Category Archives: Excerpt

Exclusive Excerpt Reveal: Moontangled by Stephanie Burgis

Today on the site, I’m thrilled to have Stephanie Burgis, whose upcoming f/f fantasy romance novella, Moontangled, releases February 3rd from Five Fathoms Press and is set in her Harwood Spellbook series! We’ve got an exclusive excerpt from the story, so come see what it’s all about and then enjoy a sneak peek!

Take one ambitious politician and one determined magician with wildly different aims for their next meeting.

Add a secret betrothal, a family scandal, and a heaping of dangerous fey magic in an enchanted wood…and watch the sparks fly!

For just one moonlit, memorable night, Thornfell College of Magic has flung open its doors, inviting guests from around the nation to an outdoor ball intended to introduce the first-ever class of women magicians to society…but one magician and one invited guest have far more pressing goals of their own for the night.

Quietly brilliant Juliana Banks is determined to win back the affections of her secret fiancée, rising politician Caroline Fennell, who has become inexplicably distant. If Juliana needs to use magic to get her stubborn fiancée to pay her attention…well, then, as the top student in her class, she is more than ready to take on that challenge!

Unbeknownst to Juliana, though, Caroline plans to nobly sacrifice their betrothal for Juliana’s own sake – and no one has ever accused iron-willed Caroline Fennell of being easy to deter from any goal.

Their path to mutual happiness may seem tangled beyond repair…but when they enter the fey-ruled woods that border Thornfell College, these two determined women will find all of their plans upended in a night of unexpected and magical possibilities.

Preorder: Amazon | Smashwords | Kobo | See All Stores

And here’s the excerpt!

Golden lights glimmered across the grass, lighting a sparkling path through the moonlight. Juliana, waiting with the others in the enspelled blackness of the garden beyond, held her breath as she watched Thornfell’s great doors open wide. Light streamed out from the foyer, and guests streamed out with it in a chattering, glittering crowd.

Of course she’d never glimpse Caroline among so many others and from this distance—

There.

She’d know that haughty head-tilt anywhere—and oh, that easy, confident glide, like a panther prowling across the grass. There was only one thing missing: the usual laughing, vibrant circle of friends and admirers that followed Caroline Fennell to every social event of note.

Her breath escaped in a sigh of pure relief. It would be so much easier to tempt her fiancée discreetly into the shadows without any close observers keeping watch on them. Was that—could that be why Caroline had come alone to a party, for once? If she, too, was hoping for convenient privacy…

Warmth blossomed in Juliana’s chest.

Behind her, Sujana whispered, “Ready…and…now!”

Magical fireworks showered above the grass beyond as the garden blazed into triumphant, golden life at the end of their path, a brightly-lit stage before the vast, dark woods that hulked beyond. An invisible symphony of strings, flutes, and drums filled the warm air, while victorious scenes from the nation’s past stretched across the night sky, flashing from one famous triumph to another in dazzling succession.

The crowd came to a gasping, breathless halt, every head tipping back to take in each glittering, vivid detail…

Every head except for one.

Caroline’s gaze fixed on Juliana across all the space between them—and held, as if no one and nothing else existed.

It was exactly the way she had looked at her that very first evening years ago, when the famous Miss Fennell had arrived as an invited guest to one of Juliana’s aunt’s crowded Winter Solstice house parties…and had looked straight through all the rising politicians and hopeful gentleman mages to where Juliana had stood in the shadows, hiding every passionate truth about herself for her own safety.

Caroline had seen her from the very beginning…and when Caroline looked at her like that, Juliana could almost believe that she really was as strong and as beautiful as Caroline claimed, no matter what her own aunt and father had always told her to the contrary.

She had vowed never to think about them again. She was free now, she was surrounded by friends, and Caroline still wanted her after all. The joy and relief of that was inexpressible.

She barely held herself back as the fireworks ended and Miss Harwood stepped into place between the visitors and the brightly-lit garden.

“Welcome to Thornfell College of Magic,” said their headmistress. “You are all invited to walk the garden paths—and, of course, join the dance!”

The lighted path across the grass shot outward at her words, until it formed a massive, golden dancefloor. Glasses of elven wine floated in mid-air at the sidelines, waiting.

The music shifted into a jaunty new tune. Miss Harwood reached for her tall, lean husband to lead the dance. Juliana’s fellow students surged forwards to join them—

And Juliana held Caroline’s gaze as she shifted, deliberately, out from among all of her friends to slip into the shadows.

She didn’t have to wait for long.

“Is it safe to steal a moment in private?” Caroline’s words ghosted through the darkness, sending shivers down the back of Juliana’s neck.

“This way,” Juliana whispered, and led Caroline into the woods.

***

Version 3
J. Samphire

Stephanie Burgis grew up in Michigan but now lives in Wales, surrounded by castles and coffeeshops. She writes wildly romantic historical fantasy for adults and fun adventure fantasy novels for kids, including Snowspelled and Thornbound (also in the Harwood Spellbook series) and The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart. You can find out more and read excerpts from all of her books on her website.

Exclusive Cover and Excerpt Reveal: Eight Kinky Nights by Xan West

I am delighted to have Xan West back on the site today to reveal the cover of their newest Romance, which just happens to take place during Chanukah! Eight Kinky Nights is a kinky polyamorous f/f Romance releasing just in time for the holiday on December 16, 2019, and includes friends to lovers, roommates to lovers, kink lessons, seasoned romance and getting your groove back tropes, and polyamorous, gray ace, pansexual, Jewish, fat, autistic, and disabled representation. (More details in the tags.) Here’s the official blurb, with content warnings located here:Newly divorced stone butch Jordan moves into her friend Leah’s spare room, ready, at 49, to take on a new job and finally explore kink and polyamory. But moving to NYC during the holidays sends grief crashing through her, and Jordan realizes that when she isn’t solely focused on caring for others, her own feelings are unavoidable. Including her feelings for Leah.

51-year-old queer femme Leah, an experienced submissive kink educator who owns a sex shop, has recently come to terms with being gray ace and is trying to rework her life and relationships to honor that.

Leah has a brainstorm to help them both: she offers Jordan eight kink lessons, one for each night of Chanukah, to help Jordan find her feet as a novice dominant, and to create a structured space where Leah can work on more deeply honoring her own consent, now that she knows she’s gray ace.

She’d planned to keep it casual, but instead the experience opens cracks in the armor Leah’s been using to keep people at a distance and keep herself safe. Now she needs to grapple with the trauma that’s been impacting her life for years.

Can these two autistic queers find ways to cope with the changes they are making in their lives and support each other, as they build something new they hadn’t thought was possible?

Preorder: Gumroad | Amazon

And here’s the warm, lovely, kinky cover, illustrated by Hannah Zayit!

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

“So I had this idea and I wanted to see what you thought about it,” Leah said.

“Okay, I’m listening.”

“I was thinking about Chanukah, and had this idea for a present for you. You said you wanted to learn how to be a good dominant. I thought I could give you lessons, as your present. One lesson per night of Chanukah.”

Jordan felt her eyes go wide. She really had not been expecting that. “But, I thought you didn’t want to, so you told Iris to do it.” She hadn’t even decided to say that, had just blurted it out. It probably came out wrong. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful.”

“No, no it’s fine. I just want to make sure I understand what you meant. You thought I was rejecting you?”

“Well. Yeah. I mean, I’m used to it. You never took me to kink things. You didn’t really want me to go to your class. You seemed all weird after the party.”

“Oh, fuck. I’ve made a mess of this. I’m sorry. I didn’t take you to kink things because I was trying to be respectful of your vanilla-ness. Now that I know you’re kinky…I think I’ve been playing catch-up. I don’t change how I think of things very fast, you know that about me. So…I’ve acted all weird, not because I’m rejecting you, but because I’m awkward with change.”

“That’s the only thing that’s going on? Nothing else is making this weird?” Jordan wanted to be sure.

“Well, I think that’s the main thing that’s going on.”

“Uh huh.” Jordan knew there was something else.

“There’s this other thing I’ve been dealing with, and I’m still figuring out how to handle it. It might’ve had some splash over.”

“Okay. Do you want to tell me about it?”

“I’m not sure I have the words. But yeah I would, maybe. Though not right this minute.”

“Okay. So you really want to give me kink lessons? I don’t want you to feel obligated.”

“Yes, I really want to.”

“That would actually be great. It was okay getting stuff for my toybag with Iris, and I like her and everything, but if you were up for teaching me, I think that would feel…safer, if that makes sense?”

“Yeah, I get that. We have such a deep friendship, it could make a safer place to learn.”

Jordan nodded. “I trust you, and it feels better learning from another autistic person, honestly. You won’t expect me to learn in an allistic way.”

Leah grinned at her. “I definitely will not expect that. I didn’t even consider that aspect of this.”

“It feels like a big deal, for me anyway. I haven’t had the best learning experiences. You know that, you saw how hard college was for me.”

“Yep, I remember. So I was thinking about eight lessons, one per night, though eight nights in a row might be too much, so they can always be postponed.”

“Sounds good.”

“How would you feel about a structure where I do some teaching, then we do a short scene where you get to practice what we covered? And then we could do follow-up, if you have questions or want feedback.”

“So a bit like where Iris taught me some safety stuff about clips, and then I got to try it out?”

“Yeah, but a bit more formal than that. I might even make a handout for the lesson, and it would be a bit longer, probably. Not quite so quick and dirty.”

“I do better if I get to practice, and a handout would help me, actually. I also get things better if you can lead me to realizing them myself, and help me connect to other things I know.”

“Okay, I can work with that. So it sounds like this is something you want to do, then?”

Jordan took several slow breaths and held the idea for a few moments, just to be sure. “Yes. This is a really wonderful present, Leah.”

“I want to be sure it doesn’t fuck things up with our friendship. You mean so much to me, Jordan. I don’t want this to ruin what we have. So we need to keep it strictly about learning, okay?” Leah’s voice was raw.

“I don’t want us to ruin what we have, either. It’s been thirty years, darlin’. We made it this far; I really think we’ll be okay. Our friendship might change, might have new layers to it, move slightly differently. But then, that’s already started, and it seems okay so far, yes?”

Leah nodded. “I might need you to reassure me about this,” she whispered, closing her eyes.

“I can do that. We have a solid foundation. I truly believe that. We’re just adding new aspects to what we already have. Sex, kink, romance…none of that is more important than friendship.” Jordan watched Leah’s face carefully to see how she reacted to the fact that she’d snuck the word romance in there. A small tentative smile grew on Leah’s face, like she was rolling the words around in her head, wanting to believe in them. She definitely didn’t seem to object to the word. Jordan would just leave it there, for now.

Eight Kinky Nights is available for preorder from Gumroad and Amazon and releases December 16, 2019!

***

Xan West is the nom de plume of Corey Alexander, an autistic queer fat Jewish genderqueer writer 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 “Trying Submission,” won the 2018 National Leather Association John Preston Short Fiction Award. Their collection of queer kink erotica, Show Yourself to Me, will be rereleased soon.

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 two other queer kink romances currently available: Nine of Swords, Reversed and Their Troublesome Crush.

Excerpt Reveal: A Broken Winter by Kale Night

Today on the site we have an excerpt from A Broken Winter by Kale Night, an adult dystopian with an all-queer main cast releasing from NineStar Press on November 25th! Here’s the blurb:

General Auryn Tyrus is tired of serving an emperor who turns political dissidents into expensive steak and claims to have swallowed Ankari’s sun. He is fed up with pretending not to know Emperor Haken is buying biological weapons and collecting taxes for a war that doesn’t exist. Auryn’s role in the entire mirage leads him to drastic choices, but unexpected news halts his plans. Seven-year-old Keita Kaneko, the son of a former lover, is captured by the emperor’s special forces. Auryn secretly intervenes and spares Keita from execution.

Keita changes everything. Instead of feeling helpless and oppressed by a self-proclaimed living god, Auryn works to expose the emperor as a fraud. But he knows exactly what will happen if he’s discovered, and the extent of Emperor Haken’s lies is worse than anticipated. If Auryn expects anyone to believe the truth, he’s going to need proof. And a lot of help.

Buy it: Amazon | NineStar Press

And here’s the excerpt!

“Before you go in, there’s something you should know. Your roommate is a bit eccentric. Last guy he shared a room with had to be taken away in a straitjacket.”

“Thanks for the warning, but I’m sure I can handle it.” Auryn’s curiosity overrode any concern. He’d heard Reisen Kaneko could be difficult—stubborn and highly irrational—but this was what he’d trained for. He was ready.

Auryn opened the door. An overhead sprinkler was triggered, soaking everything. Reisen sat in the middle of it all, wearing a white lab coat. Dark, circular sunglasses shielded his eyes from view. Red hair stuck to him in wet tendrils. A large pair of white headphones crowned his head.

Auryn stepped into the room, closing the door behind him. Reisen didn’t appear to notice he had company. He approached cautiously, making no sudden movements.

“What are you listening to?” He wasn’t sure if Reisen could hear him.

Reisen glanced up. “Ludwig Van Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy.’ It sounds like something the God of Rain would listen to at high volume to ward off a panic attack, attempting to anchor in a sea of anxiety, exhaling thunder and inhaling lighting.”

“I’m not familiar with it.”

“I didn’t expect you to be. I have the only copy.”

Auryn was already soaked, water pooling at his feet. “My name is Colonel Auryn Tyrus. I’m the new chaplain.”

“Dr. Reisen Kaneko. Pleasure to meet you, Colonel Tyrus. Does our darling emperor think you’ll be a good influence? Help keep me on my best behaviour?”

“His Holiness knows you’d never stray far from the Light. This was the only bunk available.”

“How convenient.” Reisen removed his headphones, offering them. “Want to listen?”

Auryn put the headphones on, sceptical. “I never thought of gods as having a use for music.”

“How else would you expect them to maintain their sanity?” Reisen let the song play for several minutes, then paused it to inform Auryn, “This is my favourite part.”

The song was appropriately named. He’d never heard anything so joyful. It wasn’t anything like the music Emperor Haken allowed to play on the radio—all boring, one-dimensional noise devoid of personality. Mostly bland piano arrangements with an occasional harp accompaniment. This was triumphant yet vulnerable, encapsulating a range of human emotion over the span of numerous carefully crafted notes. He wanted to listen over and over again. Fortunately, Reisen was happy to share.

Reisen’s generous, considerate nature vexed him. Reisen was eccentric, not crazy. Honest, not a pathological manipulator. Humble, not arrogant. Worst of all, he was easy to get along with. Too easy.

It made his mission much harder than anticipated.

#

“You’re lucky they let you grow your hair so long. Doesn’t it get in the way?” asked Auryn.

Auryn and Reisen sat in their room, drinking tea in the dark. It was late at night, long after everyone was supposed to be asleep.

“Sometimes,” replied Reisen, lighting a cigarette. “But I’ve had long hair as long as I can remember. I hate cutting it. Feels too much like self-mutilation.”

“For your sake, I hope no one takes issue with it.”

“My mother punched someone who told her it was inappropriate for a young man to look like a little girl. Anger management wasn’t her strong suit.”

Auryn took a swig of tea, peering over the rim of the cup to watch Reisen’s cigarette cling to the corner of his mouth, trying not to stare. His gaze lingered too long on the man’s features, compulsively tracing them, memorising them like flight formulas. “I don’t remember my parents.” Sometimes he ransacked his memory for any trace of life before arriving at the orphanage. He never found anything but isolated crumbs—someone with rough hands, skin dry and cracked, the nauseating smell of rotten meat. The urge to shed his skin. A woman in a green sweater, her face blurred by time, sleeves too long.

“Orphanage kid, eh? What was it like being raised by the government?”

“Everything revolved around discipline and duty. Doing what’s best for Terasyn, not for ourselves.”

Reisen shook his head. “A fine sentiment for programming robots. Raising children, not so much.”

“It was okay. Every now and then Emperor Haken stopped by. I used to play games with Prince Elia.”

“Did they involve pulling intestines out of someone’s rectum?” Auryn stared at Reisen in horror. To speak of a member of the royal family in such a way was heresy. Reisen grinned crookedly. “Sorry. Elia is a creep.”

“Mortals are in no position to criticise the divine.”

“I can see why they let you run the chapel, Colonel.” Reisen confused him in every way imaginable. “But I’m afraid I disagree. Mortals are obligated to criticise the divine. To question everything. Otherwise we’re no better than sheep.”

“We’re not qualified to think for ourselves,” countered Auryn. “We don’t know what’s best for us. We are no better than sheep, and we can’t afford to reject the guidance of a competent shepherd.”

“Abused sheep have warped ideas of what constitutes a competent shepherd.”

Auryn watched Reisen’s blasphemous lips move, excited and cursed. He wanted to kiss him, even if it meant damnation, losing everything. “Come with me to the chapel. Pray with me. The gods will give you strength.”

“No, thanks, Chaplain. I’m good.”

I’m not.

Auryn sighed in frustration, standing. “It’s late, anyway. We should sleep.” Idle minds produced dangerous thoughts. They crawled back into their bunks. Auryn closed his eyes, trying to get comfortable, tense all over. “Reisen… Did you really drive your last roommate crazy?”

“Nah. You’re giving me way more credit than I deserve. He wigged out on his own. I’m just a convenient scapegoat. General Mordha doesn’t like me much, I’m afraid. Maybe it’s the hair.”

* * *

Kale currently resides outside a small town in northern Alberta, where she works in a library. She’s an avid reader with an English degree from the University of Calgary. In her spare time Kale loves playing video games, making chain maille, watching anime, and cultivating a steadily expanding bonsai collection.

Author Website

Excerpt Reveal: Homesick by Nino Cipri

Today on the site I’m excited to welcome Nino Cipri, author of the brand-new Homesick, which just released from Dzanc Books on Tuesday! It’s a short story collection that spans speculative, sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, with all sorts of queer/trans rep, including queer, bisexual, lesbian, gay, transfeminine, transmasculine, nonbinary, and bigender. Here’s the official blurb:

Dark, irreverent, and truly innovative, the nine speculative stories in Homesick meditate on the theme of home and our estrangement from it, and what happens when the familiar suddenly shifts into the uncanny. In stories that foreground queer relationships and transgender or nonbinary characters, Cipri delivers the origin story for a superhero team comprised of murdered girls; a housecleaner discovering an impossible ocean in her least-favorite clients’ house; a man haunted by keys that appear suddenly in his throat; and a team of scientists and activists discovering the remains of a long-extinct species of intelligent weasels. Nino Cipri’s debut collection announces the arrival of a brilliant and wonderfully unpredictable writer with a gift for turning the short story on its ear.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

We’re celebrating the release with an excerpt from the novella “Before We Disperse Like Star Stuff,” which you can learn more about here:

Three years ago, Damian Flores, Min-Ji Hong, and Ray Walker made the discovery of a lifetime: the fossilized remains of a long-dead species of intelligent weasels, who had a developed language and writing system. Their find helped redefine ideas of sentience and saved parts of Pine Ridge from natural gas extraction. Three years later, however, Damian can’t shake the suspicion that he’s a sellout, Min can’t find a post-doc fellowship despite co-discovering a non-human language, and Ray is languishing in boredom in a small Kansas college town. When an opportunity to film a documentary about their discovery arises, the three former friends must reckon with secrets, drunken apologies, baby otters, and the bullshit colonial underpinnings of archeology.

(Rep notes for anyone curious: Damian is Latinx, transmasculine, and queer. Min is a transwoman and Korean-American. Ray Walker is Lakota and bisexual. )

And here’s the excerpt!

Ray’s flat Midwest accent always made Damian think of hollow logs rolling down a hill. It was unmistakable and weirdly attractive.

“I was hoping to talk to you,” Damian answered. Ray had grown his hair out and wore it tied back in a messy bun, wavy tendrils escaping in the wind. Damian instinctively wanted to tuck them back behind Ray’s ears.

“Hell of a drive from New York City, just for a conversation,” Ray said. “Why didn’t you call?”

“You changed your number.”

Ray rolled his eyes. “Min still has my number. You could have gotten it from her.”

He hadn’t even thought of that. Why were Min and Ray still talking to each other and not to him? He was the connection between them, the common denominator. He’d assumed that they’d all lost touch at the same time, after he’d announced his book deal and they looked at him with betrayal instead of excitement. “I’ve got a proposition for you,” he said to Ray. “I figured you’d be less likely to turn me down in person.”

Ray huffed—not quite a scoff, but too annoyed to be a laugh. “Good to know you’re still a manipulative shit.”

“I guess I deserve that,” Damian said quietly. He absolutely deserved that. Even now, he was calculating how much hurt to allow into his voice and vigorously hating himself for it. He wanted to be a good person, but he wanted to do good work more. This documentary was good—ergo: all was fair.

“Come on,” Ray said. “Step into my office.”

His office was, of course, his truck, and if the sight of it had been a punch to the gut, stepping into it was like getting reverse-suplexed into the past. Same threadbare fabric on the seats. Same clatter of coffee cups rolling around the footwell. Same dusty dashboard, with the word BUTTS etched into the leather near the passenger window—a gift from one of Ray’s nephews. Ray had attempted to turn it into the word BURTS, supposedly in honor of Reynolds and Kwouk, but with meager success.

It was horrible. Damian only liked the past when it was a minimum of six hundred years old.

“The good old Buttsmobile,” he said.

“It’s the Burtsmobile, damn it,” Ray muttered. “What’s your proposition?”

“The Smithsonian wants to make a documentary about ossicarminis.”

“Adapt your book, you mean?”

“Not just the book,” Damian said. “They optioned it as an actual documentary about ossicarminis, finding and identifying them, the whole thing with NEOCO.” He wasn’t going to go into the Space Weasels. He could only have one crisis of conscience at a time.

“And what happened after? Our falling out? Or only the part of the story that makes you look good?” Ray asked. He’d always been blunt. Damian used to like that about him.

“Is that what you call it?” Damian asked, honestly interested. “A falling out?”

Ray shrugged. “That’s what other people call it when they’re trying to ask me what happened.”

“Falling out,” Damian said again, testing the words. Like it was natural law, rather than two stubborn assholes roleplaying an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object.

“I told them I wouldn’t do it without you and Min,” Damian said. It wasn’t quite a lie; assuring Annika that Ray and Min would definitely sign onto the project was basically the same thing. “The two of you are the story. More than me. I just got lucky by falling in a cave.”

Ossicarminis is the story,” Ray said. “I—I don’t—”

Damian waited him out, toying with the iron pendant his mother had made him in a smithing class.

“I don’t want to rehash the whole thing, man,” Ray said eventually. A nice blush was spreading across his cheek. “Not what happened between us. That stays off camera and in the past.”

“I am one hundred percent okay with that,” Damian said, and knew it was a lie as soon as he said it. He had fallen into a fast, consumptive love with this nerdy asshole and his terrible khakis, his probably lethal caffeine habit, and his utter disinterest in being tactful. Their so-called falling out hadn’t changed that. He had planned on avoiding Ray forever, but he’d come around to the idea that this could be his second chance. That’s why he’d actually driven to this godforsaken prairie infested with Elvis-themed restaurants. They’d wanted the same thing, after all: to spread the word about ossicarminis, to make people understand the gravity of this discovery. They had disagreed loudly and angrily on how to do that, and Ray had dumped him.

And then he’d grown out his hair, which just seemed unfair.

“You grew out your hair,” Damian said, like the lovesick dumbass he was.

Ray ran a self-conscious hand over it. “I told myself I would when I got tenure. When they couldn’t fire me for looking ‘unprofessional.’” The word dripped with sarcasm. “Not sure if that meant too gay or too Indian. The chair never specified. Both, probably.”

The familiarity was a physical ache; Damian thought of the feeling of taking off his binder after a day of wear, stretching his shoulders back after hunching them for hours. It was unfair, it was exquisite, and it felt like pressing hard on a bruise that he’d successfully ignored for the past year and a half.

“So?” he asked. “Documentary?”

***

Nino Cipri is a queer and trans/nonbinary writer, editor, and educator. They are a graduate of the 2014 Clarion Writers’ Workshop, and earned their MFA in fiction from the University of Kansas in 2019. Their fiction collection Homesick won the Dzanc Short Story Collection award, and their novella Finna–about queer heartbreak, low-wage work, and wormholes–will be published by Tor.com in 2020. A multidisciplinary artist, Nino has also written plays, screenplays, and radio features; performed as a dancer, actor, and puppeteer; and worked as a stagehand, bookseller, bike mechanic, and labor organizer.

One time, an angry person on the internet called Nino a verbal terrorist, which was pretty funny.

Exclusive Cover & Excerpt Reveal: In the Role of Brie Hutchens… by Nicole Melleby

Happy National Coming Out Day! What better way to celebrate than with a cover reveal for a coming out story that must be on your radar for 2020??

Nicole Melleby is no stranger to the site, and should certainly be no stranger to any fans of queer MG, with Hurricane Season now behind her and several more coming up, including the beauty whose cover we’re revealing today: In the Role of Brie Hutchens…, which releases from Algonquin on April 21! Here’s the official copy for the book:

Introducing Brie Hutchens: soap opera super fan, aspiring actor, and so-so student at her small Catholic school. Brie has big plans for eighth grade. She’s going to be the star of the school play and convince her parents to let her go to the performing arts high school. But when Brie’s mom walks in on her accidentally looking at some possibly inappropriate photos of her favorite actress, Brie panics and blurts out that she’s been chosen to crown the Mary statue during her school’s May Crowning ceremony. Brie’s mom is distracted with pride—but Brie’s in big trouble: she has not been chosen. No one has, yet. Worse, Brie has almost no chance to get the job, which always goes to a top student.

Desperate to make her lie become truth, Brie turns to Kennedy, the girl everyone expects to crown Mary. But sometimes just looking at Kennedy gives Brie butterflies. Juggling her confusing feelings with the rapidly approaching May Crowning, not to mention her hilarious non-star turn in the school play, Brie navigates truth and lies, expectations and identity, and how to—finally—make her mother really see her as she is.

And here’s the rainbowtastic cover, with art by Stephanie Singleton, design by Carla Weise, and hand lettering by Maeve Norton!

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Can’t wait to dive in? Good news: you don’t have to! We’ve got the first chapter right here:

Brie was almost positive her mom didn’t like her.

That wasn’t to say her mom didn’t love her. But Brie had a hard time believing that she liked her. For example, Brie didn’t think she was the type of girl her mom would point at and go “Now that is a good girl” if they met elsewhere. Someone like Kennedy Bishop, on the other hand, was the quintessential good girl. Everyone’s mom liked Kennedy Bishop.

Kennedy was destined to be the eighth grader chosen to crown Mary at Our Lady of Perpetual Help’s annual celebratory mass in the spring. Brie wouldn’t have cared which of her classmates was chosen—really, she wouldn’t have—if it hadn’t been for Kelly Monaco’s boobs.

Look, first of all, Kelly Monaco was Brie’s favorite soap opera star, and she also had really great hair. Even Brie’s mom thought so. They’d had an entire conversation about it while watching General Hospital together. “Kelly Monaco has really great hair,” her mom had said.

“She has really great everything,” Brie had responded— immediately turning red. Her mom hadn’t noticed.

Later Brie Googled photos of Kelly Monaco’s really great hair. How was she supposed to know Kelly had done Playboy photos and that they would be the first thing to pop up? Really it was her mom’s fault, since she had brought up Kelly Monaco’s hair to begin with, and honestly Brie kept looking at the photos only because she was curious.

Well, curious . . . and maybe a little flustered.

Of course that flustered moment was when her mom decided to waltz into her room, carrying Brie’s laundry and lecturing her about the need to unfold socks before throwing them in the hamper. Brie’s backpack was strewn on the floor, and—miracle of miracles—her mom tripped over it, stum- bling just enough to shift her eyes away from Brie’s computer screen. Brie—flushed and about to burst into flame—caught sight of her religion book as it slipped out of her bag. A statue of Mary with her arms outstretched beckoned from the cover. That was the moment Brie practically shouted, “I’m going to crown Mary!”

At the time it seemed like divine intervention.

Her mom was delighted. Brie closed her browser. Crisis averted.

Well, at least that crisis. The bigger problem was she hadn’t been chosen to crown Mary. No one had. The selec- tion wouldn’t happen for weeks, because, needless to say, the May Crowning was in May. The students of Our Lady of Perpetual Help still had fourteen weeks of regular masses to prepare for the eighth-grade event.

It was a big deal in Catholic school, or at least at Brie’s. May was the month they honored and celebrated the Mother of God by holding a special church mass during school and inviting the rest of the parishioners to attend. The eighth- grade students got all dressed up—out of their uniforms and into their Sunday best—and the rest of the school gathered in the church to watch as the chosen one went up on the altar and put a crown made of flowers on the Mary statue’s head. Since Brie had gone to OLPH since kindergarten, she’d sat through eight May Crowning masses. Now she would need to do more than sit through the ninth.

***

Nicole Melleby is a born-and-bred Jersey girl with a passion for storytelling. She studied creative writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University and currently teaches creative writing and literature courses with a handful of local universities. When she’s not writing, she can be found browsing the shelves at her local comic shop or watching soap operas with a cup of tea.

Excerpt from Crier’s War by Nina Varela

Today on the site we have an excerpt from Crier’s War by Nina Varela, a YA fantasy with a slow-burn enemies-to-lovers f/f romance set against a political backdrop that just released on October 1! First, check out the book:

Like all Automae, Crier was made to be perfect. Her design was created and approved by her father, the sovereign King Hesod of Rabu. However, when her new fiancé presents her with proof that there is a flaw in her design—one that shows she has the very human trait of passion—she worries it will lead to her downfall.  For years, Ayla has been quietly plotting her revenge, after being born into subjugation. In Rabu, humans are inferior to Automae and considered second-class citizens. Hesod took Ayla’s family, so she intends to take his—by killing Crier.

Then, one fateful night, Ayla ends up saving Crier’s life instead. Out of gratitude or curiosity, Crier requests Ayla as her new handmaiden. And though Ayla tells herself she only accepted the position to infiltrate her enemies, she starts to realize that Crier is nothing like she previously believed.  But as humans and Automae are on the brink of war, Ayla and Crier’s relationship may be a catalyst for a battle that could end all of civilization.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | Indiebound

And here’s the excerpt!

Benjy opened his mouth to say something else, but Rowan cut him off. “Stars and skies, birdy,” she said, her brown eyes lit up in the sunlight. She looked less like a sparrow and more like . . . like a warrior, fierce and brilliant and flush with hope. Like the warrior she had been in past uprisings; like the warrior she would be again. The revolutionary, the leader. “Ayla, my love,” she said. “This is incredible, this is—this is the best chance we’ve had in years. You can be our eyes and ears on the inside, love. Stationed right at the heart of the spider’s nest, imagine that. And—personal handmaiden to Lady Crier? Gods, it’s like they want a coup.”

“So you think I should use my position,” said Ayla, unable to keep the triumph out of her voice, even as she saw Benjy’s scowl deepen. “You think I should be a mole.”

“Yes,” said Rowan. “Yes, gods, of course. Though”—here her voice changed a little, grew harder—“it will be dangerous. Ayla, you have to focus on the Scyre. He’s the one with knowledge about the Iron Heart. Maybe he’s even got a map of the Aderos Mountains, or of the trade routes, a ledger of all the heartstone traders, something, anything. Whatever you can find, it’ll be valuable.” She grinned, sharp and bright, and cupped Ayla’s face in both hands, pressing a kiss to her forehead. “You clever girl. Oh, you clever, fearsome girl.”

Ayla grinned back, but her mind was already spinning. Was it possible? Was there a chance that Scyre Kinok really did have a map of the Aderos Mountains—a map that could lead them to the Iron Heart itself?

If he did . . .

No more white dresses hanging over the marketplace like ghosts.

Because humans wouldn’t have to kill Automae to set themselves free. The Automae would die, all at once. During Ayla’s first year working under Sovereign Hesod, the orchards had nearly been wiped out by an infestation of locusts. It was an unusually hot spring: the kind of spring where the end of winter felt less like a rebirth, like shaking the weight of snow off your shoulders and emerging lighter for it, and more like a slow descent into boiling water. The air was thick and wet as steam. Sometimes it ached even to breathe. When the locusts came, settling over the orchards like a living, buzzing shadow, even they seemed a little exhausted by the heat. They ate slowly: first the budding fruits, then the blossoms, then the leaves. They ate nonstop for days. All the servants were panicking, because no one knew what to do about the loss of the fruit harvest. And what happened when the locusts stripped the fruit trees bare? Would they fly away, or would they just migrate to the gardens? The fields of barley and sea lavender? Would the entire year’s crop be devoured?

It was Nessa—the head servant—who saved them. Nessa who got the idea to spray the locusts with clouds of poisoned water. It wouldn’t hurt the trees—and besides, most of them were already naked and dead-looking—but it began to kill the locusts the second it touched their shiny green skin.

Within a single day, the trees were empty. The dirt below their branches was littered with millions of dead, silent locusts, their bodies piled ankle-deep. Ayla was one of the servants assigned to clearing them away. Barefoot, she waded through the orchards, filling her basket over and over again with corpses and then loading the baskets onto a cart, dragging the cart out to the bluffs, tossing the contents of each basket over the edge and into the waiting sea. The locusts’ tiny iridescent wings caught the sunlight as they fell; with each basket, Ayla felt like she was pouring out a cascade of glittering gemstones.

One day’s work and all the locusts were dead; the orchards were saved.

That was what would happen if the Iron Heart was destroyed, if the Automae were deprived of heartstone dust. One day’s work. A living shadow lifted.

Ayla blinked. Realized Rowan was still watching her, waiting for her response. Benjy wasn’t looking at either of them. He was staring at the dirt floor, jaw working.

“I’m going to work for Lady Crier,” said Ayla. “I’m going to spy on the Scyre and learn everything I can about the Iron Heart.”

“What about your revenge?” Benjy mumbled.

“I won’t be rash,” she promised. There was no point in telling Benjy that the fire in her hadn’t diminished—had grown, even. This killing fire inside her—he didn’t need to know just how long and cruel it had been burning. Just how charred and scarred she was. Somewhere in the back of her mind, her brother’s voice echoed. Act only when the odds are on your side, Ayla. Gamble with bread and coins, not your life. “I swear to you, Benjy,” she said. “I won’t do anything to Hesod or Crier until I’ve found enough information to destroy the Iron Heart. I won’t let my revenge compromise the Revolution.”

Rowan patted her cheek, beaming. “That’s my girl.”

And even though her eyes were still watering from the terrible stench of the latrines, even though the idea of serving Crier disgusted her, even though part of her wasn’t sure she’d be able to find any information on the Heart at all . . . For the first time since that day, Ayla had a plan. Not just the nebulous, half-formed notion of I want to hurt Hesod. I want to take away his family like he took away mine. But a real plan. Something so much bigger than Crier, Hesod, Kinok, even herself. It felt like—like this was what she was meant to do.

Her heart was lit up with something quick and hot. A lightning storm inside her.

Somewhere along the line, she’d forgotten how it felt to begin.

***

Nina Varela is a nationally awarded writer of screenplays and short fiction. She was born in New Orleans and raised on a hippie commune in Durham, North Carolina, where she spent most of her childhood playing in the Eno River, building faerie houses from moss and bark, and running barefoot through the woods. These days, Nina lives in Los Angeles with her writing partner and their tiny, ill-behaved dog. She tends to write stories about hard-won love and young people toppling the monarchy/patriarchy/whatever-archy. On a related note, she’s queer. On a less related note, she has strong feelings about hushpuppies and loves a good jambalaya. CRIER’S WAR is her first novel.

 

Excerpt Reveal: How to Belong with a Billionaire by Alexis Hall

If you read queer romance at all, there’s an excellent chance you’re already acquainted with Alexis Hall, whose Arden St. Ives series is coming to an end on September 3rd! And yes, we’ve got an exclusive excerpt from that very book, How to Belong with a Billionaire, so read on!

Hall_HowtoBelongwithaBillionaireIf you love someone, set them free…

I thought I’d be okay when Caspian Hart left. He was a brilliant, beautiful billionaire with a past he couldn’t escape. And I was . . . just me: an ordinary man lost in his own life. It would never have lasted. It should never have happened. Not outside a fairytale. And I am okay. I’ve got my job, my family, my friends, and everything Caspian taught me. Except it turns out he’s going to marry his ex-boyfriend. A man who doesn’t understand him. A man who almost broke him. And I’ve finally realized it’s not enough for me to be happy. I need Caspian to be happy too. Problem is, I’ve already done all I can to help him. I’ve followed his rules and broken his rules and learned his secrets. And he still won’t believe I can love him. So now it’s his turn. His turn to fight, and trust, and hope. It’s time for Caspian Hart to choose me.

Buy it: Amazon | Kobo | Apple | B&N 

Excerpt

I’d read somewhere that The Last Jedi was the longest Star Wars movie that had ever been released. Honestly, I wished it had been longer. A lot longer. But, eventually, Luke Skywalker and Kylo Ren had faced off on the blood-colored soil of Crait and the credits had done their thing, and Caspian and I were alone again in the silence. 

I still remembered what he’d said to me after The Force Awakens. “I wish my father could have seen that. But I’m so glad I got to watch it with you.” I think that was the moment I realised I’d fallen in love with him. How could I not have—with such a ridiculous, complicated, tender-hearted man?

“So,” I asked, hoping once again to share his Star Wars wonder, “how did you find it?”

He turned to me, frowning, his eyes dark. “I don’t think I cared for it very much.”

“What?” My mouth dropped open and hung there, gormlessly. I just hadn’t seen that coming. “Why? And if you say it had too many women in it or whatever I swear to God I’ll—”

“Of course I don’t care that there were women in it. What do you take me for?” 

“I … I don’t know. It’s something people on the internet aren’t happy about.”

One of his eyebrows flicked impatiently upwards. “Star Wars is an adventure story about good and evil. I fail to see how the number of female characters is a pertinent metric against which to judge its success in that regard.” 

“Then what didn’t you like about it? I mean, the pacing was a bit choppy but it seemed pretty adventure story-ey to me?”

“I didn’t like that they turned Luke Skywalker into a failure and a coward.”

I blinked at the passion in his voice. “I … don’t think he was any of those things, was he?”

“He spent three films trying to overthrow the Empire and rebuild the Jedi order. When we meet him here he is living alone in a cave having accomplished neither.”

“Caspian—” I gave him a somewhat bewildered look “—are you, like, cross with Luke Skywalker because he didn’t change the entire galaxy by himself?”

“If that was his original intent he should not have stopped until he achieved it.”

“You do realise,” I pointed out, “that you’re holding an imaginary space wizard to an impossible standard?”

He shrugged. “I just didn’t enjoy seeing a character we have been led to admire reduced to a broken ruin, his honour and heroism twisted into fear and selfishness.”

Oh. Oh. “I didn’t see it that way at all. I guess, for me, heroism isn’t about being perfect or untested. It’s about knowing what it is to fail and suffer and make mistakes, and still doing the right thing when it counts.”

“But—” Caspian’s foot was twitching “—he’d wasted so much time. And let down so many people.”

I pushed back the duvet and crawled out of it, kneeling next to him on the sofa instead, wanting him—for once—to hear me. “I think what Luke believed about himself, and what his friends believed about him, were very different things. He was living in a cave, as you put it, because he couldn’t forgive himself. Not because he’d done something unforgiveable.” 

Caspian turned and, in my need to reach him, maybe I’d misjudged the distance because we were suddenly close. Very close. Close enough to feel his breath against my face when he spoke. “I know I’ve said this before but I wish I could see the world as you do.”

I lost myself in the paler fractals in his eyes. The faint tug and cling of his upper and lower lip between the words they shaped. The soft curls at his temples.

“You don’t have to,” I told him. “Just let me show you.”

One of his hands came up to cup my face, the edge of my jaw slipping into the soft cradle of his palm as if it belonged there. My eyes closed involuntarily—I wanted to look, dammit—surrendering me to the long-missed pleasure of his touch.

“Arden,” he murmured. “My Arden.”

“Yours.”

Alexis Hall is a pile of threadbare hats and used teacups given a semblance of life by forbidden sorcery. He sometimes writes books.

You can find him on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Goodreads or his Website.

Excerpt Reveal: Spellbound by Allie Therin

Historical romance fans, take note! Allie Therin’s Prohibition-era m/m, Spellbound, releases today, and if for any reason you’re on the fence about picking it up, we’ve got an excerpt to help you make the right choice!

atherinSBcover.jpg

To save Manhattan, they’ll have to save each other first… 

1925

New York

Arthur Kenzie’s life’s work is protecting the world from the supernatural relics that could destroy it. When an amulet with the power to control the tides is shipped to New York, he must intercept it before it can be used to devastating effects. This time, in order to succeed, he needs a powerful psychometric…and the only one available has sworn off his abilities altogether.

Rory Brodigan’s gift comes with great risk. To protect himself, he’s become a recluse, redirecting his magic to find counterfeit antiques. But with the city’s fate hanging in the balance, he can’t force himself to say no.

Being with Arthur is dangerous, but Rory’s ever-growing attraction to him begins to make him brave. And as Arthur coaxes him out of seclusion, a magical and emotional bond begins to form. One that proves impossible to break—even when Arthur sacrifices himself to keep Rory safe and Rory must risk everything to save him.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

Get your excerpt here!

Exclusive Excerpt (from Chapter 4):
 

Rory burst through the shop’s side door into the brownstone’s lobby, where a handful of people were smoking cigarettes and checking their mail. Ignoring them, he snatched up the party-line telephone and bit out the exchange and number for the operator.

The call was answered on the second ring. “This is Arthur Kenzie.”

Kenzie’s voice was deep and confident and he had a ritzy accent, like he hadn’t always lived in America. It was unquestionably sexy and that only pissed Rory off more. “You think `cause you got money you can stomp all over us?”

All heads in the lobby turned his way. In his ear, Kenzie sounded very unimpressed as he said, “I beg your pardon—”

“How dare you give Mrs. Brodigan that—that thing.”

There was a barely perceptible intake of breath. “Who is this?” Kenzie’s voice had gone sharp.

“We don’t appraise weapons!” Rory’s heated shout nearly sent his broken glasses tumbling off his face.

“Where’s Mrs. Brodigan?” Kenzie demanded. “Why do you know about the ring—”

“That’s no ring. Whatever that piece of hell is, you’re taking it back.”

“But—”

“Keep your job, keep your money, and keep the hell away from us. You’ll get your monster back tomorrow and I better never hear your fucking name again.”

Rory slammed the receiver back on the cradle. He stood for a moment of righteous anger—then slumped as all the fight left him in a rush.

That…might have been a bit harsh.

He hunched his shoulders, conscious of every pair of eyes in the lobby staring at him. He slouched as small as he could and slunk away from the phone—

When it suddenly rang.

Rory froze. His gaze landed on the phone. It rang again, the long-long-short ring that meant a call for the antiques shop. And no one else in the lobby was moving, all eyes staring at him, so finally he swallowed hard and picked up the receiver. “Hello?”

“Don’t bother sending the ring back,” said Kenzie. “I’m coming to get it myself.”

***

About the Author: Allie Therin is a writer and avid reader of sci-fi, fantasy, and romance. She also is, or has been, a bookseller, an attorney, a Parks & Rec assistant, a boom operator, and a barista for one (embarrassing) day. She grew up in a tiny Pacific Northwest town with more bears than people, although the bears sadly would not practice Spanish with her.

When not researching odd questions for her 1920s romance series, she loves to connect with other readers and writers. Come say hi on GoodreadsTwitterFacebook or at allietherin.com

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Black Tattoo by Cole McCade

Helllloooo sexy new cover (and novel!) by Cole McCade! You’re gonna wanna get on this book ASAP, because not only does this dark and kinky contemporary m/m sound amazing, but it releases in just four days! (That’s May 31, if, like me, you never know what day it is.)

And the most important part of all: the price until May is just 99 cents to preorder; once the book goes up for sale, the price goes up to $2.99, so get your orders in ASAP! (And yes, there’ll be links to do that below, but if you’re that impatient, click here!)

Here are the details on the book:

Six Black is in over his head.

And he’s not sure he wants to come up for air.

After a sheltered upbringing with an oppressive family, he’s not ready for adult life. He’s not ready for the world outside. And he’s definitely not ready for the clandestine nightclub known only as Blossom & Bite—or the strange, scarred man he meets there.

Senzou Ueda.

When Blossom & Bite specializes in matching displaced young men with wealthy older “patrons,” it’s not hard to guess what Senzou wants when he invites Six into his home. Yet there’s more to this arrangement than Senzou would ever tell, and while each night Six sleeps alone…he finds himself falling more and more beneath this mysterious, black-eyed behemoth’s quiet spell.

Especially when he discovers…

Senzou Ueda is the architect of Six’s darkest desires.

Every hunger. Every longing. Every breathless, twisted curiosity that lives inside Six was born of Senzou’s macabrely erotic art, and the more he learns of the man, the fantasy, the story behind battle scars and delicate tattoos…

…the more Six craves.

Cut free from his tethers, Six is awakening from a fragile, frightened boy into a creature of insatiable passions—and neither he nor Senzou can resist the temptation of illicit desires. In each other, they find the answer to unspoken, forbidden needs. In each other, they find kindred spirits. In each other…they find something broken. Something beautiful.

But the love building between them has a time limit, and it’s counting down—to the day when Six learns the truth. The real reason Senzou came for him. The hidden hand pulling both their strings…

…and the secret of the black tattoo.

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

Still not quite convinced? Here’s a short excerpt!

***

“Please, Mr. Ueda…Senzou.”

Six said his name as though rolling chocolate on his tongue, and the iron core of heat in Senzou’s gut threatened to melt. Slowly, every movement so shy and furtive he trembled like the wings of a moth ready to take flight, Six tilted his head to one side, the soft shag of his hair drifting across his brow in shining platinum strands, silver eyes lowered and glimmering like mercury through the thick black forest of his lashes. Yet it was Six’s throat that caught Senzou’s attention—Six’s bared, unmarked throat, long and slender and fluttering with the timpani of his pulse beating, beating, beating against that frail, translucent skin. The delicate line of his jaw, too, a sharp and sloping thing guarding the vulnerable, sensitive places beneath, places that begged to be bitten, tasted, marked until they were painted in artistry of bruises, blood, teeth-marks that demanded flesh and lust and more.

And that more coiled tight through Senzou as, shivering like a willow lathe in the wind, flushed pink against pale skin, Six closed his eyes and whispered so sweetly, so trustingly…

“…teach me.”

Preorder the book for $.99!

Exclusive Cover + Excerpt Reveal: Their Troublesome Crush by Xan West!

Today on the site we’re revealing yet another super cute cover by Xan West, this one for Their Troublesome Crush, the contemporary polyam trans m/cis f Romance novella that kicks off the Kink & Showtunes series with its release on April 16, 2019! Here’s the blurb:

In this queer polyamorous m/f romance novella, two metamours realize they have crushes on each other while planning their shared partner’s birthday party together. Ernest, a Jewish autistic demiromantic queer fat trans man submissive, and Nora, a Jewish disabled queer fat femme cis woman switch, have to contend with an age gap, a desire not to mess up their lovely polyamorous dynamic as metamours, the fact that Ernest has never been attracted to a cis person before, and the reality that they are romantically attracted to each other, all while planning their dominant’s birthday party and trying to do a really good job.

Content Warnings are here: https://xanwest.wordpress.com/their-troublesome-crush/

And here’s the cover, illustrated by Hannah Aroni!

(An illustrated cover featuring a fat brunette cane-using woman in a cupcake-printed dress holding hands with a fat redheaded trans man in jeans and an open plaid shirt in front of a bakery display case full of cupcakes.)

Preorder: Gumroad | Amazon

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

Ernest had the best idea for Daddy’s birthday and he couldn’t wait to share it with Nora. When would she get here? He was so excited that his hands were fluttery, and he was bouncing a little. They were going to throw Gideon an amazing birthday party, and Gideon was going to ruffle his hair and call him a good boy, and cup Nora’s cheek and give her that sweet smile he had just for her, and he would tell them both they did a good job. There was nothing better than doing a good job.

Ernest was getting ahead of himself, he knew, but he couldn’t help it. He always got giddy at the beginning of tasks; this was their first joint task doing service for Gideon as metamours, and that was exciting, and Ernest was rather bouncy in general, anyway. Luckily, Nora was more grounded and moved slowly and deliberately, so they would balance each other out, he thought. Ernest had this image in his head, of himself tugging on Daddy’s hand, racing forward, unruly short red curls going every which way, and Nora holding Gideon’s other hand, moving slow and steady, gazing up at him like he hung the moon, her tight dark curls framing her face in a somewhat controlled cloud. Maybe there was a song in that, he thought, the two rhythms dancing around the melody, balancing it. His fingers moved on his thighs, building the rhythms, as his head started to fill with the melody. Then these two women sat right next to him, talking loudly about the bat mitzvah they were planning, and he lost the song altogether. He should have sat in the corner.

Ernest moved to the corner table, which was quieter, thankfully, but he couldn’t get the song back, so he sketched out the idea in his notebook and turned his attention back to the party planning. There were a ton of cupcake shops in NYC, but Nora favored this one on the Lower East Side; they were meeting there so Ernest could try them out. He still wasn’t sure cupcakes were the right choice. They would be perfect for his own birthday, but perhaps Gideon would want something more dignified. He had his eye on a pie shop in Brooklyn. But it made sense to at least try the cupcakes, didn’t it? How could he resist a chance to try cupcakes?

Maybe they should get a half dozen and sample. It would give him a chance to take leftovers home and see what Daddy thought. But he knew Nora was diabetic and that made it thorny to fill the table with cupcakes. What if it was a mean thing to do, since she probably could only have a few bites? At least, that was what she generally did with desserts, when they had gotten them in the past. They always shared so she could have a taste but not mess up her blood sugar. But maybe it wasn’t right for him to not ask just because she was diabetic? He didn’t want to act like he was in charge of her food choices. He thought it through, considering it from a few angles, trying to figure out what would be the most considerate and the least intrusive and the most respectful of her autonomy, his brain filling with these spiraling thoughts that contradicted each other, until he remembered what Jax had said to him once: “People think they are being so caring when they comment on what you eat, when you’re a fat diabetic. They don’t see the way our food choices are constantly scrutinized and judged, the way we’re so often blamed for having diabetes, how we have unhelpful non-consensual help pushed on us all the time. What I really need is to be left alone…unless I ask for information or help.”

Well, that cleared things up. He would do the sampler thing and try a few flavors, and let her do what made sense for her. Ernest got enough shit from the world as a mid-sized fat not-really-passing-most-of-the-time trans guy, for eating sweets in public…it seemed likely that as a larger fat diabetic femme cis woman, she got a whole lot more. He definitely didn’t want to add to that. Once he connected those ideas, a whole bunch more slotted into place, as he thought about unhelpful non-consensual help, and all the ways it messed things up, about the ways that kind of help interacted with ableism and fat oppression and misogyny. He started mapping it out in his notebook, connecting the dots for himself. Writing it, mapping it, helped make it stick when there was a gap in a pattern like this, like it was reinforcing a piece of the puzzle that had been missing but was now in place. He didn’t want to lose this piece again.

Ernest traced the pattern he’d drawn in his notebook, and felt his brain ready itself for a leap to another connection, just as he heard his name being said in a husky musical voice that held tones of humor, like perhaps she’d already said it a few times and he’d missed that. So he looked up, and Nora was there, taking off her adorable raincoat, which was bright pink and had white polka dots. She was wearing purple tights and a short black dress. Her dress had cupcakes on it! Nora managed to look both powerful and cute at the same time; it was something about how her clothes suited her pear-shaped fatness perfectly, and something about how she held herself. Her face was flushed, she was smiling, and her chin-length dark brown hair was all wild frizzy curls today. So was his own hair, come to think of it. He actually had a curl in the center of his fucking forehead, which of course put his mother’s voice in his head, exactly where he did not want her. He dug his nails into his thigh to try to get rid of her and focus on the present.

“You were in your own world,” she said.

He ducked his head. “Um, yeah. I do that.”

“I do it too, when I’m writing. My world is a pretty good place to spend time in.”

He smiled. His world was pretty great too. “I know what you mean. My world is a lot better than most places in NYC. Maybe you could tell me about your world sometime?”

“You want to hear about the world I’m writing, the novel I’m working on?”

“Yes, please,” he said firmly. He definitely wanted to hear about that.

“Hmm. That rates a please, does it?”

Ernest blinked, trying to figure out what she meant. Was he not supposed to say please? Was he not supposed to want to hear about her world? He didn’t know what to say, so he just nodded.

She was still standing over the table, though she’d draped her raincoat over her chair, and moved closer to him, so it wasn’t that she was going to leave. Was he supposed to be standing too? She made him nervous, looking down at him, standing so close. His heart was racing. Why did he like being around her so much if she made him nervous like this?

“Come on,” Nora said, and her hand appeared. He was supposed to take it, he knew. But they hadn’t ever touched, so it was a shock to be suddenly faced with it. Did he want to take her hand? After a moment the answer came: yes. So he stood up, and took it. She tugged him over to the display case of all the cupcakes, and then stood next to him, reaching over his body to point out her favorite flavors, closer than she had ever stood before. It made him a bit dizzy, but not in a scary way. It was like being filled with bubbles; he was unsteady, almost floating, definitely not firmly planted on the ground.

He dug his boots into the floor, not wanting to fall, as her voice filled him up, talking about why she loved these particular flavors. The scent of sugar and butter was so strong in this part of the shop. But that wasn’t all he smelled. Her raincoat had a hood but he didn’t think she’d been wearing it, because her hair, which was so close it had brushed his face, smelled like rain. He closed his eyes for a moment and breathed in, concentrating on the smell of rain. He’d always loved the rain, would stand outside in it every chance he got, savoring the sensation of it on his skin. There was nothing like spinning in the rain. He’d tried spinning in the shower but it wasn’t the same. “Singin’ in the Rain” came into his head, and he hummed it, knowing that he couldn’t sing, not in a bakery, even though he wanted to. Humming would have to do.

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.