Tag Archives: Ninestar Press

Excerpt Reveal: You’ll Be Fine by Jen Michalski

Today on the site, we have an excerpt from Jen Michalski’s upcoming women’s fic You’ll Be Fine, which releases from NineStar Press on August 2nd! Here’s the story:

After Alex’s mother dies of an accidental overdose, Alex takes leave from her job as a writer for a lifestyle magazine to return home to Maryland and join her brother Owen, a study in failure to launch, in sorting out their mother’s whimsical, often self-destructive, life.

While home, Alex plans to profile Juliette Sprigg, an Eastern Shore restaurant owner and celebrity chef in the making who Alex secretly dated in high school. And when Alex enlists the help of Carolyn, the editor of the local newspaper, in finding a photographer for the article’s photo shoot, Alex struggles with the deepening, tender relationship that blossoms between them as well.

To complicate matters, Alex and Owen’s “Aunt” Johanna, who has transitioned to a woman, offers to come from Seattle to help with arrangements, and all hell breaks loose when she announces she is actually Alex and Owen’s long-estranged father. Can Alex accept her mother and father for who they are, rather than who she hoped they would be? And can Alex apply the same philosophy to herself?

And here’s the excerpt!

The last time she’d seen Juliette was high school graduation. They hadn’t spoken for weeks, and their last names—Sprigg and Maas—ensured they’d be nowhere near each other in the audience of graduating seniors. Alex had told Owen and her mother to meet her in the parking lot after the ceremony. She had no intention of lingering in the high school gym, drinking fruit punch and eating sheet cake emblazoned with GO SENIORS and CONGRATULATIONS with the other kids who’d treated her like she was some highly contagious lesbian fungus.

She’d gotten through the first row of cars and spotted her mother in the fourth row, near the exit, leaning against their Subaru. Her mother wore Ray Bans and a black fedora, her arms crossed like she was the third Blues Brother or had materialized from some mid-80s new wave music video. As Alex raised her hand to wave to her, she felt another hand on her shoulder.

“Alex.” It was Juliette’s mother, Barbara Sprigg. She wore a floral print dress with a ruffled collar. A small crucifix hugged her thick neck. Her hair was red like Juliette’s but her face ruddier, plastered with freckles. She smiled. “You’re in a hurry! Congratulations!”

“Thanks.” Alex glanced over Mrs. Sprigg’s shoulder, saw Juliette, still in her graduation gown, lagging behind with her father and little sister. “My mom is taking us out to dinner.”

“Oh, I won’t keep you.” Mrs. Sprigg said, clasping Alex’s forearm as she did so. “You haven’t been by the house for a long time—Juliette says you’ve been so busy getting ready for Swarthmore. I’m sure your mother is so proud.”

“Uh huh.” Alex nodded. “I know Juliette is excited to go to Eastern Shore State.”

“Well, she’s⎯” Mrs. Sprigg glanced over her shoulder, “never been much of the academic type. I’m just glad I taught her to bake.”

“It’s a shame they didn’t let you guys supply the cakes.” Juliette’s mother ran a bake shop in town. Even now, she smelled faintly of sugar and frosting.

“Well, they wanted some asinine discount,” Mrs. Sprigg snorted. “Because Juliette is a student. Fine, but a 50% discount?”

“It was very nice to talk to you.” Alex tugged her arm away gently. “But I’ve got to go.”

“Is everything okay at home now, dear?” Mrs. Sprigg looked in the direction of the Subaru.

“Yes, why?” Alex glanced at Juliette again, her dark red hair, the few strands that stuck to her lip gloss. Alex wondered if the lip gloss smelled like mint, or strawberry. She wondered how Juliette’s hair would feel splayed between her fingers at that moment.

“Okay. I’m glad.” Mrs. Sprigg nodded, and Alex wondered what Juliette had told her. There was a lot, she thought, she could tell Mrs. Sprigg about Juliette.

They embraced, a half, light, back-patting hug, their cheeks brushing.

“Stay away from my daughter,” Mrs. Sprigg murmured into Alex’s ear. Then, as if nothing happened, Mrs. Sprigg waved vigorously and went to join the rest of the Spriggs. Stunned, Alex watched them walk toward their Buick. Before they reached it, Juliette turned her head, her mouth parted, her eyes searching Alex’s. Alex wondered, for a moment, if she had been too hasty, too harsh, to Juliette, if there was something salvageable between them.

No, she decided. Her life after high school would be awesome, and she wouldn’t remember Juliette any more than their high school mascot or her mom’s boyfriend Lewis. She held up her hand to Juliette, as if to wave. Instead, she gave her the finger and joined Owen and her mother at the other side of the parking lot.

“Did you just flip someone off?” Her mother lowered her sunglasses. Her hazel eyes bored into Alex with an unwavering intensity of a gamma ray. “At graduation?”

“It was Juliette,” Alex murmured, shaking her head. In her new life, she would be more mature. She felt fears in her eyes. “I shouldn’t have. I just—”

“Are you kidding?” Her mother grabbed Alex by the shoulders and looked up at her. She grinned. Alex noted her mother had borrowed her lipstick. “I’m more proud of that than your stupid diploma.”

Her mother pulled a pack of Benson & Hedges out of her dark cotton blazer with the rolled-up sleeves and tapped out a cigarette.

“Smoke?” She held out the pack to Alex. “You’re almost eighteen.”

Alex shook her head. “I don’t want lung cancer.”

“Your choice.” Her mother shrugged, lighting hers. She took a drag, then exhaled with a flourish. “Welcome to adulthood.”

Jen Michalski is the author of three novels, The Summer She Was Under Water, The Tide King (both Black Lawrence Press), and You’ll Be Fine (NineStar Press), a couplet of novellas entitled Could You Be With Her Now (Dzanc Books), and three collections of fiction. Her work has appeared in more than 100 publications, including Poets & Writers, The Washington Post, and the Literary Hub, and she’s been nominated for the Pushcart Prize six times. She lives in Carlsbad, California, with her partner and dog.

Queer Enough: a Guest Post by Fair Youth Authors M. Dalto and Laynie Bynum

“Am I queer enough?” feels like the question that circulates the most around Pride month, and today on the site, M. Dalto and Laynie Bynum, authors of the brand-new Shakespeare reimagining Fair Youth, are here to talk about just that. Before we get to their post, here’s a little more on the book, which released June 7th from Ninestar Press!

Cover by Natasha Snow

Billie tried to make a small town life as a doctor’s fiancée work for her, but the dream of trading in Kentucky for the glitz and glamor of LA and selling her screenplays was too strong to fight. Unfortunately, the devil hides behind every corner in the City of Angels and she finds nothing but cockroach infested hotel rooms and broken dreams.

Everything changes when she meets an enigmatic and illustrious fellow writer named Kit. Struck with attraction and intrigue, Billie begins to question not only her dedication to her past life, but also her own sexuality. Kit comes with amazing connections and Billie’s work is getting more recognition than ever, until a powerful studio executive sets his sights on more than just her screenplays. His infatuation could cost Billie her career and, maybe, one of them their lives.

Buy it: Ninestar Press | Amazon

And here’s the post!

One of us is outgoing, the other is terribly shy. One is list-oriented and organized, the other is a hot mess with a soft spot for spontaneity. One of us is super open about their sexuality, the other never talks about it publicly.

You know, like a 21st century odd couple, but with queer authors.

Despite our differences, our fear about writing Fair Youth was the exact same – will they think we’re queer enough?

One of us is a blazing bi-sexual married to a man. The other is demi/bi-romantic. So the answer is obvious, right? We’re queer. We’re part of the community. But we’re both also straight-passing and a lot of times that means we get to experience both not being straight enough for the straights, nor queer enough to have our queerness validated by others in the community.

In the time between the first words being typed and the release of this book:

  • An author was attacked because she’d never vocally admitted to being queer and made to come out when she wasn’t ready.
  • There was discourse about bisexual main characters not counting as queer unless they ended up with someone of the same gender.
  • A reviewer of one of our other books DNF’ed it, gave it one star, and blatantly let their homophobia spew out all over Goodreads because we’d dared to make Beauty fall in love with the French maid instead of the Beast.
  • A gay NYT best selling author was accused of queerbaiting because a bi-sexual female in one of his books has a male partner.
  • An agent turned us down because the romance didn’t end up queer enough for them. (Spoiler alert: its hella queer)
  • Another agent turned us down because it was too queer for their tastes.
  • We were denied a review from a queer review site because our characters don’t end up in same sex relationships.
  • One of M.’s other bisexual stories was attacked online and accused of “baiting readers into reading hetero stories”

When we started writing, we knew we would have to muster up bravery that we weren’t sure we had. One of us lives in the Deep South, and (at the time) worked at a company that could (and would) fire her if they found out about this book. Bookstore and library signings are often out of the question for small press books, even more so for books with LGBTQ+ themes. Even our own families and friends would be hesitant to show public support for our book, not only because it was queer but also because of the “spice”.

(Side note: why is hetero sex seen as romance, but Sapphic sex is automatically erotica even when its not graphic?)

We prepared ourselves for these things. We just didn’t know that we would have to prepare ourselves to face so much backlash and scrutiny from our own community.

This book started out as something incredibly fun and light. It was an evolution of completely random Twitter DMs while streaming a TNT show about Shakespeare.

What if Shakespeare was alive today?
What if he was a woman?

What if he and Kit Marlowe had a thing?
(BTW: Kit Marlowe is the most punk Elizabethan poet and we will fight anyone about it.)

Approximately half way though we came to an inevitable fork in the road. Stay true to the historical figures we were writing or defy all evidence and come up with something completely new. Basically, let Shakespeare live out his queer, happy life with Kit Marlowe and continue to write beautiful poems about him (the version we wish happened IRL) – or send him back to his wife after Kit perishes under mysterious circumstances (the version that happened IRL).

We found our own workaround that did both (you’ll have to read to find out how!) but that’s when the feelings of inadequacy, fear, and judgement really hit.

Because we knew how it had to end. But we also knew that if people didn’t write us off because we weren’t openly in relationships with the same sex, they’d do it because our characters don’t end up in them.

And that’s not even counting the people that were going to write us off completely because–as one review said–“[they] don’t come to retellings for LGBT stories,” or worse, because they’re just blatantly homophobic.

So why didn’t we give up? It would have been so much more comfortable to leave this story on our hard drives and continue on with our lives. But we knew there had to be more people like us out there. People that have felt like Billie does–like she never even considered her sexuality until Kit challenges it. People that have felt like Kit – out and proud but angry that she has to keep fighting against stereotypes and misogyny. People like us who constantly wondered if they’re queer enough.

So please let this guest post serve as a reminder:

  • You ARE queer enough
  • You belong
  • You are worthy of love and art
  • Your life and sexuality are valid
  • Pick up a copy of Fair Youth

And just so you are wondering if you are still valid even with the gnawing fear inside you, this is the conversation from the two of us when this blog post was done.

M. Dalto: It’s a harsh truth and reality but there it is

Laynie: I think it’s something that a lot of people like us (and our readers) will relate to.

M. Dalto: Are you ready to out yourself to the literary world?

Laynie: No, but that’s why we wrote the post. Because it doesn’t matter if I’m ready. If we want readers to love our characters, I have to be. And Billie and Kit deserve it.

***

Co-authors, co-owners, and best friends – M. and Laynie combine their strengths to create queer characters with sass in the contemporary and fantasy genres.

When writing alone, M. is most well-known for her The Empire Series works and Laynie for Adeline’s Aria. Together they have published Faust University and Escaping the Grey through EQP and Fair Youth through Ninestar Press .

When they aren’t crafting their own characters, they are the co-owners of Sword and Silk Books, an independent publishing company focused on engaging stories that empower readers.

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Havesskadi by Ava Kelly

Very excited to have on the site today the cover reveal for the rerelease of Havesskadi by Ava Kelly, an asexual m/m fantasy (and winner of the Rainbow Book Award for Best Asexual Debut Book) which was originally published by the dearly departed LT3 press and has found a new home at Ninestar Press! The new version comes out on the 24th of this month and kicks off the Dragon Souls series, and here’s a little more about it!

The red dragon is hunting her own. Up in the icy peaks of the northern mountains, Orsie Havesskadi spends his days hiding from her, but eventually he is found and his dragon magic stolen. Cursed to wander the lands as a mortal unless he recovers his magic before twenty-four rising crescents have passed, Orsie embarks on an arduous journey. Spurred by the whispers in his mind, his quest takes him to a castle hidden deep in a forest.

Arkeva Flitz, a skilled garrison archer, discovers an abandoned castle in the woods. Trapped there, he spends his days with his two companions, one cruel, the other soothing. One day, a young man arrives at his gates, and soon they are confined by heavy snowfalls and in danger from what slumbers in the shadows of the castle.

And here’s the striking new cover, by none other than Natasha Snow!

Preorder it!

***

Ava Kelly is an engineer with a deep passion for stories. Whether reading, watching, or writing them, Ava has always been surrounded by tales of all genres. Their goal is to bring more stories to life, especially those of friendship and compassion, those dedicated to trope subversion, those that give the void a voice, and those that spawn worlds of their own. Their publication history includes fantasy and science fiction short stories, novelettes, and the award-winning novel Havesskadi. Among their latest publications, Erebus is a sci-fi slipstream short story in Selene Quarterly, and Peripheric Synthesized is a sci-fi flash piece in Sci Phi Journal.

 

Exclusive Cover Reveal: The Weight of Living by M.A. Hinkle

Hello and welcome to another lovely cover reveal here on LGBTQReads! Today’s is for a cis f/trans f contemporary romance called The Weight of Living by M.A. Hinkle, which releases February 17th from Ninestar Press! (Unless you preorder it straight from the publisher, in which you’ll get it right on time for Valentine’s Day!)

Here’s the story:

When she arrives in Cherrywood Grove for a working vacation, shy photographer Trisha Ivy expects to kick back and relax, enjoying her last summer of freedom before turning into a real adult with a mortgage and a nine-to-five. After all, her real life is back in Chicago with her best friend Bella, not a sleepy small town. But Trisha keeps running into beautiful, confident Gabi Gonzalez, a caterer working all the same weddings…and she’s the daughter of Trisha’s favorite local TV star. Trisha can’t resist getting to know her. After all, she’s only in town for the summer, and Gabi is straight. What harm could it do?

Gabi Gonzalez has spent most of her life trying to escape Cherrywood Grove and find something bigger and better. During an internship in Milwaukee, she thought she’d finally found it. But after her father’s sudden death, she returns home and tries to squeeze back into the same childhood roles: kid sister, cool aunt, tireless worker. She’s just resigned herself to going through the motions when she meets Trisha, someone who finally sees Gabi for her own self instead of putting her in a box. Can Gabi open up to Trisha about what she really wants before Trisha leaves town for good?

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

Buy it: Ninestar Press

The Weight of Living is the third book in the loosely linked Cherrywood Grove series, with the first two being m/m Romances. Want to try those too? Both are on sale for $2.99 for the month of February!

Death of a Bachelor: Amazon | Ninestar

Diamond Heart: Amazon | Ninestar

M.A. Hinkle swears a lot and makes jokes at inappropriate times, so she writes about characters who do the same thing. She’s also worked as an editor and proofreader for the last eight years, critiquing everything from graduate school applications to romance novels.

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Human Enough by E. S. Yu

Today on the site I’m excited to be revealing the cover for Human Enough by E.S. Yu, an m/m Paranormal Romance releasing October 7, 2019 from Ninestar Press that stars pansexual and gray-ace leads! Here’s the story:

When Noah Lau joined the Vampire Hunters Association, seeking justice for his parents’ deaths, he didn’t anticipate ending up imprisoned in the house of the vampire he was supposed to kill—and he definitely didn’t anticipate falling for that vampire’s lover.

Six months later, Noah’s life has gotten significantly more complicated. On top of being autistic in a world that doesn’t try to understand him, he still hunts vampires for a living…while dating a vampire himself. Awkward. Yet Jordan Cross is sweet and kind, and after braving their inner demons and Jordan’s vicious partner together, Noah wouldn’t trade him for the world.

But when one of Jordan’s vampire friends goes missing and Noah’s new boss at the VHA becomes suspicious about some of his recent cases, what starts off as a routine paperwork check soon leads Noah to a sinister conspiracy. As he investigates, he and Jordan get sucked into a deadly web of intrigue that will test the limits of their relationship—and possibly break them. After all, in a world where vampires feed on humans and humans fear vampires, can a vampire and a vampire hunter truly find a happy ending together?

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

Preorder here!

E.S. Yu is the author of EIDOLON, a queer science fiction featuring assassins, tech conspiracies, and mental health discussions. E.S. is a lifelong lover of speculative fiction, video games, and superheroes. The stories E.S. writes often reflect darkness and injustice, from the perspective of a multiply marginalized person, while always believing in the power of healing and hope for a happy ending. An immigration attorney in a past life, when not writing, E.S. can be found drinking a lot of green tea and, of course, thinking about her next novel.

How Fandom Changed My Life: A Guest Post by The Sun And Moon Beneath The Stars Author K. Parr

Fandom is a huge gateway for a lot of authors, and it’s one that holds a special place in queer reader hearts for providing which literature never used to and may still not. Certainly it was a life changer for K. Parr, the author of today’s guest post, and she’s here to tell us why. (And yes, there’s info on her book, The Sun and the Moon Beneath the Stars, at the end!)

***

Fandom culture has been a huge part of my life since high school, when a friend first showed me sites for fanfiction and fan art, and I became hooked. We co-wrote a fanfic together—a mash-up of our favorite things held together by a tenuous plot and far too many in-jokes—and engaged in shipping, a.k.a. obsessing over character romances from our favorite books, shows, Anime, and more.

When I look back at my early fandoms, I can’t help but notice a common thread despite the various mediums: heteronormative relationships. From Harry Potter, I loved Ron/Hermione. From Fruits Basket, I loved Kyo/Tohru. From The Office, I loved Jim/Pam. Jokes about the hobbits being gay in Lord of the Rings made me uncomfortable, and I steered clear of slash pairings even though my friend insisted that Remus/Sirius from Harry Potter were a wonderful couple off-page.

I had a sheltered upbringing, with very little exposure to non-heteronormative relationships. There were none in my school, and the few in my family were among distant relations. I distinctly remember watching Brokeback Mountain with my parents, and they told me to cover my eyes during the gay sex scene. I obeyed, and recall hearing my father say, “That’s just wrong.” I was fifteen.

I don’t think I ever considered LGBT relationships to be a bad thing, only that they were different, apart from me, not my concern. Here’s where fandom changed my mind.

Post-college, I was a person with a wider perspective. Even though I moved back into my parent’s house, I didn’t shy away from trying new things. A college friend recommended I watch Supernatural because of the relationship between two men—a monster hunter and an angel. Intrigued, I binged the show but found myself disappointed that the relationship she mentioned was only in subtext and I had to actively look for it, though I didn’t quite know how.

So I got a Tumblr to help me gain some insight. Oh, Tumblr. You charming repository of art and stories and gifs and analysis, pf fandom love and hate and inspiration and extreme weirdness. I followed Supernatural blogs dedicated to my favorite ship—Dean and Castiel, or Destiel—and from there discovered a new site for fanfiction that didn’t censor explicit content. (I love you, Archive of Our Own!)

I read hundreds of novel’s worth of Destiel fanfiction. I liked countless posts of Destiel art. I reblogged Destiel gifs, and marveled at how fans interpreted the Destiel subtext of each episode. I read gay porn. I watched gay porn. And it was like a light bulb switched on in my brain.

Queer stories were awesome! Because, while I read Destiel stories, other characters had their own relationships in the background, and I quickly moved on from basic iterations of boy meets boy. I learned about BDSM, polyamory, ABO, and transgender issues, and I gained knowledge of tropes I later realized were romance tropes. I’d become a queer romance reader—and a queer romance writer, as I composed over 600,000 words of gay fanfiction.

For years after that, I struggled to read real books instead of fanfiction. I couldn’t seem to find the queer content I wanted. Only recently did I discover the world of LGBT publishing and become one of its authors, once I converted the lessons from my queer fanfiction into original work! I can’t even imagine writing heteronormative pairings ever again.

While I still don’t know how to label myself, I acknowledge my origins and feel comforted that fandom will be there for me with exactly what I want, when I want it (hello hurt/comfort!). Whether it’s fanfiction depicting LGBT characters and romances, online communities like Tumblr that highlight new queer media to explore, or even a support network for folks like me also questioning their sexualities, I have a home. There will always be something to obsess over, and wonderful fans—and fandoms—to lift me up.

***

The Sun and Moon Beneath the Stars

TheSunandMoon-f.jpg

After being orphaned and forced to work as a palace slave, fifteen-year-old Rasha decides to end her life, but when she plunges a knife into her chest, she doesn’t die. Instead, a strange, icy power possesses her. The last time it took over, someone got hurt, and Rasha can’t let that happen again.

But she’s got bigger problems. Her twin brother is alive, yet held captive by Solaris, a powerful sorcerer. When Rasha runs into Adriana, the selfish princess she once served, they discover Solaris is a common enemy since he destroyed the palace and kidnapped Adriana’s parents.

Together, Rasha and Adriana set out on a rescue mission. Personalities clash and tempers flare, but other feelings surface as well, feelings neither girl could have predicted.

And with the help of a ragtag group of companions, they might just be able to succeed on their quest…until an ancient evil emerges to wreak vengeance on their world.

After being orphaned and forced to work as a palace slave, fifteen-year-old Rasha decides to end her life, but when she plunges a knife into her chest, she doesn’t die. Instead, a strange, icy power possesses her. The last time it took over, someone got hurt, and Rasha can’t let that happen again.

But she’s got bigger problems. Her twin brother is alive, yet held captive by Solaris, a powerful sorcerer. When Rasha runs into Adriana, the selfish princess she once served, they discover Solaris is a common enemy since he destroyed the palace and kidnapped Adriana’s parents.

Together, Rasha and Adriana set out on a rescue mission. Personalities clash and tempers flare, but other feelings surface as well, feelings neither girl could have predicted.

And with the help of a ragtag group of companions, they might just be able to succeed on their quest…until an ancient evil emerges to wreak vengeance on their world.

Buy now: Ninestar Press

K is a writer of multiple genres, including young adult, romance, fantasy, paranormal, and humor, all of which star LGBT characters. She received her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in 2017. In her spare time, K reads and writes fanfiction, keeps up with way too many TV shows, and dances wildly in her apartment. She currently works as a teen librarian in Rhode Island.

Exclusive Excerpt from Walking on Water by Matthew J. Metzger

Today on the site, we’ve got an exclusive excerpt from Matthew J. Metzger‘s upcoming Fantasy Romance, Walking On Water, which releases on November 13! Here’s some info on the book, which contains both bisexual and transgender represenation:

When a cloud falls to earth, Calla sets out to find what lies beyond the sky. Father says there’s nothing, but Calla knows better. Something killed that cloud; someone brought it down.

Raised on legends of fabled skymen, Calla never expected them to be real, much less save one from drowning—and lose her heart to him. Who are the men who walk on water? And how can such strange creatures be so beautiful?

Infatuated and intrigued, Calla rises out of her world in pursuit of a skyman who doesn’t even speak her language. Above the waves lies more than princes and politics. Above the sky awaits the discovery of who Calla was always meant to be. But what if it also means never going home again?

Buy it

And now, the excerpt!

***

In the smoke and sunlight, both ricocheting off each other in a blinding darkness, heaving the battered Vogel around the enemy’s bow and up her pockmarked port side was a dangerous game. They collided once, the guns bouncing inwards. A boy fell, screaming, into the void between the two ships, and the sound cut off with a sharp crunch as the wooden hulls kissed once more. Janez slid towards the broken railings and caught at the ropes to steady himself.

And braced.

The almighty crash as they collided once more coincided with a terrible howl from the enemy guns. Two simply exploded, the gunpowder and ball caught between wood and metal, and the smell of burning flesh, the cry of death, rose over the chaos like a reminder. Janez flinched, even in his newfound deafness, like a newly launched loblolly boy without the faintest idea of sailing. Focus!

“Now!”

His sword swept down; the hooks flung outwards and clattered into the torn deck and shattered railings, some catching and some not. The heave of ship to ship was immense—in his bones and under his feet, Janez could feel an answering pull. The Ente had seized her from the other side. The rush of men to cut the ropes was confused.

They had her. They could have her.

“Board!”

The soldiers swarmed. Musket fire answered, and Janez leapt the gap with a roar that came from some primal place deep inside, fuelled not by king and country, but by brotherhood. His sword crashed with that of some faceless, nameless man fuelled likely by the urge to protect his own family, yet Janez fiercely did not care. They meant to sink him. And he would not be sunk!

But even with the Ente and her men, this was no sure thing. The guns boomed and rocked below them, the enemy frigate determined to sink her captors while their men ravaged her decks, and Janez ploughed amongst the guns, slashing at their masters.

Something caught.

One of the Ente’s guns roared, and a ball ploughed through the railing past him. Janez howled as a splinter—two inches thick and seven long—was driven into his thigh. He wrenched it free with a gasp, and bitterly ground down the urge to fall. That meant death. They would cut him down, and Alarik would never forgive him.

The caught thing was around his boot.

And too late, he realised.

As the great gun slipped, strangely silent, through the ragged maw gouged into the ship’s side, its rope coiled around Janez’s ankle and dragged him with it.

For a moment, he simply hung.

Hung in the smoke between two great walls.

He could hear—very faintly, through a distant memory, and very long ago—a woman’s humming. It sounded like Mother’s, yet he knew it to be Sofia. Sofia, humming to his newborn nephew. The only heir left to Alarik’s throne.

Janez sent up a brief prayer, a brief apology, some desperate hope that his childhood priests and tutors had been right, and he had some soul that could ascend and wait to meet his family again, for some reunion, for some forgiveness.

He had not even kissed little Ingrid goodbye.

***

Matthew J. Metzger is an asexual, transgender author dragged up in the wet and windy British Isles. He writes queer characters living all manner of lives, but especially likes to write the stories from the pub, the beautiful game, and the terraces where he lives and works today. Although mainly a contemporary romance writer, Matthew has recently been found straying out of his zone and playing in other genres’ sandboxes.

When not writing, Matthew is usually at his day job, working out, or asleep. He is owned by an enormous black cat, so should generally be approached with either extreme caution, or treats.

He can be primarily found on Twitter and Facebook or over at his website, and is always happy to hear from readers.