Book Blitz: Uncertain Foundations by Emily Carrington (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title: Uncertain Foundations

Author: Emily Carrington

Cover Art: Angela Knight

Genres: Action Adventure, Dark Fantasy, New Releases, Paranormal, Romance, Suspense

Themes: Gay, Multicultural & Interracial, Vampires, Werewolves & Wolf Shifters

Series: Tilthos Pack (#3)

Multiverse: Searchlight (#10)

Book Length: Novel

Page Count: 159



They’ve been there for each other through death and life, through pain and joy. Their love life has held them together through all external dangers. But what happens when the threat seems to come from within?

Charlie, half werewolf, has never felt so uncertain. Everything he’s trusted in — his eyesight, his psychic ability, his confidence in making decisions — is under attack. Even his mate, his Life dancer, Luis, seems untrustworthy.

Luis, a psychic vampire, is consumed by terror and paranoia. Unable to tell fact from fiction, and feeling Charlie pulling away, he lashes out.

These two lovers who have stood the test of time find themselves on unsteady ground. Can their love prevail despite the terror working its way through the pack?


Uncertain Foundations (Tilthos Pack 3)
Emily Carrington
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2024 Emily Carrington

Luis stood his back to a wall. He gazed across the crowded room to his Life Dancer, who was shaking hands with Princess Angelina Oakland. Scanning the princess’s living room quickly, Luis noted the approaching dawn lightening the sky in the east and the Pakistani land dragon speaking quietly with Claudette, the water dragon from Western New York. He felt like a stalker, watching all these people in their final moments of conversation and leave-taking, but he wouldn’t let Charlie, his Life Dancer, be alone. Too much had happened during this last delegate gathering.

“Go downstairs,” Charlie said, turning his head away from the princess to meet Miguel’s gaze. The blood-dependent vampire, slave to the darkness of night, was swaying on his feet.

“You are leaving,” Miguel said.

“This morning,” Charlie agreed.

“I wanted to say thank you.” He nodded to Princess Angelina. “To you as well, Your Highness. I have lived without hope for many years. To have it again is a marvelous blessing. And it wouldn’t have been possible, Tilthos Charles, without your assistance.”

“You’re welcome, but if you thank me again, I’m going to have to demand payment.” Charlie sounded more concerned than flippant despite his words. “Go. Down. Stairs. We’ll meet again.”

Miguel shook hands with both of them and headed from the room.

He passed close to Luis and said softly, “Your lover is a beacon of hope.” Then he was gone.

Luis watched Charlie making the rounds of the other magical creatures in the room. All of these others were ignoring Luis, as if he was just a bodyguard. That suited Luis just fine. Charlie didn’t really need his protection, not in this room, and not usually in the world at large. The leader of all the werewolves on this and the southern continent was only half werewolf, and visually impaired also, but he’d held his position without others defending him for over half a decade. He was confident. He was strong.

And sexy as hell.

Luis firmly turned his thoughts from that particular channel because some of the magical creatures gathered here had great senses of smell. They’d know he was aroused if he allowed himself the luxury of thinking of his Life Dancer without clothes on.

Charlie’s thoughts drifted through Luis’s mind, his psychic tone lightly teasing. I think it’s too late for you to hide anything.

Luis smirked and thought back, Good.

Gradually, the heads of this or that species left, taking their chauffeured rides to private airplanes. Agent Jack Sowerby would be meeting some of them at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, but some wouldn’t allow the new head of SearchLight to see them off. Claudette, the water dragon, was one of these, preferring to keep her exact departure a secret.

Luis knew she was flying out of Dulles, the airport south of here in Virginia, but he was a tracker. It was his job to know the comings and goings of those who might be a threat to SearchLight. Or to his Life Dancer.

As the room emptied, he wondered if the princess would let him and Charlie have one last fling in the bedroom she’d set aside for them. Although, even if she did, Charlie might not want to hang around. He was anxious to get back to their displaced pack.

“Tilthos Charles, do you need to rest before starting on your drive home?” Princess Angelina asked as if she’d read Luis’s mind. He didn’t think she had telepathy, and his shields were mostly up anyway.

“That would be a better question for Luis, since I can’t drive,” Charlie said, sounding amused. He tapped the end of his white cane on the parquet floor. “Thank you, but I think we should get going.”

Luis thought, keeping it hidden from his Life Dancer, Damn. And I was hoping to be driving without blue balls.

Still, he had to admit he wanted to get home. And not just so that the Tilthos Pack could return from where they’d been scattered to when all the dominant protectors were occupied here in DC and Maryland. Luis had concerns about those pack members here: Jeremy, Ethan, and Charlie.

Jeremy and Ethan would be driving back at some point soon, but first, Ethan needed to regain his human shape. He’d taken to sticking close to Jeremy and their son, Will, but in his werewolf guise. It was as if he thought being in four-footed would somehow protect him from further pain.

Luis had absolutely no doubt Jeremy would take care of his mate. The Night Wanderer was protective anyway, and since Ethan had been forced to —


He blinked, startled out of his thoughts by his Life Dancer calling his name. Charlie stood about ten feet away, his gaze unfocused, as it always was when he wasn’t trying to read some large print or looking at a picture eight-year-old Will had drawn.

Luis crossed to him and touched his shoulder. “What is it?” he asked gently.

“I guess you missed the change in plans.”

Luis smiled guiltily. “I was lost in my own world.”

“I realized –” Charlie said, lowering his voice and bending so he could put his mouth next to Luis’s ear. “I need you before we head out.”

Luis’s cock raised its head and he felt his asshole constrict in anticipation. “Not here,” he ventured.

“Well, in this house, but, no, not in the living room. If we stained any of her pillows or cushions, I’m sure Angelina would throw us out and bill us through the nose.” He took Luis’s hand, pressing the shaft of the white cane between their palms. “Will you guide me?”

Luis knew Charlie didn’t mean that literally. He was independent to a fault, was Tilthos Charles McLaughlin, alpha above all alphas. But having Charlie make the request made Luis harder still. He kissed Charlie’s palm and then encouraged him to take his arm.

Swinging his cane out before his feet, Charlie “followed” Luis up the stairs and down the hall. The warmth of his hand, firm on the back of Luis’s arm, was ambrosia to the anxiety Luis had been feeling for the last week or so. Charlie trusted him. He glanced back and saw Charlie’s eyes were closed and his cane no longer touched the floor. He was letting Luis guide him completely.

Luis’s heart rose and he swallowed against sudden, stupid tears. “Te amo, Charlie,” he whispered.

A mischievous smile lit Charlie’s dark and handsome features. “Of course, you do.”

Luis snorted. But before he could retort, Charlie stopped walking and pulled Luis into a tight embrace. Luis inhaled, loving the scent of his lover’s aftershave.

“I love you too. Now, come on. I need you.”

Purchase at Changeling Press

Meet the Author

Emily Carrington is a multipublished author of male/male and transgender women’s speculative fiction. Seeking a world made of equality, she created SearchLight to live out her dreams. But even SearchLight has its problems, and Emily is looking forward to working all of these out with a host of characters from dragons and genies to psychic vampires. And in the contemporary world she’s named “Sticks & Stones,” Emily has vowed to create small towns where prejudice is challenged by a passionate quest for equality. Find her on Facebook at Shapeshifter Central or on her website.

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New Release Blitz: Until the Real Thing Comes Along by Chris Simon (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Until the Real Thing Comes Along

Author: Chris Simon

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 05/14/2024

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 101200

Genre: Historical, Romance, historical, family-drama, gay, 1920s, 1930s, in the closet, docker, fire, Brighton, football match

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It’s 1932 and middle-class Malcolm lives with his mother in Highgate. Though confident and capable at work, he is tormented by “beastly inclinations”—a strong attraction to young men. One drunken evening at Charlie Brown’s pub in Limehouse he meets Alfie, a working-class docker—and the most beautiful young man Malcolm has ever seen. Alfie is friendly, kind and changes everything by making Malcolm’s inclinations seem considerably less beastly—but in 1930s London, this can surely have no future. Alfie is younger, apparently “normal”, and from the Isle of Dogs, far from Malcolm’s cosy world of quiet privilege.

Nevertheless, Malcolm launches himself into Alfie’s world of rough pubs, a dance club, and even a football match. Resigned to a platonic friendship, he is thrilled to find that Alfie has other ideas. But by offering him something he hadn’t even dared wish for, fate may have called his bluff and he fears his own naivety and sexual inexperience will see him squander this unexpected shot at happiness. After some excruciating but sound advice from a more worldly friend, the relationship becomes sexual, and more emotional, but remains an unsuitable attachment that cannot last forever.

When Alfie is nearly killed in a fire at the docks, and war planes on maneuvers growl over the Docklands skies, both are reminded that life is too short to worry about “forever”. During a police raid on an illicit West End club, Alfie’s heroism saves Malcolm from ruin, convincing him that whatever the future holds, this boy loves him now. The disapproval of families and friends, a hostile society, Malcolm’s insecurity, and Alfie’s belief that he’ll eventually get married because “that’s what young men do” cannot thwart a love that grows in unpromising ground and endures no matter what is thrown at it.


Until the Real Thing Comes Along
Chris Simon © 2024
All Rights Reserved

Grubby Angels

August 1922

This was wealth. This was power. This was the world in which Malcolm Trevelyan must make his mark.

A line of black cranes dipped and swung over the cobbled north quay of the Western Dock, as they lowered crates and barrels towards the waiting men below. Once landed, the goods were loaded onto handcarts and spirited away into the transit sheds nearby. The noise of the crane winches and the shouts of men drowned out any words of explanation from the guide escorting the small group of six trainee import clerks of which Malcolm was a part.

Beyond the transit sheds stood ancient brick warehouses, bulging with cigars and raw tobacco, grain, fragrant spices, ivory, and ostrich feathers. He breathed in the aromas of the nation’s store cupboard, awed by the sheer scale of the warehouses and by the range of goods he saw in them. Beneath their feet lay a labyrinth of cool vaults packed with puncheons and hogsheads of port, brandy, and wines. The London Docks were an organised chaos and just about the most exciting thing that sixteen-year-old Malcolm had ever seen.

But it wasn’t just the goods. Out on the quayside an even greater impression was made on him by the flat-capped, waistcoated dockers, concentration straining their features, skin glowing with their exertion. They worked in gangs, intimidating clutches of masculinity, strong and foul-mouthed. Most were middle-aged, weather-beaten, worn and scarred, but there was a handful of younger men among them. They were cocky lads—a different breed from any Malcolm had seen before and he was drawn to them. Strong, lithe, and energetic, they laughed and joked together with an easy familiarity he envied.

The dockers paid little heed to the gaggle of pale-skinned trainee clerks observing them. They would spare them attention only if the party looked like they were getting in the way, at which point a youngster would be sent to shoo them off, as though they were scavenging gulls circling over a consignment of raw sugar.

As the visitors weaved tentatively through the busy crowd, a sudden violent hailstorm lashed down on the quayside. Everyone ran for what shelter they could find, apart from the crane drivers, who watched the scurrying smugly from their cabins. Malcolm found shelter in the narrow covered doorway into a warehouse. It was padlocked and he had to share the brick arch with two young dockers and endure the bittersweet sensation of having them pressed up against him. Having their hard bodies and the smell of their sweat so close would no doubt have repelled some people. Not Malcolm. The sweat was fresh, the result of honest toil. And the bodies—well.

The young lads were deferential to him, in case he was someone important, toning down their profanities and allowing him as much space as they were able to. In adjusting his stance to try to give Malcolm more room, one of them yelped as a hailstone the size of a quail’s egg struck his bare arm. His face, close to Malcolm’s, blushed engagingly and he laughed.

“Ow! That bleedin’ hurt!”

“Don’t be such a jessie,” jeered his mate. “Wotcher stick yer arm out for anyway, yer fathead.”

“I was trying to give this gentleman a bit more room, weren’t I? Yer don’t want ’ailstones getting on yer nice duds, do yer, guvnor?”

Malcolm smiled weakly but was unable to utter a single word, let alone form a sentence. This lad of around his own age had called him “guvnor” just because he was wearing a suit, yet he was the tongue-tied one.

The hail lashed down for five minutes before stopping abruptly, allowing the young dockers to return to their labours.

As the clerks filed back out of the dock gates chattering about what they’d seen, Malcolm was disconsolate, because his desperate longing had undermined the excitement he’d felt at having seen the Port of London working at close quarters for the first time. He was no longer incarcerated in boarding school. There were plenty of girls for him to look at, in the streets and in the typing pool at work, but nothing had changed. Boys still preoccupied him and none more than these working-class lads. They were so different from him and the boys he’d known at school—and nowhere was safe, because the streets of London teemed with them. He wouldn’t even know whether the two young dockers would have been considered handsome or not. Their faces had yet to have years of hard labour etched upon them, they’d yet to sustain scars or lose teeth, their complexions were unravaged by the drink to which they would probably turn for comfort. Their youth and vitality, their common clothes and flat caps, the hair cut short at the napes of their necks and their choirboy faces tormented him still.

He could tell himself his inclinations would shift towards women in due course, but he knew it wasn’t true. In a week or two, he would have forgotten about these two particular lads, but there were legions of grubby angels dressed as thugs to fill him with a burning longing for… Well, he wasn’t quite sure for what.

What could he do about it?

The answer was obvious. He must put all his energy into his work and see how far it would take him. It was his duty to achieve wealth and power to ensure his mother would live the rest of her days in comfort, and above all, he mustn’t allow himself to indulge in any behaviour that would bring disgrace down upon her. He must not merely put aside his unnatural feelings but bury them absolutely and forever.


NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Chris Simon is the youngest son of a headteacher and was born and brought up in North Wales. He attended college in Liverpool and Manchester studying Geography and English and returned to Wales to work at a holiday camp, doing everything from chalet allocations to scrubbing grill pans in the off season. He did this over three summers before moving to London to join the civil service, starting in North London benefit offices and ending with the Department for Transport in Westminster.

As well as football and music, Chris has a great love of social history, particularly that of London. After visiting the capital at the age of twelve his desire to live there became the first certainty of his life. He settled in Walthamstow in East London and is a keen supporter of Manchester City and, of course, Wales. It had always been his intention to write a novel whenever he found the time—and now he has.

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New Release Blitz: Shadow House by Joe Rielinger (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Shadow House

Series: Terry Luvello, PI #3

Author: Joe Rielinger

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 05/07/2024

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Female

Length: 74100

Genre: Contemporary Mystery, lit/genre fiction, contemporary, transgender, established couple, private detective, cops, murder mystery, crime procedural, dysfunctional family drama, incest, mental instability, guns

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An unexpected visit from the daughter of an old mentor launches private detective Terry Luvello into one of the most intriguing cases of his career. Margaret Reasoner, the matriarch of one of Cleveland’s wealthiest and most politically connected families, has recently passed away.

Not trusting any of her children, Margaret had added a clause in her will requiring a private inquest should her death take place under suspicious circumstances. Hired to investigate, Terry spends a week at the Reasoner’s sprawling estate dealing with the increasingly hostile family as he unravels the mysteries of the mansion known as the Shadow House.

Terry recruits his partner and girlfriend, Cleveland police detective Hannah Page to aid in the investigation. The two uncover a web of secrets and lies that stretch beyond anything they have ever experienced. As the deceptions pile up along with the body count, a killer plans the ultimate revenge.

Terry’s ingenuity and uniquely wry sense of humor help him navigate this complex case while juggling the demands of his clinical transition about to enter its final phase. In a household where no one is innocent, Terry must decide just how far he is willing to go to find the guilty party.


Shadow House
Joe Rielinger © 2024
All Rights Reserved

I hate adultery cases—every private detective does. Tawdry and nasty by their very nature, they inevitably lead to pain for both the client and the accused. That’s true even if the accused is one of those rare individuals who isn’t actually screwing around.

So why do we take these cases? We take them for the same reason the men and women we follow choose to cheat. As cynical as it sounds, every private investigator knows that it’s sex, not love, that makes the world go round. The two occasionally have some direct relationship, but those instances are not our concern. A PI’s livelihood depends on the man who suddenly realizes his secretary is far more good-looking than his wife or the woman who decides she’s just a little too lonely, waiting for her husband to come home after work. Their wronged partners pay our bills, and we take a deep breath, sigh, and spend one more night peering through a high-def camera next to yet another dirty hotel window.

Fortunately for my sanity, I didn’t rely strictly on those cases. As Terry Luvello, PI, I had developed a good reputation for competence, much of that gained while assisting my police detective girlfriend on two high-profile cases.

Detective Hannah Page stayed with me through it all, though we had some rough moments after the conclusion of both investigations. We got back together after our last case on what Hannah called a “trial basis.” Our reunion overjoyed my mother and my best friend. Hannah’s parents—not so much.

Hannah had also stayed despite the complications and occasional wide-eyed stares caused by my transitioning to male. With just two months to go before my actual surgery, we were now living together in Hannah’s Cleveland Heights home.

I loved her more than I could say, and I believed she loved me back. That love did not keep her from reacting negatively to my latest assignment.

Staring at me before I left that evening, Hannah asked, “Why do you take these cases? Trying to catch those shitheads in the act just depresses you, and we really don’t need the money.”

She wasn’t wrong on either count, but I reminded her of our agreement. “When I moved in here, we said we would split the household costs. Like them or not, the adultery cases pay my part of those bills.”

Hannah shook her head before giving me a kiss goodbye. “Get the hell out of here, but don’t go getting any ideas. Just remember what I said I’d do if I caught you screwing around.”

She had, in fact, told me exactly what she would do, a starring role in that scenario played by the woodchipper Hannah insisted on keeping in our backyard. I shivered despite myself—the cost of a self-assertive girlfriend who wouldn’t dream of going anywhere without her Smith & Wesson.

Tonight’s carnal shithead was one Seamus O’Donnell, a man who differed from the other shitheads I’d chased, if only because he didn’t seem to be, on the surface, a shithead. A computer programmer at Cleveland’s NASA Glenn Research Center, Seamus was outwardly the perfect family man—beloved by his wife, his three young children, and even his golden retriever puppy. I looked through both public and private records and found none of the usual indicators of infidelity. There were no unusual hotel bills, no significant cash withdrawals, and no sudden changes in wardrobe or hairstyle. When I spoke with his wife one week prior, she said Seamus had always been a model husband. Still, she had doubts.


NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Joe Rielinger lives in Cleveland, Ohio, with his wife, Lisa, and their two fun-loving, though often borderline crazy golden retrievers. With a lifetime love of mystery, crime, and detective novels, Joe is currently working on a sequel to his first book, And God Laughed. When he isn’t writing, Joe likes to cook, read, and pretend he might someday learn something about training his two dogs.

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Book Blitz: Black Leather Night and Other Tales by Willa Okati (Excerpt & Giveaway)


Title:  The Brotherhood Vol. 1

Author: Willa Okati

Publisher: Changeling Press

Release Date: May 2, 2024

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 294 pages

Genre: Action Adventure, Box Sets, Dark Fantasy, New Releases, Paranormal Women’s Fiction, Romance, Romantic Comedy, Urban Fantasy

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Welcome to Amour Magique, where gay paranormals come to find love…

Amour Magique – the notorious sex club owned by Liam, an incubus. His friends call themselves The Brotherhood. The Brothers have the perennial problem of gay men everywhere: finding a hottie who doesn’t turn out to be a loser or abuser. They’re down on their luck, and looking for love in all the wrong places.

Bite Me — Tattoos. Piercings. Leather. Attitude. Do anything, say anything, and damn the consequences. That’s Bree of the Brotherhood, and he’s not about to apologize for a thing.

The Dragon’s Tongue — Collin was born with the power to make men burn with lust. He’s been burned himself, though, and now he’s  working himself into an early grave. Might just be worth the trip if he can get it right this time.

Good Luck Piece — Conned into putting in an appearance at the notorious sex club, Amour Magique, Simon holes up in a shoddy bar aptly called Last Chance. Then an Irish stranger with flashing green eyes and a mouth made for wickedness buys him a drink…


The Brotherhood Vol. 1
Willa Okati
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2024 Willa Okati
Excerpt from Amour Magique

Silence. Intense silence. Chilly air smelling of pine and citrus rushed through painfully neat rooms and corridors, whisking over nothing but bare furniture and knickknacks free of dust. Surfaces sparkled, yet had an opacity that lacked any élan vital. Solemn strains of a Beethoven requiem filled the air.

This was a place where happiness went to die.

In one room, though, a spark of life remained. A scented candle, fragrant with bayberry and red as blood, crackled to life in the semi-darkness. It passed from hand to hand, lighting taper after taper in a circle, until twelve flares of light burned brightly in the gloom. Each candle, held tightly or cautiously in a strong male hand, was lifted high in a circle as the men holding them glanced at one another, took a simultaneous deep breath, and chanted:

“Long live the Brotherhood. May our harmony and companionship be a beacon in the darkness of an unfriendly world. Let the Brotherhood bring light to the murky corners and sweep away the shadows of hostility.”

Again, they glanced at each other. Faint smiles lifted the corners of mouths plump and thin, narrow and wide.

“Here are the bylaws of the Brotherhood, long may they live. Act smart. Look cool. Share your prick, not your heart. Long live the Brotherhood!”

Smothered laughter broke out as all twelve men tilted their bayberry candles toward a vast central pillar and set its many wicks alight.

“So let it be done,” intoned the man in the position of leader. “So may it be.”

Silence filled the air for a long moment.

Then the doorbell chimed.

“Hot damn — food’s here!” Micah, closest to the door, jumped up, shoved his candle into a holder, and, with a deft flick of a switch, turned the chandelier lighting on in the main room. “Who ordered tonight? David? What did you get — Chinese or Thai?”

“Chinese,” David called as he put his taper into another holder, as did the other men. “Moo shu pork, egg rolls, wonton soup, sweet-and-sour chicken, beef with broccoli, sesame beef, General Tso’s, cashew chicken, lo mein –”

“Holy fuck, David! We’re not an army!”

“– and dessert, too.” He blushed a little. “Well, you guys always say there’s never enough when someone else orders. I figured I’d get plenty.”

“Yeah, plenty of food, since that’s all you’re getting,” retorted Micah.

“Not nice,” Simon, their leader, rebuked, folding his hands. “And would you open the door before the nice delivery gentleman thinks we’re either crazy or not at home and goes away?”

“Don’t get your panties in a bunch. I’m on my way.” Micah smoothed his indigo silk shirt more neatly into his tight-cut jeans, ruffled a hand through his hair, and swung the door open. A delighted grin split his face. “Hwong Li! How did they know to send you? Was it just for me?”

“You are a horn dog,” the young Asian man retorted. His arms overflowed with boxes. “I drew the short straw.”

“There is nothing short about me.”

“So you say. Ninety-three ninety, please.”

“Ninety-three — David, how much food did you order?” Micah turned, hands on his hips. “It’s obvious you don’t care, but some of us are watching our figures.”

David blushed a deep, dusky red. “I just wanted to get enough –”

“You got enough, all right. Lose about ten, and maybe you’d get something else, too.”


“All right, all right.” Micah folded his arms. “I’m not paying for all this myself, men. Pony up the cash.” All around the room, men dug into their pockets. David produced a twenty and handed it over, his cheeks still pink. Micah snatched all the cash, counting it with a quick hand before passing over a hundred dollars. He riffled the bills in front of Hwong’s eyes, letting him count the cash, before cracking a nasty smile and slipping the money into the delivery boy’s front pants pocket.

His fingers lingered.

“Why, Hwong, do I feel a spring roll in there?”

“Your touch would make bamboo soft.”


“Yes. But not on the market for one such as yourself.”

“Fuck you.” Micah jerked his hand away as if he’d been burned. “Keep the change.”

Hwong Li regarded him disdainfully. “Shitty tip.”

“You want a tip? Don’t insult me next time.”

“Aw, come on,” the youngest of their group piped up. “Hwong’s a hottie. Treat him with the r-e-s-p-e-c-t a sister, uh, brother deserves.”

Hwong glanced past Micah. “Hello, Christian. Got a kiss for me?”

“You bet.” Christian dug into the pocket of his hooded sweatshirt and pulled out a handful of chocolate drops. He unwrapped them. “Here, catch!”

Hwong did a nifty little seal impersonation and snaffled every treat in his mouth as they flew through the air.

“Someday, I’ll give you the real thing,” Christian teased.

“You wish you were so lucky.” Hwong stuffed the boxes of food into Micah’s arms, leaving him no choice but to grab them or drop them. “Night, ladies.”


“No, that’s your specialty.” Hwong turned and walked away.

Micah kicked the door shut and moved somewhat awkwardly toward the table in the center of the circle they’d sat in earlier. “Does someone want to help me with this? Simon? Laurence? Bree?”


“You’re on your own.”

“No way.”

“You’ll sure as hell eat it, though.” Micah dumped the boxes down. “Fine, then. Chow down, but leave me the plain white rice.” He patted his flat stomach. “I don’t want to get a pot belly.”

“You’re in about as much danger of getting fat as you are of getting anything else,” Alex said bluntly as he flopped down in a chair and reached for a container marked Lemongrass Chicken Special. “Pot, kettle, black?”

“I don’t see you bragging about your conquests.” Micah’s voice was prickly.

“Honestly! Hwong wasn’t far wrong in calling you ladies. Quentin, you and Harrison get the beer and wine. The rest of you, sit.”

“Aye, aye, Simon!”

Micah sat in the middle of a buttery-soft leather couch and crossed his legs. “I think you’re all carrying this whole Brotherhood thing too far… or not far enough. Help each other out, everyone doing their part… then it all lands on someone like me.”

A slight, lithe, curly-haired man who had not spoken as yet murmured, “You need each other, Micah. Such is the purpose to this group.” He toyed with a blue crystal that dangled from a chain around his neck. “Even you need these others, deny it as you will.”

Micah regarded the man with distaste. “All I need, Liam, is one good night on the town with a decent fuck who knows how to treat a man.”

A youngish, multi-pierced man flopped down on the couch beside them. “You want a man who’ll treat you like a god.”

“So what if I do?” Micah retorted. “You just want anyone who knows how to make the bedsprings bounce, Bree.”

“Yeah, and?” Bree reached for some extra-spicy General Tso’s. “At least it’s been less than a year for me.”

“Not by much.”

“Liar, liar, pants not on fire.”

Simon sighed and rolled his eyes to heaven. “Enough! No one else says a word until we’ve eaten. I invoke Brotherhood Head status.”

“Yeah, you wish you could get some head,” Bree muttered.

However, despite his defiance, he fell silent, as did the rest of the men. Falling into place on chairs, divans, and sofas, they dug into the hot Asian food. Small moaning noises of pleasure filled the air as rich spices and tangy flavors crossed eager tongues, and sighs of satisfaction were heard as one or another discovered a favorite among the boxes and cartons. Even David, picking at white rice himself, found the courage to reach for a packet of soy sauce and then, with a shy glance up, took a vegetarian egg roll.


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Meet the Author

Willa Okati (AKA Will) is made of many things: imagination, coffee, stray cat hairs, daydreams, more coffee, kitchen experimentation, a passion for winter weather, a little more coffee, a whole lot of flowering plants and a lifelong love of storytelling. Will’s definitely one of the quiet ones you have to watch out for, though he — not she anymore — is a lot less quiet these days.

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New Release Blitz: Built From Ashes by Fox Beckman (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Built From Ashes

Series: Trust Trilogy, Book Three

Author: Fox Beckman

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 04/30/2024

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: M/NB

Length: 129600

Genre: Paranormal, Romance, urban fantasy, interracial, gay, bisexual, nonbinary, time travel, magic, witch, demons, chosen one

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Ravi’s world has shattered. Cayenne’s dark secrets have finally come to light, and a mysterious enemy threatens to dismantle The Trust from within. Haunted by betrayal, Ravi must confront the demons of his past while battling for the future of The Trust, the fate of the world, and his own heart. But can something so broken ever truly be mended?


Built from Ashes
Fox Beckman © 2024
All Rights Reserved

“I do not like this,” Val mutters for the third time, her voice low.

“Me neither,” Ravi sighs, his eye not wavering from the scope. The rifle is a cool, sturdy presence under his hands. Something he can rely on. Rare as it is for him to roll out his sniper skillset on hunts, he’s strangely nostalgic for his time in Israel. The simplicity of training and nothing else. Being so worn out each day he could slip into a deep, dreamless slumber.

Val rumbles a little under her breath like a building storm. Normally the angel is perfectly content to spend any time with Ravi in companionable silence—one of his favorite things about her—but he agrees the situation is less than ideal.

The pair perch on the second story of an abandoned big-box department store, a building slated for demolition in two months’ time. Scouting hours ahead of the rendezvous, they’d found this vantage point hidden by a defunct escalator with a clean line of sight down to the meeting place. The perfect position to keep an eagle eye on the proceedings.

It’s harder than Ravi expected it would be, staying on the sidelines while Harry and Nate are up close and personal with so many potential enemies. Even with Harry’s Chosen invulnerability and her recent training regimen, she’s still not ready for this kind of threat on her own. But as the most personable members of the team, she and Nate are the best options. One peek at Val’s eyes and it’s obvious she’s not entirely human, and if this information broker is as savvy as Nate’s vampire contact claims he is, the team can’t afford to take chances.

Through the scope Ravi watches the broker, a gentleman of Filipino descent approaching middle age and fighting it tooth and claw. Clothes too flashy, recent hair plugs, rings on every finger. The man gesticulates through a joke, and Harry throws her head back to laugh with him. Nate joins in, grinning wide. He’s leaned up against the broker’s desk, dragged into the middle of the dead mall in a parody of legitimate office space. Several men surround the trio, big slabs of hired muscle in identical plain gray suits and sunglasses.

The broker’s laughter fades as he eyes Harry with speculation. He falls silent, tapping a finger on the desk, one of his rings glimmering.

Something’s off; the guy has twigged. Ravi lines up a shot, breaths slow and measured. Kneeling beside him, Val glances at him and tenses. Her massive maul materializes into her hands.

Nate throws a nervous glance up at their sniper nest and thumbs his nose.

That’s the signal. In the space between seconds, Val disappears from Ravi’s side, a faint rush of displaced air the only sign she had ever been there.

Two of the goons are lined up right next to each other.


Ravi exhales and squeezes the trigger.

The first goon’s head shatters. Gray clay shards rain down as the golem collapses to the ground, limbs cracking sharply on impact. The angle on the second guard isn’t quite as clean, and the round exits through the cheek instead of dead center. That would have done the job on something with a brain, but the magical paper within the golem’s skull is a much trickier target.

However, Val appears in the next instant, and her maul finishes what Ravi’s bullet started, smashing the golem straight down to the chest like a pottery vase. Nate has already jumped out of range of the other goons, making way for the many blades of Harry’s urumi to snake out and take off a golem’s hand in two clean slices.

The broker swears and kicks away from the desk, twisting one of his rings. A shield of thickened air swirls in a wide arc in front of him, some sort of protection enchantment. His eyes dart from the trajectory of Ravi’s unexpected bullet to the ash-haired Amazon who teleported in front of him wielding a two-handed hammer as long as he is tall.

Having calmly locked another round into place, Ravi slides back the bolt and focuses on Harry’s one-handed foe. The shot clips a neat hole through the golem’s sunglasses, and the back of its bald head shatters. It drops like a puppet with its strings cut. Ravi tries not to smirk.

Two golems flank Val and close in, grappling with the haft of her maul, attempting to pull it from her grasp. She reels them both in and slams her forehead into one. The golem staggers, a wide crack splintering its face. Val grins and rams her fist into the crack. When she pulls it out, she’s gripping a long strip of paper. The golem falls lifelessly at her feet, and she turns her attention to the next.

Meanwhile, Harry holds her own, dodging a punch from a big clay fist and keeping her distance. All her dedicated training shows. She yanks one to the ground with the urumi and crunches her boot down on its head.

Nate sidles back into view, having taken care of the most important part of the plan, and slipped away to message Constance as soon as the fight started. To Ravi’s consternation, Nate has a piece of scavenged rebar he obviously intends to use as an improvised weapon. That hadn’t been part of the plan. The professor dives in behind an enemy wheeling on Val and takes a baseball-like swing, cracking the golem across the back of the neck. Chips of clay go flying. The golem spins around and swipes at Nate. He ducks out of the way, but just barely.

Always diving into danger, this guy. Ravi shifts position, sliding back the bolt and taking careful aim as the golem rears a fist back, Nate perfectly positioned to take the full brunt of the hit.

Blinking through the shattered pieces of clay, Nate tosses Ravi a grateful salute with a cheerful grin, as the headless body falls at his feet. Ravi shakes his head while racking in another shell.

The information broker looks to have had enough, deciding that it’s well worth abandoning his bodyguards to make a getaway. Keeping his magical shield in front of him, he starts backing away toward the exit.


NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Prone to diving way too deep down research rabbit-holes and absolutely incapable of working without a curated playlist in the background, Fox Beckman lives in the Twin Cities and has far too many irons in the fire. Fox is writer, an artist, an occasional wrangler of kangaroos, a longsword fencer, an archer, a roller of dice, and a forager of mushrooms that aren’t deadly (probably).



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New Release Blitz: Jessamine Grove by D.J. Blankenship (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Jessamine Grove

Author: D.J. Blankenship

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 04/16/2024

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: NB/NB

Length: 72700

Genre: Contemporary, Florida, tutor, student, adoption, mystery, artist, opera singer, grief

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Jessamine: any of numerous often climbing shrubs (genus Jasminum) of the olive family that usually have extremely fragrant flowers.

When professor Neil Boehm arrives at Jessamine Grove to take on the task of tutoring a precocious child, he does not know that, like the flower for which it’s named, the picturesque jazz-age estate harbors deadly secrets beneath its glamorous façade.

As Neil unravels the twisted vines of Jessamine Grove’s past and the pain and suffering that were their fruits, he reexamines his own past and life choices and draws unsettling parallels between the history of the Grove and that of his own family history.

Uncovering old sins leads him to hope he can paint a brighter picture for his future.


Jessamine Grove
D.J. Blankenship © 2024
All Rights Reserved


Florentina Bay

Along with Sarah’s letter came an exquisite origami Christmas ornament. Not having a tree upon which to hang it, I attached the multicolored star to the toggle of my rucksack. Now, as I opened the bag, I admired it once more. I tried origami when I was a kid. Unfortunately, I never managed to produce anything that resembled the intended object. What other creative projects had I put my hand to? Shadow boxes, model rockets, the iconic “science project,” and finally, painting. All failures. Not for lack of intelligence or skill, but for a surfeit of impatience. I wanted everything I did to be perfect. Instantly. When it was not, I stomped on, tore up, or otherwise destroyed it.

Now, with the wisdom of maturity, I looked upon Sarah’s handiwork with more admiration than envy. I had learned to accept there were certain things I could not do—or do well—and it was a waste of time and energy to dwell on failures rather than concentrate on and hone strengths. This mindset had served me well in my career as an educator.

Sarah had bested me in artistic creativity, applying her crafty little hands successfully to everything from sewing and knitting to creating beautiful greeting cards and handbound notebooks. In her skill with, and love of, teaching, Sarah had been my equal.

As I pulled my thermos and the letter from my bag, I marveled at the passage of time. Almost thirty years since Sarah Lewis and I began work at Allerton Academy. The venerable Connecticut institution was in precarious financial straits when we were hired, holding tenaciously (or foolishly, depending on one’s perspective) to its old-fashioned curriculum and strict code of discipline while the outside world moved inexorably forward, and more successful private schools adopted contemporary education models. The anachronism of Allerton initially captured our shared romanticism—the feeling of having been hired as principles in a costume drama—and the reality of Allerton’s prestige and high standards that kept us on. From the start, Sarah and I entertained no false hopes that our honeymoon with Allerton would last forever, so we were both surprised the school managed to hang on for more than a quarter of a century.

With Allerton in its final death throes, Sarah, and I—and a few colleagues whose tenures matched or exceeded our own—faced the unenviable fate of being middle-aged and unemployed. Some, like I, chose early retirement. Others, without the luxury of a private income, scrambled to find positions commensurate with their experience working in an old-fashioned boy’s boarding school. Some found work abroad. A few, like Sarah, took positions as private tutors.

“Why?” I had asked Sarah, truly baffled.

Sarah had a promising new life awaiting her outside Allerton—a long suffering lover who had finally convinced her to accept his everlasting marriage proposal and follow him to wedded bliss and retirement in Italy. Instead, Sarah had opted for a two-year stint tutoring the precocious child of a wealthy Florida power couple.

“I can’t quit cold turkey,” Sarah reasoned. “I need some sort of transition. And I could use the extra cash. The Willoughbys are paying handsomely for the Allerton pedigree.”

When she divulged the figure, I was floored.

“Jesus. I can’t blame you for accepting. But what about Victor?”

Victor was the long-suffering boyfriend.

“His reaction was rather like yours,” she said, adding a few cubes of ice and a dash of scotch to her empty glass. “Victor has agreed to a compromise. He’s going to rent a condo nearby, and we’ll spend our holidays in Italy. When my contract is up, we’ll move for good.”

Halfway through the first year of that contract, Mrs. Willoughby passed away, and Sarah soon found herself reconsidering the wisdom of continuing in her position.

“I won’t be sad to leave this place,” Sarah had said in her letter to me, “but I worry about the boy.”

The boy. Max Willoughby.

How often, over the years, have we had that discussion about why some people choose to be parents? Ezra isn’t a bad man, really. But his parenting skills leave a lot to be desired.

Anyway, I’ve had enough. And despite his assurances to the contrary, I know Victor is getting antsy. For so many years, I used Allerton and my career to avoid a true, live-in commitment to Victor. I won’t do that anymore. I want to spend every moment of the rest of my life with the man I love.

And yet…

I don’t want to leave Max without knowing there is someone there for him. Someone to advocate for him. Someone to care for him. He’s certainly no day at the county fair, but there’s something about him. Sometimes when I’m with him I recall what you’ve told me about your own childhood. It’s the young Neil Boehm I see when Max rips up a perfectly good essay or kicks his easel to the ground when I offer the slightest constructive criticism about a work in progress. He has much creative potential but lacks a proper sense of self-worth—of confidence.

Though he denies it, the death of Mrs. Willoughby has affected Max deeply, and he turns to me more and more as a surrogate mother.

What I believe Max really needs at this stage in his life is someone who can be a mentor as well as both a mother and father figure. A buddy, a confidant. Ezra—though I do not doubt his love for his son—seems afraid of gentleness, of kindness, of, perhaps, showing himself as weak. He often forgets Max is a child, not a military cadet.

You’ve already guessed where I’m going with this, of course.

You’d start after the New Year.

Please, Neil. At least consider it seriously. Ezra has practically made up his mind to send his son to a boarding school in France. I think this would be disastrous for Max. If you agree, we’ll talk about it in more detail later.

I’ve already told Mr. Ezra about you—and he’s checked you out and is suitably impressed. And he seems, much to my feminist chagrin, to assume you would be less likely to run off and get married.

Would you? I wonder.

Details enclosed.



I received the contract from Ezra Willoughby even before I met him via video conference. Despite the feeling I was being railroaded—gently by Sarah, imperiously by Willoughby—I accepted the offer. The charm of the lifestyle of an aging beach bum was beginning to wear off, and as much as I cherished the pleasant memories sparked by my return to Florentina Bay, other, darker memories overshadowed them and made remaining there untenable.

Allerton Academy had been my home for more than half of my adult life. Where would I live out the rest of it? Perhaps a leap of faith was in order.


NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Born in New York City and raised in the San Joaquin Valley of California, D.J. now divides his time between Brooklyn, New York, and Bogota, Colombia, where he lives with his husband, a cat, and a dog. D.J. has previously published under the pen name Zev de Valera.


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Book Blitz: The Frog in the Room by Jade Buchanan (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  The Frog in the Room

Series: Escape! 1

Author: Jade Buchanan

Publisher: Changeling Press

Release Date: April 12, 2024

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 16 pages

Genre: Romance, Dark Fantasy, Paranormal Women’s Fiction, Shapeshifters

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Thomas Adler is a stickler for neatness. When his ordered life goes completely to the frogs, what’s a man to do? Grab hold of the closest frog shifter and hang on for dear life, of course!


A bright light flashed in front of Tom’s eyes again.

“Not again,” he moaned, fed up with all the flashing lights.

When he opened his eyes, the frog was gone. In its place was a man gorgeous enough to cause his dry mouth to suddenly feel like the Sahara.

“Oh, momma,” he gasped, reaching out and poking a finger into the man’s chiseled, perfect chest. His skin was a rich tan, with an underlying green tint to it.

He was bald… everywhere. Right down to the hairless groin where his thick, tasty cock rested. Tom licked his lips, intrigued despite himself.

“How did you come here?” the man asked, in a rich tenor.

Tom looked up in shock, his eyes wide when he stared at the man’s face. He had a wicked glint in his eyes, probably from seeing Tom’s uncouth leer at his shaved crotch.

“Wait, is this even physically possible?” he asked, tilting his head and studying the man in front of him.

Movement at either side made him swing his gaze around. The other frogs had dropped to the ground, bright flashes of light sparking before men stood tall in their place.

Technically, he should probably be freaked about now, but he figured he was either A) dreaming, B) dead or C) in an alternate universe. Either way, he probably couldn’t control anything but his own reactions, so he might as well go with it. Besides, that guy was seriously sexy and seriously hung!

The men were all studying him, confused expressions on their faces. The big guy at the front stepped to the side, poking at his car, caressing the metal with one massive hand. Tom shivered, half wishing the guy was stroking him like that. He willed his rueful erection down. He shouldn’t be turned on in a situation like this. Okay, that settled it, he was definitely dreaming.

“Well, this has got to be the weirdest day I’ve ever had,” he mused, sitting down on the beach. He clenched his fist, realizing with a start that the green frog king was still in his hand.

He set him down on the beach beside him. The big man stopped petting his car, turning to motion the others away. They left with a backward glance or two, looking downcast, leaving the two of them in the clearing alone. Well, three of them if you counted the furry frog beside him. He snorted.

“You have got to explain to me how a two pound frog becomes a two hundred pound man, ’cause my mind just can’t figure that out.” He licked his bottom lip.

“My name is Eric Odhrán. This is my kingdom, and you have now entered into my keeping,” the man said, coming forward to crouch in front of him.

“Well, Eric Oh Rawn, my name is Thomas Adler, and I’m insane. Pleased to meet you, seeing as you’re the most fabulous apparition I’ve ever invented.” Tom stuck out his hand.


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Meet the Author

Jade’s writing is as eclectic as her reading tastes. She’s also been known to accept writing challenges from friends and family just to see their reactions. She’s a firm believer that love and romance are universal concepts, no matter a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation. Learn more at Jade’s Website


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New Release Blitz: The Cyclopes’ Eye by Jeffrey Haskey-Valerius (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  The Cyclopes’ Eye

Series: The Cyclopes’ Eye, Book One

Author: Jeffrey Haskey-Valerius

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 04/09/2024

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 103000

Genre: Science Fiction, Lit/genre, young adult, sci-fi, family-drama, dystopian, medical procedures, twins, eyes, medical research, conspiracy

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First, they came for his sister’s eye. Now they’re coming for his—and what’s even worse is he deserves it.

Henry has never had anything good happen to him, period. That’s why, after school, he’s going to put on his big-boy pants and confess his love to his best friend—because the universe owes him one, dammit, and he needs a win.

But maybe it wasn’t the best idea to do it on Drill Day—the one day a month that healthcare conglomerate Axiom infiltrates schools across America to select a new candidate to give up one of their eyes, for… research? When the new candidate is selected, Henry’s plans go awry, and he and his friends must figure out how to escape from Axiom. But when the past threatens to eat him alive, things aren’t as easy as they seem.


The Cyclopes’ Eye
Jeffrey Haskey-Valerius © 2024
All Rights Reserved

This isn’t what I signed up for, but that seems to be a common thread in my life these days. So, sure, universe, you do you. Pile something else on top of the mess.

I can’t see straight, for starters. I’m on a bus from hell, and everything’s a blur, and I don’t know what’s worse—keeping my eyes open to watch the world zip by, or squeezing them shut and letting my stupid, stupid imagination do the work. When I close them, every bump in the road feels like I’m being launched into space, so maybe for now I’ll keep them open. But both options are awful. Both are making me sick.

I’ve been on the verge of puking all morning, and nothing seems to help. Especially not this driver. Some tragic car accident blocked the route we normally take, so we had to go on a long detour. And now that we’re running behind, the driver’s been speeding and turning corners like this is a rollercoaster and not a school bus.

Oh god, do not think about rollercoasters right now, Henry.

No, this is just a bus. A bus. Sure, we’re going well above the speed limit, but at least not, like, a thousand miles an hour.

Okay, calm down. What are the facts? Think of what’s around you. The bus is almost at full capacity today, with only one person missing: Judith, who’s been home from school. So, if she’s not here, that means there are eighty-eight people around you.

God, that’s so many.

No, that’s not so many. That’s a normal amount, Henry!

Okay, eighty-eight people, plus me, is eighty-nine. Double that, and we get—take your time, Hen; use your fingers if you have to—a hundred seventy-eight. There should be a hundred and seventy-eight eyeballs on this bus…except we know there are five patched kids on our route this year—six if we count…well, no, she’s not here. A hundred and seventy-eight, minus five stolen eyes, equals a hundred and seventy-three.

Wait, what about the driver? Is that why he’s driving so crazy, because he’s an eye short?

I glance up to the mirror above him to double check—only I can’t tell because he’s wearing sunglasses. Even at six thirty a.m., the California sun is blinding. But that’s all right; I don’t need to know.

A hundred and seventy-three. That’s how many eyes are on this bus.




Slowly, the breaths come. My lungs expand, and the nausea begins to fade. It helps, knowing a simple statistic like that. But it’s weird, and if people knew I counted eyeballs in my head, I would die. Actually curl up and die.

Or maybe everyone does that in secret. Maybe everyone is a secret freak like me.

A loud screech. My head plows into the seat in front of me. Ow!

The driver slammed on his brakes! As soon as I realize what’s happened, anger builds in my chest. What in the actual fuck is this fucking driver doing? He’s trying to kill us! I want to scream my head off, scream until the windows shatter. Until this guy’s ears explode, because screw him!

But I won’t. I never scream when I want to. Not anymore. Instead, I sit on my hands and start to count eyes again, while I let the world shift back into place.

All around me, people are moaning and groaning.

“Dude, what the hell?” someone shouts.

I look over, and the girl across the aisle is rubbing her neck, her eyes closed and mouth downturned in obvious pain. The girl next to her has her head between her legs. At first, I think she must be as sick as I was feeling, but she starts searching around for something on the floor and finally retrieves her phone. When the screen lights up, there’s a giant spiderweb of cracks across it.

Slowly, the bus lurches forward, and I no longer feel like screaming. The anger is abating, and it morphs into something closer to pity as I remember for the hundredth time what today is: Drill Day. If the driver doesn’t get us to school on time, he’ll be accused of trying to help us escape. He’ll get his eye taken out.

I can’t be mad at him for saving his own ass, even if it means ushering me to what very well might be my own demise.

Oh god. I feel a gurgle deep in my stomach. And so it begins. Again.


NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Jeffrey Haskey-Valerius rarely knows what’s happening. He works in healthcare by day and writes weird fiction and poetry by night. His shorter work has been featured in numerous literary journals and has been nominated for prizes, including Best of the Net. He currently lives in the Midwest with his unbelievably handsome and perfect dog, and also a human whom he loves. The Cyclopes’ Eye is his debut novel.

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New Release Blitz: If We Were Stars by Eule Grey (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  If We Were Stars

Author: Eule Grey

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 04/02/2024

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: NB/NB

Length: 26600

Genre: Fantasy, fantasy, YA, British, non-binary, pansexual, interracial, coming of age, coming out, friends to lovers, autism, ableism, neurodiversity, aliens, unlikely heroes

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The final countdown begins in three hours.

Blimey. The last thing Kurt wants is to wear a space helmet, and, no, they didn’t plan on saving the world either—Not before their eighteenth birthday anyway. Who’d have thought friending a lonely alien would lead to the Cape Canaveral launch pad.

Best friends since they were ten years old, Kurt O’Hara and Beast Harris tackle the typical teenage challenges together: pronouns, AWOL bodies, not to mention snogging. A long-distance relationship with an alien named Iuvenis is the least of their troubles.

Kurt loves programming, people-pleasing, and yellow dresses. Most of all, Kurt loves Beast.

Beast adores elephants, protest marches, and Kurt. Rules?—Nah. Humanity’s way down on Beast’s list of to-dos.

Beast and Kurt, Kurt and Beast. The end. Exactly how their love turns into a scene from Red Dwarf is anyone’s guess. Spaceships? NASA at the doorstep? No biggie. As long as they’re together, Kurt and Beast can survive anything.

Except, apparently, lift-off. Because nobody considered sensory issues, did they? Nope. NASA never made adjustments for neurodivergent astronauts. Unbelievable.

Will science be enough to blast Kurt and Beast—unlikely superheroes—into space to save the planet? Or will it take something much more extraordinary?


If We Were Stars
Eule Grey © 2024
All Rights Reserved

Ten footsteps to the left, ten footsteps to the right.

I’m ten years old, pacing the corridor outside the headteacher’s office, wearing one shoe, reeking of fear. It’s my birthday. My school shirt is torn. Voices bombard my head, but they’re not new.

How dare they?

I hate them.


And quieter echoes:

I hate me.

Stupid Kurt.

It’s weird how I can never hear my own voice. If it’s present, I don’t recognise it. Mum calls the voices my temper as if I have any control over them. Try to calm down, Kurt. Sometimes I can, and sometimes I can’t. She doesn’t understand why I get into so much trouble, and nor do I. I’ve tried to explain the best way I can. Htyr hur eer aaaaa. Kkk. Bl. It makes sense to me, but Mum gets cross. Speak properly!

Ten footsteps left.

Ten to the right.

One wrong move will cause my gasket to blow, just like Dad’s car.

Miss Smith doesn’t believe I’m sorry, not anymore. I hadn’t meant to rip the posters off the wall or call the dinner lady a fucker. If only Michael would stop chanting my name over and over, Kurt O’Hara, Kurt O’Hara, Kurt O’Hara, until the scared thing inside me blows a gasket. Bang!

Ten footsteps left.

Ten to the right.

Hearing my name chanted doesn’t bother me; the spite lurking behind Michael’s voice does. Those mean kids probably know all the answers. Otherwise, why would they wind me up? Last year hair-pulling, and now this.

I’m sorry about the posters, the dinner lady, and most of all about the badness. Maybe I should add an apology to my name. Kurt Sorry O’Hara. It would save a lot of time and energy.

Stupid Kurt.

Mum says the others don’t hate me. She’s wrong. I’m not sure why they hate me though. Why? What have I done? Worrying about what makes me unlikeable stops me from sleeping, even at weekends. I can’t enjoy my books and numbers like I used to. Why, why until I can’t escape, and then I blow a gasket again. Worse, the mean kids know about the scared thing inside me.

Ten left.

Ten right.



Today has been the ultimate shitstorm, worse than last year when Miss Smith and Mr Rogers rugby-tackled me. I was confused then, and I still am. How could being squashed achieve anything good? It made the scared thing inside desperate because it was threatened. Ten to the left and ten to the right didn’t calm me down. Now, I can’t be inside little rooms or lifts, and stairwells aren’t so good either.

Miss Smith is mean. Last week, she made me sit facing the wall like I was nothing. She pressed her pen too hard because the sound against the paper was as scratchy and loud as Dad when he crashes the kitchen pots and pans. I almost asked Miss Smith if she’d like me to show her how to hold a pen correctly. It hurts your hand, but Mr Wilson says it’s necessary if I want to write like the other kids.

After a while, Miss Smith left me alone, facing the wall. “Think about what you’ve done!”

I tried to think but grew bored and scared, so I read through a file with my name on the front. I didn’t mean to, honest. She left it on the desk, and I couldn’t help it. Unfortunately, Kurt O’Hara displays signs of autism, with little empathy for his peers. Now, the file’s stuck inside my head. I don’t know what to do about it. What can I do?


NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Eule Grey has settled, for now, in the north UK. She’s worked in education, justice, youth work, and even tried her hand at butter-spreading in a sandwich factory. Sadly, she wasn’t much good at any of them!

She writes novels, novellas, poetry, and a messy combination of all three. Nothing about Eule is tidy but she rocks a boogie on a Saturday night!

For now, Eule is she/her or they/them. Eule has not yet arrived at a pronoun that feels right.

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New Release Blitz: Lone Star on a Cowboy Heart by Marie S. Crosswell (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Lone Star on a Cowboy Heart

Author: Marie S. Crosswell

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 03/26/2024

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 49300

Genre: Contemporary Western, contemporary, Lit/genre fiction, Arizona, M/M, asexual, aromantic, bisexual, law enforcement, cowboy, platonic, companionship, crime/robbery, gun violence, bartenders, blue collar, friends to partners

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When Montgomery Clarke saves Deputy Sam Roswell’s life during an armed robbery, both men go home thinking they’ll never cross paths again. Instead, a friendship blossoms between them as they work together to track down a wanted man: the surviving robber who escaped the scene of the crime with a sack of cash.

Drawn to each other despite their starkly different personalities, Montgomery and Sam quickly bond in a way neither man has with anyone else in years. Their friendship awakens Sam’s long-buried and unexplored romantic feelings for men, while reviving Montgomery’s deepest longing: for a platonic life partner. Sparked by violence, Sam and Montgomery’s connection becomes cemented in yet another dangerous confrontation when they finally catch up to Joel Troutman, the robber on the run.

A year later, Montgomery and Sam are best friends with an exceptionally intimate relationship. What should be their first happy Christmas season together, however, suddenly turns sour when Montgomery gives Sam the cold shoulder without explanation. Brought together once again by crime—this time, one involving a teenage girl—Sam and Montgomery reckon with their feelings for each other. Will they remain friends or become partners?


Lone Star on a Cowboy Heart
Marie S. Crosswell © 2024
All Rights Reserved

Prescott, Arizona

September 2014

Sam Roswell stops for dinner at the Dog Bowl Diner in his civvies, his department-issued sidearm locked in his desk drawer at the sheriff’s office. He chats up his waitress just to feel better about eating alone, then watches the other people in the diner, half cop on the lookout for mischief and half wishing he could meet a new friend. There’s a young couple with a pair of restless kids who can’t stay seated longer than a minute, an old husband and wife tucked into a two-person booth, three men and a woman side by side at the chrome-rimmed counter, and some teenagers hanging out on the other side of the place. None of them pay him any attention.

Two men wearing black knit masks over their faces dart into the diner, each of them leading with a gun. Sam freezes in his seat, watching in disbelief as they split up to cover the room.

The man in a long-sleeved navy blue T-shirt moves into the more heavily populated section of the diner and shouts, “Everybody take out your wallets. Now!”

The second man, wearing a dark red T-shirt under his jacket, goes up to the counter and points his gun at the first employee he sees. “Open the register! Open it!”

The blonde waitress with big hair hurries to the cash register positioned at the right end of the counter and tries to obey, hands twitching and eyes panicked. She fails at her first attempt.

“Hurry up!” Red Tee yells, steel revolver gleaming in the white light of the ceiling bulbs.

The register drawer clicks and slides open, and the waitress yanks stacks of bills out of their compartments and drops them on the countertop.

“Put the money in the bag! Put it in the fucking bag!”

She scrambles for the cash with one hand, then shoves it into the cloth bag Red Tee slid onto the countertop. He snatches the bag away from her and passes it to his accomplice, who holds it in front of the family with kids.

“Put your wallets in the fucking bag and pass it on,” Blue Tee says to them. “Now!”

One of the children starts to cry, pink-faced and whimpering.

A boy sitting at the table of teenagers bolts for the door, but Red Tee gets hold of the hood on his sweatshirt and yanks him back.

“Where the fuck are you going?” Red Tee yells, wrapping his free arm around the boy’s neck and pressing his gun into the boy’s head. “Huh?”

One of the teen girls yelps.

Sam stands up and makes for Red Tee, plucking his badge off his belt as he goes. His pulse races, waves of adrenaline washing through him. He’s not thinking, his body drawn to the trouble like a piece of metal to a magnet.

“Hey, hey,” he says, too soft-spoken for the circumstance. He holds the badge in his hand, so everyone can see it. “Just calm down. The kid’s not going anywhere. Send him back to his seat, and you and your pal can get out of here.”

“A cop, huh?” Red Tee says, arm still wrapped around the teenager’s neck, the gun unrelenting against his skull. “We got us a fucking cop in here.”

Blue Tee glances over at Sam, still following the bag of money around his section of the diner as it changes hands.

“Where’s your gun, asshole?” Red Tee says to Sam.

“Let the boy go,” Sam replies. “You got your money. You don’t have to hurt anyone.”

Red Tee stares at him through the eyeholes in his mask, silent for a long beat, then pushes the teenager away from him. He points his gun at Sam’s chest.

“He don’t even have a fuckin’ gun,” says Blue Tee, the bag of money in his hand. “Don’t be stupid. Let’s fuckin’ go.”

Sam’s standing with his hands up in front of him, badge in the left.

Red Tee doesn’t budge, staring him down with the revolver.

“I said, let’s go,” Blue Tee barks.

“Fuck this cop,” says Red Tee as he cocks back the hammer on his revolver.



NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Marie S. Crosswell writes long fiction, short fiction, and poetry. Her novellas Texas, Hold Your Queens; Alchemy; Cold, Cold Water; and The Silence of Lightning are available online wherever digital books are sold. Her short fiction has appeared in Thuglit, Betty Fedora, Plots with Guns, Tough, and other indie crime fiction publications. She’s a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College where she studied creative writing and friendship. She lives in the American West. Visit her Website for more!


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