Saturday, August 18, 2018

Excerpt & Giveaway: Unscrewed by Ren Alexander


Unscrewed
Ren Alexander
Publication date: August 14th 2018
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Greg Rodwell.
The myth, the man, the legend.
Yeah. I’m none of that crap.
Okay. I’m a man. There’s that much.
Almost everyone calls me Rod, whether I like it or not. I’m the guy others look to for a laugh, a dirty joke, a distraction—the office clown. Even my best friend, Hadley, laughs.
It’s just that, I’m not always laughing. Not even on the inside. Nobody knows the real Greg or the agony I hide with humor. My recently dead sister had a clue, but she’s in no position to blab. I screwed up big time—then and now—but it’s all my undoing. Through everything, Hadley’s been my cure and my curse. And I fell in love with my married best friend. But she wasn’t always married, and I wasn’t always broken.
I had a millisecond of a chance, but I blew it, siding with morality. What guy does that? And sailing that sinking ship all the way down, I sacrificed my wants for her needs. Doing that, I fathered a kid with the office trouser troll. Stupid? Hell to the yes. Because now, regardless of the grand total, I want something I can’t have. Integrity and my sanity be damned.
But nobody, especially Hadley, can know the real Greg Rodwell, my tortured soul, my unashamed love, or my darkest truth, because it wouldn’t just blow her mind.
It would rock our damn world.
EXCERPT:
Do Jewish vampires avoid the Star of David?
Does killing time damage eternity?
Do you need a silencer if you shoot a mime?
Can a hearse carrying a corpse drive in the carpool lane?
If a person dies and then rises from the dead, do they get a refund for the coffin?
“Did you fall in?”
Widening my eyes at the piss-colored wall tile, I restlessly sigh, dramatizing my annoyance. Can I not get a moment of fucking peace around here? It’s the only place I’m able to ponder life.
“Just taking a piss break, Amos.”
“Could you at least give a courtesy flush?” The fucker laughs, and it echoes midstream while I throw him a middle finger from behind the door. Without seeing him, I know he’s checking out his bald reflection in the mirror, blinding the room.
“I’ll get right on top of that,” I reply like a dial tone as I near the finish line, imagining I’m pissing on his face. He’d probably like that shit, though.
“You know, there are urinals in here.” His pompous voice reverbs, giving me a double dose of his assholery.
“Oh. I thought they were snooty sinks.” I yawn as my actions also echo within the stall. Jackwad.
“Don’t be playing around in there. I need a face-to-face after lunch, so make sure I don’t see more than your face and zip your pants.” He just wants to think of me holding my dick. Perv.
On the third shake, I qualify for playing with myself as I check my watch at the same time. I don’t want to see him when I leave this stall. I guess it’s time for the big guns, so to speak.
Rolling my eyes, I moan—not my greatest moment—and noisily suck air between my teeth, praying to God nobody else walks in right now. With a loud, stuttered sigh, I give the fourth shake, grinning to myself. I hear his jaw, and his disbelief hit the sink. Don’t fuck with me, comrade. You’re no match for me.
Amos mutters, “Okay. Okay. Just stop. I was only kidding. I’m leaving. My office in 30.”
“Yes, Obi-None.”
Because Amos Vaughn is so transparent, I know he’s squinting his eyes at me from the other side of the door, unsure of how to respond. Lacking comeback skills, he heaves his brawny body into the door, at the mercy of my patience. “It’s 29 minutes now, Rod.”
Rod. Yeah. That’s me. I used to be just Greg Rodwell. A nickname given to me by a former coworker troll has transcended even her tenure here. Now, most of my coworkers and my godforsaken boss call me it. Though, that’s the tamest version of names the bitchtress used to call me, giving that my middle name is Richard. Draw your own conclusions. Sometimes I’m still Greg at work, but not often and only by a select few. I’ll never escape Rod while working here. I’ve accepted it. I just hate the source.
I’ve also accepted that I’m the office clown, making everyone laugh. In reality, I should be a goddamn marvel for the services I provide since most of my coworkers are garbage humans. I’ve crafted my distance, deflecting with my carefully sculpted wit, aged to perfection in oak barrels for nearly 29 years—an undiluted, rye wit, you could say. That’s my superpower. Fuck me. I need a job at a distillery.
Tucking myself and my shirt back into my pants, I kick at the handle. Emerging from the stall as I buckle my belt, the sound of the flushing toilet swirls the Amos-free room just as Crick Scanlon enters. I instantly grin. With his Caesar haircut, circa George Clooney 1996, this particular coworker is a favorite of mine. Maybe it’s because he’s the Arctic opposite and doesn’t outwit, allowing me to polish my skills. To those who don’t know him, he has a wallpaper-paste personality. That’s their loss. Because of his eerie quietness and formalness, his rare laughter is a goldmine. He takes anything I lob at him. Crick is the coloring book to my bucket of crayons. I aim to shock the hell out of him, making him laugh or gape in horror, which, coincidentally, is how my mother often looks at me on any given day. “Hey, Crock. Get fucked last night?”
His face reddens faster than a novice ass at a BDSM club. He looks at the wall with an expression like I just kicked him in the liver. “Uh, no. Um…you?”
My grin doesn’t falter even as I go for a depressing lie. “You know it. All night. Every night.” He’s a decent-looking guy. He could probably find a date if he tried. I’m pretty sure he’s gay like Amos, not that they’re dating each other. That would be fucking disturbing. Crick deserves way better. Not Amos Vaughn. He’s a sick fuck.
Crick makes an effort to not look at me. I dig his awkwardness, so I grab a bigger shovel. “If you’re like me, I bet you’re a beast in the sack.” When he looks at my hands working my buckle, I tease, “I’m not doing no replay of last night for you.” He swallows loud, gaping at me. Bingo. “Just yanking your chain, Crack. Calm down.” I laugh when he looks at the ceiling, still quiet. “Maybe I can help you find a date. What’s your type?”
“I’m not really into dating right now.”
Finished with my belt, I go for the sink. While washing my hands, I watch Crick scratching his arm through an unnecessary sweater for the early October weather. “Come on now. I know a sex fiend is hiding beneath that submissive exterior.” Images of him being collared at one of those clubs make me flinch at my own reflection.
He shrugs as I catch a surprising quirk of his lip in the mirror. “I’m boring, Greg. I don’t have much luck as you do, especially with a certain coworker.” Goddamn it. Don’t say her name.
The sudsy water swirling in the sink temporarily enthralls me, so I don’t have to see either of our expressions. “Uh… She’s… We’re—”
“Shasta?”
Looking up at the mirror, I glare at both of us. Shit. Joke’s on me.
Shasta. Enough said.
Actually, no. I have plenty I want to say about that meat sock. I wish I could blame Shasta for what we did, but I was the one who went to her. It was a last-ditch effort to forget my life for the night. And shit did I do things with Shasta I’m not proud of, not that I wouldn’t do them again. Just not with her. And thanks to a busted condom, I’m glued to her. Enjoy that mental image.
Grabbing a paper towel, my smile shrinks faster than my dick earlier, feigning jerking off for Amos. “Never.”
“Well, Greg, I mean, you do have a daughter with her.”
Shooting my wad—not that kind—into the trash, I try to laugh, but I’m still caught off guard by his unusual commentary. “No. Yeah. I meant, never again, not even if hell froze over, melted, caught fire, and then froze again. Damn, Crick. You know how to destroy a guy’s day.”
He clears his throat as he inches toward a urinal. “I didn’t intend to. I’m sorry. I thought since you were joking around, I needed to engage.”
“Jesus Christ. What a day for you to grow a vagina.”
I return to the mirror, adjusting the Windsor knot of my Storm Trooper tie while he says, “Um, right. Well…” Through the mirror I see him staring at the urinal, and I’m half expecting him to start singing In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel. I never said he wasn’t peculiar.
I snort. “You need a bathroom pass or an engraved invitation?”
He slightly smiles. I’ll take that as a win. “No. I was just…”
“I’m just busting your balls.” Crick looks away from me, and I feel super awkward now for saying that. “Uh, right. Anyway, enjoy. Not too much. There’re some sick bastards working here.” Why can’t I just shut the fuck up? As I leave, I hear his quiet laugh. There’s that, at least.
When I reach the hallway, I’m ticked for now thinking of Shasta. I guess talking to Crick does have its drawbacks.
Taking a left, I steer clear of my office since it’s attached to Amos’. I’m not ready for that follicle-challenged psycho again yet.
Approaching the open door, I hear a familiar voice. Stopping in the doorway and leaning against the frame, I straighten my tie and cross my arms.
She looks my way with a bright smile as she talks. I don’t know how she does it, but I grin back at her. It’s a requirement.
Hadley.
My favorite person.
Well, I guess next to my infant daughter and my older sister, Eden, but to be fair, my daughter is new in town, and my sister is dead.
I watch Hadley move as she talks. I’m always watching her.
Hadley and I have been BFFs since I started working as a paralegal at the law offices of Rhodes, Dryden, Charleton & Associates over three years ago. Only that long? It feels like I’ve been rotting here for a century and a half.
Hadley turns her attention back to her computer screen as she nods. Her honey-brown ponytail dances along while I stare, and I can’t help but do that, even though I have no right. When she laughs, my gaze drops to her bouncing tits, larger than they used to be only months ago. Her left hand goes to her chest, and her sapphire and diamond rings catch the overhead light, blinding me while reminding me. I didn’t give her those rings, but I may as well have with the lengths I went to get them on her finger.


Author Bio:
Ren Alexander was born in Wheeling, West Virginia. She graduated from West Liberty University, where she received a B.S. in criminal justice. Although interested in that field, her true passion was reading and writing. She currently lives in Detroit, Michigan with her husband, two daughters, and two cats.
Ren's novel, "The Keys to Jericho," was chosen as an "Official Selection" in the Romance category of Apple Literary's 2017 Annual Book Awards.





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Friday, August 17, 2018

Guest Post & Giveaway: Torn by Mia Kerick


Torn
Mia Kerick
Publication date: August 7th 2018
Genres: LGBTQ+, Romance, Young Adult
Vinny Bucci and Tommy Stecker are almost cousins—their mothers call themselves “sisters of the heart,” so that sort of makes them cousins, doesn’t it? Since childhood, they’ve shared holidays and Sunday services and their passion for soccer. But now they’re eighteen, high school seniors, and what has always been devoted friendship—the next best thing to family—has started to feel like something else. Something more….
Unfortunately, the Steckers can’t accept their son’s same-sex romance, and upon recognizing the teens’ mutual attraction, they push Tommy into dating a girl from church, then compel him to attend a Christian College far away from Vinny’s school. The Buccis and the Steckers—once a family of choice—clash over what’s right and go their separate ways.
Forced into separation, Vinny and Tommy are both devastated, but while Vinny hardens his heart to love, halfway across the country Tommy becomes emotionally and physically ill. Their passion for each other hasn’t diminished, let alone died, but they lose contact, and for the first time in their lives learn what it is to live with a broken heart.
Will Tommy and Vinny find their way back to each other, or will they accept the rules dictated by family and try to live severed lives, their love forever unfulfilled?
A Mature Young Adult Romance
GUEST POST by MIA KERICK:
Hello. I’m Mia Kerick, and I’m here with my first in a series of YA/NA “story ballads.” This one is called TORN.
According to Wikipedia…
New adult (NA) fiction, also rendered as new-adult fiction, is a developing genre of fiction with protagonists in the 18–30 age bracket.[1] St. Martin’s Press first coined the term in 2009, when they held a special call for “…fiction similar to YA that can be published and marketed as adult—a sort of an ‘older YA’ or ‘new adult'”.[2] New adult fiction tends to focus on issues such as leaving home, developing sexuality, and negotiating education and career choices…
In its short life, NA fiction has had its ups and downs. Some writers/publishers don’t see it as a valid genre. Others find it to be a much-needed category. Lauren Sarner, in her article The Problem with New Adult books, states “New Adult is a label that is condescending to readers and authors alike. It implies that the books act as training wheels between Young Adult and Adult. For the New Adult books that are particularly childish, the label implies that they are a step above Young Adult—which is insulting to the Young Adult books that are far superior. For the New Adult books that are particularly sophisticated, the label implies that they are not worthy of being considered ‘adult.’ It’s a lose-lose situation for everyone.”

I think NA is an important developing, and hopefully not disappearing, genre, as there are topics, which when dealt with in full detail, are not entirely appropriate for a YA audience. There is also a difference in attitude. Teens who have are sharing their first kiss, experiencing a parental divorce, or experimenting with alcohol for the first time, have a different voice than those who are going off to live on their own to discover who they are when high school ends. In particular, there is a lot more sex in NA books, and the details are more descriptive. But this is where the genre seems to have hit a wall, in my opinion. According to my study of the Amazon Hot New Releases and Best Sellers lists, New Adult has largely turned into a genre that is centered around stories of sexual escapades. (Check out the lists and you’ll see what I mean.)

So when I wrote a novel that truly deals with more mature YA subjects and the transition from high school to college—living as “adults” for the first time—deciding upon a category is challenging. If I go with YA, I run the risk of offering more descriptive fact and detail than 13-18-year-olds need. If I choose New Adult, reader expectations have largely shifted away from “older YA” as it was originally intended, to be stories of a primarily sexual nature.
I’ve put a great deal of consideration into the choice between YA and NA, when it comes to my novella, Torn. As the story begins, Vinny and Tommy are high school seniors. The plot takes them through their final year of high school and into college. And certainly, in the novel they confirm their sexualities and experience passionate moments with each other, but that is not the only thrust of the book. The primary theme is of separating from family—not just physically, but emotionally. The young men go out into the world and develop their adult identities. They deal with being truly alone for the first time, religious conflict, and parental expectations. They make choices that adults make—ones that cause huge disruption and long-term change in their lives.
In the end, I chose to categorize the book as a Mature YA Romance. I placed this in the blurb so those who are selecting a book will realize that it isn’t about a first kiss or fitting in at their high school. The topics are a somewhat more mature, though not out of the scope of YA lit. But my main reason for choosing YA is because of the voice. The two main characters, who are the narrators, possess a YA voice for a great portion of the book.
I hope you check out my Mature YA Story Ballad, Torn, meet Vinny and Tommy, and explore the challenges they face as they journey toward love.


Author Bio:
Mia Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—one in law school, another a professional dancer, a third studying at Mia’s alma mater, Boston College, and her lone son off to Syracuse. (Yes, there is Atlantic Coast Conference rivalry within the family.) She publishes LGBTQ romances when not editing National Honor Society essays, offering opinions on college and law school applications, helping to create dance bios, and reviewing English papers. Her husband of twenty-five years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about this, as it is a sensitive subject.
Mia focuses her stories on the emotional growth of troubled young people and their relationships. She has a great affinity for the tortured hero in literature, and as a teen, Mia filled spiral-bound notebooks with tales of tortured heroes and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping. Now she publishes her work—it’s an alternate place to stash her stories.
Her books have been featured in Kirkus Reviews magazine and have won Rainbow Awards for Best Transgender Contemporary Romance and Best YA Lesbian Fiction, a Reader Views’ Book by Book Publicity Literary Award, the Jack Eadon Award for Best Book in Contemporary Drama, an Indie Fab Award, a First Place Royal Dragonfly Award for Cultural Diversity, a First Place Story Monsters Purple Dragonfly Award for YA Fiction, among others.
Mia Kerick is a social liberal and cheers for each and every victory made in the name of human rights. Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology. Contact Mia at miakerick@gmail.com or visit at www.miakerickya.com to see what is going on in Mia’s world.

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Thursday, August 16, 2018

Excerpt & Giveaway: How to Breathe Underwater by Vicky Skinner


How to Breathe Underwater
Vicky Skinner
Published by: Swoon Reads
Publication date: August 14th 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Kate’s father has been pressuring her to be perfect for her whole life, pushing her to be the best swimmer she can be. But when Kate finds her dad cheating on her mom, Kate’s perfect world comes crashing down, and Kate is forced to leave home and the swim team she’s been a part of her whole life.
Now in a new home, new school, and faced with the prospect of starting over, Kate isn’t so sure that swimming is what she wants anymore. But when she decides to quit, her whole world seems to fall apart. But when Kate gets to know Michael, the cute boy that lives across the hall, she starts to think that starting over might not be so bad. There’s only one problem: Michael has a girlfriend.
As the pressures of love, family, and success press down on her, can Kate keep her head above water?



EXCERPT:
In Salem, every Sunday morning had been the same: a hard swim at sunup with Dad, Mooney’s CafĂ© for a recovery meal of pancakes and eggs, and a walk along the river in the late-morning sun.
This was our first Sunday in a long time without Dad, and it showed in the bags under my mother’s eyes.
“I’m off to locate the trash chute,” she said, picking up a bag of garbage.
“Why don’t I take it?” I asked, leaving my breakfast behind to take the bag from her.
She gave a little sigh. “Are you sure?”
“Yeah, no problem.”
I was still in my pajamas, a T-shirt and Superman boxers, but I grabbed the bag anyway. I’d just made it to the front door when I saw the planner lying open on the entry table. I recognized it immediately. Every season, my father put my meets, practices, and workouts in a planner so I wouldn’t get behind. Pages and pages of swim-related activities. My mother must have found it in a box somewhere. I glanced over my shoulder at her. She was digging through a box in the kitchen, pulling out towels and pot holders. I reached out and snatched the planner off the table before opening the door.
I was standing hopelessly in the hallway with no clue where the trash chute was when the door directly across from me opened and someone joined me in the narrow hallway.
It took me a second to place the boy in front of me as the same boy I’d seen in the parking garage the day before, the one leaning over the woman with the bad lungs. Dark, messy hair that might have been styled to look that way or might have been subject to nervous fingers; dark eyes, the color of which I couldn’t decipher with the length of the hall between us; the sleeves of his shirt bunched up around his elbows.
I wanted to ask him if his mom was okay, or maybe ask him his name, but I saw his eyes go first to my boxers and then to my garbage bag.
“Can you tell me where the trash chute is?”
He pointed to the end of the hall. “Take a left and then a right. Last door on the left.”
“Thanks.”
I hauled the garbage bag up but paused when he said, “Nice boxers.”
Like an idiot, I said nothing. I just turned in the direction he’d indicated. At the end of the hall, before I rounded the corner, I couldn’t stop myself from glancing over my shoulder for one last glimpse. He stood by the elevator, the button illuminated, and then he glanced over his shoulder, too, his eyes meeting mine across the hallway.
I looked away quickly, turning the corner. I almost forgot I had the planner in my hand when I pulled the door open to toss the trash in. The bag fell from my hand, and I looked down at the planner. It contained my entire life. Everything I was expected to do, everywhere I was expected to be. But now it was just as much trash as the expired food I’d thrown down. A new place meant a new swim schedule.
I pulled open the chute again and tossed the planner in.


Author Bio:
Born and raised in Texas, I don’t act like much of a Texan. I like cold weather and hate country music. I have a gorgeous husband, two dogs, and a Literature degree from the University of Texas at Dallas. If I’m not at home reading a book or doing laundry, I’m probably at the bookstore, nannying three rambunctious boys, or stuck on the side of the road with car trouble. I’m a reader, a writer, and a bit of a crazy person.


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