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New Release – Destructive Forces!

Title: Destructive Forces

Series: The Galactic Captains, Book Four

Author: Harry F. Rey

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: April 22, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 70400

Genre: Science Fiction, LGBT, sci-fi, futuristic, war, space, war of worlds, gay, lesbian, military, royalty

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Synopsis

In the far reaches of the Kyleri Empire, young Captain Mahnoor travels around the system to escape the cultural pressures to marry. But his infatuation with a handsome imperial pilot leads him into a galactic war.

On Jiwani, Viscamon is attempting to consolidate his power, by blaming the Ingvar for the royal massacre and calling armies from across the Empire to track down the missing prince, and achieve his dream of destroying the Galactic Balance. However, Antari knows the truth about Osvai and must find the courage to stand up to the prince’s enemies, and his own, no matter the risk.

Meanwhile on Aldegar, Daeron is being held prisoner by the few remaining Ingvar forces and must find a way to break free to rescue his mother and the crew of the Daring Huntress once again, as well as the missing Prince Osvai, before the Kyleri come to take back what’s theirs.

Sallah, no longer the last Tevian, returns to Aldegar with no choice but to enlist the help of the man she hates and the woman she once loved to see her son again.

As the Galactic Balance tips ever more towards chaos, time is running out to save Ales from the destructive forces he has unleashed.

Excerpt

Destructive Forces
Harry F. Rey © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
“Don’t let him get away!” Sallah screamed at the top of her lungs through the chaos of the fiery corridor. Two Ingvar soldiers had her by either arm. They’d dragged her out of the Trades Council plenum-turned-battle zone against her will. Her life was of paramount value to the Ingvar star-state, but she couldn’t care less about that now. Not while this Turo was getting away.

His words, spoken only minutes ago, haunted her mind. I have your son, he’d said, with a swirling sneer. Then everything exploded. Sallah had lost sight of General Morvas and Councilor Nexia in the shooting. Ingvar soldiers had also jumped on them, but the smoke and noise of weapons fire made trying to get back to the ship impossible. Yet it was the last thing Sallah wanted to do—the insurrection in the heart of the Trades Council be damned.

“Get off me.” She struggled against their armor-plated bodies, but they did not relent. Sallah’s feet kept slipping against the smooth marble floor; she couldn’t find a grip. Yelling and the ricochet of weapons banged around the air from every direction, stinging smoke encroaching on their position. Sallah yanked her head around to a din of shots being fired, and the two soldiers pulled her back from the brink of the great hallway where volleys of laser shot fired backward and forward into unknown, unseen sets of troops.

“Get back.” One of the soldiers said and knocked her head back against the wall, trying to avoid edging around the corner into the wide trench of ongoing warfare the great hallway had become. Sallah remembered the way. They had to get across to the other side, through the firing range.

A far-off explosion shook the walls of the building, seeming to strike at the core of the planet itself. The firing ceased, but silence did not return. Instead, the screeching sounds of warplanes entering the Targulian atmosphere filled the once-gilded walkway. Down beyond their position, toward the end of the great hallway, Sallah saw figures moving through the smoke. The shapes could be Turo, or even Ales. The only thing clear was her need to get to them.

Her Ingvar captors looked distracted, scanning the now eerily silent hallway through black visor helmets. One had his hand pointed backward in a halfhearted attempt to keep her still. She edged away from the wall, then glanced into the great hallway. It had the air of some ancient temple; high ceilings reaching up to a glass-domed roof to the hazy orange Targulian air. The heart of the Outer Verge, now consumed in inter-factional war, the Union against the Trades Council, while a foreign power circled the planet like some great mountain vulture. And here she was, the former last Tevian alive. She couldn’t let her life end this way. Not while her son might be right around the corner—hurt, or in danger. Sallah gritted her teeth and launched herself against one of the soldiers. With a swift kick, she booted him in the side, and he tumbled away from her into the space of no man’s land, his footing lost to the smooth-edged floor.

“What are you doing?” the other one cried out through his visor. But it was too late. A volley of weapons fire began again from both sides, riddling the Ingvar soldier’s body from the left and right. Puffs of vaporized blood and brain floated into the air as his lifeless body collapsed in a haze of reddish death.

The living soldier floated in front of her, as if suspended in time, now unsure if she was friend or foe. She wanted to leap toward him, grab the sidearm from his belt, flip, and blast him in the back. The sinews of her body, the echoes of Sallah’s yearning for her son she’d thought lost along with the rest of her home-world, ached for the ability to push him aside and sprint to her destiny. Yet something exploded against her back. It felt as if the walls themselves had collapsed onto her as the polished marble rushed up to meet her face. But she stopped. There was no impact. Something, no, someone grabbed her, saved her from being smashed to the ground.

“I have her,” a metallic voice said through the helmet. Sallah caught the edge of her reflection in the onyx visor. The whites of her eyes enraged and bloodshot against skin the color of a dark and stormy night.

“Let’s go,” said another.

The sound of many more boots smacking against the ground joined with the fire of weapons. Someone held her back, as a stream of Ingvar soldiers rushed from behind, firing their weapons to either side of the great hallway, building a wall of cover fire to cross to the other side. A black-gloved arm pulled her back by the chest, and she struggled to no avail.

“This way, general,” a voice said behind her. “Increase fire, don’t hold back,” it yelled to the soldiers holding the line the breadth of the hallway to the narrower corridor across the other side. General Morvas staggered past, helped by two soldiers. His soft, gray hair and distinguished features were dripping in blood from an open wound across his skull, his robes torn and wrapped around an arm as a makeshift bandage. The volley of fire from the soldiers turned into a crescendo of noise and smoke. Most likely no one was firing back from either side, but they kept the rate up as the half-crouched general crossed the hallway like a child being rescued from a fire.

Councilor Nexia came along next, her frail elderly body slung over the back of a soldier as if she were won as a prize of war.

“Sallah,” the Trades Council leader cried out. “Come with us, now. The Union are starting a war.”

Sallah pushed against her captor’s arm with all her power. “No! I must find Turo. I must—”

“We have him. He’s on the ship.” Nexia said. The soldier carrying her didn’t stop running. “Get her back to the fleet,” Nexia yelled over the rage of battle toward Sallah’s captor. She was a prize they couldn’t lose.

Powerful armored hands grabbed her from behind, squeezing her sides so hard she felt the pain through the adrenaline rush. There was no way to break free. Turo, Ales—she had to find them. Sallah struggled against her captor, legs flying back in a wild storm of trying to find any weak point in the armor and land a kick to skin.

“Let me go.”

He’d had enough. He didn’t think twice. Like Nexia in front of her, the soldier hoisted her body across his shoulder and ran after the others, darting through the protective enclosure. It was terrifying. The world had turned upside down. All she could see was the smoke from the far end of the great hallway rising up to the glass convex ceiling, here and there blocking out the hazy orange above. Yet through the glass, she saw the flashes of war and the trails of missiles and strike ships painting their destructive pattern. The Ingvar invasion had begun.

The bouncing became rhythmic, and she lost all sense of thinking beyond the next few minutes. Get to the ship, get to Turo. She’d beat that man to a pulp to find out where her son was. She’d swear to the Ingvar to never conduct another experiment again if they did not help her track down Ales. She’d gouge the secrets of galinium and STAR drives from her brain and cast them into the black void of nothingness unless the entirety of the fleet of the Ingvar Empire cast every ion toward finding her son. She’d rip apart the Outer Verge to find…

“Hurl her inside. That’s it.”

Sallah was flung upward, then caught by firm hands and dragged into the confines of a compact shuttle. Nexia and Morvas were stretched out alongside her, being tended to by soldiers with their visors up. The women and men in Ingvar uniform and their faces consumed in the rapid swirl of action. They had no time to think, only do.

“That’s all; time to go,” a voice said. She turned her head to the left through a sharp edge of pain to the two pilots in the narrow cockpit. One was gesturing to get the soldiers out of the shuttle.

“Wait,” Sallah screamed. “I need my son. I need Turo.” She pulled herself to her feet, ready to boot everyone else out of the shuttle and fly around the city-world herself to find him.

“No time,” the pilot yelled back, looking ready to meet her fists. “I’m taking you back to the fleet now. Strap in.”

Out of options, Sallah briefly contemplated jumping on one of the soldiers currently assisting the bruised-looking Nexia and Morvas into their shuttle seats against the narrow walls. Something caught her eye at the back of the shuttle, a soldier she now realized had been standing over someone. He moved out of the way, ready to exit the ship, and then she saw him, strapped in against his will and hands frozen in electromagnetic cuffs.

“You piece of flank,” Sallah yelled at Turo in the crowded confines of the ship. The rest of the soldiers ducked outside to the increasingly loud sounds of weapons fire.

“Strap in!” The pilot yelled from behind her as the shuttle door snapped closed.

“I’ll fucking kill you right now unless you tell me where my son is.” Turo’s green eyes looked up at her, his face smoky and bloodied from the fight, but his eyes alive, and a thin, narrow smile across his lips. The look of a man who, even in defeat, would prefer to watch everything he’d worked for go up in noxious flames than surrender. She launched her fist straight down into his stomach, the straps holding him back keeping him from bending over in reaction to the blow as the ship rumbled into action.

He spat out a gob of phlegm and blood onto the polished floor and returned only a smile. She cocked another fist.

“Sallah, stop,” Morvas called from behind, as the ship jerked up from the ground. She grabbed a metal bar above her head as the shuttle rumbled into the hazy sky. The sight through the windows dissolved her anger into terrified wonder. Targuline had descended into full-on war. Fighters dipped and dived behind the great trunks of Shards; missiles from space streaked across the orange sky as billows of black smoke infected the world.

Sallah turned her attention back to Turo. She held on above as the shuttle bounced around the atmosphere, worried it would drop from the sky at any moment—or perhaps be torn in two from heavy weapons fire. Neither was acceptable. She slammed her free hand into Turo’s throat, squeezing the sinews hard.

“Where is my son?”

Spluttered nothings fell from his mouth. Clearly, he hadn’t expected to be choked. As he raised a cuffed arm, where his wrist-tech sat, she released him from her deathly grip.

“I have him,” he coughed. “Tracked, here.”

Sallah twisted the arm with the wrist-tech, causing him to writhe in pain. Arms were not designed to twist in such a way, but she took comfort in his obvious agony.

“Find him.” Her eyes flashed with the power of a supernova. One primed for explosion

“Locate Ales,” he said into the device. The screen built a rudimentary map of the area with a clear green dot showing him less than fifty kilometers away. “Look, he’s still close by.” Sallah tried to make sense of the map, but the shaking shuttle and the moving blocks of images on the wrist-tech made it almost impossible to follow. She kept her eye solely on the distance counter, which steadily ticked upward as the shuttle flew up into the atmosphere toward the void of space.

“He’s on a ship, look.” Turo twisted his wrist-tech farther around, with an edge of humanity in his voice, which took her by surprise. The view of the outside moved around Morvas and Nexia from the hazy, orange battle-scarred sky to the cool blackness of space. Shards poked through the stratosphere, but the normally bustling routes in and out of the planet and its space stations were frozen by the invasion.

She stared past Nexia at the Ingvar fleet assembled in battle formation. She’d flown with them from Aldegar in the odd position she held as both a prisoner and most-valued individual, across their emerging empire. She knew this was every ship the Ingvar had. Battle Cruisers and troop transports, command vessels and fighter carriers; an entire fleet constructed from the scraps of the Crejan occupation force the young star-state liberated themselves from.

They had gambled their empire on this force, throwing everything they had against the Outer Verge, the only power in the galaxy weaker than themselves, in order to seize the STAR drive and power into the unknown universe beyond. Now, with their fifty-ship fleet amassed around the Targulian atmosphere and the Verge descending into civil war, they needed to get their hands on the raw galinium mined in the far edge of the Outer Verge.

Sallah reminded herself she didn’t care for whom she provided the prototypes of the STAR drives or which empire seized on her research. The Union, the Seven Suns, the Ingvar—she cared not for any of them. She had cared only for herself and the chance it may give her to rebuild the world she had lost. Sallah’s hands clasped her stomach as if it was about to explode.

“What’s that?” Nexia called out behind her, pointing to the window and the Ingvar fleet beyond. A single ship with a strange greenish glow around it was racing up from the orange haze toward the mass of ships. Sallah had only ever considered that glow in the theory of her work. It can’t be.

“It’s Ales,” Turo said, shifting his wrist-tech toward her line of sight stuck on the window, staring at the fleet the shuttle jiggered toward. Her throat flicked closed, a lifetime’s worth of tears held back by nothing but a single hope that soon she may be reunited with the son she’d thought lost.

“Tell them to bring him in,” she screamed at the pilot. He looked back with a gasp of worry. Morvas quickly nodded his approval.

“Fleet command, there’s an unidentified small vessel headed right to you from the planet. It’s friendly. Repeat, friendly. High-value cargo,” the pilot said into the comms.

Sallah left Turo in his strapped-down position and pressed her face against the clear window. His ship was getting closer to the fleet, like a single drop edging ever closer to a waiting beast. But the greenish glow around him grew ever bolder. She pressed her hand against the glass as Morvas, and then Nexia, unclipped from their seats and joined her.

“What is it?” Morvas demanded. “Is that a weapon? Is this an attack?”

She couldn’t even whisper a No. Sallah felt as if her mind had been severed from her body. It may as well float in the empty void of nothing. Her mind, her soul, unable to comprehend the things she was seeing. Who had built such a thing? Everything had been theoretical, only experiments. How could her research, her life’s work, sever her son from her once again?

The glow became stronger and ever brighter as the STAR drive ignited its galinium core. The space around his ship warped and swirled in a cloud of green as the horizon point broke free from the ship’s engine, the greenish bubble growing wide enough to encompass the entire Ingvar fleet.

“No. It’s too much. It’s too powerful.” The beat of her heart burst into her skull as the horizon point from Ales’ ship reached its zenith.

“What?” Morvas demanded. “What is? Tell me now.”

The flash forced Nexia and Morvas to turn away. But Sallah did not. Her eyes burned and ached for the briefest moment, but then the darkness returned. The black, blank darkness of space above the hazy orange orb. Now empty except for a long, glowing white streak of nothing where Ales and the entire Ingvar fleet had just been. Whoever had created that STAR drive had grossly miscalculated the proportions of weaponized galinium required.

“Sallah, he’s gone,” Turo said in quiet shock, a note of fear in his voice Sallah would never have thought a man such as he would have.

“Where’s my fleet?” Morvas shrieked. “For infinity’s sake, where is my fleet?”

Sallah said nothing. Her eyes focused on her own reflection as she watched a single tear drip down her cheek. It was too painful to look at the empty space where her son and all the ships of the Ingvar empire had been, now lost in some unknown galaxy.

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Meet the Author

Harry F. Rey is an author and lover of gay themed stories with a powerful punch with influences ranging from Alan Hollinghurst to Isaac Asimov to George R.R. Martin. He loves all things sci-fi and supernatural, and always with a gay twist. Harry is originally from the UK but lives in Jerusalem, Israel with his husband.

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New Release – Sio

Title: SIO

Author: C.A. Blocke

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: April 22, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 6360

Genre: Science Fiction, LGBT, humor, space pirates, scavengers, scientist, tech nerd, hurt-comfort, disabilities, abduction, captivity, tech nerd

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Synopsis

Set in a near-future environment, mega-corporations have taken over the most habitable of planets, creating domed utopias for their devoted employees. Everyone else has been shunted off to a multitude of mostly habitable planets and moons where they scrape by as farmers and tradesfolk, miners and merchants, bounty hunters and scavengers.

James Marks and his crew of scav trash operate their ship, SIO, on a mission to obtain a mysterious piece of new tech. It changes everything and leaves him stranded somewhere he doesn’t recognize with a cute, if not a bit annoying, tech scientist. James doesn’t know, when he first meets Michael, but his life is about to change in a very surprising way.

Excerpt

SIO
C.A. Blocke © 2019
All Rights Reserved

One: The Job
“You’re really going in alone?” Edge asked, leaning heavily against the console as James plugged in the coordinates. “I thought you promised Lyra you weren’t doing jobs alone anymore after that last big fuckup.”

James rolled his eyes and sighed. “What Lyra don’t know won’t hurt her. You and your sister are wanted on every planet in Corporate Space, and I’m not about to lose the only good pilot we’ve got by taking Corin along for the ride. Besides, I’m fluent in bullshit. I’ll be fine.”

Edge laughed and drew his oversized ElectroPistol before shoving it toward James’s chest. “You’re gonna need this. They set up scanners every few kilometers to catch travelers with old-school bullets.”

“You know I’ve got one.” James smirked, opening his dark-brown duster to show off his special design. “And mine’s overclocked.”

“Show-off.”

Edge and his sister, Razor, had been on the ship’s crew since day one, and far too many crew members had been lost one way or another since. To be fair, James knew Edge had a point. The duster was a bit of a showpiece, but even in Corporate Space, they could appreciate fine leatherwork.

Quietly, Razor added, “Careful where you’re scanning with that eye, boss. Peach detection is sensitive to all TechEyes.”

James blinked several times, self-conscious at the reminder of his less-than-human status. After fifteen years on the outer ring, he was starting to feel less man than machine. An eye, a leg, and a full neural interface later, who really could say he wasn’t? “Yes, mother.” James sighed, offering another fond roll of the eyes. “Believe me, I’m in and out. The last place I want to hang out is a Peach Corp research and development office.”

“Eye on the prize.” Edge nodded, clapping a meaty hand on James’s back. “Corin’ll leave the engines running for ya.”

Getting in wasn’t hard; a flash of the badge the client had provided and a few sideways glances at James’s generally unkempt appearance, and he was walking the halls toward the mark’s office. Thankfully, R&D didn’t have half the security protocol most Corporate offices had, and as far as they cared, the dark-haired man in a duster and pressed shirt was Mr. Marquis Benton, in the flesh. However, the short middle manager staring him down didn’t exactly seem convinced.

“So, Mr. Benton, is it?” he asked, stroking his fingers through professionally cropped blond hair before taking off his glasses to rub the bridge of his nose. “And you are here for?”

“I was told the communique was sent days ago,” James bluffed, crossing his arms and giving the manager, Michael, a critical look. “The Rose prototype. It’s being called up for Corporate preview.”

“Well, as much as I’d love to have one less piece of useless technology to deal with, it’s not ready. I never received this…communique…you’re talking about.” Michael’s brow furrowed as he slipped his glasses back on; the frustration apparent on his face was adorable at the very least.

“Fine. Fine.” James leaned in, glancing over the man’s badge to grab a name, only to feel his TechEye activate to read it through the soft fold of his worn blazer. “It’s all right, Michael. I’ll deal with your supervisor.”

“I am the supervisor at this facility.” Michael frowned, shaking his head. “And if that crappy old TechEye wasn’t such a piece of outdated shit running firmware from ten years ago, you would have been able to pull up my personnel file and would know that.”

It wasn’t quite the same as being caught red-handed, and security wasn’t swarming the office yet, so there was that much hope. “Hey, you know how crappy the pay is for runners. I haven’t exactly been able to keep up on the latest and greatest.” James shrugged, and then stepped closer, ready to make a move, if justified. “Besides, I don’t like all that clutter in my HUD. All I need is to get this prototype to my boss.” It was a fair enough statement; the heads-up display on the older chip software was much less cluttered with information of various levels of situational importance. In the long run, it made it difficult to parse the large amount of information that wasn’t actually in front of his eyes but tended to render him at least distracted when it came up.

Michael stood, one hand on his black leather belt and the other casually planted against his desk. “The new heads-up display is actually quite streamlined by comparison, especially if you have the visual upgrade.” He shifted on his feet and, after a moment’s pause, dropped his gaze down to the litter of papers and scraps on his desk. “Look, okay… I don’t know who you are or how you got in here, but contrary to popular belief, just because I’m in R&D, I’m not a fucking idiot. The Rose is classified, and you’ve done absolutely nothing to make me believe you should even be here.”

James had been in worse situations, which really said quite a lot about his chosen profession. He put on his best smile and leaned across Michael’s desk, drawing eyes back up to him. “I’ll level with you, Michael. There was no communique, okay? I know I’m sort of jumping the gun here, but bringing back the Rose and blowing the bigwigs’ minds with it pretty much guarantees a promotion that…uh…well, I need. And I know you’ve got zero reason to believe a word I’m saying, but I can definitely put in a good word for the new head of R&D.”

Michael’s eyes narrowed behind his thin spectacles, and James felt his heart rate raise enough to hear the blood pounding in his ears. Lying was no big thing, but pulling shit in a Peach facility was a damn bold move for someone not looking to end up in a prison colony for the rest of their short, crappy life. Finally, Michael said, “Head of R&D? You have that kind of power? I thought you said you were a runner.”

“A runner for someone with more power than both of us combined. With the right offering, I could do quite a lot”—James whispered, licking his lower lip for dramatic effect, if not sheer nerves—“with a little help from a certain smart and handsome developer.”

A long moment passed, and James realized exactly how that statement had come off. Fortunately, Michael seemed to buy it, and James wasn’t really lying—for everything his bookish appearance gave off, Michael was handsome in a sort of cute tech-nerd kind of way. Michael sighed and shook his head, drawing back. “You’ve got a silver tongue, Marquis. And, I guess I’m just sick of looking at the stupid thing,” he muttered under his breath, heading toward the door James had come in. “I have to get it from the lab; they’re working on it today.”

“Of course, of course.” James feigned a laugh while following him back into the corridor and through the honeycomb of hallways and nondescript rooms toward the lab.

Michael scanned his card and then turned back to face him. “Wait here.”

There was a delicate dance—James couldn’t wait too long out in the open without being checked by security, who would likely figure out his papers were fake, within a few seconds, but he also had to offer Michael the benefit of the doubt, lest his true intention be made even clearer. He nodded and casually folded his arms over his chest, gently patting the pistol concealed within his coat. Beyond the door, he couldn’t see much more than several bodies in white suits with blank faces moving quietly around, and then he was alone in the corridor.

Ten minutes and one close call with security passed, and James couldn’t stop himself from attempting to listen at the door, to no avail. Daring the chance of getting caught, he fumbled out the jack in his coat pocket, connecting it to the keypad first and then directly to the port behind his left ear. Hacking was dangerous in the best possible circumstances. Getting caught was almost a certainty, but the cybernetic jack made it a little simpler to do something as innocuous as jimmying a lock—hell, James had practically grown up forcing locks with or without technological assistance. Unfortunately, Razor wasn’t wrong about Peach Corp being on top of outside tech in their systems. The lock gave, after only a few moments of forcing the code, the door opened, and the first thing James saw after pulling the jack free at both ends in one yank was security coming right for him.

“What are you doing in here?” Michael shouted as James rushed into the room, slamming the door behind him. A steel case was open on a large table, a small purple rose made of circuits and glass seated in a holding point fixed inside the case.

“Okay, so here’s the thing…” James stammered, letting the words come as his most useful form of self-preservation. “There are at least three guys with ElectroPistols on the other side of that door, and I really need to leave with this prototype, so if you could close that case, I’ll be heading out now.”

“It’s not ready!” Michael answered, lifting the safety goggles from around his glasses and tossing them on the floor with an angry sigh. “Do you even know anything about the Rose? You have got to be the most ignorant—”

James cut him off for lack of time more than anything, snapping the case closed. “I may have to use you as a human shield…no worries; ElectroPistols don’t hurt nearly as bad as the real thing.” He was well aware it sounded bad, but to the best of his knowledge, as long as the person being shot didn’t have too many cybernetic parts, the blasts weren’t usually deadly. James grabbed Michael’s elbow, thankful he was a little lighter and a good deal shorter than most.

They made it two steps to the door, and when James touched the latch, a loud popping noise was accompanied by a rush of heat, and everything went black.

Purchase

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Meet the Author

C.A. Blocke is a thirty-something writer who’s been captivated by the magic of how people relate to each other for as long as she can remember. Far more than overarching drawn-out plots, she prefers to focus heavily on relationships in various situations that feel like real life—even when at its most surreal. Real Life, she feels, is messy and complicated, and that shines through in her fiction where the road to a happy ending frequently isn’t just a straight line. A long-time reader and writer of fluffy character-driven pieces, her style tends to highlight small slices of life that come together to form a whole picture of the plot.

She is a gender nonconforming, demisexual-identified female who feels most comfortable writing unconventional relationships involving non-heterosexual couplings. Sexual identity often colors her works and features heavily in finding the comfortable place where identities can collide with minimal friction. She enjoys exploring different takes on ‘acceptable’ sexuality and blurring the lines between what is expected and what really happens.

A small-town Arizona native, the Southwest and its rural communities fascinate her—particularly the rigid-identity politics and the ramifications of breaking the social norm. Of course, that’s not to say that she doesn’t also enjoy writing about urban life and the various challenges present in the big city. While most at home writing contemporary romance with a warm little erotica twist, she’s very prone to following her muse down the dark alleys and open valleys it drags her through—making it nearly impossible to know just what genre will take her interest next.

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New Release – New Boy at the Academy by Sam Hawk!


Title: New Boy at the Academy
Series: Tales from the Academy, Book One
Author: Sam Hawk
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: March 25, 2019
Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex
Pairing: Male/Male
Length: 79800
Genre: Contemporary YA, LGBT, YA, /1980s, Southern US, high school/academy, bullying, coming-of-age, coming out, homophobia, family drama

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Synopsis

Timmy had no clue that the first day of 10th grade at the Academy would rock his world. He thought it would be just like last year, with its endless bullying and recesses spent reshelving books in the library with his best and only friend Carleen. The sissy boy and the fat girl had bonded over their shared outcast status. But Carleen shows up filled with sassy confidence and declares they’re going to rule the school. By Christmas, the freaks and nerds would be the cool kids, and the mean girls and jocks would be the outcasts. Something had happened to her over the summer, but what?

And then, the two of them lay eyes on the new boy at the Academy. Doug has auburn feathered hair, veiny biceps, and green eyes the color of Sprite bottles. Plus, he’s come all the way from exotic Los Angeles, California. He rocks out to Patti Smith while Timmy loves ABBA. How does someone so cool end up in tiny, conservative Edgewood, South Carolina?

When Carleen immediately declares Doug a fox and her new prospective boyfriend, Timmy is shocked at his jealous reaction. He’s not supposed to like boys in that way, is he? Doug stirs up weird new emotions deep inside him as Timmy embarks on the adventure of his life. He and his hometown will never be the same.

Excerpt

New Boy at the Academy
Sam Hawk © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Edgewood, South Carolina

1980

God didn’t answer my prayers and bring the Rapture on Labor Day, so I had to start tenth grade after all. I stepped in front of the mirror to assess my new back-to-school outfit. I hated it. I’d begged Momma to buy me the alligator shirt from Belk’s, which really cost her a lot, but did it have to hug my body so much? I tried stretching it out, but it would only stretch so far. I thought I’d look like Tom Selleck with his big veiny arms. Instead, I looked like the Pillsbury Doughboy. I was trying to flex my chest when Momma walked in.

“Honey, get a move on. We have to be out the door in fifteen minutes, and you haven’t even touched your Pop-Tarts.”

“Momma, I think I need to change clothes.”

“What are you talking about?” she asked as she pulled and tugged on my shirt. “This is what you wanted. You look very handsome.”

“But it fits so close.”

“Timmy, I have told you time and again you’re not fat. It’s all in your head. You are absolutely average on the height and weight scale and exactly where you need to be at fifteen.” She patted my tummy, causing me to suck in. “You’ll lose that little bit of pudge in no time in gym class.”

My heart sank at the thought of gym class, and I almost lost my appetite for Pop-Tarts. Almost. Momma smoothed down my cowlick at the kitchen table as I bit into the brown sugar cinnamon pastry.

“Thank goodness you inherited the Ashburn hair,” she said. “Such a beautiful chestnut brown and such a noble hairline. It’s a sign of your aristocratic heritage, you know, on my side of the family. All the Ashburn men had beautiful hairlines. Thank goodness you take after me and don’t have your daddy’s stringy mess.”

I guessed my hairline was okay, but my new haircut was way too short. Daddy had taken me to get it cut only after Momma called him ten times to remind him. He and Momma got divorced when I was two, and it was always weird when he came by, which wasn’t often. Naturally, he took me to the awful old barbershop next to the pool hall instead of the new unisex salon in the Augusta Mall I was secretly hoping for. He told the barber to “buzz it” and then went next door for a beer. I managed to talk the barber into keeping a little length, but not much.

“Now go brush your teeth quick as a bunny rabbit,” said Momma. “Carleen’s mother called this morning and said her car’s not running and could I run by and pick her up for school. So, we have no time.”

Carleen’s house was across the tracks, and I knew Momma didn’t like going over there, but Carleen had been my best friend since kindergarten. Actually, you could say she was my only friend. She was the only one I talked to for hours on the phone at night; the only one I hung out with after school; the only one to ever invite me to a sleepover, which Momma had never allowed me to do since boy-girl sleepovers just weren’t done. I hadn’t seen her all summer because she’d been working at her grandparents’ peach farm. I was glad we’d be going to school together on the first day. I needed my friend with me.

We pulled in front of the house, and Carleen came right out.

“Good Lord, Carleen’s put on even more weight this summer,” said Momma.

Momma was right. Carleen had always been the biggest girl in class, and she wasn’t getting any smaller. I recognized her smock top from last year. A smock top was supposed to fit loose, but hers pulled in all the wrong places.

“Hey, Carleen,” said Momma as Carleen got in the car. “You sure do look pretty for your first day of school.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Thompson,” said Carleen. I waited for an eye roll, but she just smiled at Momma like she really believed it. I looked at her more closely, and there was something different about her. Was it confidence? If so, it was new. Was that lip gloss she was wearing?

“Hey, Timmy, did you hear we’re getting a new boy in our class this year?”

“No,” I said, dreading the addition of another redneck bubba to the roster.

“They say he’s from California and he’s real cute.”

“Really? California?” said Momma. “What’s he doing here?”

“I think his momma’s people are here. He’s related to all those Herlongs.”

“Does that explain the lip gloss?”

“Timmy, don’t be rude,” said Momma.

“I just wanted to look pretty for the first day of school,” replied Carleen.

“And you do,” said Momma.

When Momma pulled
up in front of Patriot Christian, Carleen looked me square in the eye and gave
me a big smile and a thumbs-up.
“Come on, Timmy.
We’re gonna rule the school in tenth grade. Let’s do it.”

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Meet the Author

Sam Hawk’s fiction is inspired by his experiences at a private Christian Academy in rural South Carolina in the ’70s. He survived his Southern adolescence with his sanity relatively intact and went on to earn degrees from the College of Charleston and the University of South Carolina Law School. He also served in the U.S. Army as a JAG officer for twelve years. He resigned his commission when it became clear he was expected to persecute homosexuals as part of his job.

Sam then moved to Dallas, Texas where he met the man of his dreams and found his LGBT family. Sam and his husband have been married for over ten years and live with their Corgi and Chartreux cat in the requisite charming old house in a historic district where gay couples are legally compelled to live.

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New Release- Conviction by M.D. Neu!

Title: Conviction

Series: A New World, Book Two

Author: M.D. Neu

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: March 25, 2019

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 103900

Genre: Science Fiction, LGBT, Space travel, aliens, politics, grief, interspecies romance

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Synopsis

A little blue world, the third planet from the sun. It’s home to 7 billion people with all manner of faiths, beliefs and customs, divided by bigotry and misunderstanding, who will soon be told they are not alone in the universe. Anyone watching from the outside would pass by this fractured and tumultuous world, unless they had no other choice.

Todd Landon is one of these people, living and working in a section of the world called the United States of America. His life is similar to those around him: home, family, work, friends and a husband.

After the attack on San Jose, Todd is appointed to Special Envoy for Terran Affairs by the nentraee, a position many world leaders question. Undeterred Todd wants to build bridges between both people. However, this new position brings with it a new set of problems that not only he, but his new allies Mi’ko and Mirtoff must overcome. Will the humans and nentraee learn to work together despite mistrust and threats of more attacks by a new global terrorist group, or will the terrorists win? Will this bring an end to an already shaky alliance between nentraee and humans?

Excerpt

Conviction
M.D. Neu © 2019
All Rights Reserved

“I believe this should be adequate.” Mi’ko checked his datapad to ensure all the proper requisitions had been finalized. He glanced around the room again with a pleased smile.

“Do you think he’ll enjoy living here?” Mi’cin asked.

They were here to inspect the quarters he had selected for Todd in the secured area of the speaker’s ship. He could have left it up to Vi-Narm or one of his other aides, but this was important and he needed to handle these details personally. Todd was important, and he wanted to make sure everything was perfect. Plus, it was an opportunity to spend more time with Mi’cin.

“Mister Todd Landon was adamant about staying in his own home and commuting, but it’s not practical.” Mi’ko ran a hand over the desk, then checked his fingers for dust. “And with the rise in protest against us across the planet, it’s not safe. Even though his government insists it is.”

“If you say so,” Mi’cin said. “He didn’t strike me as very logical after our brief meeting.” He went to one of the windows and opened it. “It would be nice to have quarters like this for myself. Does he need all this space? He’s one male.” He inhaled deeply and viewed the park below. “It smells like home. But it’s a replica, not the real place.” His nose crinkled.

“Mi’cin, don’t sulk. Our living situation isn’t that bad, and you are not a child.” Mi’ko put a hand on his son’s arm and squeezed. “I know you hurt. We all ache for our home, but these ships are our home, for now. It’s a pain we all share. By working with the humans, especially Todd, that pain and the loss of our home will lessen.”

Mi’cin’s expression fell. “Assuming the humans will work with us.”

“Please be supportive.” Mi’ko frowned. “I understand you have your misgivings, but please.” He inhaled, smelling the damp trees. “And since when have you not enjoyed the ship’s gardens?” He looked out to the woodland where several tall trees, paths, and waterways ran in countless directions.

The grounds were replicas of some of the famous parks on Benzee and her satellites. The ship’s builders gave as much space as feasible to allow people the chance to enjoy the open space. The artificial light that mimicked the day-night cycle of Benzee had gradually been adjusted to the length of Earth’s day.

“He does, indeed, have a better view than us, but that’s all right.” Mi’ko grinned and thought.

This new position for Mi’cin will help focus him. Give him a chance to interact with the humans and learn about them.

“A view of space would have been equally nice,” Mi’cin said, “but I doubt he’d be used to such a thing.” He turned back to the window. “Such a waste.”

“I assure you it’s not a waste.” Mi’ko ran a hand over the soft fabric of the chair. “Considering the nature of this position. Plus, I thought a view of nature and all the fresh scents would make him feel more at home. It will give him a sense of what Mentra Park was like.”

Mi’cin clucked his tongue.

“What?” Mi’ko questioned. “That was one of your favorite parks on Mentra. You made me take you there whenever we went to visit my parents. You loved the views of Benzee.”

Mi’cin said nothing.

“Mi’cin, please.”

“As you wish, Father.”

“I’d like to ask you to assist Mister Todd Landon to help him acclimate,” Mi’ko said. “It’s going to be hard for him at first. Even though he’s been studying our language and culture—”

Mi’cin’s sigh muted his father. “Of course. I’ll do my best. You have my word. Besides, isn’t that what your aide is supposed to do?”

“True, but this is the first time I’ve had an aide who’s my son.”

“Well, Vi-Narm can’t do it all, and your other aides are busy,” Mi’cin said. “I can use the experience, as you and Mother both keep telling me.”

“I can think of no one better to support me.” Mi’ko focused on his son. “You know, you’re both very quizzical, so you will be good for each other. I hope you can become friends.” He reached out and gently touched Mi’cin on the cheek.

A soft chirp came from the door. It opened to reveal Vi-Narm. Her tightly braided hair had a few wisps out of place; her breathing was heavy.

“Vice speaker, there is a problem with the Envoy position. General Gahumed, with the support of General Fanion, is calling for a special session in the council chamber.”

“What now?” The muscles around Mi’ko’s eyes twitched and the tips of his ears started to warm. It had been like this for several weeks. These continued issues with his own people were taking far too much of his time.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Meet the Author

M.D. Neu is a LGBTQA Fiction Writer with a love for writing and travel. Living in the heart of Silicon Valley (San Jose, California) and growing up around technology, he’s always been fascinated with what could be. Specifically drawn to Science Fiction and Paranormal television and novels, M.D. Neu was inspired by the great Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas, Stephen King, Alfred Hitchcock and Kim Stanley Robinson. An odd combination, but one that has influenced his writing.

Growing up in an accepting family as a gay man, he always wondered why there were never stories reflecting who he was. Constantly surrounded by characters that only reflected heterosexual society, M.D. Neu decided he wanted to change that. So, he took to writing, wanting to tell good stories that reflected our diverse world.

When M.D. Neu isn’t writing, he works for a non-profit and travels with his biggest supporter and his harshest critic, Eric, his husband of eighteen plus years.

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Sunday Small Talk

It’s been a long time. Nano will do that to you. I did ‘win.’ It’s nowhere near done but hey at least I have that much. It was a novel that fought me every inch of the way.

December is usually an off writing month for me. Oh I’m still writing but it’s the one time of year I really do a lot of fan fiction. I don’t visit my roots often any more. Who has the time? But SO many of my friends came to me via fan fic so I spend this month writing little gifts for them. It makes me happy.

I’m prepping for January. I have printed out the last 50 odd pages of These Haunted Hills so I can get back into writing that and ditto an old shifter novella I have sitting here that I think I can do stuff with if I just sit down and get to it. That’s where I’m at.

Also I DO have a new short story out for the holidays. If you’d like to check it out, here it is. I’ve been posting snippets of it and I think that I DO need to do a proper post for it since there is some things about Purrfect Holiday I want to say because it’s special in several ways to me.

But as a taste here: purrfect-holiday
Blurb – Tony Gatti had his life planned: get his veterinarian license and go to work with his dad and uncle. Soon after achieving his goals, he learned the shadows and blurriness in his vision went beyond needing glasses. Retinitis Pigmentosa is a genetic mutation with no cure. With his sight almost gone, he moves into his grandmother’s St. Augustine, Florida home with his guide dog, Raven, to start life over. Nonna Concetta thinks she knows the perfect job for him. Her vet is looking for someone to destress the cats at a local rescue.

Javier didn’t plan to hire a cute former veterinarian to fill the role of cat cuddler, but Tony couldn’t be more perfect. Worried his attraction is inappropriate and knowing the holiday season always depresses him, Javier wonders if he should ask Tony out, or if he’d just be spreading the gloom to someone who already has enough of his own. But if he takes the plunge, could it turn out to be the best holiday ever?

You can order it here at DSP

And it’s been almost a month since Blood Red came out.

blood-red-roulette
Blurb Arrigo Giancarlo’s friends think he’s a rich young man with the unusual job of paranormal investigator, working with his psychic assistant in Las Vegas. In truth he’s a two-thousand-year-old vampire and member of the Chiaroscuro, a group of Supernaturals dedicated to keeping humanity safe from the more dangerous of their kind. He’s also openly bisexual… but alone.

When he spots Luc St. John in a bar, Arrigo is intrigued. What begins as an effort to repay the kindness shown to him in the past quickly turns into much deeper feelings for the suffering and displaced Cajun. For Luc’s part, he feels too poor, too uneducated, and too bound to his hateful family to ever be worthy of elegant and cultured Arrigo.

An old enemy, Eleni, blames Arrigo for murdering her true love. On the anniversary of that death, she’s back to take revenge. As Arrigo’s closest friends fall victim to savage attacks, he fears nothing will keep Luc safe. Should he break both their hearts and let Luc go, or is it too late? If Luc’s already in Eleni’s sights, Arrigo knows that like most things in Vegas, the odds are against him.

You can find it on Amazon here or at my publisher here

And now the links, oh the links

Taking Character Relationships to the Next Level

Lyrics In Books: Your Questions Answered

10 Biggest Book Marketing Mistakes You Need to Stop Making

Organizing Your Writing Life With Trello

Joy Is Important To Success As An Author

Sarra Cannon of Heart Breathings ~ Tips For Success In 2019 As An Indie Author

Three Ways to Add Tension to a Scene During Revisions

Take Charge of Your Creative Life: The SWOT Analysis

The Writer’s Vision for 2019

Why the Story of the Starving Artist Needs to Die

Grand Finale: Two Strategies for Writing Great Story Endings

3 Good Reasons to Write a Sequel

How To Consistently Write 3500-4000 Words Per Hour

Getting Started With Worldbuilding I need to really sit down with this one.

How Do You Bring an Inexperienced Hero to a Fight?

What’s Your Writerly Unique Selling Point?

Authors Interviewing Their Characters: Patricia Harman I’ve done this one. It’s fun

How To Sell Books: My Marketing Journey

Angie Thomas on Code-Switching, Hip Hop & Her Book’s Namesake Tattoo

Why Is Writing So Difficult? Here Are 3 Reasons Why

How Mindfulness Can Help You Enjoy Your Book Release Day

Stagecraft and the Novel: Writing Advice From Leanna Renee Hieber I could use some of this (also I need to contact her about the upcoming steampunk thing

Form A Daily Writing Habit—It Will Improve Your Life I’ve been trying to do this with the write every day thing

Why I Write, Katie Kennedy

Chaos to Order When Writing A Novel

3 Common Plotting Mistakes to Avoid When Writing a Novel

The Fear and Joy of Writing on Proposal

Vision Boards for Authors

New Release! The Rising Tide by J. Scott Coatsworth

Doesn’t this look great? I love Scott’s SF novels. Check it out.

The Rising Tide

J. Scott Coatsworth has a new queer sci fi book out: “The Rising Tide.”

Earth is dead.

Five years later, the remnants of humanity travel through the stars inside Forever, a living, ever-evolving, self-contained generation ship. When Eddy Tremaine and Andy Hammond find a hidden world-within-a-world under the mountains, the discovery triggers a chain of events that could fundamentally alter or extinguish life as they know it, culminate in the takeover of the world mind, and end free will for humankind.

Control the AI, control the people.

Eddy, Andy, and a handful of other unlikely heroes—people of every race and identity, and some who aren’t even human—must find the courage and ingenuity to stand against the rising tide.

Otherwise they might be living through the end days of human history.

Series Blurb: Humankind is on its way to the stars, a journey that will change it forever. Each of the stories in Liminal Sky explores that future through the lens of a generation ship, where the line between science fiction and fantasy often blurs. At times both pessimistic and very hopeful, Liminal Sky thrusts you into a future few would ever have imagined.

DSP Publications | Amazon | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | QueeRomance Ink | Goodreads


Giveaway

Scott is giving away two prizes with this tour – a $25 Amazon gift card, and a signed copy of “The Stark Divide,” book one in the series (US winner only for the paperback). For a chance to win, enter via Rafflecopter:

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Excerpt

The Rising Tide Meme

Eddy Tremayne rode his horse, Cassiopeia, along the edge of the pastures that were the last official human habitations before the Anatov Mountains. Several ranchers along the Verge—the zone between the ranches and the foothills—had reported losses of sheep and cattle in the last few weeks.

As the elected sheriff of First District, which ran from Micavery and the South Pole to the mountains, it was Eddy’s responsibility to find out what was going on.

He had his crossbow strapped to his back and his long knife in a leather sheath at his waist. He’d been carrying them for long enough now—three years?—that they had started to feel natural, but the first time he’d worn the crossbow, he’d felt like a poor man’s Robin Hood.

He doubted he’d need them out here, but sheriffs were supposed to be armed.

He’d checked with Lex in the world mind via the South Pole terminal, but she’d reported nothing amiss. In the last few years, she had begun to deploy biodrones to keep an eye on the far-flung parts of the world, but they provided less than optimal coverage. One flyover of this part of the Verge had shown a peaceful flock of thirty sheep. The next showed eight.

The rancher, a former neurosurgeon from New Zealand named Gia Rand, waited for him on the top of a grassy hill. The grass and trees shone with bioluminescent light, and the afternoon sky lit the surrounding countryside with a golden glow. The spindle—the aggregation of energy and glowing pollen that stretched from pole to pole—sparkled in the middle of the sky.

The rancher pulled on her gray braid, staring angrily at something in the valley below. “Took you long enough to get here.”

“Sorry. The train was out of service again.” Technology was slowly failing them, and they had yet to come up with good replacements.

She snorted. “One helluva spaceship we have here.”

He grinned. “Preaching to the choir.” Forever didn’t have the manufacturing base yet to support anything close to the technology its inhabitants had grown used to on Earth. Which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, if you asked him. With technology came new and better ways to kill. He’d seen it often enough in the NAU Marines. “What did you find?”

“Look.” Her voice was almost a growl.

Eddy looked down where she was pointing. “Oh shit.” Her missing sheep were no longer missing. They had been slaughtered.

He urged Cassiopeia down the hillside to the rocky clearing. A small stream trickled down out of the mountains there. He counted ten carcasses, as near as he could tell from the skulls left behind. Someone had sheared a couple of them and given up. It looked like they had skinned and cut the rest up for meat, the skin and bones and extra bits discarded.

Gia rode down the hillside behind him.

“Didn’t you report twelve sheep missing?”

She nodded. “Bastards took the two lambs. Probably for breeding.”

“That actually might help us.”

“How’s that?”

He dismounted to take a closer look at the crime scene. “They’ll have to pasture them somewhere. May make it easier to track them down.”

“Maybe so.” She dismounted and joined him. “This was brutal work. Look here.” She picked up a bone. “Whatever cut this was sharp but uneven. It left scratch marks across the bone.”

“So not a metal knife.”

“I don’t think so. Maybe a stone knife?”

He laughed harshly. “Are we back to caveman days, then?” It wasn’t an unreasonable question.

She was silent for a moment, staring at the mountains. “Do you think they live up there?”

“Who?” He followed her gaze. Their highest peaks were wreathed in wisps of cloud.

“The Ghosts.”

The Ghosts had been a persistent myth on Forever since their abrupt departure from Earth. Some of the refugees had vanished right after the Collapse, and every now and then something would end up missing. Clothes off a line, food stocks, and the like.

People talked. The rumors had taken on a life of their own, and now whenever something went missing, people whispered, “It’s the Ghosts.”

Eddy didn’t believe in ghosts. He personally knew at least one refugee who had disappeared, his shipmate Davian. He guessed there must be others, though the record keeping from that time had been slipshod at best. He shrugged and looked at the sky. “Who knows?” It was likely to rain in the next day or so. Whoever had done this had left a trail, trampled into the grass. If he didn’t follow it now, it might be gone by the time he got back here with more resources.

Gia knelt by one of the ewes, staring at the remnants of the slaughter. “Could you get me some more breeding stock? This… incident put a big dent in my herd.”

“I’ll see what I can do.” He took one last look around the site. It had to have taken an hour or two to commit this crime, and yet the thieves had apparently done it in broad daylight. Why weren’t they afraid of being caught? “I’m going to follow the trail, see where it leads.”

Gia nodded. “Thanks. We’re taking the rest of the herd back to the barn until you get this all figured out.”

“Sounds prudent. I’ll let you know.”

Slipping on his hat, he climbed back up on Cassie and followed the trail across the stream toward the Anatov Mountains.


Author Bio

Scott lives between the here and now and the what could be. Indoctrinated into fantasy and sci fi by his mother at the tender age of nine, he devoured her library. But as he grew up, he wondered where the people like him were.

He decided it was time to create the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at Waldenbooks. If there weren’t gay characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.

His friends say Scott’s brain works a little differently – he sees relationships between things that others miss, and gets more done in a day than most folks manage in a week. He seeks to transform traditional sci fi, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something unexpected.

A Rainbow Award winning author, he runs Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark, sites that bring queer people together to promote and celebrate fiction reflecitng their own reality.

Website: https://www.jscottcoatsworth.com

Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworth

Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworthauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jscoatsworth

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8392709.J_Scott_Coatsworth

QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/j-scott-coatsworth/

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/J.-Scott-Coatsworth/e/B011AFO4OQ/

LOGO - Other Worlds Ink

New Release: The Boys of Summer: Dust & Ash Saga by Tucker McCallahan

 

Lead singer Ash Redvers needs a drummer. When Dustin Davis shows up, ready, willing, and able to play – not to mention gorgeous – Ash thinks it’s going to be the best season yet. But Ash has never had a boyfriend, and Dust isn’t willing to be a quick hook-up. As the summer heats up, they’ll have to decide whether all they can make together is music, or if there’s something more for them after the Boys of Summer are gone.

Hi! I’m Tucker McCallahan, the author of The Boys of Summer. Thanks so much to Jana for hosting me today! The novel released on August 31 and is the first in a saga of six books.

One of the big motivating factors for me to write the Dust & Ash Saga was my love of music. I come from a pretty musical family. My grandmother was an opera singer. All three of her children (my mother included) played instruments: guitar, percussion, and piano. My aunt and uncle ran a piano studio for years, and I started piano lessons at six years old. I eventually took up trombone, percussion, and voice, and I studied both classical and jazz forms. I was a member of every choir and band at my school, which led to me playing a (short-lived) stint with a garage band.

Even my very first job centered on music. At sixteen I went to work for National Record Mart. (See that? I just dated myself horribly!) I loved that job. I got paid to hang out at a record shop and listen to music, and that was wonderful. Through the store, I got to attend music conventions and meet up-and-coming bands. I have a treasure trove of fond memories from that time that all focus on music, and I built on that experience and those memories to create the world of Dust & Ash.

From The Boys of Summer:

Dustin didn’t understand what was going on, but he didn’t like the vibe of the whole situation. He turned to Matt, who he’d started to consider his closest friend among the Boys. “Sorry, Matt. He’s new at this whole relationship thing, and he’s, uh, not very good at it yet.”

“Relationship, huh?” Matt looked at Dustin with a raised eyebrow. “Interesting word choice. Lemme explain what this is and what it isn’t so you don’t think we’re a bunch of assholes up in your business.”

“That’s kind of the definition of ‘band.’ At least any of them that I’ve been in, anyway.”

Matt barked his laugh and led Dustin through the house. “You know Ash’s family has run the band for over twenty years, right? Well, obviously in that time, the guys in it had girlfriends and, uh, relationships, and some of them turned out to be… less than healthy for the band.”

“I get it, Matt.” Dustin nodded, making a go-ahead motion with his hands. “I even get the reference to Yoko Ono, who most hardcore Beatles fans believe pulled the band apart through her relationship with John Lennon.”

“Right. Well, in the Boys, if two or more members start to worry that there’s a problem with another band member over a chick—or, you know, a… person—then we call a Yoko meeting and we talk it out. Uh, before things get crazy. Or at least we try to. A few times in the past, guys missed the signs or ignored them until shit got critical.”

As Matt and Dustin emerged into the basement, Dustin saw their equipment had been moved back and the couches pushed forward to form an L-shape. Jason and Jared already sat waiting. Jared looked perfectly at home, smoking a cigarette. Jason looked tense.

“When was the last Yoko meeting?” Dustin asked, curious.

“Five years ago.” Matt pointed to the empty couch. He and Dustin sat down.

“So none of you were in the band?”

“I was,” Jared said.

“So was I,” Ash said as he came down the stairs. He carried a twelve-pack of Rolling Rock longneck bottles and a Tupperware container. His eyes met Dustin’s and immediately softened. He held up the container. “This okay, babe? I mean, you weren’t saving them for anything, were you?”

“It’s fine.” Dustin smiled and shook his head. “Although I don’t know how you can be hungry. We just ate.”

“Dessert.” As Ash looked around the room at his bandmates, his grin turned dark and brooding. “Since my other dessert plans were so rudely canceled.”

“Yeah, uh—” Dustin cleared his throat. “So, who was the last meeting held for?”

Ash flopped down beside Jared. He popped the lid on the container and pulled out Dustin’s version of Rice Krispies treats, which he made with marshmallows and whatever cereal was leftover at the end of the week, then drizzled with chocolate and caramel. This week’s happened to have raisins and nut clusters in them, and Ash had been hoarding the container since Sunday.

“My older brother, Rhett,” Ash said, his mouth full.

Dustin stared at him for a full minute before saying slowly, “You have a brother named… Rhett?”

The guys all started snickering, and didn’t stop even when Ash threw them all dirty looks.

“Yeah. He and I are both named after the heroes of great literature.”

Matt snorted. “You’re named after characters from Gone with the Wind, dude.”

At that Jason and Jared busted out laughing, and Dustin couldn’t help it; he joined in. Ash scowled, then popped another chocolate-covered treat into his mouth and chewed ferociously.

“So what did, uh, Rhett do to deserve a Yoko meeting?” Dustin asked, trying to get his laughter under control.

His question brought an abrupt end to the revelry. Solemnly, Matt met Dustin’s eyes. “He used the Boys’ bank account to buy his girl an engagement ring.”

“Well, that’s not so terrible,” Dustin said, feeling the innate romance of it sweep through him. “I mean, we make good money. Did he intend to—”

“He spent ten thousand dollars from the operating account on Tricia’s ring.” Ash’s eyes were darkly ferocious as he stared at Dustin. “It doesn’t matter that she’s my fucking sister-in-law now. There was nothing okay about it. It was wrong, end of story.”

Dustin’s jaw hit the floor. Ten thousand dollars? For a ring?

Ash looked away, then quickly back, the fire in his eyes quenched. “The situation was rectified.”

“So… yeah.” Matt jumped into the ensuing silence. “Yoko meetings. They don’t happen very often, and, uh, this one is, unusual, given that you’re both, uh, in the band. But some stuff has kinda caught our attention and… well, we’re concerned.”

Ash folded his arms across his chest, and Dustin imagined that his Native American ancestors probably looked very similar as they faced down the White Man invading their lands.

“So how’s this work?” Dustin asked. “Is it like an intervention? You each say what you’re concerned about, we deny that there’s any problem, and then you convince us that there is and send us to some center for wayward gay musicians in lust?”

Matt barked again. Even Jared snickered at that, but Jason didn’t so much as crack a smile.

Damn, Dustin thought, tough audience.

“Not exactly,” Matt said.

“Well, before you guys get started with whatever it is you’re going to say, I want to say something,” Ash said.

Jared sighed and Jason looked away, but Matt just nodded. “Go ahead, Ash.”

“It really bothers me that you guys would do this so soon. Me and Dust are still so new that we haven’t even gotten around to telling our families about each other, much less make some kind of formal announcement to the band. Seems to me this is more about my sexual orientation than any kind of band business, and that really pisses me off, because who I fuck is nobody’s business.”

Matt smiled and scratched his forehead before folding his hands in his lap. He gave Ash kind eyes. “I hate to break it to you, dude, but who you fuck is no secret to us. We all knew long before Dustin came along that you, uh, weren’t exactly a girls-only kind of guy.”

That obviously shocked Ash. “Really?”

“Man, I live with you. I knew the score four years ago,” Jared said.

“Well, yeah, but….” Ash eyed Matt and Jason.

“I caught some of the action at Karen Spicer’s New Year’s party two years back,” Matt said, his cheeks coloring.

Ash raised an eyebrow. “Do I want to know what exactly you saw?”

“You were getting pretty friendly with Trang and Mai Pham in one of the walk-in closets. I just needed a dry place to put my coat.” Matt closed his eyes and shook his head. “Needless to say, it wasn’t going to be there. Not after what I saw the three of you doing.”

Ash smiled and cut his gaze to Dustin, who was looking at him with his eyebrows up in a share-with-the-class-please sort of expression. “Uh, Trang and Mai were these Vietnamese exchange students,” Ash explained. “Cousins, I think.”

“Yeah, they were cousins.” Jared nodded as he stubbed out his cigarette. “Mai was a sweet girl. I remember your mom going on and on about what pretty babies the two of you would make if you’d just settle down and marry her.”

“Yeah, that would’ve worked out real well.” Ash made a rude noise. “Not.” He looked at Jason. “So did you know too?”

“I knew you’d fuck anything with a pulse.” Jason gave Ash an angry glare. “You made it real clear to me last summer that you don’t do relationships.” He looked away as the guys opened fresh beers, and mumbled, “If I’d known this might happen, I wouldn’t have asked Dustin to join the band.”

Ash didn’t know what to say to that. He scanned the faces of his bandmates. “So what’s the big stink, guys? Because I’m not pulling a Rhett here. What’s the problem?”

Matt looked at Jared, who shrugged.

“Go ahead,” Jared said.

Matt tried to meet Jason’s eyes, but the bassist sulked, ignoring them all.

“Fine.” Matt blew out a breath. He was really uncomfortable now, and he could feel Dustin’s eyes on him. It made what he was going to say worse somehow, but it couldn’t be helped. “Ash… we know you, man. We’ve grown up with you. We’re like brothers. We’ve all seen how you operate. And while none of us begrudge you whoever you want to get it on with… Dustin is the best drummer we’ve ever had. We need him.” Matt met Ash’s gaze and held it. “We can’t afford to let your dick fuck up the best thing that’s happened to the Boys in the last five years.”

Ash stared at his bandmates, stunned. The sugary taste of the dessert turned wrong on his tongue, and he swallowed convulsively, trying to clear his mouth. He didn’t dare look at Dustin. He was petrified of what he’d see on his boyfriend’s face after that little revelation from Matt. He looked at Jason instead, and immediately wished he hadn’t.

“It’s Dustin’s turn now,” Jason said. “What’s gonna happen when his turn’s over, Ash? You gonna dump him the way you do all the others? Not call him, not talk to him, ignore his text messages, tell us how he’s driving you nuts, how he got too attached? ’Cause that won’t work when you’re seeing him at practice every fucking day.” Jason abruptly sat forward, his hands clasped in his lap. “And what about when you move on to the next person in line? Is Dustin supposed to watch? Is he supposed to live with you, practice with you, play gigs with you, and watch while you do the same thing, pull the same moves, run the same game on whoever comes after him?” Jason shook his head. “That would be really shitty to do to a band member, man.”

Ash was speechless. This was utterly not what he expected, what he came prepared to argue about. The guys weren’t worried about the gay thing, and they didn’t care that he was bisexual. They were worried that he was going to hurt Dustin or drive him away. Given Ash’s track record and everything that had already happened…

They were probably right.

Ash’s throat constricted and tears burned the corners of his eyes. He looked up at the ceiling, hoping it would be enough to wish them away, because he didn’t think he could bear crying in front of the guys. Not over this.

What truly sucked was that he remembered, vividly, laughing and joking at band practice last summer, his phone going off over and over during rehearsals as different hookups called and texted him, trying to set shit up. And Jason was right. Ash let the calls go to voicemail, blocked the texts, and bitched to the band about how trick after trick (though he never called them that—not in front of anybody, anyway) got too damn attached and wanted a “relationship.”

Ash closed his eyes, trying to take slow, regular breaths, as he remembered getting into that argument with Jason about the merits of the one-night stand. He finally thought he understood why Jason was so upset about this thing with Dustin, why he was being such a dick about it. After all, Jason and Dust were friends, and last summer Ash very loudly proclaimed that one-night stands were all he wanted, that they were the ideal relationship. He and Jason argued about it, for fuck’s sake.

Maybe they were right. If Ash loved Dustin—and he was pretty sure that the ache in his chest over this whole mess and the hollow feeling that seized him every time he thought about Dustin not being in the farmhouse was what love felt like—then maybe… maybe Ash needed to let Dustin go.

The whole meeting might have ended right there, with Ash agreeing to end things and not see Dustin anymore, if Ash hadn’t seen two things. The first was Jason’s eyes. They were fever-bright and filled with an odd anticipatory glee. The second was Dustin’s face, which was as miserable as Ash had ever seen it. And what capped it all was that Jason’s satisfaction came as he glanced from Ash’s anguished expression to Dustin’s unhappy face.

Oh. Hell. No. Fury roared up in Ash, drowning out the sorrow. He didn’t understand why he and Dustin separating made Jason so happy, but Ash wasn’t going to give up the first person to make him feel safe, whole, and like he was home without a fight.

* * * *

I hope you enjoyed the excerpt. The Boys of Summer is the first book in the Dust & Ash Saga and is available now on Amazon and Smashwords. The second book is scheduled to come out in the spring; there are six books in all.

To celebrate the first release in the saga, I’m sponsoring a giveaway! There are three ways to enter: like my author page on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, or – if you’re already following me on FB and Twitter – leave me a comment about your favorite music to listen to at a wedding reception. I’ll be giving away three gift cards, and the winners will get to choose what they’d like to receive! Winners will be announced on my blog on September 30th.

 

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Once again, I’d like to thank Jana for hosting me and the Boys today. Turn on some music and enjoy the end of your summer!

 

About Tucker McCallahan:

Tucker McCallahan has been lots of places, seen lots of things, and is still learning new stuff on the regular. Multi-published, bisexual, polyamorous, and slave to a big black cat named Emperor Inka, Tucker is also married, a parent, a long-time member of the LGBT community and a proud educator/activist.