Xenia’s Rant: Bumblebees and Fairies

Bees pixabay

Hi folks,

I just realized it’s time for my rant again… When I thought what I could write about this time, it struck me that most of those things were pretty serious: marriage equality in Germany (finally) and the hateful reactions from some people; the G20 in Hamburg and how some people confused it with an invitation to destroy other people’s property; how the media focused on those few rioters and barely mentioned the huge majority that demonstrated peacefully and how the real problems – refugees, climate change, growing aggression in the world,… – were practically ignored; a post from a woman who gave ten reasons why homosexual couples should be forbidden to have/adopt children; how many of us seem to forget all rules concerning polite conversation once we can act in the secure anonymity of the web; how picking a side seems to have become more important than actually solving a problem by means of discussion; and on and on and on my list goes and each topic deserves a rant, possibly two.

But it’s summer time and for some reasons, I don’t want to rant – at least not about how bad the world is. So let’s talk about an entirely different topic: the possibility of bumblebees being fairies.

Those who know me also know I have a thing for bumblebees. Don’t ask me why, it’s one of those strange personal likes everybody has. To me it’s bumblebees and sunflowers. In my opinion bumblebees are simply the cutest with their furry, plump bodies and small wings that shouldn’t be able to carry them – and yet they do. Makes you think twice about the fairy theory, doesn’t it?

According to something I read, they change their shape during the night, when people can’t see them. Then they are creatures of perfect grace and utter beauty – which, to me, they are during the day as well… so my point is…

Rats! Seems like I always end up with something serious. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Always. So let’s not mock the bumblebee, because to some, it looks like a fairy.

I don’t know about you, but somehow, talking about bumblebees always makes me feel better… Next time, I rant again, promise.

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Writing Paranormal By the Seat of my Pants

Demons Be Mine - Michael Mandrake - Immortals

*Michael Mandrake is the male muse of author Sharita Lira*

Greetings readers. Thanks you Scott at QRI for letting me share my thoughts with you about…well everything.

Okay, not quite.

While I do enjoy some trivial things like celebrity gossip, movies, and the occasional Facebook or Twitter rants, I will mostly talk about things related to books and writing. I am an author after all, and really, who wants to hear my thoughts on politics, hmm?

*blinks*

No, you do not.

So instead, we’ll stick to author things, such as plotting…. Or not. The topic of today’s post is writing paranormal by the seat of my pants.

Now for those who are familiar with my work as Michael, I usually plot everything . If it’s not a formal outline, I write down details for the story. I’ve even written the dreaded synopsis before the story was done.

 

Yes, I’ve done that, but with this newest series titled Immortals, I’m basically writing whatever comes to mind.

*gasp*

What? You don’t have a hundred thousand how-to manuals within reach?

Blasphemy!

Oh, I know. I should and really, they aren’t far away from where I’m sitting as I write this post. However, let’s put it this way; with this new series, I truly wanted something different. I desired something completely organic and when you craft a book from your pants, you’d hope that is what happens. All the characters are completely made up in my head and since I don’t (or rather Sharita) doesn’t watch much television, all the weird things that happen in this book are from her warped brain.

*Sharita nods*

What does this new series entail? Hmm, let’s see. Demons, vampires, shifters, and hey, even Lucifer is part of the mix. It is loosely tied to N’awlins Exotica and the paranormal twins books as well, since the three main characters are in book two.

Knowing all this, I’d say it wasn’t difficult to draft these stories. All my ideas are in my brain and for the most part, I know the outcome from all the books.

So why not just plot them, you ask? Because I truly wanted the characters to surprise me. And, as I sit here reading over book two, Immortality’s Gift, they have done just that. I also question Sharita’s sanity after reading these passages, but that is neither here nor there.

Writers are strange creatures, right? Our stories come from a deep place. And when it comes to fantasy, it’s created from something deeper within. Sure, everything has to make sense, which is why beta readers are on standby to tell Shar she’s nuts. However, it could be a great idea even if it doesn’t fit the idea of “sensible.” That’s the wonderful thing about paranormal is everyone’s interpretation is different. The way I write demons is different from any other author. It is however fantasy.

So, perhaps it isn’t a terrible thing to temporarily discard the manuals to writing paranormals and/or fantasies. In this instance, I truly believe Shar and I have come up with some interesting stories that will break the mold. As long as the stories don’t come out boring, I believe we’ve achieved our goal. Plotting this out might’ve stunted the stories growth or the characters would do what they usually do; forget the plot and go their own way. It could be maddening, but also thrilling for the reader and author.

Thanks for listening to me today with this rather snarky post. If you’d like to follow me, you can do so at Michael Mandrake on WordPress, Facebook, and Twitter.

* * * *

Demons Be Mine - Michael Mandrake - Immortals

Here is a snippet from my latest release, Demon Be Mine. Book One in the Immortals Series!

Blurb: After dying at the hands of Ryland Durand, Eli Peckard is thrust into a different universe, one that is familiar to his home of New Orleans, but scary all the same. Battered and bruised from his rough travels, he is accosted, and then rescued by Anasa, an official in The Realm. From there, Anasa delivers Eli to his most reliable Keeper, Zylen, to heal and teach him the ways of a Soul Catcher as the Dark Lord intends. 

Zylen has lived his days in Nouvelle Terre as a Keeper for new fledglings. During his time on the third plane, Zylen has kept his hate for vampires, especially Ryland and his brother. However, being the child of a fallen and a vamp, Zylen still beholds emotions of remorse and empathy for the mentally fragile soul, Eli Peckard, and those feelings transform into something more. 

Eli’s insecurities and Zylen’s anxieties over crossing the line of teacher and apprentice might be an obstacle in their budding union. More importantly, Zylen’s instruction for Eli must include lessons that teach the newest souled demon how to survive the final challenge before gaining the ultimate prize.

WARNING: Potential triggers. Mentions of child abuse and rape. Graphic violence

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Excerpt:

“You are a failure, Eli Peckard! You tried to kill a sixth time, and you botched the job! May you die a fiery death for killing me, you bastard! Forever!”

Afraid, I jerked awake. I rose from the bed. I felt around it, noticing I was alone. Perhaps my Keeper rested elsewhere.

Taking in my surroundings, I glanced at the dark blue walls. Surprisingly, they had no photographs. With the exception of the large armoire and side tables surrounding the canopy bed, the room was bare.

“Failure! Failure! May you die in hell!”

Those voices continued taunting me. I’d never experienced such fear until now. I wondered if those speaking were my victims coming back to haunt me. Thinking of that possibility, I broke out in cold sweats, shuddering and looking around. Although Anasa told me I could only be killed by a higher demon, I still had my doubts.

“Eli. You are awake.”

Hearing Zylen’s voice, I turned my attention from the corner of the room to the door.

“How are you feeling?” Zylen asked with a wry smile.

“Better. However, I woke from a bad dream. Is there a reason for this?”

“You had a bad dream? Concerning what?”

“I think they were the women I’d killed. One said I should die a fiery death.” I shuddered thinking what could be hidden in this house. It was however foreign and the demon Ryland mentioned something about avenging the souls in purgatory during our last meeting.

“Ah, Eli. It is possible that one of your victims is here, then. Who knows? But she can’t harm you. You’re in my care.” Zylen replied.

“And when I’m not?”

Zylen shrugged. “You’re worrying too much, Eli. No demon can harm another here in Nouvelle Terre unless he or she is of higher rank. For example, Valios can. I cannot.”

Despite Zylen’s comments, I still wasn’t convinced.

Zylen took a seat next to me on the bed. “You forget I can read your mind, don’t you? You will stop this useless worrying. I am your Keeper. I will protect you and guide you as you progress in this new world. Eli, being immortal is like being reborn. No, the memories don’t disappear. But your old life does. Valios picked you for a reason. If he didn’t need you, you wouldn’t be here.”

I looked away from Zylen and pulled the sheet further up on my body. Though the words were meant to be comforting, I couldn’t get over my anxieties fast enough.

“Perhaps if I showed you what you can do now, you’ll feel better, hmm?” Zylen patted my leg.

With his hand on me, I jumped and stared at him as if he were an alien being. “I… I suppose so. I’m sorry, Zylen. I believe I am still too overwhelmed.”

“I’m sure you are, but you’re missing out on some terrific things by staying anxious. Come. Get out of bed and dress. With the sun out, you can see more of Nouvelle Terre in all its glory.”

 

Bio: Michael Mandrake pens complex characters already comfortable with their sexuality. Through these, he builds worlds not centered on erotica but rather the mainstream plots we might encounter in everyday life through personal experiences or the media. 

To learn more about Sharita Lira, click here. 

Xenia’s Rant

Exercise in Utopian What ifs

 

So Germany has finally legalized same-sex marriage. Many of us didn’t dare hope it would happen so fast (‘so fast’ definitely meant sarcastically, because it’s been postponed no less than thirty times in the last four years). And of course, there’s been heated debates about it, though most of my friends are very firmly in the pro-camp. During one of these discussions, somebody brought up an interesting theory, one that led to this blog.

She said she thinks that most people are probably born bi-sexual, or at least without a preference for a certain gender, and that it’s society that forces us into heterosexual relationships, simply because there (still) aren’t that many examples for homosexual relationships in most young people’s lives (it’s improving, though). I don’t know if this theory can be scientifically verified, but the idea in itself intrigued me. So let’s play a game of what if.

What if we really are bisexual from birth? Would our society be different if we acknowledged that?

Humans define themselves and the people around them by many things. Gender is, in my opinion, the most prominent one. You are either male or female. If we meet somebody who doesn’t fit in one of those categories, either because they look androgynous, or are wearing the ‘wrong’ clothes, or don’t behave the way we expect them to, we get uncomfortable. Not being able to label the other person makes us nervous.

With gender also come a million attributes: alpha male, good housewife, caring mother, manly man, successful businessman, trophy wife,… the list is seemingly endless and very often unfair. And when somebody doesn’t fit, like the female CEO or the Manny, we apply a new set of labels, heavily tinted by prejudice.

Successful women in the business world are not ‘real’ women, they are more like men. All Mannys are gay. (I stick with these two examples, because, just thinking about it, I can come up with enough to fill at least two more pages. I think you get the gist.)

As the discussion about homosexuality and different approaches at gender and sexuality are coming to the fore, another label has garnered equal importance: sexual orientation/identity. He’s gay. She’s trans. A persons’ gender and sexual orientation are now linked heavily and very often seem to be the most important label we can put on a person. Unfortunately, those labels also very often define how far a person can get with their career.

Being a woman in a man’s job is bad enough. Don’t mention you are also lesbian. You want to be a successful athlete? That’s a macho domain. And gay men can’t be macho. You are trans? There’s no way you can be successful, no matter what you want to do.

We’ve all come across prejudices like the ones above. They seem to happen naturally, linked to the way we view gender and sexual orientation. As if the choice of your bed partner has any influence on your capability to do your job.

So what if we all were bisexual and same-sex couples were part of the norm? Would our society run differently? Would we be more open? More understanding of different ways of living? Or would we find other ways to label, to keep people out? Where would our focus be?

This is a huge topic and I think I’m going to write more about it in the future. I would also appreciate your thoughts and ideas. Scientific background is also welcome.

Have a great July!

 

You can also find me on:

http://www.xeniamelzer.com

http:// www.facebook.com/XeniaMelzer

 

Our Favorite Reads for the Weeks of May 28th – June 10th ~ Boy Meets Boy Reviews

Boy Meets Boy Reviews

From the frying pan into the fire.

After a critic’s review attacks both Chef Liam Walker’s culinary skills and his personal life, Liam can no longer take the heat of the cutthroat New York City restaurant scene. He needs to get out of the kitchen—at least long enough to cool down and regroup.

At the Overlook Resort in North Carolina, Liam meets owner Carter Galloway. Carter has a passion for the hospitality business to rival Liam’s own, and it’s not hard to see where their shared interests—and attraction—could lead. But Carter has no interest in a fling, and Liam has no intention of walking away from the career he fought so hard for. If they want a taste of happiness together, they’ll have to find the courage to break the bonds threatening to pull them apart.

 

 

THIS! This book right here is what the Dreamspun line is all about. This has it all and I am beginning to think that Ari McKay and I have a fantastic chemistry because I cannot get enough of their writing and the romance they bring to me.  YES, to me because this book was made just for me!

Goodness. I love a slow burn romance and when you have a line like Dreamspun that produces instalove  like Starbucks does coffee via drive-thru windows, it’s so refreshing to get the slow burn that can drive you crazy. Seriously, it was done so well that I just wanted to lock these boys in a closet or a broken walk-in freezer and not let them out until someone got off.

And yet… I wouldn’t have this story any other way than how I got it. It was, well? Perfect.

 

See Full Review

 

 

Confronting the past is never easy.

Cole Whitaker is happy. He has the job and boyfriend he always wanted. His heart’s in no danger of being broken, and he can’t ask for more from life. As a kindergarten teacher, he sees it all; however, one troublesome student has him reaching out to the parent, wanting to help. There’s something about Savanah that tugs at his heartstrings.

He never expected her father.

Zander Brooks hasn’t had an easy life, and he’s made some mistakes. Freshly retired from the military and working as a firefighter, Zander thought he’d left Cole in the rearview mirror. He’s not expecting him to appear in St. Petersburg, Florida, of all places, teaching his daughter’s kindergarten class. Suddenly, his biggest mistake is being shoved in his face.

This is Zander’s chance to close a door he’d never fully shut, but time with his former flame might change his mind.

 

 

Oh but I am a sucker for a second chance romance and when you add in Zander and Cole being teenagers meeting on a Military base, being each others first and everything for months, back when feelings were involved and hearts were broken and we are now 17 years later? GAH! My heart just aches for the story, for the backstory of what happened now and how will these two navigate the present as the waters of their past threaten to drown them in a tide of emotions.

Oh boy. The angst and UST in this were so damn good!

I have to throw this out there… I LOVE how Cole is with his animals and I am totally jealous of all that land he has. Le freaking animal sanctuary sigh, Cole. Le Sigh.

 

See Full Review

 

 

A desperate father. A lonely ranger. Unexpected love that can’t be denied.

Jason Kellerman’s life revolves around his eight-year-old daughter. Teenage curiosity with his best friend led to Maggie’s birth, her mother tragically dying soon after. Insistent on raising his daughter himself, he was disowned by his wealthy family and has worked tirelessly to support Maggie—even bringing her west on a dream vacation. Only twenty-five, Jason hasn’t had time to even think about romance. So the last thing he expects is to question his sexuality after meeting an undeniably attractive park ranger.

Ben Hettler’s stuck. He loves working in the wild under Montana’s big sky, but at forty-one, his love life is non-existent, his ex-boyfriend just married and adopted, and Ben’s own dream of fatherhood feels impossibly out of reach. He’s attracted to Jason, but what’s the point? Besides the age difference and skittish Jason’s lack of experience, they live thousands of miles apart. Ben wants more than a meaningless fling.

Then a hunted criminal takes Maggie hostage, throwing Jason and Ben together in a desperate and dangerous search through endless miles of mountain forest. If they rescue Maggie against all odds, can they build a new family together and find a place to call home?

Road to the Sun is a May-December gay romance from Keira Andrews featuring adventure, angst, coming out, sexual discovery, and of course a happy ending.

 

 

5 Hearts? NO! ALL THE HEARTS! Including my less than perfect one because this book gets them all!!!

Okay. I am going to warn you right now, this will be one hell of a rambling review because this book has left me strung out. I finished it, less than 20 minutes ago and I already have over 2,000 words and notes that have been transcribed from my recordings of thoughts. I had to record them last night on my way to yoga and this morning as I drove my boys to school. There was no time to actually write anything down but I had to get it out so I wouldn’t forget how I was feeling. Pish Posh! As if I could forget a single word or emotion this book gave me.

So, this book starts off with a bang of a prologue that I wasn’t expecting and one that had me wondering where it would all fit in. Once we get into the first chapter, I kinda forgot about what happened because you know, we get Jason Kellerman with his adorable daughter Maggie meeting the hunky Park Ranger Ben Hettler.

I have to take a quick moment to say how much I loved the setting of Glacier National Park in Montana. The park and specifically Lake McDonald (which you drive through the area to get to “Going-to-the-Sun Road” aka “Road to the Sun”) are on my bucket list and my phone’s background is of the gorgeously multicolored stones that show through the crystal clear water of the lake. It’s breathtaking in pictures and I can only imagine the lake, the stones and the park under the big sky is nothing less than stunning in person.

 

See Full Review

 

 

It’s been one hundred and forty-five days since the world ended. Paragon has swept through the city of Pleasance like a reaper’s scythe. Now the dead walk the earth, seeking the flesh of the living. Still Jarod Samuels refuses to die.

As a hunter, Jarod safeguards the Hive, the ruined mall he calls home. He exterminates zombies to protect the city’s last few survivors, and to keep Gabriel Anderson unharmed, their lives intertwined now more than ever.

But in a city ravaged by Vertex’s corruption, there’s no telling what dangers each day will bring, whether the threats within the Hive’s walls might be deadlier than those without – or whether monsters from the past still lurk and linger in the city’s shadows.

This romantic horror story is approximately 69,000 words in length.

 

 

Dear Soren Summers,
You did it again. I am not sure if I should side-eye you for making me read zombies or thank you for pushing me out of my comfort zone. I don’t do zombies and yet I was surrounded by them because I couldn’t get enough of Jarod and Gabriel. And there was the other stuff, just the daily stuff that happens within these 20 days and all that has been declared as a civilization that is now the Hive. There was so much I had to know and though you tossed Tyler in there, I will forgive you because you also tossed in Danny.

Yeah, you are some sort of wizard or just a brilliant and talented author because you made me, the zombie loather, read a book full of zombies.
Also, that end? Did you hear me yell when I read it? Well done.
Still a fan but now with possible side-eye while I wait for the next book,
Red.
This ain’t your normal zombie story…
After a day testing Daniel’s limits and then a day being spoiled, Daniel has some time to reflect on his and Ryan’s relationship. He thinks they’re ready for their next step; planning a weekend away.

I give up and I give in. These two, Daniel and Ryan are addicting and regardless of how short each book in this kinky serial romance is, I am hooked.

This one was ridiculously hot. Like crossing your legs and squirming at your desk while you read it in your office during a career workshop for students hot. So hot.

This installment is basically one day out of the now standard weekends spent with Ryan and Daniel trying out new scenes and this Saturday was incredible. So freaking fracking incredible and so hot.

Have I mentioned it was hot? *winks*

I like that we get glimpses of the relationship turning from seduction by donut, to D/s scene play and then to more as the men spend time together. It’s not just the time they spend, it’s the level of trust growing between them to give the other exactly what they want and being rewarded by it.

 

See Full Review

 

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Xenia’s Rant

                                        

How we view the world

Hello everybody,

I’m Xenia and I’m starting my first real blog here on QRI. I can’t promise regular entries, since living with two small children can make your life take funny turns, but I’m going to try to write on a monthly basis.

My first topic is one that kind of leaped into my face a few weeks ago, when summer finally decided to show up. Suddenly FB was swamped with statements that everybody should be allowed to wear what they want and need to feel comfortable during the hot season. To be honest, I was shocked that many people with bodies that don’t fit the society-approved norm felt the need to make a preemptive strike. I thought the times of body-shaming among decent folk were over. Boy, was I mistaken! When I read some of the acidic and down-right mean comments, I couldn’t believe it.

The longer I thought about it, though, the more obvious it became that probably nobody refrains from judging others, almost always in a negative way. It’s what we do as human beings. I discussed it with my husband and he said it was once a matter of life and death to decide on first glimpse whether another person was a threat, a potential sex partner, or a friend. This habit of putting others in groups we either relate to, admire, or look down on is like a reflex and comes to us as naturally as breathing. We look at other people and thoughts about their clothing style, their hair, their jewelry, their car, the way they talk, walk, or act, flit through our mind. We compare them to ourselves, and either feel intimidated, because we sense they are somehow better than we are, drawn to them because we recognize a kindred soul, or we loathe them, because, obviously, they do things the wrong way.

And because we constantly judge others, even if we don’t want to, even if we view ourselves as tolerant, liberal persons, we also judge ourselves. We always measure our own lives against those of the others and that makes for a very stressful existence.

I’m not saying judging others is a bad thing per se. It does well to steer clear of people we think are a threat to our lives, because there are dangers out there and our instincts are not completely superfluous. The problem is how we still allow them to rule over us in normal situations. It’s a difference if I think a tall man with a hoodie who follows me around after nightfall poses a threat to me (he could be perfectly harmless, of course, but chances are, he isn’t), or if I talk bad about somebody because I think the way they dress insults my sense of fashion.

Most of us know where to draw the line. We realize it’s one thing to bitch about a person’s body among friends and telling that person to the face. Most of us are also, sometimes dimly, aware that a man in biker clothes is not necessarily evil incarnated (the same goes for women with ‘slutty’ clothes, men with fabulous make-up, people with multi-colored hair or tattoos, or, or, or… you know what I mean).

The real problem are the people who have forgotten where the line is. People who don’t give a damn about being decent or polite. People who are so unhappy with their own lives, they have to constantly talk others down in order to justify themselves.

I know, nothing really new about those insights. But here’s the good news. Neuroscience has found out that the way we view the world, the way we view ourselves, shapes who we are more distinctly than scientists ever thought possible.

The next time you feel the need to think something mean about another person (we all do, usually multiple times a day, depending on our mood, it’s natural) try to rein your thoughts in and find something positive instead. So that woman does have a few pounds too many, but her hair is beautiful and she’s wearing a stunning tunic. So that man has crooked teeth and with his leather jacket, he looks like a member of the Hell’s Angels, but his bike is really cool and he just bought a stuffed toy. These are, of course, the usual examples, but I’m sure we all have encountered all kinds of different, yet similar, situations. I tried to get a grip on my inner bitch and though it doesn’t always work and there are times when I gladly let her out to wreak some havoc, I also noticed that trying to be positive about others has made me more positive about myself. I don’t reflexively assume the worst when somebody talks behind my back anymore, because I’m trying not to talk bad about others as well, which makes me less suspicious. And that is a great relief.

 

If you like my blog, or want to add your own opinion, I’m always happy to hear from you! You can also visit me on www.facebook.com/XeniaMelzer

RELEASE DAY BLITZ: Aqua Follies by Liv Rancourt

Aqua Follies banner - Liv Rancourt

Author: Liv Rancourt
Book: Aqua Follies
Page/Word Count: 200 pages, 60K words
Categories: Gay Romance, Historical Romance
Release Date:
Cover: Kanaxa

Buy Links:
Buy Aqua Follies by Liv Rancourt on Amazon Buy Aqua Follies by Liv Rancourt on Barnes & Noble Add Aqua Follies by Liv Rancourt on QueeRomance Add Aqua Follies by Liv Rancourt on Goodreads

Blurb:
The 1950s. Postwar exuberance. Conformity. Rock and roll.

Homophobia.

Russell tells himself he’ll marry Susie because it’s the right thing to do. His summer job coaching her water ballet team will give him plenty of opportunity to give her a ring. But on the team’s trip to the annual Aqua Follies, the joyful glide of a trumpet player’s solo hits Russell like a torpedo, blowing apart his carefully constructed plans.

From the orchestra pit, Skip watches Poseidon’s younger brother stalk along the pool deck. It never hurts to smile at a man, because good things might happen. Once the last note has been played, Skip gives it a shot.

The tenuous connection forged by a simple smile leads to events that dismantle both their lives. Has the damage been done, or can they pick up the pieces together?

Buy Aqua Follies by Liv Rancourt on AmazonExcerpt:
It was almost midnight when Skip and Ryker slid into the red Naugahyde booth at Beth’s Café.

“What’s the word from the bird?” Ryker clutched an unlit cigarette between his fingers.

I saw the man of my dreams. Skip covered his grin with his hand, picking a tamer response. “I want some red meat.”

“You and me both.” Ryker lit up, blowing smoke across the table. He was small and dark with a slicked-back duck butt and a greaser’s sneer. Whenever the subject came up, he claimed he got his coloring from his little Welsh grandmother. Skip usually asked if the milkman had been Italian.

Ryker usually told Skip to get bent.

Skip recognized most of the usual crowd, the musicians, the waiters, the kind of people who were out and about when late night turned into early morning. He extended his long legs under the table. After so many hours in the aqua theater’s small orchestra pit, his knees and calves thanked him for the stretch. Since Ryker was blowing smoke over his half of the table, he guessed he could take up some extra floor space.

The waitress came over, her blue-green uniform barely buttoned over her buxom chest and a fine black net covered her peroxide curls.

“What can I bring you gentlemen?” She directed her question at Skip. He aimed her at Ryker with a good-natured toss of his head, sending curls spilling into his face. All the pomade in the world couldn’t make his hair behave.

“How ’bout a burger with a side of titties…um, taters?” Ryker’s grin broadened the harder she blushed.

Skip kicked him under the table and gave the waitress an apologetic grin. “I’d like a steak and a large Coke.”

She passed them menus and stalked off. Ryker flirted with every woman he came across. He’d meet the right girl at some point, but till then, he put himself at risk for getting slapped unless Skip intervened.

An older, grumpier waitress came to take their order.

“It’s your own fault,” Skip said, glad there was still a waitress willing to help them. He needed to get to bed before his alarm went off in the morning. Four thirty was gonna come early. Getting to bed after midnight just made him hate his job at Boeing even more.

The grumpy waitress scratched their order on a pad and shuffled off, and Ryker tapped his cigarette against the edge of the plastic ashtray. “I wanna get my hands on that little dark-haired aqua baby we saw tonight.”

Skip disguised his laugh by flipping his hair out of his eyes. She was cute, but not his type. None of the water ballet girlies were his type. Their coach, now, the one who’d been stalking along the deck like Poseidon in chinos? Skip didn’t try to hide his grin. Tall and broad and clean-cut, he was the kind of man who caught Skip’s attention.

A fellow could get arrested if he happened to cross a vice cop, but Skip hadn’t been caught yet. He’d give a strange man a friendly smile, just to see what would happen. Tonight he would have had to be dumb and blind not to notice the flash of interest the man at the lake had done his best to hide. Nothing would come of it, but a guy could dream, couldn’t he?

About Liv Rancourt:
I write romance: m/f, m/m, and v/h, where the h is for human and the v is for vampire … or sometimes demon … I lean more towards funny than angst. When I’m not writing I take care of tiny premature babies or teenagers, depending on whether I’m at home or at work. My husband is a soul of patience, my dog’s cuteness is legendary, and we share the homestead with three ferrets. Who steal things. Because they’re brats.

5 Questions with Liv Rancourt:

Thanks so much for having me as a guest! Since this is my second visit, I chose questions I didn’t answer last time.

  1. As an author myself, I know inspiration is everywhere and can strike at the most inopportune moments (like in the shower, when you don’t have anything to write with!). So, what was the inspiration behind Aqua Follies? It started out with a publisher’s call for submissions, looking for stories set in the ‘50s. The novella I submitted get a lovely rejection – really, the editor was very nice! – but I wasn’t ready to let the story go. I liked the characters and was fascinated by having the ‘50s as a backdrop for a gay romance, so I went back to work and rewrote it as a novel. The different social dynamics at work in that decade fascinated me, and I wanted to write about it.
  1. What is your writing process? (i.e. plotter or panster, explain) Never met an outline I didn’t love. (lol!) Seriously though, a few years ago I would have described myself as more of a plotter, but now I’m pretty much in between the two extremes. I’ve been working with a co-writer, Irene Preston, and in addition to being a fabulous writer, she’s pretty much a pantser. It’s been great for me to work with her, to learn another style of doing things.
  2. There’s a big leap a writer takes from putting words down on paper for the love of it and actually publishing those words for public scrutiny. What was that journey like for you? When I was a kid I wanted to be a writer, and I’ve always had a knack for putting words on paper. I wrote off and on, mostly journaling and (horrible) poetry, hitting the occasional creative writing class in college and after, though I never took it seriously. My career, then marriage, then family were my priorities.Then I hit my late forties and realized if I didn’t get busy, it was going to be too late to reach my lifetime goal of “being a writer”. About the same time, I injured my back, so I couldn’t sit for long enough to crochet or do fancy needlework, my main hobbies. I couldn’t stitch, but I could lay on my belly and write with pencil and paper. I started writing stories, one word led to another, and here I am.
  1. What do you think makes a good story? Wow. This is a great question. At the most basic level, I think the reader needs to care about the characters and what happens to them. Beyond that, the definition of a great story is up to the reader. Like, I can’t be bothered with most literary fiction, preferring genre stories, where the underlying assumption is that the main character is capable of surviving the challenges they face. But judging from what you find on the New York Times Book Review, not everyone agrees with me. 😊
  1. What can readers expect from you next? Irene and I are about ¾ of the way through with the first draft of Nocturne, the next book in our Hours of the Night series. If you’ve read Vespers, or our holiday novella Bonfire, be prepared. Thaddeus and Sarasija are being tested in all kinds of new ways. (Mwah-hah-hah…see the quickie below about evil masterminds…)

5 Fun Quickies

  1. Favorite curse word: Depends on how tired I am. The eff bombs get fast and furious when my filter gets sleepy.
  2. You’re auditioning for American Idol. What’s your song? My dream is to sing lead in a Dixie Chicks cover band, so it’d probably be “Long Time Gone” or “Sin Wagon”.
  3. Over or under (toilet paper, of course): Just do me a favor and replace the roll. (I have teenagers. It’s a thing.)
  4. Weapon of choice: Words
  5. Evil mastermind, easily convinced partner in crime, or innocent bystander: You could make an argument that all writers are evil masterminds, so…

Where to find Liv Rancourt:
Liv Rancourt Amazon Liv Rancourt Page Liv Rancourt on Facebook Liv Rancourt's Facebook Author Page Liv Rancourt on Goodreads Liv Rancourt on Instagram Liv Rancourt Newsletter Liv Rancourt on Pinterest Liv Rancourt on Twitter Liv Rancourt Website

RELEASE DAY REVIEW: The Great North by J. Scott Coatsworth

RELEASE DAY REVIEW: The Great North by J. Scott Coatsworth

Author: J. Scott Coatsworth
Book: The Great North
Page/Word Count: 34K words
Categories: Gay Romance, Fantasy/Paranormal/Sci-Fi, Myths & Legends
Release Date: June 14, 2017
Publisher: Mischief Corner Books
Cover: Freddy MacKay

Buy Links:
Buy The Great North by J. Scott Coatsworth on Amazon Buy The Great North by J. Scott Coatsworth on Barnes & Noble Add The Great North by J. Scott Coatsworth on QueeRomance Add The Great North by J. Scott Coatsworth on Goodreads

Blurb:
Dwyn is a young man in the small, isolated town of Manicouga, son of the Minstor, who is betrothed to marry Kessa in a few weeks’ time.

Mael is shepherding the remains of his own village from the north, chased out by a terrible storm that destroyed Land’s End.

Both are trying to find their way in a post-apocalyptic world. When the two meet, their love and attraction may change the course of history.

—————

The Great North was inspired by St. Dwynwen’s Day, also known as Welsh Valentines Day: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dwynwen

Excerpt:
“We celebrate Dwyn’s Day as a testament to true love and sacrifice. It’s a remembrance of the way things were and the way they’ve come to be. In the end, let it be a reminder that every one of us has the power to change the course of events through love.”
—Dillon Cooper, New Gods and Monsters, Twenty years After Dwyn

The gray clouds scudded by overhead, blowing in quickly from the east.

Dwyn shivered and pulled on his woolen cap. It was cold out, unusual for so early in the fall. The rains had been heavy this season, the wettest in a generation, and Circle Lake was close to overflowing its banks. If he stretched to look over the rows of corn plants, he could see the waters lapping at the shore far below, as if hungry to consume his village of Manicouga.

His father had consulted the elders, some of whom had seen more than fifty summers, and everyone agreed things were changing. Whether that augured good or ill was anyone’s guess.

He shrugged and moved along the row of plants, breaking off ears of corn and throwing them into the jute sack that hung from his shoulder.

Ahead of him, two of his age-mates, Declan and Baia, were working their way down the next two rows.

Dwyn frowned. He got distracted easily, and he’d let the two of them get a jump on him. That wouldn’t do.

He redoubled his pace. He moved with focus and purpose, and soon he was closing the gap with his friends.

“Someone’s being chased by a lion,” Baia said with a laugh.

“Or a tiger.” Declan grinned, his nice smile only missing one tooth, lost to a fight with one of the Beckham brothers the year before.

Dwyn grinned. “Or a bear?” Dwyn only knew lions and tigers from the fairy tale his mother used to tell them, “The Girl and the Aus.” He had no idea what an Aus was, either.

Bears he knew. The hunters occasionally brought one home, and old Alesser had a five-line scar across his wrinkled face that he claimed came from one of the beasts.

A shout went up from ahead of them. Dwyn craned his neck to see what the ruckus was, but he couldn’t make out anything. “What’s going on?”

Declan, who was half a head taller, looked toward the commotion. “Hard to tell. Something down by the road.”

Dwyn laid down his sack carefully and ran up the hill to one of the old elms that dotted the field. He climbed into the tree, scurrying up through the leaves and branches until he had a clear view of the Old Road. It ran from up north to somewhere down south, maybe near the ruins of old Quebec if the merchant tales held any truth. Hardly anyone from Manicouga ever followed it, but occasionally traders would follow it to town, bringing exotic wares and news from the other villages that were scattered up and down its length.

They swore it went all the way down to the Heat, the great desert that had consumed much of the world after the Reckoning.

“What’s going on down there?” Baia called from below.

Dwyn tried to make sense of it. “There are three wagons coming down the pass. They’re loaded up with all sorts of things. They don’t look like traders though.”

The first of the horse-drawn wagons had just reached the field above the main township. It stopped, and someone hopped off to talk with the villagers who had gathered from the fields.

“We need to get down there,” Dwyn said, scrambling down the tree trunk. “Something’s happening.” Nothing new ever happened in Manicouga, and he wasn’t going to miss it.

He grabbed his sack and sprinted toward the Old Road, not waiting to see if Declan and Baia followed.

Guest Post:
In the middle of 2016, I was challenged to create an MM romance based on an existing myth.

When I was growing up, I was crazy for mythology. I devoured books on the Greek Gods, in particular, and couldn’t get enough of the epic nature of mythic fiction.

So when I had to choose a myth to recreate, I searched first in the Greek Pantheon of the Gods. But over time, my tastes have changed, and there’s always the desire as a reader and a writer to explore over the crest of the next hill.

So I broadened my search, and came across a Welsh holiday I’d never heard of before. From Wikipedia:

Dydd Santes Dwynwen (Welsh for St Dwynwen’s Day) is considered to be the Welsh equivalent to Valentine’s Day and is celebrated on 25 January every year. It celebrates Dwynwen, the Welsh saint of lovers… In the 5th Century Dwynwen fell in love with Maelon Dafodrill. Maelon returned her feelings but they could not be together for her father forbade the marriage and her father had already promised her to someone else. Dwynwen, distraught by her love for Maelon, prays to fall out of love with him. After falling asleep, or possibly while still awake in a woods she had run to in her distress, Dwynwen was visited by an angel, who appeared carrying a sweet potion designed to erase all memory of Maelon and turn him into a block of ice. God then gave three wishes to Dwynwen. First she wished that Maelon be thawed, second that God meet the hopes and dreams of true lovers and third that she should never marry. All three were fulfilled, and as a mark of her thanks, Dwynwen devoted herself to God’s service for the rest of her life.

Forbidden love, gods and angels, and a frozen love – this story had all kinds of things I could work with. I’d already decided I wanted to write a bit of a post-apocalyptic tale, but as it unfolded on my screen, it decided it wanted to be more of a fantasy, so I followed my muse.

Dwynwen became the handsome young and conflicted Dwyn, and Maelon cecame Male, the beautiful, exotic blond from a town north of Manicougan, where the story takes place.

Oh, and did I mention the world is full of reawakened gods?

I hope you enjoy the tale. And if you’re familiar with the story of Dwynwen of Wales, I hope you get a kick out of this thoroughly gay re-enactment of that classic tale.

reviewericon-evette

3✨s – For such a short story this novella is chock full of quite an incredible world.

When we meet Dwyn I was not impressed. In fact I never love him, but I do grow to see what Mael sees. Their entire relationship is taboo in Dwyn’s world, but love is love, and their love may be able to save the world.

Insta-love (yay), tons of judgy McJudgertons (boo), a crashed wedding (yay), a world destroying storm-perhaps the work of a vengeful god (boooooooo). The story was a bit over the top, yet the parallel story line of the couple and their children of the storm shelter made for an interesting read. This is the first book in the series, I’d definitely be interested to follow along on the journey.

Author Bio:
J. Scott Coatsworth - authorScott has been writing since elementary school, when he and won a University of Arizona writing contest in 4th grade for his first sci fi story (with 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. He has sold more than a dozen short stories – some new, some that he had started years before. He is currently working on two sci fi trilogies, and also runs the Queer Sci Fi (http://www.queerscifi.com) site, a group for readers and writers of gay sci fi, fantasy, and paranormal fiction.

Where to find J. Scott Coatsworth:
J. Scott Coatsworth Amazon Author Page J. Scott Coatsworth on Facebook J. Scott Coatsworth on Goodreads J. Scott Coatsworth on Twitter J. Scott Coatsworth Website

RELEASE DAY BLITZ: Frank at Heart by Pat Henshaw

RELEASE DAY BLITZ: Frank at Heart by Pat Henshaw

Author: Pat Henshaw
Book: Frank at Heart
Series: Foothills Pride Stories, Book #6
Page/Word Count: 95 pages, 30K words
Categories: Gay Romance, Contemporary Romance
Release Date: May 31, 2017
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover: AngstyG

Buy Links:
Buy Frank at Heart by Pat Henshaw on Amazon Buy Frank at Heart by Pat Henshaw on Barnes & Noble Buy Frank at Heart by Pat Henshaw on Dreamspinner Press Add Frank at Heart by Pat Henshaw on Goodreads Frank at Heart on QueeRomance Inc.

Blurb:
Everything about thirty-five-year-old Stone Acres hardware store owner Frank McCord is old-fashioned—from his bow tie and overalls to the way he happily makes house calls to his dreams of lasting romance, true love, and marriage. Frank’s predecessors have run the store and been mainstays in the small California town for over a century. While genial Frank upholds tradition and earns the respect of friends and neighbors, he fears he’s too dull and old to attract a husband.

Then handsome thirty-six-year-old electronic games designer Christopher Darling and his fifteen-year-old son, Henry, come into his life. Christopher has everything Frank could want in a potential partner: charm, kindness, and compatibility. Also, he’s a terrific father to Henry. When their Stone Acres home turns out to be uninhabitable, Frank offers the Darlings temporary lodging in his ancestral farmhouse, where he and his tenant Emil reside. Since Emil thinks Frank is his, sparks fly. Suddenly, Frank’s monotonous life promises to explode with love and threatens to change him forever.

Video Trailer:

About Pat Henshaw:
Pat Henshaw has spent her life surrounded by words: teaching English composition at the junior college level; writing book reviews for newspapers, magazines, and websites; helping students find information as a librarian; and promoting PBS television programs.

Now retired, Pat, author of the Foothills Pride Stories, was born and raised in Nebraska and promptly left the cold and snow after college, living at various times in Texas, Colorado, Northern Virginia, and now Sacramento, California. Pat has found joy in visiting Mexico, Canada, Europe, Nicaragua, Thailand, and Egypt, and relishes trips to Stowe, Vermont, to see family.

Two of her fondest memories include touching time when she put her hands on the pyramids and experiencing pure whimsy when she interviewed Caroll Spinney (Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch). Her triumphs are raising two incredible daughters who daily amaze her with their power and compassion. Her supportive husband keeps her grounded in reality when she threatens to drift away while writing fiction.

Where to find Pat Henshaw:
Pat Henshaw Amazon Pat Henshaw Page Pat Henshaw on Facebook Pat Henshaw on Goodreads Pat Henshaw on Twitter Pat Henshaw Website

UPDATE: Where We’re At and Where We’re Going!

Hey all,

These last few weeks, we took a big step forward in our long-term strategy with the introduction of our filter search, allowing visitors to narrow down on just the books they want. Today the book page filters should get prettier. 🙂

I thought it would be fun to share some of the other changes coming down the pike – no dates on these yet, but our developer is working on them.

–Negative filtering (ie: I don’t want to see…)

–Filtering books by retailer (great for Payhip or KU fans)

–Featured retailer link – Authora can let readers know where they make the best return

–Pop-up synopsis for book covers on our book pages

–Coming Soon/New Release Ribbons

If there’s anything you’d like to see added to the site, let us know!

–Scott & Mark

Our Favorite Reads for the Week of May 21st – 27th ~ Boy Meets Boy Reviews

Snow, steam, and secrets.

The latest snowstorm carries something unexpected to the doorstep of Hutch’s secluded Alaskan cabin: a stranger named Jude, the most beautiful man Hutch has ever seen. Jude says he’s in the area for a ski trip and that he fled a domineering lover, thinking he could make it into town. But Hutch is a suspicious SOB and treats his unwanted guest warily. The problem is Jude isn’t just gorgeous, he’s funny and smart and flirtatious.

Two gay men snowed in for three days—things happen. Really good things. By the time the storm clears, Hutch finds himself a little too attached to Jude Devereaux, San Francisco-based male model. But is Jude what he claims to be? Or is he entangled in the secrets Hutch moved to Alaska to escape?

Listening Time: 5 hrs 39 min
Narrated by: John Solo

 

 

Sweet lord, I have missed the cracky fluff that is the Dreamspun series! I *may* have gorged a teeny lil bit on this one.

I couldn’t help myself, though, because this fluff was primo. We have the pretty boy model in Jude meeting the strong silent type in Hutch under some life threatening circumstances in the wilds of Alaska. Hutch is guarded and gruff. He trusts no one which is why he lives between the middle of nowhere and the end of the line, but the bubbly Jude is very appealing. I started dancing a little bit at this development. You know my feels on the grumps.

 

See Full Review

 

 

Six years ago Ellis walked into his first briefing as the newest member of London’s Specialist Firearms unit. He was partnered with Wayne and they became fast friends. When Wayne begins to notice changes—Ellis’s erratic temper, the effects of sleep deprivation—he knows he has to act before Ellis reaches his breaking point. He invites Ellis to the opening of the new BDSM club, Secrets, where Wayne has a membership. His purpose? He wants Ellis to glimpse the lifestyle before Wayne approaches him with a proposition. He wants to take Ellis in hand, to control his life because he wants his friend back, and he figures this is the only way to do it.

There are a few issues, however. Ellis is straight. Stubborn. And sexy. Wayne knows he has to put his own feelings aside to be what Ellis needs. What surprises the hell out of him is finding out what Ellis actually requires.

 

 

Oh my gosh, where do I start with this book?

It was so wonderful to revisit Eli and Jarod from the Collars and Cuffs series with their new life in London, starting with their BDSM club, Secrets. I loved reading about all their friends coming for the grand re-opening. Super fun.

Now this story: Wayne and Ellis are specialist armed police officers. They work in a tight-knit team and have been best friends for over six years. In all that time, Wayne has never seen Ellis how he has been in the last few months. Exhausted, strung out, emotional and prone to flares of rage. Ellis is near breaking point. In all their years of friendship, Wayne has never made any move towards his straight best friend. He has never revealed aspects of his personal life. Never admitted that he is in love with his best friend. As Ellis gets closer and closer to a full break down, Wayne knows he must do something. Will Ellis accept his best friend as a Dom? Will Ellis let Wayne take control of his life and help him find peace and balance?

 

See Full Review

 

 

Will and Blake couldn’t be happier. They have a beautiful little boy, Nathan, and Sophie finally has the little brother she’s been demanding. But all is not bliss in the Davis household. Coping with reality is going to change all their lives.
Rick and Angelo are sick and tired of trying to get a wedding organized. If it was up to them, they’d be married already, but Angelo’s mother has plans and they keep getting bigger. Angelo can see problems on the horizon: big, traditional Italian wedding and gay do not go well together. Something’s got to give.
Colin receives an unexpected call from an ex, with bad news. He feels compelled to help, regardless of the consequences. Ed loves Colin’s big heart and supports him in his efforts, but when the truth comes out, he finds it difficult to keep a lid on his emotions.
As the coming months unfold, the friends are going to need each other more than ever.

 

rated 4.75 hearts

 

Having read the previous books in the Personal Series, I was dying to read this book, which checks in with, and shows the next step of life challenges for all the Personal couples. I was not disappointed! It was wonderful and moving and emotional and heartfelt.

The story opens with Blake and Will anxiously awaiting the arrival of their second child as the surrogate is in labour. Sophie, their daughter, is four years old and waiting for her little brother to arrive. Blake and Will receive support from their close friends, Rick and Angelo, and Ed and Colin whose stories I enjoyed in previous books. Finally, baby Nathan arrives amid much jubilation and love. Unfortunately, Nathan isn’t quite the perfect baby he looks. The issued involved were dealt with really well by KC. Realistic and accurate and so emotional.

 

See Full Review