Category Archives: Excerpt

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.

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Exclusive Excerpt Reveal: The Lights by Carrie Pack

Today on the site we have an exclusive excerpt reveal from Carrie Pack’s The Lights, a YA horror novella releasing on December 11 with an f/f couple at its heart. Come check it out!

It’s winter break and Molly Monroe is content to enjoy her town’s annual Festival of Lights with her girlfriend Chelsea at her side. But almost immediately after the lights go up, the town’s children begin to act strangely, especially Molly’s own brother, Roger. When their next-door neighbors are killed in a grisly double homicide, Molly begins to suspect the incidents are linked. Now she must convince her parents and the rest of the town to take down the Christmas lights before everyone gets killed.

 Buy it: B&N * Amazon* Kobo* iTunes

And now, the excerpt! 

As I cut out tree and reindeer shapes from the dough, I stole sideways glances at Dad as he worked on the frosting for the decorations. I decided to take my chance and broach the subject of Roger’s behavior.

“Dad, have you noticed anything weird with Roger?”

Apart from the blank staring, he’d also stopped playing video games and begging to know which of the wrapped gifts under the Christmas tree were for him. And since the Van Atters’ murder, he had watched me with piercingly cold eyes. Dad didn’t seem to notice how weird he’d gotten.

“I think he’s still a little under the weather.” Dad licked a dusting of sugar off his thumb. “And I’m sure that business next door didn’t help.”

“Yeah.” I scooped up the delicate shapes and placed them on a baking sheet. Even with Roger’s odd quirks, the murder was more disturbing. “Is Mom okay?”

Dad made an uneasy hum that landed somewhere between agreement and a question. “That detective gave me the number of someone for her to talk to. I’ll call after Christmas.”

“Maybe call tomorrow,” I suggested.

I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and looked up to find Roger standing next to Dad.

“I want to see the lights,” he said.

Dad smiled at him. “Sure, kiddo. Right after Molly and I finish up these cookies we’ll go.” He ruffled Roger’s hair. “Why don’t you go see if your mom wants to tag along?”

Roger’s expression didn’t change, but he went upstairs.

A few minutes later Mom shuffled downstairs with Roger in tow. She looked awful, with dirty hair framing her thin and pale face. Dark circles marred the skin under her eyes and she wore an old pair of Dad’s sweat pants and an oversized, stained sweatshirt. But it was the first time she’d been out of bed since the murders. So we all piled into the car and drove downtown.

With less than a week until Christmas, the streets were crowded with shoppers and visitors who had come from neighboring towns to look at the lights. People stood in wonder at the bright colors and sounds coming from every direction. Some of the children stopped to stare just as they had after the processional, while their impatient parents tugged at little mittened hands. The stress of the season was getting to everyone it seemed.

The more lights we passed, the more Roger became entranced, and the more children we saw. It seemed every family with small children was out on this night, and they were all here looking at lights. By the time we reached the town square, dripping in lights as it was, Roger had begun to mutter to himself from the back seat. When we passed under the sparkling, blue “Happy Holidays” sign, Roger smiled like he had a secret and whispered, “It’s time to kill.”

I turned sharply to face him, but he continued to gaze out the window. His face, backlit by the blue of the lights overhead, gave off an eerie, ominous glow. But it seemed I was the only one who had heard him. I glanced toward the front seat where Dad sang along with the radio, which was blaring Christmas carols and Mom stared out the window, both unaware of the terror now coursing through my veins. I looked back at Roger, but his expression seemed normal. Perhaps it had just been the strange glow from the new LED lights. Perhaps I had imagined his creepy whispering. Perhaps I was overreacting. Again.

It felt good to be doing something kind of normal, even if it was only a moment or two. So I let my worries fall away and tried to enjoy myself. But I didn’t take my eyes off my brother.

When Roger asked to go back out the following night, I refused to go. Even if I had imagined his strange behavior and the blue glow, I was not interested in reliving it.

“Oh, come on, kiddo. Where’s your Christmas spirit?” Dad leaned in conspiratorially and whispered, “Besides, I think it will do your mother some good to get out again.”

I shrugged. “We went last night. I don’t need to go again. Besides, Roger’s the one obsessed with the lights, not me.”

“I think it’s sweet,” Dad said.

“I think you mean creepy.”

Dad laughed it off. He said when I was Roger’s age I beheaded all my Barbie dolls and strung them up around the house like piñatas. “It’s just a phase,” he said. “He’s testing his boundaries just like you did.”

“Well, it’s a creepy phase and I’m not going,” I told him, folding my arms across my chest.

Dad sighed. “And one day my sweet Roger will go through this belligerent teenager phase,” he said, mostly to himself. He kissed me on the cheek and slipped on his coat. “Why don’t you make us some cocoa for when we get back?”

“Sure,” I said.

I watched as Dad pulled the car out the driveway. Mom was curled in on herself, like she had been since the Van Atters were killed, but Roger stared back at me, a blank look on his face, and it occurred to me that it wasn’t my brother. Someone else was looking out at me from behind his eyes.

***

Carrie Pack is an author of books in multiple genres and a recipient of two Foreword Reviews INDIES Book of the Year Bronze awards: in 2016 for In the Present Tense (science fiction) and in 2017 for Grrrls on the Side (young adult). Grrrls on the Side was also a finalist in the Bi Book Awards. She also hosts the BiSciFi podcast and is creator of the #BiSciFi Twitter chat.

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 and Excerpt Reveal: Birthing Orion by Dax Murray!

Today on the site we’ve got a gorgeous new cover, this time for Birthing Orion by Dax Murray, which is a queer (f/f) space fantasy poetry collection releasing on October 9! Here’s a little more info on the book:

The relationship between two goddesses, one the embodiment of a galactic creation and the other of cosmic destruction, is tempestuous at best. They create and they destroy and then they do it all over again. Seya and Mia use their divine magic to make pulsars and nebula, to set planets spinning around stars and bind a galaxy together with a central black hole.

But when one of Seya’s favorite stars goes missing, she blames Mia. What was once a symbiotic cycle of life and death becomes a game of broken hearts and promises betrayed. These tensions and insecurities are explored in sonnets and villanelles; the arc of their love tracked in meter and verse. These poems touch on queer love, betrayal, trust, acceptance, and forgiveness cast against a backdrop of stardust and celestial detritus.

And here’s the beautiful cover, designed by Merilliza Chan!

But wait, there’s more! Excerpt below!

Proto

We were denser than some of the rest,
we accumulated, we shared gravity –
we were many atoms all compressed.
We collapsed into stars: majesty.

But we burned too brightly, too fast;
we were gone before we could even start.
It was all too good to endlessly last,
but we continued, rather than depart.

Collapsing, dying, globular cluster
and rotating disk; attracting more.
We were not lackluster
repeating all that had happened before

gas, dust and dark matter: a protogalactic cloud
we wore our newness as a shroud

Binary

I made them for you,
they share a common center

just like me and you
two stars, one orbit

always so close
to each other

I had not considered
that these twin stars

would only touch each other when they explode

perhaps this was not the romantic gift I envisioned for you

Journey

I could never figure out if we came
before Time. I could never figure out
how to quantify or count, there was no
unit of measurement that I could find

to calculate how long I spent breathing
you in, vibrating so fast in hopes that
I might cease to be me, and start to be
you. No longer two goddesses; but one

essence. One force on a journey beyond
these boundless stars, so true and deep a bond.

Stars

You told it to collapse
so it did

I told it to churn
hydrogen into helium

we held it between us,
hot and radiative

convective heat transfer
me to you

we made it dense, highly pressurized
to keep it from collapsing further

you and I, we made the stars

Preorder Birthing Orion here!

Dax Murray is a software engineer by day but fights demons writes queer fantasy and science fiction by moonlight. Dax writes worlds where being queer is not remarkable, and futures are held in the hands of the many instead of the few. Dax can often be found listening to the same seven songs on repeat, watching Revolutionary Girl Utena, reading Howl’s Moving Castle (again), or playing Rachmoninoff on feir flute. Dax is owned by three cats, two ball pythons, and one Brazilian rainbow boa. Dax studied political science, music, and creative writing at Allegheny College in Meadville, PA. Fey currently resides in Washington, DC with feir spouse. You can find them on the web at daxmurray.com, on Twitter @DaxAeterna, or sign up for feir newsletter.

Exclusive Excerpt Reveal: Running With Lions by Julian Winters

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Bloomington High School Lions’ star goalie, Sebastian Hughes, should be excited about his senior year: His teammates are amazing and he’s got a coach who doesn’t ask anyone to hide their sexuality. But when his estranged childhood best friend Emir Shah shows up to summer training camp, Sebastian realizes the team’s success may end up in the hands of the one guy who hates him. Determined to reconnect with Emir for the sake of the Lions, he sets out to regain Emir’s trust. But to Sebastian’s surprise, sweaty days on the pitch, wandering the town’s streets, and bonding on the weekends sparks more than just friendship between them. 

Buy it: B&N * Amazon* Kobo

 

And now, the excerpt! 

Sebastian is almost ninety-eight percent certain that teenagers should be banned from making decisions during the summer, especially teens bored out of their skulls at night, like him. Summer should be a thought-free zone. No school. No extra brain usage. He should be on house arrest, not climbing through Emir’s window on a Wednesday night.

Of course, most of this is Willie’s fault. They were in their cabin, marathoning Stranger Things on Netflix. Free-for-all pizza was for dinner, so Willie conked out after the second episode. The guy can put away some Hawaiian pizza.

Sebastian can also blame some of his bad decision-making on the fact that summer is ticking down. Camp is almost over; less than two weeks are left.

The vault inside is almost perfect, but Sebastian smacks his shoulder on the floor. It doesn’t hurt, but it’s embarrassing. “So, so,” he stutters. Blood rushes to his head. His view of Emir perched on his bed is upside-down. He rolls over, laughing. “You weren’t sleeping, right?”

The lamp is still on. An open book sits in Emir’s lap. Ink- dark hair falls around his temples instead of standing in its usual sleep-mussed disaster.

“Nope. Just finished my Isha’a.”

Sebastian stands. He dusts off his ripped jeans, fixes his checkered flannel shirt. “Ish- what, now?”

“Isha’a,” Emir repeats. “It’s the last of the salats, daily prayers we do as Muslims.”

These reminders about Emir’s religion and his life at home light memories that flicker through Sebastian’s brain like tiny paper lanterns in the wind. He remembers the adults in Emir’s family fasting during Ramadan and a small backyard gathering to celebrate a feast day Sebastian can’t remember the name of, but he recalls the beautiful clothing, the music, and Emir’s parents passing out gifts to the children. And he remembers the giant, toothy smile Emir wore while pressed to Sebastian’s side on a sticky June evening.

“Is this a bad time? Should I go?”

“No.” Emir closes the book, carefully placing it on the desk by his bed. “It’s okay.”

“Okay.”

Sebastian’s snuck in here every evening lately. After dinner, he crawls in to find a space left for him on Emir’s bed. Sebastian talks nonstop with his head on Emir’s chest. His fingers trace the shape of Emir’s mouth. Sometimes, Emir talks, shedding his shyness. Eventually boring conversations turn into making out.

“Hey!” Tonight Sebastian came with a plan. He tosses Mason’s keys in the air, then catches them. He didn’t steal them; Mason always hands them over during the week so he doesn’t lose them. Being the token “good guy” has its advantages. “You wanna get out of here?”

“Are we allowed to leave?” Emir asks. “Didn’t bother checking the rule book.”

Emir runs a hand through his hair; his fingers catch on the tangles. He says, “You wrote the rule book.”

It’s not an attack on Sebastian, but he still flips Emir off. He blames his lack of a solid comeback on the way the bridge of Emir’s nose crinkles when he snorts.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Sebastian says. His mind has been drifting lately, more than usual, wondering what this thing with Emir is or isn’t. “I dunno, I just want to get out of here. Just me and you.”

“Okay.”

“You’re sure?” Sebastian squeaks in an unnaturally high voice.

Emir shrugs and stands. “Yes, Bastian,” he says. He grabs his beanie, pulls on a pair of slightly wrinkled black skinnies, grips a hoodie—

The sight of Sebastian’s last name in blocky gold letters across Emir’s back is mesmerizing.

JulianWinters

Julian Winters is a former management trainer who lives in the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia and has been crafting fiction since he was a child, creating communities around his hand-drawn “paper people.” He began writing LGBTQ character-driven stories as a teen and developed a devoted fan fiction following. When he isn’t writing or using his sense of humor to entertain his young nephews, Julian enjoys reading, experimental cooking in the kitchen, and watching the only sports he can keep up with: volleyball and soccer. Running with Lions is his first novel.

Exclusive Cover + Excerpt Reveal: Your Heart Will Grow by Chace Verity

Perennial LGBTQReads fave Chace Verity is back with another cover reveal, this one perfectly celebrating the glory that is #MerMay. They need no more introduction, so let’s get right to the book!

YHWG_cover

Kelpana was never supposed to love humans this much.

As a mermaid tasked with keeping peace between land and sea, her job is to be fair. Neutral. Diplomatic. Political. But her carefree spirit is bewitched by the carousing, free-swinging ways of the landfolk…yet one night of careless fun becomes a death sentence when she spurns a bratty prince. Now she’s facing life in prison—but that life won’t be long without the ocean waters that keep her alive.

Yet if Kelpana dreams of better things than this new, grim existence—so, too, does the young man set to guard her in her cell. Morgan Sunilian wants to be more than anyone ever believed he could be. He wants to be an Absolute, decked in gold armor and fighting alongside the kingdom’s most elite guardians. Morgan will do anything to prove he’s strong enough to be more than a prison guard.

To prove he can be an Absolute.

Yet as each day watching over Kelpana passes with him falling under the sweet spell of her soft voice and quiet stories, he realizes the truth of who he wants to be more than even an Absolute.

He wants to be a man of honor. A man of kindness. A man of fairness.

And a man with the strength to defy his orders, risk his life, and save the woman he’s come to love.

Your Heart Will Grow is a complete, standalone 80k novel featuring a pansexual cis woman and a (mostly) heterosexual trans man in The Absolutes series.

And now the cover AND an excerpt! 

YHWG_cover
Featuring Kelpana, as drawn by the amazing Maggie Derrick

EXCERPT:

“You always look so pensive,” Kelpana said. “It’s nice to be with someone who thinks. Some of my favorite people say but a few sentences a year, and those carefully chosen words have more impact than a library of books written by the most respected philosophers and inventors.”

Another smile Morgan couldn’t stifle.

“Tell me. There must be something you want,” she cooed. “I can give you anything and everything. You obviously like me, so don’t you want to help me get out of here?”

“Can you make me an Absolute?”

A light chuckle trailed the end of his question. Kelpana’s nose wrinkled, and she stuck her silvery tongue out at him. It dipped well past her chin, and it made him curious how she managed to reel all of it back into her mouth.

“Why would you want to be one of those? I’ll give you the power, status, and wealth that comes with an Absolute. I’ll give you more than they can. Listen, a dragon dipped her head underwater one day to see my sister and me.”

Morgan’s breathing shallowed as he listened. Kelpana was a gifted storyteller. She could paint images so vividly in his head and make his pulse flutter with apprehension.

Shit.

Your Heart Will Grow comes out June 5, 2018 and is available to order on Amazon

***

chaceverityChace Verity (she/they) is publishing queer as heck stories with a strong romantic focus, although queer friendships and found families are important too. Chace prefers to write fantasy but dabbles in contemporary and historical fiction as well. An American citizen & Canadian permanent resident, Chace will probably never be able to call a gallon of milk a “four-liter.”

If you think Chace Verity and Chasia Lloyd look suspiciously alike, you might be onto something.

Exclusive Excerpt: Greetings From Janeland

Today on the site we’ve got an excerpt from Greetings From Janeland, the sequel to Dear John, I Love Jane, a collection of essays from women writing about leaving men for other women. Check it out:

9781627782340In an increasingly common phenomenon, women who once identified as straight are leaving men for women?and they have fascinating stories to tell.

In this sequel to Lambda Literary Finalist Dear John, I Love Jane: Women Write About Leaving Men for Women, writers who come from a diverse array of perspectives open up and bare their souls. Essays on subjects such as repercussions, both bad and good; exes, both furious and supportive; bewildered and loyal family and friends; mind-blowing sexual and emotional awakenings; falling in the deepest of love; and finding a sense of community fill the pages of this anthology. One story is as different from the next as one person is from another.

With a foreword by former Editor-in-Chief of AfterEllen and Trish Bendix, and essays by acclaimed writers including BK Loren, Louise A. Blum, and Leah Lax, relax, sit back and take a journey into Janeland–a very special place where women search for, discover, and live their own personal truths.

B&N * Amazon * Kobo * iTunes * Google Play

***

Excerpt from “The Dealer’s Gift”

by Louise A. Blum

I said good-bye in a coffee shop on an appropriately bitter Iowa December night. He took my hands and held them in his own, warmed them with his breath. It was the kind of detail he’d been good at: the small comfort gestures—the cut flower, the rolled joint, the proffered mug of coffee, black. It felt so good to break it off, a clean, solid break, the kind that renders the bone twice as strong as it was before. He kissed my hands, and then, with a single phrase he determined the course of the rest of my life. If you don’t want me, he told me, softly, then you must be a lesbian. His breath on my palms chilled my skin. His reasoning was, to him, readily apparent: I’d have to be a lesbian not to want a guy as “sensitive” as him.

I left him there, sauntered out into the starlit sky. I tried to laugh it off, but the black Midwestern winter wind stole the sound from my throat before it could leave my lips. I walked home alone in the pale light of a distant constellation, fighting the chill that settled in my bones, his words seeding themselves deep within my brain, where they lingered like a curse. Then you must be a lesbian.  Somewhere deep inside, I had the nagging desire to prove him wrong. But if I had learned anything from that relationship, it was that I would rather be single for the rest of my life than settle for less than I deserved.

***

candace head shot (1)

Candace Walsh is the author of Licking the Spoon: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Identity, a New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards winner and the editor of Dear John, I Love Jane, and Ask Me About My Divorce. Her writing has appeared in numerous national and local publications, including Newsday, Travel + Leisure, Sunset, Mademoiselle, New York magazine, and New Mexico Magazine. Her essays have been published in the anthologies Here Come the Brides!, Reflections on Lesbian Love and Marriage, Blended, and Spent, and she is currently editor in chief of El Palacio Magazine. She lives in Santa Fe with her wife Laura André, their two children, and two dogs.

 

BSL_image1
Barbara Straus Lodge is an essayist whose work has appeared in the New York Times Motherlode blog and the “LA Affairs” section of the Los Angeles Times. An essay under her pseudonym, Leigh Stuart, was published in the anthology Dear John, I Love Jane. Her work has also appeared in Parabola MagazineThe RumpusLiterary Mama and a variety of anthologies.

Exclusive Excerpt of Changing Loyalties by Nicole Field!

Excited to have Nicole Field on the blog today, with an excerpt from her brand-new paranormal romance, Changing Loyalties, which kicks off the Shadows of Melbourne series and just happens to feature a beautifully named main character 😉 Come check it out!

When Dahlia finds the body of her father, a werewolf brutally murdered and left to die alone, she’s left with more questions and grief than answers. But who or what killed him remains unknown, and it soon becomes clear her father isn’t the killer’s only target.

Adding to the growing pile of mysteries in her life is the new job—for a company that seems to be run by the kind of people who have no qualms about murdering werewolves. Even more frustrating, Dahlia’s new boss, Bianca, is curt and rude—and far more intriguing than seems fair.

Buy it!

And now, here’s the excerpt!

Bianca watched Dahlia go, exhaling slowly even as she unclasped her hands. Were she her direct employer, she might have suggested Dahlia be let go of right then. But Personal Documentation was hardly a normal company, and Bianca found she admired Dahlia’s spunk.

Besides, she wouldn’t need to let Dahlia go if Dahlia simply chose not to come back again for her next shift.

But Bianca had a feeling that wasn’t going to happen. She’d seen a certain curiosity in Dahlia’s eyes. Certainly there had been the hunger for knowledge that so many people who came through induction experienced, but Bianca also thought she saw a thirst for power. Maybe that had been just her wish to verbally overpower Bianca, but she was pretty sure there was something else driving that. There’d been violent reactions before when people found out that Personal Documentation was a front for the Sisterhood, but this one had seemed personal.

It was so different from the previous two times she’d talked to her. The first time, Dahlia had seemed no different to any other bubbly intern. Bianca had already known she had the job, so that interview held little interest. The phone conversation hadn’t been enough to give Bianca much of an idea of who Dahlia was beyond that.

But today…

A smile tugged at her lips. She was already looking forward to the possibility of a second round. In whatever form it took. Provided she showed up again, she definitely wanted to get to know this kickass girl better.

Bianca looked down at the time as it read in the bottom corner of her screen. Less than three hours and she would find out if there was at least an immediate future here for Dahlia.

Three hours later, Dahlia looked less fuming and paler. Bianca frowned. Surely the knowledge that other people outside of her own close knit group knew about the supernatural elements in this world wasn’t something that had shaken her up so thoroughly. The conversation they’d had in Bianca’s office couldn’t have left her this upset?

“Are you all right?”

Dahlia looked up at her, as though surprised Bianca would care. “I’m here, aren’t I?”

“You are.” Bianca looked her up and down. “Based on what you said this morning, I wasn’t sure.” The words were a calculated attempt to pull her out of herself.

Dahlia narrowed her eyes, but she didn’t rise to the bait. “Maybe I’ve decided that the resources here could be useful to me.”

“Of course you did,” Bianca said, taking the seat beside Dahlia. “That’s how we all start here.”

“Even you?” Dahlia sounded unconvinced.

Bianca couldn’t help but laugh at that. “Especially me.”

Dahlia just looked stunned at the sight of Bianca laughing. Bianca just smiled, biting her lip at the corner as she contemplated Dahlia. “Do you really think I’m a complete monster?”

“Well,” Dahlia said. “Maybe not a complete one.”

“That’s something,” Bianca said, with another laugh.

The laughter did seem to be doing its part to relax Dahlia slightly. Very slightly. “Come with me,” Bianca said on a whim.

Again, Dahlia suddenly looked distrusting. “Where?”

Bianca rolled her eyes. “We’re in the middle of the city. I suspect anywhere is more fun than here. Besides, I don’t think sitting in front of a computer screen is exactly what you need today.”

*****

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.

Exclusive Excerpt from When It’s Time by Zane Riley!

Today on the site, we have an excerpt of the newly released gay NA When It’s Time by Zane Riley, the third book in the Go Your Own Way series! It just released yesterday, so check it out!

In the New Adult series that began with Go Your Own Way, Will Osbourne and Lennox McAvoy must now face the challenges of a long distance relationship that will determine their future. Despite the fulfillment of his childhood dream, Will is suffocating in too-loud, too-dirty, too-busy New York City. Lennox, who has always relied on Will for guidance, is thriving in Boston without him. As Lennox embraces his promising new life and rediscovers old family, Will searches for a future of his own that won’t tear them apart.

Interlude * Amazon * iTunes * Smashwords * B&N
The Book Depository

Lush green trees whipped past the car windows. Lennox McAvoy pressed his forehead against the glass and watched the hills rolling taller and wider. Early June had burned into a blazing July, only dampened by the storms that thundered on their side of the mountains. This summer hadn’t been very humid. The air wasn’t heavy and dry enough to crack his throat; the sunlight darkened his brown skin but didn’t burn until he peeled. The natural green that filled the world out here seemed to absorb the heat in a way cities and suburbs couldn’t.

Everyone else in the jeep had their windows down. Oyster had raised himself high enough to stick his head through the sunroof, but Lennox kept his window shut. Beside him, his boyfriend, Will Osborne gestured wildly as he spoke about his new college friends.

“We met during an Ice Breakers game. They wanted to meet up once we’re all on campus.”

“That’s great, honey,” Karen said. She tucked a strand of brown hair into her baseball cap.

Eastern High Varsity Baseball. The logo from their old high school flashed in the sunlight. He and Will had graduated almost two months ago now.

“Did you get to sit down with your advisor?”

“Yeah, my schedule’s set. Did you get yours done?” Will elbowed him.

Lennox glanced first at Will’s freckled face and neck, then at Will’s parents, Karen and Ben, in the front seat. Ben was driving, but their eyes met in the rearview mirror. He looked away. Overhead, Oyster barked into the jeep’s slipstream.

“Should have made you drive with that new license. Get some practice in.”

Lennox grunted.

“Come on, spill. How was it, kid?”

“Fine,” Lennox said, but one word never cut it with Will or Karen.

“A lot of sitting around listening.”

“And your classes?”

“We pick them after we move in.”

Karen frowned. “That seems really late.”

Lennox slumped. “I don’t make the rules. They give us placement tests first.”

Will kissed his cheek for the seventh time since Lennox had hopped off the bus in New York City. “I’m sure it’s fine, Karen. Music majors are different, that’s all.”

“I guess that’s true. Did you play?”

Lennox shook his head. He hadn’t done anything musical during the day and a half he’d been at Berklee College of Music in Boston. The visit hadn’t been worth it. All day had been filled with lectures, smaller class discussions about life on campus, an exhausting campus tour, and then a brief social event to end the day. He’d hovered in the corner for five minutes before leaving.

“It was just a lot of talking,” Lennox said.

Will caught his eye. It wasn’t much, but it was enough for Lennox to realize this conversation wasn’t finished, not between them.

***

Zane Riley is a transgender writer who wrote his first work of fan fiction in the fourth grade. He is a recent transplant to Vancouver, Washington where he spends his time watching long-distance baseball games, hiking, and exploring the musical depths of the Internet. His first two novels, Go Your Own Way and With or Without You, were published by Interlude Press.

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