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Questionable Minds by Fraser Sherman Blog Tour Blast

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Questionable Minds - Fraser Sherman

Fraser Sherman has a new steampunk mystery book out: Questionable Minds.

In Victorian England, 1888, there are those who say Sir Simon Taggart is under the punishment of God.

In an England swirling with mentalist powers — levitation, mesmerism, mind-to-mind telegraphy — the baronet is unique, possessed of mental shields that render him immune to any mental assault. Even his friends think it’s a curse, cutting him off from the next step in human mental and spiritual evolution. To Simon, it’s a blessing.

Four years ago, the Guv’nor, mystery overlord of the London underworld, arranged the murder of Simon’s wife Agnes. Obsessed with finding who hired the Guv’nor, Simon works alongside Inspector Hudnall and Miss Grey in Scotland Yard’s Mentalist Investigation Department. Immunity to mental telegraphy, clairvoyance and mesmerism are an asset in his work — but they may not be enough to crack the latest case.

A mysterious killer has begun butchering Whitechapel streetwalkers. With every killing, the man newspapers call “the Ripper” grows in mental power and in the brutality of his attacks. Is murder all that’s on his mind or does he have an endgame? And what plans do the Guv’nor and his army of agents have for Simon and the Whitechapel killer?

Questionable Minds is set in a Victorian England struggling to preserve the social hierarchy while mentalism threatens to overturn it. The cast of characters includes Dr. Henry Jekyll (and yes, his friend Edward Hyde too), Jack the Ripper, and multiple other figures from history and fiction.

Warnings: Graphic violence. Victorian sexism and imperialism.

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Excerpt

Simon Taggart’s plunge into the abyss happened in an instant.

Col. Moran, seated at the dining table on Simon’s left, had said something to the Duke of Falsworth about a fellow hunter Moran had known in India committing suicide. Falsworth snidely observed that given the man’s debts, hanging himself had been the only possible solution.

And suddenly Simon was standing in the drawing room again. Staring up at Agnes in her white nightgown, hanging from the ceiling with her tongue protruding, her face blackened. Rage consumed him at the memory, rage at the men who’d brought about his wife’s death. Pearson Bartlett, mesmerist. The Guvnor, who’d given Bartlett his orders. And behind them, the unknown man who’d paid to have Agnes slain.

It was the scent of mutton that snapped him back to the Montworths’ dining room, a scent rising from the porcelain serving platter levitating through the air before him. Steered by Amanda Montworth’s vril, the platter bore the roast saddle of mutton down the long dining-room table. Her grey eyes were fixed on the platter, of course, as levitators depended on sight to focus their vril. The eyes of her parents and eleven uneasy guests were also watchful as the dish approached the epergne, the massive candelabra at the table’s center. Simon knew he wasn’t the only guest imagining what a shower of spilled gravy would do to their formal black waistcoats, jackets and white gloves, or the women’s elegant dresses.

The platter clinked against the epergne and shuddered for a moment, but Amanda, brow furrowed, regained her mental grip. The platter ceased quivering, backed away and settled into the hands of one of the footmen, to be served a la russe, around the table. Amanda gasped slightly as she released control.

“There, isn’t that remarkable, Sir Simon?” Buxom Mrs. Montworth flashed a smile at Simon, the wealthiest of her guests. “I don’t know anyone with the strength of mind my Amanda has, do you? Well, not anyone who is anyone, shall we say?”

“Mother, please,” Amanda said. “This is embarrassing.”

“No, you did quite well.” Simon smiled politely, forbearing to point out that for all the money John Montworth’s ironworks brought in, in London society the Montworths were emphatically not anyone. Amanda performing a servant’s duties only confirmed that, as the poor girl undoubtedly knew. “A strong mind is—an asset to the Empire.”

“When the turtle soup comes out, Amanda,” Mrs. Montworth went on, “I think you should levitate—”

“Oh, no, my dear Mrs. Montworth,” Simon said quickly, remembering soup spurting from a shattered tureen at another dinner he’d attended. Besides, Amanda had been embarrassed enough. “A girl as lovely and delicate as Amanda, no matter how strong her vril, should be careful not to overexert herself.” As Mrs. Montworth simpered and nodded, Amanda, who looked as delicate as one of her father’s foundry workers, smiled her thanks at Simon.

“That’s enough entertainment for this evening,” John Montworth said in his north-country accent. “Carmody?” Carmody, the butler, gestured for the footmen to resume their duties; it was a faux pas for Montworth to address a servant during dinner, but the past few minutes had utterly nonplussed the staff.

Simon considered Amanda sensible and good-hearted. It wasn’t her fault her vril manifested as a crude, physical ability, nor that her mother was as blind to the social graces as some men to colors. Fortunately, with several months before the start of the Season, the guests had few people they could gossip with—and there’d be much better gossip by January, when the Montworths presented Amanda at court.

#

“‘Preciate your help, Sir Simon.” John Montworth said, clipping off the end of his cigar as a servant filled Simon’s glass. The women had left the room moments before, allowing the men a half-hour or so to indulge themselves. “Mrs. Montworth’s dreadful proud of our girl having vril, she is—I try to tell her to be more discreet but—”

“It’s been a new world these past eight years,” Simon said, savoring Montworth’s peerless port. “Too new to have all the polite niceties of psychic usage down pat.” A courteous lie; everyone knew physical manifestations of mentalist power were completely inappropriate in society.

“You mean like yourself assisting Scotland Yard?” Thin, pallid Ronald Carpenter, Duke of Falsworth, smirked and blew a plume of smoke. “A man of your impeccable pedigree, mingling with the lowest orders? Gilbert and Sullivan could make a wonderful comic opera out of it if you ask me.”

“I don’t believe I did.” Simon’s anger surged up again, but the smile beneath his thin mustache stayed coldly formal. “And there is nothing comical about the beasts who use vril to prey upon others.” Like Pearson Bartlett, who could mesmerize a woman to put a noose around her own neck. “I do my duty to England, nothing more.”

His Grace met Simon’s cold stare, then looked away with affected unconcern. Dukes far outranked baronets, but Falsworth’s title was new, and the man was still insecure. A Taggart was never insecure.

“Men like your Inspector Hudnall have my highest respect,” Moran said to Simon. As usual the colonel had stuck with whiskey instead of port. “In the jungle or the London streets, it takes a sharp man to hunt predators successfully. And who’s better suited than you, Sir Simon, to the sport of hunting mentalists?”

“Hardly sport.” Simon replied. “Unlike you, colonel, I consider hunting man-eaters a public service, not an adventure.”

“But men like that are evolutionary dead ends,” Montworth said. “Thanks to Lady Helena, all mankind—almost all—will ultimately be elevated to a higher plane.” His glance had lit upon Simon at the “almost.” “The murderers, the butchers, the Varneys of the present day will become fairytales, like ogres or Bluebeard, in the world that is to come.”

It was a typical Theosophist sentiment, but Simon found he was in no mood to argue with it.


Author Bio

Fraser ShermanBy the time Fraser Sherman graduated college he’d lost interest in his degree field. He tried writing and discovered he liked it. Since then he’s spent ten years as a journalist, sold two dozen short stories and five film reference books. His most recent book was the self-published Undead Sexist Cliches, about the stupidity of misogynist beliefs.

Although born in England, Fraser spent most of his life in Northwest Florida. He’d be there still if he hadn’t met his dream woman and moved to Durham NC to be with her. They’ve been married 11 years and are the proud parents of two small dogs and two half-domesticated cats.

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

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

Author Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/bogatyr5

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4103781.Fraser_Sherman

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Fraser-A-Sherman/e/B000APPPDW

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Blog Tour: Third Front by E.M. Hamill

Third Front - E.M. Hamill

E.M. Hamill has a new queer space opera out (non-binary, gender fluid, pansexual, gay), The Dalí Tamareia Missions book 3: Third Front. And there’s a giveaway.

Dalí Tamareia has the terrorist Skadi in their sights – but bringing her in may cost them everything.

Dalí’s role as an undercover operative is compromised, putting a target on their back and threatening the close-knit team aboard Thunder Child. A new lead on Miriam Skadi’s activities forces them back to Luna, where they must confront everything they tried to run from…including their changed relationship with Rion Sumner, who insists on backing up Dalí for this investigation.

But Dalí is not the only one searching for Skadi. An alien presence hunts the terrorist as well, taking over Sumner’s body to ensure Dalí’s cooperation. With their team on the other side of the solar system Dalí must depend on this questionable ally to complete the mission, which takes a deadly turn when an old nemesis resurfaces.

If there is any chance for a future with Sumner and their chosen family, Dalí must exorcise the demons haunting them, or they will burn in the heart of a star.

Warnings: graphic violence, grief, sexually explicit scenes

About the Series: A diplomat turned galactic operative risks everything to bring in the terrorist who shattered their life.

Get It At Amazon


Giveaway

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

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Excerpt

Third Front meme - E.M. Hamill

The flint-blue curve of Earth filled the transparent alloy of the windshield. Even gravely wounded, humanity’s ancestral home was breathtaking. Phantoms of arid golden continents haunted breaks in the heavy cloud-cover; oceans glinted like winks of mercury in Sol’s light. The atmosphere was beginning to clear, but it would take the surface longer to purge the toxic aftermath of war and pollution from soil and sea

How in the seven hells did we manage to fuck up a whole planet?

“Prepare for drop,” Sumner murmured into his headset. I braced myself.

“In five. Four. Three. Two … “

The magnet released us. Sumner fired top thrusters to quickly maneuver the ship away from the hull and we floated free. “We’re clear.”

“See you soon,” Ozzie said. Thunder Child left us in her wake, heading off to complete the surveillance mission. Sumner throttled the little craft into motion and carved an arc in space, putting the planet behind us.

And there it was.

The moon’s disc swelled before us, painted in silver and ash. In the nightfall of Earth’s passing shadow, the lunar plains of Mare Nubium sparkled with lights, and at the southern horn of the penumbra’s crescent, where light and darkness embraced, lay the place I once called home.

“Have you ever been to Luna?” My uneven voice betrayed the winding tension inside me.

“No.” Sumner glanced at me, but I kept my gaze on the moon, unable to meet his eyes. “I’ve only been to the major space stations before Mars. Where did you live?”

“Kepler. You can just make out a hexagon of complexes north of the crater.”

“I see it.”

“The apex dome, Galileo, is where the Capitol is. The University is under Kepler, at the middle left. That’s where … where we … “

Memories lay bitter and sweet on my tongue, the ache in my throat a hot coal. Oh, coming back was such a bad idea.

“The—” I coughed to clear the suffocating thickness from my voice. “The old city is in the industrial complex at the bottom of Bullialdus Crater, that cluster of rectangular structures near the shuttle port.”

A sparkle of transparent alloy and steel caught my eye as we got closer. My palms grew damp.

Luna Terminal gleamed against the void of space. Intact, as if the explosion that shattered the Earthward docking arm and killed so many innocent people had never happened. As if my heart was still whole and strong, not the bruised piece of meat thudding too fast in my chest.

The restored line of windows where Gresh and ‘Sida once stood to bid me goodbye were blank and flawless. Empty.

The spring-coil of anxiety suddenly exploded into shards and hollowed out my insides. I forgot to breathe, my white-knuckled fingers clenching the edge of the jump seat.

Fuck Kiran Singh. No matter what Mother England wanted to tell me, I should never have agreed to come back.

My breath ran shallow in the heavy gravity of blind panic. I fumbled with the stiff buckle of the five-point harness.

“Dalí? You okay?” Sumner’s quiet voice cut through the noise in my head.

“I can’t … ” The clasp wouldn’t give, my sweat-slick fingers numb and buzzing. “God damn it! I need to get out of the cockpit.”

“Hey, hey.” He extended his right hand and gently laid it over mine where I scrabbled at the release. “We’re in Three. Where are you going to go?”

I gave up trying and gripped his hand, pressing it against my chest.

“I’m here,” he said, his voice low and soothing. “Breathe. A deep breath. Come on, you can do it.”

I drew in a shuddering gasp, filled my lungs with air, and just as unevenly let it out.

“Again.”

The second one was less painful. “I’m sorry,” I managed to wheeze. “I didn’t think it would hit me this hard.”

“You thought you were prepared. You weren’t. Not yet.”

His hand was warm, and I hugged it like an anchor against the free-fall of chaos. I didn’t let go until my breathing was closer to normal and I knew I wouldn’t fall apart. His touch calmed me, and at the same time it created a ripple of longing I wasn’t ready to deal with. That was finally what made me let go.

“Thank you,” I mumbled, releasing his hand with a sheepish press of gratitude, and scrubbed my wet eyes with my palms. It was the first episode in months since I’d started the meds. I was fiercely glad Thunder Child was out of our implanted coms’ range and my teammates had not been remote witnesses to this meltdown. “I feel ridiculous.”

“Never feel that way.” The gentle admonition made me glance up and meet his eyes. Aquamarine sparks snapped in the depths of his irises as he held my gaze. “What you witnessed can’t be processed all at once. It comes out in pieces because it’s too much.”

“That felt like a huge chunk.” But the empty space had begun to collapse on itself. The void softly filled with a new substrate and covered the scree of old trauma as we stared at each other. Once again, Rion Sumner showed me the side I wanted to know better, and I desperately wanted to know it when I wasn’t a fucking mess he had to prop up.

“Port Armstrong to approaching vessel.” Three’s com blared as Luna Station’s control center registered our presence. The emotionless mechanical voice in our headsets startled both of us. “Verify identity and destination.”

Sumner toggled his mic with what I swore was irritation. “Port Armstrong, Midak 3 requesting approach.”

“Midak 3, transmitting approach vectors,” the artificial controller’s voice replied.

The instrument panel came alive with lights and coordinates. Auto-piloting sequences blinked suggestively on the data screen. Of course, Sumner chose to pilot Three manually, our moment of connection sublimated into preparation to enter lunar airspace.

I silently cursed the cock-blocking AI running the tower and sat back to watch him guide our little craft into the deep well of Bullialdus Crater, a bright path of syncopated flashes leading us into the underground terminal. The small, rocking thump of landing sent a shiver through me.

Luna. The people who had made it my home no longer existed, yet here I was.


Author Bio

Elisabeth “E.M.” Hamill is a nurse by day, unabashed geek, chocoholic, sci fi and fantasy novelist by nights, weekends, and wherever she can steal quality time with her laptop.

She lives with her family in the wilds of eastern suburban Kansas, where they fend off flying monkey attacks and prep for the zombie apocalypse.

Author Website: https://emhamill.wordpress.com

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

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

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16592440.E_M_Hamill

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

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/~/e/B00JY0FV8S

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Parasite by Ridley Harker Review

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

A teen boy will be forced to decide between the brewing romance he has found sanctuary in and the fate of the island he calls home when a mysterious illness striking the town is linked to the new boy he’s been seeing in author Ridley Harker’s “Parasite”.

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The Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Jack Ives is used to being unlucky. His only friend has just moved away to college, his parents are alcoholics, and he’s relentlessly bullied by the town psychopath. All that begins to change with the arrival of a handsome but quirky new student, Lucien, who wants to be more than friends.

Their newfound happiness doesn’t last, however, as a strange new illness strikes the island. Fishermen go missing, and the villagers left behind aren’t themselves anymore. When Lucien is suspected to be the cause of the outbreak, can Jack overcome his teenage hormones and save Eldrick Isle? Will he even want to?

The Review

This was a haunting and captivating horror read. The chilling nature of the narrative took readers by storm, revealing both the panic-inducing body horror that films like John Carpenter’s The Thing and modern-day indie horror film The Bay have become known for and the suspense that keeps readers invested in the narrative as the motivations and twists of the story keep the true “threat” facing the people in town and the protagonist under a shroud of mystery. The brilliant imagery the author utilizes brings the “jump-scare” effect to the narrative, keeping readers hooked on the author’s writing.

The character development and atmosphere were the best-developed aspects of this narrative. Between the strong LGBTQ character bonds that the main characters shared together and the scare-filled atmosphere that kept the reader engaged with this narrative, the book hooked me immediately. The balance between every day, haunted aspects of daily human life that brought the townspeople to the place they found themselves in at the start of the narrative and the more parasitic, horror-themed problems that they come face to face with will have readers immersed in this story.

The Verdict

Powerful, thrilling, and entertaining, author Ridley Harker’s “Parasite” is a must-read LGBTQ-driven body horror novel of 2022! The perfect fall read for horror fans, the story and atmosphere will hook readers immediately, but it is the well-developed characters that will have readers invested as the narrative comes to its chilling and climactic finale. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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Parasite - Ridley Harker

Ridley Harker has a new gay horror book out (with a romantic subplot): Parasite. And there’s a giveaway.

Seventeen-year-old Jack Ives is used to being unlucky. His only friend has just moved away to college, his parents are alcoholics, and he’s relentlessly bullied by the town psychopath. All that begins to change with the arrival of a handsome but quirky new student, Lucien, who wants to be more than friends.

Their newfound happiness doesn’t last, however, as a strange new illness strikes the island. Fishermen go missing, and the villagers left behind aren’t themselves anymore. When Lucien is suspected to be the cause of the outbreak, can Jack overcome his teenage hormones and save Eldrick Isle? Will he even want to?

Warnings: Abuse, alcoholism, animal death, bullying, graphic violence/gore, guns, homophobia, misgendering

Universal Buy Link | Goodreads


Giveaway

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

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Excerpt

Lucien wanted to hit something. He wanted to lash out and make himself feel better by making someone else feel worse—Spencer, preferably, but Lucien was too upset even to fantasize. Something scuttled under the floorboards beneath him. Tiny claws on warped wood. A nearby hole in the floorboards… Vermin would have to do.

He brought his index finger to his mouth and bit down, worrying at the skin with his teeth until it broke. He tasted blood. The takeout bag sat beside him so he picked up a fry and, after seasoning it with blood, tossed it toward the hole. And then he waited.

A whiskered nose appeared first, followed by a furry brown face and black, beady eyes. A rat. The animal snatched the fry and disappeared back into the darkness. Lucien smirked and licked his finger clean. He absently probed the torn skin with his tongue until it was smooth again. Then he paused, momentarily forgetting about the rat. Something on his fingers tasted off.

Foreign.

Salty.

Some sort of grease.

He glanced dubiously down at the soggy french fries, holding his breath and waiting for disaster to strike. Nothing happened. His stomach rumbled. He licked his lips again. The scent of greasy, fried potatoes became too tantalizing to resist, and he reached into the bag and pulled out a fat, golden fry. He shouldn’t—years of lectures told him he shouldn’t—but a rebellion brewed deep inside him. He sniffed, and his stomach gurgled in approval.

Lucien popped the french fry into his mouth. It was cold. The texture was strange: crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. He had to chew before he could swallow. Grease coated his tongue.

His nutrient shakes were garbage.

Lucien scarfed down the entire bag of fries and then licked his fingers clean. Jack had left his milkshake behind, and Lucien drank that as well. The shake had a familiar texture, but the flavors… What would hamburgers taste like? He was going to find out.

An ear-piercing squeal erupted from beneath the floorboards. Lucien smirked into his straw and waited, listening. Judging from the sounds, more than one creature had taken his bait. The rat dragged itself out from the crevice. Little clawed toes curled in on themselves, and beady black eyes bulged out from their sockets. The bald tail became discolored, patchy and waxen. It flopped onto its side, its chest heaving madly as it labored to breathe. A black substance leaked out from its jaws, followed by a tiny, purpled tongue. It shuddered violently, and then it lay still.

Lucien didn’t notice. The paper cup crumpled in his grasp, and the remains of the strawberry shake dripped down his wrist. Behind his dry, irritating contact lenses, his pupils dilated. Lucien clutched at his belly, smearing milkshake across Jack’s borrowed shirt. It was like having shards of glass in his stomach, stabbing into his intestines. Ripping. Tearing. Sweat soaked his skin. He staggered to his feet and gagged. Waves of nausea threatened to bring him to his knees. His throat burned, and his stomach lurched.

He was going to be sick. Sick in the middle of Jack’s private sanctuary. Lucien clamped a hand over his mouth and stumbled toward the guest room. The door’s hinges screamed in protest when he fell against it. He landed heavily on his knees. The floorboards were wet and slimy, blackened with rot. They sloped toward the center of the room, where he saw the stony lip of the well peeking out from amidst the wreckage. The house was strange, but he had no time to explore, not when his stomach lining was burning its way up his esophagus.

Lucien dug his fingers into the moldering floorboards and dragged himself forward. Up close, the well stank. The putrid fumes of fetid water rising up to meet him suggested something had fallen in recently. Lucien leaned over the well’s side and vomited. The remains of french fries and strawberry milkshake hit the water below with a liquid slap. Strings of shredded tissue and dark, brackish blood soon followed.

Unbidden tears streamed down Lucien’s cheeks. He choked on a sob and then choked again as something elseslithered its way up his throat. The edge of the rotten boards gave beneath his clenched fingers, turning to splintery pulp. He tried to clamp a hand over his mouth, tried to keep it inside, but it was too late. Lucien curled in on himself, his mouth opened wide in a silent scream. His eyes rolled back behind his lids, and the world went dark.

It splattered onto the floor. It resembled a fattened leach, pulsating and slimy, and was the size of a large rat. It wriggled about, leaving behind a trail of black sludge. An alien kudzu sprung from the mess and cemented itself to the floor. Lucien opened his eyes, watching as the thing squirmed away from him. He felt a muted sense of alarm as it neared the edge. His head was foggy. He should grab it. Before it was too late, if it wasn’t too late already.

His fingertips scrabbled against the wood, mold and sludge filling the spaces beneath his nails, but his arms wouldn’t obey. He managed to brush the spongy tail of the creature before it tumbled over the edge and into the darkness below. It hit the water with a faint, echoing splash.

Lucien struggled to catch his breath. Empty and frail, his chest felt like a cage of papier-mâché. He rolled onto his back, panting. His eyes fluttered shut. Something moist crawled across his arms, up his ankles, under his jeans. It slithered through his hair. He was too tired to object. He wanted to sleep. He didn’t want to think about what could have happened if he had eaten in front of Jack. Or worse, if they had been in the middle of the crowded diner.

Inky blackness rose up to meet him, and Lucien didn’t resist.


Author Bio

Ridley Harker

Ridley Harker is an up-and-coming horror author who delights in all things gay and spooky. Influenced by Billy Martin (Poppy Z. Brite), Clive Barker, and Gemma Files, his favorite books are those with enemies to lovers, great villains, and queer main characters. Horror-romance is his favorite genre. He lives in the Middle of Nowhere with his two dogs, a grumpy old snake, and a host of pet tarantulas. Ridley is currently working on his MFA.

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

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

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

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

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16649258.Ridley_Harker

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

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Interview with Author Vincent Meis

Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

I was born in the middle of the twentieth century and grew up in a middle-sized city in the middle of Illinois in the middle of the country, a middle child in a middle-class family. But there was nothing middle about my hopes and dreams. I knew I was different from my siblings and other kids in the neighborhood, but I wasn’t sure what that was. I started writing plays for my younger sisters to perform in when I was ten. In high school I won a short story contest sponsored by the local newspaper. In college I wrote poetry. In the following years, I started several novels, wrote short stories and more poetry, and when I embraced my sexuality in my mid-twenties, writing became a way to express my new gay awareness. After college I began working as an English as a Second Language teacher both in the States and abroad. It was through this career I discovered travel and had the chance to live in and/or travel to many countries. My first published works were travel articles, mostly for gay publications about the experience of traveling as a gay man in other lands. After thirty-five years of teaching, I decided to take an early retirement and seriously pursue my writing, digging out a lot of my old writing and polishing it for publication. Since then, I have published seven novels and a book of short stories as well as having several of my short stories included in anthologies.

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What inspired you to write your book?

One of my fans, after reading my novel Four Calling Burds, expressed an interest in knowing what happened next in the lives of the four Burd siblings. She asked me if I planned to write a sequel and I gave my standard answer, which was that I didn’t write sequels. It was up to the reader to imagine the rest of the story. At that point, I had published five novels and had almost finished writing the sixth without even thinking of doing a sequel. But she did have a point. I sometimes wondered what had happened to the Burds siblings myself. I struggled with the concept of how much I should write for my readers and how much for myself.

The book in question was a contemporary novel set around the year 2017, and at the end of the book, all the characters were living in the San Francisco Bay Area. To write a novel set in 2019-2020 they would have aged only a few years. I started thinking about characters from two of my other novels, who would also be living in the Bay Area and only aged a few years. Wouldn’t it be fun if some of the characters from the other novels met and interacted with each other and the four Burd siblings? And thus, the novel was born. In one case, a character from one novel meets and falls in love with the character from another. A woman from my novel, Tio Jorge, has become an immigration lawyer and helps the Mexican boyfriend of the Burd sibling, AJ. At one point, there is birthday party, which brings all the major and many of the minor characters from the three novels together. They meet, socialize, flirt, and at the end, all band together to search for a teenager who has gone missing from the party.

What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

I have a quote on my email page from Edward Albee that says, “All art should be useful. If it’s merely decorative, it’s a waste of time.” To me, that means my writing should have a strong message, educate if you will, as well as entertain. I have been accused of being “too political,” but I want readers to learn about other cultures and ethnicities. My writing has themes of diversity, racial equality, immigrant rights, an all the issues the LGBTQ+ community deals with.  I have always enjoyed writing fictional characters who are very different from me in age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, and culture. It is a challenge that thrills me. I have written many Latinx characters and though I speak Spanish, I am very much a product of the North American Midwest. I have written Black characters though my genealogy tells me I am 99.7% of Northern European background. I write lots of heterosexual characters though all indications are that I am homosexual. I have written a transitioning FTM character though I identify as cisgender. I have heard other writers express that they would never presume to write a character of a different race/ethnicity. A former editor gave a novel I wrote with lots of Black characters to a Black sensitivity reader without telling my background. Apparently, I passed, and she wanted to proceed with the book. I don’t plan to stop writing diverse characters, but I always keep asking myself if I am being authentic.

What drew you into this particular genre?

I write what I like to read: literary fiction and contemporary fiction. I grew up reading American and British literary fiction, particularly early twentieth century writers. Then I discovered literary fiction written by gay authors such as James Baldwin, Alan Hollinghurst, Michael Cunningham, and others. I have never been drawn to genre fiction though in recent years I have read a few wonderful books that focus on gay characters in the genres of science fiction, romance, fantasy, horror, etc. Currently, I would say my writing is contemporary LGBTQ+ fiction with a literary bent. I’ve never been comfortable with the tag “gay fiction” though I’m marginally more satisfied with the updated label of LGBTQ+ fiction. Gay fiction tends to conjure up the image of romance or a coming out story, and yes, my books have elements of those scenarios. I certainly do not shy away from fully gay characters and ultimately my mission is to present homosexual men dealing with the world around them in both the ways which are unique to us as well as the ways we are the same. In many cases the men I write are challenged in a foreign setting where they must cope with how another culture sees them not only as a gay man, but also a foreigner. I do, however, like presenting an array of characters of all sexual orientations and identities.

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If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?

A character named M appears in two of my novels. In Four Calling Burds, she is trying to deal with the strong maleness inside her and first starts thinking about transition. In First Born Sons, M goes through the process of transitioning FTM. A writer always hopes to get a character right, but particularly if they fall into a marginalized group. I would like to ask him if I presented him realistically. Did I do justice to the incredible process of transition? Did I adequately portray the pain and joy of becoming the person he wanted to be?

What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

I try not to have regrets, but I do wish I had focused more on my writing in those early years when I clearly had the calling. I didn’t trust it and kept abandoning projects, easily distracted by other things going on in my life. In the eighties, I had some good feedback on what would eventually become my first novel. Instead of diving all in, I put it aside for twenty years. By the time I got to publishing that novel, I was already past my prime and I wasn’t patient about finding a publisher and decided to self-publish. I rushed it. Never, ever rush your first novel. Work like hell to get it as perfect as you can. Work like hell to get a publisher. Believe in yourself. I’m currently reading the latest work by someone who is an icon in the gay writing community because of his first novel, which was a marvel, particularly for its time. He has ridden the wave of success for forty years. I find his latest work mediocre and almost unreadable, and yet he has reviews from all the major publications and is on the New York Times Reader’s Choice list. The reviews from actual readers, many of them probably unaware of his past glory, reflect the impression I had of the book. The point I’m making is to give that first effort the absolute best you can, and then go back and rewrite ten more times. An early hit can carry you through during more difficult times. I feel like I have gotten better over the course of my writing, but I can’t go back and have a redo of my debut novel.

What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

I’m very excited about the future of my writing. Early next year my first Young Adult novel will come out from my current publisher, Colton’s Terrible Wonderful Year. One of the characters from First Born Sons, Colton, is a fourteen-year-old mixed-race son of a gay couple. He is entering the “danger zone” for young men of color in the United States. I extracted his story from the novel, added a lot of new details about his life and wrote the story in his first-person voice. It has a lot of funny parts, but also tearful moments as he and his gay dads struggle with what’s happening in the world. I’m also about three-quarters done with the first draft of a sequel to The Mayor of Oak Street, but forty years later. We learn what happens to Nathan after getting together with the man of his dreams at the end of The Mayor. Now a man in his early sixties, he is often lost in his memories of his loves and losses, the traumas and joys that peppered his life. He is given one last chance at love. Will he take it?

“All art should be useful. If it’s merely decorative, it’s a waste of time.” – Edward Albee

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About the Author

Vincent Meis grew up in Decatur, Illinois and graduated from Tulane University in New Orleans.

He has worked as an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area, Spain, Saudi Arabia and Mexico, publishing many academic articles in his field as well as articles about teaching ESL overseas. He has also traveled extensively in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and Central and South American. He is fluent in Spanish. As result of his travels and time abroad he published a number of pieces, mostly travel articles, but also a few poems and book reviews, in publications such as, The Advocate, LA Weekly, In Style, and Our World in the 1980’s and 90’s. His travels have inspired four novels, all set at least partially in foreign countries: Eddie’s Desert Rose (2011), Tio Jorge (2012), and Down in Cuba (2013) and Deluge (2016). Tio Jorge received a Rainbow Award in the category of Bisexual Fiction in 2012. Down in Cuba received two Rainbow Awards in 2013. Deluge won a Rainbow Award in 2016. Recently his stories have been published in several collections, including WITH:New Gay Fiction, Best Gay Erotica Vol 1and Best Gay Erotica Vol 4. In December 2019, his fifth novel Four Calling Burds will be published. In 2021, he has published two books with NineStar Press, The Mayor of Oak Street, a novel, and Far from Home, a collection of short stories.

https://www.vincentmeis.com/

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0B6T5WWHK/ref=x_gr_w_glide_sin?caller=Goodreads&callerLink=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.goodreads.com%2Fbook%2Fshow%2F61680454-first-born-sons%3Fac%3D1%26from_search%3Dtrue%26qid%3DsDwIiz2aFA%26rank%3D4&tag=x_gr_w_glide_sin-20

Phases: Poetry by Belinda Betker Review

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

Author Belinda Betker takes readers on a journey of confusion, identity, and acceptance through powerful and moving poetry in the book “Phases”. 

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The Synopsis

In Phases, Belinda Betker deftly captures what it is like for those who don’t fit within rigid notions of what it means to be a “boy” or a “girl”. Capturing different phases in a life, with power and nuance she takes readers on a luminous journey of a young girl’s coming-of-age, her burgeoning sexuality (and the confusion and disorientation therein), the pitfalls of an unhappy marriage, the triumphant release of coming out, and the liberating power of drag.

In these poems, readers will find a celestial and transcendent re-discovering of the self, an unraveling of society’s expectations of gender roles, love, and desire and how these falsehoods threaten to eclipse our truth. Phases slides through time, summoning profound memories of the loss of childhood innocence through each gendered ritual, yet the resilient heart of a tomboy who stands up to bullies and can “tie a tie better than anyone” is too powerful to suppress. Betker then takes us into adulthood–an experience cut sharp by the “dark side of the moon” with a health crisis and surgery–and the victorious recovery and unearthing of buried desire and resplendent sensuality. is mercurial and unpredictable, a celebration of the non-conformist in each of us.

The Review

This was such a moving and captivating LGBTQ-Driven collection of poetry. The author’s ability to capture the raw emotions and thoughts of confusion, as well as the search for one’s identity and the promise of acceptance both for yourself and from others, is well captured in these creative yet memorable poems. The vulnerability and heart in which the author dives into these very personal memories and experiences highlight not only their journey but the difficulties and hurdles so many people in the LGBTQ community have to face.

Yet it was the imagery and the themes that really played so well with this reader. The poems did an excellent job of capturing the heart and detail of these memories of the author, and yet also found inspired and creative notes of contrast between harsh moments and beautiful realizations. The themes of accepting one’s identity, both gender and sexual identities, and the journey one go on to discover this for themselves, as well as the fight to have people accept this part of yourself, including one’s own family, were represented well. One thing that really spoke to me was the author’s ability to capture the gender “norms” that are expected of boys and girls, and how ridiculous it is that someone should be gendered or identified based on their interests on a more material or superficial level (i.e., whether a person likes makeup, clothes, cooking versus working out of the house, etc.).

The Verdict

Captivating, heartfelt, and emotional, author Belinda Betker’s “Phases” is a must-read collection of poetry for 2022 and an amazing LGBTQ Poetry read. The memoir-style writing structure and the narrative that played out across the author’s life speak volumes of their own life, as well as the experiences that so many LGBTQ readers are experiencing even to this day. The need to understand how one person’s gender and sexual identity is always something worth exploring, and that it is not always a settled thing, is something so important that should never be dismissed. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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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

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

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9828914.R_L_Merrill

Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/r-l-merrill/

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/R-L-Merrill/e/B00PI6Q1LI

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First Born Sons by Vincent Traughber Meis Review

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

A group of Coastal Californians faces racism, wildfires, and their own demons in author Vincent Traughber Meis’s “First Born Sons”.

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The Synopsis

A group of coastal Californians battle wildfires, racism, and their own demons in five distinct narratives set in late 2019 and 2020.

First Born Sons is populated by a cast of LGBTQ+ individuals and their allies who struggle to find love, comfort, and fulfillment. As the novel progresses, characters interact across the separate narratives and are brought together for a birthday and a disastrous Black Lives Matter demonstration. A man returning to the horrors that made him leave Mississippi, a blind gay man flirting with love, an FTM transgender starting hormone therapy, a woman struggling to protect her sons from her ex-husband’s surge to right-wing politics, and a teenager with two gay dads searching for his Black surrogate mom paint a disturbing tableau of modern-day America.

The Review

This was such a powerful, emotional, and relevant read. The author did an incredible job of layering this drama with rich and powerful character development, story-driven narratives that span the world, and themes that speak to the communities most impacted by the surge of violence and bigotry that is affecting our world right now. The author finds natural and relatable ways of infusing issues such as Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ+ rights, and so much more into the story, weaving together a narrative that feels heartfelt and evoked strong emotional responses from readers, from sadness and grief to outrage and hope all at once.

Yet it was the character growth that truly spoke to me as a reader. The relationships and personal turmoil that really affected these characters were really humanizing and allowed readers to feel seen and heard in this narrative. For me, it was the scenes involving Lamar, George, and Byron that really popped off the pages of this novel. From the shocking initial chapter introducing these characters to the cruel reality of police profiling and brutality to the strong emotional and physical relationship that develops between the two of them over time, and all of the prejudices that their pasts and present bring to their relationship felt so impactful to get lost in through this narrative.

The Verdict

Shocking, moving, and engaging, author Vincent Traughber Meis’s “First Born Sons” is a must-read drama. The brilliant character development and emotional themes that the author brings to life so beautifully will have readers unable to put this book down, and the blend of intimate moments and powerful societal studies that this book brings to life will have readers eager for more from this powerful author. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Vincent Meis grew up in Decatur, Illinois and graduated from Tulane University in New Orleans.

He has worked as an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area, Spain, Saudi Arabia and Mexico, publishing many academic articles in his field as well as articles about teaching ESL overseas. He has also traveled extensively in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and Central and South American. He is fluent in Spanish. As result of his travels and time abroad he published a number of pieces, mostly travel articles, but also a few poems and book reviews, in publications such as, The Advocate, LA Weekly, In Style, and Our World in the 1980’s and 90’s. His travels have inspired four novels, all set at least partially in foreign countries: Eddie’s Desert Rose (2011), Tio Jorge (2012), and Down in Cuba (2013) and Deluge (2016). Tio Jorge received a Rainbow Award in the category of Bisexual Fiction in 2012. Down in Cuba received two Rainbow Awards in 2013. Deluge won a Rainbow Award in 2016. Recently his stories have been published in several collections, including WITH:New Gay Fiction, Best Gay Erotica Vol 1and Best Gay Erotica Vol 4. In December 2019, his fifth novel Four Calling Burds will be published. In 2021, he has published two books with NineStar Press, The Mayor of Oak Street, a novel, and Far from Home, a collection of short stories.

https://www.vincentmeis.com/

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0B6T5WWHK/ref=x_gr_w_glide_sin?caller=Goodreads&callerLink=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.goodreads.com%2Fbook%2Fshow%2F61680454-first-born-sons%3Fac%3D1%26from_search%3Dtrue%26qid%3DsDwIiz2aFA%26rank%3D4&tag=x_gr_w_glide_sin-20

Herald’s Call by Jaymie Wagner Excerpt & Giveaway (OWI Blog Tours)

Herald's Call - Jaymie Wagner

Jaymie Wagner has a new FFF urban fantasy out, Sing For Me book 3: Herald’s Call. And there’s a giveaway.

Woe to the wolf who dares to call

With unworthy hearts lest darkness fall

Dour note this horn will play

The hounds shall rise and wolves shall bay

Through the horn Herne shall command

By blood of the Hunt and a worthy hand!

It is said that long ago Herne, the god of the Hunt, could use his Horn to make wolves obey his commands. A legend that Amy Oakley, Alpha of the Howlers pack, learned as a child and stopped believing in long before her first change beneath the full moon.

After spending three years fighting for her lovers and packmates’ right to live among the werewolves of Londinium, all she wants is a chance to breathe, go back to running her pub, and never see the manipulative Marcel Charron again.

As an ancient prophecy begins to unfold, can Amy and the Howlers find the Horn of Herne and keep it out of Marcel’s hands, or will his web of schemes and plots spell doom for their pack and the rest of London’s werewolves?

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About the Series:

When Leah Corbyn was bitten on her mail route by a dog, she expected to go to the hospital for some stitches, a few days of medical leave, and for life to go on.

She had no idea that two weeks later she would become a werewolf under the full moon, or spend the next year trying to hide her ‘condition’, but after meeting and dating fellow werewolf Amy Oakley, it wasn’t long before she started to find an entire community in the shadows of London.

Surrounded by unexpected friends and dangerous enemies, Amy, Leah, and their packmate Amélie must fight to make a place for themselves, unaware that the conditions of an ancient prophecy are being met…


Giveaway

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

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Excerpt

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Leah swallowed hard, and her voice was a hushed, raspy whisper. “Do you think…I mean…if my mum was a werewolf and she knew I wasn’t going to be. Could that be why she got rid of me?”

“Oh,” Amy breathed as she pulled Leah into a hug. “Oh, pup.”

“I mean…” Leah shook her head, tears starting to well in her eyes. “I never really knew anything. Where I came from. Why I was abandoned. Nobody even knows who gave me up. They just found me like a lost wallet!” She shuddered in Amy’s arms, tears running down her face.

“I finally learned something about where I came from and suddenly I wish I hadn’t!”

Abigail sat down slowly. “Leah,” she said in her most kind but firm doctor’s voice. “I can’t speak to why your parents made that decision. I wish I could. What I can tell you is that mitochondrial DNA takes a very long time to change from generation to generation, and the fact that you did not possess the full were sequences until you were turned suggests that it was a fairly distant ancestor. Five or six generations, easily.”

She waited for Leah to meet her eyes before she concluded: “Whatever their reasons, this was not one of them.”

Leah gave a sniff and dried her eyes with the back of her hand as she sat up. “That’s…that helps. Thanks, Abby.”

“Of course.” Abigail smiled at all of them before going back to the papers. “So – as I said, we don’t know as much, medically, as we would like about Turning. But this does suggest a few things to me. For one – it may explain part of why you survived the process, particularly with a diet that was…not terribly conducive to your new existence.”

That got a weak laugh out of Leah, and Amélie smiled with relief. If she could laugh…it was a good sign. “So – you think that explains my eyes, too?”

“It would seem so,” Abigail agreed with a nod. “I am not certain why it took so long to express, but my theory is that some of the latent werewolf traits you carry finally began to show through.”

Leah’s lips pulled into a slight frown. “Could that be part of why I’m a different sort of wolf than whoever turned me?”

Abigail nodded again. “Likely, yes.”

Amy reached up to lightly scratch at Leah’s scalp as she examined the different sets of results. “Does that explain Leah’s ear, too?”

Abigail shook her head and went back to the first chart. “The trait that affects the development of cartilage in the ear is an autosomal one. It most likely came from the were who bit you.”

Amélie looked down at the results again, and suddenly felt like she’d been given the last piece of a puzzle.

No one has been able to find the wolf who bit Leah…but they were assuming it was a were who lived in England.

Leah said the ‘dog’ who attacked her had a blonde and pale grey coat.

Marcel knew Leah was Turned.

Marcel knew Leah had no family.

Marcel knew where the Howl was.

Leah never spoke to Marcel at the trial, and Amy would not have told him anything about Leah or herself. If the records from Leah’s trial were sealed, there is no way he should have known any of the things he tried to use against us.

Marcel always said his ears drooped because of an old injury from a fight…but Marcel lied about almost everything.

Her chest felt tight as the facts began to add up.

Marcel…

Marcel is a liar.

Her mouth felt dry as she looked up. “Abigail?”

Everyone turned to look at her, and Amélie didn’t try to hide the dread and shock she felt.

“I know who Turned Leah.”


Author Bio

Herald's Call - Jaymie Wagner

Jaymie Wagner is a queer, trans, polyamorous author who lives in the Twin Cities with her cats and an alarming collection of tiny giant robots.

She has been published in several anthologies, short story collections, and posts her “Fractured Fantasies” twitter micro-stories where she explores different ideas and kinks.

Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/jaymie.wagner.98/

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

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

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21846389.Jaymie_Wagner

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

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/~/e/B09HF3P2ZC

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As Fast As She Can by E.F. Schraeder Review

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

Two young women dive deeper and deeper down into a blood-soaked world of carnage as they give into their unquenchable new appetites in author E.F. Schraeder’s “As Fast As She Can”.

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The Synopsis

Living in a quiet house on the outskirts of town, Ginger isn’t like

the other girls.

When she wakes up and discovers the unthinkable about her

adoptive parents, she runs away and goes on a rampage straight

to the only friend she has. Can she control what they both become?

With a violent, growing hunger and more questions than answers,

Ginger has nowhere to turn.

The Review

This was a shocking, pleasantly campy horror read! The humor and dark comedy aspects of the narrative are felt instantly, as the protagonist joke and go out for a “night on the town” as they make their way through a barrage of victims to satiate their appetites. And yet the charm and heart of their bond are felt instantly, as is their surreal approach to their newfound status as a zombie…of sorts. 

The mythos and world-building that the author was able to put together in such a short amount of time made this such a powerful read. The theme and atmosphere the author crafted out of this novel made this story feel like a late ’80s era horror comedy with an LGBTQ twist. The story moves quickly, and as the characters and world expand, so does the mythology surrounding their hunger and status in the world of the living, making this a shockingly delightful read. 

The Verdict

Haunted, entertaining, and brilliantly written, author E.F. Schraeder’s “As Fast As She Can” is a must-read horror novel that cannot be missed. The dedication to the genre and the almost cinematic way the story is written will keep readers invested in this story until the bloody end. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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As Fast as She Can - E. F. Schraeder

E. F. Schraeder has a new lesbian horror / coming of age book out: As Fast As She Can.

Living in a quiet house on the outskirts of town, Ginger isn’t like the other girls.

When she wakes up and discovers the unthinkable about her adoptive parents, she runs away and goes on a rampage straight to the only friend she has. Can she control what they both become?

With a violent, growing hunger and more questions than answers, Ginger has nowhere to turn.

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Excerpt

As Fast as She Can meme - E. F. Schraeder

Two dozen camps dotted the acreage around the five-mile perimeter of the lake. The trails that linked the parcels were scarcely marked. Off season, only half of the cottages would have guests, and even fewer would have phones or cell coverage. The land was big enough and remote enough for the girls to stay lost.

Cory and Ginger approached the first camp they saw and crept outside, peering into the windows to see what awaited them. Cory tripped over a rusted canoe leaning against the side of the house. As it crashed to the ground, a light flared on in the back of the house, illuminating the fifteen feet to the shed behind the house.

Cory yelped. “Shit.”

“Shh,” Ginger whispered. She set a hand on Cory’s shoulder. “They’ll think it’s an animal.”

“It is.” Cory bared her teeth and snarled. Cory crouched, her small frame hunched against the peeling blue paint of the cottage. Her slender shoulders pulled up, and the heavy gray hood of her sweatshirt drooped over her head. A shadow across her face accentuated the wide-eyed expression.

“You’re sort of hot when you’re hunting,” Ginger said. She bit her lower lip, immediately regretting the admission. Urgent, warm hunger pressed in Ginger’s stomach. She returned a low growl. “Let’s go,” she whispered, her voice hoarse.

They crashed into the front door, lunged onto the scrawny old man in the kitchen before he had time to squeeze the trigger of his shotgun. They tore the patchy pajama shirt from his lean body and shredded him in seconds.

“That’s it?” Cory asked. A dribble of saliva clung to her mouth as she licked her lips.

“Guess he lives alone.” Ginger wiped her face clean on her sleeve. They kicked through the house, looking for anything interesting to take. “Need a flashlight?” Ginger swatted the heavy silver flashlight that swung from a looped handle on a nail.

“No, I can see in the dark.” Cory paused. “Hey, I can see in the dark. Is that, like, a thing for us?” She smiled, her pupils returned to normal now that she’d fed.

“I guess. I don’t know. Not like I had a course in zombification before I got to you.” Ginger laughed. “How many camps are up here?” she asked.

Cory shrugged. “Hope there’s a bigger family or something we can sink our teeth into.” She rummaged through the old man’s desk drawers. She tossed stacks of papers onto the floor, they scattered in heaps. “Ah ha!” She pulled out a slim, golden-handled hunting knife. “Now this, I like!”

Ginger grabbed the knife, sliced a ‘Z’ shape into the air. “Nice, but I don’t think we need weapons.”

“Whatever. It’s still badass.” Cory tucked the blade into its sheath and undid her belt, slipping the knife holster into position at her waist. “Cool, right?”

“Okay, it does look badass. You’ve got a whole burnout serial killer look happening now.” Ginger clicked off the back porch light. “It’s really working for you.” She opened the door and waved Cory ahead of her.

“Hot, huh?” Cory winked as she walked by, her arm brushed Ginger’s hip.

Ginger let out a quick gasp before she could stop herself. Embarrassed that Cory had heard her and a little curious. She sighed. She wondered if something was going on between them, something way better than eating campers. Ginger bit down on the inside of her mouth briefly and giggled.

“Still hungry?” Cory asked.

Somehow, the question struck Ginger as flirtatious. She didn’t know what to say. I’ve got to be imagining this, right? Ginger shrugged, chasing behind Cory as she ran ahead in search of the next cabin. I mean, we’re pretty messed up right now . . .

For three hours, Cory and Ginger ransacked camps, devouring everyone they found, dragging the residents into the moonlight one at a time. The small camps around the pond were spread out, sparse enough among the trees to conceal the screams. As they gorged they left only blood and destruction in their wake.

Crickets fell quiet as the girls ran over boulders along the water’s edge. Their movements were smooth and silent. Cory stopped abruptly, balancing on one leg in a karate pose.

“>Ginger, do ya’ think the cops are after us?”

“Duh, of course they are! Or will be. Why?”

“I don’t know. It’s kind of awesome, that’s all.”

“Which part?” Ginger smiled.

“Well, the whole ‘killed my mom and took to the woods’ part, mostly. You know? Or is that like total after school special bullshit?”

“No, it’s way worse than some crap about bulimia or underage drinking.” Ginger’s laughter came in spurts. She wiped her brow. “I mean, I think we’re in a whole different league of problem children.”

“Hey, Ginger,” Cory said after a few moments of silence. “Aren’t we supposed to be like, all ‘uugh, brains’ and shit?” She waved her arms in front of her in a classic Frankenstein pose.

Ginger chuckled. This is perfect. The two of us against the world. What could be better? “No, I mean, I don’t know. We’re pretty quick though, right?” She pushed her hair out of her face and smiled.

“Totally!” Cory squatted low on the stone and then sprang up, kicking out one leg. “I’m like, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Zombie.”

Ginger fell over laughing. It took her a minute to realize Cory had run ahead to another camp. She pushed herself up onto her elbows and ran to the house. Cory was already inside by the time Ginger arrived.

“Look at him!” Cory shrieked with pleasure tugging the long, wavy blonde hair of a thin teenage boy out the front door. He struggled while Cory dragged him easily into the grassy yard.

A motion activated security floodlight clicked on and shone white in their faces. The boy wiggled and winced, tried to yank himself away from her, but he only managed to rip the sleeve off his shirt. Cory sunk her fingers deep into the joint of his rotator cuff and pressed her face into the wound until she felt the dull thud of bone crack against her teeth. “He’s cute. Let’s keep him! Can we keep him?” she squealed.

The boy howled in agony, blood soaking his chest.

“He’s not a puppy, Cory. You can’t just decide to…” Ginger paused, watching Cory pull the boy back into her mouth. Ginger squinted at the boy and nodded. She pursed her lips like she was about to speak, but her expression went blank. She cocked her head to a distant noise. What was that? Voices? Ginger focused. There was nothing in the yard but corpses. Ginger tugged a tangle of auburn hair into a ponytail. She rested a hand on one hip then said, “If you like him, flip him.” She was surprised she felt so amicable to Cory’s idea, but maybe it made a certain sort of sense. Why not a third? Maybe three’s a charm.

The boy wriggled beneath Cory’s clutch for a few moments then the spasms settled. He groaned as if he knew the lucky ones died. Cory tore off the other sleeve of his blood-soaked shirt and gently wiped the mess from his shoulder.

Cory pulled out her hand from his shoulder muscles clenching a soft chunk of wet flesh. She lowered her lips to the fresh wound with a smile then pressed her teeth into him. A satisfying gush of blood spurted into her mouth. She moaned in satisfaction.

“Take it easy if you’re keeping him.” Ginger flung a dismembered hand from the boy’s father at Cory.


Author Bio

E. F. Schraeder

E.F. Schraeder is the author of the queer gothic novella Liar: Memoir of a Haunting (Omnium Gatherum, 2021), which was an Imadjinn Award finalist in 2022. Schraeder is also the author of a story collection and two poetry chapbooks.

Schraeder’s recent work has appeared in Lost Contact, Strange Horizons, The Feminist Wire, Birthing Monsters, Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, Mystery Weekly Magazine, Lavender Review, and other journals and anthologies. Schraeder’s nonfiction has been included in Vastarien: A Literary Journal; Radical Teacher; the American Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom blog, and elsewhere. Awarded first place in Crystal Lake Publishing’s 2021 Poetry Contest, E.F. Schraeder’s work also placed as a semi-finalist in Headmistress Press’ Charlotte Mew Contest (2019). Current creative projects a full length manuscript of poems and an unruly collection of essays. An ex-professor and youth librarian, Schraeder holds an interdisciplinary Ph.D. and advanced degree in Library Science. An Active Member in the Horror Writers Association and a Lifetime Member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, E. F. Schraeder believes in ghosts, magic, and dogs.

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

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5989787.E_F_Schraeder?f

Author Liminal Fiction (LimFic.com): https://www.limfic.com/mbm-book-author/e-f-schraeder-2/

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/E-F-Schraeder/e/B014YYIOK0?

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