Tag Archives: lgbtq fantasy

The Southern Magicks (The Southern Magicks Book One) by Ashton K. Rose Review and Author Interview

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

After walking away from the world of magic they grew up in, one person is forced to work as an exorcist after being framed as a vigilante in author Ashton K. Rose’s “The Southern Magicks”, the first book in the series of the same name.

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The Synopsis

A month ago, a demon tore the thin veneer of a normal life I’d crafted apart when it almost killed me. Revealing my husband, Eli, as the prodigal son of a powerful magic family.

When I grew up, I walked away from magic. Left my remote hometown and pretended the ghosts Gran taught me to see weren’t there while I went to university to become a librarian.

Our one secret tightly held to my heart.

Never let them know!

Two years later, with no other financial option, I moved back to my small hometown.

It was easy to pretend the fuzzy gaps in my memory weren’t there as I got a job under the strict woman who almost killed my childhood love of books.

I thought everything was perfect when I married my dream guy.

Then the attack happened.

The “good” folks at the local magical law enforcement agency knew about me the whole time. They’ve pressured me to work for them as an exorcist because they’re convinced I was a vigilante who committed multiple murders. My odd, intriguing mentor Cory watches for any misstep as I avoid the seduction attempt he’s been asked to perform.

Now they’ve accused my estranged older brother of taking over my “crimes.” I know I was framed, despite the gaps in my memory.

The worst part?

The only people who seem to believe me are my friend June and my journalist cousin Kat.

Eli, filled with spite for the local magical rulers, seems to know something I DON’T and thinks I should play them at their own game and seduce my mentor, so we can interrogate him together…

The Southern Magicks is a small-town paranormal urban fantasy/mystery series with a M/M/NB menage romantic subplot. For fans of “The Dresden Files,” “Rivers of London,” “Southern Vampire Mysteries,” “Alex Verus,” and “The Laundry Files” who enjoy LGBTQ+ characters and stories.

The Review

The first thing that really impressed me and drew me into this narrative was the vastness of everything. The scope of the author’s narrative and world-building was astonishing, as the small-town setting bore witness to a grand mythos that sees clashing family dynasties and powerful supernatural beings all coming together in an explosive way. The balance the author found between the mundane and everyday activities that the protagonist saw and the gritty realities of the supernatural threats that come their way was incredible to see come to life on the page.

The character development and grand themes the author delve into complimented one another really well. The themes of homophobia in the world, greed, bigotry, and prejudices, in general, all found their way into the narrative, and allowed the characters, mostly LGBTQ-driven characters, to either flourish or grow as a result of the adversity they are facing, which adds depth and emotion to the more grand supernatural story elements.

The Verdict

Captivating, entertaining, and thrilling, author Ashton K. Rose’s “The Southern Magicks” is a must-read LGBTQ+ Fantasy and Paranormal & Urban Fantasy novel and a great first entry into the series of the same name. The heart and passion for which the author tells this story and the blend of LGBTQ+ character development with grand magical world-building and emotional themes made this one story I didn’t want to put down. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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The Southern Magicks - Ashton K. Rose

Ashton K. Rose has a new queer fantasy/paranormal romance out: The Southern Magicks. And there’s a giveaway.

How do you prove your innocence when you don’t even remember whether you did it or not?

After a demon attack reveals Dexter’s secret – that his Gran taught him magic – the twenty-three-year-old librarian is forced to work for the local magical law enforcement agency in order to prove his loyalty, and hopefully save his grandmother from execution.

However, when someone tries to frame him for crimes he doesn’t remember committing, Dexter realizes he’ll have to start an investigation of his own. Joined by his beloved husband Eli, their best friend June, and his journalist cousin Kat, he desperately tries to prove his innocence…which is kind of difficult when gaps in his memory make him doubt everything he thinks he knows about himself.

The race against time begins. Can Dexter and his team uncover the criminals weaving the web of guilt around him before it’s too late, or is he going to lose everything and everyone he cares about?

Warnings: Assault, violent imagery, panic attack on page, police brutality

Universal Buy Link | Goodreads


Giveaway

Ashton is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour:

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Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d47271


Excerpt

The Southern Magicks meme

Chapter 1, Scene 1:

I knew Nora Rowe had died in her home without anyone telling me.

I unlocked the door and my stomach dropped as I took in the sight of the small dim living room of her kit home, filled with books and old newspapers. The acrid smell of cigarettes and wood fire smoke filled my nose as I weaved my way through the stacks. Mismatched flatpack bookshelves that warped under the strain of thousands of books lined the walls. Her living room held no other furniture apart from an old TV and a worn leather armchair—the carpet covered by stained, threadbare rugs.

I flicked the first light switch I saw twice.

Why had I expected the power to work?

I walked over to the windows and pushed the dust-caked lace curtains aside.

My eyes watered as the sun poured into the room.

In the kitchen, the doors of the cupboards hung open. The only things left behind were a few cheap plastic items scattered across the scratched lino.

I stepped on a plastic cup on the floor. I wobbled on my feet for a few sick seconds before I grabbed the counter to steady myself. The sharp aluminium edge bit into the skin of my hand.

This place was a death trap!

She had over twenty library books I had to separate from the donations. My legs shook as I walked to the shelves closest to the door.

I ignored the erratic beating of my heart and the part of my brain telling me to run and pulled out my keys to flick the small key chain light on. I placed it between my teeth and examined the spines for library tags.

When the light hit the grimy glass of a small photo frame on the shelf, I saw something move behind me. I kept my eyes fixed on the glass and used my thumb to clear a spot of dust.

If it hadn’t moved, I could have ignored the human-shaped shadow reflected in the glass.

As a kid, I’d been hassled about seeing things and having an overactive imagination. When I was seven, Gran told me the truth. I shared her secret ability to see ghosts.

I turned to look at the woman who sat in the armchair.

This Nora was a couple of years older than the one who celebrated her birthday in the photo. Her gaze focused on the TV, which would have been new the year Queen Elizabeth was coronated.

I kept my gaze locked on her, blinking one eye at a time.

I slowed my breath and took a careful step backwards to the door. The back of my calf hit something that drove several points of pain into my skin.

The stack of books I knocked over sliced through my composure just as easily as it did the silence in the room, the hard covers and spines slapping against each other as they hit the floor.

“What the fuck are you doing in my house?” Nora stood and turned to face me.

I knew I’d given the game away when I jumped out of my skin and almost dropped my keys.

I made a noise like a dying rat.

She knew I could hear her.

The first thing Gran had taught me was not to let a ghost realise you could sense them. It was dangerous—a trigger for the ire of a vengeful spirit.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “Your son gave us the key.”

“Worthless piece of shit. Letting strangers into my house. He stole my grandma’s dinner set for drug money before my body was cold. I saw him put it in his car before he called someone to deal with the mess.”

“I’ll just be going now.”

“Actually, I’ll be going.”

I felt a sharp pain in my chest.

I tried to breathe, but my lungs refused to move.

I couldn’t breathe!

The edge of my vision went black as I gasped for air. I fell flat on my front. I was so focused on trying to breathe, I almost missed the presence pushing at the back of my mind. It started small, a hint of a suggestion. The temptation to give in grew. This was her body. I was nothing but a figment of her imagination. Dexter wasn’t real. Nothing more than a thought exercise to see what it’d be like to be a man her grandson’s age. With each second, it pressed harder, and the urge to give in grew.

Forget.

It would be easy to give in and never have another worry again. All the pain and pressure of life could vanish if I relaxed and let her take control.

No!

I shivered as I tried to move my arms to push myself onto my hands and knees. I focused on the door. It was only a short crawl. I had to do it. For a second, my vision went entirely black.

No!

I gathered all the strength I had and screamed. The remaining air expelled from my lungs. I took a sharp breath. I moved my stiff arms and pushed myself onto my hands and knees.

I was Dexter; I was real, and this was my body. Nothing would take that away from me.

I closed my eyes and pushed back the ghost. I wrapped a mental net around the invasive presence in my mind and forced it back through the hole where it had entered. A hole it had dug in a part of my mind I didn’t even know existed.

One arm forwards, one leg forwards, and breathe.

Move. Breathe. Move. Breathe.

I made it to the threshold and pulled the door open. I slid headfirst down the concrete stairs to lie on my back.

The pressure in my mind slowly vanished as I fell.

I opened my eyes.

Pale blue sky, almost cloudless.

My eyes watered from the bright light.

The perfect day was oblivious to my plight. The mid-autumn day was hardly different from late summer. I could’ve laid there for hours, but the hot concrete felt like it was melting the skin off my back where my shirt had ridden up. I rolled onto the dead grass beside the cracked front path.

Sweat ran into my eyes as I sat up. I squeezed my eyes shut to clear my vision.

I could still feel the cold air wafting from the open door. I had to shut it. Mrs Gregory was looking for any excuse to fire me. I stood and walked to the threshold.

All I had to do was grab the handle, pull it closed, remove my hand from the handle and step back.

One quick movement.

I could do it.

As I stared, my eyes adjusted to the dim. She stood just inside, her hard eyes focused on me.

She smiled.

I stepped forwards and grabbed the door handle. Her hand shot out towards my arm.

Her pale, icy fingers clamped around my left wrist. I tightened the grip of my right hand around the door handle. I tucked my chin to my chest and threw myself backwards down the stairs, using the weight of my body to swing the door closed. My shirt ripped as I fell backwards; the sleeve stayed in her hand as my arm slipped free.

The air expelled from my lungs as I hit the ground.

I lay on my back and my lungs refused to work. Fixed to the spot in terror, I gasped for air as my body refused to perform. A function that was usually thoughtless had become my only thought, the pinpoint the world had narrowed to.

There was a dizzy relief as I breathed again, and after a few minutes I slowly stood.

Blood ran down my exposed arm, the only part of my body that had hit the thin concrete path.

Ghosts could touch me! Physically hurt me!

I closed my eyes and concentrated on my breathing, forcing back the panic attack that bubbled in the back of my mind. I knew about the possession, but the touch? Why hadn’t Gran told me? I needed to call Gran, but I knew she couldn’t help me. She hadn’t talked to me about magic since her accident when I was seventeen.

I suspected the accident was magic-related, but she’d kept silent about it.

She’d looked at me sceptically any time I’d mentioned magic afterwards, as though I spoke of childish whimsy and needed to grow up.

So I had.

I’d left Dunn and become a librarian, a nice stable job for a responsible young man who liked books.

A normal young man who had resigned himself to a life of pretending he couldn’t see the dead.

I’d somehow ended up with nowhere else to turn and ended up back in this town.

Now Gran was in America with Aunt Myrtle, so it was hard to get help.

I drove back to the library to pretend I’d been out for my lunch break.


Author Bio

Ashton K. Rose author

Ashton K. Rose (They/Them) is a Queer author who writes Australian paranormal, urban fantasy and mystery fiction filled with LGBTQIA+ characters.

Ashton currently lives in sunny Queensland able to enjoy the best of the Australian bush and beach. Ashton spent their first fourteen years being raised on a remote farm shaped around the remains of an old mining town. Surrounded by the skeletons of past lives and their matching ghost stories, Ashton developed a love for fantasy, horror, and dark fairy tales from a young age.

Carrying a love of ghost stories into adulthood Ashton started writing novels about magic, vampires and ghosts. Ashton decided to set The Southern Magicks in a world heavily inspired by the backdrop of the Australia bush/beach and the speculative fiction Ashton has consumed over a lifetime.

Author Website: https://www.geekaflame.com/

Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100086363208232

Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/Geek_Aflame

Author Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/geek_aflame/

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21982765.Ashton_K_Rose

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/ashtonkrose

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Author Interview

Do your books spring to life from a character first or an idea?

I write character driven stories, so I usually come up with the plot after I have a couple of compelling/interesting characters. 

Are you a full-time or part-time writer? How does that affect your writing?

I’m a part time writer, I need to work a fulltime day job to fund my expensive hobby of publishing books. Over the last couple of months dealing with the business side of indie publishing plus working on my second book has made me feel like I’m working two full time jobs. 

I’d love to be a fulltime creator one day, but I’ve just reached a place where I can pay my bills and start publishing my stories. The results I’ve seen with one book I have no idea how to market have renewed my confidence. I feel like I’m running on fumes but I want to build a writing career that funds its self, even if I can’t ever write full time I’d at least love to be in the position where publish as often I need to and I can afford to release an audiobook on the same day as the eBook/paperback. 

Who did your cover, and what was the design process like?

My cover was created by Coffee and Fantasy Design, I saw their design portfolio in a Tweet mentioning they had schedule space and knew they were my cover artist. I’d already received quotes from a couple of other designers, but I didn’t think I was ready to have a cover yet. I dropped everything to email the owner of Coffee and Fantasy Design with a proposal and secure one of the empty spots in their schedule. 

I do think I was a slightly fussy/controlling client in the beginning, but everything was better when I let my designer take the reins. I’ve learnt a lot more about the eddicute of hiring a cover designer in the last year.

I’m very happy with my cover and it’s better than I could have ever imagined. I do wish I wasn’t so against the idea of a cover with a person on it though because they do seem to sell better in the American market even for adult fiction. 

The best thing you can do with cover designer is to let them do their job. They know their job.

What’s your drink of choice? 

Non-alcoholic: Either French Earl grey or any tea with rose or lavender. 

Alcoholic: Floral or citrus floured gin. 

What other artistic pursuits (it any) do you indulge in apart from writing?

I’ve been learning watercolor painting for a few months. I never really liked it in school because we used cheep paints and never learnt techniques. I’ve always liked the way watercolor paintings look and I knew I didn’t want to use acrylic paints after painting with as a hobby for a while as a teenager. When I wanted a creative hobby away from my computer, I decided to go all the way with learning and brought artist grade paint, cotton paper and good mid-range brushes. I wanted to learn without the quality of my tools damaging my perception of the medium. 

I really enjoy the hobby and constantly find myself improving though I don’t have as much time to paint as I’d like. One day I’d like to be able to draw a graphic novel as there are a few stories I want to tell that need a visual medium to fully shine.

The Demon Lord of California (Infinity 8 Book One) by Bennu Bright Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A powerful being from another dimension and an angelic heir known as the Demon Lord of California must work together to stop dark forces from taking control of the open portal the being used to enter the human world in author Bennu Bright’s “The Demon Lord of California”, the first book in the Infinity 8 series. 

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The Synopsis

Baker. Wizard. God of Space and Time. Cupcake enthusiast. How long will it take to fan the flames and enrage this gentle phoenix? Start counting.

What’s a wounded and lonely little cinnamon roll to do? Stripped of his psychic powers, Calico Winghorse flees to 19th century earth via his inter-dimensional portal. As a mixed-blood phoenix trapped in human form, he opens a bakery in the San Francisco Bay Area and quietly nurses his wounds. But the unique method of his arrival has drawn the unwanted attention of Infinity Corporation.

Representing this angelic-run company is Agustin Chavez de la Cruz, the Demon Lord of California. Even though Agustin is IC’s heir, he finds himself demoted from his duties to concentrate on his new assignment: take absolute control of the portal. But Calico refuses to sell for any price.

Before Agustin can formulate a more gracious avenue of acquiring Calico’s gateway, the demanding head of IC interferes, further complicating matters. So as negotiations stumble along, Calico and Agustin realize they both wish to establish more than a mere business arrangement. In the mean time, Calico ensures that the good people of the city are getting their fill of baked goods.

However, due to Calico’s injuries, the portal remains vulnerable to the darker forces that want it at any cost. Agustin will have to push both his angelic heritage, as well as his own psychic power to the very limits to mend someone who not only bears celestial blood, but who is also the God of Space and Time. 

The Review

What a fantastic way to begin the new year. The epic proportions of this novel’s world-building were incredible to read. The vastness of the novel’s paranormal world burst open on a grand scale that kept me enthralled by the author’s storytelling. The balance the author found between humor and romance as the story delved into the more everyday, mundane, and human aspects of the story with the more epic, chilling, and heavy aspects of the cosmic scale fantasy horror elements of the story were incredible to see come to life on the page.

The depth of emotional connection the author was able to achieve with the characters in this book was superb. Not only did the author manage to craft a villain that everyone will love hating, but the protagonists of this story found a way to add a level of connection and relatability to their bond together that is not always easy to accomplish when dealing with otherworldly beings. The way Calico opens up Agustin’s world and viewpoints to the point of making sacrifice after sacrifice to help the wayward god of space and time and the connection they shared not only brought that beloved LGBTQ romance and relationship to life, but added the heart to the narrative.

The Verdict

Thoughtful, mesmerizing, and entertaining, author Bennu Bright’s “The Demon Lord of California” is a must-read fantasy and LGBTQ Paranormal novel to kick off 2023, and a great start to the author’s Infinity 8 series. The heart and compassion of the character’s arcs blend well with the action and fantasy world the author has brought to life through incredible imagery in their writing, and the twists and turns will have readers eager for more as the book comes to its climactic conclusion. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!


Rating: 10/10

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The Demon Lord of California - Bennu Bright

Bennu Bright has a new MM alt-history fantasy out (bi/pan, intersex, poly), Infinity 8 book one: The Demon Lord of California. And there’s a giveaway.

A Slow Burn Meet Cute!

Baker. Wizard. God of Space and Time. Cupcake enthusiast. How long will it take to fan the flames and enrage this gentle phoenix? Start counting.

What’s a wounded and lonely little cinnamon roll to do? Stripped of his psychic powers, Calico Winghorse flees his homeworld and travels to 19th century Earth via his inter-dimensional portal. As a mixed-blood phoenix trapped in human form, he opens a bakery in the San Francisco Bay Area and quietly nurses his wounds. But the unique method of his arrival draws the unwanted attention of Infinity Corporation.

Representing this angelic-run company is Agustin Chavez de la Cruz, the Demon Lord of California. Even though Agustin is IC’s heir, he finds himself demoted from his duties to concentrate on his new assignment: take absolute control of Calico’s portal.

But Calico refuses to sell at any price. He is also very busy ensuring that the good people of the city are getting their fill of baked goods.

Before Agustin can formulate a more gracious avenue of acquiring the gateway, the demanding head of IC interferes, further complicating matters. So as negotiations stumble along, Calico and Agustin come to realize they both want more than a stuffy business arrangement.

However, due to Calico’s injuries, the portal remains vulnerable to the darker forces that want it at any cost. Agustin will have to push both his angelic heritage, as well as his own psychic powers to the very limits to heal this sweet baker, who is also the portal world’s God of Space and Time.

The Demon Lord of California is the first book of an LGBTQ+ paranormal-fantasy series. You won’t want to miss a first love found, hidden worlds, and a recovering workaholic grasping at his second chance. All centered around the control of an otherworldly portal. So curl up with your favorite beverage, and hang out with Cal and Gus for a while. You’ll be happy you did!

Warnings: Mature readers. Robbery and assault. Mentioned sexual harassment/assault. Mental abuse from a parent. Fire, burning, burning alive. Possibly implied prostitution, and suicide (by fire).

Universal Buy Link

Liminal Fiction | QueerRomance Ink | Goodreads


Giveaway

Bennu is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour:

a Rafflecopter giveawayhttps://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d47268/?


Excerpt

The Demon Lord of California meme

“Please,” Calico called out, hands waving at chest-level. “Please, wait.”

The raucous noise of the motorcar’s engine ceased. The gentleman stepped down from the vehicle. “You wished to speak to me? Is it about the order? I can reduce the amount of—”

“Oh, no, no,” Calico hurried to reassure. “My brothers and I are most capable, and we will have no difficulty filling and delivering your baked goods. On time. I…” He could do this. He had to do this. His loneliness would drive him mad before the curse could ever eat him into a permanent demise.

Perhaps it would be easier if they did not have the driver as an audience. Calico extended a hand to show his customer the way to the small strip of greenery next to the bakery. He could not be sure exactly what his intentions would entail, by waylaying a most important customer in this manner. It was indecent. Immoral. But Calico felt if he did not, he would lose something, or a moment, that was so dire, he would die.

He would die anyway… Calico bit his lip.

It was well and good his gentleman customer seemed to be interested in his most unusual inquiry. So that provided additional courage. Which came as a surprise.

In the heart of this little park next door to the bakery, his customer artfully arranged himself on the bench beneath the gaslight pole. Sitting straight and tall. Sophistication and elegance radiating just as strongly as the furnace of his elemental aura.

The haziness cast from the street lamp created a most wonderful island against the coming twilight. It strangely made this rendezvous cozier. That alone bolstered Calico’s courage another notch.

When the gentleman looked up at him expectedly with those mismatched eyes, Calico felt mesmerized. Say something, he demanded of himself. Something witty and clever, so he will think me just as gentlemanly and important.

His customer appeared to be fighting the smile on his lips before clearing his throat. He turned his head—just for a second, before facing him again, expression polite.

Say something, Calico pushed himself. He is waiting. He will think me daft and even more unsound than I already am. Alright then. Here I go.

“We are both fire elementals.” The clumsy inquiry had Calico’s cheeks heating in embarrassment. He bent his head at his failure.

“One moment,” the gentleman said. He collected a small item anchored into his top hat and held it up. A blue gem embedded into a silver clip glowed, and the light circled around them like a curtain. Returning the jewel to its place on that magnificent hat, this man languidly leaned against the backrest and angled himself more in his direction.

Calico felt encouraged to pursue a friendly connection, but this intriguing magic had to be investigated. “What was that?”

“A spell my company uses. We call it the Curtain. It keeps our dealings private and unseen from the mundanes—ah, the general non-magical populations, I mean. Usually the humans.”

“That is most ingenious magic,” he exclaimed, leaning in. “I wonder how it compares to my Mirror Bubble?”

There was that smile again, most gentle, and prompting. “You wished to speak of magic? Or something more?”

“Ah, my apologies. Not magic. Will you show it to me?” Calico asked, knowing himself too eager. He tried not to wring his hands and appear desperate.

His customer’s brows rose high, and Calico knew it was in utter surprise, and perhaps curiosity. “Show you… what?” The question was somewhat wary with a touch of amusement.

“Your elemental flame. You see, I too, am—er was once gifted with the flame. I am a phoenix, you see.”

The man blinked. “A phoenix without a flame?”

Calico felt himself turn pink, and put a sheepish hand against the back of his head. “It is a most embarrassing admission,” he rushed. “I did not plan on being so forward. I apol—”

There was a quiet whoosh. Another small circle of light rose, and Calico sensed the heat instantly. There, dancing calmly inches above the gentleman’s gloved palm, was a tear-shaped flame. Flickering in shades of orange, reds, and yellows and blues. And… and yes. White.

He sucked in a breath and suddenly couldn’t breathe. It had been so long since he’d seen such a flame. Curling, writhing in all its glory. Since he was cut off from his ability, Maars did not use his out of sympathy. At least in a sensory view.

Calico swallowed the hitch in his breath. How could this gentleman carry so many colors within? Was he that powerful?

“You’re shaking, Mr. Scrivens.” The flame disappeared, and there was a steadying hand at his shoulder. “Are you well? Perhaps you should sit down.”

Calico touched that hand, as if to anchor it in place. “Yes, yes, I should.” The wooden bench was chilly against his rump. “It-it is quite cold this evening. May I see it again?”

The request was granted. Calico just stared at the dancing shapes. Wishing. Forever longing.

A few seconds passed before the gentleman spoke. “How long has it been since you were unable to create?”

Create. It was an elemental term Calico had heard bandied about as he eavesdropped upon conversations among the local wizard shops. The question sent warm tingles and shivers of fire down his spine.<

Staring at the flame so snug and content curling about the gentleman’s gloved fingertips, Calico suddenly found himself saying, “Sixteen months, two days, seventeen hours and 26 and a half seconds.”

The gentleman cocked his head to the side. He lowered his hand, and the summoned fire faded. “That’s quite precise.”

Indeed! He should not be able to access any of his psychic powers. “I am the God of Space and Time,” Calico said offhandedly.

There was a pause that almost became awkward. “Well, yes. About that. Mr. Scrivens, while we are here, alone, I’d like to take the opportunity to discuss your delivery further.”

“Oh, yes,” Calico replied with renewed energy. “What is it? Would you like to add my famous cupcakes to the order? It is no trouble.”

“N-no. That’s not it. Well, the baked goods are for a recruitment campaign.”

“Recruitment?”

“Yes. My company has need of your skills.”

Calico paused before he made a silly fish out of himself. As much as his mind was centered upon his magic, what if this man merely wanted an extra baker on his payroll, and not a wizard? He had to allow the man to formally extend the offer.


Author Bio

Bennu Bright

Hi! I’m Bennu Bright. Fantasy and paranormal tales have always felt like home. And I’ve always adored getting into the gritty details of a character’s goals and relationships. With my newfound zest for the craft of writing, my work has joined the ranks of romance and the romantic.

Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, I spend my days nose to the keyboard, or attempting to revive an ancient passion for drawing.

Author Website: https://www.bennubright.com

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

Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/BennuBright

Author Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bennubright/

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/bennubright

Author Liminal Fiction (LimFic.com): https://www.limfic.com/mbm-book-author/bennu-bright/

Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/bennu-bright/

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Bennu-Bright/e/B0B763J8Z2

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Sundowners by R.L. Merrill Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A powerful vampire seeking the truth behind a betrayal and hoping to atone for his past meets a grad student and begins a powerful romance just as a pack of vicious vampires begins to descend on their town in author R.L. Merrill’s “Sundowners”, the first book in the series of the same name.

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The Synopsis

From the author of the supernatural suspense series Gifted (Healer, Connection) comes a new queer paranormal romance series.

Praise for Connection: “The romance element is complemented nicely by the relentless action and adventure throughout, creating an emotionally intense and page-turning narrative…A fast-paced and fun fusion of supernatural romance and mainstream thriller.” ~Kirkus

Vampire Creed Lowell drifts from town to town working with the elderly as a night nurse and looking to avenge his harrowing past. His youth and vitality make him a favorite of his patients and his gifts bring them peace. At long last he’s arrived in the place where he hopes to find the truth about those who betrayed him…but first he finds an unexpected love with a man who might understand him—or end him.

Grad student Roman San Angelo is struggling to handle his courses, teaching schedule, and research for his dissertation on an obscure cult. He spends every spare moment with his beloved yet demanding grandmother Frances who’s recently moved to an assisted living facility—and he’s fascinated by her night nurse, who is able to bring out the inner light which had faded during her battle with dementia. Something about Creed doesn’t add up, however, Roman finds himself fighting an undeniable attraction. His concerns multiply when Roman discovers a connection between Creed and a bizarre series of vampire-wannabe assaults in the area. A moment of weakness leads to a night of passion between them, and the promise of something more, and yet Roman can’t shake his concern that Creed is not what he seems.

Creed knows better than to bring a mortal into his world, even one who could help him find the link between the pack of violent vampires preying on the people of Santa Cruz and Creed’s past. When he discovers Creed’s secret, Roman is ready to step outside his comfort zone and accept everything a life with a vampire entails, and when Creed disappears, Roman will go to the ends of the earth to find the man who brought the light back to his grandmother and the warmth back to his own heart.

*This book contains violence and sexual content. It is meant for audiences 18+

The Review

For any readers or cinematic aficionados out there who know their vampire history, the book immediately serves up some great callbacks to iconic vampire stories, with the narrative taking place in Santa Cruz, CA, the same location as the iconic The Lost Boys film. Yet this is no retelling, as the author ups the stakes and delivers an LGBTQ+ driven urban fantasy and supernatural horror narrative with an adult romance spin. The mystery and suspense of the narrative were so engaging, and the rich setting of Santa Cruz played such a unique and in-depth role in the narrative.

Yet it was the beautiful balance of mythology and character growth that really drew me into this story. The heated and passionate romance that bloomed between Creed and Roman was felt powerfully throughout this story, while the rich mythos that the author created allowed for some really unique and original takes on the vampire lore overall, allowing for a beautiful fusion of LGBTQ+ romance and supernatural urban fantasy. 

The Verdict

Adrenaline-fueled, passionate, and entertaining, author R.L. Merrill’s “Sundowners” is the perfect first book in a brand new LGBTQ Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy series. The unique take on the vampire lore we’ve all come to know, as well as dashes of twists and turns that include cults, magic, and heated romances will have readers flocking to read more of this incredible author’s work. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today! 

Rating: 10/10

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R.L. Merrill has a new MM paranormal romance out: Sundowners. And there’s a giveaway.

Vampire Creed Lowell drifts from town to town working with the elderly as a night nurse and looking to avenge his harrowing past. His youth and vitality make him a favorite of his patients and his gifts bring them peace. At long last he’s arrived in the place where he hopes to find the truth about those who betrayed him…but first he finds an unexpected love with a man who might understand him—or end him.

Grad student Roman San Angelo is struggling to handle his courses, teaching schedule, and research for his dissertation on an obscure cult. He spends every spare moment with his beloved yet demanding grandmother Frances who’s recently moved to an assisted living facility—and he’s fascinated by her night nurse, who is able to bring out the inner light which had faded during her battle with dementia. Something about Creed doesn’t add up, however, Roman finds himself fighting an undeniable attraction. His concerns multiply when Roman discovers a connection between Creed and a bizarre series of vampire-wannabe assaults in the area. A moment of weakness leads to a night of passion between them, and the promise of something more, and yet Roman can’t shake his concern that Creed is not what he seems.

Creed knows better than to bring a mortal into his world, even one who could help him find the link between the pack of violent vampires preying on the people of Santa Cruz and Creed’s past. When he discovers Creed’s secret, Roman is ready to step outside his comfort zone and accept everything a life with a vampire entails, and when Creed disappears, Roman will go to the ends of the earth to find the man who brought the light back to his grandmother and the warmth back to his own heart.

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Giveaway

R.L. is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card with this tour:

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Excerpt

Sundowners meme - R.L. Merrill

Chapter One

Creed

January

“Well, Mr. Lowell, I think we have everything we need. Your references all check out, and you passed your background check. Can you start on Friday?”

What a relief! I smiled and leaned against the wall of my dingy hotel room. Thank goodness for excellent references. I inhaled the combination mildew/chlorine smell caused by the permanent dampness from the ocean and the indoor swimming pool below my room, glad . This was the break I needed, or my current accommodations would soon go from bad to worse.

“Thank you, yes. What time does the evening shift start?” I kept my fingers crossed while I waited for the answer.

“Six o’clock. Just come to the front desk and our evening supervisor will get you set up. Lexi’s great. She’ll show you the ropes.”

“Wonderful. Thank you for this opportunity.”

“We should be thanking you, Mr. Lowell. You’re overqualified for the position, and we’ve had a difficult time keeping our evening staff. I hope this works out for the both of us.”

I thanked Yvonne, the Human Resources director, once more before disconnecting. Then the victory dance commenced.

“Did you hear that, Rhonda? We’re in!”

My red Doberman rested her jaw on her paws and made an old lady noise, indicating that she’d rather be napping than dancing.

I would not be thwarted, however. I danced a West Side Story routine across the room to the kitchenette and reached into the fridge with panache. There was one last bag of A-positive that I’d been sipping on since arriving in Santa Cruz, and now I could finish it off since I’d have a steady supply in just two days’ time. Not that I needed much—especially not when I was working—but it was important to never let my energy stores deplete. It affected my judgement and my ability to do the work that was so desperately needed.

I did a spin and a box step before kicking my leg out, and throwing my arms back in a layout. Hopefully I’d find a patient who knew the old dances at Puesta Del Sol, my new place of employment. They were the most fun to work with.

I reached into my lone duffel bag, which contained seven sets of scrubs, a suit, three white t-shirts, a pair of jeans, a Harvard hoodie, two pairs of shoes, and a small photo album that contained cherished pictures of my parents and younger siblings. The rest of my belongings and resources were hidden in pre-paid storage facilities around the country for when I got desperate…or had to run.

My family was all gone now. My little sister was the last, and she’d passed away four months ago according to the hometown newspaper in Macon County, Georgia. I read every copy that I could get ahold of through the local libraries. The internet had been such a great invention. Even though I hadn’t been home in nearly forty years, I’d managed to keep tabs on everyone. They’d all lived mostly happy, satisfying lives and died of natural causes at advanced ages, which was the best I could have hoped for.

But now that I had no worry of repercussions for my family, I could finally seek out the truth.

Puesta Del Sol was hopefully the end of the line. The last assisted-living home where I’d worked in Albuquerque had led me here, to Santa Cruz, California. “Go west, young man,” turned out to be the advice I’d needed all along.

I was determined to find those responsible for sending me on this decades-long exile. It wouldn’t be long now. It was time to set things straight, and it seemed fitting to be back near where it all started.

March 2019

Two months later, the trail of promising leads had gone cold. Still, I loved my new life in California. I was surrounded by a competent and diverse staff at Puesta Del Sol that knew how to run a place of healing and hope with patients who were happy and well cared for. And I loved Santa Cruz. It was almost enough to make me consider letting go of the past.

What a great place for a guy like me. It was easy to fit into the college town that was also a magnet for transients, tourists, and folks who were followers of alternative lifestyles. Not only were there practitioners of Eastern religions and schools of thought, but also those who claimed to be creatures of the night, a holdover from the vampire craze that swept the area after a hit movie in the ’80s made them cool. I occasionally even found folks who didn’t mind a little role play.

My love of music meant I was a frequent guest of The Catalyst, a large music venue, bar, and eatery located downtown that drew fans from all over the Bay Area. One night they’d feature punk, the next rap, and sometimes even classic rock bands made their way to the club.

Tonight was a perfect opportunity to blend in as a lineup of alternative bands from the eighties was playing. I’d worn my black suit, skinny tie, and black Dr. Martens. I’d even slicked my dark auburn hair back and donned black eyeliner for the hell of it, the makeup highlighting my eyes, so blue they made people stop and stare. Of course, the rest of the package could also be to blame for that. My pale, freckled skin fit the role of a night walker perfectly to round out the look.

I made my way through the crowd to the bar and ordered a beer. A willing playmate soon appeared, and the game was on.

The young man, dressed in a velvet waistcoat and ruffled poet’s shirt, saw me approach the bar and immediately perked up. I took a swig of my beer and nodded at the Goth. When I moved away from the bar, I felt him at my back as I headed to a dark corner. Once there, I leaned against the wall and waited.

The young man approached with a sly smile, and I took it as an invitation. I reached for his shoulder, turned him around slowly, and pulled him back against my chest, enjoying the way his body fit against mine.

“I have your permission?” I whispered in the young man’s ear. “I promise you’ll enjoy it.”

The young man turned to face me and his eyes widened in surprise. “Here?”

I smiled at him and ran a finger down his neck, enjoying the way he shivered. The energy from his excitement would have been enough to nourish me, but I was feeling greedy tonight.

“Yeah, just um, be safe about it.”

I bathed him in a wave of calm. The manipulation of energy was effortless for me now. “You’re in good hands, my friend.” I turned him around and stopped him when he went to loosen his belt. “Relax, I’ve got you.”

I slid his long curly blond hair to the side. I had ways of making the experience pleasurable, so I poured energy into giving this guy one helluva good time, one he’d remember for years to come. He just wouldn’t remember that a vampire sank his teeth gently into his neck and took sustenance from his body.

Give unto them what they require.

Take only what you need to survive.

I would never forget what I’d been taught.

“Blessed be.”

After a few sips, I felt my playmate shudder against me and let out a satisfied moan. A few more pulls and his body tensed, gasped, and shuddered once more. It was nice to know I hadn’t lost my touch.

It had been a long time since I’d chanced feeding in public, but I felt safe here. Santa Cruz had welcomed me with open arms, and I wanted to stay.

The young man raised his arm and cupped the back of my head. He pressed his ass back against me, and I knew it was time to end this tryst.

“Thank you,” I whispered against his ear, and then pressed a kiss to his neck.

“I should be thanking you,” the guy said. “What’s your name?”

I disappeared into the crowd before the young man turned to look, and I was out of the club before he could wonder what happened.

I rarely drank blood—it was an infrequent need to maintain my existence as long as I had plenty of human energy to manipulate—and I always made sure my partner enjoyed it. But the act often left me feeling…empty. I worked hard to help others live a more satisfying life, and after all this time, I sometimes resented that I couldn’t pursue happiness of my own. I would have loved to take that young man home and enjoy more than just an Exchange. Someday I would find…someone. But not until it was safe. Not until I’d done what I came here to do.


Author Bio

“With a strong plot, an expertly crafted cast of supporting characters, and deep empathy, Merrill’s novel will keep readers hooked.” —Publishers Weekly review of Typhoon Toby.

Whether she’s writing contemporary romance featuring quirky and relatable characters or diving deep into the paranormal and supernatural to give readers a shiver, R.L. Merrill loves creating compelling stories that will stay with readers long after. Winner of the Kathryn Hayes “When Sparks Fly” Best Contemporary award for Hurricane Reese, and a Foreword INDIES finalist for Summer of Hush, Ro spends every spare moment improving her writing craft and striving to find that perfect balance between real-life and happily ever after.

She writes diverse and inclusive romance, contributes paranormal hilarity to Robyn Peterman’s Magic and Mayhem Universe, and pens horror-inspired music reviews for HorrorAddicts.net.

You can find her connecting with readers on social media, advocating for America’s youth, raising two brilliant kids, or headbanging at a rock show near her home in the San Francisco Bay Area!

Stay Tuned for more…

Author Website: https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com

Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/rochellerlmerrill

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

Author Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/rlmerrillauthor

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Guest Blog Post and Blog Tour Blast For Author M.D. Grimm’s “Sapphire: Home and Abroad” with OWI Blog Tours

Hi everyone! Thank you for joining me today. I hope you’ll give author M.D. Grimm a warm welcome as we hear some fantastic insight into the development of “Sapphire: Home and Abroad”.


Good day lovely readers! Thank you for joining me. I am M.D. Grimm and I am here to promote my newest release, “Sapphire: Home and Abroad.” This is the latest entry in The Stones of Power. I am overjoyed and relieved to finally release a new book in this series. After re-publishing back titles, I can now work on new projects. So, if you like magic, surly, anti-hero mages (wizards), and a fun setting with quirky supporting characters, this series might be for you!

So… Morgorth. He’s a difficult character, isn’t he? I don’t think I quite knew what I was getting into when I wrote the first book over ten years ago. I have an affinity for dark and/or damaged characters. Their journey and trials as they become better people is something I never grow tired of either writing or reading. One of the worst things in the world is for a writer to be bored with a character and/or a story. And when it comes to series, I strive to have a character(s) that needs to overcome something as they evolve over the course of several books. If I’m not interested in their journey, then why would anyone else be?

“Ruby: Lost and Found” was the third book I ever published. It presented Morgorth in a time of his life where he was bored with being a villain. He’d embraced the label after his peers, fellow mages, decided he simply had to be one because of his birthright: being the seventh son of a seventh son, which they determined meant he was to be the Destroyer of their world. It is said that we often create our own monsters, and in this case, it was true. Morgorth became what his peers already thought he was. However, when Aishe crashes into his life, the desire to be something different awakens within him. In my opinion, he becomes an anti-hero. Or, as he would say, a dark mage. He’s not out to wreak havoc on the world but he’s certainly not going to play by the rules, either.

My initial goal for this series was to challenge myself to write an anti-hero. I’m not quite sure if I succeeded or not, but I can’t argue with the result. Morgorth is wonderfully flawed, his struggles are real, and his desire to be worthy of his mate, Aishe, pushes him into uncomfortable situations and makes his choices harder. What I love most about Morgorth is his refusal to surrender. Despite the abuse he survived as a child, the hatred from most of his peers, and the struggle with his own internal demons, he continues to fight. The closest he came to defeat was in the previous book, “Lapis Lazuli: Forgotten and Remembered,” but even then, even without Aishe kicking his butt into gear, I don’t doubt that after a bit of time in self-pity, he’d roll up his sleeves and start fighting again. It’s one of the things I love most about him: he continues to get up every time he’s knocked down.

Due to the abuse from his father, Morgorth has always carried a deep-seated rage inside him. Unfortunately, it led him to unleashing his pain on innocents until he made a promise to his mentor that he would stop perpetuating the cycle of abuse. Morgorth has grown a lot from book one to book eight, but the core of him hasn’t changed. He still carries the rage, only now he channels it into protecting those he loves. He still has a darkness inside him, a thirst to hurt others, and yet again, he targets it at other villains and in defense. I find that the hardest balance to strike with such a complex character is letting them evolve without changing who they are at their deepest core. I didn’t want Morgorth to lose his edge. I didn’t want it to seem as if he simply flicked off his past trauma and that it no longer affected him. That is unrealistic and an insult to folks who live with trauma. However, he did find the tools and the support to work through his trauma and to use his rage for good instead of evil.

And how did he do that? By finding a mate who accepted all of him. With Aishe, he found the motivation and the reason to work on himself. That’s what I love most about their partnership—they make each other better and stronger. 

The Stones of Power 1-8 are available for purchase at Amazon (also in print!) and Smashwords. I have a newsletter that I send out monthly with all the goodies you can expect in the future. That’s the best way to find out about my current and future projects.

For fans of the Saga of the Bold People series, I just finished the first draft of “Resistance,” book 3. I hope to release it October 2022, so keep your eyes peeled for that! I am also booked (pun intended) solid this year, working on the next shifter book, the next Stones of Power book, a couple single titles, and the next On Wings Saga book. Wish me luck!

More information on my catalog can be found at my website.

I hope you stay safe and healthy, and may dragons guard your dreams,

M.D. Grimm

Sapphire: Home and Abroad

M.D. Grimm has a new MM fantasy book out, Stones of Power book 8: Sapphire: Home and Abroad.

The Dark Mage, Lord Morgorth, and Aishe of the Ravena Tribe, are to become bondmates.

Morgorth is equal parts nervous and excited. He wants to unite with Aishe in the sacred dialen ceremony, to proclaim their devotion to the world, to show everyone that Aishe is his equal and deserving of respect. After all they’ve survived together, why shouldn’t they make the cosmic promise before friends and family? But duty must often come before pleasure. When Morgorth’s estranged mentor, Master Ulezander, comes to him with a time-sensitive mission involving a major stone of power, Morgorth has little choice but to acquiesce.

Aishe knows his mate struggles with the revelation of his true destiny, after a lifetime of defining himself as the future Destroyer of Karishian. All he can do is reassure Morgorth that being the Savior is a far better fate for both of them. But as Morgorth and Aishe leap through worlds and dimensions in pursuit of a stone of power, more pieces to the puzzle of Morgorth’s destiny are revealed. And they form an image of sacrifice and tragedy.

The dark cloud of an ancient enemy looms ever closer, and the path to becoming the Savior might prove more monstrous than that of the Destroyer.

About the Series:

Lord Morgorth is a dark mage on the planet Karishian. His peers consider him a villain, but there is more to him than they choose to understand. Cursed by a dark destiny and tormented by painful memories of the past, Morgorth struggles to find his place in the world. Far from innocent, Morgorth has teetered between embracing his destiny and fighting against it his entire life. A decision that is made easier when Aishe comes into his life. Aishe is a creature of the forest, a warrior and healer. He has the moral compass that Morgorth needs, and Morgorth gives Aishe the companionship he craves. Together, they forge ahead, weathering the storms and fighting the enemies fate puts into their paths.

However, their greatest enemy is not a living being, but gemstones infused with deadly power. They are addictive, seductive, and completely treacherous. Morgorth hates them and is determined to find and imprison all of them. But he soon realizes they are keys to a greater power. He learns his destiny is not all he thought it was. And an even greater enemy stirs in the darkness. Enter the world of “The Stones of Power.”

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Excerpt

Sapphire Home and Abroad meme

Morgorth stepped forward and stretched out his arms. He murmured a series of words under his breath and an opaque pinprick of light appeared. I stepped a bit closer, fascinated. The pinprick grew into a swirling, pulsing liquid silver gateway. It was beautiful and ominous. It made no sound, and yet gave off pressure that I felt against my body, and the hair on my arms stood on end.

The few trees bordering the clearing creaked and groaned as they bent away from the portal. I didn’t hear anything—not birds or squirrels, not deer. Nothing was near us, and the poor, stationary trees were doing their best to also get away.

Morgorth fisted his hands and widened his stance, still muttering. His skin glowed, and I silently shifted to his side. His eyes were a burning amber, his expression set in stubborn determination and intense concentration. Sweat slid down his face. The portal pulsed a bit faster, the beat knocking against my ribs. What was he doing?

Then the silver gained a bluish color before darkening to mossy green. Morgorth grunted and lowered his hands, though his magick still glowed.

“Take my hand,” he said in a stiff, strained voice. “And hold on tight, to both me and your bow.”

I swallowed hard and took a deep breath. I clung to my bow as I took his outstretched hand and pressed to his side. His skin was hot to the touch but not burning.

“What can I expect?” I asked.

“Discomfort and weirdness,” he said with a hint of a smile. “Just don’t let go.”

“Never.”

Then Morgorth ran and yanked me with him. We dove into the portal without hesitation, and he was right about the discomfort and weirdness. It wasn’t the emptiness of teleportation nor the whiplash of magickal speed. Morgorth charged through the swirling green, dragging me along. The green slipped over my skin and hair like cold putty and tried to capture my feet in its murk. It seemed to last forever but I was certain it was only a moment or two. Then we were somewhere else.

I caught my breath and stumbled forward, still clinging to Morgorth. He didn’t let go either, his magick still at the surface. He took a cloudy crystal from one of the many pouches at his waist and bent to place it at the base of the portal.

This time, I heard his word of magick.

“Lelleknau.”

Words of magick were supposed to be nonsensical, something each mage created for themselves. It was personal, each new word linked to a spell and used for nothing else. It took both words and hand flourishes for a mage to cast a spell or secure an enchantment. It was different for magick healers like myself. It wasn’t so much magickhealers used, it was our life essence, gifting a part of ourselves to our patients. Give too much and it could kill us. The missing part of our essence would replenish over time, faster if we were happy and balanced.

To open a portal and redirect it was remarkably heavy magick, and my mate never ceased to leave me in awe of his abilities and his continual growth in both strength and intelligence.

“Will the crystal leave the portal open?” I asked.

He nodded. “Only on this side, though. We don’t want anyone or anything following us.”

“I doubt any of Vorgoroth’s creatures want to follow.”

Morgorth shrugged and straightened. “I don’t want to take the chance. And I wasn’t just thinking of my minions.”

He was thinking of our guests. Probably about Lyli.

I sighed. Yes, that girl was fearless and far too curious for her own good. And wherever Lyli went, Olyvre wouldn’t be far behind. Then Elissya would also come.

“This will also prevent any of the creatures here of getting inside. The crystal is also a shield.”

“Clever.”

“Draining,” he said with a sheepish grin. His magick settled into his core, causing his eyes and skin to lose their glow. “It won’t hold for long. In and out, no sightseeing.”

I snorted and glanced at our surroundings. “I don’t think that will be a problem.”

A thick, dense jungle surrounded us, and I was only now noticing the oppressive heat. My skin broke out in sweat and my clothes soon stuck to me in the most uncomfortable way. I exhaled sharply and let go of Morgorth to wipe at my brow.

“Aye, in and out, please.”

Morgorth grimaced as well and readjusted the bag.

“I hope you can track the bloody thing.”

“I don’t sense magick like on Karishian so it shouldn’t be a problem to open my third eye and spot the box. And if for some reason that doesn’t work, I can always try to meditate and find its aura and track it back to its location.”

“Wouldn’t the box shield the stone’s power?”

“Its power but not its signature. According to Melondia, the box doesn’t have enough layers to truly block it. Think about the layers of Geheimnis. A mage could use their third eye but not spot the stones I have in the tower because the barriers are too thick.”

I nodded, and he closed his eyes. This place did feel… empty. Magick was everywhere in Karishian, in the land, the water, in the creatures. In the sky and in the clouds, and in the sun. In the air itself. I didn’t like it here. I shuddered and fingered my bow. The familiar texture of the wood soothed me just enough to unclench my muscles.

I kept an eye on our surroundings as Morgorth once again called to his magick.


Author Bio

M.D. Grimm Logo

M.D. Grimm has wanted to write stories since second grade (kind of young to make life decisions, but whatever) and nothing has changed since then (well, plenty of things actually, but not that!). Thankfully, she has indulgent parents who let her dream, but also made sure she understood she’d need a steady job to pay the bills (they never let her forget it!).

After graduating from the University of Oregon and majoring in English, (let’s be honest: useless degree, what else was she going to do with it?) she started on her writing career and couldn’t be happier.

Working by day and writing by night (or any spare time she can carve out), she enjoys embarking on romantic quests and daring adventures (living vicariously, you could say) and creating characters that always triumph against the villain, (or else what’s the point?) finding their soul mate in the process.

Author Website: http://www.mdgrimmwrites.com/

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Author Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/M.D.-Grimm/e/B00I0KZMY6/

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Bed of Rose and Thorns by Lee Hunt Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A warrior returns to the Queendom he was banished from over a decade later to find the Queen he has dreamed of for years is isolated and alone, and the nation in rebellion as he searches for the truth and his Queen in author Lee Hunt’sBed of Rose and Thorns”.

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The Synopsis

Sir Ezra is an Elysian Bell; he has a frightening potential that he keeps hidden deep beneath tight layers of steel armor. He secretly loves a dark Queen whose touch would mean his death.

Banished for brutally slaughtering the Prince of Erle and husband to the Queen, Sir Ezra can only dream of seeing her again. Every night, his soul travels to distant lands, remembering the Queen, her deep convictions, brilliant mind, unending work, hidden loneliness, and a single night of horrific bloodshed.

Recalled to the Queendom after eleven years, Ezra hopes to catch at least a fleeting glimpse of the woman he was sacrificed for. Instead, he finds a nation in rebellion and the Queen to be an elusive phantom. His only friend, Sir Marigold, challenges his presence and tells him that he is not needed in the capitol. Looking for both the truth and the absent Queen, Ezra finds only more secrets and enemies.

Ezra’s armor is dented, scarred, and ruined by friend and enemy alike; his secret potential is about to become unbound.

The Review

This was such a fantastic read. The author did an amazing job of capturing the raw magic of the dark fantasy realm while also developing rich mythos for the narrative. The dark and tense tone the author instilled into the novel was felt early on, and the almost medieval-like setting came to life on the page and in the author’s mind through some pretty incredible imagery used by the author in their writing.

However, the heart and soul of this read was character growth, especially for the protagonist, Ezra. The tormented warrior finds his world flipped once more, and the staggering height of his passion and love for his Queen is phenomenal to read. The secrets and mystery that build as he searches for her and her evolution as a character became central to the mythology and narrative as a whole. 

The Verdict

Action-packed, dark, yet powerfully romantic, author Lee Hunt’s “Bed of Rose and Thorns” is a must-read dark fantasy and LGBTQ-driven novel of 2022. The captivating characters, blood-soaked battles, and intrigue the narrative sets up move the reader into the depths of the emotional pull of these characters, and the beautiful way the author incorporates poetry and an almost lyrical style of writing throughout the narrative will have readers invested into this darkly magical world. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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Bed of Rose and Thorns - Lee Hunt

Lee Hunt has a new dark fantasy/fairy tale out: Bed of Rose and Thorns. And there’s a giveaway!

Sir Ezra is an Elysian Bell; he has a frightening potential that he keeps hidden deep beneath tight layers of steel armor. He secretly loves a dark Queen whose touch would mean his death.

Banished for brutally slaughtering the Prince of Erle and husband to the Queen, Sir Ezra can only dream of seeing her again. Every night, his soul travels to distant lands, remembering the Queen, her deep convictions, brilliant mind, unending work, hidden loneliness, and a single night of horrific bloodshed.

Recalled to the Queendom after eleven years, Ezra hopes to catch at least a fleeting glimpse of the woman he was sacrificed for. Instead, he finds a nation in rebellion and the Queen to be an elusive phantom. His only friend, Sir Marigold, challenges his presence and tells him that he is not needed in the capitol. Looking for both the truth and the absent Queen, Ezra finds only more secrets and enemies.

Ezra’s armor is dented, scarred, and ruined by friend and enemy alike; his secret potential is about to become unbound.

Amazon | Universal Buy Link


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Excerpt

Bed of Rose and Thorns meme

A man alone, thirsty, falls asleep.

***

“Where am I?” asks the man. He seems to be bobbing high in clear aquamarine water. All he can see is a vast expanse of ocean and a clear crystalline structure that floats nearby. Something seems familiar. He had been in a desert, travelling with friends, but now he swims upon an endless ocean.

“Have I been here before?” he asks. The tug of oceanic currents and the endless blue horizon pull on some memory . . . something important.

“You are in the sea of Eydos,” says the crystalline structure. It has been floating toward him, quietly, its approach, until then, unnoticed.

“And you are an iceberg,” the man says, smiling, unconcerned, unsurprised by the nearness of the mountainous structure. He does not know what Eydos is, but he thinks he may recognize this vast icy creature. Something tells him that he may have seen her before, though his memory is as difficult to make out as a words written on water.

The iceberg shakes from side to side, creating little ripples and dancing waves. “I suppose that I am.”

“Your sides are so smooth,” says the man. “I like you.”

The iceberg shakes again and glides right up beside the man. He floats high enough in the water that her ripples of laughter do not threaten to drown him. “You are brave, aren’t you?”

“I am not afraid to look upon that which I like. And say so.”

“Look down then, man, and tell me what you see.”

The man dives down a few body lengths, searching. When he resurfaces, he is smiling even more widely than before. “You go down and down, out of sight, beyond light and reckoning.” He shakes his head at her. “Most of you is down below, unknowable. How vast are you?”

“Never ask a lady her size,” the iceberg says, creating even bigger waves as she shakes the waters, laughing. “My size is my depth, and my depth is my size.”

“Well, I like it. I am just a man. Not vast or mysterious like an iceberg.”

“An amusing man, I think,” replies the berg.

The man asks, “Where are you going?”

“On currents that are my own, on purposes that are my own, for reasons that are my own.”

“I don’t know what I am doing here or where I am going,” says the man.

“Typical,” replies the iceberg lightly. “Most do not.”

The man, swimming hard beside her, says, “You are certainly moving fast through this ocean.”

“Indeed,” says the iceberg. “I am an agent of my own destiny.” After a moment, she adds, “If you come around back and swim in my eddy, you will be pulled along. You can rest while we talk.”

The man looks at the smooth surface of the iceberg. “Can I not just slide up onto you and rest there?”

“No!” says the iceberg, firm. “I am hard and cold. I would burn you. If you touch me, you will be undone.” Her voice softens as she adds, “It is nice in my eddy. Swim there, man.”

He shrugs and does as she says.

“Oh, this is nice,” says the man. “I can look at you and talk at the same time.”

“Glad to help you do two things at once,” giggles the iceberg, making tears of water jiggle and parade.

And they talk on through the day, the man endlessly curious about the magnificent creature of the waters.

***

“I love you, iceberg,” declares the man.

“That’s nice, but you don’t even know a tenth of me.”

“Good point,” laughs the man. “I need to dive deeper.” He takes a deep breath and dives into the dark again.

Missing completely the iceberg’s cry of “No!”

The water starts at a clear color, or is it green? Then it turns light blue, and then to deeper and darker shades. The man pushes and kicks, fighting his buoyancy, feeling the weight of water build and build, following the clean lines of ice down into oblivion.

Heavy, crushing pressure begins to squeeze him. It is like the weight of memory, everywhere pushing, everywhere trying to change and deform him from his human shape, trying to make his courage fail and shatter his hope. But he loves the iceberg and he needs to follow her down.

At the utmost point of indigo darkness, he finds a new light. It shines from a clear chamber in the ice where a figure waits. Lungs bursting, he pushes deeper, drawing level to the translucent walls and the woman who lies inside.

She is naked but for her long, tawny hair. Like a lion’s mane, it frames her long, pure face and spills over her delicate, perfect shoulders. She looks at peace. Her eyes are closed, but she is smiling.

This is the heart of the iceberg, the man thinks, in the crushing pressure of the deep. So beautiful.

Then he sees that she rests upon a bed of long, sharp thorns.


Author Bio

Lee Hunt

Born with only one working lung and having had the last rights read to him and dying of an influenza related viral pneumonia, 25-year-old geophysicist Lee Hunt experienced several near-death dreams. The power of communication and the need to both understand and be understood was at the heart of each. He had already found that nothing was more important than being able to cross the distance between people.

Lee’s interests are eclectic. He is an Ironman Triathlete, hiker, traveler, and an enthusiastic sport rock climber. Lee also continues to work as a geophysicist on Carbon Capture and Sequestration projects, and is a writer for BIG-Media.ca.

The dream of understanding and being understood has never left his mind, and Lee continues that in his works of fiction through metaphor. His works include The Dynamicist Trilogy, Last Worst Hopes and Bed of Rose and Thorns.

Author Website: https://www.leehunt.org/

Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100052376555360

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

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1196106.Lee_Hunt

Author Liminal Fiction (LimFic.com): https://www.limfic.com/mbm-book-author/lee-hunt/

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Lee-Hunt/e/B082YFTMCK

 

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In the Midst of Magic by Christian Cura Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A woman mourning the death of her brother finds herself forced to embrace her gifts when an old foe breaks out of prison to destroy her life in author Christian Cura’s “In the Midst of Magic”.

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The Synopsis

Meet Kara Hartman, a photojournalist who is hiding her magic from the world. Traumatized by her brother’s death, she wants nothing more to do with magic. But just when she thought she could neglect her gift, it becomes apparent that the universe has other plans for Kara. When she discovers that an old foe has broken out of prison, hellbent on destroying her new life, Kara has no choice but to embrace the only power that can stop her.

The Review

This was a powerful story. The author did an amazing job of finding the right ratio of fantasy-driven world-building and emotional and captivating character development. The mythos and action of this narrative keep readers engaged from the start, showing the dangers and threats that keep the protagonists working to stop the destruction of all they hold dear. 

I was so fascinated by the character growth and perspectives from which this story was told. The theme of loss played heavily into this narrative for so many of the characters, from the way loss drives us to retreat from the world, while others are driven to take their pain out on others, and so much more. Getting to see the perspectives of so many different characters made the story feel so much more vibrant and alive on the page, and added to the depth of the emotional journey that this story provided the characters. 

The Verdict

Heartfelt, magical, and entertaining, author Christian Cura’s “In the Midst of Magic” is a must-read LGBTQ Fantasy read! The themes and emotional character growth that developed throughout this narrative will connect readers to the story greatly, while the action and twists and turns this narrative takes will have readers eager for more from this incredible author. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Christian Cura is a new author who just recently published his debut novel Dreams of Fire. Ever since he read Lord of the Rings as a teenager, it has been his dream to write and publish a novel of his own. His favorite authors include J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, and Robert Jordan.

Christian lives in Northern Virginia where he lifts weights and creates artwork. He is a Gryffindor, an Earth-bender, and a loyal follower of Optimus Prime. When he is not writing, he can be found drawing or getting beaten up at his MMA gym.

https://www.authorchriscura.com/

Walks with Spirits by Edale Lane Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Two women separated by honor and duty must find their way through life, hoping the spirits will bring them together in love in author Edale Lane’s “Walks with Spirits”.

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The Synopsis

Bound by love, separated by a tragic mistake; can two Indigenous women realize their happy ending?

Long ago, in an age of mysticism, Walks with Spirits, a two-spirit woman, perceives voices whispering on the wind and they empower her with the gift of calling animals. But who she truly wishes to call to her side is her childhood friend, Laughing Brook.

Daughter of a shaman and an herbalist-midwife, Laughing Brook holds a prominent place in her society and bears the responsibilities it entails. She is training to be a healer like her mother, but her most compelling desire is to spend her life with Walks with Spirits.

When a misunderstanding crushes their dreams of happiness, both women must learn to face the trials that await them in a land where danger lurks behind every tree and honor means more than life. Will the spirits intervene on their behalf, or are they fated never to manifest their visions of love?

Walks with Spirits is a historical fantasy set in an ancient time. Packed with Native American themes, heart-touching imagery, and an epic love story, Walks with Spirits will immerse you in an inspiring view of life. 

The Review

This was a truly beautiful story. The author’s ability to balance the heartfelt LGBTQ romance of this novel with the culture and history of the Indigenous people of the North American continent was superb, and the added elements of fantasy-driven narrative based upon the mythos and belief systems of the Indigenous people added both depths to the cast of characters and a fantastic amount of world-building. 

The heart of this narrative fell to the two amazing protagonists and one of the strongest LGBTQ romances I’ve read this year so far, Walks with Spirits and Laughing Brook. The tension and pain these two women deal with as Laughing Brook is forced to marry a man she doesn’t love, and Walks with Spirits have to hold back her love in order to be a friend to Laughing Brooks through the years, was so emotional to behold. What I loved was the marriage of the mysticism and cultural importance of nature and its relationship to the universe as a whole with the LGBTQ themes and what true love means was amazing to read and see come to life on the page. 

The Verdict

Heartfelt, engaging, and thought-provoking, author Edale Lane’s “Walks with Spirits” is a must-read novel of 2022! The amazing LGBTQ themes found in the narrative, from the two protagonists’ enduring love story to the dual-gender identity Walking with Spirits shared and how it related to her having both her soul and the soul of another dwelling within her in this fantasy world was so moving to read, and the juxtaposition of the modern-day conflicts many people still endure when confronted with sexual identity struggles and the impact it has on one’s life and family against the historical and cultural setting of the narrative made this a remarkable story. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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Walks With Spirits - Edale Lane

Edale Lane has a new FF historical romance out: Walks With Spirits. And there’s a giveaway!

Bound by love, separated by circumstances; can two women realize their happy ending?

In a time when people believed everything had a spirit, there was a two-spirit woman who chose the life of a hunter. Human beings live in the physical world, while spirits dwell in the land beyond; Walks with Spirits inhabits both.

Daughter of a shaman and an herbalist-midwife, Laughing Brook holds a prominent place in her society. She is training to be a healer like her mother, but her one wish is to spend her life with Walks with Spirits.

When a misunderstanding crushes their dreams of happiness, both women must learn to face the trials that await them in a land where danger lurks behind every tree and honor means more than life. Will the spirits intervene on their behalf, or are they fated never to manifest their visions of love?

Walks with Spirits is a historical fantasy set in an ancient time. Packed with Native American themes, heart-touching imagery, and an epic love story, Walks with Spirits will immerse you in an inspiring view of life.

Get It At Amazon


Giveaway

Edale is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour:

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Excerpt

Walks with Spirits Meme

From Chapter Two of Walks with Spirits

A movement at the front door drew Brook’s attention and in an instant her face lit up and her heart swelled. A tall woman wearing men’s clothing strode in, her head held high, and the energy in the chamber danced. Even Thunder Warrior did not seem so dull.

“That is Walks with Spirits,” he said with a gesture. “She is an odd woman of Nutaula who is coming on the hunt with us tomorrow. The Old Ones and shaman speak of her like she is special, but she can’t do anything that I can’t do. I feel uncomfortable around people of two spirits, don’t you?”

Brook’s smile had become a glow. “That is my Mepoose, my best friend. We grew up together in this house before she moved to your village.”

Thunder Warrior shifted positions and pushed back his free-flowing long hair. “I mean, she is well respected among our community. We are taught it is a blessing from the Creator to be born with two spirits,” he fidgeted. “It is merely something I don’t understand.”

Brook wrenched her gaze from Spirits long enough to study her male guest, a bemused expression on her face. When she said nothing, he continued to explain himself.

“I am a physical man,” he said with a tap to his muscled chest, “who lives in a physical world. I do not put my trust in spirits and legends. My spear, my bow, and the strength of my arm protect me from danger. Many men say one is well served to steer clear of spirits, lest you offend one. They say she talks to them every day.”

As Brook returned her oval eyes to follow Spirits across the room, her heartbeat raced and she sensed a tingle running through her being. “She does,” she affirmed.

She watched Spirits approach the hearth closest to the door where she stopped beside the spot where an old man with a cane sat on a cedar box up close to the fire, a beaver fur cape wrapped around his shoulders. He had deep lines in his leathery face, long gray hair bound by a plain leather band, and one leg stretched out awkwardly to catch the heat. Since Thunder Warrior had stopped talking, she could overhear their exchange.

“It is good to see you, Growling Bear,” Spirits greeted.

He spared her a glance and grunted. “Is it, now? If it were so, maybe you would come around more often.” He pulled his cape tighter and stared into the flames with a sour look on his etched face.

“You know I moved to be with my relatives in Nutaula,” she replied pleasantly. “But all morning I have been praying to the spirits that you will help me out.”

This time he raised suspicious eyes to her, hooded under scrunched brows. “Is that so?”

“It is. You see, I have been so blessed with good fortune that I have caught more game than I know what to do with. I am hoping you can take these two rabbits off my hands.” She extended the better pair toward him.

Growling Bear scowled and lowered his gaze to hands as gnarled as thick, aged vines. “What do I want with those scrawny, worthless rabbits?”

Spirits shrugged. “See, the thing is, I can only offer you the meat. I need the skins for a project I’m working on, so I’d have to skin them before I give them to you. I know they are rather puny, but they are fresh and there is only you to eat them.” She let out a disappointed sigh. “If you don’t take them, I’ll have to toss them to the village dogs, and they may fight over them. I hate it when the dogs fight over food, but… I simply have too much fresh game to keep them.”

Thunder Warrior spun to Brook in outrage. “What is he talking about? Those are fat, fine rabbits. Why is that grouchy old man so ungrateful? He does nothing but sit about and complain. When I am chief, I will not allow anyone like him to live in my longhouse. How can Black Bear tolerate him?”

Brook waited a moment to answer him as she listened to Growling Bear’s reply.

He shifted on his box and rubbed a hand across his knee. “I suppose I could take them if it is going to cause you distress for me to refuse. Maybe Falling Rain can throw them in a pot with some vegetables.”

Spirits smiled. “I will bring them back in a few minutes when I have skinned and cleaned them. Many thanks to you, Growling Bear. You have done me a great service.”

“I do not understand that woman!” Thunder Warrior declared. “He insults her and she thanks him.”

Brook turned to her guest while Spirits made her way slowly around the plank-house greeting everyone. “Do you not know who that old man is?”

“A leach who lives off the charity of others,” he stated in derision.

“No.” Brook explained in gentle and compassionate tones. “Growling Bear was once a great hunter. He feared neither man nor beast. He brought in scores of fish and killed five bears along with countless deer, elk, beaver, and other game. When he married, a reunion was held in his honor and he was Worthy and esteemed.”

“What happened to him then?” Thunder Warrior considered her words with reserved curiosity.

“One falling leaves time, long before I was born, he was on a hunting party in the mountains and they must have wandered too close to where the sasquatch lived. A sasquatch hurled a boulder that started a landslide on the mountain and Growling Bear was caught up in it. When the dust settled, the others found him near the bottom under a pile of rocks. They made a litter and rushed him back to Paupeck for the healer and shaman to help.” In an aside, Brook added, “This was before Black Bear and Rainbow held those titles, but who knows if they could have done better. The healer straightened and set his leg with splints, but it was broken in many places. He was very fortunate to have lived through the ordeal at all.”


Author Bio

Edale Lane

Edale Lane is an award-winning author (Rainbow Awards, Imaginarium Awards, Lesfic Bard Awards) who is realizing her dream of being a full-time writer. She is the alter-ego of author Melodie Romeo, (Tribute in Blood, Terror in Time, and others) who founded Past and Prologue Press. Both identities are qualified to write historical fiction by virtue of an MA in History and 24 years spent as a teacher, along with skill and dedication regarding research.

A native of Vicksburg, MS, Edale (or Melodie) is also a musician who loves animals, gardening, and nature. After driving an 18-wheeler cross-country for eight years, she now lives with her partner in beautiful Chilliwack, B.C. Canada.

Author Website: https://pastandprologuepress.lpages.co/

Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/melodie.romeo/

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

Author Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/EdaleLane

Author Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/edale_lane/

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15264354.Edale_Lane

Author Liminal Fiction (LimFic.com): https://www.limfic.com/mbm-book-author/edale-land/

Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/edale-land/

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Edale-Lane/e/B07GRFPDRZ/

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Blood Bound (Youkai Bloodlines Book 3) by Courtney Maguire Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A heartbreaking breakup between two immortals sends one on a quest to find comfort and warmth among humanity while the other struggles to keep the peace between their people and those they’ve made peace with in author Courtney Maguire’s “Blood Bound”, the third book in the Youkai Bloodlines series.

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The Synopsis

Two hundred years can strain even the seemingly eternal love of the youkai.

When Hideyoshi’s coldness drives them apart, Hiro finds comfort in his friendship with Takanori, a vociferous human man he met at a ramen shop and can’t seem to keep away from.. Everything Hiro had to fight for from Hideyoshi, Takanori gives freely, making it all too easy to turn away from his responsibilities–and Hideyoshi–in favor of something sweeter.

But while Hiro is off playing human, danger is brewing among the Youkai. Hideyoshi, still reeling from his breakup with Hiro, struggles to uphold the promise they made to the Hunter leader, Kyo, but the Youkai’s loyalty has been challenged by Hiro’s abrupt disappearance. With Hunters literally banging at the door, Hide must find a way to bring Hiro home or risk igniting the war they’ve spent the last two hundred years trying to prevent.

Content Warnings: graphic violence, terminal illness, depictions of grief and depression/mental illness, suicidal actions

The Review

As a relative newcomer to the series, I appreciated that the author did such a fantastic job of crafting a well-balanced narrative both for newcomers like myself and longtime fans of the series. The mythology and world-building the author did with the Youkai and the Hunters and the conflict that had brought them to this tumultuous point was amazing to dive into, for it gave a whole new mythological journey to the typical “vampire” story. 

The two things that stood out to me were the character growth these protagonists had and the attention to detail the author gave the inclusion of Japanese culture and history. The emphasis on the psychological and spiritual nature of who the Youkai are and their struggle to maintain their humanity gave weight and emotional pull to the character’s arcs, and made readers invested more into their personal developments over the narrative. Meanwhile, the author really did a fantastic job of conveying the emotions and heartbreak that comes with grief and loss, and really brought that raw pain to the pages early on, examining what the pain of loss is like for those who will always outlive those who surround them daily.

The Verdict

A masterful, entertaining, and incredible read, author Courtney Maguire’s “Blood Bound” is a must-read LGBTQ+ Fantasy novel. The attention to detail in the character’s backgrounds and sexuality perfectly mirrored the attention to detail surrounding Japanese culture and mythology and elevated the emotional undercurrent of themes surrounding grief and loss in this supernatural fantasy world the author has crafted. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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Blood Bound cover reveal - Courtney Maguire

Courtney Maguire has a new MM paranormal historical romance out, Youkai Bloodlines book 3: Blood Bound. And there’s a giveaway!

Two hundred years can strain even the seemingly eternal love of the youkai.

When Hideyoshi’s coldness drives them apart, Hiro finds comfort in his friendship with Takanori, a vociferous human man he met at a ramen shop and can’t seem to keep away from.. Everything Hiro had to fight for from Hideyoshi, Takanori gives freely, making it all too easy to turn away from his responsibilities–and Hideyoshi–in favor of something sweeter.

But while Hiro is off playing human, danger is brewing among the Youkai. Hideyoshi, still reeling from his breakup with Hiro, struggles to uphold the promise they made to the Hunter leader, Kyo, but the Youkai’s loyalty has been challenged by Hiro’s abrupt disappearance. With Hunters literally banging at the door, Hide must find a way to bring Hiro home or risk igniting the war they’ve spent the last two hundred years trying to prevent.

Warning: graphic violence, terminal illness, depictions of grief and depression/mental illness, suicidal actions

Publisher | Amazon | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Universal Buy Link | Goodreads

Art Card Meme


Giveaway

Courtney is giving away a $10 Amazon Gift Card with this tour:

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Excerpt

Blood Bound Meme

Chapter 1: Trainwreck

Spring 2004

You can live a hundred lifetimes and the world will still surprise you, hit you like a high-speed train and drag you along the rails before dumping you off a thousand miles from where you started. Sometimes, the ride isn’t as violent as all that. Sometimes, it feels like a vacation, an escape, like falling in love. But, the end of the line is always the same—a broken, bloody mess far from home.

Sitting on a hard cobblestone path in my two-day-old funeral suit, I stared at a pillar of granite with his name on it, a fifth of Jack in my gut and my soul shattered into a million pieces. Aikawa Takanori—the name of the train that hit me.

A broad shadow fell over me and I closed my eyes against it. I knew who it was, knew the sound of his steps, the way the air trembled in his presence. Sakurai Hideyoshi. He sat down beside me on the stone path without a word, so close our shoulders touched. Over two hundred years had passed since the day we met, and his nearness still made my skin prickle. His fingers brushed against mine as he slipped the nearly empty bottle of whiskey out of my hands and raised it to his own lips.

“You knew it would end this way,” he said, his voice low and cold. Not a judgement or an accusation, just a statement of fact.

“If you’re here to lecture me, you can save it,” I said, snatching the bottle back out of his hand.

There was something shocking about seeing him again, sitting there like an inkblot on my vision. The same solid frame, the same dark features, sharp as cut granite and just as immovable. How much time had I spent pounding myself against that hardness, like the ocean against a rocky cliff, trying to break it away? Now I observed him as if from a distance. Something bitter pushed up against my grief, but there was no room for it, so it settled back into my gut. He had been my home before Takanori, but now he was almost unrecognizable. He hadn’t changed, of course. I was the one who was different.

“How long since you’ve drank something besides whiskey?”

“Not since—” I broke off, my eyes darting to the gravestone. My hands trembled as I took a long pull off the whiskey bottle. It could have been hours or years, every second since that day stretched into an eternity.

“Come with me,” he said, pulling himself gracefully to his feet. I didn’t move. “Hiro.”

“I can’t,” I choked. I struggled to breathe around the ball of grief wedged in my throat. He was here for a reason. He wanted something and I couldn’t give it to him. “I’m not…ready…”

“He’s dead. It doesn’t matter if you’re ready,” he barked. The words were sharp, the edge of a blade iced over, and they cut deep.

He grabbed the collar of my jacket and yanked me to my feet. Without even waiting for me to catch my balance, he turned and stomped off down the path. It had been this way since the day we met, Hideyoshi plodding ahead without looking back, so confident I would follow. I found it comforting somehow, like nothing had ever broken between us. We would always be Hideyoshi and Hiro. The shape of his back would never change. He would never get sick and die.

I ran my hand over Taka’s name on the granite and felt my heart tugged in two different directions. Another train had come, this one promising to take me back to somewhere familiar, but part of me was afraid. What if I got there and found it wasn’t my home at all anymore, but just another strange place that would leave me even more broken?

But, Hideyoshi was right. Taka was dead, the home I could have had here reduced to ashes. I had nowhere else to go.

My chest constricted and I cursed under my breath as I ran to catch up to Hideyoshi, falling in step just a few paces behind. The sun was setting as we exited the cemetery and darkness fell quickly over the narrow streets of Tokyo. Neon signs lit up one by one with an electric pop as we passed, the early evening crowds already taking their places in the izakayas that lined the street and disappearing into basement bars. Hideyoshi led me all the way to Ikebukuro and the busy streets surrounding Sunshine City. Wires hung like spider webs overhead, feeding power to the garish artificial light. Loud music and cigarette smoke filled the streets and the smell of sweaty bodies started a scratching under my skin that had me gritting my teeth.

He stopped in the most crowded part of the busy street and looked over his shoulder at me for the first time. My gut clenched. I knew what he wanted. I scowled and shook my head, but he simply pinned me with those needle-sharp eyes that didn’t take no for an answer until I relented.

His silent command: Sing.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. The scratching under my skin intensified and the sounds of the city died away as something else rose to the surface, something dark and dangerous. When my eyes opened again, the electric lights paled behind the glare of human life, every movement leaving a streaky after image in blue and white. My pulse sped and my mouth watered. I pulled in a deep breath and my voice rose from the depths with an old song, something traditional that took me back to a different Tokyo, and despite its terrible purpose, it warmed me. My heart swam in it, cleansed its wounds in it.


Author Bio

Courtney Maguire

Courtney Maguire is a University of Texas graduate from Corpus Christi, Texas. Drawn to Austin by a voracious appetite for music, she spent most of her young adult life in dark, divey venues nursing a love for the sublimely weird. A self-proclaimed fangirl with a press pass, she combined her love of music and writing as the primary contributor for Japanese music and culture blog, Project: Lixx, interviewing Japanese rock and roll icons and providing live event coverage for appearances across the country.

Author Website: https://www.courtneymaguirewrites.com/

Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/courtney.maguire.37

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

Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/PretentiousAho

Author Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/courtneymaguirewrites/

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19774498.Courtney_Maguire

Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/courtney-maguire/

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Red Sun (The Shifter Chronicles Book 14) by M.D. Grimm Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A cat shifter discovers a young wolf shifter roaming the streets of El Paso, TX, after spending his life believing he had a demon possessing him. Taking the wolf under his wing, he brings him to a sanctuary for shifters, developing a close relationship along the way as a shifter hunter is on their trail in author M.D. Grimm’s “Red Sun”, the fourteenth book in The Shifter Chronicles series. 

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The Synopsis

Raphael is no ordinary wolf shifter.

Raphael knows he must be possessed by a demon. What else could explain the aggression, the physical, beastly transformations? To protect himself and others, his father locks him away. But when Raphael is nineteen, the demon gains full control and breaks free. Now Raphael is scared and desperate on the streets of El Paso, Texas, convinced he’s cursed. Then a stray cat enters his life and everything changes.

Ahmes is a cat shifter and knows there’s something off about the young shifter he’s encountered. It soon becomes apparent that the young man doesn’t know what he is, and Ahmes is determined to help and care for him. But gaining the trust of not only the fearsome wolf but the scared young man will take all his persistence.

Friendship, and the potential for more, grows between them as they travel to Haven, Montana—a town founded by shifters, for shifters, and home to a specialized counseling center, one that can help Raphael understand and accept who and what he truly is.

If that wasn’t enough, on their trail is the last person either expected—Gregor Whitefield, the commander of the Knights of the Dawn, which is an organization bent on the eradication of shapeshifters. Gregor enjoys the thrill of the hunt, determined to collect the unique blood that is crucial to Arcas’s great plan.

Raphael’s blood.

The Review

Going into this read, I was worried that I would be totally lost. In the fourteenth book in this series, I was sure that there would be too much history and too many character introductions in past books to be able to understand the foundations of this book. I am very happy to say that I was wrong. The author did such a perfect job of writing this book in a way that could allow it to be a stand-alone style narrative while also delving into the history and mythology of the Shifters and the Knights of the Dawn who are always after them. 

The atmosphere of tension that this war brought into Raphael and Ahmes’s story was entertaining, and the balance the author struck between that facet of the narrative and the more personal LGBTQ-driven romance narratives found on both sides of the story was truly inspiring. The way the author mirrored the coming out process that many LGBTQ people have to undergo and the confusion and even hostility both from family and from themselves with the evolution of Raphael’s story of coming to terms with his wolf spirit was emotional and drove me as a reader forward, eager to watch the emotional evolution of the character as well. 

The Verdict

Engaging, thoughtful, and heartfelt in its delivery, author M.D. Grimm’s “Red Sun” is the perfect next chapter in the Shifter Chronicles series and a must-read LGBTQ-driven fantasy read to start out 2022! With emotional storytelling, great new additions to the Shifter mythos, and memorable characters with a relatable mirrored character arc that readers will be living for, the story will resonate with so many while also delving into the history and culture this genre is so well known for, making this a brilliant story. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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M.D. Grimm has a new MM paranormal book out, Shifter Chronicles book 14: Red Sun. And there’s a giveaway!

Raphael is no ordinary wolf shifter.

Raphael knows he must be possessed by a demon. What else could explain the aggression, the physical, beastly transformations? To protect himself and others, his father locks him away. But when Raphael is nineteen, the demon gains full control and breaks free. Now Raphael is scared and desperate on the streets of El Paso, Texas, convinced he’s cursed. Then a stray cat enters his life and everything changes.

Ahmes is a cat shifter and knows there’s something off about the young shifter he’s encountered. It soon becomes apparent that the young man doesn’t know what he is, and Ahmes is determined to help and care for him. But gaining the trust of not only the fearsome wolf but the scared young man will take all his persistence.

Friendship, and the potential for more, grows between them as they travel to Haven, Montana—a town founded by shifters, for shifters, and home to a specialized counseling center, one that can help Raphael understand and accept who and what he truly is.

If that wasn’t enough, on their trail is the last person either expected—Gregor Whitefield, the commander of the Knights of the Dawn, which is an organization bent on the eradication of shapeshifters. Gregor enjoys the thrill of the hunt, determined to collect the unique blood that is crucial to Arcas’s great plan.

Raphael’s blood.

Amazon | Smashwords


Giveaway

M.D. is giving away a $10 Amazon gift card with this tour:

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Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d47220/?


Excerpt

Red Sun Meme

When next he knew anything, he was naked, shivering in the chilly night air, and covered in blood. He whimpered and sat up, tears clogging his throat and the taste of blood ripe in his mouth. His stomach rebelled and he vomited.

He’d killed them.

He’d killed them.

Not only was he possessed by a beast but now he was a murderer.

God help me!

Disoriented, Raphael looked around. He didn’t know where he was. It was too dark for him to recognize any structures, and he was too weak to investigate further. Dizzy, he lay down and curled into the fetal position, the blood drying on his skin. Not for the first time, he wondered if he should end it all. But then he would be damned to hell. He was Catholic and that just wasn’t something he would do. There must be another solution.

“Can I go home now?” he whispered, shivering.

The angry growl made him cry.

“I hate you.”

A mournful howl echoed in his mind and he prevented himself from releasing it into the darkness by clenching his jaw.

It was dawn when Raphael woke, surprised he’d managed to sleep. He sat up and cringed at the gore covering him. He didn’t consider it too closely and ignored his small pool of vomit. He needed to get clothes and clean up without being noticed. He realized he was in a narrow alleyway, and from the smell emanating from the dumpster, he guessed the buildings were restaurants.

A soft sound caught his attention, and he blinked at the large cat staring at him. His eyes widened. That was one big housecat. And so beautiful! This one was hefty, but slinky with big ears and equally big green eyes. As the sun rose steadily, he could see the cat had silver, black-spotted fur.

“Wow,” he whispered.

The cat sat staring at him for a long, poignant moment before stepping closer.

“Hey kitty,” Raphael said. He lowered his hand cautiously and held it out for the cat to inspect.

Upon seeing it, he winced, once again reminded what the beast had done. Blood was caked on his arm and under his fingernails. The cat paused and stretched his neck forward, sniffing at his fingers. Then he jerked back as if punched and hissed, showing small pointy teeth.

Raphael flinched and huddled tighter into himself. “I won’t hurt you.” Tears choked his words. “Non sono un mostro. I swear to God I’m not a monster.”

Overcome, Raphael sobbed, face pressed against his knees. Not even a cat trusted him! Why was he being punished? What had he done to earn God’s wrath? Why was he cursed?

It was a long moment before soft fur touched his arm, accompanied by a deep purr like a well-tuned engine. He lifted his head and realized the cat was rubbing his head against his arm. Raphael sniffed, reached over and scratched the cat’s head. The cat arched into the touch, still purring.

“You’re a good kitty,” he said with a wobbly smile. “You’re a pretty kitty.”

The cat regarded him with those hypnotic eyes, whiskers twitching. Such intelligence in his gaze.

“I’m not bad, you know?” he said. “I can’t be all bad if you don’t hate me.”

The cat set his front paws on Raphael’s thigh and lifted himself up until their faces were level. Then the cat leaned forward and surprised Raphael by licking the tip of his nose with his rough tongue. Raphael jerked with a watery laugh.

“Whoa, what was that for?”

The purring continued as the cat climbed into Raphael lap and settled there, his body heat a wonderful thing. Raphael resituated himself, taking care of his genitals, before wrapping his arms around the cat, taking comfort from his warmth and gentleness.

As the sun rose higher and the day grew warmer, Raphael was surprised to realize the beast didn’t mind the cat in the least. Not a snarl or growl came from the monster inside him. It seemed to hate humans but the cat had apparently earned its approval. Whatever the reason, Raphael was grateful. He didn’t want to hurt this cat. He didn’t want to harm anyone else.

“I won’t hurt you,” he whispered in Italian into the cat’s fur. “I promise I won’t hurt you.”

It wasn’t long before his protesting stomach could no longer be ignored. Raphael set the cat aside and approached the dumpster, aware of his nakedness. He lifted the lid and breathed through his mouth. The rising heat of the day did the garbage no favors. He’d be lucky if he didn’t get horribly ill from whatever was in there.

“Meow!”

The sharp sound caused Raphael to jump along with his heart. He swung his head around to stare at the cat as it gazed at him with apparent disapproval. And why did the feline’s eyes appear to be glowing? Must’ve been the sunlight.

“What? I have to eat something. I can’t catch birds and mice like you can. If you’re hungry, go do that.”

The cat flicked his tail, sitting with an air of royalty.

Raphael picked through the garbage, distressed to find nothing remotely worth the risk to eat. Sighing, he lowered the dumpster lid and rubbed his stomach.

“This is your fault, beast,” he whispered. “Are you trying to kill us?”

The beast snarled.

Raphael scowled.

The cat bumped against his leg, distracting him. Blood transferred to the cat’s pristine fur, and Raphael loathed to see it.

“Stop that.” He stepped away. “You’re getting my grossness on you.”

Determined, the cat trotted over to him and continued to rub himself against his legs.

“Il gatto pazzo. That’s what you are.”

Noise near the mouth of the alley had Raphael scrambling behind the dumpster. The cat followed him. He squeezed the cat in his arms, his heart racing. He didn’t want to hurt anyone else.

Behave yourself! he told the beast silently.

It growled.


Author Bio

M.D. Grimm decided to become an author in the second grade (kind of young to make life decisions, but whatever) and nothing has changed since then (well, plenty of things, actually, but not that!). Thankfully, she has indulgent parents who let her dream, but also made sure she understood she’d need a steady job to pay the bills (they never let her forget it!).

After graduating from the University of Oregon and majoring in English (let’s be honest: useless degree, what else was she going to do with it?), she started on her writing career and couldn’t be happier.

Working by day and writing by night (or any spare time she can carve out), she enjoys embarking on romantic quests and daring adventures (living vicariously, you could say) and creating characters that always triumph against the villain (or else what’s the point?), finding their soul mate in the process.

Author Website: https://www.mdgrimmwrites.com

Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001710645622

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4574220.M_D_Grimm

Author Liminal Fiction (LimFic.com): https://www.limfic.com/mbm-book-author/m-d-grimm/

Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/m-d-grimm/

Author Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/M.D.-Grimm/e/B00I0KZMY6/

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And now, here is an amazing post from the author…

Good day lovely readers! Thank you for joining me. I am M.D. Grimm and I am here to promote my newest release, “Red Sun.” This is the latest entry in The Shifter Chronicles. I am overjoyed and relieved to finally release a new book in this series. It’s been a long time coming. 2021 was quite a successful and productive year for me. I succeeded in re-releasing all books previously published with a former publishing house after much tweaking and revising. Now I can work on all brand new projects! “Red Sun” is only the first and considering how much I love it, I have a good feeling about the rest. I also have to say that this is probably one of the sweetest stories I’ve written so far. So many scenes that give the warm fuzzies.

So how did I come up with the storyline for this book? Glad you asked. The seeds of it started decades ago when I was still a newb and unpublished. I had the outline for a werewolf series that never got off the ground, and it is unrecognizable to the finished story of today. In fact, I found that outline the other day and was amused at my ambitiousness so early in my writing career.

First, Raphael and Ahmes were very different. While Raphael was still an unusual wolf shifter, he was older and with a completely different past. Ahmes was the younger of the two and had a different name. He was a stray that Raphael saved from adolescent boys who thought it was entertaining to harass a poor cat. I honestly don’t remember where their story fell in the series or what the bigger plot was, but the dynamic between the two intrigued me and kept me interested. Despite that series fizzling before it started, the interest continued until I managed to work it into this series.

From what I can remember, the series was The Silver Moonlight Chronicles, and it revolved around the first five werewolves, who were cursed into monsters during the crusades (I think), and their romantic drama, as well as those of their descendants. It was the stepping stone I needed to create The Shifter Chronicles, so I will forever be grateful for it.

After I plucked the characters from one series to the other, I realized I needed to overhaul the narrative. After that it was a series of trial and error before I nailed down the story that was waiting to be told.

I think the only thing I have a twinge of dissatisfaction about is the title. While it fit with my first draft of the story, after finishing the final version, I realized the title didn’t gel as well for me. I had more Ancient Egyptian elements included in the first version, related to Ahmes and his heritage. And the idea of “red sun” was supposed to invoke the Eye of Ra and the sun and other Egyptian iconography. I certainly include bits and pieces in the published version as Ahmes tries to help Raphael cope with his nature. However, giving such things prominence didn’t work anymore after the story evolved. Red sun could also be seen as the opposite of moon, an element or icon often associated with wolf shifters/werewolves. And since Raphael is different from other wolf shifters… Though the title could also be a play on words (sun vs. son) and “red” is the color of blood, which is what Gregor is after. So the title still works but not the way I first envisioned. 

And try as I might, I couldn’t create a title that worked better. By then, my “working title” had become the only title. Sometimes it just works like that. I couldn’t put Moon in the title since that would link it too close to “Psychic Moon” and “Shifting Moon,” and the story has nothing to do with Derek and Brian. Sometimes you just have to work with what you have and allow the story to just be how it will be. It’s a small little nitpick that I’m sure no one will ultimately care about. As long as the story is good, who cares about the title?

That’s what I tell myself anyway….

The Shifter Chronicles 1-14 (plus short story sequels) are available for purchase at Amazon (also in print!) and Smashwords. I have a newsletter that I send out monthly with all the goodies you can expect in the future. That’s the best way to find out about my current and future projects. Also, you can check out the first three chapters of “Red Sun” on my blog if you’re curious and unsure if you want to commit!

For fans of The Stones of Power series, book 8, “Sapphire: Home and Abroad” is due out in June 2022. Keep your eyes peeled for that! I’m also working diligently on the third book in Saga of the Bold People, “Resistance.”

I am booked (pun intended) solid this year, working on the next shifter book, the next stones book, a couple single titles, and the next On Wings Saga book. Wish me luck!

More information on my catalog can be found at my website.

I hope you stay safe and healthy, and may dragons guard your dreams,

M.D. Grimm