Monday, July 17, 2017

Monday's Montage Mantlepiece: Travels Through the Scarlet Equinox

The Autumnal equinox—when the trees dress in their formal scarlet and gold and the crisp air whispers of chance and change, when bright days turn into sudden storms and the veil between reality and imagination thins. Join the Mischief Corner authors as they share stories evoking this often unpredictable time of year.

Stories Included:
A Bear’s Bear(Smokey Mountain Bears #3) by Toni Griffin
The Autumn Lands by J. Scott Coatsworth
Beside a Black Tarn(Brimstone #4) by Angel Martinez
Eternity in the Tides by Freddy MacKay

Genres: Gay Paranormal Romance, Gay Science Fiction, Gay Fantasy, Gay/Bisexual Urban Fantasy

A Bear’s Bear(Smokey Mountain Bears #3) by Toni Griffin
Matthew Warner's been a Chicago Bears fan as far back as he can remember. What other team was a young bear shifter from the Smokey Mountains supposed to root for? When his college friend gets tickets to the next home game, Matthew jumps at the chance for a holiday. It's his favorite time of year and Nic promises him pumpkin carving and a visit to the world's largest corn maze, what more could he want?

What Matthew doesn’t expect is finding out the defensive tackle for the Bears is his mate. Between fainting at the realization, meeting family, and dealing with the media fallout of his mate's coming out Matthew is in for a hell of a rocky Halloween.

The Autumn Lands by J. Scott Coatsworth
Jerrith is running. Kissed by an elf, he can't remain in his hometown of Althos anymore. 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.

Beside a Black Tarn(Brimstone #4) by Angel Martinez
When Shax stumbles across rumors of an experimental house that responds to the occupant’s brain functions, creating scenarios to please and delight, naturally he wants to steal it. But with the return of a troubled and hunted Julian Parallax and an overabundance of Poe references, even Shax’s scheming may not be enough to get the Brimstone crew out alive this time.

Eternity in the Tides by Freddy MacKay
Autumn has always been Zak's favorite season for hiking and camping. Not to mention breathing in all that crisp fall air and sitting around toasty bonfires. That all changed year and a half ago when a rich prick high on prescription pills sideswiped Zak while he was out biking.

Now his days are filled with pain and limited mobility. No more camping. No more trails. Zak's life as he knew it is gone forever.

Back at his beloved stomping grounds, Zak is ready to say hello and goodbye one last time. But when a cry from the frigid Lake Superior waters throws him into the role of a rescuer, more than just his life hangs in the balance. Little did Zak know how much one person giving a damn mattered to him.

A Bear’s Bear(Smokey Mountain Bears #3) by Toni Griffin
Chapter One
Matthew Warner stood in the middle of his Alpha's backyard. Christian Packard was hosting the last sleuth get-together for the year. Yes, they would still meet up and have a run once a month. But the gatherings and cookouts like this usually ended in October before the weather turned too cold. As shifters, they tended to run hotter than humans did, but it would look weird to the neighbors if Christian hosted cookouts when the weather had dropped into the low thirties.

People stood around in small groups talking and laughing. The entire sleuth had turned out, as they usually did. Matthew pulled on his beer, drinking the last of it. He laughed at something Bobby said, thankfully swallowing his beer first. Spraying beer through your nose was disgusting. Matthew clapped Aaron on the shoulder and held his empty beer out.

"Anyone need a refill?" he asked.

"Yeah," Bobby, Aaron, Clayton, and Jeffery all acknowledged.

"Be back in a sec." Matthew gathered the empties and headed for the bin Christian and Vincent had put aside for them. The glass rattled as it hit the other bottles already littering the base.

Matthew said hello to Patricia, the previous Alpha, as he passed her on the back porch where she was laying out food on the massive table. She'd been a great Alpha and continued to be a wonderful support to her son.

He'd just reached down to start digging in the ice chest for the beers when Matthew's phone vibrated in his pocket. Seconds later, his ringtone sounded. He stood, fished his phone out, grinned widely when he saw the display, and swiped his finger across the screen to answer the call.

"Give me good news, man," Matthew greeted his old college buddy, Nicholas Valenti.

A slight pause, then, "I got the tickets."

"Yes." Matthew might have jumped in the air and pumped his fist. When he realized what he'd done, he quickly looked around to see if anyone had witnessed his uncool moment.

He heard laughing on the other end of the line. "You seriously just pumped your fist, didn't you?"

"I did not," Matthew spluttered.

"Dude, you can't lie to me. After sharing a room with you for four years, I know everything there is to know about you."

Not everything, Matthew thought. There was one major fact about him that Nicholas didn't know. He wasn't about to tell the man either. As his friend wasn't his mate, it was against their law to divulge their secret without either prior approval from their Alpha or extenuating circumstances. Matthew had neither.

Matthew lowered his voice. "There may have been a small fist pump," he admitted.

The Autumn Lands by J. Scott Coatsworth
Chapter One
Jerrith Ladner ran down Dyer's Alley in Althos, winded but not daring to stop. He swung left down Chaplain's Lane where the lanterns cast a crazy patchwork of light across cobbles, uneven enough to give even the Night Guard pause. His lungs hurt, but he didn't slow down and didn't dare glance back.

The occasional passerby stared at him as he flashed past, but he ignored them. Several times he stumbled and fell, and blood dripped down his bare leg from a skinned knee. The outskirts of town were silent, with almost everyone already indoors for the night.

His recent past was a blur, with snatches of it flitting by in his head like birds, flapping and confusing him with their unsteady rhythm:

The kiss.

The unexpected shock of it.

The glimpse of the Autumn Lands through the Nevris man's golden eyes.
At last, exhausted, Jerrith ducked behind a low wall that ran along the fields just outside of town and looked back.

It was quiet. There was nothing but blackness crisscrossed by lamplight at even intervals.

Almost sobbing, he sat down with his back to the wall and curled up into himself, scarcely noticing the pain that traced the lines of his rib cage or even the bright line of red on his leg.

Ever so slowly, his heavy breathing eased and his jumbled mind began to sort things out.

He had been walking to the Smithy in the early morning when the Nevris caravan had passed him by, six wagons of merchandise from the Autumn Lands covered with heavy tarps, crossing through town on its way to the stables on the far side of the village. A stranger had drawn his attention—an outrider for the caravan.

Tall and slender where Jerrith was stocky and muscled, he was a young man, more or less Jerrith's own age. His blond hair had been pulled back behind his pointed ears, the mark of the Nevris. He moved with a quiet and restrained grace.

His eyes were wide and golden, and they'd met his as Jerrith crossed the town square on the way to 'prentice to the blacksmith. The man's gaze had filled Jerrith with something hot and impulsive, a sense of anticipation. Something that he had no name for.

Then he'd been gone.

Jerrith had spent the long, dizzying hours of work in the Smithy, hammering out heated metal into a new plowshare for Farmer Angus, the hot breath of the bellows tempered only by the cool springtime air from outside. Trying to forget those eyes.

The heat of the oven only served to fuel the heat he felt inside, until he thought he might explode.

Sent home at last well after nightfall, he'd heard a whispered voice from the dark alleyway between the Alchemist's shop and the Rutting Crow. Jerrith had looked around to see if anyone was watching, then slipped into the alley, his heart beating faster and the bulge in his pants stiffening.

The man had kissed him hard and rough, and he'd returned the kiss passionately as the Nevris man pulled him close.

Beside a Black Tarn(Brimstone #4) by Angel Martinez
Chapter One
Forked lightning stabbed the sky, misfiring neural dendrites from some angry god with a migraine. Wind whistled and groaned through the rattling stalks that passed for trees on this planet while clouds hurried to scuttle around a glowering red moon.

Shax sighed and trained his field glasses on their target, a rambling mansion with towers that had seen better days. "My dear Leopold, we seem to have landed in a clichΓ© somehow."

With his new carryall strapped to his front, full of tools Mac had miniaturized and reconfigured for his paws, Leopold stood on his hind legs beside Shax, one forepaw clutching his captain's trouser seam. "It is creepy, Captain. Maybe we shouldn't go on. ClichΓ©s can be true."

"Nonsense, my intrepid pink progeny." Shax fiddled with the focus, counting windows. "You've apprenticed to a demon thief. We are the nightmares out here, not some flashy meteorological effects and a house that would prompt a realtor listing of needs TLC."

Leopold nodded, ducking his head so he could pull up the hood of his new black jacket with his stubby forelegs. In everyday situations, even an unusually large hedgehog didn't need clothes, but they'd all agreed that his bright pink coloration was too much of a beacon during jobs. Shax had been more than pleased to have proper burglar's clothes tailored. After all, the only son of a demon prince should have every advantage.

"Do you have your route planned?" Shax asked as he tucked the field glasses into his jacket.

"Up the long drainpipe. On the side without windows. The master suite first."

"That's my boy. Remember, only what's out in the open tonight. No looking for safes, trapdoors, or hidden rooms."

An irritated peep followed his advice, accompanied by what Shax was beginning to recognize as a hedgehog glare. "I have it, Captain. You gave simple instructions. I am not Heckle."

"Now, now. None of that." Shax ran a hand through his hair to complete his artful mussing. "Heckle's not stupid. Just… easily distracted."

"And impetuous. And clumsy and so twitchy. Curious fingers."

"He did apologize and has orders not to enter your burrow again. Please let it go." Shax unfastened the first three buttons of his shirt. "Here we go, then. I'll do the best I can to give you time, but when you hear me leaving or when I call for you, it's time to go."

With a last pat to Shax's leg, Leopold dropped to all fours and scurried off through the vegetation. This would be classic accomplice distraction technique, nothing fancy. Start with the basics. He tapped in the code for the Brimstone's pilot pod where Ness was monitoring. "We're going in, cupcake. Radio silence, please. I'll yell if we need you."

Eternity in the Tides by Freddy MacKay
Chapter One
Crimson, hot pink, burnt orange, and a dark purple lit the sky and splashed over the calm waters of Lake Superior. Dusk had fallen in all its beauty, gracing Zak with the perfect moment at his favorite stomping grounds. If he had to go, and well… yeah, he couldn't ask for anything better than this. Tonight was the night. Had to be.

Water lapped at the boat, rocking it gently. A breeze wafted over Zak. He shivered, then hugged himself as he looked over the lake, back at Madeline Island. Like each night over the past few days, a pang of longing hit him. Zak had said his goodbyes, accepted the fate handed to him, knew better than to hold on to dreams he could never have. He should have been able to take the next step.

But he couldn't.

Each night he rowed back to his rental cabin, Quiet Bequest, in defeat. What the hell he held on for, Zak didn't have a clue. His heart thumped heavily, his palms slipped over the oars, and the hair on his arms stood up—goose bumps everywhere—as if something big were about to happen.

Well, yeah, something huge if Zak could get his head on straight. Well, maybe not straight—his plan was utter ridiculousness to the outside observer. Made sense to him, though. But then it would.

Anticipation rode Zak hard. He knew what he had to do. Planned it. Came determined. This trip, the two-week cabin retreat he could never afford, the rowboat--my accident—had been in the works for months. And now… now Zak cowered in his waterlogged rowboat.


Zak pulled the oars into the boat, gave his tackle and rod a sidelong glance, and turned. All he had to do was get out of the damn boat and into the water. Simple as that.

"Just, just do it, fucker."

Toni Griffin
Toni Griffin lives in Darwin, the smallest of Australia’s capital cities. Born and raised in the state she’s a Territorian through and through. Growing up Toni hated English with a passion (as her editors can probably attest to) and found her strength lies with numbers.

Now, though, she loves escaping to the worlds she creates and hopes to continue to do so for many years to come. She’s a single mother of one and works full time. When she’s not writing you can just about guarantee that she will be reading one of the many MM authors she loves.

J. Scott Coatsworth
Scott has been writing since elementary school, when he won a University of Arizona writing contest in 4th grade for his first sci fi story (with crayon 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 site, a support group for writers of gay sci fi, fantasy, and supernatural fiction.

Angel Martinez
Angel Martinez currently lives part time in the hectic sprawl of northern Delaware and full time inside her head. She has one husband, one son, two cats, a love of all things beautiful and a terrible addiction to the consumption of both knowledge and chocolate.

Angel's alter ego writes the all-ages science fiction - Sandra Stixrude.

Freddy MacKay
Freddy grew up in the Midwest, playing sports and running around outside. And honestly, that much has not changed since Freddy was small and throwing worms at other kids, expect worm throwing has been replaced with a healthy geocaching addiction. Freddy enjoys traveling and holds the view a person should continually to learn about new things and people whenever possible.

Freddy's contemporary LGBTQ book, Incubation: Finding Peace 2, won 3rd Place - Best Gay Erotic Fiction in the 2012 Rainbow Awards. In 2013, Freddy's story, Internment, tied for 3rd Place - Best Gay Fantasy in the Rainbow Awards. Freddy's steampunk/SF story, Feel Me, was a finalist and honorable mention in the 2014 Rainbow Awards for SF.

Toni Griffin

J Scott Coatsworth

Angel Martinez

Freddy MacKay


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