Category Archives: Excerpt

Excerpt Reveal: Say Yes by JR Gray

Today on the site we have a sexy teaser from JR Gray’s newest m/m BDSM release, Say Yes, which just released on July 24th! Check it out:

James failed.
He tried to be what they wanted.
He tried to deny it.
He tried to be a good Catholic boy…but it’s become too much.
He craves pain, submission.
He’s denied himself far too long, and it’s eating him alive.

Charles thrives off the exchange of power. He knows the world revolves around control. It’s given and taken like currency, in business and in pleasure. He won’t get attached, though, or so he tells himself, until James turns his world upside down. He’s defiant and snarky, but Charles can taste the submission on him.

Charles holds the key to his salvation but James has to Say Yes.

Buy it: Publisher | Amazon

“It’s my job to get you out of your suit, not for you to get me out of mine.” His dark green eyes shone in the low light behind rectangular glasses. He had such a thing for glasses. Charles knew he was being toyed with. It was an unusual sensation for him as he usually did the toying.

“It’s not going to be any work at all for you to get me out of my suit. I think yours will be the challenge.” He undid his belt, and James’ eyes went to his groin. He’d known James was into men. He had a sense for these things.

“You’re not going to get me out of mine.” So cocky. It would be fun to break him of it.

“We seem to be at an impasse.” Charles pulled his belt from his loops and halved it in his hand. He could already see the marks on James’ pale skin.

“It appears so.” He surprised Charles and took the belt from his hands as he stepped past. “This belt looks so worn. Let me find you a stiffer model.” James flashed another smile, showing large canines and a mouth full of gleaming white teeth before he exited the room.

Charles gripped himself. There was only one thing he loved more than submission: having to work for it.

***

Scarlett rolled her eyes. “What has you so tense?”

If he didn’t get out of his funk he was going to have to call a professional. “You don’t want to know.”

She raised one of her dark brows into a perfect arch. “A female has you this way?”

“No.” He didn’t elaborate.

“Mister Walton, you have a Mister Bennet here to see you. He doesn’t have an appointment, but he says he has a tie for you?”

Charles groaned. “Everything with her is a question,” he said to Scarlett before he remembered what she’d been calling about. He perched forward to press the intercom. “Send him in.” He looked at Scarlett again. “Out.”

She pulled back, giving him a look. “Interesting.” She looked James over as she slipped past him to leave the office.

James was in light gray slacks. He strolled into the office like he owned the place. Another thing only wealth could instill. Breeding. He was comfortable here, not at all intimidated. He was an enigma.

“Your tie, as promised, Sir.” James laid a box on his desk with a knowing smirk.

Charles shifted in his seat, suddenly wishing he wasn’t so disheveled from his lunch break. “I was starting to wonder.” He didn’t move to take the box. “What do I owe you?”

James shook his head. “I wouldn’t hear of it.” He turned to go.

“Leaving so soon?”

“I have to get back to the lower west side. I have a class.” He wore a wolfish grin.

So cocky for someone so young. He was dressed subtly today, slacks and a button down but no tie. It was a shame.

“Class?” Charles leaned back and crossed an ankle over his knee.

“At NYU.”

“You’re a professor?” He knew they didn’t get paid much, but still to sell suits on the side? It didn’t make much sense. Another layer he needed to pull back to figure him out.

“Nope, I’m a student there.”

Charles looked at him again. Was he really that young? “You can’t be.”

“Do I not look smart enough?” James looked out his window. The office was the penthouse with quite a view of the park and city.

“You don’t look young enough.”

“I’m nineteen.”

Charles kept himself still with some effort. “I would have guessed twenty-seven at the youngest. Tell me what a college student at NYU is doing selling suits.”

“You don’t think my job is good enough?” “I never said that.”

“Maybe I’m a design student there.” Charles laughed. “I don’t think so.”

He shrugged, and Charles knew getting anything out of this one was going to be difficult.

“But you don’t know, do you?” James turned abruptly and headed for the door. “Have a good afternoon, Mr. Walton.”

He got to his feet. “I didn’t properly thank you for the tie.”

James looked over his shoulder, letting his gaze drift down Charles’ form. “I think you will. I’m just not going to make it easy for you.”

In the span of minutes, James had seemed to do what no one else ever could to Charles: figured him out.

*****

When not staying up all night writing, J.R. Gray can be found at the gym where it’s half assumed he is a permanent resident to fulfill his self-inflicted masochism. A dominant and a pilot, Gray finds it hard to be in the passenger seat of any car. He frequently interrupts real life, including normal sleep patterns and conversations, to jot down notes or plot bunnies. Commas are the bane of his existence even though it’s been fully acknowledged they are necessary, they continue to baffle and bewilder. If Gray wasn’t writing…well, that’s not possible. The buildup of untold stories would haunt Gray into an early grave, insanity or both. The idea of haunting has always appealed to him. J.R. Gray is genderqueer and prefers he/him pronouns.

Connect with J.R. Gray: Website | Twitter – Personal | Twitter – Books | Facebook | Facebook Group | Tumblr | Mailing List | Amazon Author Page

Cover Reveal: Team Phison by Chace Verity

Today on the site we’ve got a brand-new cover reveal: Team Phison by Chace Verity! And not only are we exclusively revealing the cover, but we’ve got an excerpt, too! First, of course, some info on the book:

For 55-year-old Phil Hutton, finding a new boyfriend is tough, especially since he’s still hurting from his ex leaving him for a younger man. Online dating has been a soul-crushing experience for the restaurant owner. Too many meat-haters interested in microbreweries or something called geocaching. His matches in the multiplayer for his favorite video game have been equally sucky too.

One night, he encounters a newbie who is so helpless, Phil can’t help showing him the ropes. It doesn’t take long for Phil to become interested in his enthusiastic teammate. 28-year-old Tyson Falls from Georgia loves working as a server in a rinky pizza joint and sees the best in everything. As Phil’s online dating matches get worse and his in-game matches with Tyson get better, he finds himself wanting to pursue the easygoing chatterbox with a thick, sexy drawl.

But Phil can’t get past the fear that Tyson could possibly want a fossil like him. If his brain doesn’t being so damn insecure, it might be game over for his heart.

And now, the cover!

But wait, there’s more! Check out this adorable excerpt!

Tyson’s the sort of guy who needs to talk all the time with everyone about everything. It’s a quality I don’t think anyone should have, but his genuine affection tickles my ribcage. He keeps trying to bring our various team members into our discussion, and he pouts when they don’t respond to his question.

Sometime in the middle of a “Defend The Flag Holder” mission, while Tyson takes the scenic route to our base, curiosity consumes me. Probably because I’m two drinks deep and pleasantly buzzed for once instead of annoyed. But it couldn’t possibly hurt to learn more about him.

“Say, Tyson, where’re you from? Georgia?”

He chuckles. “Did my accent give it away? You’re right. Athens. What about you, Phil?”

“Massachusetts.”

The screen flashes green after Tyson plants the flag in our base, causing him to erupt in a high-pitched cheer. The screeching doesn’t bother me though. I’m distracted by the memory of our last conversation. Are his eyes as green as our victory screen?

“Hey, Tyson. Did you ever figure out what color your eyes are?”

“Huh? Oh. No, I didn’t.”

Good grief. He’s pretty hopeless.

“Send me a pic, and I’ll tell you.”

A long and painful pause ensues. My cheeks burn, surely because of the alcohol. I shift in my chair and rub the back of my neck.

“Is there a camera on the system? I don’t see one.”

Oh, God, he looked. He wants to send me a picture. This isn’t the whisky making my head spin. I’m experiencing, uh, what’s that emotion called?

Embarrassment.

He exits the game, pushing me to new levels of uncomfortable. We’re still in a party so we can keep talking to each other.

“Message me your phone number,” Tyson says. “I’ll text it to you.”

My brain says no, but my traitorous fingers send him my number in no time flat. What’s the worst that could happen? He can’t steal my identity with it or anything. I think.

I’m not doing a lot of thinking right now, am I?

I exit the game as well and glance down at my iPhone. Waiting. Waiting.

My phone lights up, alerting me to a new text from an unknown number. Hardly a second passes before I open it.

He has small, beautiful brown eyes.

Tyson’s definitely in his late 20’s. Can’t quite gauge his height since it’s an awkward bathroom selfie, but he’s a bit soft around the edges. Probably has a beer belly. Sun-kissed skin. Dark, shaggy hair. Hasn’t shaved in a few days. Didn’t bother taking off his headset.

Goofiest fucking smile ever. And I kind of like it.

***

Is that not the most adorable?? Here’s where you can preorder it!

Smashwords | Kobo | Nook

(Amazon coming soon!)

***

 Chace 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: When We Speak of Nothing by Olumide Popoola

Today on the site we have an exclusive excerpt from When We Speak of Nothing, a newly released novel by Nigerian German author Olumide Popoola about being Black, male, and queer in London that commemorates 50 years since the partial decriminalization of homosexuality in the UK: 

Best mates Karl and Abu are both 17 and live near Kings Cross. Its 2011 and racial tensions are set to explode across London. Abu is infatuated with gorgeous classmate Nalini but dares not speak to her. Meanwhile, Karl is the target of the local “wannabe” thugs just for being different.

When Karl finds out his father lives in Nigeria, he decides that Port Harcourt is the best place to escape the sound and fury of London, and connect with a Dad he’s never known. Rejected on arrival, Karl befriends Nakale, an activist who wants to expose the ecocide in the Niger Delta to the world, and falls headlong for his feisty cousin Janoma. Meanwhile, the murder of Mark Duggan triggers a full-scale riot in London. Abu finds himself in its midst, leading to a near-tragedy that forces Karl to race back home.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * Book Depository 

Excerpt:

It was hard enough to stay level with this much newness. The sounds, the smells, the colourful outfits interspersed with sports and business wear. He felt lost. And scared. How to fit in here? How to even try?

But this part, immigration, produced even more dizziness. This was only sweat. Nothing else. No question mark, no slow trying to catch your feet. Just bare panic. He closed his eyes for a second. Breathe man, just breathe. He could hear Abu. The visa was approved, the Port Harcourt address verified. All he needed was for it to go quick. No overzealous immigration officer, aka gender police in the making.

Karl took out the mobile again.

heat man!!! no rain in site. @ passport control. Im here. Cant believ it. All gud so far. wish me luck

An officer in a beige uniform walked along the queue that was forming. What his role was supposed to be was a bit difficult to see. The foreigners from the plane were lining up with Karl. It was easy to spot the lot of them, either white or light-skinned, like Karl, almost as if they were carrying signs: really not from here. They were all older than Karl, mostly male, travelling by themselves with little luggage. Their faces were getting sweaty, like Karl’s, but theirs were changing to much deeper red tones. There was a general wiping going on, a couple of chequered handkerchiefs, back of the hand wipe – that sort of thing.

Uncle T had disappeared to the other end of the small hall.

Karl’s eyes followed the officer who stood next to a burly bloke with one large bag hanging over his shoulder. They were shaking hands and a few notes were slipped from one palm to the other. The officer caught Karl staring and Karl focused on his trainers instead. The burly man proceeded to the raised immigration booth and exchanged a few words with the officer behind the glass before leaving the queue and the airport altogether.

‘You have something for me?’ The man in beige appeared next to Karl.

Karl shook his head. ‘Sorry?’

The line was moving faster than he had thought. A lot of the white men in the queue had someone waiting for them, someone in uniform who would fast track them down the line, past the raised booth and out.

The officer looked at Karl. ‘What did you bring for me?’ ‘I’m sorry.’ Karl swivelled around. Where was Uncle T when you needed him?

‘Anything.’

‘I’m sorry? I don’t understand. It’s my first time. My uncle …’

The officer didn’t hide his pity and waved him forward. He had arrived at the raised booth and the man took his passport from his shaking hand and gave it to the man inside the booth. Another officer. He took the passport, looked at the picture, looked at Karl. Karl made himself scarce, pulled himself away from his skin, disappearing inside his bloodstream so that nothing on the outside could touch him. But the guy was still looking. Staring. No bloody subtleness at all, just full-on fixation. Curious and shit but unmoved, no smile, no softening, no invitation to exchange a few pleasantries. Nothing. Then waved to the supervisor behind him, who disengaged from the guy he was chatting with, in slow motion. Before he could make it to them, officer number three arrived, a guy who had been inside the building, further down, closer to the exit. Number three placed his folded arms on the rim of the small cubicle. He was about to tell officers number one and two, the one walking Karl over and the one in the box, something funny. You could see that because he was already smiling about it, like he knew this was a real good one. When he opened his mouth officer two shoved the passport in his face.

‘Ah ah, they no know how to dress demselves. Dis one, no be woman …’

Officer number three, unimpressed, still smiling, licked his lips. Looked at the picture, but didn’t really. Didn’t care one single bit.

‘My friend, leave am now. No be our problem.’

Karl smiled. That shy, I’m so damn unaware of my charm but I’m throwing everything your way smile. Because right now I need it to work, I need that charm to charm you out of asking me too many questions, out of extending this, making it obvious for everyone around. Embarrassing me. Hurting me. Making this unbearable.

And dangerous.

That’s it. Someone had sense, he would be moving on in no time, just like most of the white dudes who had been in the queue before him. All he had to do was get some damn oxygen into his body so he wouldn’t collapse right here. Before he had officially made it to Nigeria. Breathing in, breathing out, one two, one two. Focus on pairs instead of the throng of officials shuffling around the little cubicle. Officer number two was flipping through the passport pages, thumb cinema-like. Officer one was casually looking at it and then at Karl again. Only Spain, otherwise no other country had ever seen this gathering of well-stitched pages.

The supervisor arrived.

Four of them now; officer number three still shrugging his shoulders, ready to move on, finally drop that story. Who cared about whatever it was; it was a long time until they were off; why make life harder by winding yourself up like that? And right at the start of their shift?

‘Wetin worry you? Leave am now. De family will tell am.’

Karl looked at Uncle T, who had walked through the Nigerian citizens’ line and was now far ahead. A questioning look. Karl quickly shaking his head, vigorously. Number four, the supervisor, followed his glance.

‘Your father?’

‘Uncle.’

The officer looked back and forth between them.

‘But my father is waiting for me,’ Karl added, the word unfamiliar, almost sideways in his mouth. The puddle of sweat on his lower back was descending, trickling between his cheeks into his underwear. Father. Even more foreign than his first experience of the country. ‘He is outside.’

Number four’s face stopped doing what it was doing midway, the expression frozen. And like his face, time was now freezing over, sucking out all movement until everything became unreal, dangerously flat, a wall that would collapse and bury you in its debris.

Number three was looking around, trying to find someone else to chat with because this was defo no chatting whatsoever. Not what he had in mind when he had come over. Number two was still staring at Karl. At the long T-shirt that was hanging over his jeans. The trainers that were holding the jeans up, as it seemed. Number one? Had nowhere else to be, nothing else to do.

It was a bit much. The attention. The waiting. The not saying much. A whole group of people, yet again focus on Karl.

‘Your father is outside?’

Number four seemed to have recovered. Karl nodded, eyes sending nothing cute and charming any more just good old please. Pleading. But number four was already reaching inside the booth. Fumbled around. Then a quick stamp. Officer two shook his head. Supervisor handed the passport to Karl, ‘Welcome to Nigeria’, ignored everyone else and walked off.

Officer two annoyed. Disapproving. ‘Na crazy, dis one.’

But there was nothing else to be done. The group dispersed.

Karl was through and out the other side.

*****

London-based Nigerian-German Olumide Popoola is a writer, speaker and performer. Her publications include essays, poetry, the novella This is not about Sadness (Unrast, 2010), the play Also by Mail (edition assemblage, 2013), the short collection Breach, which she co-authored with Annie Holmes (Peirene Press, 2016), as well as recordings in collaboration with musicians. In 2004 she won the May Ayim Award in the category Poetry, the first Black German Literary Award. Olumide has a PhD in Creative Writing and has lectured in creative writing at various universities. She is available for live studio interview.

Exclusive Excerpt of Avon Gale’s Coach’s Challenge!

Avon Gale fans, rejoice! We’ve got an excerpt of her newest novel in the Scoring Chances series, Coach’s Challenge! Here’s the info on the book:

It’s been decades since blackmail forced Troy Callahan to retire from playing professional hockey, and he’s built a successful career behind the bench. When he’s offered the opportunity to coach the Asheville Ravens—the most hated team in the ECHL—he’s convinced that his no-nonsense attitude is just what the team needs to put their focus back on hockey. But Troy is disheartened when he finds that the Ravens have signed Shane North, a player known for his aggression—especially when Shane’s rough good looks give Troy inappropriate thoughts about a player, even if Shane’s set to retire at the end of the season.

Shane’s career in the majors never quite took off. Wanting to quit on his own terms, Shane agrees to a one-year contract with the Ravens and finds himself playing for a coach who thinks he’s an aging goon and with a team that doesn’t trust him, the coach, or each other. Despite his determination to not get involved, Shane unwillingly becomes part of the team… and is just as unwillingly drawn to the gruff, out-and-proud coach. As the Ravens struggle to build a new identity, Shane and Troy succumb to the passion that might cost them everything.

Buy it: Dreamspinner * Amazon * B&N

And now, the excerpt!

The Ravens were nervous on opening night, and Troy couldn’t blame them. The team he watched on those tapes deserved every bit of the ire directed at them, but Troy would be damned if that would be his team. Which is what he told his players in no uncertain terms in his pregame address.

“This is the first game of the season, and there’s a team who really wants to beat you waiting on the ice. To be honest I watched those goddamn game tapes and I want to beat that team too. But luckily we’re not that team anymore.” That wasn’t a question, so Troy kept talking. “But they don’t know that. Our fans don’t know that either. And the only way they’re gonna learn is by us going out there and showing them. And the only way you can do that? You need to do more than just understand that this isn’t the same team. You need to believe it. You need to breathe it. You need to bleed it.” He held up a hand. “That’s a metaphor, guys. Before anyone takes me fucking literally. But that concept needs to be as familiar to you as the skates on your feet and the ice beneath you. I don’t think we’re there yet, but what I need to see tonight from all of you? I need to see the potential that we can get there. Do you understand me?”

They nodded, and Troy could see it in their faces, could sense it beneath the nerves. Buried deeper in some of them than in others, but that fierce need to compete—to compete fairly, to win because they were the best—was still there. He smiled. “Ravens are goddamn smart birds, or so I hear. Now go play smart hockey.” He glanced at Xavier. “Captain Matthews? You want to say anything?”

Matthews stood up. He looked tragic and hot in his uniform, his blond hair still slicked back off his face. Out of all of them, he wore his determination closest to the surface, like the Raven on his uniform. “This is a different team, and we’re going to play like it.” He glanced briefly at Shane North and then cleared his throat. “Caw!”

Troy’s eyebrows went up, but his team knocked their sticks on the floor and caw’d right back. So that was something.

Avon Gale wrote her first story at the age of seven, about a “Space Hat” hanging on a rack and waiting for that special person to come along and purchase it — even if it was a bit weirder than the other, more normal hats. Like all of Avon’s characters, the space hat did get its happily ever after — though she’s pretty sure it was with a unicorn. She likes to think her vocabulary has improved since then, but the theme of quirky people waiting for their perfect match is still one of her favorites.

Avon grew up in the southern United States, and now lives with her very patient husband in a liberal midwestern college town. When she’s not writing, she’s either doing some kind of craft project that makes a huge mess, reading, watching horror movies, listening to music or yelling at her favorite hockey team to get it together, already. Avon is always up for a road trip, adores Kentucky bourbon, thinks nothing is as stress relieving as a good rock concert and will never say no to candy.

At one point, Avon was the mayor of both Jazzercise and Lollicup on Foursquare. This tells you basically all you need to know about her as a person.

Avon is represented by Courtney Miller-Callihan of Handspun Literary Agency.

Connect with Avon: Website | Twitter | Facebook | FB Group | Newsletter

Exclusive Cover Reveal + Excerpt: The Longing and the Lack by Cal Spivey

Excited to have the second of two Cal Spivey cover+excerpt reveals on the site today! If you missed the first one, for novella “The Traitor’s Tunnel,” make sure you check that out here!

Today we’ve got The Longing and the Lack, an adult paranormal novel releasing September 19th and starring the bisexual Lucinda Hightower. For some info on the book:

Lucinda Hightower is no stranger to death.

Since she was a child, Lucinda has been haunted by rabid dogs, suicidal crows, and the ghost of a woman in white. All are omens signaling someone’s imminent demise—except Lucinda’s friends and family are still breathing.

The omens follow her to Ireland and the quiet university in her father’s hometown, increasing in strength and frequency once she meets Damien Reed. A handsome third year student, Damien thrusts himself into Lucinda’s life almost immediately and caresses away the unsavory reputation that shadows him.

It’s not until the ghost sinks her nails into Damien that he reveals his secret: the death omens are for him.

They’re the manifestations of a curse that claims the life of the eldest Reed son every generation. Damien’s time is nearly up. If Lucinda is to save him, she must solve the mystery of her family curse, and lay a spirit’s rage to rest.

Buy it: Amazon

And now, the epic cover!

Cover by Ash Ruggirello/Cardboard Monet

But wait! There’s also an excerpt!

“Why do they call them catacombs?” she asked.

“Because of the walls, the stone. And because they’re haunted,” he replied. She laughed, and he quirked an eyebrow at her. “You don’t believe in ghosts?”

Something in the way he said it captured her attention, and she looked at him with more interest. There was a brightness in his eyes that seemed to belie his casual, almost teasing tone. She got the sense that her answer was sought in earnest, that it mattered to him whether or not she believed in ghosts. She had been about to tell him that of course she didn’t—she had been about to lie—but she paused now. He watched her, patient; he took a step toward her, then another, and her heart fluttered though he was still several feet away.

“I think there are few ghosts who belong to the population at large,” she said. “I think most ghosts belong only to a select few, and are only visible to them.”

“And, therefore, the odds of danger to you in these catacombs are small.” The man’s smile widened with his chuckle. “An interesting theory.”

“Do you?” Lucinda asked.

He tilted his head. “Do I what?”

“Believe in ghosts.”

He laughed as he approached. Lucinda stayed still as he stopped within a foot of her, as he gazed upon her face. His expression changed from wry amusement to something more difficult to read: a slightly furrowed brow, parted lips. Her breath shortened under his scrutiny. She wrestled to maintain an appearance of calm until, at last, he glanced beyond her down the hall, and his smirk returned.

He leaned closer, and whispered in her ear, “Was that door open when you came down here?”

Lucinda turned. A door at the end of the hall did indeed now stand ajar, when it had been firmly shut before. She frowned, then looked back to the man, who was walking away. “Wait,” she said. “What’s your name?”

He paused. For a moment, she thought he wouldn’t answer. Then he smiled at her over his shoulder. Her heart skipped a beat.

“My name is Damien Reed,” he said. 

*****

Credit: Redhawk Photography

C.M. Spivey is a speculative fiction writer, author of high fantasy From Under the Mountain and the paranormal series, “The Unliving”. His enduring love of fantasy started young. Now, he explores the rules and ramifications of magic in his own works—and as a trans-masculine panromantic asexual, he’s committed to queering his favorite genres. In his spare time, he plans his next tattoo (there will always be a next tattoo) and watches too much Netflix. Anything left over is devoted to his tireless quest to make America read more. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his darling husband Matt and adorable dog Jay.

Exclusive Excerpt Reveal: The Wishing Heart by J.C. Welker

One of the most frequent requests for recommendations I get is for f/f YA fantasy, so I’m thrilled to be bringing you an excerpt from one coming out on May 1! Before we get to it, here’s a little more on The Wishing Heart by J.C. Welker:

TheWishingHeart500With a book in her bag and a switchblade in her pocket, Rebel’s been thieving her way through life while hoping for a cure to fix her ailing heart.

But when the bejeweled vase she just tried to hawk turns out to be a jinni’s vessel, Rebel gets lost to her world and dragged within another. Now every magical being in the city wants the vase for himself.

Thrust into a game of cat and mouse in a world she never knew existed, Rebel must use her uncanny skills to find a way to free Anjeline the Wishmaker.

But wishes have consequences. And contracts. Anjeline’s freedom could unravel a love like Rebel has never known, or it could come at the cost of Rebel’s heart…

And now, the excerpt!

“Hand it over, pigeon.” The officer gestured to her bag.

Rebel sighed. How ironic. Could her life get any worse? “As you can see, I’m poorer than a vagabond.” She gazed down at herself. “There’s nothing in my bag except my hopeless dreams.”

“Is that why it looks so heavy?” His lips curved into a grin, and his teeth gleamed against his beard. He was a beast of man, his vast shoulders pushing the uniform to its absolute limit. “Don’t be foolish. Give it here, girl.”

Woman. You hobnocker,” she spat, in no mood.

A chuckle vibrated in his throat. “Skinner said you were a spitfire and a slippery grift.”

Rebel stiffened as awareness caught up to her, the satchel heavy at her side. He was no officer. Even worse, this had trap written all over it. But was it Skinner’s trap, or whoever had been on the other end of that phone call— someone even more brutal? Her eyes darted about, scouting an escape. Nothing good ever happened when a girl was snatched off the streets from a henchman twice her size.

The man glanced at her satchel. “I’ll be taking that now.”

When in doubt, distract. “Fancy outfit just to rob me of a vase? You’re not overcompensating for something, are you?”

“Don’t play stupid. The vessel’s not the prize, we want what’s inside it.”

Rebel squinted. “There’s nothing inside it, you tool.”

“Wrong answer.” He growled, sounding more animal than man, and something changed in his features. His eyes glowed amber in an extremely inhuman face.

“What the…” She lurched back, her nose twitched at an odd scent, and dizziness emerged. Now wasn’t the time for her heart to hamper reality. “This has got to be the weirdest panic attack.”

“No attack, unless you refuse.” The man inched closer.

“Touch me and I’ll carve Repent on your chest.” Rebel fumbled at her belt, grasping the bone handle of her switchblade. She never actually used it on anyone, never wanted to.

“All’s we want is the vessel,” he warned. “There’s no need for it to go there.”

“You don’t want it to go there,” said another.

Shadows moved out from behind the man.
 A young female appeared, followed by a male version of her, both cloaked in animal-hide coats. The twins’ blood- red hair spilled over their shoulders like lions’ manes, the girl’s pelt trimmed in fur of equal shade. As they moved, between one second and the next, they shifted into a wave of rippling fur. Bones snapped out of place, and jet-black muzzles emerged from their faces, until they formed into four-footed shapes. Their backs contorted, and slowly, bone plates elongated down their spines like an armadillo’s shield.

They were not human. Not even close.

Werewolves.

“Wolves?” she voiced it aloud.

“Lycanthrope,” the man corrected. His eyes burned like embers as his ears tapered skyward, and his vastness seemed to increase compared to the others. Obviously, the alpha. “A thief knows a thief as a wolf knows a wolf. Didn’t legends ever teach you about the big bad one?”

Buy it:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Wishing-Heart-J-C-Welker-ebook/dp/B06Y5WFY1C
Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/Wishing-Heart-J-C-Welker-ebook/dp/B06Y5WFY1C
Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/d/Wishing-Heart-J-C-Welker-ebook/B06Y5WFY1C
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wishing-Heart-J-C-Welker-ebook/dp/B06Y5WFY1C
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-wishing-heart-jc-welker/1126186821?ean=9781633759398
iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-wishing-heart/id1225391034
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-wishing-heart

JC Welker Author PhotoJ.C. Welker is a YA author who’s been, among other things, a fashion designer, a filmmaker and a kickboxer (seriously). Her short documentaries, which focused on homeless Iraq veterans and lgbtq+ issues in the military have been featured on CURRENT TV, and her debut novel won first place in the paranormal category of the 2016 YARWA Rosemary Awards. She continues to work towards giving a voice to stories that are needed, while facing magic and monsters along the way.

Website: http://www.jcwelker.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/officialjcwelker
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jcwelker
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Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/J.C.-Welker/e/B06ZYD89TT
Newsletter: http://www.jcwelker.com/about

Exclusive Cover and Excerpt Reveal: The Traitor’s Tunnel by Cal Spivey

Cover reveals are already one of my favorite things to do on this site, and they’re extra fun when I know they’re drawing eyes to some seriously underrepresented characters in lit. The Traitor’s Tunnel is a novella by Cal Spivey that stands alone but takes place prior to his NA High Fantasy, From Under the Mountain. The Traitor’s Tunnel focuses on estranged siblings Theodor and Bridget, who must reunite after more than a decade apart in order to thwart a corrupt nobleman’s conspiracy. Theodor is a panromantic asexual and Bridget is bisexual, and in this novella, both of them are in same-sex relationships. Sooo, it’s already pretty must-read right there, isn’t it?

Buuut just wait until you check out the cover 😉

First, though, a little more on the novella itself:

Witch-blooded robber Bridget has made a reputation for herself in the capital city, but she’s not interested in the attention of the Thieves’ Guild–and she’s not bothered by the rumors of urchin kidnappings, either. With winter coming, she’s looking out for herself and no one else.

Until she picks the wrong pocket, and recognizes her estranged brother Teddy.

Young craftsman Theodor arrives in the capital ready to take the final step toward his dream career as Lord Engineer of Arido. His apprenticeship with a renowned city engineer comes with new rules and challenges, but it’s worth it for the exposure to the Imperial Council.

While spying on her brother, Bridget overhears a secret meeting that reveals a cruel plot. After more than a decade apart, Theodor and Bridget must reunite to stop a traitor whose plan threatens not only their city, but the whole empire.

Set seven years before the events of From Under the Mountain, The Traitor’s Tunnel is the story of two young people presented with a choice–to protect themselves, or to protect others–the consequences of which will change their lives forever.

And now, check out this awesomeness…

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(Cover illustration and design by Jess Taylor)

Buy it:  Amazon * Barnes & Noble

But wait, there’s more! Check out this excerpt!

Theodor

Though the lord couldn’t see him, Theodor forced a smile over his clenched teeth. “If it please you, Master Roald, I’d like to begin my work as soon as possible.”

Master Roald ceased writing, turned half toward Theodor, and regarded him silently. After several heartbeats of silence, Theodor felt perspiration on his brow. He had misjudged his new master. He had encountered a type of casual artisan before, of course, one who thought relaxation just as important as work; and how rude it was of Theodor to refuse an opportunity to explore Del, which was after all the most beautiful city in Arido, home to some of the greatest and most innovative constructions ever conceived. A groundbreaking city, and here he was, suggesting that a tour of it would be worthless to him. It was crass, and foolish.

At last, Master Roald set down his pencil and stood. Theodor braced himself for chastisement—but Master Roald said, “Then we shall begin. Come with me.”

Theodor followed him downstairs, almost holding his breath, hesitant to relax. Master Roald’s voice was so low, and mild; it would take time before Theodor came to understand his subtleties, and in the meantime, his stomach would remain knotted up. Ogun intercepted their path to the door and, at a word from Master Roald, retrieved a cap and cloak for him. Fastening the cloak beneath his chin, Master Roald said, “Do you require an outer garment, Warren?”

It was already snowing in Javan. Del was balmy by comparison. “I’m quite comfortable, thank you,” Theodor said.

“As you wish.” Master Roald gave him a small, paternal smile. “Let us see where we stand.”

He gestured for Theodor to exit the house first, and he understood. He was not being chastised or given a lecture; not yet, at least. Master Roald planned to test him, out in the streets of a city to which Theodor had never been. It would mark his knowledge and experience; perhaps it would influence whether he was allowed to remain in Master Roald’s service at all. Theodor took a deep breath. He did not know what kind of man his new master was, but he knew stone and wood and metal. He knew the benefits and failings of common building structures; he had an eye for design. The rules of construction were the only ones of which he was sure—and he would prove it.

Bridget

Thrice damn the Frost Owl. Bridget had nicked an extra coat off a laundress in the Second Neighborhood, but even that weren’t doing much to keep her warm. She wished she still had that bearskin she’d had last year, but someone had found her hidey-hole in the Vale forest outside of Del, and taken it. She didn’t hold a grudge; damn if she wasn’t jealous though. She stamped her feet a bit. It was early winter yet, and it’d warm up enough during the day. It looked to be sunny, too, a perfect day to climb up on some slate roof and soak it up.

She scowled and sank against the hot wall of the tannery. She hated winter, hated having to make plans. The cold meant less food to steal, which meant less energy for her little trick of going invisible, which meant stealing got more dangerous. Her stashes of supplies were more crucial than ever, but checking them or even using them too frequently made it easier for others to find them. She had money enough stored that she could take a room on the worst days and nights, but that was visibility she wanted to avoid. She had survived by being unknown to all but a few, ever since she was too old to make use of the orphan houses. Otherwise she’d be too involved in other people’s business, which just created too many chances for things to go bad in ways that had nothing to do with her but would ruin her anyway. She’d learned that lesson. Now she had three friends she just couldn’t shake, and she wasn’t about to make nice to anyone else.

So what be the plan for this winter? she asked herself. She’d gone south a few times—that was what most of Del’s homeless did when the weather got cold; they went downriver. Bridget didn’t much care for that. She didn’t like to lug all her food about, was shit at fishing, and the city of Neva was too damn far. Two years ago, she’d worked in a brothel for the season; that had been alright, but her thieving had taken a hit and it took months to reestablish her under-market connections. They all thought she’d been jailed, thought the Guild of Guards kept tabs on her—what a laugh.

There was a baker in the Third Neighborhood who swapped room and board for work sometimes; she could disguise herself, pretend to be a child. Wouldn’t work on the orphan houses because she’d already been in most of ’em when she was truly a whelp, but it’d be enough to turn away serious questions.

*****

cmspivey2017BW

C.M. Spivey is a speculative fiction writer, author of high fantasy From Under the Mountain and the paranormal series, “The Unliving.” His enduring love of fantasy started young. Now, he explores the rules and ramifications of magic in his own works—and as a trans-masculine panromantic asexual, he’s committed to queering his favorite genres. In his spare time, he plans his next tattoo (there will always be a next tattoo) and watches too much Netflix. Anything left over is devoted to his tireless quest to make America read more. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his darling husband Matt and adorable dog Jay.

(Author photo by Redhawk Photography)

Excerpt from Julia Ember’s F/F YA Little Mermaid Retelling The Seafarer’s Kiss!

Title: The Seafarer’s Kiss
Publisher: Interlude Press (Duet)
Date: May 4 2017
32890474Having long-wondered what lives beyond the ice shelf, nineteen-year-old mermaid Ersel learns of the life she wants when she rescues and befriends Ragna, a shield-maiden stranded on the mermen’s glacier. But when Ersel’s childhood friend and suitor catches them together, he gives Ersel a choice: say goodbye to Ragna or face justice at the hands of the glacier’s brutal king.Determined to forge a different fate, Ersel seeks help from Loki. But such deals are never as one expects, and the outcome sees her exiled from the only home and protection she’s known. To save herself from perishing in the barren, underwater wasteland and be reunited with the human she’s come to love, Ersel must try to outsmart the God of Lies.
*****

I’d never been particularly pious, but praying to Loki before the ceremony had seemed to help. Or at least, it had eased my anxiety even if the god of lies had had nothing to do with the ceremony’s outcome. I didn’t like the idea of adopting the trickster as my patron god, but if ever I needed a trick or two, it was now. The words of a remembered prayer tumbled from my lips. Everything inside me felt too frozen to make up my own plea.

Blue light shimmered against the back wall of my cave. It was pale and strangely electric and reminded me of watching lightning strike the sea from fifteen arm-lengths below. I swam to my crevice’s mouth. Peering out into the gray water, I squinted at the source of the strange glow. The light became so intense I had to look away. It radiated from a little ball I could hardly see. All of a sudden, it blinked and dimmed. A green and yellow sea turtle glided toward me. The electric blue light glowed from his eye sockets, and he stared right at me. A shiver ran up my back, and my blood cooled.

Above me, the patter of hail echoed through the ocean, followed by the crack of thunder. I wondered if I should scream for help. Was stress making me imagine things? Sea turtles couldn’t survive here, could they? With their cold blood, they needed the summer currents to survive. I shook my head to clear the image, blinked, but the turtle still swam toward me. If I screamed and there was no turtle, the king would think I was losing my mind, and I’d have less chance of defending myself against the things Havamal could say. Plus, I didn’t want to wake Mama. I took a deep breath. My heart felt raw and exposed, blistered and stinging, like a wound cleansed with ocean salt. I wasn’t ready to talk to her.

The turtle drifted peacefully toward me, like a moving lullaby propelled by the tide. The creature’s bright eyes dimmed further, and it cocked its head, winking at me as it coasted through a school of silver fish. Then it began to paddle rapidly; its thick flippers pumped faster and faster until its whole body became a green blur. Overhead, the hail and thunder intensified—almost as if Thor himself surfed across the waves. A bolt of lightning struck the sea and a fiery purple and yellow aurora of fiery diffused over the waves.

When I looked up toward the lights, the turtle slammed into me, knocking me back into the cave. Before I could scream, a hand covered my mouth: a hand that was pink, warm, and strangely dry.

The creature spun me around to face them. Their turtle shell had transformed into a billowing cloak of sparkling greens and golds. Caribou antlers covered with strips of fur stuck out on either side of a silver helmet; each antler was tall enough to scrape the ceiling of my little cave. Blue, electric light emanated from their very skin. A sea snake the color of dying coral wound about their waist. Their form was slim and elegant, androgynous. High cheekbones and pursed midnight-blue lips set off hooded, bright eyes, deep-set in their chiseled face.

I wanted desperately to swim away from them, to hide behind my kelp curtain, but they gripped my shoulders so hard I could feel bruises forming under my scales.

“Do you know who I am?” they demanded, raising a turquoise eyebrow.

The blue light shining from them made my scales glow as if I lay under the sun. A bubble of dry air formed in the ice cave and expanded until it filled the space. A warm feeling crept up from the tip of my tail, even while my stomach sank in fear. The horns reminded me of images from our legends that had been carved into the ice sculptures decorating our central hall. The statues in the hall had frozen their stories into our collective memories.

I swallowed. I was seeing the same face I’d seen every day since I was a child, engraved above me in the dining hall.

“You’re Loki,” I whispered. Why would the trickster god choose to help me? This was only the second time in my life I’d prayed to them. From everything I’d heard about Loki, my situation should have amused them. Maybe they were here to taunt me, to mock me for praying to them concerning a ceremony I didn’t care about and wasting whatever favor my birth season entitled me to.

They nodded, but their eyes never left my face.

“Are you here to mock me?” I asked, my voice trembling. It wasn’t a polite thing to ask a god, but after what I’d been through today, I didn’t have energy left for courtesy.

Laughing, Loki shook their great horned head. Their cackle was high and cruel, but then their eyes softened into something that seemed like affection. That look of care on their pale face was even more terrifying. They rested their warm hand on my back. I imagined their nails filled with poisonous venom and pulled away to avoid getting their toxin on my scales.

But Loki only smiled. “I’ve been watching you for a while, Ersel. It’s not normal for your kind to interact so closely with the human world. You’re curious and intelligent and you don’t follow orders like a sheep. I value all those things.”

I didn’t know what a sheep was, but I nodded at the compliment nonetheless. Their fingers played with the edges of their blue eyebrow. “I want to make a deal with you.”

My scales stood up on my back. Whenever the storytellers talked about Loki, they cautioned against making deals with the god. I cursed myself for carelessness, for letting Havamal follow me. If I hadn’t been such an idiot, maybe I wouldn’t have to decide between angering the god standing in front of me or doing what all our legends warned against: making a deal with the being who invented the lie.

 

*****

Interlude Press: http://store.interludepress.com/collections/the-seafarers-kiss-by-julia-ember