Guest Post and Exclusive Excerpt – The Autumn Lands by J. Scott Coatsworth

It’s Not Long Enough

It’s been about two years since I decided to get back into the writing game again.

I’d started writing young, when I was in fourth grade. Through junior high and high school, I’d written short stories, then part of a novel, and then another one. And then somehow it had drifted away from me on a tide of rejections and indifference from one publisher after another.

I went on with my life, every now and then taking a stab at the whole writing thing again. But every time I started up, I’d hit a road block:

—I wasn’t good enough.

—No one wanted what I was writing.

—My writing muscles had atrophied after so much time.

—I just… couldn’t.

Then something shifted. I had just gotten derailed once again and was complaining about it when my husband, Mark, gave me a serious dose of reality. If I wasn’t writing, he said, it was my own damned fault. I had no one to blame but myself. And the hell of it was, he was right.

So I started over again.

This time, I gave myself permission to be a failure.  I allowed myself to write whatever came out, and to not prejudge it. And I went back and looked at some of my earlier work.

A lot of it was crap. But some of it was pretty damned good.

So I worked on exercising my writing muscles again, starting with short stories and scanning the MM publisher sites for upcoming anthologies that were accepting submissions. I was rejected by three of them. But one of them sold.

Then another, and another.

I decided to go longer, and started writing novellas. The first one was rejected for an anthology, but the publisher came back to me and asked me to resubmit it as a stand-alone. I did, and a day later, they accepted it.

I became more comfortable in my own writing skin, and wrote and sold another novella, and then another. And then the reviews started to come in.

They were pretty unanimous. “I liked the story. But it should have been longer.” They wanted to see more development of the storyline and the characters. At first, I was depressed. Then my friends pointed out that they wanted more!

And so I went longer.

The Autumn Lands is my longest story yet, clocking in at 35k. And while I have a couple more novellas in the pipeline that I wrote in late 2014 and early 2015, my next two efforts will both be both novellas. One of them I wrote for NaNo, and the other I’ve been working on for quite a while. I’m starting to get comfortable writing in the longer forms

I hope that my latest efforts will satisfy all the fiction size queens out there. :)

After all, size does matter.

TheAutumnLands-Scott

Publisher: Mischief Corner Books
Author: J. Scott Coatsworth
Cover Artist: Freddy MacKay
Length: 35k
Format: eBook, Paperback
Release Date: 1/27/16
Pairing: MM
Price: 3.99

2015NewAbout the Book

Jerrith is running. Kissed by an elf, he can’t remain in his hometown of Althos any more. Not that he wanted to stay.

Caspian still hasn’t figured out why he kissed Jerrith, but he’s running too. Since he was exiled from the Autumn Lands, his past has been hazy, and his future uncertain.

But when a stray memory brings things into focus, the two decide to run toward something together. What they uncover will change how they see the world, and themselves, forever.

2015NewExcerpt

Rough hands hauled Cas away from the Vandris youth and out into the lamp-lit square of the little ramshackle town. He struggled, twisting back and forth, and got in a good punch to one of the men’s pug-nosed faces before they pushed him down to the hard cobblestone street, knocking the wind out of him.

“Twisted little Nevris bastard,” one of the men snarled above him as he struggled to draw a breath. He backed up against a lamp pole, but there was no escaping the bastards. His mind raced. How had he let himself get so distracted by the Vandris boy? Even now, as Cas watched the youth run away into the darkness, he was more concerned with the other’s safety than his own.

A punch to his gut brought him back to his current predicament. If he’d had his knife out of his carry sack…

Instead, he retreated into himself. Physical pain isn’t real, Jorrim, his trainer, had told him more than once. It’s just a sensation. If you know how, you can turn it off.

Emotional pain was another matter altogether.

He shut down and found relief even as the brute townsmen beat him, kicking his legs and ribs and punching his face over and over.

He felt none of it, floating on a calm internal sea while the storm raged outside. He gave them no satisfaction for their efforts, and eventually they gave up.

He felt his body being dragged away. To the gallows, he supposed, but in his detached state he couldn’t bring himself to care.

They dumped his body onto another hard surface. Metal clanged against metal.

After that, he was aware of nothing else but his dreams.

The hills of the Autumn Lands stretched out before Cas as far as he could see, each one different from the others but blending in to make a harmonious whole, a tapestry of reds and golds and fire-orange. In the distance, the waters of the Marrowmere glistened in the afternoon sunlight. His ultimate destination.

He was eighteen, the age of majority in the Autumn Lands, and he’d been sent out of Seasuir to the lake to be shown his destiny, just like every child of the royal line was. Cas’s father and grandfather before him had done the same.

He pulled his bow off his shoulder and sighted a dove flying over the next hill. With deadly accuracy, he loosed an arrow and brought it down. Along with the rambleberries he’d collected during the day, he’d at least have something to eat tonight.

He slipped down the hill into the next valley to retrieve his kill.

Something brought Cas out of his dreams. His body ached all over, and his ribs were especially sore from the beating he’d taken in the street. He would heal—if he lived long enough—and faster than these Vandris.

Clink.

There it was again, the sound that had awakened him. He sat up in the dark room—a cell, he assumed—and winced at the pain that pierced his side. He reached up to touch his face in the darkness. There was dried blood there. He must look a fright.

He managed to get to his feet with some effort, ignoring the pain in his legs, and quietly paced his way around the cell. On one side there was a high window covered with metal bars, no more than two handlengths wide—the golden moon shone through, giving him enough light to see the rough edges of the small space. The cell was bounded on three sides by dark rock and mortar walls; with his hands, he could feel the cement that held the rough stones together.

The fourth side was a wall of metal bars. He followed them up and down with his hands; they were set firmly into the stone and there was no moving them. There was a heavy lock holding the door to his cell closed.

He was well and truly trapped.

Purchase Links

Mischief Corner Books (info only): http://www.bookstrand.com/the-autumn-lands

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Autumn-Lands-J-Scott-Coatsworth-ebook/dp/B01APHN02W/

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/the-autumn-lands

Bookstrand: http://www.bookstrand.com/the-autumn-lands

ARe: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-theautumnlands-1964243-148.html

iBooks: https://itun.es/us/OxBjab.l

 

2015NewAbout the author

j-scott-coatsworthScott has been writing since elementary school, when he and won a University of Arizona writing contest in 4th grade for his first sci fi story (with illustrations!). He finished his first novel in his mid twenties, but after seeing it rejected by ten publishers, he gave up on writing for a while.

Over the ensuing years, he came back to it periodically, but it never stuck. Then one day, he was complaining to Mark, his husband, early last year about how he had been derailed yet again by the death of a family member, and Mark said to him “the only one stopping you from writing is you.”

Since then, Scott has gone back to writing in a big way, finishing more than a dozen short stories – some new, some that he had started years before – and seeing his first sale. He’s embarking on a new trilogy, and also runs the Queer Sci Fi (http://www.queerscifi.com) site, a support group for writers of gay sci fi, fantasy, and supernatural fiction.

connectwiththeauthor

Website: http://www.jscottcoatsworth.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworth

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jscoatsworth

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8392709.J_Scott_Coatsworth

 

Exclusive Cover Reveal and Excerpt – Chasing Sunrise by Lex Chase

Thank you so much for joining us today for the exclusive cover reveal of Chasing Sunrise by Lex Chase. Absolutely stunning!

FB Cover Reveal

Genre: Horror / High Fantasy
Series: The Darkmore Saga
Length: Novel
Published: April 5, 2016
Publisher: DSP Publications
ISBN: 978-1-63476-355-4
Pre-Order: DSP Publications

Blurb:

The once glorious aisa kingdom of Darkmore lies in ruins, and King Sevon Maraté is trapped. Sevon endures unrelenting abuse and is used as a scapegoat by Lord Dominic Ravensgrove, who rules Darkmore from the shadows. Coping by dressing in gowns and jewels, the effeminate king relishes the scraps of freedom he is given to be himself.

As a verkolai, Sevon possesses the ability to part the Veil separating his world from hundreds of others. His gift provides a chance for escape, but Dominic refuses to relinquish his tool for power. When Dominic forges an ambitious plan to invade the prosperous shifter land of Priagust, he manipulates Sevon’s desperation for his people’s survival. Out of options, Sevon has no choice but to cooperate.

On their foray into Priagust, Dominic’s men abduct a shifter named Jack. Despite being tortured for information, Jack’s loyalty to his kind never wavers. But Jack’s knowledge about Darkmore’s history unsettles Sevon, and a curious bond begins to form. Despite Sevon’s mistrust, Jack is determined to tame the beautiful king’s wild heart and perhaps earn his freedom.

As war looms, Sevon fears Jack’s kindness is another trap. Conflicted, Sevon wonders if he should risk chasing the sunrise or remain Dominic’s compliant prisoner.


Chapter One

“Farmer Mallory,” King Sevon Maraté called the writhing aisa’s name. “For your betrayal to the Crown of Darkmore, you and your kin have been sentenced to burn beyond the Veil.”

The leather-skinned farmer flailed upon the ground in his iron bonds. His heavily pregnant daughter jerked against the grasp of two guardsmen, clad in neck-to-toe black leather. The taller, brawnier of the pair chuckled at the girl’s distress and twisted her shoulder painfully in the joint.

“Let him go!” Mallory’s daughter shrieked, and her fangs gnashed with the futile threat of retaliation. “We’ve done nothing wrong!”

Mallory begged his child, “Patricia, please. Don’t make this worse.”

But it was true, and Sevon knew it—they had done nothing wrong. He glanced hesitantly at the Veil itself, the ethereal membrane that shrouded Darkmore from the human world. The humans called the land that lay beyond it “Texas,” and Lord Dominic Ravensgrove had talked Sevon into sending Mallory and his daughter out there to die. Dominic had made a strong case for their supposed betrayal to the Crown. When Sevon had found the fallacy in his logic, Dominic had beaten him soundly in the dungeon. Dominic was his lover, or so he had reminded Sevon over the years. Sevon didn’t care at all for Dominic’s sense of love. Dominic had left him there on the filthy dungeon floor, broken and bleeding, deep in his own loneliness as his skin mended and bones healed.

Sevon had seen it was more agreeable to go along with whatever Dominic decided about how Sevon should rule his kingdom. Better than suffering through a night, a week, a month, or more of beatings, deprivation, or torture. In the higher circles of Darkmore’s court, it was no secret that Sevon wore the crown but Dominic was the true tyrant king.

And now, as Mallory and his daughter lay at Sevon’s feet and begged for release, Dominic was teaching Sevon a lesson. For Sevon’s disobedience, not only would Mallory die, but so would his daughter and her unborn child. Sevon concentrated on the iridescent sheen.

Less than five feet in front of him, the glaring daylight of the humans’ Texas desert beckoned him forward. The horrific sprawl of debris piled hundreds of feet high, with shantytowns perched precariously on top, consumed the landscape behind him. And Sevon was trapped inside with the disaster. He narrowed his eyes, reaching his black-gloved fingers toward the light. What would the sun feel like on his flesh? How did daylight dance across the Rio Grande? He longed to be there, in the light. Anything would be better than a life in darkness and ruin.

Dominic clapped a hand on Sevon’s shoulder, and Sevon startled. In his ear, Dominic purred a warning. “You mustn’t fall for the temptation of the light, my sweet. Concentrate. We will be back in the palace soon.”

Sevon’s bones shivered at the timbre of Dominic’s voice. It had been a warning, not a note of concern. He pushed from his mind thoughts of what being back in the palace would entail.

Sevon pressed his glossed lips in a grim line, gathered his long blond curls, and twisted them into a tight bun. He watched the squirming farmer. “Perhaps, Mallory, I didn’t make myself clear the first time. You have a way of saving yourself.”

His brows quirked as the beginnings of a headache swelled behind his eyes. It was the guilt making itself known. He glanced at Dominic and fell silent for several seconds. Dominic’s eyes were cold, and the chilling shove to continue with this farce slammed into Sevon’s stomach.

“You will give us the livestock from your stockyards, and your tax debt with Lord Ravensgrove goes away.”

“Or your daughter meets the sun first,” Dominic growled, and Sevon watched him with bewilderment.

“Dominic…?” Sevon said softly.

Dominic’s hand snapped in a halting gesture, and Sevon froze.

Farmer Mallory jolted to attention at Dominic’s threat. Patricia screeched and squirmed in the grasp of her captors. “Please, Your Majesty,” Mallory begged Sevon directly. “We can be reasonable. If we give you the entire herd, there won’t be a way for my family to survive the oncoming winter.”

Before Sevon could speak, Dominic interjected for him. “So, betraying the Crown by doling out the humans to the less fortunate aisa hives is perfectly acceptable. I see.”

“Dominic,” Sevon repeated, this time with a hint of urgency.

“It would serve His Majesty well if he remains silent,” Dominic said.

Sevon knew that was the only warning he’d get.

Dominic stepped forward and loomed over Mallory. He had effectively cast Sevon aside. “I believe His Majesty is a fair and just king. If you want to see another star in the sky, His Majesty is of the opinion that you shouldn’t keep me from taking what’s rightfully mine.” Dominic tucked his helmet in the crook of his elbow. His tone remained casual. “Your stockyard is in my district. You are making it immensely difficult for His MajestyDominic spit the term in a way that made Sevon’s blood boil—“to make a proper decision, because you’re giving away my property. Do you see my point?”

Or at least, that’s how Dominic’s case went. Sevon’s belly quivered with the fact that this atrocity was unfolding in front of him moment by moment. It was not that he hadn’t done this before; Dominic had told him that participating in executions would make him a stronger king. Not only make him a stronger king, but kill the problematic sense of humanity he still held within his heart. Sevon refused to lose his empathy, but Dominic didn’t care for his flashes of compassion. Sevon had doubted Dominic’s motives since he was old enough to realize he wasn’t really the one ruling the kingdom. Dominic wanted him to be the ideal, compliant lover, and the king Darkmore needed to survive the bleak times. Sevon was all too aware that his people just needed a face to blame for their oppression.

Sevon glanced at the Veil again and the light beyond. Once, just once, he wished to know a life where he made his own decisions.

The anxiety permeating Mallory’s stained coveralls invaded the air with rotting putrescence. Sevon sniffed and wrinkled his nose, wishing the stench and the guilt away. This would all be over soon.

Mallory sputtered for an answer. “Please, Your Majesty,” the farmer cried. It turned Sevon’s stomach for Mallory to address him when really it was Dominic’s decision. “It’s not that simple to let Lord Ravensgrove manage the humans. My stockyards never recovered from Hurricane Gert twenty-two years ago. Herds live in abysmal conditions. They’re sickly and small. My family wants to spare the city the disgrace of eating such refuse. That’s why I give them away to the… the….” Mallory craned his neck upward at the disapproving glare of Lord Dominic Ravensgrove.

Dominic tapped four iron spikes into his waiting palm, and Mallory burst into tears.

“Please,” Mallory whimpered. “Please don’t do this….”

Dominic snorted a laugh. “You’ve had twenty-two years to recover from a meager hurricane. You are aisa! Nature bows to you. Are you a man, or are you a cockroach?”

Sevon startled. “Dominic, that’s enough!”

Dominic spun on his heel and roared in Sevon’s face. “I said be silent, boy!”

Sevon’s lip quivered, but something inside him urged him not to back down. “You’re putting them to death for no reason! What Mallory is saying is the truth. You’re doing this to punish me.” Sevon slipped back two steps. “Let them go and be done with it. I know what you want to do to me when we return to the palace. So what’ll it be? Licking filthy boots? Whippings? Trying to fuck me with your pathetic di—”

The crack across Sevon’s cheekbone sent him spinning and tumbling into one of Dominic’s guards. He blinked through the haze as the guard hooked him under the arms and held him upright against his chest.

“Hold him. We’ll need him,” Dominic commanded.

Sevon pulled away from the guard, but the man was much taller and stronger. “Dominic!” he cried. “Dominic, stop!”

Dominic turned away, ignoring him, and Sevon wilted.

“Let’s not mince words, Mallory,” Dominic said. “You have food. The aisa need food. I don’t give a damn if the livestock is inbred or has dementia. Blood and meat are blood and meat.”

“Your Majesty, I beg you,” Mallory whimpered, tears streaking his filthy cheeks. “My family is very loyal to the Crown of Darkmore. King Louis was very good to us.”

If anything made Sevon feel inadequate as a king, it was the mention of how good of a king his father had been. Dominic had repeated the stories constantly of how Louis was truly a coward and had left his kingdom to rot after the terrible hurricane two decades ago. Sevon had heard the stories enough times, even he believed them. But his gut churned when he encountered a subject who worshipped the man.

“His father is gone,” Dominic snarled, curling his fingers into angry claws. “You are loyal to Louis, but he is your king.” Dominic snapped a hand toward Sevon. “How dare you betray him?”

Mallory withered, and Patricia jumped to his defense. “Please, Your Majesty,” she said, again addressing Sevon. The dread tightened around his skull. Dominic was speaking for him, and these two were none the wiser. “We have been very faithful to you and your father.”

Dominic scoffed. “How dare you bring up such a weakling king?”

Patricia wailed, thrashing in the guards’ grasp. She cursed Sevon with fangs gnashing and yellow eyes blazing. “You are a tyrant, Sevon Maraté. You will never be as great a ruler as your father. Never!”

“It’s not me!” Sevon cried and jerked, trying to get free from the guard. “It’s not me. Dominic, let them go! Please. Please, let them go. This isn’t right!”

Dominic eased the full helmet onto his head, and his guards followed his lead. Sevon watched them tighten their gloves and secure their coats against the sun’s scalding light. “Cap him,” Dominic said under his visor. The guard who held Sevon roughly shoved Sevon’s helmet over his head, pulling on the bun in his hair.

Patricia went limp, overcome with tears. She sobbed an incoherent mixture of desperate questions and begged for deliverance from an unknown god.

“Got him?” Dominic asked Sevon’s captor, and the man flashed an upward thumb. “Bring him here.”

The guard trundled forward with Sevon thrashing in his grip. Sevon’s ankle-length black leather skirt rustled as it caught between the guard’s legs. The guard crushed the thick fabric into the scattered refuse dotting the sandy ground as he dragged Sevon closer to the membrane of the glowing Veil.

Sevon crossed his arms tightly around his chest, tucking his gloved hands into his armpits. “I won’t do this,” he growled.

Dominic didn’t answer and yanked one of Sevon’s hands free with a sharp snap. Sevon let out a cry of pain and indignation as Dominic forced Sevon’s arm upward and flattened his palm mere centimeters from the Veil. The globs of iridescence swirled and whirled, drawn to Sevon’s proximity.

Behind him, Mallory wailed, and tears of molten gold ruined Sevon’s smoky eye shadow.

Sevon wanted to see the light. Be in it. Touch it. Taste it. Smell it. The temptation oozed through his mind like a disease. But he didn’t want it like this. Not like this. He despised that Dominic would take the things he desired most and corrupt them into something horrific.

Dominic waved Sevon’s hand, and the sheer bubble of the Veil popped, creating a wavering portal in the protective barrier. Light stabbed into the darkness of Darkmore, and Sevon was the only one who didn’t flinch.

“Quickly, quickly!” Dominic barked and led the charge into the desert.

Two of the guards hefted Mallory into the daylight, and the other two dragged Patricia by the upper arms. Her bare toes dug desperate rents in the hard-baked earth. The five men whisked past Sevon, leaving him in the bear hug of the final guard. Sevon stared longingly into the sun from behind the safety of his helmet’s visor. There was never any doubt Dominic would always destroy something Sevon cherished.

Dominic slammed the screaming Mallory to the hot ground. The farmer flailed while his skin smoldered and flaked. His wispy hair ignited and his fangs emerged in a desperate reaction.

Sevon stared blankly and let his eyes go out of focus. It was much easier to watch someone burn when he couldn’t make out the details. He never forgot the screams, though. His own screaming never did anything. Tears rolled down his cheeks, and Sevon’s stomach plummeted with the knowledge of his helplessness.

Dominic pressed himself to Mallory, pinning one arm with his knee and driving the iron spike through Mallory’s wrist into the earth. Mallory thrashed, freeing his impaled wrist. He caught Dominic off guard by digging his clawed fingers into the meat of Dominic’s thigh. Dominic recoiled as his thick leather pants tore and the sun bit into his exposed skin. He winced, and his tawny flesh reddened with blisters. Dominic wouldn’t be deterred, however, and stabbed the second spike into Mallory’s other wrist.

Sevon snapped back into the moment and gasped in horror. “Dominic!” Sevon screeched. “Dominic, come back! You’ll burn! Dominic,” he pleaded.

“I need to finish this,” Dominic snarled in reply. “I need to make the point that this is what we do to traitors.” He limped toward Mallory’s feet. The sun had compromised his protective clothing, and its poisonous heat seeped into his skin, boiling his flesh and blood.

“Dominic!” Sevon shrieked through the open portal in the Veil. “Stop this!”

Dominic limped around Mallory’s smoking body as his own flesh sizzled. “Why don’t you get a closer look?” Dominic called. “Throw him here.”

“What?” Sevon managed to say before the guard threw him out of the portal and onto the hard sunbaked earth. Sevon’s head bounced against the ground, and his helmet popped loose from his head. His hair tumbled in spiraling waves and whipped about in the Texas wind. The sunlight blasted against his face instantly. His eyes snapped open from the searing pain, and his vision filled with blinding brightness. “Dominic!” Sevon croaked.

He pushed to his hands and knees, flailing for his helmet, which must be somewhere nearby. At least he hoped so. The sun stung at the back of his head through his white-gold hair. His head-to-toe blackout leather gown grew warm against his skin in the arid desert. He tried to stay calm as he felt around. His skin was hot to the touch, and he knew he was seconds from igniting. Sevon would die here. Right now. In the hideous way of Dominic’s latest punishment.

He counted to five, keeping calm. If he were to die now, Dominic couldn’t hurt him anymore. The idea of the ultimate escape appealed to him as the thoughts raced through his mind of his imminent release. The sun stroked him in comfort, welcomed him, and urged him onward. Away from Dominic’s reach and his wrath. The sun made Sevon feel free. It made him feel, for the briefest of moments, alive. Alive!

Sevon lay back, forgetting about the helmet, and turned his face to the sun. He welcomed the release.

“What the fuck, Sevon,” Dominic spat at him, and Sevon’s skin prickled with the ice of fear. “Take him!” Dominic roared to his other men.

The guards obeyed and scooped up the flailing Sevon. He screamed and kicked, as they returned to the safety of Darkmore’s forever night.

Mallory sizzled, his lips burning away and fangs glowing like white-hot coals. He snarled his final defiance of the sun and of the Darkmore crown. Not far behind him, Patricia’s burning body curled forward, failing to protect her unborn child.

Sevon could no longer hide his tears at the thoughtless murders.

Once safely within the confines of the Veil, it sealed behind them with a slurping suck of ether and air. The guards dropped Sevon onto the ground, and he landed hard on his elbow. If he still had a stomach, he would have vomited.

The cold air stabbed into his skin in contrast to the scalding air of the world outside the Veil. He was baffled that he hadn’t immediately ignited like most aisa. He made a mental note to find references about more verkolai traits later. He carefully wobbled to his feet while studying the swirling colors of the Veil and turned his back on Dominic and his men.

Sevon’s thoughts evaporated when Dominic’s palm cracked hard against his cheekbone, and then Dominic wrapped him in a crushing hug. Sevon stumbled in Dominic’s iron grip, trying to clear his vision and comprehend the gesture of affection.

“Don’t ever do that again,” Dominic croaked, sounding genuinely concerned. “I’d be lost without you. You matter too much to me.”

Sevon blinked back his tears. He tried wiping one away around the awkward grip of Dominic’s broad arm. “I’m… s-sorry…,” Sevon muttered. He tried to decode the meaning in Dominic’s words. Was there a hidden meaning? Or, when faced with the true threat that Sevon would rather end himself, did Dominic have a change of heart? Sevon’s mind roiled with confusion.

Dominic crushed him in a tighter hug and petted Sevon’s hair. He gripped a fistful of Sevon’s hair and kissed at the curls at his temple. “You matter too much,” Dominic said again.

Sevon shivered and questioned himself. Maybe, in this instant, things would be different for them. Maybe Dominic had the capacity to change. Maybe it would finally work out. Sevon knew the damning truth deep in his soul. Maybe not today or tomorrow or months from now, but there would be severe retribution for his insubordination. He tried not to think about the possibilities. He only focused on this moment and fought the urge to run.

He softly wrapped his arms around Dominic’s thick waist and forced himself to relax into him. “I’m sorry,” Sevon said, trying to make it not sound like a lie. “I’m sorry.”

“Come,” Dominic said in a firm order and released Sevon with a cold gesture. He limped away through the scattered trash. The burn on his leg bloomed into newborn skin. “You have to make your decree at the stockyards.”

Sevon solemnly watched Dominic walk away. Failure burned in his throat. Dominic had sternly raised him, claimed he loved him, and eagerly encouraged his love of fine frippery. Dominic encompassed the entirety of his world…. And nothing would ever change.

It was easier to pretend it would all be okay.


About the Author:

madison_parker_MG_4269-WEBLex Chase once heard Stephen King say in a commercial, “We’re all going to die, I’m just trying to make it a little more interesting.” Now, she’s on a mission to make the world a hell of a lot more interesting.

Weaving tales of cinematic, sweeping adventure—and depending on how she feels that day—Lex sprinkles in high-speed chases, shower scenes, and more explosions than a Hollywood blockbuster. Her pride is in telling stories of men who kiss as much as they kick ass. If you’re going to march into the depths of hell, it better be beside the one you love.

Lex is a pop culture diva, her DVR is constantly backlogged, and unapologetically loved the ending of Lost. She wouldn’t last five minutes without technology in the event of the apocalypse and has nightmares about refusing to leave her cats behind.

She is grateful for and humbled by all the readers. She knows very well she wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them and welcomes feedback.

You can find in the Intarwebz here:
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/LXChase
Twitter: http://twitter.com/Lex_Chase
Tumblr: http://lexiconofkittens.tumblr.com
Instagram: http://instagram.com/lexachase
Site: http://lexchase.com

Blog Tour, Exclusive Excerpt, & Giveaway – The Artist’s Masquerade by Antonia Aquilante

The Artist's Masquerade cover

BOOK DETAILS

The Artist’s Masquerade
by Antonia Aquilante
Genre: M/M Fantasy Romance
Series: Chronicles of Tournai
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Anne Cain
Release Date: December 21, 2015
Length: Novel (300 pages)

2015NewAbout the Book

As the first-born son of the Duke of Tournai and cousin to the prince, Cathal has always tried to fulfill his duty to family and country, including following through with an arranged marriage to Velia, cousin to the emperor of Ardunn. But it’s Velia’s companion, Flavia, who fascinates Cathal. Cathal doesn’t know that Flavia is really Flavian, a man masquerading as a woman to escape Ardunn, a restrictive place in which Flavian’s preference for men is forbidden.

Even when Cathal discovers Flavian’s true gender, he cannot fight his attraction to him. Flavian is intrigued by Cathal, but Cathal is still betrothed to Velia, and Flavian worries Cathal is more taken with his feminine illusion than the man beneath it. While both men battle their longings for each other, spies from Ardunn infiltrate the capital, attempting to uncover Tournai’s weaknesses. They are also searching for Flavian, who possesses a magical Talent that allows him to see the truth of a person just by painting their portrait—a skill invaluable to Ardunn’s emperor.

Add to Goodreads

Purchase Links

Dreamspinner Press ebook | Dreamspinner Press paperback | Amazon | AllRomance | Kobo

 

2015NewExcerpt

The first meeting with his betrothed hadn’t gone exactly as Cathal had thought it would. During the carriage ride to the port, Father had been full of instructions on what Cathal should do and say when he met Lady Velia and just as full of annoyance at Elodie’s presence. Cathal wasn’t surprised by either of those things.

Father would have preferred Elodie not come with them, but Cathal knew that Father would have been even more upset if Philip or Amory had been available to accompany them. A representative of the crown traditionally attended this type of meeting, and though Father believed himself a suitable representative, Philip didn’t think so. First, because Father was the father of the bridegroom, and second, and possibly more importantly, because Philip likely didn’t trust Father in the matter. He had, after all, negotiated with a not-entirely-friendly empire and not disclosed it to the crown prince of Tournai or any of the prince’s advisors or ministers.

For that matter, he hadn’t even disclosed it to his own son.

Cathal did not blame his cousin for wanting an observer of his own at the meeting. He was somewhat surprised that Elodie had been chosen, but he supposed that, despite her flightiness, she did notice things. She could be relied upon to recount everything that happened. If she didn’t get distracted by what Lady Velia’s gown looked like or something else interesting to her. No, he would have thought that Philip would have sent someone else just to be safe.

Of course, he didn’t know that his cousin hadn’t. Cathal of all people knew that not everyone was as they seemed and saying spies were everywhere was not always paranoia. The carriage, along with its driver, was from the palace. He and Elodie had taken it to collect his father. For all Cathal knew, the driver would report everything he saw and heard back to Philip when they reached the palace. And Cathal didn’t resent his cousin for that either. Father took his responsibility to family and country seriously, but Cathal didn’t understand his actions in negotiating the marriage.

Father had told Philip of Cathal’s betrothal before Cathal had the chance, and Philip hadn’t been pleased. Cathal had been touched to find that many of his cousin’s misgivings were for Cathal, but Philip needn’t have worried. Cathal had been prepared for the duty for his whole life.

By the time they arrived at the dock to meet the ship from Ardunn, Father was peeved, Elodie was bubbling over with enthusiasm, and Cathal was tired. He just hoped his betrothed was someone he could like.

He was going to have to spend his life married to her. Liking would be good, so would attraction, though neither was necessary for a marriage like theirs.

And Lady Velia was beautiful, just the type of woman he was usually attracted to with her soft curves and golden curls. She was ladylike and demure and absolutely correct in her responses to their introduction, and charming in what little conversation they had between meeting on the dock and traveling back to the palace. She was well dressed, if not in a fashion popular in Tournai. He had no doubt it was the fashion in Ardunn—she was entirely too well put together, from hat to embroidered shoes, for it to be anything but. Altogether, a woman he would have noticed, and one who, at first glance, wouldn’t make a bad duchess.

So why couldn’t he stop staring at Lady Flavia?

The woman who had been introduced as Velia’s companion was not conventionally beautiful. Flavia was lithe not curvy, her features a bit delicate, her mouth full and lush—she was pretty in a way but would never be considered beautiful. And though she was dressed as well as Velia, she didn’t seem as comfortable in the finery as the other woman did. But Flavia’s eyes were absolutely mesmerizing. Even in the first moment they focused on him, wide and startled, the large, blue-green eyes captured Cathal, and he found it difficult to look away from their swirling depths.

But he had to, and he had to forget about the surprising spark, so sharp he would have thought it a literal spark, when they touched. Because Flavia was not his betrothed.

And still his gaze kept going back to her. Flavia looked horrified when Elodie announced they would be staying at the palace. Cathal was certain Father had mixed feelings about the invitation, but that was to be expected—Flavia’s reaction was strange. Why wouldn’t she want to stay at the palace? The invitation was an honor, and Velia accepted it with graciousness and just a hint of a belief that it was her due.

But Flavia was not happy. As they all moved toward the carriage, Elodie chatting easily with Velia’s aunt and Father talking with her uncle, pulling Cathal into the conversation, Flavia whispered furiously in Velia’s ear. He couldn’t hear what she said or how Velia responded, but he saw Velia’s dismissive gesture and Flavia’s narrowed eyes and compressed lips. The woman was fuming and trying not to show it.

He could have let someone else help Flavia into the carriage. He could have found some reason to step away after helping Velia into the carriage. He should have let someone else help her. But he didn’t want to. He wanted to know if the heat of that first touch had been an anomaly or if it would happen again.

Flavia looked at the hand he held out to her as if she wasn’t sure why he was offering it, but an instant later, she shook her head and smiled, taking his hand. The smile was charming and unexpected; the feeling when they touched was the same as it was earlier. Something that might have been dismay darkened her eyes. It matched what he felt himself. Breaking eye contact, she got into the carriage and dropped his hand quickly.

 

2015NewAbout the author

Antonia Aquilante Author imageAntonia Aquilante has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, and at the age of twelve, decided she would be a writer when she grew up. After many years and a few career detours, she has returned to that original plan. Her stories have changed over the years, but one thing has remained consistent – they all end in happily ever after.

She has a fondness for travel (and a long list of places she wants to visit and revisit), taking photos, family history, fabulous shoes, baking treats which she shares with friends and family, and of course reading. She usually has at least two books started at once and never goes anywhere without her Kindle. Though she is a convert to ebooks, she still loves paper books the best, and there are a couple thousand of them residing in her home with her.

Born and raised in New Jersey, she is living there again after years in Washington, DC, and North Carolina for school and work. She enjoys being back in the Garden State but admits to being tempted every so often to run away from home and live in Italy.

She is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the New Jersey Romance Writers.

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2015NewGiveaway

Giveaway: One signed paperback copy of The Prince’s Consort, the first book in the Chronicles of Tournai series. (Paperback for US entrants only; if winner is international, they’ll receive an ebook.)

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