yesterday?”

Katie drew a breath and straightened. “Like crap. I don’t think we’re ever going to work out a parenting plan.”

“He didn’t agree to your terms?”

Katie scoffed, and her shoulders visibly slumped. “No. His lawyer told us he wanted more time on different days. Evidently, his schedule doesn’t work with what I offered,” she said, shaking her head and touching her fingers to her forehead. “At this rate, it’s going to go on into the new year.”

“He’s lucky you don’t fight for full custody, the fucking asshat.” Sam loathed her ex-brother-in-law for how he treated his sister and wasn’t shy about speaking her feelings toward him now the divorce was official.

Her sister shot her a reproachful glance before she headed to the refrigerator. Katie’s voice was low when she said, “Just because he and I didn’t work out doesn’t mean he’s a bad father. Ben has every right to know him and I don’t want to take his father away from him because John was unfaithful.” She threw a yogurt into her purse along with a package of granola before grabbing her keys from the counter. “I’ll see you tonight,” she said as she stepped out the front door.

Sam lounged on the couch, kicking her feet up on the coffee table as she closed her eyes. Her muscles were sore from surfing, and all she wanted was to rest her head before her nephew woke.

“Auntie Sam, Mama gone?” a little voice cut off her thoughts. Her five-year-old nephew came wandering down the hall, his little stuffed animal pig tucked under his arm, his free hand rubbing his face.

“Yeah, Mama had to go off to work. Do you want some breakfast?” Sam asked.

Ben eagerly bobbed his head.

Meet the Author

Jodi Hutchins is a healthcare professional by day and fanatical writer by night. They are also an avid reader, coffee connoisseur, helpless romantic, amateur artist, enthusiastic maker-upper of things, spouse, and parent.

The frequent rain of western Washington doesn’t stop Jodi and their wife from gallivanting through the next trailhead with their two children.

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New Release Blitz: The Women Of Dauphine by Deb Jannerson

The Women Of Dauphine | Deb Jannerson

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Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: June 10, 2019

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 55,500

Buy Links:

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

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Blurb

When Cassie’s family moves into a decrepit house in New Orleans, the only upside is her new best friend. Gem is witty, attractive, and sure not to abandon Cassie—after all, she’s been confined to the old house since her murder in the ’60s.

As their connection becomes romantic, Cassie must keep more and more secrets from her religious community, which hates ghosts almost as much as it hates gays. Even if their relationship prevails over volatile parents and brutal conversion therapy, it may not outlast time.

Excerpt

The Women of Dauphine
Deb Jannerson © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
I met Gem the day we moved from the sedate suburbs to downtown New Orleans.

I had recently turned eight, and my first sight of her coincided with our first sight of the Victorian house. I’m not certain if some of my earliest memories are authentic or recreated by photos and hearsay, but that moment made for a striking mental snapshot I’ve never doubted: baroque, crumbling pink-and-ivory walls; a stylish teenaged 1960s brunette perched on the steps. I feasted my eyes upon her in the way only a curious child can. The opportunity delighted me, especially because my parents had forbidden me to stare at the young runaways clogging the sidewalk. The lost children.

I’d be leery of any Crescent City-raised kid who claimed never to have been fascinated by them. The lost children of the city streets were as diverse in origin as they were in countenance. The first I’d seen that morning had been a tap-dancing boy around my own age, gleefully calling to various “cutie-pahs” in an undetermined accent. His joy reached out to me, undisturbed by the morning’s sharp tang of whiskey and street cleaner. I might not have believed he was alone in the world, like the poor souls my parents derided, if not for the layers of sweat marks on his clothes. My parents ignored his dollar-filled top hat and turned my head away in an admonishment. This made me wonder, maybe for the first time, what kind of people they were.

Then, I saw the girl: late teens, stringy sandy hair like frayed rope, weeping with abandon without bothering to hide her face from the tourists and blue-collar shop workers. She seemed “lost,” all right; certainly, more so than the cartoon boys of Peter Pan who had introduced me to the “lost” term in the first place. I remembered the twitch in my father’s face as he snapped the TV’s power button in one fluid motion and turned to explain who the lost children of Louisiana really were.

The girl waiting at our dwelling on Dauphine Street shared a hint of the blonde crier’s defiance, but she also exuded fun. She didn’t bother to sit in the ladylike way I’d learned in church. Still, she jumped up before I reached an angle at which I could see up her green skirt—a fact I noted matter-of-factly, and with some vague sense of disappointment. I continued to examine her clothes anyway, with a youth’s comically bobbing head. I had never seen tights like that before; they were nothing but strings in a diamond pattern. And was that a Boy Scout shirt?

“Hi!” I yelled, unnecessarily since we were barely five feet apart by now. There were chuckles behind me; it seemed like my parents always laughed at me doing normal, serious things. The girl staggered backward, widening her brown-gold eyes. “What’s your name?” She glanced at my parents in something like panic, then back at me, and her face softened.

“I’m Gem.” She glanced behind me again, and I followed her gaze to my mother, situated behind the battered chain-link fence, gazing blankly at our narrow new house. My father caught up, breaking through her reverie as he bustled through the space where a gate should be and pulled our keys out of his suit pocket.

The girl—Gem—stumbled off the stairs and several steps to the right, which is to say, at the edge of the property. Her eyes followed my parents carefully as they entered our new home. Obviously, I didn’t know it at the time, but she was waiting to see if they’d notice her as I had.

Perhaps all houses came with a pretty girl, or maybe she was moving out. “Dad, can Gem come inside?”

My mother turned around in the corridor first. “What, Cassandra?”

“Can she come in with me?” I pointed at Gem and then grabbed her hand. She made a short sound of surprise at my touch.

My mother rolled her eyes elaborately. It didn’t take much to annoy her, especially where I was concerned. She turned to my father, hissing, “Isn’t she a bit old for this?” I could hear the disgust.

My father, unusually jovial today, held up a hand, and my mother went quiet. “It’s okay.” To me: “Sure, little one. Let’s all go in and look around.”

Gem’s expression had gone both stunned and amused. It was a face I’d come to know well and love: the face of a person thrust into a strange scenario she was more than game enough to explore.

“You never told me your name.” Gem flopped into the floral armchair across the room from my bed, then, with a self-conscious glance at me, maneuvered herself into the position my old teacher had promoted as “proper posture.” Unfamiliar furniture crowded the room, from the molded wooden headboard to the dresser’s little blue dollhouse. I missed my room back home, and despite what my father had promised, this didn’t seem “even better” and I could still “remember what came before.” At least I had a new friend already.

“Cassie.” My parents insisted on using the full “Cassandra,” but since they were downstairs, I might as well use the moniker I preferred, the one that hadn’t proved too unwieldy for my classmates to manage.

She nodded. “I’m Gem.”

“You said that already!”

She began to smile, raising her eyebrows. “It’s still true.”

I realized I liked her already. Not only did she dress cool; she struck me as funny, while also, somehow, profound. Had Gem done it on purpose, and anyway, why didn’t people introduce themselves more than once? Even my parents seemed to know she was special, considering they hadn’t made her take off her boots on the rug inside the doorway. Sure, they had ignored her, and so maybe they did not like her, but they must have respect for her. Before this, respect was something I had only seen them demand.

My mind became full of questions, not least of which was why she was talking to someone like me. I settled on the most important-seeming one: “Are you going to stay here?”

Gem smiled again, but this time, one end of her mouth turned down. “Yeah. I’ve been living in this room for a long time, and I’m not about to be driven out.”

“That’s great!” Both hands flew to my mouth, and, sure enough, my mother shouted, equally loudly, from directly below my floor: “Indoor voice, Cassandra!”

“I mean,” I added, “I’ve always wanted a sister.”

“Well, I’m not really your sister.” Gem shrugged and glanced away, her soft brown hair flying in a curtain over her face. “I guess it’ll be like sharing a room with a friend.”

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About the Author

Deb Jannerson is the author of the books of poetry Rabbit Rabbit (Finishing Line Press, 2016) and Thanks for Nothing (Finishing Line Press, 2018), available wherever books are sold. The Women of Dauphine is her debut YA novel.

She won the 2017 So to Speak Nonfiction Contest for an essay about queer intimacy and PTSD, the 2018 Flexible Persona Editors’ Prize (and a Pushcart nomination) for a work of flash fiction about gruesome at-work injuries, and a Two Sisters Publishing prize for a story about switching bodies with her cat.

More than one hundred of her pieces have been featured in anthologies and magazines, including viral articles for Bitch Media. Deb lives in New Orleans with her wife.

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New Release Blitz: Tales From Ardulum by J.S. Fields

Tales From Ardulum | J.S. Fields

Ardulum #4

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Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: June 10, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 57,800

Buy Links:

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Blurb

One year after saving the Neek homeworld and redefining the people’s religion, the crew of the Scarlet Lucidity returns to the Charted Systems for a much-needed break. For Nicholas and Yorden, the Systems will always be home, but for Emn and Atalant, too many memories compound with Emn’s strange new illness to provide much relaxation.

TALES FROM ARDULUM continues the journey of Atalant, Emn, Yorden, Nicholas, and Salice as they try to define their place in a galaxy that no longer needs them while battling the artifacts of Ardulan colonization.

Other stories include Yorden’s acquisition of the Mercy’s Pledge (and his grudge against the galaxy), Atalant’s exile from her homeworld, Ekimet and Savath’s romance, and many others.

Excerpt

Tales from Ardulum
J.S. Fields © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Mercy’s Pledge
2030 CE

“Scrub it down. Start with the cockpit, then work your way back. No toilets on this thing, of course, because the astronauts used diapers way back when and most of these old models were just for animals, so that’s a bright side.” The museum curator—a short, thin woman with wavy, brown hair and pinkish skin—produced a half-hearted smile. She tapped a white panel on the starboard flank of the old decommissioned Soviet shuttle. Housed in the warehouse section of some museum in Kaluga, the ship was a Buran model, although it’d been modded so many times since its initial flight that Yorden Kuebrich doubted its insides looked anything like the historic photos.

“Yeah, I got it. No worries.” Yorden ran his fingers through his beard in what he hoped was an endearing gesture rather than a creepy one, smoothed out the wrinkles on his too-tight coveralls, grabbed his cleaning kit, and walked up the shaky platform steps to the entrance of the shuttle. Cleaning the inside was going to take days, which was just fine. After the year he’d had in the Gaza Strip, not to mention the little heist he was planning, a bit of mindless cleaning while he worked out the details was exactly what he needed.

He grimaced at the rank smell of old oil and deteriorating plastic as he squeezed through the narrow walkways of the shuttle. Either the Soviets had been a lot smaller back then or Yorden had put on more weight in the past decade than he’d realized. Didn’t matter. Muscle, fat, facial hair…it was all the same when you woke up every morning from nightmares of a friend killed, a family home destroyed, or a passive-aggressive act of one angry government against another. Who was right, who was wrong—it didn’t matter then, and it didn’t fucking matter now. The world was full of old decay. Religious cousins were still at each other’s throats, although now they used words instead of bombs. And it was all stupid because there were actual aliens, turns out, flying around in space.

Aliens! Yorden snorted as he entered the tiny cockpit and set his cleaning kit down on a metal case. For ten years now, Earth had been part of the Charted Systems. For ten years, fucking aliens had been showing them how to use wormholes and cellulose tech and weird biometals, and here Yorden was, standing in a metal bucket containing a throttle-lever thing and analog controls after having fled yet another country he’d wanted to call home.

His first home, Poland, he’d left because fuck communism and fuck his early memories of the exorbitant price of meat and his family never getting a condo because the lottery was never in their favor. And fuck the lines. He was glad he’d never had kids, never needed to wait in line for twenty-four-plus hours just to buy a damn doll. Anyway, toilet paper was a goddamned miracle he never wanted to live without again.

Things got better in the nineties—but he’d been done. Naturally, Yorden had just managed to trade one tortured ideology for another. Israel. Gaza. He was Jewish, in that ham-eating, post-Soviet way. Still, birthright. Homecoming, sort of. It was enough to pull him in. Enough to convince him to try out settling there. That had failed miserably. It was just a different kind of death out there: a faster one, from bullets and bombs.

That was all over now, though, because of Charted-fucking-Systems-mandated peace, but nothing could erase his memories. Thus, Yorden was back in Eastern Europe, on a dilapidated shuttle, preparing to install the Cell-Tal components hidden under his cleaning kit and in his bag, so he could fly this hunk of metal off Earth and get into the Systems proper. Yorden grinned. Off Earth, out of this solar system, and away from the crush of history. Away from his history. Away from the politics and the false smiles and the lovey-dovey crap everyone spewed now instead of the thinly veiled racist ideology of the past. People didn’t change—Yorden didn’t believe they could, not for a hot minute. Humans sure as hell didn’t change. Aliens might have brought technology based on turning trees into spacefaring biometals, and they might have brought peace, but neither of those came without a price. If he was going to live a lie, then better if he did it on his terms, in space, where it was a hell of a lot easier to avoid everyone.

So, forget Earth. Forget Mars, even. He’d take “diaspora” to a whole new level.

“You doing okay, then?” The curator’s voice reverberated within the metal, making Yorden wince. “Some of that stuff up in there is pretty delicate.”

“Yeah, I got it! I’ll do the gun turret last since it’s not part of the original structure and looks like it wasn’t put on well to begin with. I don’t know what you guys thought you’d need to shoot with this, other than the peace-toting Risalians that came knocking at our solar door ten years ago.” He paused and considered the walls and his very heavy gear bag stuffed with Cell-Tal tech. “I’m going to have to take the wall panels off, too, to clean. I think you’ve got mice.”

An expletive came from the curator, although Yorden wasn’t certain what language it was in. Not Russian or Polish—he was sure of that. Definitely not Yiddish. Since she was already upset but clearly not willing to come in and inspect the “damage,” Yorden added, “Probably best to strip her down to the floor and walls anywhere I can. If you’ve got one nest, you’ve got ten, and I don’t think you want to pay a guy to redo wiring, right?”

“Do what you can and just…make it look right on the outside, okay? No one is ever going to look under the panels. It’s not like this Buran is ever going to fly again. That laser was never even fired, from what I know. It was attached quickly. Apparently, humans didn’t want to give up their guns when the peace treaty was signed. Not that it does any good on a ship that can’t fly.”

“Oh, she’ll fly,” Yorden muttered. He waited until he heard the door to the hangar slam shut, followed by the screeching of the wide bay doors to the warehouse closing, and then peeled a clump of old metal and coated wires from the wall. He would put it all back together again, snug as a bug. He just needed to make a few modifications of his own first.

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About 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

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New Release Blitz: In The Palm by Elna Holst

In The Palm | Elna Holst

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Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: May 20, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 25,500

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Blurb

Stranded on a tropical island, Dr No-Name has no mobile phone, no wallet, no keys, no passport. No left hand, no shoes and no memory.

What she does have is a blister pack of nicotine gums, two minibar-sized bottles of whisky (consumed), and what appears to be an endless supply of coconuts.

She can’t possibly get into any worse trouble, can she?

Excerpt

In the Palm
Elna Holst © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
I am drunk and about to chop my hand off. There is a correlation between these two states of being, or becoming; but it isn’t that I am crazed and delirious from the alcohol. On this short notice, it’s the only anaesthetic available to me—and the hand needs to go.

Despite my grogginess on first coming to, I recognised the symptoms of a necrotising infection: the tissue death eating away at my digits—the fifth and the second are already black, all but falling off on their own—the red and purple nebulae spreading over the back of my hand, my palm, inching up towards my wrist.

I need to amputate. I need to amputate right now, if there’s even the remotest possibility the bacteria haven’t reached any of my vital organs yet.

There will be time enough for questions later—with a little, or rather a freighter-shipload of luck. Because I do have questions. Like, where am I?

Who am I?

What am I doing here?

Checking that I have my penknife at the ready, I start tightening my primitively devised tourniquet: a stick and a belt. It’s like something out of a survivalist’s wet, apocalyptic nightmare.

Fortunately—incomprehensibly—there were two minibar-sized bottles of whisky in the sorry, debris-filled excuse of a handbag I had slung over my shoulder, caught at my hip, and wound across my chest in a way that restricted my breathing when I regained consciousness. I was alone, drenched and shivering like a stray, on this abandoned strip of beach in No Place.

Maybe I’m a recovering alcoholic. It would explain the blackout. But it seems unlikely, since the spirits performed their magic after just a gulp or two, offering a warm, tingly sensation that managed to put a cap on my agony, strengthening my resolve.

I am not going to get the tourniquet any tighter. My right hand is shaking as I reach for the puny knife, making sure I have the rags I have torn out of my shirt within easy access.

“This is going to hurt so bad.” I tell the knife conversationally—like the drunk I am, at present—and I am struck by a thought that makes me laugh grimly. “I sure hope I’m not a leftie.”

Screaming like a banshee to get my adrenaline pumping, I swing the blade down over my left wrist with as much force as I can muster.

Chapter Two
So hot. So hot, yet so cold, yet so hot, all the same. Stars dance before my eyes, and it could have been delirium, but no: it’s the night sky. An endless, otherworldly expanse vaulting above my head like an exploded piñata, each star a soaring, scintillating scrap of space. I have never seen a night sky like this before; I’m quite certain, though who will take the word of an amnesiac, a fevered amnesiac, lying in the sand—the impossibly fine white sand, like snow (if only it were snow, I muse through the wool in my brain, to cool the flames within) beside her severed hand? How did I manage? How could I have cut through bone with nothing but a penknife, even if it is a high-quality, all-the-trimmings sort of blade? I have bled through my ad hoc bandages—have I? No, they’re good, if grimy.

“Water.” I want to tell the coyly twinkling stars overhead, but my cracked lips won’t cooperate. “Wa-eh,” I actually say, breathe; and tears of hurt—and gratitude, because yes, I am in fact still breathing—stream down my immobile face, pooling in the shells of my ears.

“Need.” I try next and snort because it comes out as “Nee” and this seems funny, somehow; I can’t explain.

I am waging a losing war against unconsciousness. I probably won’t wake again, I think morosely. And then, as the sky looks to be falling…falling on top of me, the very universe ready to claim me as fair game. Oh, but it’s been grand. I can’t remember the particulars, but I think I enjoyed the ride.

About The Author

Often quirky, always queer, Elna Holst is an unapologetic genre-bender who writes anything from stories of sapphic lust and love to the odd existentialist horror piece, reads Tolstoy, and plays contract bridge. Find her on Instagram or Goodreads.


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New Release Blitz: Blood Lust by L.E. Royal

Blood Lust | L.E. Royal

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Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: February 18, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 73200

Genre: Paranormal, LGBT, Paranormal, contemporary, lesbian, vampire, family-drama, human slaves, horror, dark, paternal murder, blood play, psychic ability

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Synopsis

The sequel to Blood Echo.

For Rayne Kennedy, the only Hybrid in Vires, a walled Vampire city in Vermont, life is almost over. Despite the new family and temporary happiness she’s found, her vampire girlfriend, Scarlett Pearce, has been given ninety days by the mysterious city government to turn her into a vampire. She’s sure her days as a human are numbered.

Scarlett fights to find a way to avoid Rayne’s death when her father and society have decreed it must happen. Between new relationships formed, old ones reshaped, and a bloody romp through the city’s darkness, Rayne must decide if she trusts Scarlett not to give in to her blood lust. Thrown into the center of an unexpected revolution, Rayne tries to save herself and Scarlett, unsure if her days as a human, and their time being blood bound, are truly coming to an end.

Excerpt

Blood Lust
L.E. Royal © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

“Pick it up.”

Scarlett watched with lazy eyes as my hand shot forward to grab the apple. I hated her a little for how easy she found this.

“You’re scowling, Princess.”

I dropped the apple the minute she let me and did my best to straighten my face.

The revelation that Scarlett and I were blood bound was old news, but its implications were still new to both of us. We’d been spending time when we were alone learning to overcome the phenomenon—or trying.

The vampire stretched, reclining before me on the black satin bedsheets, and I wondered if she felt me compelling her at all. I tried to recreate the feeling inside myself from the rare times I had succeeded in bending her to my will. Silently, I concentrated and willed her to pick up the apple.

She yawned.

Raindrops ran down the sleek glass doors of Scarlett’s balcony, the sky a dreary gray. Even from the great height of the thirteenth floor, I could see little beige specks below that I knew were actually humans. They came from the outskirts of the city—the Fringe, brought in to work around the decadent skyscrapers that housed Vampire families, like Scarlett’s. High up in Pearce Tower we could live under the illusion of safety, for the moment.

Below, the streets of Vires teemed with vampires, Deltas who were genetically advanced enough to walk in the daylight. The non-Deltas would join them at sunset.

A flash of curiosity disturbed me, pulling me back off the dark path I was traveling, thoughts of society in Vires starting to consume me. Without looking, I could feel her watching me, taste her curiosity. Her wish to know what was going on inside my head was clear through the emotional connection we shared. I tried to lock her out, to shield my feelings from her. She tipped her head and when I met her dark eyes, their intensity burned. I figured I was successful.

Pick up the apple.

Her voice was liquid smoke, lingering in my mind, penetrating every corner. My pale hand darted forward and grabbed it again. She smirked. My stupid, smug, beautiful vampire.

My fingers released their grip the moment she bade them to, and the abused fruit fell back onto the sheets.

“Your turn.”

I wanted to grumble, to ask what the point was. We both knew I couldn’t resist the commands she gave. We also knew she could resist mine effortlessly most of the time. I smoothed my hands over my jean-clad thighs and tried again.

“I’m not resisting you, sweetheart. I haven’t felt any compulsion to resist yet.” She was amused. It danced in her eyes, in the little tug at the corner of her mouth, but I knew she was trying to be diplomatic, at least.

“Why is this even important?”

She had been playful and light-hearted, secretly enjoying the little game we shared. The minute I asked the question I felt her growing cold, uncomfortable. The pleasant hum of her emotions as they lapped at me waned before they shut down altogether.

The subject we were avoiding hung between us, heavy and suffocating. After almost a week of sleepless nights and uneasy dreams I knew sometimes she could share, I was ready to drag it out into the light.

“I don’t ever want it to be used against us.” She was somber, her expression dark and unreadable.

“Scar, if I’m going to be a vampire anyway…”

She hissed. I prepared to backpedal, wishing I had been a little more tactful, but she was already speaking.

“Why are you so obsessed with becoming a monster?”

“Jade’s not a monster and she’s a vampire.” Dark eyes softened at the mention of her younger sister, one of the people she loved most in the world. Through our connection I had quickly grown to love her too.

“Jade has struggled more than you know.” It was cryptic and caustic and an answer that was oh so Scarlett.

“You’re not a monster, really.”

She scoffed.

We were silent for a few seconds, my reply dancing on the tip of my tongue. It was a large part of what had been keeping me up at night, but I was too afraid of her answer to voice the topic.

“Say what’s on your mind?” It was only half a question, and I could tell it took some effort for her not to command it out of me. Beneath the cold indifference she had painted on her face, tiny tells and miniscule shimmers of her feelings told me she was nervous.

“I don’t want to get old when you’ll always be young.”

She laughed, and the sound was ever so slightly bitter.

“I’m three hundred and sixty-nine years old, Princess.”

I wondered if I would ever stop being staggered by that fact.

“Besides, I don’t think aging is something we have to worry about. I’m almost certain you’ve already stopped, being as you are.”

“Hybrids don’t age?” My voice was an octave too high with surprise, and maybe a little bit of joy.

We hadn’t much discussed what I was, what I had become, what she had made me. Her cool and careful handling of the subject frustrated me, and it gave me the uncomfortable feeling she was making plans without any of us.

“Just a hunch.” She tried to curtail me before I got too fixated on the fact. “But if I’m right and age isn’t a factor, are you still so eager to be turned?”

I shrugged, unsure.

“Being a hybrid is still dangerous. What if the Government eventually discovers that us sharing blood is what caused this? What if they find out we’re blood bound? Wouldn’t it be safer if I was less…breakable?”

Blood Lust Now Available

Meet the Author

L.E. Royal is a British-born fiction writer, living in Texas. She enjoys dark but redeemable characters, and twisted themes.

Though she is a fan of happy endings, she would describe most of her work as fractured romance. When she is not writing, she is pursuing her dreams with her multi-champion Arabian show horses, or hanging out with her wife at their small ranch/accidental cat sanctuary.

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Release Blitz: Outlaw Girls by Miss Merikan

Outlaw Girls | Miss Merikan

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Buy Links:

 Amazon US | Amazon UK

Exclusive to Amazon and Available to Borrow with Kindle Unlimited

Length: 60,000 words approx.

Cover Design: Natasha Snow

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Blurb

— When a match meets gasoline. —

Mona. Mafia princess. Rebellious Italian beauty. Runaway bride.

Rain. Motorcycle club president’s daughter. Androgynous biker goddess.

After her sister was forced into an arranged marriage, Mona vowed she would never suffer the same fate. She would do whatever she had to, even set the church on fire, catch the first bus to nowhere without a dollar in her pocket while still wearing her wedding dress.

Away from her controlling family, Mona intends to fight for her financial independence on the stripping pole at the Smoke Valley Motorcycle Club. Her plan is to earn enough cash for further travels, but once she gets closer to Rain, and becomes more comfortable on the back of her bike than she ever was in the world of privilege, staying in the middle of Nowhere, Nevada no longer sounds so bad.

Rain doesn’t do girlfriends. Her biker lifestyle means secrecy and unsavory deeds no girl she’s met would roll with. Her only goal is to smash the glass ceiling of her family-run biker gang and become the first female member. She does do flings though, and the Italian beauty who crashes her birthday party is perfect for one of those.

But Mona sticks around. Rain can’t stay away, and all rules go out the window when Rain finds out Mona is the runaway daughter of a mafioso. Maybe she could just be the kind of woman who understands living outside the law

When the mafia comes after Mona, Rain has to choose between loyalty to the club and the woman of her dreams. One thing is certain – there will be no escape without mayhem.

POSSIBLE SPOILERS:

Themes: mafia, organized crime, marriage, forbidden love, danger, motorcycle club, biker chick, family, rebellion, independence, first relationship, self-discovery

Genre: FF, romance, suspense

Contains explicit, scorching hot scenes.

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K.A. Merikan/Miss Merikan are a team of writers who try not to suck at adulting, with some success. Always eager to explore the murky waters of the weird and wonderful, K.A. Merikan don’t follow fixed formulas and want each of their books to be a surprise for those who choose to hop on for the ride.

K.A. Merikan have a few sweeter MM romances as well, but they specialize in the dark, dirty, and dangerous side of MM, full of bikers, bad boys, Mafiosi, and scorching hot romance.

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M/F ROMANCE BY MISS MERIKAN


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