Category Archives: Cover Reveal

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Empire of Light by Alex Harrow

I’m very excited to have Alex Harrow on the site today, revealing the cover of their upcoming adult sci-fi best described as “gay Firefly with magic,” Empire of Light! (See tags for more information on rep and content warnings.)

Check it out:

Damian Nettoyer is the Empire’s go-to gun. He kills whoever they want him to kill. In exchange, he and his rag-tag gang of crooks get to live, and Damian’s psychokinetic partner and lover, Aris, isn’t issued a one-way ticket to an Empire-sanctioned lobotomy.

Then Damian’s latest mark, a suave revolutionary named Raeyn, kicks his ass and demands his help. The first item on the new agenda: take out Damian’s old boss—or Raeyn will take out Damian’s crew.

To protect his friends and save his own skin, Damian teams up with Raeyn to make his revolution work. As the revolution gains traction, Damian gets way too close to Raeyn, torn between the need to shoot him one moment and kiss him the next. But Aris slips further away from Damian, and as Aris’ control over his powers crumbles, the Watch catches on.

With the Empire, Damian had two policies: shoot first and don’t ask questions. But to save the guy he loves, he’ll set the world on fire.

And here’s the cover, designed by  rock star Natasha Snow!

Gorgeous, isn’t it?? But wait, there’s more! Stay tuned (for another .03 seconds for an exclusive excerpt from Empire of Light by Alex Harrow) that begins…now!

ONE

SHOOTINGS WITH A CHANCE OF EXPLOSIONS

Funny how I always had to be the guy who ended up with a gun to his head.

“I thought you said this was going to be easy,” Aris said somewhere to my right. His voice was thick, the words choked out past the gun shoved underneath his jaw. The two Reds who kept us pinned were all broad shoulders and raw muscle. Huge white guys. Buzz cuts. Built like fucking tanks. In the low light of a fading sunset spilling into the empty warehouse, their leather coats gleamed like congealing blood.

The run had started out simple enough: get in, dump the cargo—a couple dozen barrels of diesel and some tech we’d snatched off a derailed train—and get the hell out. The place’d been abandoned for years, just another slouching ruin on the outskirts of Low Side. The perfect hiding spot to stash away things you didn’t want the Watch to find, while waiting for the highest bidder to jump the gun. A surefire way to some quick and easy cash and still get to my real job for the night.

Standing there with my face mashed against the crumbling brick wall, a gun barrel against my skull, it looked more like a surefire way straight to a cell in the Finger of Light.

If we were lucky.

The guy above me looked more than happy to put a bullet into my brain pan and chalk both Aris and I up as “casualties, resisting arrest.” The Watch, safeguards of the Empire, the Consolidated Nations at their best. To protect and serve. Right.

Not like I could just tell our dear upstanding Reds to go ahead and stick their guns and handcuffs up their asses, because we kind of were on the same team. I might be running the Empire’s off-the-books hits for extra cash, but officially, I didn’t exist.

Blurting out that I was on their boss’ payroll wouldn’t get me anything but a bullet to the head and my body dumped into the East River. Talk about employment perks.

That’s what I got for double-booking myself. Fucking Murphy’s Law.

And worse, I’d dragged Aris into it.

“Guess Jay was sugarcoating it just a little bit when she said there might be slight complications.”

Someone ratted us out. No way the Watch had just shown up here, far from their usual patrol routes, without any reason. The whole thing’d been a sting from the get-go, and once I found out who’d set us up—

My fingers twitched for my Colt. My Colt that lay cold and useless about five feet away from me. Slim chance I’d be able to shoot both Reds before one of them got to either Aris or me, but I might get lucky and get the drop on one of them. Especially if I could piss him off enough he got stupid. At the very least I could distract them from Aris.

“You know, I kind of need to be somewhere. And I’d really appreciate a little more leg room here,” I said and squirmed under the Red’s grip.

Honestly, by now I probably should’ve memorized some of the regulars’ names or something. To me they all looked the same. All fists ready to punch and guns ready to fire; neatly wrapped in black uniforms and their trademark red coats. Not like this was the first time either. By now, the Watch should really issue us a punch card for frequent visits, maybe something with a rewards program.

***

Alex Harrow is a genderqueer, pansexual, and demisexual author of queer science fiction and fantasy. Alex’ pronouns are they/them. When not writing queerness with a chance of explosions, Alex is a high school English teacher, waging epic battles against comma splices, misused apostrophes, and anyone under the delusion that the singular ‘they’ is grammatically incorrect.

A German immigrant, Alex has always been drawn to language and stories. They began to write when they realized that the best guarantee to see more books with queer characters was to create them. Alex cares deeply about social justice and wants to see diverse characters, including LGBTQ+ protagonists, in more than the stereotypical coming out story.

Alex currently lives in Utah with their equally geeky wife, outnumbered by three adorable feline overlords, and what could not possibly be too many books.

Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexHarrowSFF

Also, find them on Facebook, Instagram or Goodreads.

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Exclusive Cover Reveal: An Unexpected Invitation by Ceillie Simkiss

Back on the site with another cover reveal today is Ceilie Simkiss, author of An Unexpected Invitation, which releases on January 31 and stars the aroace Beatrice! Here’s the blurb:

Beatrice has always struggled with motion sickness in any form of travel. That’s why she made sure that she lived on the island of Maredudd, where she only rarely needs to get anywhere using anything other than her own two feet. However, it doesn’t make it easy for her to get anywhere in a hurry.

She gets called away for urgent help healing a friend who got bitten by an unknown creature and gets surprised by an unexpected invitation to a childhood friend’s wedding. She’s almost positive she won’t be able to get there in time, or in good shape enough to be able to attend the wedding.

However, with the help of two unusual friends and a little bit of magic, she’s going to try everything in her power to get there, even if it will be an unusual journey

***

And here’s the cover, designed by the author herself!

AnUnexpectedInvitationCover.png

An Unexpected Invitation is out January 31, 2019. Preorder now

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Ceillie Simkiss is an author from southern Virginia. She started writing fiction as an escape from her day job as a small town journalist, and has been at it ever since, with the support of her partner, her dog and her cats.

Exclusive Cover and Excerpt Reveal: Nine of Swords, Reversed by Corey Alexander

I’m so wildly psyched to have Xan West’s newest cover on the blog today for so many reasons. First of all, dual enby representation FTW. Second of all, Xan’s recs and reviews have helped provide so many titles to this blog, and if you’re not familiar with their bookish website (including the dedicated section of #ownvoices trans reviews), you should be. And third of all, the artist, Laya Rose, happens to be the mastermind behind one of the best Twitter threads ever, which is entirely fanart of wlw books.

So with that said, let’s get to the book, Nine of Swords, Reversed! It’s a speculative romance with a genderfluid/genderfluid pairing (including neopronouns) and includes fat, Jewish, queer, spoonie, and autistic representation, as well as characters who are trauma survivors with chronic pain and depression. Here’s the blurb:

Dev has been with xyr service submissive Noam for seven years and xe loves them very much. Dev and Noam have built a good life together in Noam’s family home in Oakland, where they both can practice their magecraft, celebrate the high holidays in comfort, support each other as their disabilities flare, and where Noam can spend Shabbos with their beloved family ghost.

But Dev’s got a problem: xe has been in so much arthritis pain recently that xe has not been able to shield properly. As an empath, no shielding means Dev cannot safely touch Noam. That has put a strain on their relationship, and it feels like Noam is pulling away from xym. To top it off, Dev has just had an upsetting dream-vision about xyrself and Noam that caused one of the biggest meltdowns xe has had in a while. It’s only with a timely tarot reading and the help of another genderfluid mage that Dev is able to unpack the situation. Can xe figure out how to address the issues in xyr relationship with Noam before everything falls apart?

And here’s the cover, done by the fabulous Laya Rose!

Buy it: Gumroad | Amazon

But wait, there’s more! Here’s an excerpt!

It was good to be out of the house, sitting down with Ezra in one of our places, a feast spread before us. Comforting to see our canes leaning against the booth next to each other, to know Ezra wouldn’t let lunch pass without pushing me to tell zir what was going on. Ze had already indicated that in the car, clucking zir tongue over my low maintenance outfit—just a deep purple maxi dress and my sapphire boots—and how tired I looked, demanding I say what would taste the best for lunch, and driving us all the way to Berkeley for it.

A magical herbalist, Ezra favored floral colors. It had started as a joke ze pulled on one of zir first magic teachers, but had evolved into zir signature style. Today, Ezra was of course dressed impeccably, curly dark hair flowing over zir shoulders, nails pale peach and sparkly to match both zir lipstick and zir hat, in a gorgeous white suit with a dark peach dress shirt. It was Shabbos, and Ezra always dressed up for shul. Besides, ze had this image in zir head of our Friday lunches, our own genderfluid brand of Ladies who Lunch, which absolutely included dressing impeccably. Ze even insisted on singing the Sondheim tune at least once on the way, every time.

As we ate, I concentrated on getting my hands to hold things while Ezra entertained me with a story about teaching zir new boy how to weed the garden properly and not throw away any of the good stuff. Then ze said it was time to tell zir about it.

“I don’t know where to start.”

“Start with why you look so tired, of course.”

“Oh, that. I woke up too damn early because of this dream-vision.”

“That sounds like where to start. Written it down yet?”

“No,” I said quietly. “My hands hurt too much.”

Ezra clucked zir tongue in empathy, and went rooting through zir bag, taking out a notebook, a pen, and a jar of zir salve, which ze opened and gently rubbed into my hands, humming all the while. It felt like ze was rubbing soft sunlight into my skin and the sensation was so much to process that I couldn’t speak, or even look. I closed my eyes, counting my breaths, feeling the pain ebb away. In some ways, its immediate absence was sharper, harder to tolerate.

When ze was done, ze pressed the jar into my hand. “I brought this for you, ‘cause you said you’d run out.”

I took my time putting it away in my bag, getting used to the absence of pain, gathering myself back together. Then I took a long sip of tea, before I started telling zir about being made of ice, surrounded by it, protected by it, in the dream-vision. How at first I felt safe in my ice silo, didn’t even notice the cold until light came and hurt my eyes, and then I was freezing, and able to see the chasm below. A chasm separating me from Noam. How I realized that I couldn’t move, or speak. That they were stuck in their ice silo and me in mine, and Noam was terrified and trapped, just like me. I was helpless to do anything about it. I kept trying, but I could not get to them. How I watched their ice silo shatter, and the dust that was Noam blow away on the wind, waking me into a terrified meltdown.

Ezra didn’t say a word, as ze scribbled down the last details. My heart was a tiny frantic bird beating against my chest, as I remembered. I felt so cold that I took out my tarot deck, put it on the table, and huddled in the scarf I usually wrapped it in, my hands the only thing that felt warm. Ze waited for me to stop trembling before ze spoke.

“What do you think it means?” Ezra asked quietly.

***

Xan West is the nom de plume of Corey Alexander, an autistic queer fat Jewish genderqueer writer and community activist with multiple disabilities who spends a lot of time on Twitter.

Xan’s erotica has been published widely, including in the Best S/M Erotica series, the Best Gay Erotica series, and the Best Lesbian Erotica series. Xan’s story “First Time Since”, won honorable mention for the 2008 National Leather Association John Preston Short Fiction Award. Their collection of queer kink erotica, Show Yourself to Me, is out from Go Deeper Press.

After over 15 years of writing and publishing queer kink erotica short stories, Xan has begun to also write longer form queer kink romance. Their recent work still centers kinky, trans and non-binary, fat, disabled, queer trauma survivors. It leans more towards centering Jewish characters, ace and aro spec characters, autistic characters, and polyamorous networks. Xan has been working on a queer kinky polyamorous romance novel, Shocking Violet, for the last four years, and hopes to finish a draft very soon! You can find details and excerpts on their website, and sign up for their newsletter to get updates. Their Troublesome Crush, a polyamorous kinky queer m/f romance novella about metamours realizing they have a mutual crush on each other as they plan their shared partner’s birthday celebration, is due out in March 2019.

Exclusive Cover Reveal: How to Talk to Nice English Girls by Gretchen Evans

Historical Romance fans rejoice, as the perfect Valentine’s Day present has arrived. Today on the site we’re revealing the cover for How to Talk to Nice English Girls by Gretchen Evans, which releases from Carnation Books on February 14, 2019!

Here’s the blurb:

In the aftermath of The Great War, everything is changing. But not for Marian Fielding.

Marian’s life is quiet and predictable in the solitude of the English countryside, where she plans to remain and care for her parents.

But Marian’s world is turned upside down when she meets brash, confident Katherine Fuller. Katherine arrives at the Fieldings’ estate for the wedding of Marian’s sister and immediately shakes things up. Instead of keeping an eye on the ill-mannered American girl and keeping her out of trouble, Marian finds herself magnetically drawn to Katherine’s vivacious nature, and they are swept into a whirlwind romance that will change both of their lives.

But will Katherine’s unconventional behavior ruin their chance at happiness? Can Marian leave her old life behind? Will two women from different worlds find a way to be together against all odds and expectations?

And here’s the cover, compliments of Crowglass Design!

How to Talk to Nice English Girls releases on February 14, 2019, and you can add it on Goodreads here!

***

Gretchen Evans is a married, bisexual, cis woman living in North Carolina. Her day job involves figuring out the best way to ask people questions they don’t want to answer. In the evenings, she does hot yoga and watches any TV show that can be read as queer-coded. She only drinks beer disguised as root beer and her perfect Sunday involves half-listening to an NFL game as she reads a book. Though she has been writing fan fiction for more than a decade, her upcoming novel How to Talk to Nice English Girls is her first original work. She plans to continue writing queer romance with engaging characters, sexy times, and feelings.

Gretchen can be found on twitter @gretchen_writes

Exclusive Cover Reveal: The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante

I’m thrilled to be revealing the cover of one of my most anticipated YA debuts of 2019 on the site today, and once you read a little more about The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante, you’ll see why it’s such a timely and definitely tear-jerking Must Read:

Seventeen-year-old Marisol has always dreamed of being American, learning what Americans and the US are like from television and Mrs. Rosen, an elderly expat who had employed Marisol’s mother as a maid. When she pictured an American life for herself, she dreamed of a life like Aimee and Amber’s, the title characters of her favorite American TV show. She never pictured stealing across the US border from El Salvador as “an illegal”, fleeing for her life, but after her brother is murdered and her younger sister, Gabi’s, life is placed in equal jeopardy, she has no choice, especially because she knows everything is her fault. If she had never fallen for the charms of a beautiful girl named Liliana, Pablo might still be alive, her mother wouldn’t be in hiding and she and Gabi wouldn’t have been caught crossing the border.

But they have been caught and their asylum request will most certainly be denied. With truly no options remaining, Marisol jumps at an unusual opportunity to stay in the United States. She’s asked to become a grief keeper, taking the grief of another into her own body to save a life. It’s a risky, experimental study, but if it means Marisol can keep her sister safe, she will risk anything. She just never imagined one of the risks would be falling in love, a love that may even be powerful enough to finally help her face her own crushing grief.

The Grief Keeper is a tender tale that explores the heartbreak and consequences of when both love and human beings are branded illegal.

And here’s the beautiful cover, designed by Kelley Brady and Theresa Evangelista and illustrated by Kaethe Butcher!

 

So what does the author think of the cover? In her words:

When I first saw illustrator Kaethe Butcher’s work, I was immediately struck by how intimate and tender her drawings were. Delicate lines in a graphic style convey deep connections, almost like electricity. Because of the speculative technology in The Grief Keeper that allows Marisol to experience Rey’s grief, it was important to me that, when Kaethe drew Marisol and Rey together, that web of connection was immediately apparent. I was not disappointed. Their bodies are close and they seem to be weathering a storm while holding fast to each other. The flowers on Marisol’s shirt defy reality and drift into the air, as if they have the power to quell Rey’s pain. The stars in Marisol’s hair speak to the bright and dark in her own life.

It’s such an emotionally charged cover and I am so in love with it. The amazing team at Penguin, Kelley Brady, and Theresa Evangelista took pains to create a cover that reflects all the heart, strength and love in my book. I am so grateful!

The Grief Keeper goes on sale on June 11, 2018, and you can preorder it now!

Cover and Excerpt Reveal: Revelry by Nicole Field

Please welcome back to the site today Nicole Field, who’s revealing both a cover and excerpt for her upcoming title Revelry, the second book in the Shadows of Melbourne series (you can check out book 1, Changing Loyalties, here), releasing later this year. Revelry is a Paranormal Romance with an established f/f couple, an emerging m/f couple, a polyamorous v, and a demisexual vampire, so lots of fun stuff for everyone! Come check it out:

Dahlia’s family is in tatters after the death of the alpha of the Melbourne pack. Luca has been given the role in his place, she and Annabelle can barely manage to be in the same room together, and Dennis is still at large. And wherever he’s hiding, he’s making new werewolves at a terrifying rate.

All Dahlia wants is a moment to catch her breath. Her relationship with Bianca is new and fragile, she can’t decide whether she’d like to end up in Research or Magic within the secret society of the Sisterhood… and then there’s Elliot, who brings an entirely new set of complications. 

Here’s the cover!

And here’s the excerpt!

“Hey…” Dahlia said softly.

Elliott could hear that she was trying to keep him calm, but he wasn’t looking at her. To look at her was to see the blood that was pumping just under her skin. He pressed his eyes closed, but that only made the mental image of her more clear. Opening them again, he found there was no place else to look.

He could feel his canines extending and panted. He needed to get out of here. But to where? Fear for her had gotten him to this state. Leaving her right now would only make him more savage to whomever he came across, not less.

“I’m okay.” Her words filtered back to him, flooding him with the sense of her despite the fact he wasn’t looking at her anymore. It calmed him in one way, and riled him up in another. “Really. Safe as houses.”

Elliott shook his head, whether a denial to her words or trying to shake off the sudden urge to hunt. When had he last fed? It hadn’t been long. A day or two. Easily remembered. But people had been dying. Dahlia’s people. People around Dahlia. Dahlia was in danger.

There. Her heart was pounding in fear. His instincts yelled at him, urging him to action.

“Sorry…” she said.

Elliott struggled a moment, trying to figure out what she should be sorry for. He couldn’t figure it out through the haze of hunt, hunt, hunt, but it felt like it was important to reassure her. Like that would make her less scared. “It’s okay.”

It wasn’t okay, though. He knew that, even if she didn’t. His words were coming out misshapen and slurred. It was the teeth. This was why he never spoke when he was on the hunt. He’d never deliberately frighten a human, despite the fact that they wouldn’t remember him afterwards. It was part of his code. A code he would stick to, no matter what

Keep Dahlia safe. That had been another of his codes, given to him by Annabelle when he first met Dahlia. Annabelle could trust him. They both could. But now Dahlia was in danger, and Elliott needed to hunt.

His gaze slithered up from the ground to meet Dahlia’s once more. There was reason for him to be afraid for her. She was afraid right now. And his responsibility was to keep her safe. His mouth opened a little wider as Dahlia looked up to meet his eyes. They stared at one another for a long, silent moment.

Part of Elliott recoiled from the expression in her face. She was afraid, but he was also poised for the hunt. In front of her. When had that happened? Elliott came to realise she might be afraid of him, of the way he appeared to her right now. He shook his head again, trying to pull his thoughts together, but it was so difficult to do without feeding when he was this far along.

“You can do it.” Dahlia spoke again.

Managing to pull at least some of his thoughts together, Elliott’s gaze fixed on Dahlia’s, and the wrist that she slowly extended out to him. That would make him stronger. Strong enough to defend against anything—

His thoughts cut off abruptly as he grabbed for her wrist and dragged it towards his mouth. And then life giving blood burst into his mouth and down his throat. He took it without needing to gasp for breath, just a steady stream of blood running from her arm into him.

He jerked away from her. His head cleared and finally, he was able to see what he was doing. Doing to her. Dahlia.

Elliott almost brought back up the blood he had just consumed, opening his mouth and gaging several times before he managed to get out the words, “Thank you. That’ll… heal. Overnight. It’ll heal.”

“Uh huh.” She was holding onto her wrist, pressing it against her body. Elliott despised himself.

“Dahlia… thank you.” He reached out towards her, before drawing his hand back, away from her. He didn’t deserve to touch her after what he had just done. She had given him permission, but he should never have taken it. Not from her. “You may not remember this tomorrow. I’ll remind you. I won’t keep this from you, I promise.” There was intensity in his voice, like he could will her to remember just from his words, but he knew he couldn’t. He’d seen it too many times to think it would go any other way. But he hoped. Desperately, he hoped.

“Hmm. I should get home. It’s getting late…”

Elliott’s gaze shuttered. He was used to seeing this reaction from the unknown people from whom he usually drank, but none of that had prepared him for seeing the same vacant expression on Dahlia’s familiar features. “Yes,” he said, voice thick again, but this time with emotion. “You’d better do that.”

“Thank you for a lovely night,”

Elliott wondered if she even knew what she was saying. He swallowed down bile once more, watching her only as long as it took for her to get inside her house.

He turned away sharply. Swore.

Buy it: Less Than Three Press

***

Nicole writes across the spectrum of sexuality and gender identity. She lives in Melbourne with her fiancee, two cats, and a bottomless cup of tea. She likes candles, incense and Gilmore Girls.

Cover and Excerpt Reveal: The Confusion of Laurel Graham by Adrienne Kisner!

Hey, remember how this past year there was a debut that was actually freaking called Dear Rachel Maddow, and how ridiculously cool that was? Well, excellent news! That very same author is back with her sophomore novel, and it also stars a queer girl…and happens to have an utterly stunning cover, which you can see today! Ta da! But first, here are the details on The Confusion of Laurel Graham by Adrienne Kisner, a contemporary f/f YA releasing on June 4, 2019 from Feiwel & Friends!

Laurel Graham has loved bird watching as long as she can remember, just like her beloved grandmother, who also happens to be a steadying force in her life. One evening Gran drags Laurel out on a birding expedition where the pair hear a mysterious call that even Gran can’t identify. The pair vow to find out what it is as Laurel pursues nature photography dominance over her rival–fellow nature reserve volunteer, Risa.  But soon after, Gran is involved in a horrible car accident and the town threatens to seize the nature reserve land.  Laurel must then decide to fight for what’s most important to her, if she can figure out what that is.

And here’s the stunning cover!

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

But wait, there’s more! We’ve also got an exclusive excerpt, so come check it out and meet Laurel Graham!

***

I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.

“We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,”
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.

—Oliver Herford

Field Journal Entry
April 29
Notable Location: Sarig Pond
Life list entry 3,284: white-winged tern

Never let them see you sweat.

That’s not the Birdscout motto. But it fucking well should be.

“Who can tell me three of the feathered friends we might find on our walk today?” I said.

Sixteen pairs of eyes stared back at me, wide and unblinking.

Homeschoolers. Unschoolers. Some kind of schoolers that meant they weren’t in the overcrowded gray-and-red brick elementary building seven blocks away and were instead standing at the entrance of the Sarig Pond Nature Sanctuary with me. I thought home-non-unschooling would make them wild, free nature lovers . . . but no. Most of them were looking at their smartwatches, secretly texting one another.

“Okay, who can tell me one creature we might find today?” I tried again.

“Um,” a tiny girl with cat-eye glasses said. “A squirrel?”

I sighed. Unfortunately she was right. Squirrels were the bane of birders everywhere. (Well. Except maybe in places where there were no squirrels, which were sadly limited.)

“Good guess!” I said.

She grinned. It’s best to encourage the little ones. They were prone to unpredictable sudden movements that could veer off the path and ruin your day. Best to keep them on your side. “Can anyone guess a creature with wings?”

“Robins?” another boy tried in a bored voice.

“Yes!” My fist shot into the air. “Sweetest of songbirds! Harbingers of spring! Portents of luck and fortune!” Those last two were debatable at best, but sometimes you needed to finesse bird symbolism in order to win a tough audience. A few heads swiveled my way at that, so I felt I’d made the right choice for the greater good.

“Really?” the bored boy asked.

“You bet. Birds bring messages of all sorts to humans. But there are way more interesting things about them than that. They have their own language to communicate. They can fly hundreds of miles and never get lost. They fight for what’s theirs. They are warriors.”

“Cool,” the boy said. “Do you think we’ll see some of those smart ones?”

I smiled to myself. It only takes one to turn a crowd. “Why, yes,” I said, peering at the nametag slapped on his fuzzy lapel, “Isaac. I do. Follow me.”

Six cardinals (two female, four males), two nuthatches, sixteen (give or take) common grackles, three red-bellied woodpeckers, and one red-tailed hawk later, I delivered the kids back to their adults.

“Feel free to take some pamphlets on your way out,” I called. “Nature story time starts May 30!”

I retreated into the tiny, cramped office of the Birdscout Nature Center and sunk into a chair. Birding with the unenthusiastic could fucking wipe a girl out.

“Oh. Hey,” said a voice. I looked up to see a familiar shock of dyed hair shaved into a crest peeking through the door. “If it isn’t the Birdscout-in-chief. Is Jerry in?”

“Out sick today,” I said. “Risa. Your hair . . . ,” I started.

“What about it?” she said. I could hear a warning in her voice.

“It reminds me of a wire-crested thorntail.”

Risa’s face broke into a grin. “You got it! Of course you are the only one who noticed. I love them.”

“They are exquisite,” I agreed.

Risa and I looked at each other for a moment. It was odd that we were having this conversation, since it wouldn’t be precisely accurate to call us friends. We were more . . . what?

Enemies.

Ah. Yes.

We were one hundred percent enemies.

But sometimes, even enemies had great hair.

I watched as Risa’s face changed as she seemingly remembered our actual affiliation at the same time I did. “Okay, well, if you see him sometime soon, tell him I need him to sign my co-op hours sheet.”

“Will do.”

She paused, like she almost wasn’t going to speak but then changed her mind. “Have you finalized your entry yet? For the photo contest?”

“No. You?” I said.

“No. I tried to get a picture of the heron but then I tripped on a root,” she said.

“That sucks.”

“Right? Such a rookie mistake. But I bet everyone around here is going to turn in a fucking heron anyway. Or, god help us all, warblers.”

Heat crept up my back. I had no fewer than twenty-three shots of our four resident herons (male and female) that I was considering entering into Fauna magazine’s annual Junior Nature Photographer competition. Not to mention several dozen shots of a Cape May and one of a male Swainson. That last one turned out blurry, fuck me, because of course the Swainson flitted out of the frame. This was my last shot to win the Fauna competition (since I’d be too old next year), and I wanted to conquer first place so badly I could practically taste it. The money would be nice, and my grandma (a former winner herself) would love the free lifetime subscription (added to the prize since her time).

But because Fauna was the biggest and best birding magazine in the US (possibly the world, save maybe Le Bec in France), the bragging rights alone were worth it.

Particularly if it meant I’d beaten Risa, who I was pretty certain sabotaged my entry last year.

“Yeah. Probably. But the summer birds will be here before you know it. And there are some impressive blooms in Jenkins Wood. There is already a patch of Monotropa uniflora at the base of Elder Oak. It looks like a proper fungus graveyard. Bet it’d be epic in moonlight at the right angle,” I said.

“Are you going for that shot?”

“I tried. It just looks stupid. The flash washes it out and using moonlight through branches isn’t exactly my forte.”

Risa snorted. “I hear you. Okay. Well. Good luck.”

She almost sounded like she meant it. I stared at her absolutely rockin’ hair as she left.

I tidied the desk and took a bunch of Ranger Jerry’s old newspapers to the upcycling bin. The weekend craft people would have a field day Mod Podging on Saturday. I surveyed my work with satisfaction. I was once again reminded how grateful I was for my co-op assignment (even if Risa was there, too). I had always envied the juniors, who were allowed to avoid going to school for all but a few hours on Thursdays during spring term because of their work/volunteer co-ops in years past, but now it was my turn. It had been the best development of my life thus far. Most of my friends were out at the local newspaper or lawyer’s or doctor’s offices and made more money than me. Because my life goal was to be the world’s best nature photographer and take my place aside my hero, master birder Brian Michael Warbley, spending April till August leading nature walks and birding tours was way more my speed. Even if the pay was technically shit.

Like, literally. Jerry gave me a bag of fertilizer for Gran’s garden to compensate me. But it was the best stuff we’d seen and we needed it for her bird-attracting flowers, so I wasn’t too salty about it.

I rounded the pond on trash removal detail, but my phone buzzed in my pocket. Elder Oak. Sixty paces due east! Now! the text from Gran read. I was still technically on the clock, but Jenkins Wood was part of my work space and I could always pick up garbage along the trail to make seeing Gran official business if needed.

Be right there. Don’t leave! I texted back.

You know I’ll always wait for you, Laurel.

I grabbed my camera, locked the Birdscout Center door, and jogged as lightly as I could around the wooden decks surrounding the pond to the woodland paths. I nodded to Elder Oak, oldest tree and guardian of the entrance to Jenkins Wood, and tried to make my way as quietly as possible sixty paces east through a rough path covered in dew-wet leaves. I picked up a few discarded wrappers along the way, darkly noting that they probably came from the awful Birdie Bros (a group of dude birders who had terrible nature manners matched only by their preternatural ability to get rare warbler shots).

I finally found Gran half-hidden in fern fronds about halfway up a hill. I crouched in the grass, rocks crackling underneath my boots.

“Shhh,” whispered Gran.

“I didn’t even say anything,” I whispered back.

Gran glared at me as something rustled in a shrub a few feet away. A beak poked out of glistening leaves, then a head, then downy feathers on spindly legs. Gran gave a tiny yawp, and pointed her high-powered binoculars in the bird’s direction. I pulled out my camera and my shutter clicked like an automatic weapon.

“Did you get it?” said Gran without looking at me. She stared at the bird, and the bird stared back at her. I stared at both of them, wondering at how quickly the feeling had left my crouching legs.

Note: Do more crunches. Strengthen core and calves. A girl does not become Brian Michael Warbley, the King of Birders, with numb appendages.

Then something even worse happened.

I sneezed.

This spooked Gran’s avian friend and he took flight into the trees.

“Seriously, Laurel?” Gran said.

“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry. Fucking pollen. You know that. I couldn’t help it.”

“Language,” Gran said. “Do you know what that was? That was a white-winged tern. A new addition to our life list. I never expected to see one out here, on a random day of all things. But there it was. You’d think I’d have learned by now—birds always surprise you.” She leaned back and looked at her camera. “I heard a rumor there was one around here yesterday, but to actually see it . . .” She trailed off as she pulled out her phone to alert her other bird people.

“His black-and-white head.” I marveled at it. “It was gorgeous.” I tipped toward Gran and stretched out my legs. I held my tiny digital screen out to her. “See him, I got a pretty clear shot. Most of them are blurry from him getting spooked by my seasonal curse. But a few are good.”

None were really good enough to help me be crowned Fauna’s Junior Nature Photographer national champion, fuck it all. But, even so. A new bird for the life list was something. As Brian Michael Warbley says, “A bird that you’ve seen is worth ten in a book.”

“He is stunning.” She slipped her phone back into the pocket of her vest and reached over and gave me a shove. “I’m glad I got to see him with you. I gotta say, he is in the top ten on my life list with the snowy owl and king eider I saw in Greenland. Sisimiut also had the northern lights! Superb. One day, kid. Just you wait. We’ll go and the aurora will knock your socks off. No winter allergies in Greenland.” She grinned. “Want to go to Eat N’ Park?” she said.

“I’m at work.”

“But Jerry isn’t here.” Gran grinned.

“How do you know that?” I said.

“I have my ways. Come on. You know you do way more hours here than you are required anyway. What’s thirty mere minutes with your old grandma?”

“I guess I could go for a cinnamon bun.”

“That’s my girl,” Gran said.

Gran’s house sat conveniently at the edge of Jenkins Wood. We slipped into Gran’s tiny hybrid and she drove us to the diner. Since we’d spotted a new life list bird, Gran talked me into fancy chocolate waffles with fruit and let me have bacon to celebrate. Gran was a vegetarian verging on vegan, but she was weak in the face of breakfast.

“How goes school?” she asked.

“Fine,” I said. “I’m hardly there this semester. Academic classes were stacked in the fall and winter, so these last few weeks I’m mostly Birdscouting for co-op.”

“Get any good shots for the contest?” she said.

“Yeah, I guess.” I shifted in my seat. “I had some herons, but . . .” I trailed off.

“Herons are good luck. Messenger birds. They bring good omens.”

“You say that about all birds.”

“Not cormorants. They work for the devil.”

“Stop it.” I laughed.

Gran shrugged. “Tradition. What can I say?”

“Everyone is going to submit herons,” I said, thinking of Risa. “I need something different. Something extraordinary.”

“All birds are extraordinary. Like people. You know that.”

I grunted. I had several memory cards and two extra hard drives full of photographic evidence that some birds were pretty fucking boring. At least when I tried to capture their image.

Gran paid our bill and drove me back to co-op. She dropped me off with barely a goodbye, because her birder friends had caught wind of her find, and they were meeting up again to try to see the elusive white-winged tern.

“Good luck,” I said. “Remember what Warbley says. ‘Birds come not just to those who watch, but those who wait.’”

“Yes, yes. I think I’ve heard you quote him a time or forty. Make great art. You have a Fauna family legacy to protect,” Gran said, holding my camera out of the window of her car. “And text me if you see the tern again.” She sped off, practically leaving me in the dust.

I grinned to myself, looking at my pictures. None were entry-worthy, but the appearance of something rare made me feel that the perfect shot was just around the corner.

***

Adrienne Kisner has master’s and doctorate degrees in theology from Boston University and was inspired by her work with high school and college students to write Dear Rachel Maddow. She is also a graduate of Vermont College of Fine Arts with an MFA in writing for children and young adults. Dear Rachel Maddow is her debut.

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Life Within Parole: Volume 2 by RoAnna Sylver!

Hey, you know Chameleon Moon, that amazing and wild genre mashup with wonderful relationships and rep that’s kind of a Must Read for SFF and/or Dystopia fans? What if I told you there’s a new volume coming out that contains ten short stories in that world? And that it was coming out soon? And that we have the cover reveal happening today?

GUESS WHAT.

(I mean, come on, you’re not that slow. You can guess.)

ALL OF THAT IS REAL. Life Within Parole: Volume 2 by RoAnna Sylver is coming your way October 11th, but first, we’ve got the cover! And before that we’ve got the blurb! So check it out!

***

Parole is full of danger—and secrets.

The deepest of them make up intricately interconnected stories. Damaged survivors finding each other, stitching their lives together in the harshest of places, forging precious bonds amidst the flames. Gradually growing trust, love, and understanding between found families. But there’s no escaping this place, its deadly realities, or its predators. A brutal capture. A hellish withdrawal and fragile recovery. A harrowing escape. A breakneck sprint across a haunted, poisoned wasteland.

Life and death, trust and betrayal, choking smoke and breaths of fresh air—all of these are just part of life within Parole.

***

And here’s the fabulous cover, designed by none other than RoAnna Sylver!

Buy it:
Gumroad (high-res cover art also available!) – https://gumroad.com/l/xQfHQ
Books2Read Universal Link (Kobo, B&N, etc) – https://www.books2read.com/u/3yD5qB
***
RoAnna Sylver writes unusually hopeful dystopian stories about marginalized heroes actually surviving, triumphing, and rocking really hard. RoAnna is also a singer, blogger, voice actor and artist who lives with family and a small snorking dog, and probably spends too much time playing videogames. The next amazing adventure RoAnna would like is a nap in a pile of bunnies. You can support more books and art directly on Patreon!

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Soft on Soft by Em Ali!

Extremely cute cover reveal alert! Today on the site we’ve got the cover for Soft on Soft, a contemporary f/f Romance by Em Ali that’s ownvoices representation for demisexuality, fat mc and li, anxiety and middle-eastern rep. The best part? It releases in five days, so you can preorder now and devour it within the week! Here are the details:

June Bana might post nearly daily makeup looks that gain thousands of likes but Real Life June has built a wall behind which she exists with her two cats.

But with messy feelings getting in a way of an early hermit life, June begins to realize that she wants more. She wants model/actress, Sunshine Reincarnated Selena Clarke. It doesn’t hurt that Selena is amazing with cats and quiets down June’s anxiety to bearable levels.

June is given the choice of facing her anxieties about relationships to gain not only a girlfriend but also a better understanding of how far she’d go for love.

But would she take it? Would she leave her comfort zone for something softer?

Contemporary fluffy piece where one homebody and one extrovert make one hell of a love story.

Aaaand here’s the adorable cover, designed by Shafiq Shaar!

Soft on Soft Cover Original Size

Buy it!
Amazon US * Amazon UK

***

Em is a part-time whiner part time cat parent. They spend a lot of time reading romance books and crying to Twitter about how good they are. They live in a pretty chill place called Their Brain, but they allow for visitors.

Exclusive Cover Reveal: From the Same Star by Nicole Field!

First we had an exclusive  excerpt reveal from Nicole Field’s Changing Loyalties, and now Field’s back with an exclusive cover reveal for a brand-new book, From the Same Star! FtSS is an f/f asexual contemporary romance with BDSM content, and it releases on October 8th! Check it out:

In  the aftermath of her mother’s death, Angela struggles to recover and re-enter the world. When she meets Steve, who works in the café across the street, she feels able to take a step out of her grief-filled home. With Steve, she hopes to do D/s as a way to take a break from the pain consuming her, but discovers that in doing kink, you bring all of who you are with you, including grief.

Then Steve’s best friend is in a tragic car accident, and winds up in a coma, and Angela longs to offer support to Steve, as well as receive it. 
And here’s the cover!

Preorder it!

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Nicole writes across the spectrum of sexuality and gender identity. She lives in Melbourne with her fiancee, two cats, and a bottomless cup of tea. She likes candles, incense and Gilmore Girls.