Tag Archives: other worlds ink blog tour

Blog Tour: Everything’s Better with You by R.L. Merrill

Everything's Better With You - R.L. Merrill

R.L. Merrill has a new TED LASSO-inspired MM sports romance out: Everything’s Better With You.

Everything’s Better With You is a TED LASSO-inspired sports-themed funny romance featuring two guys who’ve pined for each other for 15 years while their careers soared and their bodies fell apart.

Retired quarterback and “nicest guy in the NFL” Leslie Payton met former college cheerleader-turned-reality-show darling Joe Judd fifteen years ago. They spent one magical night…talking. They’ve been pining for each other via text and phone calls ever since while their careers kept them geographically apart. When their alma mater recruits them to reinvigorate a flagging athletic program, Leslie sees his opportunity to finally have Joe close enough to see if their “what if” can become a reality. And the sooner the better before Leslie’s history of Traumatic Brain Injury catches up to him and he’s unable to be a true partner.

Joe has spent their years apart dancing in every gig offered to him, knowing full well the clock is ticking on his body’s ability to continue taking the abuse. Leslie wants forever to start now, and Joe doesn’t have that luxury, though Leslie makes him want things he’s never allowed himself to dream of with anyone else. But a lifetime of only feeling worthwhile for his performance ability makes him doubt whether he could ever be a good coach or enough of a partner for the best man he’s ever known.

As football and cheer coaches, they’re forced to be rivals in public, but behind closed doors, their chemistry is unstoppable. A wager triggers their competitive sides, but the secrets they keep come to light and present them with a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. Can they finally meet on the relationship 50-yard line and move forward as a team?

Warnings: discussion of past domestic violence that happens off page, not graphic

Get it On Amazon | Universal Buy Link


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

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Everything's Better With You meme - R.L. Merrill

Joe Judd pulled his cigarette-smoke infested rental minivan into a spot in front of the imposing brick building that represented an important slice of his formative years. His ties to the place ran deep; his liberal arts education, his adult education, his physical education, all happened in this very place, and the building before him was a symbol of the chapter in his life that paved the way for where he was now.

Where am I?

Right. Spring Fling weekend. Greenvale College. Go Jackets!

This was the first year he’d returned to his alma mater for this momentous occasion since graduating in 2005. Joe left Ayre Valley, Iowa in his rear view mirror fifteen years ago and his life had been all glitz and glamour ever since. Okay, the minivan he was currently sitting in wasn’t glamorous. He couldn’t even pretend to be an old Hollywood starlet whose leading man lit his cigarettes for him. He’d quit smoking a long time ago, and the way this car reeked, it was a damn good thing he had. Everything else in Joe’s life was glitz and glamour, though.

And pain.

Ugh, the pain.

He turned off the ignition of the Chrysler and listened for the clunk clunk of the engine shutting down. The airport car rental place had given him their last available vehicle and charged him a premium since he’d wrongly assumed Kansas City, Missouri wouldn’t be so packed that he couldn’t land a nice Mustang for the two-hour drive up to Ayre Valley. The woman working the register let him know in no uncertain terms that his thinking was wrong.

The engine clunked once more and a grinding sound emanated from the other side of the dash as if the thing had given up the ghost.

He could relate. His body felt like that when he stopped moving these days.

At 36 years old, Joe had the appearance of a fit man in his twenties. He liked to think he resembled his beloved Porsche at home in West Hollywood rather than this current hunk of junk. Gleaming chrome and a flashy paint job on the outside gave people the impression that he was all power and sleek lines, when in reality, his engine needed an overhaul under the hood, and his shocks and struts had seen better days. He pushed his Porsche to the same limits he pushed his body and both protested loudly. Just like the minivan.

“Time to move before you freeze up like this piece of shit.”

He gritted his teeth and opened the door, feeling his lower back protest. He had to get his feet planted under him just right and push himself to standing, putting the least amount of pressure on his knees. Once he was upright, he arched his back and felt the L5 bulging disc, the torn tendon in his hip, and the stubborn rib that would not stay in place no matter how hard his chiropractor back in Hollywood pounded on it.

He let out a harsh exhale as everything settled into place and then he swung the door closed. It was a chilly April morning and he was glad he’d brought his wool coat and worn his fleece-lined jeans. He was just about to head up the walkway when he heard the rumble of tailpipes and the screeching of…heavy metal?

A ginormous four-by-four truck complete with a rack of lights and a winch mounted on the front grill kicked up gravel as it pulled into the spot next to Joe’s rental. The windows were tinted but he had a feeling he knew exactly who the monstrosity belonged to.

“Well, if it isn’t fancy-pants, twinkle-toes, Dance Machine’s own Joe Judd! I’ll be damned.”

The six-foot-five, long and not-quite-as-lean these days, blond-mulleted, monster-truck madman currently lowering himself gingerly out of the gas-guzzling giant was none other than Leslie Payton. Three-time Super Bowl-winning—now retired—NFL quarterback, championship university football coach, and fellow alum of Greenvale College.

The tremors running through Joe’s body had nothing to do with the temperature. No, this was a reunion long in the making, and now that he was here, he struggled to keep his snarky demeanor front and center.

“You always did know how to make an entrance,” Joe said, shaking his head. He strolled toward the back of his car to greet Les, who already had his hand out, seemingly just as eager.

“And you’re a sight for sore eyes,” Les said, taking Joe’s hand and pulling him in for a back-pounding bro-hug that made Joe’s teeth smack together. “I can’t believe you’re really here.”

Joe couldn’t either, honestly. He’d told himself he’d never come back here after graduation. The fact that he’d returned to the site of the best and most difficult years of his life was due entirely to the sheer amount of respect he held for Barry Payton—Leslie’s older brother and the new president of Greenvale College—and the complicated feelings he had for the man standing before him.

“I’m glad you could make it out. Barry was thrilled when you agreed to arrive early and meet with him.”

Joe raised an eyebrow. “I agreed to come for Spring Fling and the recognition of the cheer squad…am I missing something? Was there another part to the invitation?”

Les stepped back but didn’t let go of Joe’s hand, nor did he remove his other hand from Joe’s shoulder.

“I’ll let him explain it all to you. I’m just glad you’re here. Man, you look good.”

Joe did not miss the fact that Les’s gaze traveled hungrily over Joe’s body. Joe stood a little taller under the appraisal, glad he wasn’t the only one struggling with propriety.

“You just off a show?”

“Uh, yeah. Just finished choreography for the next season of Dance Machine and I’m headed from here to New York for a limited run of West Side Story.

When you’re a jet…doo doo doo doo doo,” Les sang, snapping his fingers. He laughed and pounded on Joe’s shoulder again, hard enough to make him stagger. “Oh, sorry, man. That’s great. I loved watching you on that live broadcast. You’ve still got those moves.”

Les’s smile held more wattage than all the lights in Levi Stadium, and Joe felt a blast of heat being the recipient of one of those smiles.

He had a flash of the first time he’d been the recipient of a Leslie Payton smile and how that night changed his life.

He watched my show. Joe fought to hide a triumphant smile.

Author Bio

R.L. Merrill

Whether she’s writing contemporary romance featuring quirky, queer, and relatable characters or diving deep into the supernatural to give readers a shiver, R.L. Merrill loves creating compelling stories that will stay with readers long after closing the book.

Ro writes inclusive romance for the Happily Ever After collective, contributes paranormal hilarity to Robyn Peterman’s Magic and Mayhem Universe, and pens horror-inspired tales and music reviews for HorrorAddicts.net.

A mom, wife, daughter, and former educator, you can find her rocking out in her Bronco with Great Dane pup Velma, being terrorized by feline twins Dracula and Frankenstein, 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 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/stores/R.L.-Merrill/author/B00PI6Q1LI

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Balancing the Weave by M.W. Lee Blog Tour and Guest Post

Explain the evolution of the book. 

I had been toying with an idea of creating a Southern Mythology, similar to William Blake’s mythology. I thought the idea for this novella would be a good chance to try it out. I first sat down and sculpted a short story of about ten pages. I asked a friend to give it a read. She returned it with a note: “This should be a novella.” I had never written a novella, and honestly, I wasn’t sure I had read many. 

I first investigated what a novella really is. Is it just a book that’s too long to be a short story and not long enough to be novel? No. Novellas encompass much more. But the one definite point is that there are no definite rules. There is clear definition of what one is. After reading a few articles I came up with a few guidelines that I felt would work for me:

  1. Length
  2. Novellas are about one thing
  3. No subplots

There was another about rule that I abandoned later as I only saw it once, and it wasn’t working well for me. Novellas, sometimes, use symbols to move the plot forward. (I think that was it.) I love symbols, so this would fit me. I simply found it too contrived to use extensively in this novella.

I decided that my novella would focus on the theme of “neediness”. How we can all be needy at times; how supporting one’s needs makes one not needy. 

The first completed drafts that I felt ready for publication could be divided into two parts: what the Fates were doing, and what Mark didn’t know. The narrator (unnamed at this point) would divert the story and explain what went on in Sammy’s life while Mark was being neglectful. Sammy and his neighbor, Jon, were seducing each other. Spending time, listening to each other, doing things together. 

I knew if a novella wasn’t to have a subplot, the diversions needed to focus on neediness. These scenes about Sammy involved two neighbors, Jon, the new love interest, and Ms. Ledford, an elderly woman who lived above Sammy. These scenes were constructed to explain how we can be supportive of each other’s needs without compromising ourselves. There is a lot that I love about those sections. However, after hiring a second editor to help me, I decided that these sections didn’t enhance the experience for the reader. I cut them and read it and saw that the novella was much more focused on the themes.

Yes, themes. By this time, I realized I needed to include another theme: self-reflection. This would be a minor theme but was a must. Mark couldn’t undergo any change without self-reflection. This also helped me get into the Fates more.

What of those Fates? They also went through a small transformation. Each of the Fates represents a time: Parcae, the past, Clotho, the future, and Moirae the present. They have another sister Clymene, who is the Goddess of Spirituality and became important to support the theme of self-reflection. Initially, they were a jumbled mess. I had to sit down and create the rules. Things like, when Parcae arrives in the present, she doesn’t know anything about the modern world; Moirae can’t remember things that happened in the past; and Clotho can jump around in all possible futures. This was important as I felt that freewill would be a part of a Southern mythology due to Christianity’s hold on the South. Therefore, Clotho would have to be able to see all possibilities of what would happen when we make a choice. Initially in the novella, the Fates made those choices by weaving the future in the tapestry which represented the person. Freewill needed to be stronger, so I had to change Clotho a little. She can’t remember details of the future, but knows which choices would be best to present to someone for them to choose. 

All of this took place over about ten years. I’d work on it a while, set it aside, and then come back to it when the Muse instructed. 

Balancing the Weave - M.W. Lee

M.W. Lee has a new MM fantasy romance out: Balancing the Weave.

For Mark, Pride weekend in Yamasee County, South Carolina, means spending the day with friends, flirting with the out-of-town men, finding a romance, drinking too much, and enjoying all of Pride. However, the Fates have arrived to address a hole which appeared in the tapestry representing Mark, his past, and his present, which will direct him to the future.

Throughout the day, the Fates confront Mark with memories both pleasant and painful about his former lover Sammy. Parcae uses her goddess tools to manipulate Mark’s thoughts so he remembers fun dates, fights, issues which make him uncomfortable, and accusations of being needy. Was it Sammy’s neediness that caused Mark to end the relationship? Or was Mark the needy companion? When Sammy once said Mark ain’t needy, what did he mean?

Can the goddesses help Mark work through these memories so his self-evaluation can lead to better relationships in the future?

Get It At Amazon | Universal By Link


M.W. is giving away a $20 JMS Books gift card with this tour:

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Balancing the Weave meme - M.W. Lee

Parcae stood to stretch her legs while allowing Mark time to reflect about what he just remembered while she strategized her next affront.

Mark refused to consider the significance of the memory, choosing instead to attempt to hide in sleep.

Parcae considered. It seems to me that if left alone, his memory inclines toward dishonesty. In lying to himself, he can’t or won’t learn. He needs to ask himself who he was in the relationship, but most importantly, who he was to Sammy. He needs to face this honestly.

She nosed about the room, acting like a nosy mother-in-law eavesdropping on the private conversation in the adjacent the next room.

“I wonder,” she spoke out loud to Mark, “why did Sammy date you?”

Mark though for a moment before replying, I liked his sense of humor.

Parcae sighed. “That’s you, not him.”

I’m good-looking.

“You going to include dick size too, shallow man?” Parcae snapped. “I asked why he—” she stressed the he “—dated you.”

I don’t know why he dated me. We never talked about it, Mark thought, matching her snappy tone.

“Yes, you did. Remember, after you’d been dating for a couple of months, he told you.”

Mark searched for the memory without finding it, so he remained still, his mind becoming blank.

Parcae ambled about the room, swishing her crinolines, which sounded like children playing in piles of dead autumn leaves. The sound cleared the air around Mark, and he felt the pinch of crisp autumn evenings, smelled the scents of autumn, burning leaves, warm cider, and funnel cakes. Mark’s memory opened and brought him back to the first Friday in October, when he and Sammy decided on an impromptu date to ride rides, play bad carnival games, and eat junk food at the Big Seven County Fair.

A smile came across Mark’s face, which Parcae noticed and approved. Instead of allowing him to rely on his own memory to show his past, she created a vivid memory so that she could observe how the memory touched him.

“Exactly,” Parcae said. “A good memory. Good memories bring clarity to past relationships.”

Mark thought, How do they do that?

“Comparison,” Parcae said. “Who you were then compared to who you were when you broke up.”

As her crinolines swished, Mark’s memory cleared. Instead of a scene being replayed as a motion picture, the memory flashed a series of slides so that Mark experienced a photo album of their date at the fair. The view was that of the gods.

Mark observed –

Mark and Sammy laughing as Mark pressed against him on the scrambler. Sammy’s wide mouth created a half joking yet half fearful expression.

Mark commented, When the ride stopped, Sammy showed me that the mechanism hadn’t closed properly.

The next slide: Mark exaggerated a baseball pitch as he attempted the Milk Bottle Toss. Sammy stood with his hands in prayer position against his mouth with an exaggerated hopeful expression.

Mark thought, I could just be silly with him, and he’d join in.

The next slide: Both of them standing in line for the Spook House. Mark noticed his arm resting on Sammy’s shoulder, as if he were leaning on Sammy.

Mark observed, I was being affectionate but unsure because of the location. Sammy never seemed bothered.

The next slide: Mark saw them sitting at a small picnic table under a canopy at the Penniless Pig, sharing a large plate of loaded fries. The slide transformed to a motion picture.

“What were you doing on the swings?” Mark asked.

“Being silly,” Sammy laughed as he devoured some fries. “In Germany, riders get the swings to spin around, and they reach for each other, and push each other back and forth. It gets harder as the ride gets faster. I was trying to do that.”

“Is that allowed?” Mark asked.

“Don’t know,” Sammy said. “since all we do is sit, either it isn’t allowed or no one’s thought of it. But … um …” Sammy paused.

Mark noticed Sammy glancing away, smiling, embarrassed, in that special kind of embarrassment when the lover admits he likes the beloved. On the sofa, Mark recognized his heart’s increase of excitement.

“Well,” Sammy continued, “Sometimes a couple would reach out and grab hands and pull each other closer. I was attempting to be romantic.”

“Did you want to hold hands?” Mark asked affectionately, without a hint of mockery.

Author Bio

M.W. Lee

M.W. Lee studied English at Limestone University in South Carolina, and DePaul University in Illinois. He has led many lives, as an adjunct professor, data entry clerk, ESA teacher in Saudi Arabia. Currently, he has a new day career as an HIV case manager with the Hawaii Health and Harm Reduction Center. His personal essay, “The Sea and Debussy” appeared in the on-line journal The Scarlet Leaf Review in October 2021.

Lee works during the day and writes at night. “Balancing the Weave” is his first published novella. He enjoys reading a wide range of fiction; however, space operas, dystopian, and post-apocalyptic fiction are his favorites. He is currently writing a crime novel.

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

Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100088125436054

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/31467891.M_W_Lee

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Balancing-Weave-M-W-Lee-ebook/dp/B0BVHHCWBM/

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Guest Blog Post and Blog Tour for Author A.K. Holubek’s “The Empath and the Soldier”

The Empath and the Soldier

Guest Post

Thanks for the opportunity to talk a little about my new book. In this post, I’d like to discuss one of the central themes of The Empath and the Soldier and where it originated

Growing up, I was obsessed with the movie Stand by Me. As a lonely tween and adolescent, I longed, almost ached, for the kind of friendship shared by the four main characters. In the middle of my fourth-grade year, my dad had moved us from Indiana, where I had multiple close friends, to Colorado, where I had none. For some reason I had quite a bit of trouble making new friends in our new home, and for many years I was a lonely, reclusive kid who spent hours either reading or creating imaginary worlds. So the camaraderie between the four boys in the movie was a glimpse into a world I felt I was missing out on.

Actually, looking back, I can guess why making friends was so difficult for me. I think even my pre-pubescent self knew that I was different from other boys. And it wasn’t just that I didn’t care much for sports and loved musical theater. Deep down, I knew that somehow my feelings for other boys were different than what they felt for me. I also knew that these feelings would be considered grotesque by other kids my age. I kept my distance from everyone else in order to keep them from finding out who I really was and because I didn’t think they’d like me anyway. Who wants to be around a gay kid who’d rather watch The Sound of Music than a football game?

In junior high and high school, I did hang out with people, but I never really was myself with them. It was more like I was playing the part of a typically straight, male teenager. With other boys, I pretended to like girls and be interested in “typical boy stuff.” But I wasn’t very good at this pretense, so I mostly kept quiet, earning a reputation as the tall, quiet guy who was maybe a little boring, but at least harmless.

I felt much more comfortable with my female friends. At least with them I didn’t have to feign excitement for things that were of no interest to me. But still, I held some part of me back. I was certain even they would think less of me if they knew who I truly was.

It wasn’t until my senior year of high school and into college that I finally began to make friends with whom I felt I really belonged. People who I somehow knew would accept all of me, not just a filtered version. Eventually, I came out to these friends and my instincts were proved correct; they didn’t think any less or any different of me. 

It would be impossible to adequately describe the absolute elation and contentment I felt after finding a group of friends that fit me. I finally had a crew, a squad, that I could count on, and who counted on me. I finally had what the kids in Stand by Me had. These friendships would become the benchmark against which I would measure all future friendships. I won’t call anyone a real friend until I reach the same level of comfort with them that I felt with my first group of close friends.

Finally finding “my people” in high school was such a significant point in my life, that I made it one of the central themes in The Empath and the Soldier. In the book we see the main character, Tyrran, really start to blossom as a person after finally finding a group of people with whom he feels he can relate. It’s through them that he learns self-confidence and gains self-esteem because they value him for who he is.

When I tell people about books that inspired my novel, I usually mention other fantasy books like Lord of the Rings or even the novels of Jane Austen, upon which the book’s setting is modeled. But I often forget to mention that, outside all the fantastical elements and the Bridgerton-esque backdrop, this novel is really about friendship, inspired by books and movies like Stand by Me, but also by my own experiences. One core message I hope readers take away from The Empath and the Soldier is that there’s a group out there for everyone, and if you’re at a particularly lonely or friendless point in life, know that you can and will eventually find people that fit you. It may take some time, but they’re out there. 

The Empath and the Soldier - A.K. Holubek

A.K. Holubek has a new MM Regency period fantasy book out, The Unconventionals book 1: The Empath and the Soldier. And there’s a giveaway.

The situation seemed hopeless. But Tyrran couldn’t pretend to be ignorant of the danger and just wait for his home to disintegrate around him.

As a Favored male, Tyrran belongs to a select group of men born with one of the Four Gifts, a blessing usually reserved for women. Quiet, introverted, and filled with self-doubt, Tyrran has always struggled with living up to the responsibilities that come with being Gifted. Still, he had managed to achieve the near impossible — admission to the prestigious Lyceum Institute in Corvit, the Coarian Sovereignty’s bustling capital city. With this success, Tyrran’s future seems clear: the best education, a position in a Temple, and, one day, marriage to a young man of good fortune.

That is, until sinister forces intervene to shove him down a much bleaker path. Tyrran’s plans are thrown into upheaval when a deadly attack reveals the existence of an insidious evil festering within the ranks of the Sovereignty’s elite.

Now, he must use the privileges afforded him as a Lyceum student to uncover the secrets of a corrupt government. Targeted by relentless assassins and trying to ignore his growing attachment to the handsome exchange student Adwin, Tyrran must gather trustworthy allies to face the dangers that threaten to tear apart his nation and his home.

Bridgerton meets The Magicians in this fantasy novel about the importance of confidence and the strength of friendship.

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The Empath and The Soldier meme

At that moment they stopped suddenly, startled by someone crawling out of the pond almost directly in front of them. The someone turned out to be a man—an East Silacian, Tyrran noted right away, due to his black skin. He was shirtless, wearing only white tights, and he looked about Tyrran’s age. He was shorter than Tyrran and his chest, stomach, and arms were muscular—sculpted was the more appropriate term, his skin stretched tight over every muscle. His physique was compact rather than large, he had deep brown eyes, and his black hair was cut close to his head.

Tyrran had always suspected that the Silacian reputation for beauty was exaggerated, stemming from the inferiority complex Coarians held towards Silacians, whose empire was much larger, wealthier, and more advanced than the Sovereignty. But if Nyri and this man were any indication, then their reputed good looks were understated if anything.

“Good morning, soldier,” the man said, addressing Lena as he wiped water from his face with his hands. He spoke the Common Tongue with a sophisticated accent that sounded very similar to Nyri’s.

“Good morning, Adwin,” Lena replied, looking puzzled. “Did you, uh, fall in the pond?”

“Not at all. I was just going for a morning swim.” He smiled as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

“In public? In the middle of campus?”

“But of course. This appears to be the closest body of water to our college. However, by your expressions, I assume Coarian notions of decorum discourage public bathing. I did swim wearing my tights, since I know public nudity is frowned upon.”

He may as well have removed them, for what little use they were in covering his nudity. The material clung to his skin, revealing bulging leg muscles as well as other bulges that Tyrran was making a concerted effort not to stare at.

“We do tend to prefer bathing in secluded areas,” Lena said. “Spaces set aside for bathing. Like the bathhouse next to the Barracks House, for instance.”

“I did try the bathhouse, but the water is heated. Quite uncomfortable on a warm day like today. Do you suppose I shall be sent packing back to Silacia for this breach of conduct?” An impudent grin spread across his face.

“It’s early enough that I’m sure no one but us has seen you. Though I do suggest you put the rest of your clothes back on soon. Where are they, by the by?”

“My clothes? I left them further down the trail. In truth, I was swimming about the pond for exercise rather than for bathing, then I saw the two of you and thought to come greet you. And now I think I have finished with swimming. Would you mind accompanying me to fetch my clothes?”

Tyrran could see that Lena was annoyed by the request and had every intention of replying in the negative. But Tyrran didn’t want Adwin to be offended, so he quickly spoke up.

“We would be happy to.”

That earned him an evil look from Lena.

Adwin offered his arm to Tyrran. “Adwin Mekalbe, at your service.”

Tyrran grasped his forearm, “Tyrran Kens, at yours,” he replied, trying to keep his voice from squeaking.

“I assume you do not attend the Military College,” Adwin continued, as the three of them resumed walking along the trail.

“No, I’m at Roothe College. Lena and I are friends from Temple Academy.”

“Ah, yes. In Hifield City. I am truly sorry about the attacks. I do hope you were not directly affected.”

Author Bio

A.K. Holubek

The moment A.K. Holubek stumbled across a ragged copy of The Fellowship of the Ring in his elementary school library, his life changed forever. The rest of his childhood, his adolescence, and even his college years were spent living only part time in the real world. He much preferred spending time in the fantasy lands of his imagination than in the reality of life as a closeted gay kid. As real life got better, he left his fantasy worlds behind. But a few years ago, those worlds called him to return, and to share his created worlds with others who might also need a place to escape. He now endeavors to carry out this mission from his home in Baltimore, supported by his husband and two ridiculous cats.

Author Website: http://theunconventionals.com

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

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

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

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Free Me by Beck Grey Blog Tour + Excerpt

Free Me - Beck Grey

Beck Grey has a new queer romance book out (gender-fluid, gay, trans), Love in the Pacific Northwest book 4: Free Me. And there’s a giveaway.

A gender-fluid cutie, a workaholic hottie, and a hookup gone right.


No romantic relationship could ever compete with my dream job. Sure, it gets lonely, but that’s what occasional hookups are for. Work-life balance? Who cares? I certainly don’t. Until chest pains bring me to my knees and land me in the emergency room.

It’s a wake-up call I can’t afford to ignore.

When my well-meaning family encourages me to make some major life changes, like hiring a meditation and physiotherapist, whatever that is, I’m worried enough to agree.

Imagine my surprise when my practitioner turns out to be the hookup I haven’t been able to forget.


What’s a fabulously vivacious gender-fluid beauty to do when stress is high and Prince Charmings aren’t lined up at their door? Head to the club to recharge my sparkle on the dance floor. I have no intention of hooking up with anyone. Hookups are not my thing.


Then I see the slightly older hottie in the Tom Ford suit, and all my self-restraint goes up in a blast of glitter.

When it turns out he’s my new meditation client and my friend’s older brother, I’m sure the universe is messing with me.

Because mixing business with pleasure is a huge no-no.

So why does my heart keep shouting yes?

Free Me is a low-angst, opposites attract, worlds collide, contemporary LGBTQ romance about a hookup gone right. It contains no cheating, and a guaranteed HEA.

Warnings: Transphobia by a member of the LGBTQ community on a member of the community

About the Series:

Turns out, perfection isn’t a prerequisite for happiness.

Whether it’s risking your heart on a hookup, falling for your brother’s best friend, taking that second chance when it arrives, or pursuing a relationship that doesn’t look like everyone else’s — life is complex, but love doesn’t have to be.

Snarky, sweet and spicy, Love in the Pacific Northwest is a first person POV, low-medium angst, open door, contemporary LGBTQ romance series of interconnected standalones. No cheating and a guaranteed HEA every time!

Get It On Amazon


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

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Free Me meme

I walk out to the bedroom balcony and look down at the patio. Blake is lounging by the pool in swim trunks and sunglasses, reading a book. He looks incredibly relaxed, and it makes my heart happy. “Hey, handsome.” He glances up and his face breaks into a wide grin. Okay, yes, we’ve been together for a few months, but his smile still makes my insides all melty and warm. “You want to come in and eat, or should I bring the food out?”

“Put on a suit and come down. This is my big plan for the day.” He gestures to the pool area and waves his book.

I lean my elbows on the railing and grin down at him. “If you’re trying to seduce me, it’s working.”

“Excellent. Step one in my evil plan is complete. Now come down here. I missed you.”

“Be down in a sec!” I hurry inside, strip out of my work clothes, then lather myself in the sunscreen that smells like coconut. Blake loves the scent, and I love how he nuzzles my neck when I use it. I pull on my tiniest black and white print swim briefs, grab a beach towel from the closet and the food bags from the kitchen counter, and hurry down to the game room and out to the patio. “Should we eat at the table or on the loungers like heathens?”

Blake glances up from his book and his eyes lock on my tiny swimsuit. I do a slow spin, giving him a good view of my ass. “Like?”

He pulls his sunglasses to the end of his nose and peers over them. “That’s new.” His voice is thick with lust. Oh, yeah. Mission accomplished.

“It is! And it’s so adorable!”

Blake licks his lips. “And so tiny.”

“I had a feeling you might like it.” I skip past him to the table and deposit the bags.

Blake practically growls and grabs my hips the moment I put the bags down. “Come here.”

I laugh as he manhandles me, hauling me close and inhaling my skin. He drags his nose across my abdomen and my cock stirs, eager to join in the fun, but my stomach growls with hunger. “Mmm. I’m fully on board with whatever you’re planning here, Darling, but we should eat before the food gets cold.”

Blake bites my hip. “We can heat it up.”

My laugh quickly turns to a gasp as his tongue teases above the edge of my suit. It’s all I can do not to press his head a few inches lower. “Blake, Darling, I have souvlaki and Greek salad.”

He hums and sits back, waggling his eyebrows at me. “You know I love Greek.”

I snort at his double entendre. “As do I, my darling. So let’s eat.” I wink at him. “Then we can eat.”

His chuckle warms every part of me. He pushes to his feet with a sigh. “If we must, we must.”

“We must.” I press up on my tiptoes and pucker up.

He obliges me, but turns my expected quick press of lips into a lingering kiss that curls my toes and has me second-guessing my stance on eating first. As I’m about to give in, he lets me go and pats my backside. “C’mon. Let’s feed you so we can move on to other enjoyable things.”

Author Bio

Beck Grey logo

Beck is a non-binary writer of sweet, sexy, LGBTQ happily ever afters. Why? Because everyone deserves all the happy! They live in the Northeastern United States with their two adorable dogs.

Weekdays are spent working their day job, but nights and weekends are devoted to writing stories involving hot characters, favorite tropes, and happy endings. Any additional time includes reading, laughing with friends, drinking red wine, and playing D&D. If there’s cake involved at any point it’s a win!

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

Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/beck.grey014/

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Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21696745.Beck_Grey

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Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/stores/Beck-Grey/author/B09CZ69MTS

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Here is an Excerpt from Author Beck Grey’s “Free Me”

The pout gets more pronounced as I get closer. They’re obviously resigned to the fact that I’m here, and now taking full advantage. “I’m sick. I feel like poo and my nose is stuffy and won’t stop running, and you’d think that’s not possible, but I’m here to tell you it is.” I hold open my arms, food bags dangling from my fingers, and Stef walks into my embrace, tucking their face into my neck and sniffing. “I can’t even smell you, and that’s so sad. I love the way you smell.”

I kiss the top of their head and carefully close my arms around them. “Well, I brought food and some over-the-counter medicine for your cold. Hopefully, those will do the trick and you’ll be back to smelling me in no time.” 

If they can hear the smile in my voice, they ignore it. “I’m miserable. And hungry. I don’t have the energy to be hangry.”

“Well, let’s go upstairs and I’ll take care of you.”

Stef leans back and looks up at me. “You will?”

“Absolutely. I can’t have you at death’s door.”

They nod. “I am, too. It’s awful.” They turn around and head for their apartment, which saves me the effort of hiding my grin. How can one person be so damned cute?

“So, how long have you been sick?” It’s been a few days since we’ve seen each other, but we’ve been texting and calling, and Stef hadn’t mentioned feeling under the weather.

They sigh dramatically as they fling their apartment door open. “Ages. Two days, I think.” 

Looking around the apartment, I believe them. There are mugs and pots in the sink where it looks like they’ve made soup but not cleaned up. I set the bags of food on the counter and follow Stef into their room. There are tissues all over the floor and more empty mugs and bowls on the side table. Their laptop is in the middle of the bed, a movie paused mid-stream, and a half-eaten bag of lozenges open next to the pillows. Stef flops onto the bed, almost bouncing the laptop onto the floor. I can see I have my work cut out for me. 

I take off my suit jacket and tie and carefully drape them over the sofa. It seems Stef hasn’t made it to this half of the room yet, so they should be safe. I roll up my sleeves and Stef groans. “No! No fair!” They wave at me. “Sleeve rolling!” They flop dramatically back on the pillows. “No being sexy while I’m sick. It’s so unfair.”

I look down at my forearms and laugh. “Excuse me?”

“Sexy forearms!” They sigh again. “Blake, how do you not know about the forearm thing?”

I shrug. “No idea how I missed that. I’m sorry.”

Stef waves a hand in my direction. “Fine. You’re forgiven.” 

They’re bundled in a lump on the bed, complete with fuzzy unicorn slippers poking out at the bottom of the duvet, so I move the laptop to the other side and carefully unwrap them. “How about we eat something and then I’ll run a bath for you?”

The moan Stef makes would be lascivious if they weren’t actually sick. “Blake, you are a god among men.”

“Do you want to eat in the kitchen?”

In lieu of an answer, Stef groans and sits up. I reach to help them, but they stand and lean into me, head on my shoulder. “Thank you. For bringing me food, and medicine, and please don’t look at me too closely.”

I hold them tightly and kiss their forehead, which feels a little warm against my lips. “You’re still gorgeous, just in a real-person kind of way. You’ll always be beautiful to me.”

Stef settles against me. “Really?” 

I nod. “Of course. Stef, you are gorgeous on the outside, but you’re also beautiful on the inside, and in my opinion, that matters more.”

They sniff. “How come I’m only beautiful on the inside?”

“I’m sorry?” 

“There’s a scale. And you said I was gorgeous on the outside and beautiful on the inside.”

They sound like they’re pouting and I bite my lip so I don’t laugh. “Well, I didn’t know there was a scale. If you’ll tell me, I can rephrase using the proper terminology.”

There’s a pause, like they’re thinking it over and then they shrug. “All right. It goes nice, pretty, beautiful, gorgeous, stunning.” 

“Mmm. I see. Well, You’re stunning inside and out.” 

“Pfft. You’re just saying that because I’m sick. I look like heck.” 

Hawthorne Manor by Bryan T. Clark: Interview and Blog Tour

Hawthorne Manor by Bryan T. Clark

  1. How long did it take you to write Hawthorne Manor?

I started writing Hawthorne Manor in 2020. During the pandemic I’d lost all of my creativity and all but stopped writing. I hadn’t finished the first draft at that point, and the characters completely shut down on me. I would go into my office and just sit there, waiting for one of them to speak to me. It was horrible. As we moved through the pandemic, my creativity slowly began to return. I think I’m back to pre-pandemic creativity now.

  1. Is it true that you’re a plotter?

In the beginning of a story, yes. I start with an idea, then I plot out the beginning, the middle, and the end. Everything in between these three points is created as the character’s relay it to me. They speak, and I type. It all has to come organically at this point. It’s the only way I’ll ever tell a story.

  1. What advice would you give a new unpublished author?

Writing a book is hard work and requires a commitment to the task. You will have many roadblocks, and you may think that it’s an impossible task . . . but it’s not. For many people they say that they just don’t know where to start. I say just write your idea even if you don’t have the entire story plotted. Every one of my books go through at least two major rewrites. With each draft more of the story is flushed out. In the end, you will have that story you set out to write.

  1. In your previous life, before you were an author, you were in law enforcement. Do the two careers share anything in common?

Not at all. For twenty-eight years, I was a private person, personally closed off to all who I was in contact with during the course of a day. Then, my life was about facts and conclusions. Now, as a writer, I am infusing bits and pieces of myself in my writing and sharing personal things that have influenced who I am today. I’ve mellowed. Life isn’t so serious anymore.

  1. What are you working on now?

Only what so many of you have been asking for over the past five years: a sequel to Come to the Oaks. The first book saw the characters come alive, and the sequel is just as exciting. The sequel is not simply a continuation of the first book but a new journey for Ben and Tobias, with all the sass, suspense, and satisfaction of Come to the Oaks.

Hawthorne Manor - Bryan T. Clark

Bryan T. Clark has a new MM contemporary romance out: Hawthorne Manor.

Mikael Ferreira seems to have it all—a great career, looks, intelligence, and charm to boot. But his work as a full-time caregiver at Hawthorne Manor barely leaves him time to breathe, let alone date. Then a new employee arrives at the manor and makes Mikael question whether he’s been living at all or merely existing…

Elliot Olsson is Mikael’s polar opposite. Elliot’s autism has always made him feel isolated. Until now. Mikael truly sees him in a way no one ever has. Elliot wants to open his heart to Mikael and connect with him on a deeper level. But wanting won’t make it any easier to overcome the obstacles Elliot knows they’ll face as a couple…

As Mikael and Elliot’s story is beginning, eighty-eight-year-old Walter Hawthorne’s is coming to an end. But while his health is fading, his mind is sharp as ever—and he has a thing or two to share about life, intimacy, and love with the two young men who seem to know nothing about any of it…

Hawthorne Manor, a contemporary LGBTQ+ romantic novel, is an exploration of the foibles of aging, friendship, love, and the beauty that can exist in a found family. It features a house full of eccentric characters, witty banter, and a deeply emotional M/M romance. HEA guaranteed. Download today, and welcome to Hawthorne Manor.

Universal Buy Link


Hawthorne Manor meme - Bryan T. Clark

“Are you okay?” Mikael felt bad that he was the cause of Elliot’s stress. The two stood in silence for what seemed like minutes—very long minutes.

“Yeah… Just never been kissed before.” Elliot’s gaze dropped to the floor for a second.

Never been kissed? Mikael was at a loss on how to respond to such a profound statement.

“I liked it.” Elliot’s cheeks turned pink.

“You did?” A sea of blue in Elliot’s eyes, his rose lips, the pink in his pale cheeks… Mikael wanted to kiss all of him. He wanted to lift the sorrow from Elliot’s eyes, remove it from his lips, and wash it from his cheeks. He fought the urge to kiss him again. His heart pinged harder. He wanted to kiss him a million times to make up for all the kisses he’d missed. He touched Elliot’s cheek with the back of his hand, envisioning that he was wiping the sadness from it. Elliot trembled at his touch.

Elliot’s stare was piercing. His brows danced as a tiny smile slowly emerged, softening his expression.

“Do you know that you do this darling little thing with your brows? It’s barely noticeable how one goes up and the left one dips. It’s adorable.”

“I do?”

“When did you become so freakin’ hot?” Mikael’s voice dropped to a whisper.

Elliot wrinkled his nose. “I don’t think I’m hot.”

Mikael took Elliot’s denial as modesty. It was hard to believe he could be so attractive and not be aware of his good looks. “Yeah, and you know what? That makes you even hotter.” Mikael lifted Elliot’s chin. “I can’t believe you don’t know how nice-looking you are?”

Elliot shook his head, pulling loose from Mikael’s grasp. “No—”

“Yes.” Mikael raised Elliot’s chin. “You are.”

“I always thought you had a nice smile….” Elliot’s voice quaked. “Especially when you’re looking at me.”

You’re sooo freakin’ adorable. Mikael couldn’t avoid the big smile that accompanied his laugh.

“And you have pretty teeth,” Elliot mumbled.

“I think that’s a first. Someone complimenting me on my teeth. Usually, it’s my fat ass. But I’ll take teeth, too.”

“Your butt is nice too, but your teeth….” Elliot’s gaze drifted up to meet Mikael’s stare. “They’re really white.”

“Are you flirting with me, Mr. Olsson?” Mikael grinned as if he was in a toothpaste commercial, ensuring his white teeth were front and center. “I certainly hope so because I like you… I like you a lot.”

“I don’t know how to flirt. But your teeth are really white.” Elliot raked his fingers through his hair, then tucked it behind his ear. The protruding vein on his forehead subsided a little.

So, he does like me! Mikael’s heart thumped as he took a step closer to Elliot… and kissed him. Again.

It was only a soft kiss, but it was on lips he’d been dreaming of… and it was glorious!

He pulled back, assessing the situation. Seeing Elliot moisten his lips with his tongue, he did the same, wanting to savor every bit of the kiss. The dude that had never been kissed had the ability to set off fireworks within him.

Author Bio

Author Bryan T. Clark

Bryan T. Clark is a multi-published award-winning author of gay romance, and contemporary books. In his early in life, Bryan learned that he was different from everyone else in his world. As a young African American boy, he was the second to the youngest of seven children. Long before hormones kicked in and the realization of same sex attraction, it was his light skin and blond hair that made him different from those around him. Teased within his own race for being lighter than everyone else, the kids on the playground called him “Cornbread”.

As a writer, Bryan has taken back the power once given up to those schoolyard bullies. He is committed to bringing his readers stories of real life, with multicultural characters, riveting plots, and where the underdog always wins. He is the founder of Cornbread Publishing: the name empowers him and is a constant reminder that life can have a Happily-Ever-After.

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Bryan and his husband of thirty-six years has made their home and life in the Central Valley of California.

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

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

Author Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/romanceauthor/Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/stores/Bryan-T-Clark/author/B0BQ5JQ24P

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The Lucky Starman (A Leif the Lucky Novel) by Colin Alexander Blog Tour (Q&A Bonus)

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

Alejandro Colucci did the cover for The Lucky Starman.  This is the third of my books that he has created the cover art for—three in a row—and they have all been phenomenal.  On the previous one, I actually received a comment asking if it was available as a poster and I have never had anything close to that happen before.  For The Lucky Starman, we wanted to maintain the motif of the space-suited hand from the first two books.  We also wanted to include something unique to this book.  Based on some of the themes in the story, Alejandro designed the cover you see, which evokes the old line from Shakespeare, “Alas, poor Yorick . . .”  I think the cognitive dissonance between the title and the image is perfect.  When you read the book, I hope you’ll agree.

Q. What was the hardest part of writing this book?

The Lucky Starman is the third book in a series that stretches across close to two centuries of Earth time, two different stages of “near future” Earth technology followed by a postapocalyptic setting, and two starflights with the attendant effects of relativity.  In addition, the three books form a continuous story, the events of one follow immediately after the conclusion of the preceding book.

In this situation, I found the most difficult aspect of writing the third book was maintaining consistency with the first two and keeping the timeline feasible across all three.  For example, people in Leif’s twenty-first century usually have an implanted chip that interfaces with their phone and with other networks.  Since this is obviously made-up technology (although perhaps not that far off!), I had to make sure that I kept the capabilities of the technology consistent across books.  In the first book, there is a scene, after Leif receives a new, upgraded chip on his return from the first starflight, where he angrily deletes a lot of annoying apps that came with it.  In The Lucky Starman, he needs to have certain apps available, so I had to be sure there was a reason he still had them.  Similarly, the books include multiple events with dates in a period from 2055 (when Leif enlists) to 2252 (the conclusion of The Lucky Starman.)  Not only do the dates need to match across books, but the time between the events needs to work.  At one point in the drafts, when I looked at the story prior to a starflight and then events occurring after the flight, I realized that it was implying the ship had gone faster than light.  Needless to say, adjustments to the draft were needed.

The near-constant back and forth checking on these proved to be the hardest part of the writing.

The Lucky Starman - Colin Alexander

Colin Alexander has a new post-apocalyptic sci-fi book out, Leif the Lucky book 3: The Lucky Starman.

Is Leif really lucky? Stranded in orbit, viewing a destroyed civilization on Earth through the screens of a starship almost out of fuel and food, he doesn’t feel that way.

It wasn’t supposed to be like that.

As the starship Dauntless returns from a successful mission to the planet called Heaven, Earth holds no attractions for Exoplanetary Scout Leif Grettison. He wants only to complete the mission and leave for another star, along with ace pilot Yang Yong. In fact, he would be happy spending the rest of his life flying the starways with her.

But they and the rest of the ship’s skeleton crew awaken from hibernation to find Earth’s solar system dark and silent—no signals, no responses to their transmissions. When they make orbit, the magnitude of the disaster becomes clear: An apocalyptic war has killed billions and destroyed every last source of power and tech that 22nd-Century humans relied on to survive.

Getting down to Earth is only the beginning of Leif’s problems. Those few who survived the apocalypse are still divided, fighting over what’s left. The disastrous re-entry to Earth leaves him with no resources or allies. He lands in the middle of a makeshift family that needs him more than he’s comfortable with and hears stories—even nursery rhymes—that speak of a lucky starman. For once, he’s the only person with tech—but if he’s caught using it, they might kill him.

Can a man back from the stars end the warfare on Earth, or will he make it worse? Can he save a family that might become his? Is he everyone’s lucky starman?

Warnings: Combat situations (one-on-one and armies), named characters die

About the Series:

These are the adventures of Leif, who some have called the Lucky. They begin in the year 2069, when humanity’s last chance for peace is the first ever interstellar mission. However, when you believe you have thought of everything, the universe has a way of showing that you haven’t.

What do you do when it goes wrong, when you can’t call for help, and when adventure leads to deaths? If you survive one journey, what do you do next?

Get It On Amazon | Goodreads


The Lucky Starman - Colin Alexander

“Leif, we have a problem.”

I heard Charley’s voice as if from a great distance. The post-hib blur was a dense fog in my mind. I recognized the words but could not grasp their meaning. In my defense, I hadn’t even sat up in the hibernation unit yet; its bath was still draining.

I wrenched off the mask and cannula and removed the port from my arm. Then I sat up with a profound groan. Nearly four and a half years’ hibernating did more than blur the brain. Every muscle was stiff. I was surprised my joints didn’t squeak. Multiyear hib did not get better with repetition. I blinked and tried to bring Charley’s face into focus. Dr. Charles Osborne, I told myself. Our ship’s physician. He was supposed to be with me when I came out of hib. He had dark brown skin on a kindly round face, short black hair, and a closely cropped beard.

“Leif, we have a problem,” he repeated. “Yang needs you on the bridge.”

Why did there always have to be a problem? Why couldn’t someone say, Leif, life is great, and the world is beautiful. Why don’t you come share it? But, no, that’s not the way my life goes.

I groaned again and managed to say, “What?”

Charley shook his head. “I don’t know. Look, I’m sorry I didn’t get your equipment off first. I’m, I don’t know, worried. Here’s your OJ. Yang asked you to skip the gym. She really wants you on the bridge as soon as you can get there.”

That bit penetrated the blur. Yong had woken me early on the flight to High Noon, the very first starshot, when the ship’s computer tried to abort the mission after a hib failure. What was it this time?

I downed the orange juice with sugar in one fast chug. Having come out of four previous multiyear hib stretches on starflights, I had learned that the best way to return to the status of a functional human was to follow a carefully escalating workout routine in the gym. It felt awful while I was doing it, but it worked. There would be a good reason if Yang Yong wanted me to skip it. And the good reason would be something bad. Count on it.

I blinked again. “Can I at least get dressed and grab a couple of protein bars from the caf?” I did manage to get the croak out of my voice.

“I’m sure,” Charley said. “Just grab ’em and go to the bridge.”

“I’m on it,” I said. “Where’s the famous laxative pack?”

Charley had that in his other hand. The constipation from hib on an interstellar flight would not, in fact, kill you, but there were times I wished it would.

Once Charley left, I pulled myself out of the unit and stood up, shivering. My muscles shook trying to hold me upright. At least I’d done this often enough to know what would hurt most and how to manage it. The biggest problem was the knee that had been surgically rebuilt after I was wounded on Mindanao back in 2062. That was why I had left the Rangers and the service, and with each long hib, it got harder and harder to return it to normal.

No help for that. I settled for cursing long and loud while I toweled off. Then I pulled on the ship’s polo shirt with its NASA emblem over the left breast and my name, Grettison, embroidered below it. The starshot emblem of a gloved hand clutching a star above STARSHOT xv was stitched over the right breast. Ship pants, ankle socks, and ship boots completed the outfit. We were obviously decelerating at one gee because my weight felt normal, so I didn’t need the SureGrip soles for the StickStrips on the deck.

I pulled open the privacy screen around my unit and stepped out onto the hib deck. All the other units I could see were off. My adrenals squeezed immediately and I felt a sense of panic. Then my mind pulled its memories through the post-hib blur. Of course nearly all the units were empty and off. We had put the colonists down on the planet called Heaven, meaning only seven of us were on the Dauntless for the return to Earth.

I did a set of breathing exercises and got my heart rate and blood pressure under control. It wouldn’t do for me to have a stroke before I heard Yong’s problem. Maybe afterward, if it was bad enough.

With my legs wobbling under me, I took the lift to the deck where the caf was and grabbed energy bars. I took the time to eat one of them and chug another sugared orange juice. I needed to get to the bridge, but I also needed to not fall on my face when I got there.

When I entered the bridge, two energy bars swallowed and two more in my pocket, one of the chairs swiveled around. Yang Yong, pilot-in-command of the Dauntless, stood to greet me. She was a petite and slender woman with high cheekbones and brown hair cropped as short as mine. Small, yes, but there was nothing soft or delicate about her. She’d been a crack attack plane pilot for China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force during the Troubles, which meant we had been on opposite sides of the fighting. Opposite sides, hell. She had damn near killed me on Mindanao when she bombed my platoon’s position the day the world almost ended.

Fortunately, our relationship had evolved from there. We were now two sides of the same coin and had decided to spend our lives flying through the universe together. It’s not that either one of us ever used the L‑word, but we knew what we meant to each other.

She did not smile at me. She did not even give me her tight little grin. I knew her well enough to tell that she was tense, though no one else would see any difference in the way she held herself.

If Yang Yong was tense, something was very, very wrong.

“What’s the problem?” I asked.

“I don’t know. We are not receiving anything.”

“Nothing?” I tried to wrap my mind around that and let my hand drop from the pocket with the energy bars. They could wait.

“Nothing,” she repeated. “We are inside the orbit of Pluto, and there is no signal from the International Space Commission. I have sent transmissions to Earthbase, NASA, and CNSA. We have received no response, and enough time has elapsed for a reply to reach us. Before you ask, I have checked over our equipment. It is fine. The solar system is silent.”

Author Bio

Colin Alexander

Colin Alexander is a writer of science fiction and fantasy. Actually, Colin Alexander is the pseudonym for Alton Kremer, maybe his alter ego, or who he would have been if he hadn’t been a physician and biochemist and had a career as a medical researcher. His most recent book, The Lucky Starman, is his ninth and the third of the Leif the Lucky novels. Colin is an active member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association, Mystery Writers of America, and the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Away from writing fiction, his idea of relaxation is martial arts (taekwondo and minna jiu jitsu). He lives in Maine with his wife.

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

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

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

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

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Pinned by Liz Faraim Blog Tour

Pinned - Liz Faraim

Liz Faraim has a new lesbian mystery thriller out: Pinned. And there’s a giveaway.

“Rowdy” Randy Cox, a woman staring down the barrel of retirement, is a curmudgeonly blue-collar butch lesbian, who has been single for twenty years and is trying to date again.

At the end of a long, exhausting shift, Randy finds her supervisor, Bryant, pinned and near death at the warehouse where they work. Upon the news of his death, she battles to find a balance between the joys of an exciting new relationship and the struggles of processing her supervisor’s unexpected passing.

The manner of her supervisor’s death leaves Randy unsettled and suspicious as she gets sucked into both a criminal investigation led by the police and an administrative investigation conducted by her employer.

As Randy seeks the truth, trust erodes, key friendships are strengthened, and more loss awaits her.

Warnings: violence, cancer death.

Publisher | Amazon | Universal Buy Link



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

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“Yeah. You wanna ride the canyon?” Bear asked as she ran her fingers through her wild salt-and-pepper hair. Buck and I both nodded. I stowed my snacks and slid on my helmet.

“Okay. Everybody’s all gassed up, right? Last gas station before the canyon is at the casino.”

“We’re good. Filled up before crossing the causeway. Now stand back,” Bear said as she did a Jackie Gleason style windup before hoisting her short leg over the saddle of her bike.

We’d ridden many miles together and I was happy to see that her bike, a massive 1600cc Road Star, which she had lovingly named Champagne, was still on the road.

Buck fired up her Harley with a bone rattling rumble. I reminded myself to ride in front of her. When I rode behind her the engine noise was too much. I paired up the Bluetooth and Spotify again and picked a 1980s hits channel. Van Morrison sang to me about tupelo honey as I pulled out behind Bear, with Buck taking sweep behind us.

As we rolled slowly by PJ’s, the checker was walking out of the front door, gazing down at her cell phone. She looked up just in time to knock me out one more time with her bright eyes and toothy smile, making my heart race. I had to force myself to focus back on riding as we pulled out of the parking lot onto the main road.

We dodged big groups of college kids on bicycles as we passed through intersections until Dairy Glen turned back into farmland. Long, ramrod-straight county roads that ran between tomato and sunflower fields took us to the next county. The coastal mountains rose in the distance, the only thing to break up the scenery of the flat valley floor except for the occasional barn, well pump, or windmill.

Before long the three of us were weaving our way through the green rolling hills of Capay Valley, the two-lane road gently curving around orchards and dormant row crop fields. I saw some farms with livestock, including a few llamas and emu. We passed through the small towns of Madison, Esparto, and Capay.

Around the bend we got to Brooks, where the small farmhouses gave way to the casino, looming large, overlooking vineyards and the foothills. A massive banner strung across the front advertised an upcoming big-name concert. After the casino we passed through Guinda, and the road narrowed further as the terrain changed from wide-open valley floor to canyon, with steep wooded hillsides. The temperature dropped several degrees in the shade of the hills.

I did my best to stay focused on the ride and the road, but the heart-stopping smile I had gotten earlier in Dairy Glen, those blue eyes locked on mine, were a big distraction. I hadn’t given any woman a second look in years, let alone have one get my heart and mind racing.

Bear cruised along, never in a hurry, taking the curves with ease. I checked my side mirror now and then to make sure Buck was still with us, her aftermarket exhaust pipes echoing through the narrow canyon. There were hardly any other vehicles on the canyon road, though we did pass a few packs of cyclists decked out in spandex, riding fancy road bikes. As we rolled by a group of bikes on a steep climb, I watched one guy’s chiseled leg muscles working hard to pedal. The lady in front of him blew a snot rocket over her shoulder and he didn’t even flinch. I was glad to have an engine between my legs and opened the throttle to climb the last bit of the hill.

At the top of the hill, we zoomed by another gaggle of cyclists, resting after their climb. They were all off their bikes, panting and sweating even in the cold. One lady was throwing up in the bushes. Her jersey said “Veni, Vidi, Vomiti.” The slogan rattled around in my brain, drawing me back to my father trying to teach me Latin as a kid. I figured it meant something like: I came, I saw, I barfed. Another lady stood by, leaning on her bike frame, totally unbothered, sucking on one of those goo energy tubes.

My fingers and toes had started to go numb from the cold despite wearing thick socks and boots, and winter riding gloves. While on a short, straight stretch I took my eyes off the road again to turn on the heated grips. I pressed the button and looked up just in time to see Bear dump her bike over farther than I thought possible. Champagne, nearly on its side, cut over into the opposite lane and back.

I scanned the road for the hazard and had just enough time to register a small rockslide, scree and baseball-sized chunks of rock bouncing down the steep hillside and onto the road. I spotted a small gap and rode straight through, pebbles pinging off my helmet and shooting out from under my tires. I checked my mirror and watched as Buck, who’d had the most time to respond, swung out wide and avoided the whole thing with little fuss. That was Buck for ya.

Bear parked in a turnout a few hundred yards up the road. I pulled in behind her to catch my breath. I yanked off my helmet and pulled the bandana down off my mouth, heart doing somersaults.

Bear slapped her chest and let out a roar that reverberated through the hills and down the canyon.

“Awooo! Jesus Christ! Did you see that, Randy?”

“I can’t believe you didn’t dump it. That was some fine goddamn riding.”

“Wasn’t my first time, won’t be my last.” She gasped and shook her hands out.

“Good thing you’ve been riding since before you could spell motorcycle.”

We laughed wildly, which helped me relax and steady myself as the adrenaline rush faded. Buck pulled in behind us, tires crunching on gravel, and killed her engine.

Author Bio

Liz Faraim

Liz has a full plate between balancing a day job, parenting, writing, and finding some semblance of a social life. In past lives she has been a soldier, a bartender, a shoe salesperson, an assistant museum curator, and even a driving instructor. She focuses her writing on strong, queer, female leads who don’t back down.

Liz transplanted to California from New York over thirty years ago. She now lives in the East Bay Area of California and enjoys exploring nature with her wife and son.

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

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Chantz by Tim Rayborn Blog Tour and Excerpt

Reality wasn’t what it used to be.

One moment, everything was fine. Just a normal, run-of-the-mill indie goth alternative rock show at the Leeds University Union on a Sunday afternoon in late April. Just a young band singing about the most angsty issues of the moment, playing less-than-commercial music that was a cut above the usual pop twaddle. Nothing out of the ordinary, really.  

But then, things got decidedly odd, downright bizarre. Up was down, or maybe it was just an inverted up? The walls were closing in, or were they falling away very close by? It got very dark, almost brightly so. And the intense volume of the music was almost inaudible. If this was a part of the show, it was damned strange, but strangely appealing.

The band in question, the Mystic Wedding Weasels, was making something of a splash recently, and the hall was packed with young fans eager to soak up their particular brand of musical peculiarity, most notably in the figure of their enigmatic singer. And she seemed to be the source of this sudden oddness. At least, twelve-year-old witch Jilly Pleeth thought so.

Jilly couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see her favorite new band live, and she’d invited her friend Lluck along for the experience. He was half-human, half Indian Fae, all teenage attitude, and could affect the laws of probability in his favor. So, not your typical fourteen-year-old. She’d met him last winter during a rather crazy adventure involving an ancient Germanic forest spirit that wanted to eat his heart; as one does. Also, his long-lost mum was now dating Jilly’s best friend, a shadow with glowing red eyes; it’s a rather long and strange story.

In any case, returning to the matter at hand, everything had been as expected for the first few songs, when things shifted into all sorts of odd and back, but what was happening?

“Did you see that?” Jilly asked Lluck over the din of the current song, something about feeling dreadful in the face of ultimate despair.

“See what?” he half-shouted back at her.

“You didn’t notice how everything just went all… funny for a bit?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Everything just changed!”

“Changed how? What are you on about?”

“Something crazy strange is going on. It doesn’t feel normal.”

“All right, Ms. Witchy, I’ll take your word for it. But strange is the new normal these days, anyway, so who cares? Can we just watch the show, please?”

Jilly didn’t answer, but she remained unsettled. She turned her attention back to the singer, Chantz, at least that’s what she called herself. Jilly didn’t know her real name, if she had one. She looked to be in her early twenties, sported long black hair (with a streak of green-dyed tresses cascading down the right side of her head) and the obligatory black vestments: black dress, fishnets, black Doc Marten boots, long and wispy black shirt, open and trailing about her. But her voice was the real draw. It was enchanting, captivating; it drew in Jilly like a… spell. Jilly scrunched up her nose in that way that she always did when alarm bells went off in her head. Well, perhaps they were more like wind chimes.

She grabbed Lluck by the arm and yelled into his ear. “It’s magic!”

“Yeah, it’s all right isn’t it?” He bobbed his head up and down in time with the song.

She rolled her eyes. “No, you nitwit! Not the show, the singer.”

Chantz - Tim Rayborn

Tim Rayborn has a new queer urban fantasy out (bi, lesbian), Qwyrk Tales book 3: Chantz.

Qwyrk can’t get a break. Spring is springing, but she’s stuck breaking up drunken faery fights as Beltane approaches. She really wants to take things to the next level with her possibly-probably-girlfriend Holly, but she keeps coming down with a chronic case of chickening out.

And now, her best human friend, Jilly Pleeth, has had a rather odd encounter. While attending a concert by her favorite band, the Mystic Wedding Weasels, Jilly was amazed by their enigmatic singer, Chantz. There’s something downright magical about her voice, something so magical that an evil force from outside this world wants her for nefarious reasons. But will Chantz succumb to its lure?

Chantz is the third in a series of four novels about the comic misadventures of a group of misfits at the edge of normal reality in modern northern England, a world of shadows, Nighttime Nasties, eldritch screaming horrors, appalling neo-Shakespearean sonnets, undead corvids, an abundance of verbal sparring, and… Qwyrk is not an elf, all right? They’re just silly!

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

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Chantz meme - Tim Rayborn

After a few minutes of meandering on campus, she found a rather expansive and tree-filled enclosure marked by a sign reading “Welcome to St. George’s Field.” Seeing as she could lose herself in its trees, this place would suffice. Wandering in, she found herself strolling through a historic cemetery, which appealed to her gothy aesthetic sensibilities. She sat herself down on a stone bench not far from some centuries-old headstones and tried to focus, to think, to something.

She closed her eyes, trying to recall the feeling of the power flowing through her.

“What are you?” she whispered.

For a time, she felt nothing. Sighing in frustration, she opened her eyes. The field was mercifully unpopulated today, so she decided to risk singing a little tune, an old Irish folk song. She couldn’t remember where she’d learned it. She couldn’t remember much of anything before the last couple of years, to be honest. But there it was, stuck in her head, so she called on it.

It was a simple melody with a short verse and a chorus. She didn’t even know all the words, but that didn’t matter. She just sang the bit she knew over and over. It was soothing, comforting, and connected her to something, as if stirring a memory. She closed her eyes again, allowing it to wash over her. For the first time in a while, she formed a genuine smile. Not a big smile, mind you, she did have her reputation to think of, after all.

As she neared the third repeat, something happened. She heard a voice in her head, one that contrasted with her own. It was more like a momentary flash of sound, in a language she didn’t recognize. It didn’t make her stop singing; in fact, she wanted to continue. After she sang another verse or two, and she heard it again, like a call across some great gap. But was it far away in the distance? Or maybe in time?

How does that even make any sense?

Intrigued, she kept singing, but lowered her voice so as not to attract any onlookers. It would be just like someone to come up in the middle of it and ruin the whole experience, with their chattiness and insipid curiosity.

As it turned out, she was indeed interrupted, but not by any passersby who should have been minding their own business. In her mind’s eye, she saw a face. The face of an old woman. She had long, disheveled grey-streaked hair, and her complexion was wan and weathered, with dark shadows under her eyes. There was almost something cool about her. The face was obscured, as if peering through a fog, and Moirin couldn’t gauge its intent. She wasn’t imagining it; her imagination was good, but not this good. The woman opened her mouth as if to say something, but no words emerged, and if she were the one speaking those foreign words, Moirin wouldn’t have understood her, anyway.

The old woman smiled, but it was an odd smile, and not really a happy one, more like sinister grin. She seemed to want something from Moirin. The smile grew bigger and stretched to unnatural proportions. Her eyes began to lighten, not just the pupils, but the whole of her eyes, greying at first and then fading into a milky white.

Moirin’s heart raced. She stopped singing and gasped. Whatever this thing was, she wanted nothing to do with it. She tried to open her eyes, but they were heavy, almost as if she’d been drugged. Her ears seemed to close up, and the world around her disappeared. She shook her head and tried to stand up, but just like her eyes, her legs no longer worked. She started to panic and opened her mouth again, not to sing but to scream, shout for help, something. But no sound escaped.

The face sneered at her, perhaps enjoying her helplessness. It became ever more twisted and grotesque and opened its mouth again, almost in mockery of Moirin’s inability to do so. A low-pitched wailing sounded from the old woman, a mournful call that seemed to portend something awful. It rose in pitch and volume to a full-on cry, a tuneless and wordless plaint that sounded like something out of an older time. It shook Moirin to the core, but the more she heard it, the more it seemed to invite her, to draw her in, even to tempt her. Whatever the ill intent of this creature invading her mind, and however frightening its call, Moirin felt oddly at home. She began to surrender to its lure, to its awful and seductive pull.

Author Bio

Tim Rayborn

Tim Rayborn has written an astonishing number of books over the past several years. He lived in England for quite some time and has a PhD from the University of Leeds, which he likes to pretend means that he knows what he’s talking about. His generous output of written material covers topics such as music, the arts, history, the strange and bizarre, fantasy and sci-fi, and general knowledge.

He’s also an acclaimed musician. He plays dozens of unusual instruments that quite a few people of have never heard of and often can’t pronounce. He has appeared on over forty recordings, and his musical wanderings and tours have taken him across the US, all over Europe, to Canada and Australia, and to such romantic locations as Marrakech, Istanbul, Renaissance chateaux, medieval churches, and high school gymnasiums.

He currently lives in Washington state (where it rains a lot), surrounded by many books and instruments, as well as with a sometimes-demanding cat. He is rather enthusiastic about good wines, and cooking excellent food.

Author Website: https://timrayborn.com/

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

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

Author Mastodon: https://mastodon.social/@timrayborn

Author Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rayborn.esoterica/

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Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/stores/Tim-Rayborn/author/B00DWY5J8E

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Excerpt + Blog Tour: Echelon’s End Book One: Last Generation by E. Robert Dunn




There was a crowd milling around the entrance to the embarkation point’s airlock for the probeship Saarien. It was a farewell ceremony for the crew. 

The Spacecorps officers stood trim and fit in standard duty uniform dress: a close-fitting, full-length two-tone garment. Each one of the personnel’s uniforms consisted of black trousers, matching utility belt and ankle boots, and black tunics with a color-coded horizontal chest stripe for the appropriate branch. 

Piping of the branch color threaded through the black shoulder covering, rank insignia worn on the left collar; a chevron-fashioned intraship communicator pin occupied the right. With all the various personnel lined up to see the crew off, it looked as if the astronauts were passing through a rainbow of reds, oranges, yellows, greens, blues, golds, browns, and purples.

Each member of the Saarien team was photogenic and full of confidence, everyone’s image of spacefarers. Clasping forearms as they strolled down the featureless corridor, the eighteen astronauts’ hefted tote bags filled with their personal effects and went through the vestibule and into the lock. Beyond, they were shuttled from the interplanetary Orbiter 1 to the outer dock where the moored Saarien inside the lacy mooring filigree of the orbital station.

The bridge deck’s starboard airlock door slid slowly open with a distinct reassuring hiss. As one, the survey team stepped outside the probeship reception airlock into Deck 1’s assembly point. Each drew in a lungful of stale, yet pleasantly cooled air. Moving as one, the colonist ventured from the starboard vestibule down a short corridor and into the bridge’s Operations Wardroom; it bore the same clinical, featureless color scheme as the Orbiter 1: Aidennia

Even compared to the spacestation’s mission operations room, the bridge’s wardroom was a spacious two-tier sixteen-retemed high, by seventy-three-retemed long, by forty-four-retemed wide dome. Its gray-white curving walls were alighted with colorful data holo-displays. 

Dozens of three-dimensional maps, charts, and graphs tracked the streams of information that moved in and out of Saarien from every point in the sector and many places beyond. The clean lines of its architecture could not conceal the fact that it bristled with the most advanced technology Spacecorps had to offer. 

Saarien was equipped with a mission-ready bridge and shipwide systems control. Instrument and computer stations ranked for science officers, propulsion systems engineers, emergency manual override, and environmental systems. There were swivel chairs for every workstation around the bridge operation pit’s perimeter and the quarterdeck. 

On the main floor of the bridge were contained the typical complement of control stations, with the addition of a small main floor area at the bridge’s aft with an integral master situation monitor and conference table with surrounding overhead monitors and computing hardware that would allow the crew to study and plan strategies and tactics during reduced action periods. Engineering and science stations had been included and had dedicated data network lines to the main computer and critical systems, both were vital to the operation of the probeship should a battle ensue. 

In the bridge’s forward section was another opened isolation hatch, it framed the interior of the command section where the flight control (conn) and flight operations (ops) consoles with their contoured flight chairs were set immediately in front of the bridge’s main viewscreen. 


Commander Capel Perezsire had seen the bridge before, but even now, he could not restrain letting out a long, slow breath of appreciation. He supposed he would get used to it, too; but he hoped he would never lose the proud lift of his heart that he had felt when he had first stepped onto the bridge so many months ago during its final shakedown; the same rush he was experiencing now as he moved into the nerve center with the others. 

Captain Cellini, a male Dorian descended from Aidennian stock, allowed himself to feel a measure of satisfaction in his ship and his crew as he spotted the approaching science team, absently smoothing his dark mustache with thumb and forefinger. With a few confident strides, he exited the command section and entered the bridge’s main area. 

He had belief that all aboard would perform admirably under his command; he was the type of person who rubbed his hands together when he was about to dive into something — a debate, a good meal, a prickly scientific hypothesis. He did everything with a certain gusto.  With his free hand, he held a data imager — a wafer-thin hand-held pad that had a flat view screen with blue-lettered captions scrolling. 

Glancing at it, he resumed his review of personnel profiles — most of the information he knew from memory — having reviewed the inventory of the personnel under his charge since the moment they assembled. All of them Non-Echelon breeding stock, most of them were adults, with a complement of offspring — the majority post-pubescent/pre-ka-telan.  

Ah, he thought winsomely, that time in life in which an individual has arrived just past puberty and just before the state in an individual’s development when he or she is physically/emotionally/spiritually capable of sexual pre-determination awareness. He stifled a chuckle behind another thought, Ah; the hormone rush will be unbearable once we get to Mira IV!  Thank the Oversoul I am Echelon and stationed here onboard Saarien and not planetside!   

Cellini, arms now behind his back, stared levelly at the tableau, and then his gaze flickered to his second-in-command. The captain smiled faintly as one of the scientists caught the attention of his first officer. He recognized the young male from the roster; he was memorable because his pre-mission scans were very inconclusive to his predicted ka-tela orientation.  Ah, the politics of Space exploration, Cellini mused.

Last Generation - E. Robert Dunn

E. Robert Dunn has a new queer sci-fi book out, Echelon’s End book one: Last Generation.

The year is 6752, A.T. and Earth is but a memory to its space faring descendents. The urbane beings of The System embark on a test-colonization mission to a far off solar group called Mira. The AST [Aidennia-System Transport] Saarien’s flight path is ended abruptly and the colonizing supership explodes under a hail from Tauron Starhounds; a century of peace with the Tauron Empire is fractured. Six Aidennian survivors jettison in a terra-forming conestoga Pioneer Pod.

Now, a young male echelon couple and their fellow crewmembers must deal with a reality in which their peaceful existence is shattered by war and prejudice. The only solace appears in the form of an unknown, arid planet in a ternary star group.

Upon the Pioneer Pod Four’s descent into the planet’s atmosphere, a defense planetary shield is activated and causes the Pod 4 to crash land in an ancient, dried-up seabed. This sets the Aidennians on a jarring adventure where survival is a game of chance with the life forces of the Universe.

Warnings: There are adult (sexual) references and interaction in several of the books.

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A tranquil sphere hung in Space under a white cloud.

“I don’t know why,” Medical Commander Dara Lidasiress muttered to herself out loud, “but I have a bad feeling about all of this.”

From a vantage point some four hundred kiloretems above, Dara was watching it beyond the thick syntheglass of an observation viewport; the sight was dizzying, fascinating. The cloud‑shrouded planet Aidennia. It seemed to lie almost in the trajectory of the Orbiter 1: Aidennia Station. The light of a strong, middle‑aged sun cataloged as Pintarus 19 fell on the cloud.

“Count now stands at minus zero two nodes and thirty-two, and counting,” the station controller announced over the station PA. “All networks are green and go.”

Dara smiled nervously, distracting herself by the vista beyond and beneath her view. “Calm yourself,” she said aloud. “Feeling anxious is normal and natural. It is part of the system that evolved to keep us safe and well.” She took a deep breath. Being the only one in the observation lounge, she felt somewhat silly being self-conscious about her anxiousness. “Come on. Give it a chance.”

There was still plenty of time before she would be called. Dara shifted her attention and the room seemed to slip away, walls became gossamer and ethereal.

She was suddenly thinking of other times, and other places…

The public address net hummed again, then the controller was back with another update. “Minus zero two nodes and fifteen and counting. Technicians, complete final checkouts.”

Dara’s attention refocused as her peripheral view caught a glimpse of her reflection coming off the window. A tall, powerful slender, fine-boned figure, with high cheekbones and penetrating chocolate eyes that gave a look of great delicacy founded in extraordinary resiliency framed by a neatly cropped mane told that she was no shallow youth, but a fully mature adult.

Saying good‑bye had not been easy, especially to her elder sibling, Aspera. A sadness that had kept a small place in her heart now pulsed as Dara viewed Aidennia below.

“Medical Commander,” an unexpected, disembodied page intoned over the still airwaves.


There’s a planet to orbit call coming through for you.”

“Fine. I will take it here.”

The stylized blue-and-white ovals of the Spacecorps logo flashed holographically off a communication set. A dark-haired female holograph, an avatar of the real person making the summons, coalesced into view. The similarities between the two females were undeniable. Broad smiling features caused Dara’s voice to fill with emotion, her features melting into sudden recognition.

“Aspera!” Dara gasped, excitedly.

“I know your life is anything but normal right now, but I just had to say one last farewell.”

Feelings of euphoria swept repeatedly over Dara as she spoke without turning her eyes from the miniaturized figure on the holo-emitter. “I welcome any communication from you.”

“How are you doing?”


The female holograph laughed warmly, flashing a set of perfectly formed white teeth. The sound fell on ears that were eager to hear such a resonance.

“You would not be you without being that.” Aspera smiled. “You have much responsibility on your shoulders being peret of the vanguard for generations of clans to come. The first settlers on a new world where unlimited food and water will be the birthright for all…”

“You’re quoting incentive simulations.”

“Well, it is true. Regardless of the stature you have been elevated to by Spacecorps,” her smile broadened more. “You will always be my little sister.”

“A title I will always be proud to have…”

Dara was cut off as another controller announcement echoed throughout the towering launch apparatus.

“This is Spacecorps Launch Control,” he said. “Complete close-out preparations. Check command-apse switch configurations. Complete inertial measurement unit preflight alignments. Transition onboard computers to launch configuration. Start fuel cell thermal conditioning. Close vent valves. Transition backup flight system to launch configuration.’

“Sounds busy up there,” Aspera mused, undeterred.

Dara nodded. “Never-ending.”

“Are you alone?”


“Where are the others?”

“Capel’s attending a mission commanders final briefing. The children are completing their concluding physicals with the other Pod crews, so I am just…”

“Seeking some solace before the launch.”

“You know me too well.”

Aspera hesitated, wanting to be near her sister, to soothe, to remind, to strengthen familial bonds. Another female would, perhaps, have flushed a little, she did not. Her face grew urgent. Meeting her younger sibling’s eyes, she said, steadily, “Then I best let you get to it.” She paused, more from emotion than for dramatic effect; she fought back sudden tears. Finally, she added, “Always know you are loved.”


There was another hesitation. A non-verbal exchange. The secret language between siblings.

“Are you more at peace with your decision?” Aspera asked.

“About the children?”

Aspera simply nodded.

“Capel and I have lived a good part of our lives,” Dara waxed. “The children are just starting out. If someone should be apart of this colonization effort, it should be Capel and me…”

“Do you remember when you were discussing your plans for the space flight? You could not decide whether you had the right to bring Moela, Retho, and Lunon along.”

“Yes. I remember.”

“Do you regret your decision?”

“You want the truth?”

“The truth.”

“Well, not knowing how long we can last out there…” Dara stifled a sob. “They deserve something more than that.”

“Having them with you …Is that what you want?”

“Yes.” Dara regained her composure, adding, “I suppose so.”

“They are degreed and qualified.”

The two siblings gazed at each other. Dara closed her eyes to show how she felt. Their bodies yearned across the void to reach each other, but they remained motionless. Aspera clenched her teeth.

“Until we meet again.”

Dara drew in her breath. Her voice was cracked with emotion as she replied, “Until then.”

Aspera sighed as she and her smile disappeared.

Author Bio

E. Robert Dunn

Born in the Midwest, raised in the Northeast, E. Robert Dunn began writing at the age of 14 and continued through his higher education in the Southeast where he currently resides. In addition to penning the science fiction series “Echelon’s End”, E. Robert has also written two off-Broadway plays, “LipSync” and “A Dragged Out Haunting”, and solo-penned the short-play entitled “VOiCES”. Additional works include, “The World We Live In”, The Life Of Another”, and “Are You Happy?”.

Robert was a contributing writer to the online STAR TREK: Odyssey’s Season One Finale webisode [featured in STARLOG Magazine, January 2008, “Beyond Hidden Frontiers”, p.89]. E. Robert has become a regular at SuperCon events on panels and participating in book signings/readings.

Besides being a produced playwright and published author, E. Robert has had articles printed in local newspapers as well as medical newsletters. He has also graced many a stage by his given name: Eston Dunn. He is the founder of the nonprofit organization artsUnited, Inc. A recent project is founding another non-profit online webcasting charity to educate while entertain through programs that unite those that are separated by the walls of stereotyping, prejudice, and bigotry (www.watchoutweb.org).

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

Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/e.robert.dunn

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Author Mastadon: @erobertdunn@masto.ai

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