Friday, 24 January 2020

BOOK BLITZ - COWGIRL HEART - DALTON STREET BOYS SERIES BY EM PETROVA


Title: Cowgirl Heart
Series: Dalton Street Boys Series
Author: Em Petrova
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Release Date: 20th January 2020

BLURB supplied by Xpresso Book Tours
It’s not easy to impress a Dalton girl…


It’s not easy being a Dalton, let alone the last unmarried one of the Texas bunch. Keziah, or Kizzy, is drained by all the family weddings, and her sisters keep trying to rope and tie her to any old cowboy in the county. To ensure this doesn’t happen, she takes off for the big city and a job as assistant to none other than the smart, savvy and sexy KC Cohen, the mortgage company billionaire who sees her as something more than a cowgirl.

Knox Channing Cohen has achieved his goal—to build his own billion-dollar business from the ground up and without the help of his wealthy family. He’s also managed to break free of his cowboy origins and strike out on his own, far away from the prestigious ranch he grew up on. But when he receives word of his father’s death, he’s back in the saddle… the last place he wants to be.

Kizzy is dragged along as Knox’s assistant to help him deal with the family business. When she learns he’s not only loaded but a damn cowboy too, she can’t be more blindsided. Now she can see all the carved muscle on the man might not be from hitting the gym so much as hard work. Knox wants to sell out the ranch, but seeing the dark-haired, blue-eyed beauty at home around horses has him second-guessing his beliefs about the country… and wondering if he can remind her that she’s a cowgirl at heart.


PURCHASE LINKS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Em Petrova was raised by hippies in the wilds of Pennsylvania but told her parents at the age of four she wanted to be a gypsy when she grew up. She has a soft spot for babies, puppies and 90s Grunge music and believes in Bigfoot and aliens. She started writing at the age of twelve and prides herself on making her characters larger than life and her sex scenes hotter than hot.

She burst into the world of publishing in 2010 after having five beautiful bambinos and figuring they were old enough to get their own snacks while she pounds away at the keys . In her not-so-spare time, she is fur-mommy to a Labradoodle named Daisy Hasselhoff and works as editor to other authors.


You can find Em Petrova at http://empetrova.com


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AUTHOR LINKS

 EXCERPT
Son of a bitch, he was kissing his assistant… and she was more amazing than he’d even fantasized.
As if realizing the same thing at the same moment, Kizzy drew away.
He kept hold of her, unable to force his hand to let go.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
He shook his head. “No, don’t. C’mere.” He yanked her close again and kissed her hard. Angling his mouth over hers, he applied pressure to her lips that dizzied the hell out of him. As her tongue slipped out to taste his lower lip, he issued a growl and plunged inside.
She melted into his embrace, kissing him back, tongues stroking over each other’s in a dance that was sexier and hotter than anything on this dance floor.
When he’d seen her with that first cowboy, he’d been pissed. But when Corbin got his hands on Kizzy, a white fury had risen inside him. He’d experienced strong feelings of jealousy before, but this… Hell, he couldn’t let Kizzy out of his sight.
The music changed from a boot-stompin’ riot to a slow song, and he swayed her in his arms, letting the emotions he’d been holding back for days encompass him.
There’d be hell to pay for this slip in protocol, but he’d deal with it later. Right now, he had to have her.
“Kizzy,” he whispered against her lips.
Her blue eyes, so close, were a myriad of hues, from sky blue to deep navy specks. She dropped her forehead to his, and he nuzzled her lips, brushing his own back and forth across hers in time to the music.
God, the sweetness of her gripped him so hard, he could barely breathe. When had he ever felt something remotely close to this? The attraction had been there from the beginning, but over the past few days, he’d learned what an amazing woman Kizzy was.
When she reached up and tangled her fingers in his hair, he bit off a groan of desire. To feel her beneath him, to be inside her…

GIVEAWAY

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Thursday, 23 January 2020

BLOG TOUR - GONE BY NIGHTFALL BY DEE GARRETSON



Title: Gone by Nightfall
Author: Dee Garretson
Publisher: Swoon Reads

Genres: Historical, Young Adult
Publication date: January 21st 2020

BLURB supplied by Xpresso Book Tours
A young woman is torn between her home and her dreams during the Russian Revolution.
It’s 1916, and Charlotte Mason is determined to make a life for herself in czarist Russia. When her mother dies, Charlotte is forced to put her plans to go to medical school aside to care for her unruly siblings. Then a handsome new tutor arrives. Charlotte has high hopes that he’ll stay, freeing her up to follow her dreams of becoming a doctor. But there’s more to Dmitri that meets the eye.
Just when she thinks she can get her life back, Russia descends into revolution and chaos. Now, not only does Charlotte need to leave Russia, she needs to get her siblings out too–and fast.
Can Charlotte flee Russia, keep her siblings safe, and uncover Dmitri’s many secrets before she runs out of time?


Purchase Links

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 
Dee Garretson spent her childhood helping her father build his offbeat inventions and playing adventure games in the woods. After working as a landscape designer and teaching landscape horticulture classes for several years, Dee returned to writing. Her debut novel, Wildfire Run, has been praised for its suspense and its hero, Luke, who “with his companions, displays generous measures of courage and ingenuity in rising to the occasion” (ALA Booklist). She lives with her family in Cincinnati, Ohio.

AUTHOR LINKS

AUTHOR INTERVIEW

What is your name and where do you call home? 
My name is Dee Garretson and I live in Ohio.

Do you use a pen name? And why?
I don’t use a pen name now but I have in the past when I was experimenting with writing in different genres. I’m thinking about releasing that work under my own name sometime in the near future.

Are you a self-published / Indie author / Mainstream Published?
I’ve been all three! And I hope to continue to publish in a variety of ways.

What advice would you give other writers?
Don’t put all your hopes and plans on one book. I made that mistake with my first book and it held me back. Keep writing new stories and keep trying to improve your writing. Writing is only a tiny part talent. Being a successful published writer is far more about mastering your craft.

Where do you get your inspiration to write your books?
It comes from all over the place. Reading a news story, meeting someone with a unique background, visiting a particular place, or seeing a movie or television show and then asking myself, “What if…?”

Do you have just one book you would recommend others to read?
For writers, I always recommend THE PERSIAN BOY by Mary Renault. It’s brilliant writing, and shows how a writer can draw a reader into a world they may be completely unfamiliar with, yet then understand both the world and the characters. It’s hard for me to recommend a particular book to other readers who don’t have a writer focus. I’ve picked up books based on people telling me they loved a particular book, and then found it wasn’t to my taste at all so I’m never sure what to recommend.  It is wonderful though we have so many choices and genres to choose from.

Have you ever read a book more than once? And if so, what was it?
There are several books I reread, some for comfort, and some for inspiration. I particularly like to reread PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. It is the perfect escapist read for me.

Did you do a lot of research for GONE BY NIGHTFALL? 
Yes, I’m obsessive about research. I studied International Relations in college and would feel really terrible if I got a fact wrong in a book. When it’s historical fiction, your readers expect to learn something.

Do you prefer e-books, paperbacks, hardcovers or audiobooks?
I read all of the above and listen to audiobooks. It depends on the situation. I do read ebooks quite a bit because I have some vision problems so I like to be able to control the font size. A few years ago I had some serious health problems and couldn’t get out and about much, so I loved having a ereader available where I could get books for myself and not have to depend on someone else either going to the library for me and going to a bookstore.

Thank you!

Thank-you Dee, for taking the time to take part in an Interview!

GIVEAWAY


Wednesday, 22 January 2020

BOOK BLITZ - NOT SO DEAD - THE DEAD SERIES BY ISAIYAN MORRISON


Title: Not So Dead
Series: The Dead Series
Author: Isaiyan Morrison
Genre: Fantasy, Horror, YA
Release Date: 21st January 2020

BLURB supplied by Xpresso Book Tours
All Faye wants is another chance at being normal: hanging out with friends, playing video games, reading the latest Manga… As a wraith, her craving for a normal existence seems forever out of reach. When she makes the move to the small town of Hueman, Texas with her not-so dead nomadic family, she prays this fresh start will be the one that sticks.


Until… one of her kind is murdered by a mysterious man in a black mask.

With only Carter, an unlucky human witness, by her side, Faye must find a way to prevent the body count from rising and protect her family’s secret identity. As the man in the black mask lurks in the shadows waiting to strike again, her choice becomes a matter of life and death.

In the face of true evil, being normal is overrated.


PURCHASE LINKS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Isaiyan Morrison was born and raised in Minneapolis, but her heart is in the impressive magical worlds she dreams up. She hopes to share her love for world-building with her readers and help guide them through the extraordinary settings she creates.


Her other passions include reading, and researching historical events. She also enjoys gardening, gaming, and spending quality time with her three cherished cats and beloved pitbull.


Be sure to sign up for her Newsletter to be notified 
of Isaiyan's newest releases!


AUTHOR LINKS

EXCERPT
Carter’s mind told him the house was abandoned, but his body gave off a different feeling, one of not being alone. He grabbed the doorknob as a tightness swelled his throat, like it did before when Dusk had threatened him in his apartment.
One. Two. Three.
He twisted the knob and opened the door. “Hello?” he called.
No answer.
A sense of relief washed over him, but it was accompanied by genuine disappointment. He walked in and stopped just inside the living room. Streaks of paint in various colors decorated each surface of the walls. The d├ęcor was somewhat old, and every piece of furniture, down to the recliner, looked as if it’d seen better days. Near a small entryway to the right, he saw a reading table and bookshelves stocked with reading material.
The home was not abandoned.
Maybe the painter who bought the place never left, he thought to himself. Maybe he stuck around because of what had happened. Or maybe he had left, and squatters had made it their home.
Like an investigator, he took out his phone to take pictures. He walked to the back kitchen, finding it creepier than the living room. He circled back and snapped more shots but then realized there wasn’t dust on any of the flat surfaces. They were spotless. Some even shined among the dark interior.
It was obvious someone still lived there. When a flash of light broke through the front window, he crouched low in a mix of excitement, fear, and vindication. The vehicle parked and turned off, plunging the inside of the house back into darkness. With his heart pounding, he crawled toward the kitchen. There was a back door, so he thought maybe he could sneak out without being seen.
When he reached the door, he heard footsteps on the front porch followed by a mix of voices. He slowly turned the knob and pushed it open when a male voice spoke out.
“I thought I smelled food.”
Carter froze. He’d heard the voice before, but he didn’t look back. Instead, he jumped to his feet and rushed out through the back.
He followed the stone path which led through a row of garden beds and to a back fence. He braced himself to take the leap over it when he felt a small hand on his shoulder yank him backward.
He landed hard on the paved stones and felt a sharp pain throughout his back. A woman with ink-black hair stood over him, her eyes fire-brick red. He heard the hard slow clack of boots on stone pavement approach from the house.
“Told you I smelled food, Salome.”
Although his face was half shaded by a large black cowboy hat, Carter recognized Tristan standing over him.
“Is this…” Salome paused mid-question.
“Yep. This is Faye’s little human nerd friend.”
She turned confrontational. “What are you doing here?”
Carter scampered to get away, but Tristan quickly wrapped his arm around his neck and lifted him off the ground. “Oh, no you don’t.”
He struggled to breathe.
“Wait for Dusk,” Salome ordered.
“Why? He saw your eyes. He knows about us. We kill him.”
“I said,” she repeated, “wait for Dusk.”
Carter fought to breathe as Salome’s eyes, now the color of smoky gray, canvassed him from head to toe. She drummed the tip of her fingers on her lips. Unable to break free, Carter opened his mouth and bit down on Tristan’s forearm. Tristan grunted and immediately let him go, and Carter turned to face them with balled fists.
Tristan laughed so hard his voice became soundless. “Gotta give it to him. He’s determined to not go down without a fight.”
“You’re the ones who…” He pointed a shaky finger at them. “Who… who…”
“Who what?” Salome asked in a calm voice.
“You’re the ones who killed all those people ten years ago.” He heard the back door open, and when he glanced over his shoulder, he saw Faye standing next to Dusk.
This was what Dusk meant when he mentioned his family.
A fluttery feeling in his belly had told him she wasn’t involved and that she wasn’t a murderer like the rest of them, but there she was, watching him with curious eyes as Tristan took hold of him again.
 Dusk had already warned him to stay away, and now, he was at their mercy.
“Carter?” Faye’s mouth fell slightly open. “What’re you doing here?”
“I thought I told you to stay away from my family.” Dusk stomped toward him.
“What?” Faye questioned as she trailed behind him. “When?”
Dusk took Carter by the throat. “Early this morning.”
“Let him go!” She tried to push Dusk away, but he remained steadfast. “I said let him go.” She slapped his forearm, and Dusk released him.
“Come on!” Tristan whined. “We aren’t going to kill him?”
Faye stood in front of Carter. “Don’t touch him!”
“Move, Faye,” Tristan threatened with a curled upper lip.
“Tristan.” Salome nudged him back with a gentle push. “No.”
“Why? Because of Faye?”
“Yes, because of Faye.”
Carter leaned forward, trying to catch his breath, while Faye remained by his side. His vision slowly returned in fuzzy flashes of light, just in time to see her round face and concerned gaze.
“Are you all right?” she asked. “Are you hurt?”
He coughed. “Y-yeah.”
Standing face-to-face with her family, he decided to create more distance between him and them by taking a few steps back.
“You said we killed people? Who?” Faye asked.
“All of them.” Carter wiped his face. “Ten years ago, you killed them.”
“Ten years ago?” Confused, Faye looked to Dusk for direction. “What is he talking about?”
“I don’t know,” he answered. “We weren’t here ten years ago.”
“A wife and her child were murdered in this house ten years ago,” Carter repeated, “by some thing with red eyes.”
Their eyes set on him, even Faye’s with a mixture of confusion. Even Tristan calmed his overbearing stance.
“We weren’t here,” Dusk said again. “We have nothing to do with those murders.”
“Right here, in this house?” Salome pointed at their home. “Dusk, Essie didn’t tell us anything about this.”
“Strike two for Essie.” Tristan rolled his eyes slowly. “Do you still think she’s not a liar, Dusk?”
Dusk folded his arms in contemplation.
“Dusk is correct in saying we weren’t here,” Salome said.
“But a wraith was.” Faye looked at Carter. “Right?”
He nodded. “And I think this wraith or something else like it also killed my parents.”


GIVEAWAY
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Tuesday, 21 January 2020

BLOG TOUR - DON'T READ THE COMMENTS BY ERIC SMITH

Title: Don't Read The Comments
Author: Eric Smith
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
Release Date: 28th January 2020

BLURB supplied by Harlequin Trade Publishing
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.


PURCHASE LINKS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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).

AUTHOR LINKS
Twitter @ericsmithrocks 
Instagram @ericsmithrocks
Facebook @ericsmithwrites

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.