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New Release Blitz: A Town Called Noelle by MK Hardy

A Town Called Noelle | MK Hardy

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Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: December 2, 2019

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 30,200

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Blurb

Just a few days before Christmas, high-flying city exec Brooke Hawkins is forced to return to her small home town due to the death of her mother, who she hasn’t spoken to since she left for college over a decade before. The town, Noelle, is as full of the Christmas spirit as its name suggests. Brooke is more of the “Bah, Humbug” persuasion.

She has a funeral to attend, property to sell, and she wants to do it and leave—preferably before December 25th. Unfortunately, the weather and the pace of small-town life both conspire to keep her right where she is.

Small-town baker Holly Jackson gets a nasty shock when she receives the news, just days before Christmas, that her little shop is about to be sold from under her by her late landlady’s estranged daughter.

In the years since her husband died in a tragic accident, she and her daughter Maya have been getting by, healing and rebuilding. Holly was beginning to really enjoy life again. She doesn’t plan to let some woman she hasn’t seen since high school come in and ruin everything.

When Holly and Brooke cross paths, sparks fly—and not in a good way. Brooke is determined to sell up and get out of town—and outrun her bad memories in the process. Holly is determined to make her business work.

When an unstoppable force meets an immovable object, can the spirit of Noelle change minds… and melt hearts?

Excerpt

A Town Called Noelle
MK Hardy © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Nine Days Till Christmas
“Goddammnit, where’s the friggin’ windshield wipers on this–oh, finally.”

Brooke sighed in relief as the automatic wipers came on just in time to swipe the sudden veil of snow off the windshield, allowing her to see the long, empty road ahead of her. The forecast had cautioned there might be scattered snow showers, but this had come out of nowhere, turning the onerous drive into a slightly more nerve-racking prospect.

She barely drove any more in the city, and the rental car was an unfamiliar make, with buttons and toggles and a slick GPS system she hadn’t even bothered to turn on. There was only one road where she was going, and she knew it well.

Noelle, Michigan, was the sort of place known only to those who lived there—or those who’d left. One of those lower peninsula towns far enough north to feel isolated, and not close enough to any Great Lakes to be of interest to anybody.

The first hour on the road had been fine, a relatively clear run. Now it was getting dark the temperature had dropped like a stone, and Brooke regretted not paying the extra to fly into Traverse City instead of Grand Rapids. It wasn’t like her, really, to sacrifice time and effort to save money, but this time, for this trip, she hadn’t been able to keep her mother’s voice out of her head.

“I’m not paying an arm and a leg to fly into that glorified back yard just to save an hour’s drive!”

Still, it would be fine. She’d seen snowploughs parked in rest stops she’d passed, and her destination was a straight shot up the road. She resisted the urge to drive a little faster; the sooner she got there, the sooner she could leave.

A dark object loomed ahead. Almost too late, Brooke noticed it was stationary, pulling sharply to the side to miss it. A car horn screamed as she slid back into her own lane just in time to miss a vehicle coming the other way. The snow was coming down properly now, and people were clearly getting stupid. Including you. Eyes on the road.

Brooke pulled into Noelle at five minutes to eleven. She could barely see for the swirling snow but even if she could’ve she knew there wouldn’t be much there—a few shops, a stop sign at the town’s only four-way intersection, tidy sidewalks rapidly being covered in a thick blanket of white. Carefully she steered down one of the side streets where she had once ridden her bike, chased by jeering bullies. Now it was home to a B and B she hoped was still open to late check-ins.

Nearly every house on this street and every other she’d driven down was lit up. In Noelle, people took “the season” seriously. Even back when Brooke was a kid folks didn’t much care what precisely you were celebrating, but there was an expectation that one way or another you would double your bills in December turning your house and yard into an electrical fire hazard.

She pulled up outside Lakeview Guest House (the name was an outright lie) to find herself greeted by a twinkling facade adorned not just with the obligatory string of coloured lights along the eaves but a large Santa Claus waving merrily from the wall.

“Wow. Talk about tacky,” she muttered, throwing on her parking brake and then pulling her coat collar up and opening the door. Snow swirled around her as she emerged from the car and retrieved her suitcase from the trunk; there was enough blanketing the ground to make rolling the case up the front path a physical impossibility. Instead she lugged it with her as she tried to avoid any patches of black ice that might be lurking underneath—the last thing she needed right now was a twisted ankle.

She remembered the late hour only a split second after she’d pressed the doorbell. A loud “ho, ho, ho!” rang through the house’s interior. Brooke winced. Not the best first impression. Still, the inside porch light came on almost right away, so at least she hadn’t woken her host. Only most of the guests, probably. A few moments later an older woman wearing a navy housecoat opened the door.

“You must be Ms Hawkins.” Brooke, still cringing from the doorbell moment, found herself momentarily lost for words, but the woman simply reached to take her case from her unresisting grip. “C’mon, we’re letting the weather in.”

The woman led her not to any sort of reception, but rather through to the dimly lit kitchen at the back of the house. The table lamp and book at the breakfast bar pointed to the landlady’s previous location, but now she put the case down by the door and moved over to the coffee maker. “Hot chocolate? Herbal tea? You’ll want something after that drive…”

“Some bourbon?” Brooke said wryly, reaching up to ruffle the snow out of her tousled bob.

Her host’s response was a chuckle. “Hot chocolate, then,” she said, pressing the relevant button on the machine, which was an automated multi-function affair. In moments, it poured no doubt underheated and watery brown liquid into the waiting mug. Perhaps she spotted Brooke’s expression, as she hastened to reassure her. “There’ll be proper fresh-brewed coffee in the morning,” she said. “I keep this around for emergencies. And workmen.”

“It’s not the first time I’ve been described as an emergency,” Brooke said as she accepted the mug, wrapping her hands around it. It might not’ve had any booze in, but it was still welcome after a long drive, and she let the silence stretch out as she sipped, looking around herself with idle interest. The inside of the house was no less festive than the outside, with obviously handmade snowflakes adorning the kitchen cabinet doors.

“That weather’s certainly an emergency—it’s come down fast out there. Expect we’ll be snowed in for days.”

This got her attention. “Snowed in? But I saw the snowploughs out just a couple of hours ago—they’ll have the streets cleared by morning, surely.”

“Running to stand still if you ask me—you wait and see. I know a proper blizzard when I see one and this snow’s settling in for the long haul.”

Just my luck. Outwardly Brooke managed a bland smile. “I guess we’ll see. The municipal building will still be open though, right? They wouldn’t close just because of a little snow.”

“Oh, I expect so, as long as the power’s on.”

Meet the Author

MK Hardy is the pen name for two geeky women living and writing together in Scotland. They’ve been writing partners for eleven years and life partners for nine. When they’re not typing frantically at one another they like to walk the dogs, cuddle the cats, drink cocktails and play boardgames.

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Release Blitz: The Shoreless Sea by J. Scott Coatsworth

The Shoreless Sea | J. Scott Coatsworth

Liminal Sky #3

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Publisher: DSP Publications

Release Date: Tuesday, October 15 2019

Word Count: 131K

Cover Artist: Aaron Anderson

Buy Links:

Dreamspinner | Amazon | iBooks 

Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Google Play

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Blurb

As the epic trilogy hurtles toward its conclusion, the fight for the future isn’t over yet. It could lead to a new beginning, or it might spell the end for the last vestiges of humankind.

The generation ship Forever has left Earth behind, but a piece of the old civilization lives on in the Inthworld—a virtual realm that retains memories of Earth’s technological wonders and vices. A being named Lilith leads the uprising, and if she succeeds in setting its inhabitants free, they could destroy Forever.

But during the generation ship’s decades-long voyage, humanity has evolved. Liminals with the ability to connect with the world mind and the Inthworld provide a glimmer of hope. They’ll have to face not only Lilith’s minions, but also the mistrust of their own kind and persecution from a new government as homotypicals continue to fear what they can’t understand.

The invasion must be stopped, the Inthworld must be healed, and the people of Forever must let go of their past and embrace what they’re meant to become.

 

Excerpt

Kiryn Hammond-Clarke floated in the darkness of space, stars he’d never seen in person twinkling against the velvety black depths.

The voice came to him from out of nowhere. “Can anyone hear me?”

In his dreams, he could hear. Like when Belynn let him ride in her mind.

The voice repeated, sounding stretched and thin. “Is anyone out there?”

In the distance, a single star glowed brighter than all the others, though it was still just a small golden dot.

Kiryn reached out toward the light, his hand naked to the cold of the void.

Ice crystals formed on his arm, hardening it in place. The cold reached into his bones like knives of frozen glass. It raced up his bicep, the burning cold fire of the void.

He snatched back his arm, but he was too late. The freezing grip reached his heart, and he screamed silently—

Kiryn awoke with a start, sitting up in bed in his dorm room drenched with sweat. He ran his hands through his dark hair, letting them come to rest clasped behind his head.

First Light flashed past in the trees outside his window, brightening up the room.

The world was utterly silent.

The silence, his constant companion since birth, was particularly soothing after his rude awakening. It wrapped itself around him like a blanket, a suit of armor, a barrier between him and the hustle and bustle of the outside world.

Between him and emotion.

He held his arm out for inspection, half expecting it to be blackened by the void. Instead, it looked perfectly normal. Warm and tan, halfway between his mothers’ sepia and white skin tones.

He shivered at the memory.

The bed moved under him, and his date from the night before sat up, his mouth moving soundlessly.

The man was handsome, a Thyrean sent to the university at Micavery for his higher schooling—long limbs, blond hair shaved short, warm brown eyes.

His name was Dax. Or Zack. Or something.

Kiryn’s lipreading was decent, but he hadn’t bothered to spend too much time learning this one’s name. Dax or Zack hadn’t seemed to mind much.

Kiryn pointed at his ear and shook his head.

The man’s mouth closed, and he blushed. “Sorry. I forgot.”

That one was easy enough to read.

He grabbed the piece of cotton paper and a pencil Kiryn kept at his bedside just for that purpose and scribbled something out longhand, then handed it over to him.

It’s Dax. And are you okay?

Kiryn stared at him. Did you just read my mind? Maybe there was a little Liminal in him. He laughed, wondering not for the first time what it sounded like from the outside. It felt clunky and awkward on the inside.

He sighed and took the paper and pencil.

Dax’s hand lingered over his for an extra second before letting go.

Bad dream. Class in fifteen minutes. He hesitated, then scribbled, Dinner?

Dax took the paper, and a grin lit up his face. His eager nod needed no translation. I work at the hatchery until six. Meet me there?

Kiryn nodded and grinned.

Dax slipped out of bed and pulled on his trousers and white shirt, the V-neck showing off his chest to perfection.

Kiryn sat back with his hands behind his head, admiring the view.

He leaned over, kissed Kiryn on the cheek, and mouthed, “See you.”

When Dax left, Kiryn grabbed a change of clothes and headed down the hall to the dorm bathroom. He hopped into the shower, using the aromatic red berry soap bar his mom and mamma had sent him from the Estate. The smell transported him, and he closed his eyes and imagined himself standing among the long, even rows of red berry vines that arched across the hillsides.

His parents worried about him, out here alone, but it was Andy who had insisted he go.

When Kiryn had been born congenitally and profoundly deaf, Andy and Shandra had learned sign language from the world mind in vee.

There were so few other deaf people in Forever. So few like him.

The day before he was set to leave for university, to catch the public wagon headed for Darlith and then Micavery, he’d had a huge panic attack.

His parents had sat him down along with his sister, Belynn:

“I’m scared. Why do I have to go away?” He was fidgeting, nervous.

“You have to go. There’s nothing here for you.” Andy indicated the Estate, where the family had built a thriving agricultural business on the backs of Trip’s and Colin’s earlier work.

“You’re here.” His hands signed it while his knee bounced up and down.

Andy shook her head. “This is our place. You need to go.”

He flushed. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I was such a burden.”

“No.” That was emphatic. “That’s not what I meant. We don’t want you to get trapped here, working on the Estate for the rest of your life. There’s a whole world out there for you to explore.” She looked up at Shandra, who nodded.

“I’ll go with him,” Belynn said and signed it at the same time, but he could hear her inside his head too.

Mom could do that, too, of course, but she had to touch him to do it.

“You’re not ready.” Shandra glared at Belynn and shook her head.

“I’ve been with Kiryn in every vee class since I was born. I’m only two years younger than he is. Let me go with him to help.”

Kiryn frowned. He wasn’t sure he wanted his little sister tagging along after him, cramping his style. If he decided to go.

Belynn’s hand found his, palm to palm, and he could feel her emotions. We can take care of each other. That thought was private, just for him, inside his head.

Maybe so.

Andy looked at Shandra. “They could take care of each other.” She echoed Belynn’s thought and touched Shandra’s hand. Something passed between them.

Shandra looked at him and then at Belynn, uncertainty clear on her face. “We could… try it.”

Belynn squeezed his hand. “Yes!”

“For a semester.” Andy kissed Shandra on the forehead.

Kiryn thought about it. It would be nice to have someone close by, just in case. Someone who really knew him. “Okay.” And it would be a lot less scary.

Now he was here, and Belynn wouldn’t be far behind.

Where are you, big brother? Belynn’s insistent voice.

I’ll be back in a minute. He pulled the towel from its wooden peg, dried off his hair and shoulders.

A couple of the other guys in the dorm, Stave and Trevor, waved on their way to their own showers. Cute as hell, but straighter than the old antenna on Micavery’s village green. Well, except when Stave got drunk on red berry wine….

Kiryn grinned. He pulled on his trousers and shirt and padded back to his room. Belynn was waiting for him on his bed. “How did you get in?” he signed.

They touched palms, the emotions flowing between them and synching.

“Easy. Aric at the front desk is a sucker for a pretty girl.”

“Like I said, how did you get in?”

She stuck out her tongue at him. “Come on. We’re going to be late.” She tugged him off the bed, and Kiryn barely had time to grab his carry sack before she had him out the door and down the hall.

Books one and two are on sale

Humankind is on its way to the stars, a journey that will change it forever. Each of the stories in Liminal Sky explores that future through the lens of a generation ship, where the line between science fiction and fantasy often blurs.

At times both pessimistic and very hopeful, Liminal Sky thrusts you into a future few would ever have imagined.

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The eBook for book one in the Liminal Sky trilogy, The Stark Divide is just 99¢, and book two, The Rising Tide is $1.99 at all vendors.

The Stark Divide Buy Links – 99¢

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The Rising Tide Buy Links – $1.99

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About The Author

J. Scott Coatsworth

Scott lives between the here and now and the what could be. Indoctrinated into fantasy and sci fi by his mother at the tender age of nine, he devoured her library. But as he grew up, he wondered where the people like him were.

He decided it was time to create the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at Waldenbooks. If there weren’t gay characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.

His friends say Scott’s brain works a little differently – he sees relationships between things that others miss, and gets more done in a day than most folks manage in a week. He seeks to transform traditional sci fi, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something unexpected.

A Rainbow Award winning author and Science Fiction Writer’s Association (SFWA) member, he runs Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark, sites that bring queer people together to promote and celebrate fiction reflecting their own reality.

Social Media

Author Website: https://www.jscottcoatsworth.com

Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworth

Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworthauthor/

Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/jscoatsworth

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8392709.J_Scott_Coatsworth

Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/j-scott-coatsworth/

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/J.-Scott-Coatsworth/e/B011AFO4OQ/

Giveaway

Scott is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card with this tour, along with three eBook sets of his Oberon Cycle trilogy. For a chance to win, enter via Rafflecopter:

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Release Blitz: A Hive of Secrets and Spells by Ellen Jane

A Hive of Secrets and Spells | Ellen Jane

A Cupcakes & Sorcery Novel

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Release Date: October 25, 2019

Buy Link:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07YFJ8F2F

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Blurb

Cupcakes, romance, and lovable canines abound in Heather and Sinead’s next adventure, but it isn’t all fun and games.

The girlfriends are investigating a very personal kidnapping, and the threatening notes left behind accuse Sinéad and her punk-rocker twin brother of hiding something.

But after solving their first mystery together last Christmas, this one should be a piece of cake.After all, no one’s been murdered this time, and their witch-sorcerer rivalry is a thing of the past. Except it turns out there is a murderer, and a jewel thief as well, and why on earth does everyone keep talking about bees?

It appears Starford is a lot more exciting than Heather’s home town of Old Wetchhaven, and Sinéad’s insistence that Heather move in with her brings a whiff of trouble to their private paradise. Can Heather adjust to life near the big city? Or will the mounting secrets prove too much and turn their second case into their last?

A Hive of Secrets and Spells is a witch cozy mystery with a sweet lesbian romance and heart-warming magic.

Excerpt

“Look who’s come crawling back,” Cian said with a grin, holding out two steaming ceramic mugs of coffee to Heather and Sinéad.

He picked the third mug up from the brick fence he leaned on and stood to join them. They were meeting a couple of blocks down from the Dunnes’ house so as not to raise suspicion.

“Do I look like I’m crawling?” Sinéad asked with narrowed eyes, accepting the cup and taking an appreciative sip.

“Physically? No. But emotionally?” Cian gave a contented sigh and rested his hand over his heart. “Contrition is a beautiful thing.”

“Your ego is a beautiful thing. Does it take performance requests?”

Heather laughed at the disgruntled expression on Cian’s face. Sinéad hid her smile behind her coffee mug, her eyes crinkling with laughter. She wore a new necklace today, its small tile pendant an abstract swirling design she must have painted herself because when Heather looked at it, she felt revitalised, almost peppy. Sinéad’s magic was particularly strong when it came to mood spells, something only sorcerers could do.

About The Author

Ellen Jane Phillips is an Australian indie author of WW romance. She loves writing about LGBTQ women who experience complex lives, emotions, needs, and desires. Her books are written for people who crave love stories where friendship is just as important as romance, and who want to experience cosy warmth with a hint of mystery, magic, and emotion.

You can find her writing under two pen names: Ellen Jane, and E.J. Phillips. If you like light, cosy WW romance suffused with magic and mystery, Ellen Jane is the pen name for you.

If you prefer something a little heavier, and you like your WW romance tinged with magic and tender angst, E.J. Phillips is the one you want. When she isn’t writing, you can find her walking the dogs, playing D&D, or bemoaning the number of days since she last ate nachos.

 Social Media

Website: www.ellenjanephillips.com

Instagram: http://instagram.com/ellenjanewrites

Tumblr: https://ellenjanewrites.tumblr.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ellenjanewrites

Giveaway

Win one of 2 packages with e-copies of Magic, Murder & Mistletoe, A Hive of Secrets and Spells & A Match Made at Christmas by Ellen Jane.

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New Release Blitz: Complex Dimensions by Brenda Murphy

Complex Dimensions | Brenda Murphy

A Rowan House Novel

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Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: September 23, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 65,100

Buy Links:

NineStar Press | Amazon

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Blurb

Sick of living in her parent’s basement and encountering her ex-girlfriend on a regular basis, former graduate student Veronica Fletcher signs on to manage the stable for Rowan House, Skye’s most exclusive resort for women. After arriving at Rowan House Veronica’s vow to remain celibate is tested when she meets Millie Reid.

Sexy, sweet, and funny, Millie is the woman of Veronica’s dreams. Or is she? When Millie’s past threatens their future together, Veronica is faced with a choice she doesn’t want to make. The butterfly effect has never been more personal.

Excerpt

Complex Dimensions
Brenda Murphy © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Veronica followed her mom through the grocery, navigating the phalanx of Saturday afternoon shoppers. Her thoughts wandered as she trailed behind her mother as she maneuvered their overloaded cart around people staring at the overcrowded shelves, children straying from their parents, and the occasional mobility scooter.

“Ronnie, would you go back and pick up another can of tomato paste? I need two for my sauce. I’m so out of step since they rearranged the store. I don’t understand why…”

Not ready to listen to her mom go on about the changes in the store layout for what must be the hundredth time since she had been released, Veronica interrupted her. “Relax, Mom, I got it.”

She turned and jogged back two aisles and caught sight of a familiar face. Dee stood at the far end of the aisle, her arm draped around the shoulders of Veronica’s ex-friend, Paige. A toddler, her round face and dark brown eyes so much like Dee’s she could have been a clone, sat in the basket of the cart in front of them. Paige pressed a kiss to Dee’s cheek.

Say hello. Don’t act invisible. Get over yourself. So, she’s here with Paige and their baby. Should be me. Should have been us. She looked away and gathered herself. Say something. Be a grown-up. Congratulate them. She looks happy.

Veronica walked down the aisle toward the women, working hard to keep a smile plastered on her face. She lifted her hand in greeting. Dee glanced up and made brief eye contact before a frown crossed her face. She turned her head away from Veronica. Paige looked past Dee and shot Veronica a challenging glare before she pushed their shopping cart briskly away. Fuck. No mistaking the message. She’s moved on. Let it go. She stopped and shoved her hands in her pockets to keep from balling them into fists. She turned away, walked to the main aisle, and followed the overhead labels until she reached the canned vegetable aisle.

She stood in the center of the aisle and groaned inwardly as she studied the shelves. Why do they need twelve different kinds of paste? Damn it. Where the hell is the Bella tomato paste? Mom will flip if it’s not the right brand.

A short woman dressed in a bright red T-shirt and jeans stepped up on the bottom shelf of the section. She extended her arm, her fingers straining shy of the can of tomato sauce she was trying to reach.

Veronica stepped closer. “Hey, let me…” The shelf rocked and teetered. The sharp sound of metal scraping made the hairs on Veronica’s arm stand up as the shelf tilted toward the woman.

“Watch out!” Veronica grabbed the woman around the waist and tugged her out of the way as the entire section of heavy metal shelving crashed to the floor. Cans of vegetables slid off the shelves and filled the aisle. A dented can of stewed tomatoes rolled past her shoe as cans continued to randomly slide from the twisted metal shelves.

“Are you okay?” Veronica let go of the woman’s waist. Other shoppers crowded around them, drawn by the noise.

A store employee arrived. Red-faced and wheezing, he pointed to the avalanche of cans. “Is anyone under there?”

“No. I don’t think so.” Veronica leaned away from the stale smell of cigarettes and sweat wafting from the employee.

The woman stared at Veronica, her eyes wide. “You…I would have been under there. I would have…” Her cheeks grew pink. “Thank you.” She ducked her head, pushed through the crowd, and fled.

More store employees showed up and blocked the aisle with warning signs and yellow tape. The crowd filtered away. Veronica stepped back from the chaos.

The dull edge of the can she was still holding dug into her palm. What if my mom hadn’t needed another can of tomato paste? What if Dee had wanted to chat? What if I hadn’t noticed the shelf shift? We both would’ve been under there. A minute. A second. So much can change in a moment. Butterfly effect. Chaos Theory on display.

“Ronnie?” Her mother’s hand squeezed her arm. She turned and stared down the aisle, her lips pressed together in a thin line. “Good Lord, look at that. You’d have been crushed.”

Veronica held up the can in her hand and grinned at her mom. “Got the tomato paste.”

Her mother quirked her mouth, “All right, joker, let’s get the rest of the groceries before anything else falls down.”

About the Author

Brenda Murphy writes short fiction and novels. She loves tattoos and sideshows, and yes, those are her monkeys. When she is not swilling gallons of hot tea and writing, she wrangles two kids, two dogs, and one unrepentant parrot. She writes about life, books, and writing on her blog Writing While Distracted.

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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 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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Book Blitz: Marjorie Diaz’ Unfortunate Introduction to Magical High Society by Desdemona Wren

Marjorie Diaz’ Unfortunate Introduction to Magical High Society | Desdemona Wren

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Buy Links:

Amazon US | Amazon UK

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Blurb

Girl meets boy. Girl falls in love with boy. Boy hunts girl for sport.

Marjorie Diaz has no idea who Patrick Watkins is. When he saunters into her senior seminar class during her last semester of college, the last thing she expects is to fall in love with him.

She’s swept up into a whirlwind—and often times fairytale-esque—romance. That is, until his family kidnaps her and sends her to the last place she ever thought she would go again.

Now, with the help of her best friend Lucian Maravalle, she has to run for her life, and try not to think too hard about the fact that everyone important to her has been keeping a dangerous secret. A secret that could cost Marjorie her life.

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About the Author

desdemona wren.jpgDesdemona Wren is an urban fantasy and science fiction author who writes gay fiction with monsters, witches, and fantastical plots.

She’s from Seattle, WA, but currently resides in the mystical land of Northern California. Where everybody wears coats all the time, nobody says ‘brah’, ‘bruh’, ‘bro’ or any variation of that word, and absolutely nobody surfs.

She has two cats named Oliver and Ophelia who have traveled the world. From The Great Smoky Mountains, to the tallest peaks of The Cascades, and even to the Grand Canyon; they’ve been everywhere.

She has written two full-length novels: Marjorie Diaz’s Unfortunate Introduction to Magical High Society and Marjorie Diaz’s Unfortunate Introduction to Ancestral Politics & Foul Play; one novella: Bloom: A Monster Love Novella (Book 1); and one short story for a Cinderella Anthology: Call Me Eli.

You can contact Desdemona via email at info@desdemonawren.com

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