The door closed behind them, shutting off the bar's karaoke racket, the sudden silence startling. Mat walked down the sidewalk without touching Kasper.
Mat hated that he'd ruined their night. It was a heartfelt moment out of a romantic movie, and he'd screwed it up by getting distracted over something that shouldn't matter.
"I'm sorry," Mat said.
"For what?" Kasper unlocked the car.
"I didn't handle that very well." Mat nodded back toward the bar.
"I think that was my fault. We're not really at the love song phase. I was so into performing, I didn't think."
"It wasn't the song. It was me." Mat took Kasper's hand. "I should have been flattered that a man
I really like was singing to me about how he feels, but I was too busy thinking about other stuff."
"Like how a guy with a collection of gold records was on stage performing a song meant just for me and how that instantly made me the coolest person in the room. One public performance, and it all went to my head."
The smile started as a twitch in his lips and grew to a grin, melting Kasper's knotted expression.
"Is that why you're upset?"
"That I've spent all this time telling myself your fame doesn't matter, and the first chance I have to prove it, I focus on nothing but that? Yes. I'm upset. What if I've been lying to myself — to you this whole time?"
"You're being too hard on yourself." Kasper caressed Mat's cheek with the back of his fingers.
"Trust me. You haven't lied to either of us."
"How do you know that? I don't even know that anymore." He tried to slide his hand from Kasper's.
Kasper held on to him. "Because I know how it looks when all someone wants from me is bragging rights. This was my fault. I was showing off. I made a public display of what I feel for you. What I should have done was hold you close," Kasper wrapped an arm around his back and pulled Mat against him, "taken advantage of the dance floor," Kasper held their tangle of fingers to his own chest, "and sung it in your ear." Kasper danced with him there on the sidewalk.
Kasper crooned the chorus to him again, quiet and low. This time when he melted, there was no self-absorbed burst of frivolous pride to mangle it. Eyes closed, he heard footsteps pass nearby and ignored them. That was their moment. It had nothing to do with anyone else.
Kasper punctuated the song's last word with a kiss to Mat's ear, humming the final few notes.
Mat couldn't help smiling.
"Better?" Kasper asked, his voice still low.
Mat shook off the apology. "Me, too." He rested his chin on Kasper's shoulder. "What happened to us not being at the love song phase?"
"I guess we are, after all."
Tuesday, February 14, 2023
Cover Reveal Let It Rein by DP Denman #MMRomance
Monday, February 6, 2023
Author Interview - Titanian Warrior by Victoria Saccenti
Shivalik Hills, Nepal
The towering pair of boulders stood as gatekeepers and markers of the way. A steep path snaked between them until farther down the hill, the road disappeared in thick fog. Leaning on the closest rock, Hagen steadied himself to catch his breath, then pushed on.
Bloodlust crippled his Titanian vision. Still, he stumbled, rolled, and crawled over jagged rocks and gnarled roots with single-minded determination to reach his appointed meeting place, the cavern at the base of the Shivaliks, and the sole entrance to Hades’s domain on the earthly plane. A perverse satisfaction filled him each time he scraped and sliced his exposed skin, as this was only a precursor to the punishment he deserved. If he could shred his flesh to strips in anticipation as he had done with his clothes, so much the better.
Hagen advanced through the haze, seeking the deity’s promised signal. Images of his frenzy during the last skirmish prodded him. He strained past gore-filled images, and the effort paid off. There, deep within the haze, a faint red light marked the spot. Alecto had not forgotten. A hitched breath escaped his lungs as he stood and trod on a more secure step.
As the haze dissipated, the cavern’s hungry mouth gaped before him. Healing and deliverance acquired through pain would soon be his. As he inched closer to the wavering light, he removed the last remaining strips of clothing. The offering had to be bare and unadulterated. Nothing but skin would satisfy the Fury, purify his spirit, and postpone the horror of termination for another ten years—a mere blip in the lifespan of a Titanian. And yet, a decade offered hope and an opportunity to continue his search for true salvation: his eternal mate.
His brother Soren had been at the edge of obliteration when the universe revealed Maya’s symbol in his scrolls. He’d been given a Simurgh, no less, the most powerful of all phoenix mates. Soren’s joy and deliverance had pleased Hagen without reservation or a covetous thought. His brother had earned such a high reward.
But what about him? Was he unworthy of an eternal mate, of love, and companionship? He’d only wished for a small slice of heaven. His cousin Roald had found eternal happiness with Ginny. Staring at an endless existence of service and loneliness was a frightening prospect for a Titanian of any rank.
Hagen could never be the brilliant fighter Soren was, and had, on occasion, not followed every command to the letter. Nevertheless, he’d proven his mettle and unwavering loyalty to the Titanian cause in and out of combat. Many a night, he’d promised to change his unorthodox ways and toe the line, if only the universe would grant him a phoenix mate.
Alas no, he’d been denied time and again. After witnessing from the sidelines the mating ceremony and resulting Titanian bliss, frustration burned a hole in his chest. Before the emotion turned to bitterness, he’d escaped to his old daemon hunting grounds in Asia.
On his flight back, he realized that his cherished airplane and state-of-the-art electronic gadgets no longer satisfied or entertained him. Even that last bit of gratification had been taken from him. Because seeing happiness unfold for Soren and Roald had displayed in real time what mattered: the completion a mate brought to a Titanian’s soul. The beaming couples had stepped up onto a new plane of existence. After witnessing their ascendance, no fancy equipment could ever fulfill him.
The hole in his chest turned black and cold.
Blood hunger, the deadly lust, awoke.
Visions tortured him. Rage drove him to living nightmares. He searched for minion hideouts and sought conflict at every turn. In the heat of these encounters, bloodlust blinded him to allies and friends who’d trusted him with their lives. Asian black bear and clouded leopard shifters had perished under his hands. While his bewildered, dying friends pleaded for their lives, he’d only seen minions. The red haze controlled him, and he’d indulged the insatiable hunger to spill all blood.The last clash had been the worst. Standing on a promontory, Hagen viewed an endless battlefield stained with red blood, green ooze, and mutilated remains. And as the mental fog cleared, horror captured his soul and he fell on his knees, begging the universe for help.The chthonic deity, the implacable Alecto, heard and replied in his mind.
“Await my arrival at the place of atonement.”
Explanations had not been necessary. Hagen’s Titanian spirit, same as every supernatural in the earthly plane, knew the location of the terrible gate. In eras past, he’d avoided going near it. Now, stripped to his natural state, defeated and humbled, he entered the darkness with a bowed head and an anxious demeanor.
To his right, four stonelike posts, spread in a rectangular formation, jutted out of the rock wall. Hagen studied them, unsure of what to do.
“Step in. Face out and clasp the posts. Place your ankles outside each one,” the Fury instructed.
“Receive and accept the pain, Titanian. Do not flinch or resist. Show your contrition. Only then will the universe accept your offering.”
Ten of the Most Important Lessons Donald Firesmith Has Learned as an Author
MY NAME IS PAUL CHAPMAN. When I was just fifteen years old, a band of demonic aliens murdered my father and captured my mother, sister, and me. These vicious creatures — the source of humanity’s myths of devils, imps, and hellhounds — took us through a hidden portal to Hell, the nearest planet to Earth in their vast empire. I spent the next twenty-three years there as their slave.
I was rescued during the Armageddon War and became the only captive human to ever escape from Hell. Over the following months, members of the US military and various specialists spent countless hours interviewing and debriefing me to learn everything I knew about Hell and the demons. They provided a therapist to help me recover from my horrendous experiences and adjust to my new life back on Earth. She recommended I document my life as a slave. This book is my story: the autobiography of my life as a slave on Hell.
The Hunt-Chapter 1
MY PARENTS, Robert and Mary Chapman, met while first-year students at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. He studied wildlife biology while she studied anthropology, concentrating her studies on the history and culture of the native Inuit. Although they had grown up in the Lower 48, they fell in love with Alaska and decided to remain after graduating.
Dad had hoped to obtain a job as a wildlife biologist, but such jobs were rare and paid little. Mom hadan even harder time finding suitable work. So, when my maternal grandfather died two years later, my parents decided to use her modest inheritance to buy a dry cabin and live a subsistence lifestyle. They would hunt caribou and moose, trap small game for furs and food, and fish for salmon during spawning season.
Mom and Dad eventually bought a cabin on the north shore of the Kobuk River. Only seven miles upstream of the tiny town of Kobuk, the house was close enough to make buying provisions easy. The town’s simple landing strip also made visiting relatives practical and would enable evacuation in case of a medical emergency.
Miles from their nearest neighbors, the cabin was also isolated enough to offer all the seclusion a family could ever want. Nestled between the nearby river and the Brooks Range a few miles to the north, my parents had found the home of their dreams.
My twin sister, Sarah, and I were born a few years later, and we grew up in some of the most beautiful land imaginable. The chores were many, the work was hard, but the rewards of freedom and the wilderness’s majesty made the hardships well worthwhile. I loved the life and couldn’t imagine ever leaving it.
This story begins when Sarah and I were fifteen. It was early August, and the Chinook salmon were running up the river to spawn. After breakfast, Mom and Sarah were going fishing. Dad and I had built a fish wheel, an ingenious tool that automatically catches the salmon. An underwater fence forces some of the fish towards the wheel that the river’s current turns. Baskets attached to the wheel’s rim scoop up the fish and dump them into a box. Mom and Sarah were going to carry the salmon back to the cabin, clean them, and hang them up over a fire in our smokehouse. Their work would ensure we would have plenty of smoked salmon to eat during the long Alaskan winter.
While they were fishing, Dad and I would hunt moose and check our traps for small game. We took our rifles and headed upriver away from town. We left our dog, Sergeant, behind so her barking would warn Mom and Sarah of any bear that might be attracted by the smell of our fish.
We started by checking our traps, but they were empty. Not a single one had been tripped. And we didn’t spot any small game even though we didn’t talk, and we walked carefully to avoid making any unnecessary noise.
When it was nearing lunchtime, we turned around and headed back to our cabin. This time, instead of following the river trail, we hiked up towards the nearby mountains forming the southern edge of the Brooks Range. As before, the area seemed completely devoid of animal life, which was pretty unusual. We’d typically see something, even if it was too far away or on the far side of the river.
About halfway home, we spotted the remains of a bull moose that had been recently killed.
Because the bears were busy with the salmon, we initially thought it had been brought down by wolves. But it wasn’t. Enormous chunks of flesh had been removed in single bites, and the bites’ edges were too clean to have been made by wolves or bears.
It was strange that we couldn’t identify the tracks in the soft ground around the carcass. There were many large and small hoof prints, but they were shorter and rounder than moose and elk tracks.
Stranger still were the giant paw prints from the carnivore that had brought down the moose.
Easily twice the length of wolf prints, they had only three toes, and the separate claw marks were much longer than wolf or even bear claws. Dad, the biologist, was stumped. The prints didn’t seem to belong to any Alaskan wild animal or to any animal for that matter. The only tracks he could think of that were even somewhat similar were those of ostriches, emus, and cassowaries.
But the claw marks were too short for ostrich and emu tracks, and the cassowary only has one claw that long, not three.
“Dad, how about a really big dog?” I asked. “Maybe a Newfoundland had lost a toe.”
Dad shook his head. “Can’t be. See how the toes are arranged symmetrically? And besides, why would a dog have the same toe removed on each paw?”
“What about a dinosaur?” I suggested jokingly.
Dad actually considered it for a second before answering, “You know, it does look a little like a theropod footprint. It might have been a reasonable hypothesis if it weren’t for the little fact they’re all extinct except for the birds. No, this has to be a hoax. Someone’s trying to start a rumor about a strange beast roaming the Alaskan wilderness. Probably wants to draw tourists hoping to catch sight of the mythological creature.”
“But Dad, what about the bite marks?”
“My guess is that they used a curved knife to make them. Still, whoever did it did a good job.
They had me going for a bit. Come on, let’s head home and tell the girls about our mysterious find.”
So, we hiked back to the cabin and had lunch with Mom and Sarah. They told us about the baskets of fish they had caught and cleaned. We told them about the moose kill we’d stumbled on, the strange tracks, and the huge bite marks. Mom agreed with Dad that it wouldprobably turn out to be a hoax, but Sarah wasn’t sure what to think.
After lunch, Dad and I headed out again to see if we’d have any better luck hunting. We didn’t.
The animals, both big and small, were still missing, and we were once more forced to come back empty-handed. I did, however, carry my camera with me and took some pictures of our find. For a laugh, I figured I would upload them onto Facebook the next time I was back in town where I could get internet service.
Wednesday, February 1, 2023
Character Interview with Kinsley Morales from Sight Beyond the Sun by Melody Johnson #SciFiRomance
Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/5Be6x31jUgs
Meet the Author: https://youtu.be/hHQh7-MVEN0
Raveno Hoviir didn’t suffer incompetence. He didn’t suffer anything without consequence, a policy his crew was testing time and again lately and without any perceivable sign of becoming more competent. His reputation, carefully cultivated over a long and brutal career, was usually incentive enough to inspire obedience. He couldn’t let that reputation crack, not for anything: not for his morals as he punished decent soldiers for mistakes that didn’t warrant such severity; not for his soul as he led abominable missions to maintain alliances with Bazail, Iroan, and Fray; not for his body as he’d gone to unmatched extremes to prove his loyalty to Cilvril s’Hvri Josairo.
He played the villain in service to his people, a role as necessary as it was revolting.
During Josairo’s early reign as Cilvril s’Hvri, the killing hand of Havar, he’d been the strength and armor their planet had needed to survive what historians now referred to as the War of Wrath’s Will. After bolstering their military forces and gaining the autonomy to wield them as he deemed necessary, Josairo achieved what four previous Cilvrili s’Hvri had died failing to accomplish: He’d secured Havar’s independence from her sister planet, Haven, and ended years of oppression and tyranny.
Or so the historians claimed and the schools taught. Based on Raveno’s first-hand experience, he often wondered if Josairo hadn’t simply murdered historians until he’d found one willing rewrite the war to his liking.
Nevertheless, however he’d managed to wrest unilateral control of their military and judicial systems, Josairo’s unmatched combat skills ensured he kept it, even as he modified their fleet of luxury destination ships into prison transport vessels. Even as he ordered the abduction and trafficking of innocent, sentient people. Even as the peace and prosperity he’d supposedly achieved following their victory against Haven soured into fear-filled obedience. In earning their independence, the havari had traded a foreign tyrant for a domestic one, and every warrior brave enough to challenge Josairo to a frisaes and legally end his rule had thus far lost.
When Raveno ended his rule, it wouldn’t be legal. But he would win.
Until then, the weight of Raveno’s sins were his to bear or be crushed by. Which made confronting the horrific results of his own undercover operation insufferable, knowing his reputation would demand he deliver swift and harsh punishment when faced with his crew’s greatest incompetence to date: a human outside her room and tampering with the equipment in their control room, of all places.
Dellao and Tironan were asleep in their seats, and the woman, cry mercy, the woman was fierce as only a mother could be, all snapping eyes and straining muscles. Some people withered from the poison of oppression, but not her. She seemed fueled by it. She gritted her square teeth with determination. Her soft cheeks flushed a deep crimson from her efforts, and her scent—Raveno sealed shut his nostrils, cutting short that disturbing thought before it could fully form.
“Who do you work for?” Thev sa shek, a traitor on board Sa Vivsheth was the last thing he needed.
Her jaw fell slack. “Y-y-you speak English?”
“Obviously.” His English was rusty and not quite as good as his Mandarin, but still good enough for interrogation. “Who sent you?”
“I think we got off on the wrong foot.” She licked her lips, and deep indents on the corners of her mouth dipped into her cheeks. “My name is Kinsley Morales, but my friends call me Switch.”
He stared at her a moment. Had she just introduced herself? Didn’t she realize she was being interrogated? To death, if she didn’t cooperate.
Please, just cooperate.
“My mother named me after my paternal grandmother. An ‘apology’ name, I always said, because she’d named my sister in honor of her mother, which caused quite a stir on my father’s side of the family. But everyone’s ruffled feathers settled after she named me. The only time my presence had settled anyone’s feathers.” She ran out of air and inhaled a deep, trembling breath.
“What’s your name?”
Ah, he might have believed her composure if not for that tremble. She knew her predicament precisely and was attempting to save herself by appealing to his compassion.
The man he’d become to overthrow Josairo couldn’t afford compassion. “Did my brother recruit you with the promise of freedom? What are your orders?”
The woman flinched. A pained whine escaped her clenched teeth.
Svik, was he hurting her? Raveno loosened his hold, just in case. It might come to that, but not now and certainly not by mistake.
Yet, even beaten down, in pain, and defeated, the gleam of calculation sharpened the woman’s gaze.
Strong in mind if not in body, he thought warily, knowing the terrible efforts it took to break the strong of will. His own physical wound had long since healed, but the muscles of his residual limb often pained him as if his left calf still remained, twisted foot and all.
“Must I repeat the question?” he asked. If not Tironan, someone on board had released her.
The furry tuft above her right eye lifted. “How should I know if I know your brother if I don’t even know you?”
Ha! Fine. He spoke his full name and rank for her in traditional Hvrsil, just for the pleasure of matching her obstinacy with his.
“I…I’m not sure I can pronounce that,” she admitted.
“Considering the deficiencies in the form and function of your tongue, I expect not.”
She narrowed her eyes, clearly unsure if she should be insulted. “Do you have a nickname too? Something less, er, taxing on the vocal cords?”
“What do your friends call you?” she tried.
“I have no friends.”
“Something I can call you while I beg for mercy, then,” she snapped.
A laugh overtook him at that, as swift, unwanted, and jarring as a seizure. Oh, this woman was a little firework: all sparks and fierce light wedging lethally beneath his scales.
“When you beg for mercy, you may call me by the modern Haveo version of my name,” he relented. “Raveno Hoviir.”
“A pleasure to meet you, Raveno Hoviir.”
He was certain it wasn’t.