Category Archives: Guest Blog

Tour Stop, Guest Blog & Giveaway: Don’t Feed the Trolls by Erica Kudisch

Hey nerds! Erica Kudisch here promoting my novel DON’T FEED THE TROLLS, a genderqueer romp through internet drama. And if you keep up with the blog tour and its bonus DLC, there’s a $50 prize package achievement for you to unlock. Have fun!

More Than Character Models: ways the video game industry could be less gender-essentialist

I’ve been a gamer, mostly console, for nearly all my life. Plenty of people have already expounded on the issues that the gaming industry has with its treatment of female characters, amounting mostly to various forms of objectification or complete erasure. But many of these thinkpieces treat gender as a binary, with cis male and cis female as the only options for character creation.

To be fair, hardware limitations account for a lack of nuance. Video games require extensive programming, and the main character often has a prescribed gender and character model–Lara Croft, for instance–or a limited set of models and customizable skins–as in Mass Effect, where you can play either an assumed-male or assumed-female version of Commander Shepard. Some games spread the choices out even farther, once you’ve chosen your starting race or class, but I have yet to encounter a game that has such customizable options where genders other than male and female are available. Echo Bazaar allows for you to play “a person of mysterious and indistinct gender”, but has still character portraits instead of animated character models, which are much less expensive to create.

Said character models are not nearly as expensive as Ubisoft made them out to be in its recent kerfluffle about how “women are hard to animate” pertaining to their Assassin’s Creed franchise. But that assumption is predicated on the idea that there are fundamental anatomical differences between male and female bodies. Which is much more complex than “women are hard to animate”.

More prominent critics than I have extensively discussed the myriad issues with objectifying women in games. So, rather than go on about the flaws, I want to use this space to offer suggestions for game designers to break away from the dominant gender-essential modes of character design.

  • Go back to gaming’s roots. In the earliest games, even if a character had a gender, programming and graphical limitations meant that all characters moved more or less the same and have capabilities not tied to gender. The From Software games do this exceptionally well: while there are still only two options for gender at character creation, everyone can wear the same armor and use the same items, and all player characters have indistinguishable animations and voice acting. It wouldn’t be so hard to just not have gender be a criteria in the character design, since it’s not written into NPC dialog either.
  • More non-gendered or gender-unspecified characters in general would be excellent. Undertale takes advantage of its silent protagonist, the Fallen Child, but there are dozens of other opportunities to just not give a damn about your avatar’s gender.
  • Cheap option: have walk animation be customizable! As long as you have options for gender at character creation, and can select face, body, voice, and costume options, why not offer a selection of walk and gesture packages.
  •  Hire more diverse animation models. We have the tech to turn Lupita Nyong’o into Maz Kanata: use it.

Title: Don’t Feed the Trolls by Erica Kudisch
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, New Adult, Lesbian, Genderqueer, Romance
Length: 230 pages/Word Count: 55,000


Gaming while female is enough to incur the wrath of the dude-bros, and they’ve come for me. Instead of fighting back, I’ve created an alternate account. Male name, male pronouns. And I’ve met this girl. I’ve always liked girls, and Laura’s adorable and smart and never gives up, and she likes me back. Or rather, she likes the man I’m pretending to be. But I can’t tell her I’m a woman without the mob coming after her too.

And besides: I might not be a woman, not really.

The truth is, I don’t know what I am anymore. I’ve spent my whole life being told how I’m supposed to act and what I’m supposed to be, but none of it feels right. And my lie is starting to feel truer than anything I’ve ever been.

There’s a convention coming up, but the closer it gets, the more I have to choose: lie or fight. But if I don’t stand my ground as a girl, am I letting the haters win?

Then again, those aren’t the only two ways to live.

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Purchase Link: Riptide Publishing

Author Bio

Erica Kudisch lives, writes, sings, and often trips over things in New York City. When not in pursuit of about five different creative vocations, none of which pay her nearly enough, you can usually find her pontificating about dead gay video games, shopping for thigh-high socks, and making her beleaguered characters wait forty thousand words before they get in the sack.

In addition to publishing novellas and short stories as fantastika-focused alter-ego Kaye Chazan (What Aelister Found Here and The Ashkenazi Candidate, both available at Candlemark & Gleam) Erica is responsible for the BDSM musical Dogboy & Justine, and serves as creative director and co-founder of Treble Entendre Productions.

She also has issues with authority. And curses too fu*king much.

Author Links: Tumblr * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Goodreads


To celebrate the release of Don’t Feed the Trolls, one lucky winner will receive a $30 Riptide credit and a $20 Steam gift card! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on April 8, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!


Filed under Blog Tour, Contest, Guest Blog

Friday Feature & Giveaway: The Enemies of Versailles by Sally Christie

Writing Sex at Versailles

My trilogy about the (many!) mistresses of Louis XV focuses on the private and intimate moments that I believe are just as important to history as the story of great men and wars. Louis XV was definitely a man ruled by his women, including the four (!) Nesle sisters, the incredible Madame de Pompadour – one of the most powerful women of the 18th century – and the lovely but tragic Comtesse du Barry.

Naturally, given the focus of my trilogy, there is a lot of sex going on, but apparently not enough: the first draft of the manuscript for The Sisters of Versailles kept getting sent back to me by my agent and editors with requests for more sex! I’m not a huge fan of graphic sex scenes and I remember thinking, ugh, really? But I relented and made everything more “sexy” – adding in threesomes, more seductions and the Kama Sutra – though I still managed to keep it mostly implied and off-stage.

For the next book, The Rivals of Versailles, I took my editors’ suggestions to heart and went more explicit, but perhaps too much: my mother said she couldn’t recommend it to her friends! But my editor let me know that the sales team was excited about it because “there’s more sex in this one (sluts)…” to which my agent quipped back: “I always say, you can never go wrong with (sluts)”! And sex does permeate the book, but that’s not surprising since this was the period when the king really slid down the slope of debauchery (quickly): to keep his interest, the Marquise de Pompadour even set up a small brothel in town strictly for the king’s amusement.

In my third book The Enemies of Versailles I think I got the balance right – the Comtesse du Barry was a seasoned courtesan who had been around the block and was very comfortable with all sexual acts, but it remains fairly off-stage. About as explicit as it gets is when, after their first night together, the king exclaims: “And that sweet hole of which I have hitherto been in ignorance; that such joy could be derived from such a dark place.” This is based on a real incident – though the king was extremely amorous, he had been relatively sheltered, and his much more debauched courtiers sniggered at his innocence.

Any differences between sex then and now? Probably not too much. Though everything would have been smellier and hairier, human desire and urges don’t change too much with the centuries, and then, just as now, sex was as central to life as it has always been.

Title: The Enemies of Versailles by Sally Christie
Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy Series Book Three
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Historical, Literary Fiction
Length: 416 pages


In the final installment of Sally Christie’s “tantalizing” (New York Daily News) Mistresses of Versailles trilogy, Jeanne Becu, a woman of astounding beauty but humble birth, works her way from the grimy back streets of Paris to the palace of Versailles, where the aging King Louis XV has become a jaded and bitter old philanderer. Jeanne bursts into his life and, as the Comtesse du Barry, quickly becomes his official mistress.

“That beastly bourgeois Pompadour was one thing; a common prostitute is quite another kettle of fish.”

After decades of suffering the King’s endless stream of Royal Favorites, the princesses of the Court have reached a breaking point. Horrified that he would bring the lowborn Comtesse du Barry into the hallowed halls of Versailles, Louis XV’s daughters, led by the indomitable Madame Adelaide, vow eternal enmity and enlist the young dauphiness Marie Antoinette in their fight against the new mistress. But as tensions rise and the French Revolution draws closer, a prostitute in the palace soon becomes the least of the nobility’s concerns.

Told in Christie’s witty and engaging style, the final book in The Mistresses of Versailles trilogy will delight and entrance fans as it once again brings to life the sumptuous and cruel world of eighteenth century Versailles, and France as it approaches irrevocable change.

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Purchase Links: Amazon * B&N * BAM!

Author Bio

Sally Christie is the author of The Sisters of Versailles and The Rivals of Versailles. She was born in England and grew up around the world, attending eight schools in three different languages. She spent most of her career working in international development and currently lives in Toronto.

Author Links: Website * Goodreads


I am giving away one PRINT copy of The Enemies of Versailles (contest open to US/Canada Addresses ONLY). To enter the giveaway, please fill out the form below by 5 PM Mountain Time Friday April 7th:


Please Note: The prize will be sent by the author and/or publisher.

Follow the rest of the tour HERE.

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Tour Stop, Guest Post & Giveaway: Rogue Magic by Kit Brisby

Beginner Yoga Tips

In ROGUE MAGIC, Byron is clueless about yoga. He likes what he sees—Levi moving his body. But beyond that, he doesn’t really get it.

That was me about four years ago. The first time I attended a yoga class, I was terrified. I’m not bendy. I’m not athletic. I don’t go to group fitness classes. I worried about what they’d think of me and what kind of fool I’d look like.

My first tip for beginners is to put all of those fears aside. Of course, finding the right studio helps a lot, but as long as you’re hitting the mat somewhere beginner-friendly that doesn’t over-emphasize “power yoga,” you’re going to be just fine. (Power yoga is fine if you’re in shape for it and you’ve established the basics.)

Take a class specifically geared toward beginners or improving form. Listen. Be humble. Keep your focus on the instructor and your mat. Everyone comes to class with their own challenges and fears and concerns. You’re not alone in feeling awkward, but you should feel welcome. Even the people doing headstands were beginners once.

If you’re going to class, give yourself about 20 minutes to do paperwork, get changed, and settle in. Disconnect from your day. Avoid wearing fitness trackers or smart watches that give you alerts from your phone. Take off your jewelry.

You’ll hear a lot about the breath. This is the cornerstone of yoga. It might feel strange to control your breath and pay attention to it, but this will become routine as you practice more often. You’ll find it bleeding into your regular routines. You might turn to the breath to calm down in a stressful situation when you might have reached for other coping strategies that don’t serve you as well. (I’m still waiting for that to happen, because I’m more likely to reach for a cupcake than a good breathing sequence.)

Don’t stress if you can’t touch your toes or get into other “beginner” poses. I’ve been practicing yoga for years and my forward fold doesn’t look much different than it did the very first time I practices. Everyone has a different body with different capabilities. It may sound corny, but yoga really is about a journey. It wouldn’t be fun if you got there on the first class.

Another thing to keep in mind is that yoga is for all body types and genders. Sure, there’s a stereotype of young women with zero body fat and limber circus bodies, but that isn’t a requirement or the norm. If you’re plus size, follow yoga instructors online who look like you. (Google Jessamyn Stanley; she’s a goddess.) If you’re a guy or NB, go to class. Get a sense of the vibe. And go to another studio if you don’t feel welcome for any reason at all. I’ve been fortunate to attend a studio owned and operated by other queer women. It’s a very welcoming and inclusive space.

If yoga at a studio isn’t in your budget or your time availability, try an online service like YogaGlo, or start with a DVD or videos on YouTube. You can pick up a mat for pretty cheap, and beyond that it doesn’t matter what you wear as long as you’re comfortable.

As someone with anxiety, yoga has helped me tremendously. I don’t practice as often as I know I should, but every time I’m back on the mat, I relish every moment with my body and my breath. It’s an escape from stress, from deadlines, from the lizard brain and negative self talk that plague me. And it feels so good.

In Rogue Magic, Levi performs sun salutations. If you establish any kind of routine, I recommend this one every day. A couple rounds will get you moving and hone your focus.

Try it!

Title: Rogue Magic by Kit Brisby
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Urban Fantasy, M/M, Paranormal, Romance
Length: 328 pages/Word Count: 81,000


While trapped in a stalled subway train on his morning commute, PR rep Byron Cole flirts with Levi, a young waiter with adorable curls. But Byron’s hopes for romance crash and burn when Levi saves him from a brutal explosion—with outlawed magic.

When Levi is imprisoned, Byron begins to question everything he’s ever believed. How can magic be evil when Levi used it to save dozens of lives? So Byron hatches a plan to save Levi that will cost him his job and probably his life. If he doesn’t pull it off, Levi will be put to death.

Byron discovers that he isn’t the only one questioning America’s stance on magic. And he learns that Levi is stubborn, angry, and utterly enchanting. Time is running out, though. Byron must convince Levi to trust him, to trust his own magic, and to fight against the hatred that’s forced him to hide his true nature his entire life. The more Levi opens up, the harder Byron falls. And the more they have to lose.

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Purchase Link: Riptide Publishing

Author Bio

Kit Brisby lives in Tampa Bay, Florida, with her two young sons and two rescue dogs. A graduate of the University of Florida, she’s been writing professionally since 2002. Her career has taken her from writing think pieces on breastfeeding to writing erotica for the adult industry—and nearly everything in between. She works in digital marketing and helps businesses find and tell their stories.

Kit is always trying to find balance between working full-time, revisiting or writing books every night, and modeling badass behavior to her two boys. Sometimes the lure of Tumblr interferes with all of that balancing. She’s just old enough to still be utterly enchanted by animated gifs.

A single mom and aspiring yogi, Kit is open about her struggles with anxiety and the importance of self-care. She also advocates for neurodiversity and acceptance of those on the autism spectrum. Few things get her as riled up as bisexual erasure.

Though she lives in the South, Kit is a NYC girl at heart, and makes a point of traveling to the city as often as she can to catch a few shows and eat as much ramen as humanly possible.

She reads avidly, and gravitates toward historical queer romance and young adult fantasy, especially when the stakes are high. She’s a fan of awkward first dates unless she’s participating in them, and is outspoken about embracing kink and sex positivity.

Author Links: Website * Twitter * Goodreads


To celebrate the release of Rogue Magic, one lucky winner will receive a yoga mat from Kit and a $15 Riptide credit! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on February 4, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!


Filed under Blog Tour, Contest, Guest Blog

Friday Feature & Giveaway: Whiteout by Elyse Springer

Part of my character profiles for Jason and Noah was the knowledge of what books would be on their bookshelves. You can tell more about a person from the contents of their bookshelf. I knew one book in particular would appear on Noah’s: Wicked, by Gregory Maguire.

That book plays a small role in Whiteout, when Noah is still injured:

Noah napped while Jason watched a movie, then woke long enough to exacerbate his headache by trying to watch as well. He groaned and clenched his eyes shut, and Jason turned it off immediately, plunging the room into silence.

“Should I read to you, then?” Jason asked after a minute. He stood up, disappeared down the hallway, and returned with the book Noah had spotted on the bedside table the night before. He held it up so Noah could read the title: Wicked, by Gregory Maguire.

So what else appears on their shelves? Here are a few of their favorites:

Jason’s shelf is a mixture of business and leisure. He definitely likes to bring work home with him… when Noah lets him! But he’s also interested in people doing amazing things, whether in the business world (like Sophia Amoruso’s #GIRLBOSS) or in baseball.

Of course, you’ll find some baseball on Noah’s shelf as well. While The Life You Imagine is a great read, he’ll be honest that he only owns the book because Derek Jeter is hot! And Noah’s a huge Harry Potter fan; he has the entire series and has read them until their covers fall off.

Are any of these books on your shelf? 

Title: Whiteout by Elyse Springer
Seasons of Love Series Book One
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, M/M, Romance
Length: 289 pages/Word Count: 73,000


Noah Landers wakes up one day with a headache and no memory of where—or who—he is. Jason, the man taking care of him, tries to fill in some of the blanks: they’re in a cabin in Colorado on vacation, and Noah slipped on ice and hit his head. But even with amnesia, Noah knows Jason is leaving out something important.

Jason O’Reilly is sexy as hell, treats Noah like he’s precious, and seems determined to make this the romantic getaway they’d apparently dreamed of together. But Noah’s more concerned that he’s trapped alone with Jason in the middle of a blizzard while his slowly returning memories bring hints of secrets and betrayal.

Noah’s not sure what’s the truth and what’s a lie. But as he learns who he is—and who Jason is to him—he’s forced to reevaluate everything he believes about himself, about loyalty . . . and about love.

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Purchase Link: Riptide Publishing

Author Bio

Elyse is an author and world-traveler, whose unique life experiences have helped to shape the stories that she wants to tell. She writes romances with LGBTQ+ characters and relationships, and believes that every person deserves a Happily Ever After. When she’s not staring futilely at her computer screen, El spends her time adding stamps to her passport, catching up on her terrifying TBR list, and learning to be a better adult.

She’s always happy to chat with other readers, and you can find her online at:

Author Links: Website * Facebook * Twitter * Goodreads


To celebrate the release of Whiteout, one lucky winner will receive a $20 Amazon gift card! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on January 28, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!


Filed under Contest, Friday Feature, Guest Blog

Tour Stop, Guest Post & Excerpt: Double Take by Abby Bardi

Booksigning/Publishing Horror Story (9/11/01)
by Abby Bardi

This is my personal horror story, but we all lived through it.

My first novel The Book of Fred was scheduled to be released on September 11, 2001. My first book signing was on September 10, at Olsson’s Books in Washington, DC, one of my favorite bookstores. For years I had been browsing there on my way to the dentist, so it was a thrill to see my book on their shelf. I spend an hour signing lots of copies.
This author thing is going to be great, I thought.

All summer, I had been in a mysterious depression. I’d wanted to publish a book for as long as I could remember, but now that it was finally happening, instead of feeling elation, I felt something akin to grief. The private world of writing I had inhabited since age seven was suddenly public, and while on one level, I was honored and excited, it was also terrifying to see words I had scrawled thinking no one would read them suddenly become a physical book—with a gorgeous hand-painted cover—in a bookstore.

In hindsight, I think my sadness was some kind of premonition. Sometimes I think I’m a little psychic, though there was no way to predict what was about to happen. Apparently. At least, no one did.

That day in Olsson’s, I was suddenly filled with soaring joy. It was a beautiful day, more like summer than fall but with the dry air we get in September, and the sky was the same brilliant blue it would be a day later when we all saw it on TV in lower Manhattan.

That night, still bursting with euphoria, I went to my friends’ farm in the then-rural (now filled with McMansions) western part of my Maryland county. I can’t remember why, but we ended up behind their house gazing up at the night sky filled with stars you can’t see from where I live. We said the usual things people say about how small and unimportant the stars made us feel.

That feeling of my own personal insignificance helped a lot during what happened next.

When we all finally crawled cautiously out of our homes after 9/11 as if emerging from caves, something occurred to me: my book. My book was now toast. I had to cancel a number of events. The newspapers and magazines that might normally would have reviewed a new novel were now focused on analyses of the Middle East.

I did a few more book-signings and readings in the sad month post 9/11, but their atmosphere was funereal. At Vertigo Books in College Park, MD—another wonderful independent bookstore—the owner was clearly overwhelmed with grief as she mourned the loss of a local family who had been on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon.

Ironically, The Book of Fred is about a girl from a religious cult that predicts a major cataclysm they call “The Big Cat.” Now in real life, the cataclysm had arrived—I told you I’m a little psychic—and in that brave new world, the things we had thought were important turned out not to be. All that mattered was love, which is more or less what my book was about.

My most recent novel Double Take is set in the 1960s—another interesting time—and I don’t know about you, but I can’t help looking back at both of these difficult periods with some nostalgia. We made it through, and there are still books. Yes, the publishing industry has taken some hits, but even if in the future we all end up in caves to avoid nuclear winter, we will still tell stories as humans always have.

Like many indie bookstores, Olsson’s and Vertigo Books are no longer with us.

The friends I visited the night of 9/10 had a terrible divorce ten years ago. But that’s another story.

Title: Double Take by Abby Bardi
Publisher: Impulse Australia
Genre: Historical, Fiction
Length: 186 pages


Set in Chicago, 1975, Double Take is the story of artsy Rachel Cochrane, who returns from college with no job and confronts the recent death of Bando, one of her best friends. When she runs into Joey, a mutual friend, their conversations take them back into their shared past and to the revelation that Bando may have been murdered. To find out who murdered him, Rachel is forced to revisit her stormy 1960s adolescence, a journey that brings her into contact with her old friends, her old self, and danger.

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Purchase Links: Amazon * B&N



I recognized his voice from across the room. When I handed him a menu, he looked up absent-mindedly and went on talking to some guys, then did a double take.

“Cookie?” he said.

I tried on the name like an old article of clothing to see if it still fit. It felt like a suede fringed jacket. “Yep,” I said.

“Wow. You look so different.”

“I cut my hair.”

“Everyone did.”

“I’m older,” I said.

“Everyone’s older.”

“You look exactly the same,” I said. He was wearing a beat-up leather jacket over a green T-shirt, maybe the same jacket and T-shirt he had always worn. His thick black hair was shorter now and curly, skin still tan from summer, small mouth with perfect teeth. He still looked tough and handsome, but in a creepy way, like someone you couldn’t trust.

“Cookie, what the hell are you doing here?”

“I work here. I’d rather you didn’t call me that. My name is Rachel.”

“I thought your name was Cookie.”

“Nope. Do people still call you Rat?”

He laughed. “Nowadays I go by Joey.”

“Okay, Joey,” I said, since this was nowadays.

“Miss?” a voice called from a nearby table. The voice brought me back to where I was standing, in Diana’s Grotto, a Greek diner on 57th Street, with ten tables full of customers. For a moment, I had thought I was in Casa Sanchez.

It took me a while to make it back to Joey’s table. A divinity student had found a fly in his milkshake, and it wouldn’t have taken so long if I hadn’t made the mistake of saying, “So, how much can a fly drink?” Like most academics, this guy had no sense of humor and gave me a lecture on hygiene. It was amazing that knowing as much about hygiene as he seemed to, he would continue to eat at Diana’s Grotto. By the time I got back to Joey’s table, the men he had been sitting with were gone. Off-duty police, from the looks of them, I thought, or plain-clothes. We got a lot of cops in Diana’s; they slumped on stools at the counter with their guns hanging from their belts, sucking down free coffee. Back in the sixties, the sight of their blue leather jackets had always made me nervous, like I’d committed some crime I’d forgotten about.

“So why are you working here?” Joey asked. “I thought you were a college girl. A co-ed.” He flashed his white teeth. “I don’t mean to be nosy.”

“The problem with college is they make you leave when you finish.”

“And here I thought it was a permanent gig.”


“But why aren’t you doing something a little more—”

“Collegiate? Don’t ask.” I slid into the booth next to him. From across the room, Nicky, the maître d’, shot me a poisonous glance. I ignored him. “I like it here.” I smiled a crazy little smile.

“Hey, different strokes.” His eyes swept the room, resting on a mural of a white windmill on an island in the Aegean. The windmill’s blades were crooked. I remembered this eye-sweep from Casa Sanchez, where he had always sat facing the door so he could constantly scan the whole restaurant. His eyes returned to me. “Didn’t I hear a rumor you were supposed to be getting married? Some guy in California?”

“Just a rumor. Glad to hear the grapevine still works.”

I felt someone hiss into my ear. Nicky had slunk up behind me. He looked like a garden gnome in a plaid jacket and baggy pants, reeking of aftershave that had tried and failed. “Rose!” he snapped. He never called anyone by their right name. “What’s in a name?” I always murmured.

“Be right with you.” I gave him what I hoped was a reassuring smile.

“This is a classy place,” Joey said as Nicky ambled away.

“He’s the owner’s brother-in-law.”


“There is no Diana. She’s a mythological figure.”

“Like Hendrix?”

“Kind of.”

“Hey, you want to have a drink after work?”

“Actually, I don’t drink any more.”

“You want to come watch me drink? What time do you get off?”

“Nine thirty. You could come help me fill the ketchups.”


“You know, take the empty Heinz bottles and pour cheap generic ketchup in them.”

“Sounds like fun, but why don’t you meet me at Bert’s? Back room?”

I thought for a moment. This did not seem like a good idea, but I didn’t care. “Okay, why not. So, can I get you anything?”

“Just coffee.”

“You want a side of taramasalata with it? It’s made from fish roe.”

“I’ll pass, thanks.”

When I brought him his coffee, he said, “You’re still a hell of a waitress, Cookie.”

“You’re still a hell of a waitress, Rachel.”


“Thanks,” I said.

Author Bio

Abby Bardi is the author of the novels The Book of Fred, The Secret Letters, and Double Take. Her short fiction has appeared in Quarterly West, Rosebud, Monkeybicycle, and in the anthologies High Infidelity, Grace and Gravity, and Reader, I Murdered Him, and her short story “Abu the Water Carrier” was the winner of The Bellingham Review’s 2016 Tobias Wolff award for fiction. She has an MFA in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Maryland and teaches writing and literature in the Washington, DC, area. She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, the oldest railroad depot in America.

Author Links: Website * Facebook * Twitter * Goodreads

Follow the rest of the tour HERE.

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Tour Stop, Guest Post & Excerpt: The Kura by Mary Patterson Thornburg


Bum bum bum bum, bum bum bum bum, bum bum bum,

Bum bum bum bum bum… Mister Sandman…

If you remember when these were the opening lyrics to the Number One pop song on U.S. charts, you must be, like me, at least one year older than water. But even if you’re much younger, I wouldn’t be very surprised to find you’ve heard the song. It’s been covered by everyone from the Chipmunks to a German heavy metal band, and used in countless movies, TV shows, commercials, and even (so I’ve heard) in one video game. You’d have to be practically unconscious, or maybe from an alien planet, not to be familiar with it on some level.

Still, not everybody is going to wake up with the whole Cadence recording of “Mr. Sandman,” sung by the girl group Chordettes, running through their mind, lyrics, melody, and harmony, the way I did this morning. As I was reminded, that’s because I went through several months of listening to the song almost daily and almost religiously. Starting sometime in the summer of 1956, almost two years after the record was released – which means a long time after it had disappeared from the pop charts – I managed almost every day to dress up in a manner that seemed to me both mature and enticing, take a few coins from my very meager savings, and walk two blocks to Emery’s Diner, a tiny combination coffee-shop and greasy-spoon, where I ordered a small chocolate Coke and deposited a quarter in the jukebox.

For my 25 cents, I got about fifteen minutes of music, always including “Mr. Sandman,” and also fifteen minutes of indulging in a dream I’d already been granted. You see, once, walking by Emery’s Diner at about 2:00 P.M., I’d seen a fine-looking young man named Sam Kelly, who owned and operated a local car dealership, just stepping in through the door. And although Sam Kelly was at least ten years older than I, and although he probably had no idea who I was, and although I’d never seen him in or near Emery’s Diner a second time, I had it worked out that he was certainly a regular if only occasional customer at Emery’s and would certainly turn up there again soon and would certainly be so enthralled at the sight of me, mature and enticing, sitting at the counter drinking my chocolate Coke and listening to the jukebox, that he wouldn’t be able to control his immediate recognition that I was the very young woman he could not live without.

At the age of fifteen, in those days, girls sometimes indulged in dreams like that. Maybe they still do. And while that particular dream came to nothing, and soon vanished without a trace, I’ve never really given up on dreams. In return, Mr. Sandman has brought me some interesting ones.

Some of those interesting dreams – literal dreams – have been inspirations. A strange nightmare, about a truly scary old woman in a weird, run-down truck stop off an interstate highway in the middle of nowhere, turned into a horror tale, “The Breakfast Rush,” that still gives me the creeps. An oddly soothing dream about two young women, sitting on a deck and watching lights flicker in an old graveyard across a river, became “The Stones,” my first published story. Another dream – this one involving a young woman hiking through a forest and encountering a man chopping firewood – inspired my first novel for Uncial Press, A Glimmer of Guile, in which the strong erotic tension I felt between these two characters becomes both the bond that draws them together and the barrier that holds them apart.

And then there was the dream about a little girl climbing through her second-story window and down a fire escape, running from two strange men who’d broken into her apartment, and hiding under a bridge. That one was the germ of a whole fictional universe, including (so far) four stories – “Niam’s Tale,” “The Stealing of the Signal Cross,” “Ghosts,” and “Battle Royal” – and a novel, The Kura, wherein that little girl, Alyssha Dodson, now eighteen years old, returns to the world she discovered under that bridge all those years ago and makes some unsettling discoveries.

Thank you, Mr. Sandman!

Title: The Kura by Mary Patterson Thornburg
Publisher: Uncial Press
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Romance
Length: 334 pages


Six years ago, when she was twelve, Alyssha Dodson was transported by accident to another world – a world much like her own, but just undergoing its industrial revolution amidst a whirlwind of social change. She found a home there, the brother she thought she’d lost forever, and a boy who loved her, who will in these six years have become a young man, as she’s become a woman. For all these years she’s been torn between her loyalty and love for her widowed father, the promise she made to him that she’d stay in his world, and her longing for that other place.

Now, on her eighteenth birthday, a hit-and-run victim found dying on a Granville street says her name and gives a policeman a strange object that can only mean trouble and danger for her brother and her friends. Alyssha has no choice but to go back.

When she gets there, she finds changes she’d never expected…

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Now the group was close enough for people to see the alilalu for what they were, and she heard murmurs all around, along with gleeful shouts from children. To eyes accustomed to seeing riders on chialau, the Wind Beasts seemed to dwarf the men mounted on them, except for one rider near the right end of the line who appeared to be a giant. Alyssha edged forward to see if she could make out some details.

Which one was the prince? Surely he would be dressed a bit more grandly than his companions, but in fact they all seemed to be wearing the same costume, long, flowing cloaks and big soft hats. The dramatic uniform looked suspiciously like something the Kardl she remembered might have dreamed up. But all were alike, and the men’s faces were still indistinguishable. Most seemed to be neither very light nor very dark in complexion. Kardl could be almost any of them.

Suddenly the big man on the right gave his alila a kick with both heels, and the creature broke into a gallop. The other riders scrambled forward, but the first alila, a jet-black stallion, was too swift for them to catch up to it, and it thundered toward the crowd as people around Alyssha gasped and moved back.

A few yards away, the rider reined his alila in, swung down from its back, and hit the ground running. He was a huge, powerfully built young man running full tilt, his black cloak whipping out behind him.

He was making a beeline for Alyssha. Instinctively, she took a step back, startled and uncomprehending. But he closed the distance between them in a matter of seconds, and suddenly she found herself caught in a bear-like embrace, lifted off her feet and spun around in circles. Astonished, she began to fight, kicking and pounding, and heard a version of her father’s voice coming out of her mouth: “What in the hell do you think you’re doing?”

The other riders, who’d caught up with him at last, reined in their nervous mounts and stared in consternation. Without letting go, the man stopped revolving and laughed delightedly.

“Alyssha! It’s me!” he said. “Don’t you recognize me? It’s Kardl!” He reached up and whipped the strange hat off his head, to reveal a shock of copper hair as bright as the Duchess’s flame-bush in Granville. It had not dimmed perceptibly in nearly seven years.

And of course it was Kardl. Those years disappeared from Alyssha’s consciousness in an instant, as did the crowd around them, her prim speech of welcome, Shan – especially Shan – and everything else in both universes but the two of them. She flung her arms around Kardl and kissed him so hard that he staggered backward. Recovering his balance, he returned the kiss with enthusiasm. After a little while Alyssha came back to her senses, at least to a sense of the interested crowd, which would definitely have something to talk about if this greeting were to progress much further.

Horrified, she managed to pull away from him. In a low voice, she said the first thing that entered her head: “For God’s sake, Kardl, stop! Put me down! Kardl, I’m going to be married in ten days!”

Author Bio

Mary Patterson Thornburg was born in California, grew up in Washington State, moved to Montana when she was 18, and spent many years in Indiana, where she studied and then taught at Ball State University.

Her dream was always to write fantasy stories and novels, but she didn’t get started until she and her husband moved back to Montana in 1998. When she’d finished her first story and it was published, she took off running and never looked back. She’s had stories in Cicada, Zahir, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Strange, Weird, and Wonderful, among other places. Two of her short stories earned honorable mention in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror (2006, 2008), and “Niam’s Tale,” in the July/August 2010 Cicada, won the SCBWI 2011 Magazine Merit Honor Certificate. Her first fantasy/romance/adventure novel, A Glimmer of Guile, was published by Uncial Press in 2014. Her second book for Uncial, The Kura, came out in April, 2015. An Uncial Novel Byte, “Ghosts,” was released October 14, 2016, and a second Novel Byte, “Battle Royal,” is scheduled for release in January, 2017. Both “Ghosts” and “Battle Royal” are set in the Kura universe.

Author Links: Website * Facebook * Twitter * Goodreads

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