Silver Dagger Book Tours has organized an amazing tour starting on Thursday, December 13, kicking off at their own site. Below is a list of the many blogs that are a part of the tour – make sure to check back often for updated links to each appearance.
In addition, there is also a giveaway through Rafflecopter, which you can find at the bottom of this post or here. The giveaway will run from December 12, 2018 through January 4, 2019, so be sure to enter for a chance to win an Amazon gift card!
Romance Across the Rainbow Welcomes Jana Denardo with her new book, Blood Red Roulette!
Jana Denardo has a new bi paranormal book out with a romantic arc: Blood Red Roulette.
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.
That night, after dealing with the renegade, Arrigo decided to check out the Alibi. He had wanted to know more about the family who seemed to run the place or, more specifically, the hot bartender with the wild curls, whose name he’d learned on his last visit was Luc. The gray-haired, bearded man whose appearance screamed redneck was of no interest to Arrigo other than to inspire distaste because of how he lorded over the two young men who worked the bar with him. The other man, brawnier with darker hair, bullied Luc too. Arrigo learned quickly that his name was Henri, Luc’s brother, and the gray-haired man was their father.
Their accents were Louisianan, Cajun. Arrigo recognized the bayou accent because he had lived in the Pontalba Apartments in the French Quarter several years back. Arrigo figured they had come west looking for new homes after Hurricane Katrina like many others. He knew a whole clan of vampires who gave up the New Orleans cliché and moved to Tempe, Arizona.
At that first meeting, Luc snagged his attention, sending a warm feeling due south. Rarely did someone stir up enough lust to cloud his Roman-soldier sense of duty, but Luc nearly made him lose track of his quarry that night. He hoped the ghosts of his ancient cadre and his personal lares, the guardian spirits Romans believed in back in his mortal days, hadn’t seen him slip up like that. He hadn’t fully given up his belief in the old ways.
The problem with being so ancient was the nagging feeling he’d done it all, and he’d do something wild—and potentially stupid—to prove to himself there were new things to experience. Some days time went too fast, leaving him feeling alive, almost raw with sensation. On the other hand, there were weeks when time trudged by, and then he’d remember how long he’d been alone. Out of nowhere, a laugh perked up his spirit, a flash of a lovely eye ensnared him, or the sight of a well-rounded butt cheek made his heart race. Those moments were inevitable.
The night he first saw Luc’s cherubic face, it catalyzed a reaction. Of course a night in which he’d stalked dangerous prey had been no time to try to talk to Luc. However, working at Delilah’s Diner several doors down, investigating it for his book, suited Arrigo perfectly. After stopping at Delilah’s to gather stories the day after he’d fought the renegade, he planned to drop by the Alibi to see if he could talk to Luc.
As it turned out, he hadn’t had to. Luc showed up at Delilah’s that night. Luc and Lily, the waitress who had told Arrigo all about Delilah’s ghosts, chatted the whole time Arrigo poked around. The gentleness and concern Luc displayed with her, the promise to help her take her kids fishing like their dad used to, even his agreeing to pretend to be her boyfriend to shake off a scary customer spoke volumes. Luc was either a good guy or a crafty predator. Arrigo dealt with predators often, and Luc failed to impress him as one.
The second time Arrigo returned to Delilah’s to learn more from Lily, the cook, and a couple other waitresses in the dead, late-night hours of the twenty-four-hour diner, Luc showed up again, sporting a busted lip. Arrigo helped with a towel filled with ice for Luc so Lily could wait on other patrons. Arrigo only managed to exchange a few words with him, Luc’s wary gaze never leaving his face. Luc only stayed long enough to confirm the fishing trip before stumbling to the bus stop.
Tonight he’d try again at the Alibi after stopping at Delilah’s, using the diner as his excuse for being in the area. He could only imagine the bad reactions in the biker bar if someone thought he’d shown up to see Luc.
Once he arrived at the diner, Arrigo had second thoughts about going into the Alibi. This sort of bar probably thrived on gay bashing, and he was not in the mood to get into a fight with people he’d gladly drain down to the last drop. His inner predator didn’t need that sort of challenge. He glanced up and down the street, first at Delilah’s, then the Alibi. Tabernae remained unchanged for the most part since the days of his youth. Call it what you will:taberna, tavern, pub, bar, diner even, people had always needed a place to gather, to eat and drink. In a way, the Alibi reminded him far too much of his mortal days: rough people, bad booze, and even rougher prostitutes waiting nearby. A shiver ran through him. Some things Arrigo wanted to forget forever.
While Arrigo mentally debated on doing the smart thing and going home, Luc walked around the corner of the bar with a hose in tow. That made things easier. Arrigo didn’t even have to go into the bar with its sticky floors and miserable clientele.
Even though he knew he was probably asking for trouble, Arrigo sauntered across the street. Luc attacked the gritty, broken sidewalk with the stream of water from hose, but no amount of cleaning could make the Alibi look more enticing. Luc wore torn jeans with ragged stringy hems, a plain blue T-shirt thin enough it was nearly see-through, and a worn-out pair of canvas tennis shoes with the uppers duct-taped to the soles.As he closed the distance, the booze and vomit hit his senses before the copious puddle of it came into view outside the Alibi’s door. “Bonsoir,” Arrigo said, remembering Cajuns spoke a form of French thick with slang he only half remembered. The trouble with living so long was that languages became dated and he knew so many, he struggled to keep them all straight.
Luc looked up, surprise in his expression at hearing French. His face taking on a curious expression, he stared at Arrigo, almost eye to eye. Despite how much taller humans had grown, Arrigo thought he might have an inch on Luc.
Ghost hunting entered this story sort of sideways. I knew from the beginning that Arrigo’s business partner and friend, Taabu, was a true psychic who ran a psychic reading business. Arrigo, on the other hand, is as psychic as a stone so I had to think of why they’re business partners, beyond his natural inclination to help his friends. He loaned Taabu the money to help start her business, but I wanted it to be more than that since Taabu, as a minor character, is in a good third of the novel or more. Their business couldn’t be am afterthought.
I’ve been a paranormal investigator since I can remember really. It began in earnest in the 1980s, long before all the TV shows popularizing it. Actually, I’m kicking myself for never thinking about taking it to TV. I’ve done solo and group work over the last thirty years almost everywhere I’ve lived and now, since it’s so popular I usually work one ghost tour into every vacation.
Las Vegas is one place I’ve gone to that I haven’t done the ghost tours, mostly because several reviewers had said they weren’t that great and very light on the history. That made me sad. I want more out of my ghost tour than just local legend. I want some of the true history, to know that the guides have put forth the effort to investigate the possible hauntings. This lack in Vegas got me thinking and sent me off researching it.
Ghost hunters and psychics go together very well, and it would be something that would amuse Arrigo, a vampire hunting ghosts. Having been alive since the time of Caesar, Arrigo has plenty of money, so he can afford to take a job that’s equal parts job and play. At the opening of the novel, he’s considering offering his own Vegas ghost tours for the multitude of visitors flocking to the city. He figures it would be perfect to help out young vampires who require the darkness to survive. It would be a nice income bump for them and keep them working with humans which he feels is vital to do.
That left me hunting down ghost stories and Vegas definitely does have some. There was one in particular that made the book because I was able to verify some of the history. There was a major hotel fire with multiple deaths. It’s tragic and terrible and a good place to possibly find ghosts. To his surprise, Arrigo has been asked to do a local haunts book and that’s what takes him to Luc’s stomping grounds, at least in part.
The book gives him an excuse to keep visiting Luc, and he definitely wants to do that. Of course, Luc has no idea what to make of Arrigo’s job as a ghost hunter. He’s caught between believing in ghosts and pretending he doesn’t because he knows his brother and Henri’s friends will mock him. I had a blast doing the research for the ghostly aspect of this novel.
Jana is Queen of the Geeks (her students voted her in) and her home and office are shrines to any number of comic book and manga heroes along with SF shows and movies too numerous to count. There is no coincidence the love of all things geeky has made its way into many of her stories. To this day, she’s still disappointed she hasn’t found a wardrobe to another realm, a superhero to take her flying among the clouds or a roguish star ship captain to run off to the stars with her.
The edge of the old cement pediment crumbled away beneath Hank’s feet into the river far below, glistening in the light of the almost-full moon. The bridge railing was cold at his back—he could feel it all the way through his jacket and shirt to his skin. He could see his breath glowing in the night air.
The nearly-frozen water rushed by in the river below, flowing under the bridge behind him and on toward the ocean far away in a steady flow, silver in the moonlight and heavily laden with winter rain. As soon as he gathered his courage, Hank would let go of his grip on the railing and fall into those icy waters, to disappear forever from the world of men.
It was New Year’s Day, 1986, an hour after midnight, and it was the end of things for Hank.
Or it should have been.
It was also the night he first met Dale.
Scott lives with his husband of twenty five years in a Sacramento suburb, in a cute little yellow house with a brick fireplace and two pink flamingoes out front.
He inhabits in the space between the here and now and the what could be. Indoctrinated into science fiction and fantasy by his mom at the tender age of nine, he quickly finished her entire library. But he soon began to wonder where all the queer people were.
After coming out at twenty three, he started writing the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at Crown Books. If there weren’t many queer characters in his favorite genres, he would will them into existence, subverting them to his own ends. And if he was lucky enough, someone else would want to read them.
His friends say Scott’s mind works a little differently than most – he makes connections between ideas that others don’t, and somehow does more in a day than most people manage in a week. Although born an introvert, he forced himself to reach outside himself, and learned to connect with others like him.
Scott’s stories subvert expectations that transform traditional science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something different and unexpected. He runs both Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark.
His romance and genre fiction writing brings a queer energy to his stories, filling them with love, beauty and power. He imagines how the world could be – in the process, he hopes to change the world, just a little.
Scott was recognized as one of the top new gay authors in the 2017 Rainbow Awards, and his debut novel “Skythane” received two awards and an honorable mention.
Today, Romance Across the Rainbow is happy to host the Blackwood Series Tour.Mary Rundle has a new MM paranormal mpreg book out in her Blackwood Pack series:
About the Series:
Join the journey of the Blackwood Pack, seven brothers who are gay wolf shifters in search of their fated mates – stories about love at first sight with twists and turns, angst and humor, romance and adventure. Each book has two main characters who meet, fall in love, mate and achieve an HEA but the stories also chronicle the continuing saga of the Blackwood Pack. The series is best appreciated by reading the books in order.
Mary is giving away a $15 Amazon gift certificate with this tour – for a chance to win, enter via Rafflecopter:
Steel, one of the last Dire Wolves on earth, has searched more than 100 years for the special mate promised by the Fates. Discouraged after meeting his latest prospect, he sees a naked hitchhiker on his way home who’s everything he’d envisioned the man of his dreams would be. His wolf and body tell him he’s found his fated mate but why can’t he pick up his scent?
Robbed of his car, clothes and money, Jackson, Alpha of the Blackwood Pack has no choice but to thumb a lift, frantic to get home to his six brothers. He’s been protecting them from a rival pack who massacred most of his family and wants to finish off the rest. When Steel rolls down his window, Jackson knows he also has found his fated mate but it would be too dangerous to claim him with his pack under attack.
After the intervention of an Oracle and a Witch, Jackson discovers why the Fates made him unique-just for Steel. Navigating the mine field this revelation brings, Jackson and Steel must figure out how to make their relationship work while dealing with forces determined to kill the Blackwood pack – and them.
Steel’s wolf was snarling and snapping as he drove away from Jimmy’s after leaving Jackson behind. He just couldn’t understand his wolf. What am I missing here? Jackson is not my mate.His mate had to be a wolf—he knew it because he’d been told not only by his mother who was an Oracle but by no less than three other Oracles. His mate would help save his species of wolves.
The importance of this was impressed upon him throughout his life. He stepped on the gas, eager to get home to do some research. He needed answers because he had a feeling of foreboding about what was going to happen to Jackson and that was driving his wolf crazy.
Finally arriving home, he stopped at the fifteen foot high gates, keyed in his passcode and then drove up the long driveway to his sprawling house, nestled among the trees on the knob of a small mountain. Although there were taller mountains to roam on his 200,000 acres of land, this spot spoke to his wolf spirit. He inhaled deeply as he got out of the truck, feeling his body reacting to the sights and smells around him.
Looking around, he wondered if Jackson would like this spot as much as he did. And that did it—his cock hardened in a second and his blood started to heat up. What the fuck? He drove the image of Jackson’s firm body from his mind and thumped his cock several times to get it to go down.
Hmmm, what to do first?Decision made, he stripped out of his clothes and stood still for a second before he called on his wolf and shifted. Birds scattered as the noise of bones cracking and stretching filled the air. When the sound faded away, Steel stood in his wolf form, shaking out his fur and scenting the air. Deer to the east, a small black bear and her cub ambling along the trail to the south and, yes there it was, a path that was free of any animal—Steel knew it wouldn’t be a good day to engage in a sparring match. His wolf was too unsettled for that.
He struck out at a full run for the trail leading north to one of the tallest mountains on his land. His large paws made no sound on the thickly carpeted forest floor. Steel had gotten so many mixed signals from his wolf today he needed this time to figure out what was happening. He knew his wolf needed it also. While he was running, Steel examined his wolf’s feelings regarding Jackson because it was much easier to understand his wolf when they were one, especially now, since he hadn’t understood his wolf’s reaction to a man who had no scent. Taking in the smells and sounds of his forest, his mind searched and filtered through his wolf’s feelings.
Dr. Ian Wallace, a rare Scottish Wolf, has dedicated his life to saving and healing wolf shifters by joining Frontline Doctors. Determined never to take a mate, he avoids relationships and is content to live a nomadic life, taking assignments to wild and remote places. That is, until an old friend asks him for a favor which Ian’s wolf will not let him refuse. Now on his way to the Blackwood Pack compound, his wolf becomes frantic and Ian learns not only that he has a Fated Mate, but that his Fated Mate is in danger.
Colton was forced to give up his dreams of becoming a nurse and joining Frontline Doctors when tragedy befell his family. Instead, he healed sick animals around his home while hiding from a pack who wanted him dead. Given the chance to use his skills, Colton seizes it and embarks on a journey that will reveal just how special he is.
A kidnapping, slave auction, revelations of long-kept family secrets and a rare, powerful gift from the gods are some of the surprises in store for both of them until they finally find their way into each other’s hearts after discovering neither is who the other thought he was.
His wolf surged forth, claws grew, teeth dropped, fur sprouted and he vibrated in Colton’s arms trying to fight the shift. But did he want to? Ian wasn’t sure. He and his wolf needed to avenge the wrong done to their mate. If Colton wasn’t going to kill Pablo, Ian’s wolf would. Then, mind made up, he pushed out of the arms holding him and landed with all fours on the floor. Snarling and growling, Ian’s wolf wanted his prey—to kill him and remove any threat to his mate. He lifted his head, opened his mouth and issued his challenge. Howling loud and long his wolf wasn’t going to quit until his mate was safe.
Stunned, Colton looked at the small yet fierce wolf in front of him—a rare golden-tipped, white wolf with deep golden eyes—the stuff of legends. Holy Shit! Before he could do anything, the room was filled with six, very large bodies, ready to handle the threat of Ian’s howls. In a blink of an eye, Ian’s wolf turned, facing the perceived threat against Colton. Hackles raised, saliva dripping, he looked as if he’d take on everyone now crowding the space.
Colton knew this had the makings of a disaster; he needed to calm his mate so he could shift back. Slowly he slid off the loveseat and knelt next to his mate. “Ian, please babe, stop. I’m safe. These are my brothers and Steel. You know them, please babe.” Colton put his arms around the neck and buried his hands in the soft fur. Rubbing his face against his mate, Colton inhaled deeply, marveling again at the scent. He felt Ian’s wolf slowly relax as he reassessed the situation. That was, until Colton heard Jackson.
Jackson waddled into the room, bellowing, “What the fuck is going on?”
And just like that, Ian’s wolf turned to face the new threat, growling, tensing, ready to spring. Colton saw Steel move in front of Jackson, the rest of his brothers moved and stood in front of Steel, forming a wall of muscled bodies, intent on protecting Jackson and his unborn pup.
Colton panicked. He jumped up and moved in front of Ian’s wolf. Nobody was going to touch his mate. Now Colton was the one fighting a shift as he listened to his mate issue howls and growls, warning everyone he was ready to fight. Colton knew everything was going to hell in a handbasket but he didn’t know what to do. He needed help to defuse this right now—but who?
Suddenly, he heard an Alpha voice so powerful and overwhelming that Colton immediately tilted his neck in submission as did all in the room. Maximus, in Dire Wolf Alpha mode, strode into the room, immediately sussed out the situation, and commanded, “Stand Down! Now!!” he roared those words, enveloping the room in his Alpha power.
Enforcer Dylon Royd worked for the notorious Silver Point Pack until they accused him of disloyalty. Imprisoned and beaten to within an inch of his life, he’s dumped at the side of a road and left for dead. Waking up in the Blackwood Pack’s hospital, he’s shocked to discover his Fated Mate is one of the pack’s members he’d been ordered to kill.
Cody is a seer and has grappled with visions all his life, but after most of his family is massacred they have intensified so fiercely he begins to make plans to escape his pain and suffering. Thinking no one wants a freak for a Fated Mate, he tries to reject Dylon until he realizes his salvation depends on accepting him.
A life or death situation for Cody, a rare gift to both from the Fates, a dangerous mission, and an unexpected surprise are some of the challenges they face. Together they begin a journey to save Cody’s life while forging a partnership that requires absolute trust for both to survive.
Low hanging, heavy, cloud cover. A pitch-black night in the Tajikistan mountains. It were as if the gods were blessing his commitment to stop the bloodshed so many of his people had experienced over these long years. Ulfric tried to recall a time in his life that was free of the beatings and killings that Arald had inflicted on his pack. But he could not remember such a time. Now his wife was expecting their first pup, and as much as he was excited about it, he dreaded it just as much. So, when this chance arose, he had to try, for the sake of his family.
After telling his wife he was leaving, Ulfric slipped out the back door and paused. Lifting his nose, he sniffed but found no other wolf nearby. Sticking to the shadows, he quietly made his way out of town, hoping his luck held. Right now, Arald was meeting with the representative of Dire Enterprises in a pre-conference meeting. He hadn’t wanted to wait this long but it was impossible to even contact the other pack Alpha until today.
As he saw it, this was his final chance to stop the tyranny he and his pack lived under. But he couldn’t stand alone. He needed the other pack to join with him during the conference if there was ever a chance his pack would be free of Arald and his goons. Pausing often to check for anyone following him, he crept down to the mountain waterfall where they could talk where not even wolf hearing could distinguish spoken words.
Apologizing to Arald and Slate Valentin for his need to get home to help his wife, Ordovic left the building, nodding to the guards who stood outside the meeting room. He wasn’t sure why his presence was required since nothing would change for his pack. No, Arald controlled this land—something even a young shifter knew. And even though he tried to tell himself there wasn’t anything he could do about it, Ordovic hoped that this time might be different.
That was the reason he gave himself for heading to the agreed meeting place instead of home where his wife and children slept. But he wanted a better life for his children. A place they could grow up and not fear being attacked every time they left home. And as the leader of his pack, he owed it to his pack members to at least try to free them from the oppression they now lived under.
Fading back into the shadows at the top of the mountain path, he waited to see if anyone had followed him. His ability at camouflage was superb, though it was a well-guarded secret. After a few minutes he continued down the path. At least he didn’t have to worry about being attacked—killed, yes—but the guy from Dire Enterprises made the three leaders sign a contract agreeing to not attack another pack while the peace conference was in session.
Kieran was sold into slavery where he was forced to care for other prisoners held by a shifter trafficking ring. But that changed when a Blackwood brother freed him and the others. Now for the first time in his life, the world beckons and he can plan his future. That is, until he discovers why the Fates brought him to the Blackwood Pack.
Logan, one of the brothers, has become a virtual recluse, spending hours at his design table, unable to shake the horrible memories of his family’s massacre and an unhappy childhood under the fist of his father, a dictatorial and abusive Alpha.
When Kieran appears, Logan is smitten with this pink-loving twink who tries to use his sassy and irrepressible wit to win his heart. After Logan claims Kieran, he finds keeping him is not easy. When both realize Logan can’t give himself completely to his Fated Mate, Kieran takes off but tells no one where.
A frantic search, rejection, dark secrets revealed, ghosts exorcised- these are just some of the obstacles Kieran and Logan must overcome as they embark on a mission of discovery that will make their love for each other stronger. Only then, will these two unique wolves fulfill their destinies decreed by the Fates and gods and prove worthy of the powerful gifts bestowed on them.
Kieran saw Lizzie coming in from the kitchen and said to her, “Miss L, what fantastic taste you have. I’m so glad they have you supervising their clothing choices otherwise, who knows what they would learn from their daddies?” Then, turning back to Dylon and Cody, “No offense big guys, but you really should let Miss L do some shopping for you, too. I mean, I know you are mated—I mean Fated Mated—so there isn’t going to be anyone else for you but still, you should look good for each other. Hey Miss L, do you think Dylon could use a facial mask? Maybe something to soften his skin so Cody will want to kiss him more? You know, that’s the first thing to go when you have kids. No time to take care of yourself. But I bet with a little help from Miss L and me, we could have you looking like you did before you had kids. Do you take bubble baths? You know, they’re great for softening all parts of your body, well maybe not all parts, if you catch my drift. That’s another side benefit for new parents who aren’t getting all they want in the sex department. Maybe Miss L and I …”
“Stop!” yelled Dylon, startling Jessica who let out a wail while most everyone else was doubled over with laughter. “Now, look what you did!”
“Don’t you blame Kieran, Dylon. You yelled, causing your daughter to cry,” Lizzie scolded, taking Jessica from her son’s arms, “Shush there, sweetie, grandma has you.”
“But did you hear what he was saying to us? He said we had sex problems!” complained Dylon, handing Jessica’s bottle to Lizzie.
“Kieran was only trying to help, weren’t you honey?” Lizzie asked Kieran. “All new parents can do with a little help.”
“That’s right, Miss L. I have some ideas to spice up their sex life I can run past you, and if you agree, then I can find out where to buy the items online—you know since they are new parents and all.”
Growling, Dylon spat, “You are not going to discuss my sex life with my mother—do you understand? No way! No how! Never! Kieran, am I making myself clear?” Then turning to his mother, he said, “Mother, don’t, just don’t. This is embarrassing me and my mate.”
Holding up his hands, Kieran said, “Whoa, big guy! If you don’t want my help, then no problemo. I’m sure Jackson or Colton will appreciate my help in getting their sex life back on track. If you want to suffer, then who am I to interfere? But you really ought to think about Cody before you go issuing your orders. Right Miss L? It takes two to tango.”
Handing Jake to Dylon, Cody said, “Kieran, that’s enough. While I appreciate your offer to help us, there’s no need as we’re very happy with our ‘sex life’. You and I are going to have a talk later about boundaries, or the lack of them, in this case.”
Author’s Note: Oh my gosh! I am so excited to be here and thank you for hosting my blog tour. The Blackwood Pack series tells the story of seven brothers meeting their Fated Mates and so much more. Each book has HEA for the mated pair but it also brings the reader along as they find out what happens to the whole pack. The exclusive excerpt I have for you today is from Raphael’s Power, Book 2 and tells the love story of Colton and Ian. I hope you enjoy it!
Colton heard a soft knock and then smelled food. Oh my gods! Just what the doctor ordered. He snickered and carefully slipped out of bed. Pulling on jeans, he walked barefoot to the door so as not to wake Ian. Quietly opening it, he saw Dakota behind a serving cart covered an array of mouth-watering dishes. His stomach grumbled loudly as he smiled at his brother. Holding a finger to his lips, Colton whispered, “Shh, Ian’s still sleeping. Let’s take this into the sitting room.”
He wondered where Dakota had gotten the serving cart with the quiet rubber wheels as they stealthily rolled it into the next room. Colton turned to Dakota. “Thanks, bro. You have no idea how hungry I am.”
Dakota slapped his brother’s hand away from the bacon. “Hands off. This isn’t just for you, dumbass. It’s my mating gift to you and Ian. You wait until he wakes up.”
“Oh, my gods, did you make this for us Dakota?” Ian asked, standing in the doorway with a sheet wrapped around him.
Dakota smirked at Colton before turning to Ian. “Yes, it’s my mating gift to you and Colton. I hope you enjoy it and if there’s anything else you want, just let me know.”
“That is so sweet, isn’t it Colton? What a great present. Thank you. I know I’ll enjoy it,” Ian said as he wandered over to the cart. “Wow, everything smells so good.” He then reached over and gave Dakota a hug.
Colton’s wolf growled. He didn’t care if Dakota was his brother. All of Ian’s hugs belonged to him. Grabbing Dakota’s arm, Colton yanked his brother away from his mate and shoved him towards the door. “Thanks for your gift,” he growled, “But I’ll take it from here.”
“Stop it Colton,” cried Ian. “That’s no way to treat your brother who spent his time making us something special to eat.” He marched over to Dakota and said, “Regardless of the brutish behavior of my mate, I really appreciate your thoughtfulness. I’m starved and I know Colton hasn’t eaten either.” Then he looked at his mate and said “Well?”
Colton sighed. “I’m sorry brother. Please chalk my behavior up to my lack of food.”
Dakota chuckled and said, “Sure bro, lack of food…uh huh.” His chuckle morphed into loud endless laughter as he left their suite.
Ian stared for a few minutes at the door before turning to his mate. “I think it’s time you and I have a chat. That display of possessiveness doesn’t work for me. I’m a doctor and I touch many wolves each day while I’m treating them. I receive thanks and sometimes hugs from the patients and their family. If you plan on going all-Alpha on me every time it happens, you better rethink it. Practicing medicine is important to me not only because I help people but because it makes me happy. And from what I’ve heard, it’s the same for you.”
Colton’s jaw dropped at Ian’s tirade. Holy Crap! What the fuck has happened to me! Taking Ian’s hand, he tugged at it a little before his mate gave in and followed him to the love seat. After sitting down, he looked up at Ian and said, “Will you join me so we can talk? I’m really very sorry about my reaction. This is all so new to me and I think you’re right, we need to clear the air.”
Ian looked at his mate, searching his face to see the truth of the words and, finding them, he sat facing Colton. He regretted his outburst not because of what he said—as it was the truth—but for the way he said it. Medicine was his life and when he discovered his fated mate was also in medicine, he was overjoyed. Being a doctor or a nurse was a hard life—it meant long hours, roller coaster emotions at successes or failures and devotion to your patient even if it meant personal sacrifice. That’s why he never wanted a mate.
“Ian, I’m truly sorry. I know you’re right. The only explanation I can offer is that my wolf is so dammed possessive right now. I’m hoping he’ll settle down after awhile. I’m going to talk to Jackson or maybe Steel, about how they handled it and get some suggestions. I absolutely will never stand in your way of practicing medicine. Being a doctor is part of you and I love all of you.”
Colton’s declaration of love brought tears to Ian’s eyes. He was loved—something he never realized was missing from his life. Looking back, he clearly saw how lonely his world had been. His parents loved him, but his wolf was right all along, he was alone in the world. Finding Colton changed him—and his world—in ways he was still discovering.
Ian launched himself into Colton’s lap. “I love you so much. I never knew what I was missing until I found you. You complete me and make me so happy. You’re my world!” he said, nestling into his mate’s arms, kissing his chest, while grinding his ass into his mate’s groin. “I’m sorry I was angry before. This is all new to me, too, and I growled in Mexico when you were hugged as you said good-bye. I never thought I’d have a mate and now I do and I’m all mixed up trying to sort out my feelings.”
I never went to school to learn writing nor attended a writing workshop, but it didn’t stop me from entering a writing contest and from that came my first book, Dire Warning. Readers loved it and I was on my way to chronicling the Blackwood Pack, seven brothers who are gay wolf shifters in search of their fated mates– stories about love at first sight with twists and turns, angst and humor, romance and adventure and, of course, happy endings.
My stories come to me as if they were being channeled by my characters, all of whom I love (except for a few villains). They are eager to recount their lives, loves and adventures and are not inhibited when it comes to revealing steamy details. I love the M/M paranormal genre because it gives my imagination a lot of territory in which to roam. My mind can really run wild and come up with some amazing stuff when it doesn’t have to stay inside the box. Although my writing is sometimes raw—that’s the way I like to tell my stories—readers love it and are clamoring for more. I currently live in the Northeast and love the beautiful change of seasons, my husband, and our quirky calico cat, though not necessarily in that order.
Alexis Duran has a new book out in her Jacqui the Cat cozy MM mystery series – “Roam” – and there’s a Giveaway!
About the Series
Jacqui Corleone is a fashion designer, a yoga-instructor and a concerned citizen who selflessly helps the police solve crimes. Oh, and he occasionally turns into a small wild cat. Probably due to a wizard’s curse or an evil government plot to create super warriors.
Or, he’s a cat cursed to turn into a human and only the bite of a sexy alpha lion will allow him to remain in his superior form of Cat.
Jacqui does not have a split personality, but sometimes his cat personality can get rather loud.
Loud? You’re loud.
Jacqui Corleone is a cat shifter who doesn’t know why or how he turns into a cat. He lives a solitary life in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. He’s not afraid of intimacy (yes, he is) but sensibly refrains from potentially awkward entanglements. Unfortunately, the sexy new deputy sheriff just moved in across the street and Jacqui’s vow not to get mixed up with island dudes is sorely challenged.
When the mysterious disappearance of three blue pots draws Jacqui to investigate, he’s drawn ever deeper into danger–and into the arms of Deputy Wyatt West (you wish).
Alexis is giving one lucky winner a $10 Amazon gift card. Enter via Rafflecopter for a chance to win.
Jacqui Corleone is a fashion designer, a yoga-instructor and a concerned citizen who selflessly helps the police solve crimes. Oh, and he occasionally turns into a small wild cat. Probably due to a wizard’s curse or an evil government plot to create super warriors.
Or, he’s a cat cursed to turn into a human and only the bite of a sexy alpha lion will allow him to remain in his superior form of Cat.
Jacqui does not have a split personality, but sometimes his cat personality can get rather loud.
Loud? You’re loud.
Jacqui Corleone is a cat shifter who doesn’t know why or how he turns into a cat. He lives a solitary life in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. He’s not afraid of intimacy (yes, he is) but sensibly refrains from potentially awkward entanglements. Unfortunately, the sexy new deputy sheriff just moved in across the street and Jacqui’s vow not to get mixed up with island dudes is sorely challenged.
When the mysterious disappearance of three blue pots draws Jacqui to investigate, he prowls ever deeper into danger–and into the arms of Deputy Wyatt West (he wishes).
Not that anything could make Jacqui a dull boy, but hours spent stooped over his sewing table had given him a kink in his neck along a strong urge to throw aside his needle and leap out the window.
Instead he sighed dramatically, pressed his palms against the edge of the heavy table and stretched his neck, tilting his head to one side and then the other. He arched his back, slouched, arched again. Not working.He stood, padded across the hardwood floor and slid open the glass door to his tiny balcony.
He’d been working for hours and still had two jackets to finish. Zee was arriving the next day to pick up the new outfits Jacqui had created. Everything had to be perfect. And complete. Complete and perfect and amazing. Because Zee was a rising star, and when the rabble got a look at the Cat’s Eye creations adorning Zee’s nearly famous bod, Jacqui would have it made. That was the assumption, anyway. Orders would flood his inbox, gobs of money would flow into his bank account, and he could hire an assistant and stop working these dog-awful hours.
Or not. After all, what else would he do with his time if not toil?
Right now, he had a strong urge to prowl.
Now is not the time, Cat. Now is the time of toil.
He stepped out on his second-story balcony and took a deep breath of fresh, slightly salty air blowing in off the water. His studio apartment overlooked Friday Harbor, and at the cusp of sunset, both town and harbor were bathed in a pinkish glow, doing that twinkly and picturesque as all get-out thing that happened on lovely summer evenings like this.
No. The stitching had to be perfect. The lines exquisitely formed to Zee’s angular shape, the drape immaculate. The last version hadn’t been up to Jacqui’s exacting standards. He’d pulled out a day’s work in a pissy rage at himself, and now he was paying for it.
You’ll be more efficient after a prowl. And Zee’s seaplane won’t arrive until midday.
Jacqui made the mistake of looking down, letting his gaze wander across the street, to where a moving van had recently been parked.
Jacqui had a new neighbor.
Back. To. Work.
Jacqui’s new neighbor was Wyatt West, the new deputy sheriff in town. Yes, Jacqui had played around with the name in an endlessly juvenile fashion. Wild Wild West, with the broad shoulders, lean waist, and an ass to die for. Dark brown hair, amber eyes, and a crooked smile that made Jacqui’s heart do a little squeezy thing, leaving him breathless. How wild was West, Jacqui couldn’t help but wonder?
So they’d never spoken. Minor detail. Didn’t matter. Until this weekend Wyatt West of the exceptionally hot body was a live aboard, a local brand of lunatic who lived on a sailboat surrounded by fucking water. Jacqui wasn’t about to go sniffing around a mental case like that.
But now Wild Wyatt Hot Bod was Jacqui’s across-the-street-two-condos-down neighbor and required closer inspection. Because all neighbors required inspection. Because curiosity.
“Wait for it. Anticipation makes it all the more sweet.”
To hell with that. Do the change and let’s check Wild West out.
Half-cat, half-human, all-awesome, Jacqui has spent his life avoiding getting too close to anyone. But despite his best intentions, he just can’t stay away from the sexy deputy sheriff, Wyatt West, especially after Jacqui is the victim of a local band of thieves and turns to the police for help.
When the call of curiosity grows too insistent, Jacqui does a little prying around on his own, an activity that quickly leads him into danger.
Is this the end for our Furry Fashionista, or will the heroic and altogether too handsome Wyatt save the day? And more importantly, will they finally have sex?? Read Pounce, Book 2 in the Jacqui the Mysteries, to find out.
Jacqui stretched out long, ass in the air, paws out in front of him. As Cat, he was strong, fast, invincible. He could see in the dark, leap tall fences in a single bound, smell and hear every nuance of change in his neighborhood, and spy on Wyatt without getting arrested for being a creeper. Everything about being Cat was good, except for doorknobs and dogs. And the inability to sew or make anything. And the fact that ordinary cats took one look at him and freaked.
He sat on the sidewalk outside his apartment. The gin had released its hold on his brain. The crowd at Wyatt’s had long ago dispersed, and Jacqui could not sleep. At two o’clock in the morning, the street was empty of people. A possum rooted around in someone’s compost pile on the next block. Two cats were facing off in a yard behind the apartment building, still in the growling low stage. Bats zinged through the air, chasing bugs.
His ears twitched and his tail flicked back and forth across the pavement. From a long way off, he heard a bicycle. Because he had nothing else on his prowling agenda, he went toward the sound, vaguely curious to see who was peddling home in the wee hours.
He padded across the street and peeked into Wyatt’s backyard. If the tree in the corner were positioned differently, he’d totally be peeking into that bedroom window.
No. That’s just wrong.
Another reason why being a cat is better. Peeping is required. It’s a survival skill.
Jacqui peered into the dark rectangle of Wyatt’s patio door for a while, thinking back on how dangerously close to flirting they’d come. They’d flirted with flirting. He knew if he changed back into Jacqui and rapped on that door, Wyatt wouldn’t be surprised. Except for maybe the naked thing. And maybe Wyatt would think Jacqui was more than a little weird, but he wouldn’t turn him away.
Jacqui turned away. It kind of felt inevitable, this imminent collision of body parts and exchange of fluids, but it had to be carefully controlled and limited.
Okay, Wyatt, we can fuck, because we’re guys and that’s what guys do, but here are the rules:
One: No getting all up in my business.
Two: No looking at me funny when I have out loud arguments with myself.
Three: No asking me where I’ve been all night.
Four: No questioning why a guy who loves cats and volunteers at the local shelter doesn’t own a cat.
Five: No falling in love.
Six: No suggesting I see a therapist to address my fear of intimacy issues.
Seven: No prying into my life prior to two years ago.
Eight: No whining when I drop you like a hot potato for no reason whatsoever.
Nine: Who the fuck is that?
Jacqui stopped on the corner of Harrison and Oak to watch the Midnight Biker push his bike up the hill. He was a young dude Jacqui hadn’t seen before, with stringy blond hair poking out of a stocking cap. He wore a lived-in, slept-in, rolled-in-the-dirt-in dingy canvas coat and shredded jeans. He had a big pack on his back and his eyes darted this way and that, peering into people’s yards.
Suspicious? Oh, yeah.
Jacqui slipped into a convenient pool of shadows and watched the interloper trudge by.
Being half-cat isn’t easy in a human world, and Jacqui’s life has just gotten a lot more complicated now that he’s dating the hot deputy sheriff who lives across the street. Wyatt’s brain might explode if he finds out his lover turns into a cat sometimes.
And even more unthinkable, Wyatt might REJECT Jacqui if he discovers that his boyfriend and Satan the feral wild cat are one and the same! As if Jacqui doesn’t have enough to worry about, he becomes the unwilling foster parent of a drooling dog, and soon discovers a nefarious plot involving marauding Rottweilers with a taste for Cat.
Follow Jacqui into trouble in his most exciting misadventure yet!
Several desperate phone calls did not procure any dog-sitter leads. Mei Lin was off island. Rose laughed derisively at the suggestion. Mary Lou, who ran the shelter, was ferrying visiting relatives around the island and just couldn’t possibly take in an extra dog, no matter how much she really wanted to.
When Sam pulled to a stop in front of Jacqui’s apartment, Jacqui’s spirits were low. All Cat could do was emit a low moan every now and then.
“I’ve got to give the beast a bath before I let it anywhere near my stuff.”
“Can I watch?” Sam asked, grinning.
“Help? Surely you meant to ask if you could help?” Jacqui said, turning a withering glare upon him.
“Yeah, that’s what I meant.”
Jacqui slid out of the truck and ran up the stairs to his loft apartment. He was half-tempted to lock the door, pull the drapes, and hope that Sam would give up and drive away with the dog.
He grabbed a bottle of expensive shampoo that he’d decided left his hair too dry, and a thick beach towel. Clutching these items, he looked around at his pristine upholstered furniture and shining wood floors with increasing trepidation. He set down the supplies, rummaged around for an old sheet, and threw it over the couch.
Jacqui didn’t have much in the way of old stuff. He quickly got rid of items that didn’t please him. In other words, he had little he was willing to sacrifice to the ravages of Stinky. Worst-case scenarios began to fill his mind: images of dog toenails shredding cushions, dog slobber staining silk, and so he forced himself to pick up the bath supplies and go back down the stairs.
Sam had found the hose the groundskeeper used and was playing a game of spray-Stinky-from-behind every time the poor dog turned around, which was constantly. The sight of the lumbering man-child and the soaking wet, hairy dog sent a shiver up Jacqui’s spine. He didn’t like hoses, and didn’t like the merriment with which men like Sam turned them on others.
“Put the hose down and step away,” Jacqui said in a low, hopefully menacing tone.
“What? Don’t want to get wet?” Sam asked with a grin, but when he saw the glower on Jacqui’s face, some glimmer of self-preservation stopped him in his overly playful tracks. He took his thumb off the trigger of the nozzle. “I promise I won’t spray you on purpose.”
“Not good enough. Put the hose down, Sam.” Jacqui reached for his best Clint Eastwood, steely-eyed glare.
Sam carefully lowered the hose to the ground and lifted both hands as he backed away a few steps.
“There’s the look that puts the fear into a Rottweiler.”
Stinky ran circles around Sam, barking gleefully, a sound that grated on Jacqui’s already taut nerves.
“This is not a game. This is not fun. We are going to clean that damn dog with no shenanigans. Understand?”
“No shenanigans.” Sam nodded and hung his head in fake shame.
Jacqui strode forward with confidence. Never let them see your fear.
He dropped the towel and the shampoo on the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the road, and picked up the hose. He took a deep breath and said, “You hold the beast. I’ll douse him.”
Q:What was the First Romance novel you remember reading? A: The first romance novels I read were my mom’s gothic bodice-rippers. You know the ones with the heroine in a torn nightgown running away from a haunted mansion/castle on the cover? I have to say these books DID NOT inspire me to write romance. I was the kind of kid who’d read anything I could get my hands on, and I mostly had a love/hate relationship with these books. I hated them because the hero was always an incredible jerk, and the heroine was a simpering victim who tolerated his abuse until he came to his senses and fell madly in love with her, usually after she fell off a horse or something. So why did I keep reading them? I loved the mystery, the haunted mansion/castle, and sometimes, though not often, the plucky heroine who persevered against her jerk employer and the ghost/murderer/gang of thieves. I didn’t discover of the power of the romance factor until much later in life, when I experienced how a great romance can be portrayed. The book that redeemed romance for me once and for all was, believe it or not, Middlemarch, by George Elliott. The first really awesome gay romance that I read was The Archer’s Heart by Astrid Amara.
Q:What Characteristics make up your fave hero? A: I really love the bad boys. But of course, they’re not really bad, they just need the right good boy to steer them back toward the light. I get all squishy over a bad boy with a keen sense of humor, a lot of self-awareness, boatloads of confidence and a fierce loyalty to those he loves. I have to say the lovable bad boy is my favorite to both read and write. As a writer, I also enjoy writing the hapless good boy; the geek, the bookworm, the sorcerer’s apprentice who gets every spell wrong. He’s the sort of lovable guy who is striving to do his best, and then gets knocked sideways by the arrival of his opposite, the über-confident bad boy.
Q:Pet Peeve when it comes to romances? A: Hands down, most annoying that happens a lot in the romance genre is The Easily Avoided Misunderstanding. This happens when a writer in search of conflict creates a misunderstanding between their couple, or soon-to-be couple, by having one of them swallow on obvious lie about their love interest, or overhear and misunderstand a bit of conversation, or decide to take offense at something and fly off to the other side of the country without giving their alleged true love any chance to explain, refusing all phone calls, deleting emails, etc. And the reader knows the whole misadventure could be avoided by a ten seconds conversation.
“So did you really sleep with my sister?”
“Oh, good. Didn’t think so.”
Q:Hardest part of the writing process? A:This is a toss-up, and depends on which process I’m currently embroiled in. I love the first draft. I write fast and furious and let it all spill out. This makes for a pretty rough second draft, because I have to go back and make sense of all my babblings, fill in plot holes, murder my darlings (cut out all those lovely adjectives and adverbs) and mold that steaming pile of words I’ve created into something others will enjoy reading. The other hard part is the first round with my editor. Oh, ouch! And having my sex scenes analytically critiqued is just embarrassing. Who’s doing what to whom? Whose body part is that and is that even physically possible? The thing that saves me during this part is knowing my book will be so much better for having toughed it out.
Q:Words of wisdom to aspiring authors? A: I in no way consider myself wise, or even terribly smart when it comes to the craft and business of writing, but I have learned a few things on the road to publication and I can now proclaim these three things to be self-evident:
Don’t isolate. Get a writing group or partner and share your work. Use beta readers, and hire an editor if you’re self-publishing. Listen to thoughtful critique, be brave, do what it takes to get better.
Be true to your voice and your vision. Write what you love. Don’t let anyone tell you dragons don’t exist so you shouldn’t write about them.
Persistence is the key. Boring but true. Those who keep writing and submitting no matter how long it takes are the ones who get published. There will be rejection, it will hurt, but keep going. If you love to write, it’s worth it.
About the Author
Alexis Duran was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. At the University of Oregon, her fascination with people and relationships led her to major in Sociology, but her main love has always been creative writing.
She’s worked in museums, finance, film production and for several performing arts organizations. Her favorite job so far has been inventorying the collection of a haunted Victorian Mansion. She is the author of the Masters and Mages and Edge of Night m/m fantasy series as well as several stand-alone romances.
Her fiction has won awards including the Rupert Hughes Award from the Maui Writers Conference.
She lives with one dog and four and a half cats. She is currently working on the next Jacqui the Cat mystery and always has several new ideas brewing.
Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d4711/?
About the Books
Ardulum: First Don (book one)
The planet that vanishes. The planet that sleeps.
When Ardulum first appeared, the inhabitants brought agriculture, art and interstellar technology to the Neek people before vanishing back into space. Two hundred years later, Neek has joined the Charted Systems, a group of planets bound together through commerce and wormhole routes, where violence is nonexistent and technology has been built around the malleability of cellulose.
When the tramp transport Mercy’s Pledge accidentally stumbles into an armed confrontation between the Charted System sheriffs and an unknown species, the crew learns the high cost of peace—the enslavement and genetic manipulation of the Ardulan people. Now a young Neek, outcast from her world for refusal to worship ancient Ardulans as gods, must reconcile her planet’s religion with the slave child whom she has chosen to protect—a child whose ability to manipulate cellulose is reminiscent of the ancient myths of Ardulum. But protecting the child comes at a cost—the cultural destruction of her world and the deaths of billions of Charted System inhabitants.
The Charted Systems are in pieces. Mercy’s Pledge is destroyed, and her captain dead. With no homes to return to, the remaining crew set off on a journey to find the mythical planet of Ardulum—a planet where Emn might find her people and Neek the answers she’s long sought. Finding the planet, however, brings a host of uncomfortable truths about Ardulum’s vision for the galaxy, and Neek’s role in a religion that refuses to release her. Neek must balance her planet’s past and the unchecked power of the Ardulans with a budding relationship and a surprising revelation about her own genealogy.
Ardulum: Second Don blends space opera and hard science into a story about two women persistently bound to their past, and a sentient planet determined to shape their future.
Atalant is torn between two worlds. In uncharted space, head of a sentient planet, the new eld of Ardulum now leads the religion she once rejected. Emn is by her side, but the Mmnnuggl war brewing in the Charted Systems, threatening her homeworld of Neek, cannot be ignored. Neek must return to the planet that exiled her in order to lead the resistance. She must return home a god, a hypocrite, a liar in gold robes, and decide whether to thrust her unwilling people into the truth of Ardulum, or play the role she has been handed and never see her family, or her world, again.
“Were we just attacked?” she asked incredulously. Neek took a closer look out the viewscreen. The rectangular cutter that sparkled with pinpricks of light and the wedge-shaped, agile skiffs, were Risalian. The pods—both the smaller purple ones and the frigate-sized, maroon ones—were unfamiliar. Their fomations were just as strange, stacked in columns like stones on a riverbank instead of in pyrimidal and spherical formations like Systems ships would. “Are those all Charted Systems ships?”
Yorden threw up his hands in disgust. “They’re not just Charted Systems ships—they’re Risalian ships. The cutter and skiffs are, anyway. No clue on the pods. What those blue-skinned bastards are doing out here with fully weaponized ships, I can only guess. However, they’re firing lasers. If we lose our armor and take a hit from any of those, we are space dust.”
“Comforting,” Neek mumbled. She hadn’t noticed the laser ports on any of the ships, but now that she looked closer, all of the vessels were covered with armor plating and had at least two laser turrets each.
Neek continued to watch as the pods begin to cluster around a Risalian cutter. A pod ship zipped beneath the cutter, firing wildly at its underside, before making a quick right turn and heading back to a larger pod. Five others followed suit. The cutter’s shielding began to splinter, but the ship remained where it was.
Neek leaned into the viewscreen, still unsure what she was seeing. “The Risalian ships aren’t chasing, they’re just defending. What is going on? If they’re going to appoint themselves sheriffs of the Charted Systems, they could at least fight back.”
Yorden smacked his hand against the wall, loosing a shower of dust. “Something on that Risalian ship is holding their attention. Get us out of here, before either of them gets any closer.” He pointed to a cluster of ships to Neek’s right, and her eyes followed. Little flashes of bright light sparked and then died intermittently as ships were destroyed, their flotsam creating an ever-expanding ring. A large piece of metal plating floated past the Pledge’s port window. The edge caught and left a thin scratch in the fiberglass as it slid off.
“What are they protecting that is so damn important?” Neek wondered out loud and then snorted. “Something worth more than our hold full of diamond rounds and cellulose-laced textiles?” she added cheekily.
Scowling, Yorden pushed Neek’s hand away from the computer and began his own scan of the Pledge’s systems. “Communications are still up, but I don’t think either party is listening right now.” Frustrated, he kicked the underside of the console. “Try one of them. Better than being crushed.”
“Captain, come on. We are dead in space. If another one comes at us, why don’t we just fire at it? It’s better than being rammed.” She pointed upwards at a circular hole in the ceiling. “What’s the benefit of flying a ship so ancient it falls apart if you’re not taking advantage of the grandfathered weapons system?”
Yorden’s terse response was cut off when a short burst impacted the ship. Another group of skiffs flew past, depositing laser fire as they did so. The Pledge banked to port, carrying momentum from the impact. From the direction they had come lay a trail of shattered ship plating.
A panicked voice called down from the laser turret. Neek bristled, steeling herself against the inevitable irritation that came whenever their Journey youth spoke. “That skiff just fired at us. How does it even have weapons? I thought we were the only ones in the Systems with a ship older than dirt.”
Neek wrapped her right hand back around the steering yoke. Each of her eight fingers fit perfectly into the well-worn grooves, and the brown leather darkened a shade as her naturally secreted stuk smeared from her fingertips. She smiled to herself. Flying a geriatric tramp was still better than flying nothing at all.
“Look, Captain,” she said, keeping her eyes on the battle. “I can steer this thing if we get pushed, but that is it. We don’t have any other options. They have guns. We have guns. Well, we have a gun. Why don’t we use it?”
Second Don (Book Two):
“You have to tell her,” Nicholas said. He pushed himself out of a lean and pointed to where Emn’s blood had fallen. She’d been interfacing with the ship all the way through the wormhole and hadn’t noticed Nicholas return to the cockpit. That meant Emn was getting a lecture, one way or the other. Annoyed, she tugged at the fabric across her chest, the sensation something she was still getting used to, and turned to look at Nicholas. She’d have much preferred a lecture from Neek.
Nicholas’s eyebrow rose. “This is the fourth time I’ve seen you bleed from interfacing with the ship. If your physiology is so incompatible with it, then Neek needs to know. We need to find another ship.”
Emn dabbed at her ear with a finger, ensuring the canal was clean, and then straightened the front of her dress. She’d already stopped the bleeding. The blood vessel breaks had been small—only minor capillaries affected—and healing was simple first-don stuff. Except, each time she synced with the ship, the pain was worse. What had started as a light buzzing during her time on the Mmnnuggl flagship Llttrin, during the Crippling War, was now a pressure that thumped between her skull and brain. It was ever-expanding, pulsed behind her eyes, crushed blood vessels, and had her leaking maroon from her ears and nose.
After sitting down against the black paneling, Emn looked at her lap. The dress, which she’d managed to keep mostly clean of blood, was tight in areas she’d not anticipated. It clung to her hips and chest, highlighting the most notable changes since her metamorphosis. It was… Could something be uncomfortable and yet comforting at the same time? She was an adult. There was no denying that, not with something so formfitting. Emn enjoyed the visual reminder of who she had become.
“For me to discuss any of this with Neek, she’d have to actually talk to me. Right after the Crippling War, I thought we had broken through that layer of self-doubt, or whatever makes Neek so rigid around me, but I guess not.” Emn went to pull at the front of her dress again before catching herself.
Nicholas ran his hands through his thick hair and shook his head. “You’re telepathically connected. You don’t have to be in the same room to talk.” Just as he had when she was in first don, Nicholas plopped beside her so she could lean into him. The reminder of their friendship helped ease the thumping in her head. She was forever grateful that Nicholas didn’t seem at all uncomfortable with the changes she’d undergone.
“Do you think it looks all right?” Emn asked, looking down at the front of her dress.
Nicholas snorted. “You look like a woman in a dress, Emn. It fits well. Your chest looks normal, if that’s what you’re asking, although you’ll crease the fabric if you keep pulling at it like that. If you want more specific feedback, there’s a different person you should ask. I know you don’t have a perpetually open connection, but even if she’s closed down, you could still nudge her. It’s good for her.”
Emn returned the half smile, imagining how Neek would react if she just started chatting to her through their link about mundane things, like constellations or cellulose biometals, or if she actually asked about the dress…
As if Neek had been listening, the door abruptly slid open, and the room was filled with the distinctive sound of booted feet. Emn and Nicholas stood up.
Neek took a moment to stretch, reaching her hands up over her head and letting her sixteen fingers, eight per hand, brush the ceiling. This was the only room in the small Mmnnuggl pod where any of them could stand upright, and it was blissful to do so. Stretching pulled the fabric of the flight suit taut against Neek’s chest and Emn let her eyes linger, careful to ensure the image did not leak across their bond. They needed Neek in the cockpit, captaining, not hiding in her room. She didn’t need to know about Emn’s burgeoning…something. Not yet, anyway. Still, Emn followed the tightly braided red-blonde hair to her narrow shoulders and then to her wide hips partially hidden in a baggy flight suit. Neek had her sleeves rolled up to her elbows, and Emn wrinkled her nose without meaning to. The lighting in the pod did not go well with Neek’s olive-brown complexion. Realizing that she had probably stared for a bit too long, Emn walked back to the viewscreen.
“Looks like such a harmless planet from out here,” Neek said as her arms fell to her sides. Currently filling the floor-to-ceiling viewscreen was Risal, its orange algae oceans and brown landmasses looming above them. Risal’s two moons, the red Korin and white Rath, buffered the planet on either side. At their current position, the shadows from the sun overlapped Risal in two intersecting crescents, leaving a thin hourglass shape of lit land. Two cutters were in orbit around Korin, docked next to one another near the moon’s north pole.
Emn knew more than she cared to about those moons. She had no firsthand memories, but being synced to the late Captain Ran’s cutter had given her data on both. Rath was used as an andal plantation, although it was not a very successful one. Korin, in contrast…Korin was likely where she had been born. Emn probably had had siblings there, perhaps other genetic parents as well. They’d be dead, of course, like all the Risalian Ardulans, but that didn’t make the moon any less oppressive.
Her focus was suddenly returned to the cockpit. Confused, Emn blinked, trying to clear her vision, and then realized what was happening. Her thoughts must have leaked. Now, instead of Korin, she was seeing herself through Neek’s eyes, their connection taut. It was strange to see herself from the back—a woman in a knee-length, gray dress with shoulder straps and a flared hipline, tracing a finger over the moon’s image. Her black hair held only hints of the red that shone in her youth, and the moonlight highlighted the dark veins that streaked across her translucent skin. Patterns emerged, if one looked long enough—and Neek was—patterns of geometric shapes bound tightly together, distorted and intersecting. Several words bounded across their link despite Neek’s best efforts to rein them in. One in particular struck Emn as odd.
Except, calling the markings such belied their daunting mythos and marginalized Neek’s history. Emn tossed the word aside, conscious of its relevance but unwilling to call it to Neek’s attention.
Third Don (Book Three):
I dislike this flight suit,Atalant muttered as her stuk absorbed into the rough material. The Ardulans did not refine the andalrayon as much as Charted Systems manufacturers did, and the fabric was full of rough, lumpish slubs.
If you could find some time for us to be alone and do away with the memories for a few hours, I’m sure I could arrange for my dress to make an appearance. The images that accompanied her statement flushed Atalant’s cheeks.
Maybe if we met onboard the Scarlet Lucidity , in orbit around Ardulum, where no one could interrupt us and I felt a bit freer… Atalant’s thoughts drifted into that delightful possibility. The Lucidity had soft chairs in the cockpit, wide beds in the quarters, a small bin of andal in case Emn got hungry…
Andal! Atalant’s priorities came crashing back down around her. The planet caught her wandering and whispered dreams of its own, dreams of saplings in open fields, of thick rains and busy pollinators. The collective consciousness of Ardulum sent a yearning desire for family, for a new place to call home.
“Home is overrated,” Atalant whispered.
“I don’t think so. What about your parents, Atalant?” Emn whispered into her ear, misunderstanding Atalant’s words. “Your father and your talther miss you, I’m sure. Your brother is there, waiting to see his sister.” Emn’s lips brushed Atalant’s forehead. “All the things you said at those political rallies, all the times the president cut you down, your exile, your uncle’s teachings… Could you just let all this hang? Can you let the truth, that you worked so hard to uncover, remain a mystery to the rest of your people?”
Atalant didn’t answer. When Emn didn’t press further, Atalant reached over Emn and lifted the window open to its full height. The sounds of reptiles croaking filled the silence between them. Atalant let the heaviness of her eyelids sink her into drowsy memories. She thought of the Lucidity, berthed and awaiting her return in a suburb of the capital. She thought of the gold robes she now regularly wore, of their similarities to the Heaven Guard robes she had so coveted in her youth. She thought of her brother, his pursuit of andal science over Ardulan religion, his urging her to join the Heaven Guard of Neek. She thought of soil barren from andal plantation farming, the decline of the forests on her homeworld, and the death of the Keft ecosystem. She thought of her uncle, the High Priest of Neek, of his teachings, the holy books, and of what the return of living gods could do for her stagnant planet.
The sound of Emn’s even breathing relaxed the remaining tightness in Atalant’s shoulders. As she drifted off into sleep, her mind wandered to the possibility: what would it be like for Ardulum to return to the planet Neek? What havoc would the mystic, traveling planet play on her world’s religion? On her family? Would she be welcomed as a hero, or still branded a heretic? Would she be shot on sight? Gold robes of the Eld or gold robes of the Heaven Guard? Did it matter?
What would it be like for her to come home?
About the Author
J.S. Fields (@Galactoglucoman) is a scientist who has perhaps spent too much time around organic solvents. She enjoys roller derby, woodturning, making chainmail by hand, and cultivating fungi in the backs of minivans. Nonbinary, but prefers female pronouns.
Fields has lived in Thailand, Ireland, Canada, USA, and spent extensive time in many more places. Her current research takes her to the Peruvian Amazon rainforest each summer, where she traumatizes students with machetes and tangarana ants while looking for rare pigmenting fungi. She lives with her partner and child, and a very fabulous lionhead rabbit named Merlin.
A group of strangers meets at Ragazzi, an Italian restaurant, for a cooking lesson that will change them all. They quickly become intertwined in each other’s lives, and a bit of magic touches each of them.
Meet Dave, the consultant who lost his partner; Matteo and Diego, the couple who run the restaurant; recently-widowed Carmelina; Marcos, a web designer getting too old for hook-ups; Ben, a trans author writing the Great American Novel; teenager Marissa, kicked out for being bi; and Sam and Brad, a May-September couple who would never have gotten together without a little magic of their own.
Everyone in the River City has a secret, and sooner or later secrets always come out.
Matteo stared out the restaurant window into the darkness of Folsom Boulevard. It was getting dark earlier as summer edged into fall. Streetlights flickered on as cars drifted by, looking for parking or making the trip out of Midtown toward home.
The sign on the window read “Ragazzi” (the boys), lettered in a beautiful golden script just two months old. Investing in this little restaurant his uncle had left to them when he’d passed away had been their ticket out of Italy. But now with each passing day, as seats sat empty and tomatoes, pasta, and garlic went uneaten, the worry was gnawing ever deeper into Matteo’s gut.
Behind him in the open, modernized kitchen, Diego was busy cooking—his mother’s lasagne, some fresh fish from San Francisco, and some of the newer Italian dishes they’d brought with them from Bologna. The smells of boiling sauce and fresh-cooked pasta that emanated from the kitchen were entrancing.
They’d sent the rest of the staff —Max and Justin—home for the evening. The three customers who had shown up so far didn’t justify the cost of keeping their waiter and busboy on hand.
Matteo stopped at the couple’s table in front of the other window. “Buona sera,” he said, smiling his brightest Italian smile.
“Hi,” the man said, smiling back at him. He was a gentleman in about his mid-fifties, wearing a golf shirt and floppy hat. “Kinda quiet tonight, huh?”
“It always gets busier later,” Matteo lied smoothly. “Pleasure to have you here. Can I get you anything else?”
“A little more wine, please?” the woman said, holding out her glass so the charm bracelet on her wrist jangled.
“Of course.” He bowed and ducked into the kitchen.
He gave Diego a quick peck on the cheek.
His husband and chef waved him off with a snort. “Più tardi. Sto preparando la cena.”
“I can see that. Dinner for a hundred, is it? It’s dead out there again tonight.”
Diego shot him a dirty look.
Matteo retrieved the bottle of wine from the case and returned to fill up his guests’ glasses. “What brings you in tonight?” Maybe they saw our ad.…
“Just walking by and we were hungry. I miss the old place though.… What was it called, honey?”
Her husband scratched his chin. “Little Italy, I think?”
“That’s it! It was the cutest place. Checkered tablecloths, those great Italian bottles with the melted wax… so Italian.”
Matteo groaned inside. “So glad you came in” was all he said with another smile.
Now an exclusive excerpt!
Brad was rousted from bed by someone pounding on the front door. Who the hell was coming by at ten thirty p.m.? He grabbed the bat he kept next to the bed.
“Who is it?” Sam asked blearily.
“I don’t know. I’ll find out.”
Sam sat up, and Brad smothered the urge to jump back in bed. Screw their visitor. Sam looked adorable with his sleepy eyes and blond hair sticking up at odd angles.
The pounding sounded again.
“Want me to come with?”
“No, just be ready to call 911.” They were downtown, after all. Things happened here, sometimes. “I’m coming!” Brad shouted to whoever was knocking. He pulled on his robe and clambered down the stairway to the front door. “Who is it?” he called, bat held at ready.
“Brad, it’s Marcos. I need your help.”
Marcos… the web designer? He unlocked the door. “How the hell did you get my home address?” he asked, staring at the man. “You do know I’m married, right?”
Marcos grinned sheepishly. “I know. You had a fundraising party here last year for the Center, remember?”
“Oh, crap. Yeah.” He’d forgotten all about it. “So why are you here?”
“I need your help. Remember that girl, Marissa?”
“Yes. What happened?” He was starting to regret having shared the information with Marcos. If anything had happened to her as a result, he could lose his job.
“She’s in trouble. She called me from the County Jail up on I Street.”
Brad scratched his chin. “Why did she call you?”
“I don’t know. I left my number for her where she hangs out. I guess I was the only one she could think of.”
“Maybe so. Many of these kids don’t have anyone. Hey, come inside. It’s cold out there.” He let Marcos in and closed the door.
“Who was it?” Sam was standing at the top of the stairs in only his white briefs.
Marcos looked up and whistled.
“Just our web designer.”
Sam blushed. “Um, sorry. I’ll leave you guys alone.” He vanished into the bedroom.
“Come have a seat.” Brad ushered Marcos into their small living room.
“Congratulations, Brad. The hubby’s quite a catch.”
Brad cleared his throat. “Marissa?”
“Oh, yeah, sorry. She said she was framed. She needs me to come get her out, but I don’t think they’ll let me, since she’s underage. You know people there, right?”
Brad nodded. “What was the officer’s name?”
“Um… Donna? Dorothy?”
“Yes. I think so.”
“I’ll come with you and see what I can do. What will you do if they release her to you?”
Marcos shook his head. “I don’t know yet. Get her home and in a warm bed for tonight. I can figure out the rest tomorrow.”
Brad touched Marco’s shoulder. “Why are you doing this?”
“Because she’s me twenty years ago.”
Brad nodded. “Okay, let’s go. You brought your car?”
Scott lives with his husband Mark in a little yellow bungalow in East Sacramento, with two pink flamingos by the front porch.
He spends his time 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.
He runs Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark, sites that bring queer people together to promote and celebrate fiction that reflects their own reality.
In this day and age, that’s not an earth-shattering headline. We want headlines that scream of life-altering events.
Terrorists Nuke Peace Conference!
Wow! What a gripping headline. This is something to change the world. Oh, wait! The world did transform. This ran as the lead story a few hours before the beginning of The Upheaval. The current world birthed in nuclear fire and electromagnetic disruption. Gone are the nations I grew up with. My life altered again.
Cain Slays Abel!
The truth behind such a classic story is far more complicated than anyone could imagine.
The brothers’ tale is a life-altering event, at least for me. Twice a report of murder transformed my life in an unpredictable way. I am Richard St. Martin, Master of Darkness. Before my story can be told, you need to learn the story of the first dark monster, Cain. My stepchildren call him Father Cain because he was the first. To find the actuality behind the myth, I recruited two talented mortals – Dr. Jeremiah Banks, Archaeologist, and Professor Juan Di Vargas, Theologian and Religious Scholar. Together they found the secret origin of the vampires:
JEREMIAH SURVEYED his clothing choices for the conference and grimaced. He hated suits, but Dr. Sinclair, the dean of his department, and Mrs. Pike, the dean’s secretary and sort of a second mother, both insisted he dress in professional academic attire.
“You’re representing the University of Arizona and the Republic of Texas, Dr. Banks. Think of the university’s reputation. Don’t appear like you are fresh off the boat following months in the field,” Jeremiah recalled Dr. Sinclair saying as he handed him his clearance to travel. During a visit to her house, Mrs. Pike said similar things before she called her late husband’s tailor and made an appointment to fit Jeremiah for new suits. Suits made Jeremiah uncomfortable, he preferred sturdy field clothing, but Dr. Sinclair held firm, no wild field archaeologist attire. Resigned to his fate, Jeremiah gave into almost all the dean’s requirements, but refused when the request came to cutting his long copper locks. Jeremiah brushed through his hair, twisted, and slid the length into a sapphire-encrusted leather tube to hold everything in check.
The Emir, who oversaw his dig on behalf of the caliph’s government, gave him the hair binder as a gift. The man developed a fascination with Jeremiah’s copper hair and its silky texture. With his hair under control, Jeremiah dressed to impress in a navy-blue suit with a subtle white pinstripe. Sapphire cufflinks and tie tack finished the ensemble. The cufflinks came as a second present from the emir after a night of admiring Jeremiah’s body in all its naked glory. The combination of Jeremiah’s pale skin and fiery chest hair and pubic region, plus the impressive prick and balls in their natural state, fascinated the noble. The emir never touched him or asked for contact; the man wanted to check if the red hair remained the same color all the way down.
All three pieces of jewelry helped to highlight his bright blue eyes. Jeremiah checked himself in the mirror before picking up his notes and slides for his lecture and heading down to breakfast. During the evening, the staff worked their magic, transforming the ballroom from reception hall into a dining room. A waiter led Jeremiah to his assigned table and seat right next to Prof. O’Grady. The rest of the table filled with other scholars from universities in the Republic of Texas. He found Dr. Lanister’s vacant seat next to his and opposite Prof. O’Grady. “Prof. O’Grady, I want to apologize for the rude comments last night at the reception.”
“No, Dr. Banks, if anyone got out of line last night, I did, and should be doing the apologizing. Thank you for correcting my attitude towards Dr. Lanister. I spoke way out of line. I wanted to apologize to him in person, but the hotel informed me Dr. Lanister checked out late last night claiming illness and returned home.”
“I’m sorry he departed. He stopped by my room last night reeking of alcohol, so I encouraged him to retire for the evening. I’m sorry to learn he caught something,” came Jeremiah’s reply as a waiter stopped and filled his coffee cup. “I wonder, are you familiar with Prof. Juan Di Vargas from the University of Madrid?”
“Only by reputation, Dr. Banks. I understand he’s presenting today on how the story of the Flood developed in several early cultures,” O’Grady remarked, signaling the waiter to take her plate. “Don’t you present today as well, Dr. Banks?”
“Yes, about an hour after Prof. Di Vargas. I hope to catch a moment of his time between lectures. His latest paper mentioned the possibility of the biblical city of Enoch being in the Tigris-Euphrates Delta. I think Enoch might be part of the culture, which produced the tablets I found. I wish to compare research with him.”
“Good luck in your endeavor. Di Vargas doesn’t often deal with those who pursue the more physical aspects of their researches, at least according to his reputation. I can arrange for you to speak with a scholar of the period more open to using archaeology. Let me introduce you to Prof. Chevalier from the University of Paris.”
She missed Jeremiah’s grimace of distaste, which he hid behind a sip of coffee. Chevalier’s research clashed with every line of the investigation he pursued while Di Vargas’s headed in a similar direction from a different angle. Jeremiah wiped his hands with his napkin, picked up his notes and slides, and rose from the table.
“Thank you for the offer, Dr. O’Grady. Perhaps another time. Please excuse me. I need to make sure the media team receives enough time to arrange the presentation before lecturing. I’m confident we’ll cross paths at dinner.”
“I think they plan to mix things up tonight, but there will be other meetings during the conference. Such a pleasure to meet you again, Jeremiah, or I should say Dr. Banks. You stood out, one of my more promising students, and I’m proud of how well you blossomed under Adamson’s direction.” O’Grady offered Jeremiah her hand. “I’m eager for your lecture this afternoon.”
Jeremiah shook her hand and left to track down the media team. He still needed to set up his slides before attending the lectures he wanted to listen to this morning.
Kethric Wilcox began writing and publishing as a personal challenge to be creative in a new medium. He was attracted to the LGBT Romance genre after reading several paranormal romances where it seemed like the shape-shifters never faced dangers outside the relationship issues thrown at them by their authors. Thus was born the shifter hunting House of Beauty on the premise of a twisted fairy tale. What if Beauty and the Beast didn’t end with happily ever after? Wilcox’s Legend of the Silver Hunter trilogy looks at this question and then asks what happens if a member of this family falls in love with a descendant of the Beast, can they find happily ever after or are they doomed to repeat the tale. Born and raised in Massachusetts, Wilcox now lives and works in Little Rock, Arkansas in a house that he and his partner renovated. By day Wilcox is a graphic artist and exhibit designer, and at night an author of paranormal romances.
Wilcox currently has two new trilogies in progress: Origin of the Vampires (The Curse, Lord Hunter, and Lord Slayer) set in a dystopian future of the Silver Hunter world; and Legacy of the Silver Hunter (The Goldilocks Pledge, Ruby Wine, and Black Snow) which continues the story told in the Legend trilogy from the view points of other couples in Kieran and Cory’s lives.
Hi readers! This month in the “Community” series, Romance Across the Rainbow is happy to feature Kaje Harper. Here you can find some information about her book, The Family We Make, but don’t miss our thoughtful and fun interview answers here. And yes, there’s a giveaway—comment here or following the interview to have your name in the hat for the random draw. You can win an e-book of your choice (even this one) from Kaje’s backlist!
At seventeen, Rick Albright left his home, his parents and even his old name, rather than pretend to be straight. But being on his own was hard. When his big brother Sam found him, and insisted on giving him a place to stay, he didn’t resist too long. Living with Sam is better than fighting just to survive, but it’s not easy to find his balance in a simple, small-town life, after his time on the streets.
Travis Brinkerhoff finally managed to come out in college, his second year anyway. It was the one bright side to losing his baseball scholarship and jock status. But without money for tuition, second year came to an abrupt end. He’s back in his small Minnesota hometown, and back in the closet. Travis feels like he’s trying to fit into a life he’s outgrown. If he’s going to survive, he has to figure out a way to be his own man, maybe even have his own man, without losing the family he loves.
When he left the Marines, Sam Albright wanted nothing more than to find his missing younger brother. Mission accomplished. Now he’s got an independent, possibly traumatized, openly gay young man on his hands, a girlfriend in a war zone overseas, and parents he has to lie to in order to keep the peace. Keeping it all together won’t be easy, but Sam has never backed away from a challenge.
This book follows the first free novella, The Family We’re Born With, but can be read as a stand-alone.
Keith reached for the shovel, Rick leaned on it to keep it planted, and Keith shoved him off hard. Rick staggered backward, hit the fence, and the gate popped open. Quick as a flash, a small beige dog leaped out and bounded toward the woods. All three of them yelled, “Hey! Tiny! Come back here!” and “Come, boy!” but the dog disappeared into the nearest stand of trees.
“Fuck!” Keith stared after it. “Look what the hell you did.”
“Me?” Rick said. “That’s your fucking fault, you slimy crotchwaffle!”
Travis vaulted the porch rail, yelling at both of them, “Who cares. We have to catch it!” He ran after the dog, doing his best to sprint through the deep snow. Rick fell in beside him, keeping up despite his shorter legs. Keith called after them, “You guys go after the dog. I’ll get the owner and the truck, and go around.”
“Fuck him,” Rick panted, as the snow got deeper. “Fuck his smelly turdface mouth.”
No thanks. Travis staggered as his foot caught in some hidden weeds. Rick grabbed his arm and yanked him back upright. They both were forced to slow down. “Man, that dog’s fast,” Travis muttered.
“That’s a whippet. Born to run.”
“Huh.” They were into the trees, and the dog was still out of sight. At least with the snow, its tracks were clear. “Not furry enough to be wandering in the snow though.”
“No. Really not. Damn his whitetrash ass.”
Rick shot him a look that was clearly not amused.
The ground under the trees was uneven, and there were unexpected deeper hollows. They floundered after the dog, following the trenches that marked its bounding progress. Suddenly Rick grabbed his arm. “Over there.”
The dog stood under an evergreen, where the snow only reached halfway up its slender legs. It stared at them, one forefoot raised, its ears tipped sideways like little signal flags.
“Here, Tiny,” Rick crooned in a soft voice. “Here, boy.” He held out his hand. “Come and get the treat, Tiny.”
Travis whispered, “Do you really have dog treats?”
Rick said in the same deep, soothing tone, “Do I look fucking psychic? Come on, boy. Nice invisible treats here.” He crouched lower.
The dog took a couple of steps toward them, its nose snuffling, its breath clouding the still air.
“It’s shivering,” Travis said. “Poor puppy.”
“Come on, you dumb knobgoblin,” Rick crooned.
“That’s hobgoblin,” Travis pointed out softly.
“Not to me. Come on, Tiny. Nice frog liver treats with sauerkraut, right here. Nice pickled pigeon feet. Come on, Tiny. Come. Come, you stupid-ass biscuit-gobbler.”
Slowly the dog crept closer, taking a step at a time, and then freezing again. Rick waved his hand back and forth. “Yeah, that’s the way. Trav, you don’t have a fucking candy bar or stick of gum or anything, right?”
“No, sorry. And don’t call me Trav.”
“You think you can wait to argue semantics till we catch this hairy twatwaffle?”
“Um. Sure.” He shivered too, but not from cold. That crooning voice, the hint of Texas in the vowels, the way that Rick looked all soft and worried, made him feel strange. And not in any way he wanted to think about. He spoke clearly, trying for a quiet command. “Come, Tiny. Come, boy.”
Clearly he had the wrong voice for this, because the dog jumped backward a step.
Rick practically sang, “Nooo, boy. Gooood boy.” The dog stopped again, looking at him. “Come on, mutant rat. The big scary guy is going to shut up noooow.”
Travis held his breath as the dog crept nearer, and nearer.
“He’s wearing a collar,” Rick lilted quietly. “Grab the little bastard that way, aren’t you a good boy, goooood boy.”
Tiny stretched his neck out, sniffing toward Rick’s hand. Travis gathered himself to get that collar. Suddenly a crow flew up from a tree, with a loud caw. The dog jumped a foot in the air and two feet sideways. Travis’s hand closed on thin air. The dog took another leap past them, and they both grabbed for it, but neither of them made contact, except with each other. The dog dodged away, vaulted a fallen log and was gone, while he and Rick collapsed in the deep snow in a tangled heap.
“Fuck,” Rick grunted. “You’re heavy. Get off me.”
“Trying.” Travis shoved his right hand into the drift to brace himself and sank past his elbow. Something hard under the snow rasped against his wrist, and he dropped lower onto Rick. “Why don’t you move?”
“Because your damned hip is in my crotch,” Rick grunted. “The last guy who pinned me like this at least bought dinner.”
“Screw you.” Travis was suddenly aware of the lean body under him and the muscled hardness of Rick’s legs against his thighs. Rick’s sunglasses had come off in the fall. His eyes were dark, mostly brown but with little hints of gold in them, and they met Travis’s, widening slightly. Travis blinked hard. “Here, wait.” He twisted, his knee slipping in the snow, which only brought their hips together more. He gasped a breath, tugging his arm out of whatever branch had it in a death grip under the snow, and felt his groin press against Rick’s.
Rick looked up at him with a nasty grin, bucked his hips up, and said, “You’re liking this a bit too much for a straight boy.”
Travis hauled off with his free hand and hit him.
About the author:
I get asked about my name a lot. It’s not something exotic, though. “Kaje” is pronounced just like “cage” – it’s an old nickname.
I was born in Montreal but I’ve lived for 30 years in Minnesota, where the two seasons are Snow-removal and Road-repair, where the mosquito is the state bird, and where winter can be breathtakingly beautiful. Minnesota’s a kind, quiet (if sometimes chilly) place and it’s home.
I’ve been writing far longer than I care to admit (whispers – forty years), mostly for my own entertainment, usually M/M romance (with added mystery, fantasy, historical, SciFi…) I also have a few Young Adult stories (some released under the pen name Kira Harp.)
My husband finally convinced me that after all the years of writing for fun, I really should submit something, somewhere. My first professionally published book, Life Lessons, came out from MLR Press in May 2011. I have a weakness for closeted cops with honest hearts, and teachers who speak their minds, and I had fun writing four novels and three freebie short stories in that series. I was delighted and encouraged by the reception Mac and Tony received.
I now have a good-sized backlist in ebooks and print, both free and professionally published, including Amazon bestseller The Rebuilding Year and Rainbow Award Best Mystery-Thriller Tracefinder: Contact. A complete list with links can be found on my website “Books” page at https://kajeharper.wordpress.com/books/.
I’m always pleased to have readers find me online at:
As promised, Kaje Harper visits the blog today! Read on for an interview both fun and thoughtful, and comment below for a chance to win an ebook of your choice from Kaje’s backlist—an opportunity you won’t want to pass up!Click for a post about Kaje’s book, The Family We Make.
Hello Kaje, and welcome to Romance Across the Rainbow on sylvre.com. I’m very pleased to feature you and your work as part of my 2018 series on community. It’s a tough road, these days, being involved in the community of rainbow-friendly “book people.” We’ve seen hard-won human rights erode, and it seems like books with LGBTQIAND (very long acronym, so from now forward I’ll just say “Q,”) characters and content are getting flagged and picked on by everyone from readers on Goodreads to major booksellers. It’s easy to get discouraged, and without support from one another some of us might easily unravel. For this series I’m looking for people who exemplify support among us, those who go out of their way to uphold us in our interwoven Q book community—the warp threads, if you will. I’ve seen you in that role, and I’ll want to talk some about that, but I visited your website and checked out your bio, and I’d like to start with a few questions about you as an author and a human (not necessarily in that order).
Kaje says: Thanks so much for inviting me to be on this bog. (And wow, for including me among the warp threads.)
Q: From these pairs, choose which make your happier: (Note Kaje’s choices are in bold type.
All of them?
Sunshine or Old trees Wildflowers or Crystals
Sexy humans or Wild horses Laughter or Sleep
Cat noses or Dog tails Long books or Walks in the woods
Q: You’ve been writing a long time, but your first publication of a M/M story was 2011. Before being published, what were you writing? What was the theme of the first mature story you remember writing, and why did you choose that theme?
A: I wrote my first M/M novel in 1974, when I was 14. I’d read The Persian Boy by Mary Renault and was deeply affected by the love and loss, and the intrinsic unfairness of the way a gay love story was considered less valid and viable than a straight one. Although my family was quietly committed to equality and social justice, I wasn’t at that time aware of LGBTQ family members, or the specific issues they faced.
After the Renault story, I began reading both non-fiction and fiction with LGBTQ people in them (of which there was not much that didn’t end sadly.) I’d been writing novellas as a young teen, but I was driven to give two gay men a love story that had a deservedly sweet, secure, and happy ending. I wrote (but didn’t try to publish) all sorts of stories in many genres over the subsequent years, most with gay main characters.
Q: Are there authors within the community of Q writers who significantly influenced your own writing? Particular books? If so, who and why?
A: Besides The Persian Boy, I was inspired by Patricia Nell Warren’s The Front Runner. I read both books when I was a teenager. Both shone with their portrayal of love between two men that was human and deep and undeniable, set against a society that devalued, demeaned, denied, and destroyed it.
I read very little genre M/M for the first few decades I was writing it (and no slash fanfic, although I wrote some in those pre-Internet days.) I read other books with gay and bi characters (like Diane Duane’s The Door Into Fire or Tany Huff’s The Fire’s Stone, or Michael Nava’s Henry Rios mysteries.) Then when my husband began pushing me to publish, I had just read and loved James Buchanan’s M/M mystery Hard Fall. The characters and story felt like the kind of thing I was trying to write, and my first submission was to James’s publisher, MLR press.
Q: Ever since I started sylvre.com, I’ve asked every featured author this question. What are the hottest 50 words you’ve ever written. Feel free to fudge on the word count, and to define “hottest” according to your own lights.
A: Wow. Sex scenes are not my forte. I mainly want the heat to convey important things about the characters or story. Maybe this one, from Learning Curve, the 4th book in the “Life Lessons” series. (And I’m fudging a lot on the word count)
“Yeah, oh yeah!” Mac shook so hard he almost threw Tony off him, coming in hot, slick spurts over Tony’s hand. Tony fucked him through it, not slowing, until Mac’s gasps became whimpers. Then he moved his hands back to Mac’s hips, straightened to watch the force of his paler body driving against Mac’s big, dark frame in that mirror. And came, in uncontrolled, shaking pulses, deep inside Mac’s ass.
Afterward, they stood there, trembling, as the color ebbed from their foreheads and necks, and muscles twitched and relaxed. Mac’s back was sweaty and warm under Tony. Tony slipped free and Mac grunted, bringing his legs together stiffly. Tony planted a hand on his spine to keep him bent over, though.
“Look in that mirror,” he whispered. “There. That stunning, big, dark man, and that smaller guy. That’s you and that’s me. And that’s fucking hot and gorgeous and just about perfect. That’s as gay as an Easter parade, and still completely about two real men. Your family can throw insults, and they can shun us, but they can’t make that less than fucking perfect.”
He waited, his gaze boring into Mac’s in the mirror, until Mac nodded. Tony took his hand away.
Mac turned and hugged him, leaning over to bury his face in Tony’s neck. “You, um, undo me. Every time.”
Q: You live in Minnesota and you love it, I see. Are the people in your life—family and community—aware that you write rainbow-friendly books? If so, do you find people to be accepting and supportive? Is Minnesota in general a forward-looking state in terms of human rights and protections?
A: Minnesota’s a good state for LGBTQ rights and human rights, in the Midwest. We were the first state to reject a one-man-one-woman amendment by popular vote. Obviously it’s far from uniform across the state. We have a relatively liberal urban population, and more conservative outstate one. Some of our schools have significant issues with homophobia, but there is more access to LGBTQ support and resources here than in many states. Our Medicaid and ACA plans must cover trans health procedures, including surgery, which many states don’t.
Most people in my life know what I write, including my husband, kids, brothers, friends, employer, and coworkers, parents of kids’ friends, and random folk like bank tellers if they asked when I deposited my Amazon checks. If they don’t, it’s because the topic hasn’t come up. Part of my supporting the community is being out and visible about it, from the bumper stickers on my car to discussing the books I write.
But I’m also relatively safe in doing so. My family is liberal. I’m white, het, married, and middle class. If it had cost me my job, I have the skills to find another. I have occasionally had someone preach at me over my bumper stickers (and once threaten me, after Trump won the election), and I’ve disconcerted the occasional friend or acquaintance, but not more than that. I’d never pass judgment on someone who’s not in the same position, and chooses to keep it quiet. I’m lucky, and I know it.
Q: You have written a few YA books and are a moderator in the Goodreads YA LGBT books group. How did that role come about? Why did you decide that group was an important place to spend your time and effort? How important is it that we support and promote Q YA books, those (especially the youth) who read them, and the authors who write them? Is there anything you believe people can do to get these books into the hands of young people, and do you think it’s important to target only Q youth as potential readers, or should that target readership be broadened to include all young readers? Please explain your answer.
A: The group began as an M/M YA offshoot of the M/M Romance group, when an underage gay boy really wanted to join that one and couldn’t. The M/M mods ran it first, and I joined – I’ve always read YA. At a time when they were very short of help, I volunteered to co-moderate. Real-life demands for the others made me the most active moderator for the last few years (although Sammy does what she can, given family and health crises she’s had. May she finally have a good year to come!) We now have 7100 members.
I think YA LGBTQ books are vitally important. They give those teens and the people around them, including their peers, real, positive, and varied depictions of the lives of young people who identify as gender and sexual minorities. For many of our older members (and we have all ages from 13 to “older than dirt” as one guy said) books were their first view into a world where people like them were normal and accepted and could expect full lives. Many cite Mercedes Lackey’s Magic’s Pawn as the first time they saw a gay boy as a hero, and gay love shown as something good.
Even today, despite online images, and real life role models, books have an important place Some teens still tell us that reading a YA story was their first chance to see people like them celebrated (especially our small-town and international teens.) Some found their identity and words for the feelings they were confused by in the pages of a book, (particularly some of our gender-questioning teens.)
Another factor is that, while there are now quite a few out celebrities, and porn of all kinds is easy to find, neither of those address important issues of day to day life of an LGBTQ teen. Things like dating, coming out, relationships, the role of sex, family issues, school issues – all of those may be found more easily and relatably in fiction.
Sex ed in schools often does not cover non-hetro relationships. Porn says nothing about real sex beyond (often idealized) mechanics, and yet sadly, that’s the model for some of our teens on relationships. Group members say they turned to fiction for the parts beyond “insert tab A in slot B.” While YA should not have erotic sex on page, it can and does cover a lot of the important parts of emotions, joys, and consequences of LGBTQ relationships, including sex.
I think it’s important that straight, cisgender people have access to those stories too. I love the rising popularity of books like Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda and its movie, Love, Simon, and fantasies like Carry On, or The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. Those stories make readers more open to the rainbow of people around them. We’re seeing trans prom queens and kings, and out gay teen couples, and I think that real teens are benefiting from open representation everywhere, including books.
Getting more books into teen hands is a goal with many approaches. Reviewing, discussing, buying, and voting for these books helps. Last year in the open “Goodreads Choice” awards with millions of members, there were more than 15 YA nominees with either primary or secondary LGBTQ characters. Requesting them at libraries helps. My group has done book drives for teen libraries of several sorts, including school Gay-Straight Alliances. We also have free short stories posted monthly, and link free books, sales, and discounts.
I think we still need more diverse stories. We’re particularly short of stories that feature POC main characters. Minority teens are among those most short of role models and accurate pictures of lives like theirs. We also could use more stories of bisexual, transgender, non-binary, and asexual teens. Looking for and supporting own-voices authors is important.
But I’m heartened by the progress being made, including more stories for middle schoolers and even kids, and the ways they can bring change. One Wisconsin school class was planning to read “I Am Jazz” about a trans girl, and bigots forced them to cancel. Following the cancellation, organizers arranged a reading of the book at a library nearby. The lead organizer, said she was hoping for about 15 people to show up. The reading instead drew almost 600 from the local community in support. Books can make a difference.
Q: In your online presence, you often choose to speak up for accuracy when a misleading story (or “fake news”) is posted, even when (or perhaps especially when?) the stories would, if they were true, support the “left,” which is where we expect Q support to be strongest. Tell us, if you will, about why you do that.
A: We’ve all seen photoshops (like Emma Gonzales ripping the constitution,) and audio pasted on video (like Bernie Sanders entering to a homophobic song.) These techniques are getting more sophisticated all the time. It’s incumbent on us, if we want our kids to survive the next century, to do our very best to find facts, support fact-checking organizations, and to take down lies even if they appeal to us. It’s been shown that Russia, among others, has been working to divide opinion by formulating lies to appeal to both sides. Opinion manipulation is a fast-growing science and social media right now is our training ground, learning to fact-check and double-check and not let ourselves be suckered in.
I check progressive stories and memes more, because I know my own confirmation biases. I want those to be true, and with my friend base, I see far more of them. But I also fact-check my small number of conservative online friends. They are well-meaning people too, and it’s scary to realize how easy it is to convince people of lies, given enough authority behind the story, or enough appeal to how it’s written.
We must not condone or make important decisions based on lies. These days, with the line between satire and news razor thin, and so many news sources, it can be hard to tell. I’ve pulled down a few stories that I shared myself, that I later checked further and debunked, or found were shaded beyond truth.
I’m sure I sometimes come off as officious, fact checking others – people say “it could be true, what’s the harm, it’s typical anyway.” Some are grateful, but some are annoyed. But as a scientist, I think checking the facts and ethics of the views I support is part of being a responsible, ethical adult.
Q: What do you have coming up for readers?
A: I just rereleased a fantasy novella – Gift of the Goddess – about a man who’s determined to rescue his kidnapped lover, and as a last resort, petitions the Goddess on his lover’s behalf. He’s not expecting an answer, particularly the one he gets.
I’m editing an indie novel about a gay man with seven cats and Crohn’s Disease, and a bisexual veterinarian. I’m also in edits with Dreamspinner Press on a novella in their “States of Love” series about two small-town young men in the city, one a college student, the other a failed dairy farmer. And I’m really hoping to get the third Tracefinder book back on track soon.
(Kaje Harper May 2018)
Thank you Kaje, for visiting Romance Across the Rainbow, for your insightful answers, and for a pleasant chance to get to know you. I hope you’ll visit again! And readers, thank you for being here as always and don’t forget to comment below for a chance to win an e-book of your choice from Kaje’s backlist.
Free holiday novella with purchase of Vasquez and James Stories bundle!
Coming December 15 from Mischief Corner Books!
Sunset at Pencarrow
Donations to date: $500 to Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center!Thank you, readers! I hope Yes touched your hearts. I know our donation will touch peoples lives--in a small way perhaps, but every little bit helps.
This blog is not pornography, however it will from time to time include material suitable for adults. If you are not of legal age in the country where you live, please leave the site. Thank you. Others, proceed at your own discretion, and please enjoy!