Blogging, Book Love, Cover Reveals, writers life, writing

FADE TO WHITE by Tara K. Ross – Cover Reveal

Fade to White Cover

Thea Fenton’s life looks picture-perfect, but inside, she is falling apart. Wracked by anxiety no one seems to understand or care about, she resorts to self-harm to deflect the pain inside.

When a local teen commits suicide, Thea’s anxiety skyrockets. Unexplainable things happen, leaving her feeling trapped within her own chaotic mind. The lines between reality and another world start to blur, and her previously mundane issues seem more daunting and insurmountable than ever.

Then she meets Khi, a mysterious new boy from the coffee shop who seems to know her better than she knows herself—and doesn’t think she’s crazy. His quiet confidence and unfounded familiarity draw her into an unconventional friendship.

Khi journeys with her through grief, fear, and confusion to arrive at compassion for the one person Thea never thought she could love.

A deeply transformational novel from an authentic new voice in Christian young adult fiction.

  •  Fade to White is a contemporary YA novel which explores the interplay of faith and mental health through one girl’s struggles with anxiety and self-harm.
  • There is a touch of magical realism for all those fantasy lovers out there.

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Blogging, Book Love, canadian authors, writers life, writing, Writing Submission

Forever Summer by Nicole Bea – Blog Tour

Forever Summer
Nicole Bea
Published by: The Wild Rose Press
Publication date: February 24th 2020
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult

Morrigan Westhaver isn’t convinced anything could make her forget her abusive ex-boyfriend—not even if she travels all the way from her home in Michigan to her father’s ranch in Alabama. Saved text messages and voicemails haunt her life with poisonous words and crippling self-doubt, but she can’t seem to let them go. On the ranch, much to her surprise, she immediately takes to a rescued horse, Stormy, as well as Levy, an attractive ranch hand. Will their understanding and gentle support help her heal, or is the damage too deep?

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble

EXCERPT:

“We could have texted if you wanted to talk,” I remind him, patting the spot on the bed where my phone has slipped down to.

He pulls an elastic band from his wrist and snaps it into place around his hair, making a perfectly small bun before taking the towel, squeezing the excess water from the style, and taking a seat at the edge of my bed.

“You’re trying to make it sound like you don’t want me here, but I know you do. You wouldn’t have let me in otherwise, and you wouldn’t have kissed me this afternoon.” There’s a pause, the night dripping in and our faces drawing closer. “Do you believe in love at first sight, Morrigan?” His voice hangs heavy and warm in the bedroom air.

The question might be a rhetorical one, but I feel compelled to answer because I think I gave a shit answer the first time he asked me the question.

“I used to,” I reply softly, a whispered lilt to my voice that matches his own. “You know, before.” I tuck a loose strand of hair behind my ear.

“That’s interesting.” He clasps his hands together and rests them between his thighs. His eyes tell me that isn’t the answer he wanted. “You stopped believing in love at first sight when I finally started.”


Author Bio:

NICOLE BEA is a short story author and novelist who primarily focuses on contemporary teen fiction. An avid storyteller since childhood, she has honed her skills through a variety of educational programs including management, sociology, legal studies, and cultural diversity in the workplace, most recently engaging in coursework about communication for technologists. In addition to writing for young adults, Nicole is also a technical writer for a global manufacturer of CPAP masks, machines, and other products that manage sleep-disordered breathing.

When she isn’t busy updating her manuscript portfolio or catching up on her To Be Read pile, Nicole can usually be found gardening, horseback riding, or pursuing her new hobby of learning to cook. She and her husband share their home in Eastern Canada with a collection of multi-colored cats and a lifetime’s worth of books.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

 

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Blogging, Book Love, Cover Reveals, writers life, writing

Cover Reveal : Warmaidens by Kelly Coon

Isn’t the cover gorgeous?!

Just a few moons after escaping the tomb in Alu, Kammani and the other runaway maidens have found refuge in the city-state of Manzazu. There, Kammani has become a respected healer, especially among the warriors she’s brought back from the brink of death. Now that the nightmares of Alu are fading, she can finally decide whether or not to take Dagan’s hand in marriage.

But when an assassin murders a healer he believes is Kammani and attempts to kill the displaced queen of Alu, the maidens realize they’ve been found.
Hungry for revenge, Manzazu’s queen wants to strike back at Alu with her fiercest weapons—her scorpion warrior maidens—but Kammani knows that war harms more than it heals. To save the innocents and any chance of a future with Dagan, Kammani must take down Alu’s ruler before their lives burn up in the flames of war.
Author Interview, Blogging, Book Love, writers life, writing

HER HOMECOMING WISH by Jo McNally

cover_Her Homecoming Wish_Jo McNally
She’s ready to shed her good-girl ways…
“You’re all about following the rules now?
“Pity.”
Mackenzie Wallace hopes there’s still some bad boy lurking beneath single father Danny Adams’s upright exterior. Being the proverbial good girl left her brokenhearted and alone in the past. Now she’s back in town and wants excitement with her high school crush—not love. Dan knows their connection runs deep, despite Mackenzie’s protests. But will their new personas work together—especially when Dan’s secret is exposed?

Harlequin Series Spine Showcase

Excerpt

Dan returned, thankfully ending the conversation. He handed her a glass, but it wasn’t beer.

“I thought you might want some water to hydrate yourself from all your…uh…activity.”

“In other words, you agree I’ve had enough beer tonight? You’re right—this is not a typical Friday night for me.” Remembering she was here to start a more fun-loving life, she lifted her chin. “At least it wasn’t before tonight.”

Owen leaned forward to make himself heard over the music. “Hey, Dan, you bike, right? A bunch of us are going to do the loop around the lake Sunday. Wanna join us?”

Mack’s eyes went wide. “Dan, you still have your motorcycle? I used to love the way that thing rumbled…”

Kiara’s eyebrows rose, and Mack realized she sounded gushy. But she hadn’t thought of Dan pulling up behind the liquor store on that dark red Harley of his in a long time. He’d been every teenage girl’s bad-boy dream—handsome, reckless and restless. She used to run to the back window when she heard him coming, just to watch him pull that helmet off and run his fingers through his hair, wearing those tight jeans.

Was it hot in here, or was it her memories that were heating her up right now? She gulped down the cold water, nearly emptying the glass in one pull. Dan was saying something. Oh, damn. Dan was talking and she wasn’t even listening…

“…think Owen’s referring to bicycles, not motorcycles.” He nodded toward Owen. “I’ve got Chloe this weekend, so I’ll have to pass.” His mouth slanted into a half grin as he turned back to Mack. “But yes, I still have the old Harley. It’s been in mothballs for a few years, but I can’t seem to part with that last vestige of my misspent youth.”

That bad boy might still be in there…

“You know, I’ve never been on a motorcycle. You should give me a ride sometime…”

Dan coughed and the others laughed. That wasn’t the kind of ride she’d meant, of course. Or was it? Rather than apologize, she just met his gaze and shrugged.

There was a spark of something in his eyes. Interest? He closed them and shook his head, as if chasing away whatever thoughts she’d put there.

Author Bio

author photo_Jo McNally

Jo McNally lives in upstate New York with 100 pounds of dog and 200 pounds of husband – her slice of the bed is very small. When she’s not writing or reading romance novels (or clinging to the edge of the bed…), she can often be found on the back porch sipping wine with friends, listening to an eclectic playlist. If the weather is perfect, she might join her husband on the golf course, where she always feels far more competitive than her actual skill-level would suggest.

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Author Interview, Blogging, Book Love, writers life, writing

TEMPORARY WIFE TEMPTATION by Jayci Lee – Blog Tour

cover_Temporary Wife Temptation_Jayci Lee

Much more than he bargained for…
“You want me to find you a wife?”
“No. I want you to be my wife.”
Garrett Song is this close to taking the reins of his family’s LA fashion empire…until the Song matriarch insists he marry her handpicked bride first. To block her matchmaking, he recruits Natalie Sobol to pose as his wife. She needs a fake spouse as badly as he does. But when passion burns down their chaste agreement, the flames could destroy them all…

Excerpt

Garrett resisted the urge to glance over his shoulder to check on her. Natalie was a grown woman and he didn’t need to protect her from being swarmed by admirers. Besides, she was the one who had proposed they refrain from other relationships, so she wouldn’t do anything to hurt his reputation or hers.

Earlier, at her apartment, he’d caught fire at the sight of her in her little black dress. It was demure compared to the one she’d worn at Le Rêve, but it hugged her hourglass figure and highlighted the curves underneath just enough to tease his imagination.

He walked to the bar for his Scotch and grabbed a flute of champagne from a server on his way back. As he’d anticipated, Natalie was now surrounded by a group of men and he lengthened his strides to reach her.

“Sorry to keep you waiting, sweetheart.” He pressed a light kiss on her lips and handed her the champagne.

“Thank you.” She leaned her head against his shoulder when he pulled her to his side, playing her part like a pro.

“Natalie was just taking us to task about USC’s new head coach. It seems neither he nor I truly understand college football,” said one of Mike’s college friends.

“Is that so?” Garrett raised an eyebrow at her and she shrugged.

“Taking you to task is a bit harsh.” She hid her grin against the rim of her champagne flute as she took a long sip. “It’s just that I have a better understanding than you guys.”

The audience winced and guffawed at her cheekiness. As Natalie continued with her lecture, all the men listened intently, as did Garrett. She was funny and down-to-earth, and her mind was quicker than lightning. Lost in her words, Garrett belatedly noticed the crowd had grown. Her champagne glass was depleted and her smile was becoming strained.

He leaned down close to her ear. “Tired?”

“And hungry.”

“All right, gentlemen. I’m whisking away my date now. I’m tired of sharing her.”

When the crowd finally dispersed, Natalie slumped against him with a groan. “I need food, champagne and somewhere to sit.”

A server walked over with a tray of bacon-wrapped shrimp and Natalie snatched a couple of them. She popped one in her mouth and mumbled around her food, “Not necessarily in that order.”

Garrett laughed and guided her toward the French doors leading out to the garden. Natalie ate every single hors d’oeuvre she met along the way and finished another glass of champagne.

“Holy cow. Is everything really, really delicious, or am I just famished? I would totally go back for that crab cake if my feet weren’t screaming at me to get my butt on a chair.”

He glanced down at her zebra-print high heels. They did amazing things for her legs but didn’t look remotely comfortable. “There’s a bench around the corner.” 

“Oh, thank God.” She kicked off her shoes as soon as she plopped onto the seat.

Garrett shrugged out of his jacket and draped it around her shoulders before sitting next to her.

“Thank you,” she murmured, gazing at the garden. “It’s so beautiful out here.”

“Is it?” He and Mike had grown up tearing apart that very garden, but Garrett had never sat still and taken it all in, like they were doing now. “I guess you’re right.”

“Mmm-hmm.”

He studied her profile, her high, regal cheekbone and the graceful curve of her neck. Half of her hair had escaped the loose knot behind her head and fell down her back and shoulders. He wanted to sweep aside her hair and feel the softness of her skin, which he absolutely should not do.

“So how do you know so much about college football?” He tore his gaze away from her and stared at an old maple tree ahead of him, hard enough to make his eyes water.

“Long story.”

“We’ve got time.” He made a show of checking his watch. “I’ll give you ten minutes.”

Her laughter filled the garden, then ended on a wistful sigh. “My dad and I, we weren’t very close. The only time he didn’t mind my company was when we watched college football together. He was a huge fan. I don’t think he even noticed I was sitting there half the time.”

Garrett understood what that felt like. As soon as he finished graduate school, he’d thrown himself into his work. It was satisfying in its predictability and it created a common ground for him and his father. His dad had stepped down from the CEO position when his mom died, but returned to Hansol a few years later as an executive VP.

“I thought if I learned enough about the sport, he’d like me a little better.” Her shrug told him it hadn’t worked, but Natalie told her story without an ounce of self-pity—like she owned her past, hurt and all. His respect for her deepened. “But soon I noticed I wasn’t faking my enthusiasm anymore. I’d grown to love the sport. Who knew it’d come in handy at an intimate birthday party for a hundred people?”

“You certainly won over quite a few of them.”

“I did?” Her eyebrows shot up in genuine surprise.

He huffed out a laugh. “Why did you think that crowd was hanging on to your every word?”

“Watch yourself, Garrett Song.” Natalie narrowed her eyes and pointed a finger at him. “I know where you live.”

He snatched her hand and tugged her to her feet. “Yes, and you’ll be living there with me starting Sunday.”

“Ugh.” She hooked an index finger in each of her shoes, not bothering to put them back on. “Do you ever stop thinking about work?”

“Yes.” He cocked his head and pretended to consider her question. “But only when I’m thoroughly distracted.”

Her lashes fluttered and color saturated her cheeks, and his gut clenched with heat. She could definitely become his most dangerous distraction.

Desire_Author photo_Jayci Lee

Jayci Lee writes poignant, funny, and sexy romance. She lives in sunny California with her tall-dark-and-handsome husband, two amazing boys with boundless energy, and a fluffy rescue whose cuteness is a major distraction. She is semi-retired from her 15-year career as a defense litigator, and writes full-time now. She loves food, wine, and travelling, just like her characters. Books have always helped her grow, dream, and heal. She hopes her books will do the same for you.

 

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Jayci Lee Author Q&A

 

  • Did you always want to write for Harlequin?

 

I read my first Harlequin when I was thirteen and by the time I was fourteen, I dreamed of becoming a Harlequin author. It is truly a dream come true to debut as a Harlequin author.

 

  • Share your favorite memory of reading a Harlequin romance

 

During summer vacation in high school, I used to borrow 10 Harlequin romances per library trip and read them all day, and sometimes all night, long.

 

  • What is a recent book you have read that you would recommend?

 

I really enjoyed Golden Heart Award winner Susannah Erwin’s WANTED: BILLIONAIRE’S WIFE. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys intense, slow burn, billionaire romance.

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Author Interview, Blogging, Book Love, writers life, writing

WITNESS PROTECTION WIDOW by Debra Webb- Blog Tour

cover_Witness Protection Widow_Debra Webb

 

Can the witness protection program keep her identity secret?
After Allison James finally escapes her marriage to a monster, she becomes the star witness in the case against her deceased husband’s powerful crime family. Now it’s up to US Marshal Jaxson Stevens, Ali’s ex-boyfriend, to keep the WITSEC widow safe. But as the danger escalates and sparks fly, will Jax be able to help Ali escape her ruthless in-laws?

Excerpt

She shivered. The fire had gone out. She kept on her jacket while she added logs to the fireplace and kindling to get it started. Within a couple of minutes, the fire was going. She’d had a fireplace as a kid, so relearning her way around this one hadn’t been so bad. She went back to the kitchen and turned on the kettle for tea.

Bob growled low in his throat and stared toward the front door.

She froze. Her phone was in her hip pocket. Her gun was still in her waistband at the small of her back. This was something else Marshal Holloway had insisted upon. He’d taught her how to use a handgun. They’d held many target practices right behind this cabin.

A creak beyond the front door warned that someone was on the porch. She eased across the room and went to the special peephole that had been installed. There was one on each side of the cabin, allowing for views all the way around. A man stood on the porch. He was the typical local cowboy. Jeans and boots. Hat in his hands. Big truck in the drive. Just like Marshal Holloway.

But she did not know this man.

“Alice Stewart, if you’re in there, it’s okay for you to open the door. I’m Sheriff Colt Tanner. Branch sent me.”

Her heart thudding, she held perfectly still. Branch would never send someone to her without letting her know first. If for some reason he couldn’t tell her in advance, they had a protocol for these situations.

She reached back, fingers curled about the butt of her weapon. Bob moved stealthily toward the door.

“I know you’re concerned about opening the door to a stranger, but you need to trust me. Branch has been in an accident, and he’s in the hospital undergoing surgery right now. No matter that his injuries were serious, he refused to go into surgery until he spoke to me and I assured him I would look after you, ma’am.”

Worry joined the mixture of fear and dread churning inside her. She hoped Branch wasn’t hurt too badly. He had a wife and a daughter.

She opened her mouth to ask about his condition, but then she snapped it shut. The man at her door had not said the code word.

Author Bio

author photo_Debra Webb

DEBRA WEBB is the award winning, USA Today bestselling author of more than 150 novels, including reader favorites the Faces of Evil, the Colby Agency, and the Shades of Death series. With more than four million books sold in numerous languages and countries, Debra’s love of storytelling goes back to her childhood on a farm in Alabama. Visit Debra at www.DebraWebb.com

Harlequin Series Spine Showcase

Author Q&A

 

 

  • Did you always want to write for Harlequin?

 

A: From the moment I read my first Harlequin Intrigue novel, I knew I wanted to write them!

 

  • Share your favorite memory of reading a Harlequin romance

 

A: I write romantic suspense so sometimes something light is a great way to relax. My fav memory is of laughing out loud while reading a Stephanie Bond Harlequin romance!

 

  • What is a recent book you have read that you would recommend? 

 

A: In The Dark by Loreth Anne White

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Blogging, Book Love, writers life, writing

Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith – Blog Tour

9781488056567

Slay meets Eliza and Her Monsters in Eric Smith’s Don’t Read the Comments, an #ownvoices story in which two teen gamers find their virtual worlds—and blossoming romance—invaded by the real-world issues of trolling and doxing in the gaming community.

Divya Sharma is a queen. Or she is when she’s playing Reclaim the Sun, the year’s hottest online game. Divya—better known as popular streaming gamer D1V—regularly leads her #AngstArmada on quests through the game’s vast and gorgeous virtual universe. But for Divya, this is more than just a game. Out in the real world, she’s trading her rising-star status for sponsorships to help her struggling single mom pay the rent.

 

Gaming is basically Aaron Jericho’s entire life. Much to his mother’s frustration, Aaron has zero interest in becoming a doctor like her, and spends his free time writing games for a local developer. At least he can escape into Reclaim the Sun—and with a trillion worlds to explore, disappearing should be easy. But to his surprise, he somehow ends up on the same remote planet as celebrity gamer D1V.

 

At home, Divya and Aaron grapple with their problems alone, but in the game, they have each other to face infinite new worlds…and the growing legion of trolls populating them. Soon the virtual harassment seeps into reality when a group called the Vox Populi begin launching real-world doxxing campaigns, threatening Aaron’s dreams and Divya’s actual life. The online trolls think they can drive her out of the game, but everything and everyone Divya cares about is on the line…

 

And she isn’t going down without a fight.

On Sale Date: January 28, 2020

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Eric Smith is an author, prolific book blogger, and literary agent from New Jersey, currently living in Philadelphia. Smith cohosts Book Riot’s newest podcast, HEY YA, with non-fiction YA author Kelly Jensen. He can regularly be found writing for Book Riot’s blog, as well as Barnes & Noble’s Teen Reads blog, Paste Magazine, and Publishing Crawl. Smith also has a growing Twitter platform of over 40,000 followers (@ericsmithrocks).

Excerpt

1 Divya

 

Mom. We’ve been over this. Don’t read the comments,” I say, sighing as my mother stares at me with her fretful deep-set eyes. They’re dark green, just like mine, and stand out against her soft brown skin. Wrinkle lines trail out from the corners like thin tree branches grown over a lifetime of worrying.

I wish I could wash away all of her worries, but I only seem to be causing her more lately.

“I’m just not comfortable with it anymore,” my mom counters. “I appreciate what you’re doing with…you know, your earnings or however that sponsor stuff works, but I can’t stand seeing what they’re saying about you on the Internet.”

“So don’t read the comments!” I exclaim, reaching out and taking her hands in mine. Her palms are weathered, like the pages of the books she moves around at the library, and I can feel the creases in her skin as my fingers run over them. Bundles of multicolored bangles dangle from both of her wrists, clinking about lightly.

“How am I supposed to do that?” she asks, giving my hands a squeeze. “You’re my daughter. And they say such awful things. They don’t even know you. Breaks my heart.”

“What did I just say?” I ask, letting go of her hands, trying to give her my warmest it’s-going-to-be-okay smile. I know she only reads the blogs, the articles covering this and that, so she just sees the replies there, the sprawling comments—and not what people say on social media. Not what the trolls say about her. Because moms are the easiest target for those online monsters.

“Yes, yes, I’m aware of that sign in your room with your slogan regarding comments,” Mom scoffs, shaking her head and getting to her feet. She groans a little as she pushes herself off the tiny sofa, which sinks in too much. Not in the comfortable way a squishy couch might, but in a this-piece-of-furniture-needs-to-be-thrown-away-because-it’s-probably-doing-irreversible-damage-to-my-back-and-internal-organs kind of way. She stretches her back, one hand on her waist, and I make a mental note to check online for furniture sales at Target or Ikea once she heads to work.

“Oof, I must have slept on it wrong,” Mom mutters, turning to look at me. But I know better. She’s saying that for my benefit. The air mattress on her bed frame—in lieu of an actual mattress—isn’t doing her back any favors.

I’d better add a cheap mattress to my list of things to search for later. Anything is better than her sleeping on what our family used to go camping with.

Still, I force myself to nod and say, “Probably.” If Mom knew how easily I saw through this dance of ours, the way we pretend that things are okay while everything is falling apart around us, she’d only worry more.

Maybe she does know. Maybe that’s part of the dance.

I avert my gaze from hers and glance down at my watch. It’s the latest in smartwatch tech from Samsung, a beautiful little thing that connects to my phone and computer, controls the streaming box on our television… Hell, if we could afford smart lights in our apartment, it could handle those, too. It’s nearly 8:00 p.m., which means my Glitch subscribers will be tuning in for my scheduled gaming stream of Reclaim the Sun at any minute. A couple social media notifications start lighting up the edges of the little screen, but it isn’t the unread messages or the time that taunt me.

It’s the date.

The end of June is only a few days away, which means the rent is due. How can my mom stand here and talk about me getting rid of my Glitch channel when it’s bringing in just enough revenue to help cover the rent? To pay for groceries? When the products I’m sent to review or sponsored to wear—and then consequently sell—have been keeping us afloat with at least a little money to walk around with?

“I’m going to start looking for a second job,” Mom says, her tone defeated.

“Wait, what?” I look away from my watch and feel my heartbeat quicken. “But if you do that—”

“I can finish these summer classes another time. Maybe next year—”

“No. No way.” I shake my head and suck air in through my gritted teeth. She’s worked so hard for this. We’ve worked so hard for this. “You only have a few more classes!”

“I can’t let you keep doing this.” She gestures toward my room, where my computer is.

“And I can’t let you work yourself to death for… What? This tiny apartment, while that asshole doesn’t do a damn thing to—”

“Divya. Language,” she scolds, but her tone is undermined by a soft grin peeking in at the corner of her mouth. “He’s still your fath—”

“I’ll do my part,” I say resolutely, stopping her from saying that word. “I can deal with it. I want to. You will not give up going to school. If you do that, he wins. Besides, I’ve…got some gadgets I can sell this month.”

“I just… I don’t want you giving up on your dreams, so I can keep chasing mine. I’m the parent. What does all this say about me?” My mom exhales, and I catch her lip quivering just a little. Then she inhales sharply, burying whatever was about to surface, and I almost smile, as weird as that sounds. It’s just our way, you know?

Take the pain in. Bury it down deep.

“We’re a team.” I reach out and grasp her hands again, and she inhales quickly once more.

It’s in these quiet moments we have together, wrestling with these challenges, that the anger I feel—the rage over this small apartment that’s replaced our home, the overdrafts in our bank accounts, all the time I’ve given up—is replaced with something else.

With how proud I am of her, for starting over the way she has.

“I’m not sure what I did to deserve you.”

Deserve.

I feel my chest cave in a little at the word as I look again at the date on the beautiful display of this watch. I know I need to sell it. I know I do. The couch. That crappy mattress. My dwindling bank account. The upcoming bills.

The required sponsorship agreement to wear this watch in all my videos for a month, in exchange for keeping the watch, would be over in just a few days. I could easily get $500 for it on an auction site or maybe a little less at the used-electronics shop downtown. One means more money, but it also means having my address out there, which is something I avoid like the plague—though having friends like Rebekah mail the gadgets for me has proved a relatively safe way to do it. The other means less money, but the return is immediate, at least. Several of the employees there watch my stream, however, and conversations with them are often pretty awkward.

I’d hoped that maybe, just maybe, I’d get to keep this one thing. Isn’t that something I deserve? Between helping Mom with the rent while she finishes up school and pitching in for groceries and trying to put a little money aside for my own tuition in the fall at the community college… God, I’d at least earned this much, right?

The watch buzzes against my wrist, a pleasant feeling. As a text message flashes across the screen, I feel a pang of wonder and regret over how a display so small can still have a better resolution than the television in our living room.

 

THE GALAXY WAITS FOR NO ONE,

YOU READY D1V?

—COMMANDER (RE)BEKAH

 

I smile at the note from my producer-slash-best-friend, then look up as my mom makes her way toward the front door of our apartment, tossing a bag over her shoulder.

“I’ll be back around ten or so,” Mom says, sounding tired. “Just be careful, okay?”

“I always am,” I promise, walking over to give her a hug. It’s sweet, her constant reminders to be careful, to check in, especially since all I generally do while she’s gone is hang out in front of the computer. But I get it. Even the Internet can be a dangerous place. The threats on social media and the emails that I get—all sent by anonymous trolls with untraceable accounts—are proof of that.

Still, as soon as the door closes, I bolt across the living room and into my small bedroom, which is basically just a bed, a tiny dresser, and my workstation. I’ve kept it simple since the move and my parents split.

The only thing that’s far from simple is my gaming rig.

When my Glitch stream hit critical mass at one hundred thousand subscribers about a year and a half ago, a gaming company was kind enough to sponsor my rig. It’s extravagant to the point of being comical, with bright neon-blue lighting pouring out the back of the system and a clear case that shows off the needless LED illumination. Like having shiny lights makes it go any faster. I never got it when dudes at my school put flashy lights on their cars, and I don’t get it any more on a computer.

But it was free, so I’m certainly not going to complain.

I shake the mouse to awaken the sleeping monster, and my widescreen LED monitor flashes to life. It’s one of those screens that bend toward the edges, the curves of the monitor bordering on sexy. I adjust my webcam, which—along with my beaten-up Ikea table that’s not even a desk—is one of the few non-sponsored things in my space. It’s an aging thing, but the resolution is still HD and flawless, so unless a free one is somehow going to drop into my lap—and it probably won’t, because you can’t show off a webcam in a digital stream or a recorded sponsored video when you’re filming with said camera—it’ll do the trick.

I navigate over to Glitch and open my streaming application. Almost immediately, Rebekah’s face pops up in a little window on the edge of my screen. I grin at the sight of her new hairstyle, her usually blond and spiky hair now dyed a brilliant shade of blood orange, a hue as vibrant as her personality. The sides of her head are buzzed, too, and the overall effect is awesome.

Rebekah smiles and waves at me. “You ready to explore the cosmos once more?” she asks, her voice bright in my computer’s speakers. I can hear her keys clicking loudly as she types, her hands making quick work of something on the other side of the screen. I open my mouth to say something, but she jumps in before I can. “Yes, yes, I’ll be on mute once we get in, shut up.”

I laugh and glance at myself in the mirror I’ve got attached to the side of my monitor with a long metal arm—an old bike mirror that I repurposed to make sure my makeup and hair are on point in these videos. Even though the streams are all about the games, there’s nothing wrong with looking a little cute, even if it’s just for myself. I run a finger over one of my eyebrows, smoothing it out, and make a note to tweeze them just a little bit later. I’ve got my mother’s strong brows, black and rebellious. We’re frequently in battle with one another, me armed with my tweezers, my eyebrows wielding their growing-faster-than-weeds genes.

“How much time do we have?” I ask, tilting my head back and forth.

“About five minutes. And you look fine, stop it,” she grumbles. I push the mirror away, the metal arm making a squeaking noise, and I see Rebekah roll her eyes. “You could just use a compact like a normal person, you know.”

“It’s vintage,” I say, leaning in toward my computer mic. “I’m being hip.”

“You. Hip.” She chuckles. “Please save the jokes for the stream. It’s good content.”

I flash her a scowl and load up my social feeds on the desktop, my watch still illuminating with notifications. I decide to leave them unchecked on the actual device and scope them out on the computer instead, so when people are watching, they can see the watch in action. That should score me some extra goodwill with sponsors, and maybe it’ll look like I’m more popular than people think I am.

Because that’s my life. Plenty of social notifications, but zero texts or missed calls.

The feeds are surprisingly calm this evening, a bundle of people posting about how excited they are for my upcoming stream, playing Reclaim the Sun on their own, curious to see what I’m finding… Not bad. There are a few dumpster-fire comments directed at the way I look and some racist remarks by people with no avatars, cowards who won’t show their faces, but nothing out of the usual.

Ah. Lovely. Someone wants me to wear less clothing in this stream. Blocked. A link to someone promoting my upcoming appearance at New York GamesCon, nice. Retweeted. A post suggesting I wear a skimpier top, and someone agreeing. Charming. Blocked and blocked.

Why is it that the people who always leave the grossest, rudest, and occasionally sexist, racist, or religiously intolerant comments never seem to have an avatar connected to their social profiles? Hiding behind a blank profile picture? How brave. How courageous.

And never mind all the messages that I assume are supposed to be flirtatious, but are actually anything but. Real original, saying “hey” and that’s it, then spewing a bunch of foul-mouthed nonsense when they don’t get a response. Hey, anonymous bro, I’m not here to be sexualized by strangers on the Internet. It’s creepy and disgusting. Can’t I just have fun without being objectified?

“Div!” Rebekah shouts, and I jump in my seat a little.

“Yeah, hey, I’m here,” I mumble, looking around for my Bluetooth earpiece, trying to force myself into a better mood.

This is why you don’t read the comments, Divya.

 

Excerpted from Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith, Copyright © 2020 by Eric Smith. Published by Inkyard Press. 

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