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After a bad breakup, Rasheed is determined to spend his last year of high school focused on his course work and to finish it with as little drama as possible. But when disaster strikes and his grandma ends up in the hospital, the threads holding his life together start to slowly unravel. Now, Rasheed has to deal with the return of his absent mother and sharing a home with her despite their strained relationship.


With old hurts surfacing and family dynamics shifting, Rasheed finds comfort and humor from his best friends, the Herman twins he’s tutoring, and his crush, Adam Herman, who’s not as unavailable as Rasheed had once thought. With more time spent together, Rasheed finds his feelings for Adam may never have gone away. And the feelings may not be as one-sided. Except, Rasheed has to confront old mistakes and come to terms with his own issues first, and a relationship may just complicate everything.


Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 01/11/2021

Heat Level: 2 - Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Female

Length: 55300

Genre: Contemporary YA, LGBTQIA+, contemporary, YA, gay, bisexual, Kenyan expats living in the States, East African culture, Swahili, teen pining and angst, unrequited feelings, family drama, drug use

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excerpt

“Please tell me it’s mahamri,” I said enthusiastically when I saw Granma kneading dough that would hopefully be rolled, cut into little squares, dipped into deep frying oil, and covered in whipped cream to create a slice of heaven. Paired with hot chai, it opened the door to another dimension.


Granma pounded the dough, one-two, and flipped it over. “It is.”


“Should I start on the tea?”


“You should start by taking the trash out.” She straightened, wiped the thin film of sweat from her forehead, and pointed to the overflowing trashcan. I could have emptied it last night, but I had an assignment due and each second counted; the four minutes it would have taken had seemed like a lifetime.


“Okay.” I stepped farther into the kitchen and pinched some of the dough. Granma smacked my hand with her flour-covered one. I should have seen it coming; it was a dance we’d been doing since I was five­­—I’d pinch the dough, she’d slap my hand, and warn me about worms making my stomach swell.


Sure enough she said, “Tumbo lako litafura.”


I refrained from rolling my eyes. The way she used to tell it, when I was a kid my stomach would get as large as a balloon before it burst, spraying worms everywhere.


I tossed the dough in my mouth, grabbed a pot, filled it with water, and put it to boil for tea. One thing Granma and I liked was tea—tea in the morning, tea in the afternoon, tea before bed—and coming to America hadn’t changed that. As soon as she was done with the mahamri, she’d set herself up on her favorite floral armchair in front of the TV with her cup of steaming hot tea and catch up on some daytime soaps. Sometimes I joined her—TV dramas had some really cute guys.


“They finally gave up the dog,” Granma announced.


“Huh?”


“Mrs. Kyle and that dog. The pepo chafu will not be terrorizing us again.”


Mrs. Kyle lived on the other side of the street, one house down from us. Her bulldog, Teddy—a name that maybe shouldn’t be handed out so easily to slobbering dogs—had the bad habit of chasing and attacking people, and she refused to put it on a leash. Granma did not like her. The whole neighborhood didn’t like her.


“Paul was right,” she continued, “Soon as someone threw in the word ‘sue,’ she became more accommodating.”


There’d been a lot of that lately—Paul this and Paul that. It would have slipped my mind if I hadn’t noticed her FaceTiming him two weeks before, and then a day ago. Paul only lived a fifteen-minute drive away, so why not text? Anyway, what was so important that she needed to video call?


“I’m guessing some are for Paul?”


“Yes.”


“That’s nice.”


She pulled a drawer open and retrieved a rolling pin. “Why are you saying it like that?”


“How am I saying it?”


“Like you mean to say something else.”


“It’s nothing— Okay, you and Paul are…friendly,” I teased.


“I don’t have many friends; another one never hurts.”


“True, but I don’t know many people who go around fixing other people’s houses out of the kindness of their heart.”


Granma fixed her eyes on the dough and started to roll it. “It’s called kindness. Looks like you’ve forgotten the meaning of the word.”


“I remember,” I said quickly before it turned into a speech about undugu. Yes, yes, love thy neighbor, unless it was Mrs. Kyle, of course. Lines had to be drawn somewhere.


I added a cinnamon stick and some ginger into the pot and turned to head back to my room. Granma pointed to the trashcan. “Usitume nikwambie mara ya pili.”


Right, the trash. I sighed.


Her eyes bored into me as I bent to pick it up, which usually made me more self-aware. Like, had I brushed my teeth or cleaned my room? “I don’t know where your mind is nowadays.”


I paused. “Just tired.” Second week of school, Granma!


I was still trying to shake off summer vibes and find my back-to-school rhythm. It wasn’t going great. On top of the mound of piling homework and the early waking hours that turned me into a zombie—sometimes even with growling, and on really bad days, I could bite someone’s head off—I was trying to dodge Scott, my ex-boyfriend. Whenever he weaved his way into my thoughts, my chest would burn with shame, and my body would turn into a bundle of nerves. That chai and mahamri better come quick. I needed a pick-me-up.


“You put your shirt on backward on Tuesday and didn’t notice.”


“My mind was elsewhere.”


Her eyes narrowed. “And you’re not on drugs?”


I refrained from sighing. “No, I am not on drugs.”


“What is it, then?”


“Not enough sleep.”


“Why? What do you have to stress about?”


I slumped. Things were off, and I couldn’t shake the oddness. Before I could get that out, Granma shuddered, exhaled loudly, and reached for the counter, clutching it tightly.


I moved toward her. “You okay?” But she waved me off.


Her mouth opened, closed, opened again, but nothing came out. I frowned in confusion. Finally, after a few seconds, she said, “Trash.”


“Okay, okay.”


“And check for your keys.”


“Ha ha.” Again, I was tired that day.


I shifted my eyes to her hands, still gripping the counter and repeated, “You okay?”


“I…haven’t pounded dough in forever.”


Her words were labored and breathy. She had been pounding away like an MFA fighter. Maybe that was it. Now I knew what I’d get her for Christmas—a stand mixer. Maybe that would encourage her to make mahamri more often and not break a sweat while doing it. I could do it, but I’d never gotten them right—soft and sweet but with a tinge of lemon and overwhelming taste of coconut. Mine usually came out too hard.


I lifted the bag and headed outside.


“And water my herbs for me.”


I huffed. I ought to have known going to the kitchen when Granma was there meant a one hundred percent chance I’d come out with a chore.


“Am I hearing you grumble?”


“No.”


“Good because that would be disrespectful to your elders.”


I held back the eye roll and made my way to the garbage bins. I dumped the trash and went to water her plants.


Granma had raised-bed planters for her herbs that Paul had made for her. The day he did it, Granma had prioritized keeping him company to watching her TV dramas even though she was religious about not missing episodes. Then there was that time Natalie had been over for their book club—they were the only two in the club, and they read one book a year, spent five minutes talking about how they didn’t get a chance to read it, and gossiped the rest of the time—and I overhead Granma describe Paul as a fine, fine man. Sure, there had been some wine involved, but still.


I winced when the scent of mint made me think of Scott. He loved mint-flavored ice cream and chewing mint-flavored bubblegum. I’d made it another week successfully avoiding him—thank you crowded hallways and different schedules. It was exhausting. I was constantly in flight mode. There had to be another way.


Apologize, a voice echoed in my mind. Apologize? As in, like, say sorry and stuff? Hmm.


Not that I hadn’t thought of it before, but how did people do that? The idea sounded foreign. Save for when I stepped on someone’s foot or bumped into them by accident; that was easy because they were accidents. Honest mistakes. What I had done had not been an honest mistake. So how did someone apologize for dumbness?


It was easier to stay clear of him, avoid any more drama, and focus on school.


If I ignored it maybe it would have no option but to magically—


“Eedy!” I paused, spooked by how she sounded—like a rusted engine trying and failing to come to life. As I put the watering can down, there was the sound of a body hitting the floor with a soft thud.


My heart leaped into my throat, and my stomach twisted with dread.


I rushed back to the house and found Granma lying on the floor—flat on her stomach and still as a rock. The world tilted and blurred together.


“Granma?” I said in a shaky whisper. I fell to my knees and with weak arms managed to turn her over. My breath caught at the sight of her. Her dark eyes were wide open, unfocused, and unblinking. A chill snaked down my back. I leaned down and felt her warm breath on my face. Oh, thank fuck.


I grabbed her hand and recoiled at its limpness. “Granma, are you okay?” Of course, she wasn’t okay.


She groaned.


“Tafadhali amka!” Please get up. I tried to pull her up and failed. Granma wasn’t small, and despite my size, I couldn’t get her to move. My pulse started to race and a heavy weight pressed down on my chest; breathing became difficult. I gasped for breath.


No. No. It would be alright.


“Musa?” she whispered roughly.


The hope I’d been holding on to sank somewhere to my toes. “No, Rasheed. Eedy.”


Musa was my babu’s name—my grandfather—a man we’d silently agreed to never speak of, ever. To Granma, saying his name was equal to calling on the devil, which wasn’t that far off from the truth.


I needed to call for help. She lay on the floor, immobile, her empty stare on me. I did not want to leave her. My eyes blurred. I stood on shaky feet and rushed to get my phone still buried under books from last night’s homework rush. My palms were sweaty enough it took a few swipes before I hit dial on the emergency contact. The person on the other end promised the ambulance would be coming soon.


I returned to crouch next to Granma and took her hand. She slurred something unintelligible that I failed to understand. “They’re coming.” I squeezed her hand.


She grumbled. It sounded like a mangled animal. I blinked to keep the tears from falling, but that only made them fall harder.


“Itsfine,” she slurred. Her hand twitched in mine.


It didn’t seem fine.


Last time she had ended up in hospital, it hadn’t been fine. Three weeks after I turned eight, and the world had turned upside down. I fought off the gnawing helplessness and tried to cling to positive thoughts. It would be alright.


Granma would be alright.


She didn’t really have a choice. She had her dramas waiting for her, Christmas was a few months away—Granma loved Christmas, all those sales and store decorations hyped her up—and I was going to graduate from high school.



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the author

Aduma is an economics major at the University of Nairobi in Kenya, and the type of person who feels incomplete without a book in hand. When not reading or writing, Aduma can be found lost in spreadsheets and graphs with music for company. Follow A. on Twitter. http://twitter.com/ballardofme




Kim was the first boy Tommy ever kissed. The only person he’s been in love with.

But Kim broke Tommy’s heart when he left without a word. Can Tommy give him a second chance?


It’s been over two years since Tommy’s heart was broken. Two years since Kim vanished from his life without a word.


Kim was the first boy he’d ever kissed. The only person he’s been in love with. He’d thought they were starting something when he showed his feelings on prom night, and they shared their perfect messy kiss, but he’d been wrong. He never saw Kim again. Until tonight when joy riders crash into the warehouse complex where he works.


Kim’s life is a mess. For two years he’s been involved with a criminal gang, trying to protect his mum from harm. He knows he has nothing to offer. But seeing Tommy again gives him the strength to try. If only Tommy wasn’t leaving the day after tomorrow to go travelling around the world. If only tonight wasn’t all they had.



Publisher: Stars and Ink Press

Cover Artist: Suki Fleet

Release Date: January 11, 2021

Genre: Contemporary New Adult M/M

Trope/s: . Second Chances, Friends to Lovers, I have always loved you

Themes: Second chances, Bi awakening

Heat Rating: 3-4 flames (not frequent but detailed)

Length: 35 000 words

It is a standalone story.

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Buy Links - Available on Kindle Unlimited

Universal Link | Amazon US | Amazon UK



excerpt

It’s almost Christmas Day—surely, he’s got somewhere else to be, other people to be with? People far more important to him than me. I think again of the girl with the green braids. The sharp-eyed way she watched him as he gave a false name to the police. Wherever his life is at, ramming a four-by-four into a warehouse complex and then being arrested has got to build up some serious tension. Maybe he needs to let off a bit of steam too. Maybe that’s what this is.


I take my time cycling down the rough track to the park. I’ve popped a tyre before on the glass that’s scattered around here, and my fingers are too frozen to be fiddling around with fixing on a spare.


As soon as we make it into the skatepark’s tiny car park, Kim hops off the bike. I find myself still wanting to feel his arms around me. The ache of it. Like the past has a weight, a texture, and it’s all him.


God, what am I doing? This is such a bad idea. Spending time with him is just going to hurt, I know it is, and here I am just about offering myself up to it like a masochist.


He scrambles to the top of the little grassy hill surrounding the park. “God, I’ve missed this place.”


The wistfulness in his voice surprises me. I follow him up with my bike. He turns to me, pulls off my massive gloves, hands them to me in my helmet, then holds his arms out, races down to the centre of the second biggest ramp, and starts spinning. Spinning and spinning, his head flung back, hair flying. He looks seventeen again. Young. Wild. Free.


For a moment whatever shadows are haunting him are chased far away. And my heart aches and aches.


I remember the first time I saw him, swinging on the metal railing by the coffee shack near the smaller ramps with a couple of girls from school. He was laughing, head thrown back like it is now, pink hair falling away from his narrow face, sharp white teeth flashing, the whole of him vibrating with some wild aliveness I’d never seen in anyone else. Still haven’t. Too involved in watching him, I forgot what I was doing and nearly killed myself, lost control of my bike in the middle of a turn and crashed face first into the ramp. Later, I told myself I’d been so transfixed because I didn’t know whether he was a boy or a girl. But, of course, it wasn’t true. It took a long time for me to realise that though.


That was the summer I finished my GCSEs. I was fifteen. Kim was new. He’d moved from another school across town. I never asked him why.


Back then the skatepark was full from sunrise till late into the night, and Kim hung around almost as often as I did. He made friends quickly, and though I watched him all the time and caught him watching me, I remained clueless. Maybe if I’d have worked out sooner that I was bi, things would’ve been different. I don’t know.


Leaving Kim spinning, I clip my helmet in place, toss my gloves next to my backpack on the frozen ground, and take off down the biggest ramp, doing a few sharp turns at the top to warm up.


“I used to love watching you,” he yells. “You ride like the water flowing in a river.”


It’s ridiculous how buoyed up his words make me feel, and I flush. I’m too old to be showing off at the skatepark, trying to impress some boy I know is watching every jump I make, and still I do it, taking my bike through a few 360 tailwhips. Making it look casual, easy, though it’s not, but that’s the trick. Isn’t that always the trick?


Limbs vibrating with adrenaline, I skid to a stop in front of him. “Get on.”


Kim’s eyes widen. “You’re going to kill us if you jump with me on your bike.” But still he gets on.


I laugh. “Still up for anything, eh?”


“With you, yeah.” His arms fasten around me, and he plasters himself close. “I’ve missed you, you know?”


Has he? I stiffen a little. I can’t let myself believe him, not just like that, because, no, I don’t know. But I don’t say that. I don’t say anything. My feelings are too jumbled to work out how to respond. Instead I focus on the things I do know and take us swooping down the big ramp and up the other side. I’m not about to do any tricks with Kim on my bike. He’s right, it’d probably kill us, plus I only have the one helmet. But it’s just nice riding around with him like this, even though I’m not sure how I feel right now.


“I’m sorry,” he whispers after a while, his arms squeezing me a little tighter like he’s afraid I’m suddenly going to stop and shove him off. “I’m really fucking sorry. I wouldn’t blame you if you hated me.”


“I don’t hate you,” I say quietly. Of course I don’t. How could I ever hate him? I kind of suspect in forty years’ time, if I’m still around, I’ll still get this sharp pain in my chest when I think about him.



review

It was a cute story


A sweet little story about two boys who kissed after some long pining and one of them seemingly disappeared for no reason, but we all know that’s never truly the story.


Again, cute and sweet and very reminiscent of the awkwardness of a first kiss with the person you’ve been crushing on for years.

giveaway

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one of five ebook copies from the author's backlist.

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the author

Suki Fleet is an award-winning author, a prolific reader (though less prolific than they'd like), and a lover of angst, romance and unexpected love stories.


They write lyrical stories about memorable characters and believe everyone should have a chance at a happy ending.


Their first novel This is Not a Love Story won Best Gay Debut in the 2014 Rainbow Awards, and was a finalist in the 2015 Lambda Awards. Their novel Foxes won Best Gay Young Adult in the 2016 Rainbow Awards.


Social Media Links

Blog/Website | Facebook | Twitter @SukiFleet

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Hosted by Gay Book Promotions



Follow the tour and check out the other blog posts and reviews here


It’s the summer of 1991 and serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer has been arrested. His monstrous crimes inspire dread around the globe. But not so much for Emory Hughes, a closeted young man in Chicago who sees in the cannibal killer a kindred spirit, someone who fights against the dark side of his own nature, as Emory does. He reaches out to Dahmer in prison via letters.


The letters become an escape—from Emory’s mother dying from AIDS, from his uncaring sister, from his dead-end job in downtown Chicago, but most of all, from his own self-hatred.


Dahmer isn’t Emory’s only lifeline as he begins a tentative relationship with Tyler Kay. He falls for him and, just like Dahmer, wonders how he can get Tyler to stay. Emory’s desire for love leads him to confront his own grip on reality. For Tyler, the threat of the mild-mannered Emory seems inconsequential, but not taking the threat seriously is at his own peril.


Can Emory discover the roots of his own madness before it’s too late and he finds himself following in the footsteps of the man from Milwaukee?


Narrator: Donald Davenport

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: July 20, 2020

Heat Level: 3 - Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 7 hrs and 10 mins

Genre: Horror/Thriller, LGBTQIA+, horror, mental illness, grief, virgin/first time, Jeffrey Dahmer, HIV, AIDS

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excerpt

Headlines


Dahmer appeared before you in a five o’clock edition, stubbled dumb countenance surrounded by the crispness of a white shirt with pale-blue stripes. His handsome face, multiplied by the presses, swept down upon Chicago and all of America, to the depths of the most out-of-the-way villages, in castles and cabins, revealing to the mirthless bourgeois that their daily lives are grazed by enchanting murderers, cunningly elevated to their sleep, which they will cross by some back stairway that has abetted them by not creaking. Beneath his picture burst the dawn of his crimes: details too horrific to be credible in a novel of horror: tales of cannibalism, sexual perversity, and agonizing death, all bespeaking his secret history and preparing his future glory.


Emory Hughes stared at the picture of Jeffrey Dahmer on the front page of the Chicago Tribune, the man in Milwaukee who had confessed to “drugging and strangling his victims, then dismembering them.” The picture was grainy, showing a young man who looked timid and tired. Not someone you’d expect to be a serial killer.


Emory took in the details as the L swung around a bend: lank pale hair, looking dirty and as if someone had taken a comb to it just before the photograph was snapped, heavy eyelids, the smirk, as if Dahmer had no understanding of what was happening to him, blinded suddenly by notoriety, the stubble, at least three days old, growing on his face. Emory even noticed the way a small curl topped his shirt’s white collar. The L twisted, suddenly a ride from Six Flags, and Emory almost dropped the newspaper, clutching for the metal pole to keep from falling. The train’s dizzying pace, taking the curves too fast, made Emory’s stomach churn.


Or was it the details of the story that were making the nausea in him grow and blossom? Details like how Dahmer had boiled some of his victim’s skulls to preserve them…


Milwaukee Medical Examiner Jeffrey Jentzen said authorities had recovered five full skeletons from Dahmer’s apartment and partial remains of six others. They’d discovered four severed heads in his kitchen. Emory read that the killer had also admitted to cannibalism.


“Sick, huh?” Emory jumped at a voice behind him. A pudgy man, face florid with sweat and heat, pressed close. The bulge of the man’s stomach nudged against the small of Emory’s back.


Emory hugged the newspaper to his chest, wishing there was somewhere else he could go. But the L at rush hour was crowded with commuters, moist from the heat, wearing identical expressions of boredom.


“Hard to believe some of the things that guy did.” The man continued, undaunted by Emory’s refusal to meet his eyes. “He’s a queer. They all want to give the queers special privileges and act like there’s nothing wrong with them. And then look what happens.” The guy snorted. “Nothing wrong with them…right.”


Emory wished the man would move away. The sour odor of the man’s sweat mingled with cheap cologne, something like Old Spice.


Hadn’t his father worn Old Spice?


Emory gripped the pole until his knuckles whitened, staring down at the newspaper he had found abandoned on a seat at the Belmont stop. Maybe if he sees I’m reading, he’ll shut up. Every time the man spoke, his accent broad and twangy, his voice nasal, Emory felt like someone was raking a metal-toothed comb across the soft pink surface of his brain.


Neighbors had complained off and on for more than a year about a putrid stench from Dahmer’s apartment. He told them his refrigerator was broken and meat in it had spoiled. Others reported hearing hand and power saws buzzing in the apartment at odd hours.


“Yeah, this guy Dahmer… You hear what he did to some of these guys?”


Emory turned at last. He was trembling, and the muscles in his jaw clenched and unclenched. He knew his voice was coming out high, and that because of this, the man might think he was queer, but he had to make him stop.


“Listen, sir, I really have no use for your opinions. I ask you now, very sincerely, to let me be so that I might finish reading my newspaper.”


The guy sucked in some air. “Yeah, sure,” he mumbled.


Emory looked down once more at the picture of Dahmer, trying to delve into the dots that made up the serial killer’s eyes. Perhaps somewhere in the dark orbs, he could find evidence of madness. Perhaps the pixels would coalesce to explain the atrocities this bland-looking young man had perpetrated, the pain and suffering he’d caused.


To what end?


“Granville next. Granville will be the next stop.” The voice, garbled and cloaked in static, alerted Emory that his stop was coming up.


As the train slowed, Emory let the newspaper, never really his own, slip from his fingers. The train stopped with a lurch, and Emory looked out at the familiar green sign reading Granville. With the back of his hand, he wiped the sweat from his brow and prepared to step off the train.


Then an image assailed him: Dahmer’s face, lying on the brown, grimy floor of the L, being trampled.


Emory turned back, bumping into commuters who were trying to get off the train, and stooped to snatch the newspaper up from the gritty floor.


Tenderly, he brushed dirt from Dahmer’s picture and stuck the newspaper under his arm.


*


Kenmore Avenue sagged under the weight of the humidity as Emory trudged home, white cotton shirt sticking to his back, face moist. At the end of the block, a Loyola University building stood sentinel—gray and solid against a wilted sky devoid of color, sucking in July’s heat and moisture like a sponge.


Emory fitted his key into the lock of the redbrick high-rise he shared with his mother and sister, Mary Helen. Behind him, a car grumbled by, muffler dragging, transmission moaning. A group of four children, Hispanic complexions darkened even more by the sun, quarreled as one of them held a huge red ball under his arm protectively.


As always, the vestibule smelled of garlic and cooking cabbage, and as always, Emory wondered from which apartment these smells, grown stale over the years he and his family had lived in the building, had originally emanated.


In the mailbox was a booklet of coupons from Jewel, a Commonwealth Edison bill, and a newsletter from Test Positive Aware. Emory shoved the mail under his arm and headed up the creaking stairs to the third floor.



giveaway

One lucky winner will receive a signed paperback copy of The Man from Milwaukee

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the author

Real Men. True Love.


Rick R. Reed is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction. He is a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Entertainment Weekly has described his work as “heartrending and sensitive.” Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…” Find him at www.rickrreedreality.blogspot.com. Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA, with his husband, Bruce, and their fierce Chihuahua/Shiba Inu mix, Kodi.


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the narrator

Donald Davenport. I am a screenwriter, author, educator and podcaster. I am also a film producer and director. donalddavenport.com http://donalddavenport.com/




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