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Manflu Book Tour, Excerpt, and Guest Post

April 16, 2021 by in category Apples & Oranges by Marianne H. Donley, Rabt Book Tours tagged as , , , , , ,

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Thriller

 

Date Published: 3/26/21

Publisher: Acorn Publishing

 

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Following a global pandemic, which has either killed or weakened most of the male population, women now dominate all aspects of life.

 

Dr. Morgan Digby, married to a man rendered bedbound from his bout with manflu a decade prior, is working tirelessly on a vaccine, yet obstacles keep springing up in her path.

 

When she meets a handsome neighbor who has never been exposed to the deadly virus, things become…complicated. There’s something between them, but he can’t leave his home.

 

Morgan’s struggle to remain faithful to her ailing husband isn’t her only battle. Someone has been one step ahead of her, countering her every move. Will she find a vaccine before it’s too late to protect those she loves?

 

 

 

About the Author

 

 


Simone de Muñoz writes dystopian, or perhaps utopian, fiction, depending on your perspective, where women drive the story and sometimes even run the world. She holds a master’s degree in public policy from UC Berkeley and a bachelor’s degree in economics from MIT, which she uses in her day job as a data analyst at a nonprofit. Based in Silicon Valley, she lives with her patient husband, their two young sons, and a grumpy dog named Fish. Manflu is her debut novel.

 

 

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Excerpt
Manflu
Simone de Muñoz

Morgan Digby woke up groggy from her usual nap as her self-driving, electric car pulled into the driveway of her small suburban house. She had dreamt that her husband Jonas was walking toward her on a crowded sidewalk, cradling a baby in his arms. If only any small part of that dream had the remotest possibility of coming true, Morgan could be happy.

She stretched and brushed her black bangs out of her eyes, feeling the hollow spaces beneath them with her fingertips. Tired from a busy day working at the lab on the manflu vaccine, the nap prepared her for the long evening of caretaking that lay ahead. Her husband Jonas was mostly bedridden after his bout with the pandemic ten years ago. His body no longer actively fought an infection, but he would never be the same.

Morgan was about to enter her house when she saw her neighbor put down her garden rake and cross the street to chat. Sarah, like many women nowadays, no longer bothered with a bra. Her full, bouncing breasts, barely covered by a thin, V-neck t-shirt, drew the eye. An image quickly flashed through Morgan’s mind of a time years before when Sarah had pressed those breasts against her and leaned over to kiss her on the lips. Morgan quickly shook her head to clear the thought.

“Morgan, big news!” said Sarah when she was within gossip range. “Beth’s nephew came to stay with her. He’s a Vulny. I got a glimpse of him through the curtains, and he is a hunk and a half. Pale, obviously. About 5’10” with black, curly hair and surprisingly muscular. He must spend a lot of time lifting weights. I’m charging my vibro3000 as we speak.”

Wow, a Vulny! Morgan had never seen one before. Vulnies were the men who had never gotten manflu and were therefore still vulnerable to it. These men could not go out in public for fear of being infected, thus the pale skin. Women could be infected as well as transmit the virus to others; however, they experienced very mild cold-like symptoms and quickly recovered. Both men and women who had previously been infected could not contract the virus again; however, men with post-manflu viral syndrome were immuno­compromised and at high risk of contracting other infections.

Morgan immediately thought of the vaccine she was working on, and she wondered if this man could be a test subject for it when it was completed. She wanted to rush over to Beth’s house right away to meet him and find out more, but she couldn’t. Jonas waited inside for her to make his dinner, bathe him, and keep him company. She was accustomed to putting aside her own desires to care for her husband, but she still felt a sting of disappointment each time.


Guest post
The Story Behind Manflu
(Or How I Wrote About a Fictional Pandemic During a Real-life Pandemic)

Simone de Muñoz
Author of Manflu
March 16, 2021
Acorn Publishing

After the 2016 election, I felt an emotion that I had never felt before–rage. It was scary. I had to find a safe place for those feelings, so I started to write. In my fiction, women weren’t the victims of misogynistic men and a patriarchal society–they were powerful heroes. If women couldn’t come out on top in real life, they could in my fiction. I slowly thought about sharing my writing with the world–maybe other women could read my work and feel the possibility of this power.

I had the idea for my novel, Manflu in the summer of 2019. The “Me Too” movement was in full swing and I thought, what if there was a way to get these men out of power and replace them with women? What would the world look like if women were in charge? I came up with the idea of a pandemic that weakened or killed men. I started writing down my thoughts, centering the story around a married researcher seeking a vaccine for manflu when she meets a handsome neighbor who has never been infected. And only a few short months later, Covid hit!

I attended my first writing conference in February of 2020 right before the US basically shut down. I met the women who would eventually publish my book at that conference and I remember them saying, “This concept is so timely, you have to get the book written as soon as possible.” We had no idea what was coming because there were hardly any known cases of Covid in the US at that time. However, it was clear that the pandemic was about to affect us all. Despite a full-time job and family obligations, I wrote as quickly as I could to take advantage of the moment.

I found myself in the midst of a pandemic, writing about a pandemic. For a while, all I thought about were viruses as I researched pandemics, tried to keep my family safe from Covid, and worked to help clients affected economically by the pandemic at my nonprofit job. I finished writing the book in the fall of 2020, right around the time it became clear that my children wouldn’t return to in-person school for the 2020-21 school year.

My hope is that I have ultimately created a novel that is timely, and yet a break from the pandemic-restricted world that we are all still living in right now, and that Manflu helps to empower women to dream of a different society where they are in charge. It is always a good time for sexy, escapist fiction featuring diverse characters and a strong female lead and it is an especially apt moment for Manflu.


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Snow Dust and Boneshine Book Tour and Excerpt

April 8, 2021 by in category Apples & Oranges by Marianne H. Donley, Rabt Book Tours tagged as , , , , ,
 
 

 

 

The Chronicles of Granny Witch (Book 1)

Paranormal Romance, Historical Fantasy,

Magical Realism, Visionary Fiction

Date Published: December 27, 2020

 

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Once upon a winter’s night, a lost cowboy finds himself in Purgatory Bend.
Patrick Doolin is plagued by a wound that won’t heal, but winter is the
season of miracles. As Patrick wanders through Wyoming, he meets Fawna
Darling, the mysterious granny witch, who channels the folk magic of her
ancestors.

With nowhere to go and a secret Patrick doesn’t yet understand, he seeks
shelter with Fawna in the snowswept prairie. Forbidden to fall in love, they
form an eternal bond in the dreamscape, but when the bluebirds sing of
summer and threaten their empire of dreams, they are faced with an
impossible decision. Will Patrick stay in the land of the living, or will he
cross over the prairie?

Summer is the season of surprises, and Fawna’s childhood sweetheart, Dezi
Ketchum, longs to win her heart too. When winter melts across the gold-slick
prairie, Fawna searches for answers under the rose moon. Caught between fire
and water and flesh and fantasy, she follows her heart and ventures into
uncharted territory.

 

 

Praise for Snow Dust and Boneshine

 

“A warm and spellbinding tale…Soleil’s writing flows like a stream,
relaxing and exotic. Mixed with folk magic, simpler times and beliefs, this
is a wonderful escape.” ~ Tome Tender

“Soleil’s writing is riveting…It’s much more than a fantasy – it’s a
story of love and faith.” ~ Literary Titan

“Curl up under your blanket, grab a cup of tea, and let yourself wander
between magic and reality in Purgatory Bend…Snow Dust and Boneshine is one
of the sweetest, selfless, heartbreaking but also heartwarming love stories
I have ever read…The characters, the atmosphere, and the imagery are done
so beautifully. Every description made me sink my teeth into the story just
a little bit more.” ~ Snez at Book Lifey & A Quintillion Reads Book
Club

“Snow Dust and Boneshine was incredible…There’s romance, intrigue and lots
of magic. It’s very well written, so much so, I could feel the cold and
bitter wind as I read about it. The characters are beautifully written, and
I could see it playing out as a movie as I read. I highly recommend picking
this one up. 5 stars all the way.” ~ Angela Scavone, Author of Celebrity
Status

“This story was magical and fascinating with an element of surprise. It was
well-researched and beautifully thought out to bring us so many amazing
details. If witches and love stories set in a small town with a sprinkle of
magic interests you, I would urge you to read this.” ~ Kriti Dalmia at This
Reader Girl

 

 

 

 About the Author

 

 

 

 

Grendolyn Peach Soleil was born in the Appalachian Mountains on a full
moon. She is an old soul and a folk magic fiend. Grendolyn loves twisted
fairy tales, all things vintage, tales of true love, and creature features.
Some of her fancies include pumpkins, black cats, mermaids, tea parties,
cowboys, dahlias, and sunsets. She is a member of the Visionary Fiction
Alliance and The Independent Author Network. Grendolyn is the author of
Limbo Jubilee, The Mermaids Melt at Dawn, and Snow Dust and Boneshine: The Chronicles of Granny Witch (Book 1).

 

 

 

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Excerpt

Snow Dust and Boneshine

Grendolyn Peach Soleil

Prologue: Angel Creek

Wolf Moon, 1854

Patrick Doolin hid behind a sunbaked boulder, his bare ribs sticking to the sagebrush. He grabbed the wet, mushy hole in his belly, his heart pounding, his ears ringing raw. Around the bend, there were howling beasts in the canyon, sniffing his blood trail. Trapped in the crossfire, he closed his eyes and pretended it was all a bad dream. He cloaked himself in a cloud of dust and prayed for invisibility. Patrick didn’t know whether to beg for his life or submit to death’s sting, but instinctively, his body forced him to gasp for air.

From the moment he boarded the ship last summer, he regretted leaving Ireland. He missed the sheep-strewn pastures and the soggy sea cliffs. He missed the rolling fog and the taste of coddle by firelight. By the grace of God, Patrick survived the great hunger, and despite its brutal aftermath, he still yearned for his motherland, for fairy trees and cloud cover. It was better to be hungry at home than stuffed to the gills with strangers.

Patrick’s father suffered the most during the great hunger, so when a fever ravaged him last February, he was too weak to recover. Although Patrick bowed his head and prayed every morning, his father was skin and bones by Easter. Worst of all, his father’s spirit was troubled by Patrick’s black-hearted brother, Liam, so Patrick made a deathbed promise to his father. He vowed to look after Liam come hell or high water.

As soon as their father rattled his last breath, Liam set his sights on California. After the wake, the Doolin brothers boarded a ship to Philadelphia. From there, they made the long trek to Dakota territory. It took them three months to reach their uncle’s homestead, and by the time they arrived, old man winter was already there. The Doolin brothers agreed to work for their uncle until the following summer and then make their way to California, but after Christmas, Liam didn’t want to wait any longer.

Patrick knew they were late to the gold rush. Their uncle showed them the newspapers and implored them to stay in Dakota. He said it was treacherous to travel in the dead of winter, but there was no reasoning with Liam, so the Doolin brothers saddled up and battled the pelting ice and blowing snow. They slept under giant fir trees, their fingers and toes tingling with frostbite. They hadn’t been on the trail for long when Liam started a gunfight with a goliath of a cowboy, then disappeared into thin air.

Now, Patrick was all by himself, stranded somewhere between Dakota and Wyoming. Utterly disoriented, he clutched his belly in agony and stumbled through the wilderness. He meditated on the pine trees as they swirled into a blur of whistling green. Patrick saw trains and ships in the shadows. He saw the sea cliffs of Ireland in his dreams. When he couldn’t take another step, he collapsed on the edge of Angel Creek, his wounded body glinting red with sunburn, his sticky blood mingling with the cold stream.

As he faded in and out of mortality, he saw a young woman with hair as black as a raven. A pack of wolves surrounded her and swaddled her porcelain skin with their ashen fur. Patrick couldn’t get a good look at her face, but he caught a glimpse of her scarlet lips. She was nothing more than a stranger to him, but he took comfort in watching her dance through the shimmering snowfields. As he stood there in the frozen prairie, held captive by the bone-chilling wind, he felt strangely warm as though a hearth was glowing inside him.

The next morning, an old cowboy named Charlie was fishing for salmon when he came across Patrick’s body floating belly-up in the creek. Charlie took Patrick for dead, but as he got closer, he witnessed pulse and breath. Charlie rubbed his eyes in disbelief. He figured there was a reason this poor man was still alive, so he slung Patrick over his shoulder and lugged him for half a mile, dabbing his sweaty face with a red bandana. When he got back to his wagon, he plopped Patrick down next to the salmon and gave him a ride to Purgatory Bend.


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A Deadly Inside Scoop Book Tour and Excerpt

February 24, 2021 by in category Apples & Oranges by Marianne H. Donley, Rabt Book Tours tagged as , , , ,
 

 

 

Cozy Mystery

 

Date Published: May 12, 2020

 

 

Recent MBA grad Bronwyn Crewse has just taken over her family’s ice cream shop in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and she’s going back to basics. Win is renovating Crewse Creamery to restore its former glory, and filling the menu with delicious, homemade ice cream flavors—many from her grandmother’s original recipes. But unexpected construction delays mean she misses the summer season, and the shop has a literal cold opening: the day she opens her doors an early first snow descends on the village and keeps the customers away.

 

To make matters worse, that evening, Win finds a body in the snow, and it turns out the dead man was a grifter with an old feud with the Crewse family. Soon, Win’s father is implicated in his death. It’s not easy to juggle a new-to-her business while solving a crime, but Win is determined to do it. With the help of her quirky best friends and her tight-knit family, she’ll catch the ice cold killer before she has a meltdown…

 

 

About the Author

 

 


Abby L. Vandiver, also writing as Abby Collette, is a hybrid author who has penned more than twenty-five books and short stories. She has hit both the Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller list. Her latest cozy series, An Ice Cream Parlor Mystery, published by Penguin Berkley, is out now, with the second book, A Game of Thrones, coming in March 2021.

 

 

 

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Excerpt

A Deadly Inside Scoop

Abby L. Vandiver

Flashing red and blue lights lit up the dark, dreary corner where North  Main and Bell streets met. Yellow crime scene tape draped around trees cordoned off the perimeter of the wooden overlook. Floodlights invaded the stillness that surround the falls and voices bombarded my eardrums. I was numb, but not from the cold.

I had panicked once I realized I’d tripped over a body. Not a panic borne from fear, it was because I didn’t know how I could help. What to do. Blowing out a breath, I had to calm myself so I could figure it out.

It was dark and I hadn’t been able to see clearly enough to make a decision. Had the person still been alive? Should I try to start some life saving measures?

Not that I knew any . . .

Should I go get help?

The body hadn’t moved, even after me falling over it.

Not a grunt. Not a moan. Not a whimper.

Feeling with my hands in the dark, I found a face. I leaned in, my face close, to see if I could feel a breath.

Nothing.

I laid my head on its chest to listen for a heartbeat.

Still nothing.

I should call for help.

Crap. I’d left my cellphone in my knapsack, sitting on the prep table in the ice cream shop. All I had was my aluminum bowl and scoop, so I started banging them together.

“Help!” I yelled out and hit the scoop on the side of the bowl. “Hey! I need help! Anybody! Somebody help me!”

But all my noise making hadn’t gotten one response. I looked down at the silhouette of Dead Guy and back up to the street. No lights from passing cars. No footsteps crunching in the snow.

I needed to get up the hill to get help.

But the snow was thick and cumbersome, I trudged up at a slow crawl. My foot sinking into the snow with each step forward, my gloves wet and covered with the powder. It seemed to be deeper and heavier the more I tried to get up to the sidewalk. Bent over, hands clawing in the snow up the incline, I was out of breath with heavy legs by the time I made it to the top. Once my feet were planted on the sidewalk, I had to place my hands on my knees to catch my breath and slow my heart before I could go any further. 

With what I knew lay at the bottom of the falls, it made the night more ominous. The streets more deserted. The lights more dim.

I looked one way down Bell Street then the other. Not quite sure where I should go to get help. I just knew that I wanted to tell what I knew. Get someone else there with me. Then my eye caught sight of the woven scarf I’d seen on the kid who’d been down the hill with me. With Dead Guy.

I started to grab the scarf but thought better of it. People always come back to where they’d lost their things to find them. The little boy might return. Maybe I’d report the lost item to the police.

The police . . .

I had to call the police. Or an ambulance.

I scurried around the block, past the front of the ice cream shop to the side door and unlocked it. I hastily dumped the contents of my knapsack and had to catch Grandma Kay’s tin recipe box as it tumbled out before it dropped onto the floor. Hands slightly shaky, still breathing hard, I found my phone and pushed in the three numbers.

“911. What’s your emergency?”

I had to make a restroom pit stop to try to collect myself.

I shook my head. There hadn’t been anything I could have done. He hadn’t moved. He hadn’t made a sound. He wasn’t breathing and I didn’t know how long it would be before someone came along to help.

I ran warm water over my hands at the sink, dried them off and started to head back into the kitchen to get my knapsack, and ran right into Felice.

“Hello there, Muffintop, I said and stooped down, running my fingers through her white coat. “How did you get down here?” She looked up at me, fluffed out the end of her tail, then eyes half-closed, she blinked slowly. I picked her up. “You want some kisses, Sweetie?” I said knowing it was me that needed comforting. She rubbed her cheek up against mine. “Thank you.”

Holding her, I walked around to the back area where the stairs led to Rivkah’s apartment, and called up. No answer. “She must still be at the restaurant.” I looked at Felice. “Did you just come down for me? To make me feel better?”

“Mrra,” she said.

 I met her forehead with mine, but only for a moment, she didn’t have to be gracious. She jumped out of arms and ran up the steps. I watched as she strutted up, I didn’t know how she’d gotten out. Rivkah never left the door unlocked.

Tonight I was glad she had.

I went over to the prep table and stuffed everything back into my bag, grabbed the bowl and scooper and headed back outside. By the time I got out there, a police cruiser was pulling up in front of the store. The officer got out of the car and walked over to me.

“Are you the person who called 911?” he asked.

“I am,” I said.

“What’s going on?”

I pointed toward the falls. “There’s a guy down there. I think he’s dead.”



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The Dirty Difference Between Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy by Rachel Hailey

February 8, 2021 by in category Apples & Oranges by Marianne H. Donley, Guest Posts, Rabt Book Tours tagged as , , , , ,

Today we have a guest post from Rachel Hailey. Rachel was born and raised in the South. She’s all about that nerd life and in between writing she’s dedicated herself to raising the next generation of nerds. If she’s not online or staring at a book she can usually be found at the local game store rolling dice, shuffling cards, or planning her next cosplay.

Her childhood was most prominently shaped by the works of R.L. Stine, Stephen King, Anne Rice and the Brothers Grimm.

The Dirty Difference Between Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy

Rachel Hailey

I’ve been in love with monsters since I was a little and got angry when Belle turned the Beast into a boring old prince. As I grew older and more obsessed with fairy tales, I found two genres that truly spoke to my black heart. Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance.

These powerhouses rose to popularity fast during the late ’90s, and early 2000s. Those years exploded with amazing stories of dazzling monsters. Jim Butcher and Laurell K. Hamilton were among the first and are still synonymous with Urban Fantasy. But around the time Anita was toying with the notion of staking Jean-Claude, Sherrilyn McQueen (Kenyon) introduced us to Acheron and his band of tortured but scorching hot daimon slayers. While Harry rides an undead dino, J.R. Ward first showed us the wicked streets of Caldwell where the Black Dagger Brotherhood protects their race against the Lessening Society.

Anyone who has read a good Paranormal Romance or Urban Fantasy will agree that there is magic in the ink. But what is the difference between Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy? Both include the same elements: mystery, action, adventure, supernatural, and yes, sexy times.

So what are the differences?

All four of these series feature creatures that don’t just lurk in the shadows – they’re at home in the dark. The stories bleed tension, and the only thing higher than the number of pages are the body counts.

With so many similarities, it’s the technical details that define which side of the aisle a book gets shelved.

One of the easiest difference to spot is Point of View. Black Dagger Brotherhood and other Paranormal Romance stories are usually told in third-person, giving readers the full experience by switching perspectives among many characters. Urban Fantasy authors, such as Hamilton and Butcher, rely on first-person, fully immersing readers in the heads and hearts of their protagonists.

As Paranormal Romance series unfolds, they often maintain this same energy with each book centering on a new couple, while in Urban Fantasy a single protagonist continues to shine center stage, no matter how many books follow.

The next difference can be a little tricky to identify. Paranormal Romance are more character-driven. It’s the emotions, the development of the characters, and their relationships that keep us turning pages. The relationships are the main focus. The tension comes from the need to see a couple (or more!) handle their issues and find their happily ever after.

Urban Fantasy, on the other hand, are plot-driven. Investigating the murder, solving the case, saving the world are the defining moments for these tales. That’s not to say relationships aren’t important in Urban Fantasy. Usually, they provide much-needed motivation for the protagonist to get off their ass and do their job or save the world, pushing them to be better, stronger, harder.

This brings us to my next point. Sex. The pages of Paranormal Romance blister fingers and leave readers dry-mouthed, but so too can Urban Fantasy. Usually, the scenes are shorter, less descriptive. The relationships form slowly over books and culminate in a scene that begins scorching and ends with a closed door. (Damn you doors.)

But these rules are often shattered with impunity which continues to leave readers a little confused. Anita arguably has more sex in one book than the entire cast of the Dark Hunter universe, and it’s twice as graphic. There’s also the matter of POV. Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series is told in first person and focuses on the same characters through all seven (wonderful) books. The Night Huntress series is also heavily plot-centric but undeniably falls into the realm of Paranormal Romance.

So what is the difference?

My answer?

Marketing.

I’ve heard Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy referred to as cousins, but I disagree. I think they’re much closer than that, and deciding where they are listed comes down to opinion.

There’s an ugly side to this – The great disdain the Romance genres garner even within the publishing community. (Which makes no sense as it is the highest-grossing genre. Don’t believe me? Google is free.) Often this contempt leaves agents and authors slapping Fantasy on a book instead of Romance to appeal to a wider audience.

It starts with the cover. They replace the image of the muscled hero with a detailed, gritty image of the heroine holding a blade as she scowls fiercely into the night. I was told recently this was because Urban Fantasy readers are so much choosier about art. But are they really, or is this just another stereotype rooted in the belief that romance readers and authors are somehow less than?

In the end, it doesn’t matter where a book is shelved, or whether the cover has a half-naked man. Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance stories speak to some of the darkest corners of the human soul. Whether you read for the action or the action, remember, genres are labels, and like all labels, they can help or hinder. Don’t be afraid to cross the aisle and reach for a new author. What you find may surprise you.


Rachel Hailey’s Dark Paranormal Romance



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Sins in Sunlight Book Tour

February 8, 2021 by in category Apples & Oranges by Marianne H. Donley, Rabt Book Tours tagged as , , , , , ,
 
 

 

 

Of Courts and Desire, Book 2

 

Dark Paranormal Romance

Date Published: January 18, 2021

Publisher: FyreSyde Publishing

 

 

The Sunfire Queen, Sierra, has waited for her chance to rule, thinking life would be better with her mother dead. She was wrong. The Court of Light is in Shambles. Her people are terrified and despise her. She has no friends, no love, and no hope. When a new war hovers on the horizon, Sierra must find the lost beastkyn Mikhail or her court will perish, and she’ll lose her shot at redemption.

 

Quick to grin and quicker to kill, Mikhail has made his share of mistakes–being imprisoned has given him time to ponder each poor decision. But when Sierra frees him, he earns the opportunity to make some more. She’s gorgeous and despite her fiery nature, as cold as the snow-capped mountains of Russia. He can’t wait to see how fast he can make her melt.

 

 

 

 
 
 

 

About The Author

 

 

Rachel Hailey was born and raised in the South. She’s all about that nerd life and in between writing she’s dedicated herself to raising the next generation of nerds. If she’s not online or staring at a book she can usually be found at the local game store rolling dice, shuffling cards, or planning her next cosplay.

Her childhood was most prominently shaped by the works of R.L. Stine, Stephen King, Anne Rice and the Brothers Grimm.

 

 

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Excerpt

Sins in Sunlight

Rachel Hailey

Mikhail leaned down, giving her plenty of time to turn her head or pull away. The orange specks bloomed in her eyes. He closed the minuscule gap, capturing her lips. They were as soft as rose petals. He stifled a hiss of pleasure as her mouth opened under his, and when his tongue swept over hers, her entire body shuddered, and she moaned. 
He deliberately kept his hands where they were, but how they wanted to roam down her body. Too soon, the song ended, and she broke the kiss. 

He opened his mouth to apologize, but stopped. He wasn’t sorry about keeping secrets. This was how his life was. Yet, when he looked up and found her brown eyes leveled on him, the scent of sadness rolling through the car, he was sorry this was the life he had to offer. 


“How many other secrets are you hiding?” she asked, but not accusingly, more like she was as tired of his issues as he was of hers. 

“Enough.” 


“So, where does that leave us?” Sierra asked, voice low. 

He smiled, baring his teeth. “The closest thing to friendship two Kyn royals can have.”

The pink lightkyn made a strangled sound, her back pressed harder against the door. He expected her to disappear into the glass.


Scalded by shame again, his talons shrank. He ran a hand through his hair. None of this was the girl’s fault. He opened his mouth to apologize, but before the first syllable left his lips, she exploded into laughter. The sound was like chiming bells and as lyrical as a child’s rhyme. Although beautiful, it was joyless and manic, the kind of sound the condemned might make as they laughed on their way to the gallows. 


Reassessing her threat level, it was his turn to take a step away. Was she dangerous or merely unbalanced? Any creature who laughed like that needed to be handled carefully. 


“Are you well?” he asked as the loud peals continued to ring out.

 
“No, I am most certainly not,” she said between gasps. “Are you?” She collapsed against the door, dropping her injured arm.


Wary of the lightkyn and her bizarre reactions, he shook his head. “No.”


She sobered and looked at him with soulful brown eyes. “I suppose you wouldn’t be. Would you like to come inside?”


“Who are you?”


“Sierra.”


“Sierra,” he said, tasting the name. It rang with power and depth, matching this girl with wild laughter and sad eyes. “Will you help me escape before the new ruler finds me?”


She smiled, revealing even white teeth, and tilted her head. The last of the sunlight fell across her face like a mask. “I’m afraid it’s too late for that. I am the new Queen of The Court of Light.”


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