Exploring BDSM w/ Michaela Grey + Excerpt

January 31, 2017

 Exploring BDSM with Michaela Grey


Thank you for having me on your blog today! I’m here to tell you a little about my newest book, Broken Halo!

Micah Ellis has everything in his life just the way he likes it. Neat, orderly, and contained. Nothing gets through that isn’t carefully screened and sanitized, including people.

Which makes the unshakeable attraction to the mechanic who fixes his car that much more frustrating. Devon Mallory is Micah’s opposite in every way imaginable, as kind and laid-back as Micah is sharp-tongued and neurotic.

One thing’s for sure—once Devon learns what Micah’s really like, he’ll bail in a heartbeat.

Broken Halo was my first venture in BDSM literature. I’d seen a recent uptick in novels that romanticized dangerous practices and normalized miscommunication and abuse, and it bothered me enough to try and address it in my own manner.

Micah and Devon fumble their way into a D/s relationship, starting with Micah not telling Devon what he needs until it blows up in both their faces.

From then on, though, there is clear, carefully stated consent, explicitly drawn lines of both hard and soft limits, and use of safewords from both players. There’s also a ton of aftercare and dealing with the inevitable subdrops.

Fun fact: Micah lives in Toronto because I needed a city that had actual manta rays in their aquarium. Did you know that mantas are very difficult to keep in captivity, and only a few places across North America are set up to take them? I was able to fly up to Toronto and visit the aquarium Micah goes to (and pet the rays—they feel sort of like soggy pancakes), and it’s an incredible experience.

A question for you—as readers of D/s in general, what’s the main thing you wish was touched on in more depth in the books you consume? Is there something you’d like to see covered, discussed, or simply acknowledged as part of the BDSM lifestyle?




When they arrived at the aquarium, Micah made straight for the manta ray’s tank with Devon close behind him. Micah got as close as possible without touching the glass and peered through the murky depths for a glimpse of the big black fish.

“There.” Devon pointed.

Micah leaned back against Devon’s chest and let peace wash over him as he watched the ray slowly undulate through the water. Devon wrapped his coat around him and pressed their cheeks together, and Micah found his favorite button and absently slid his thumb across the ridges.

“Did you know that mantas don’t have noses?” Devon murmured.

Micah blinked, startled. He hadn’t known that.

“They can get up to twenty-five feet in length and weigh as much as three thousand pounds,” Devon continued. “A lot of people are afraid of them because they look like stingrays, but they don’t even have a stinger, and they’re very gentle.”

Micah sighed and relaxed into Devon’s arms. The manta ray floated toward them. It filled Micah’s vision and hung suspended in the water on the other side of the glass as they watched it. Micah could feel the poison leaving his soul, draining from him as the enormous fish floated gracefully away, toward the other side of the tank.

“What do they eat?” Micah asked.

“Plankton, tiny fish, crustaceans like shrimp,” Devon said into his ear. “They’re closely related to sharks, and they have a lot of teeth, but they don’t use them to eat. They have a… a filtering system, sort of like whales.”

Micah smiled. He turned in Devon’s embrace and went up on his tiptoes to wrap his arms around Devon’s neck. “Did you learn all those facts for me?”

“Maybe I just find manta rays fascinating,” Devon teased.

“Thank you,” Micah whispered. He leaned back and looked into Devon’s affectionate, worried eyes. “Take me home, Devon. I need to make love to you.”


Check out Broken Halo today!


Broken Halo by Michaela Grey



Michaela Grey told stories to put herself to sleep since she was old enough to hold a conversation in her head. When she learned to write, she began putting those stories down on paper. She resides in the Texas Hill Country with her cats, and she is perpetually on the hunt for peaceful writing time.

When she’s not writing, she’s knitting while watching TV or avoiding responsibilities on Tumblr, where she blogs about cats and writing, offers dubious life advice, and tries to keep her cat off the keyboard.

Tumblr: http://greymichaela.tumblr.com
Twitter: @GreyMichaela
Facebook: www.facebook.com/GreyMichaela
E-mail: greymichaela@gmail.com

That Magic Moment w/ Allison Cassatta + Giveaway

January 26, 2017


That Magic Moment with Allison Cassatta


As a writer, I normally go into a story knowing exactly how a relationship will develop. I have a roadmap in my head, and most of the time, the characters follow the path they’re supposed to follow. Ironically, Silas and Ben’s magic moment didn’t happen that way. It came in the form of a suggestion from the editors, actually. They wanted to see more scenes between Ben and Silas. They wanted to see the two on page more often, more than casually bumping into each other around Midtown. Then this scene happened, and I couldn’t thank my editors enough. From their suggestion came one of the cutest scenes between the two, and god knew they needed some cute.

As a reader, what is your favorite aha moment for the characters? Do you like the sweet, funny scenes when two men who keep running into each other but don’t slow down enough to experience the spark? Do you prefer love at first sight? Or fireworks and explosive passion right out the gate? What makes the relationship feel more real to you?



The silliest of all silly grins stretched across Silas’s face. It was the booze. Had to be. Silas didn’t do goofy or funny. However, something about Ben drew the giant kid right out of Silas. Almost like being in high school again and working through his first big crush. Silas hadn’t known then if the boy he pined over played for his team, but he knew Ben did. Oh, happy day!

Running into Ben made leaving the house on one of the worst nights of the year worth every minute of this unexpected adventure. Silas had been sitting at home, wishing—as ironic as it was—that he had someone to spend the evening with. He would’ve been happy sitting on the couch, watching the Times Square ball drop with a close friend and a few cocktails. He would’ve been fine with the kind of kissing that led to hot sex at the stroke of midnight. Neither of which was going to happen.

He hadn’t heard from Scott since early December, and though Silas didn’t exactly mourn the death of their relationship, he did—from time to time—miss having someone around to chat with when he got bored, someone to snuggle with when he got lonely. Neither was an issue prior to Scott. Now both were reasons to get up and do something, anything, that didn’t involve being alone.

“I truly am glad I left the house tonight.” Silas spoke softly, more to himself than anyone else. Oh, but Ben heard him. Silas could tell by the pitiful look that devastatingly beautiful cop gave him. Not that what he said deserved any kind of pity. Maybe it’d been the tone of his voice or something in his eyes, or the fact he hadn’t looked at Ben once since he returned to the malaise of his own mind.

“Ten. Nine. Eight….”

The countdown to the New Year pulled Silas out of his ruminating. He turned eyes on Ben, who now watched the DJ count into the mic while half-naked women danced around him.

“Three. Two. One. Happy New Year!”

“Auld Lang Syne” played over the loudspeakers. People yelled the lyrics—mostly out of key. “Should auld acquaintance be forgot….” Strangers swayed together as old friends. Some random woman hooked her arm around Silas’s, forcing him to move his body too. He didn’t want to. He wanted to watch Ben’s lips as he tried to hide his mumbling the lyrics along with everyone else’s boisterous crooning. He wanted to watch the glisten in Ben’s eyes as the moon poured soft light over the crowd. He even loved the way pieces of confetti stuck in Ben’s short brown hair. God, he was absolutely mesmerized

When Ben caught him staring, Silas immediately turned his gaze away, even though he wanted nothing more than to give Ben a quick New Year’s smooch. He didn’t dare. It wasn’t right. Ben didn’t want that. So instead of lifting up on his toes and reaching for Ben’s cheek, he gave a tight smile, and said, “You stay safe on these wild Memphis streets, Benjamin.”

Silas turned to walk away.

“Wait, Silas.” Ben reached out and grabbed Silas’s upper arm before he could escape. The strength and heat of Ben’s grip sent a shiver down Silas’s spine. “You’re not walking, are you?”

Aww, he’s concerned. “I live right around the corner.” Silas thumbed over his shoulder. “Not literally, but close enough.”

“And there are a lot of drunk people out tonight. You have to cross Union to get home.”

“I learned to look both ways before I learned to spell my name.”

Silas’s cheeky comeback won him another warm smile from Ben. He was so adorable, in that cute boy-next-door kind of way.

“Please let me at least get you an Uber.”

“A what?” Silas frowned.

“Uber. It’s like a taxi.”

“Benjamin, seriously, there’s no need. I appreciate your worry, but—”

“I’m not taking no for an answer,” Ben said with finality, reaching into his pocket for what Silas assumed to be a cell phone. The device fit right in the palm of Ben’s large hand.

Mmm. Large hands. “Don’t. Please.” Silas wrapped his fingers over Ben’s. “I promise I can get home just fine.”

“You’re drunk. Anything could happen.”

“I’m only”—Silas held up his thumb and forefinger, not even a full inch apart—“this drunk now. Wine wears off fast.” Or something.

“Mm-hmm.” Ben pinched his lips and shook his head. “I could give you my number. You could text—”

Silas’s laughter cut off Ben’s offer.

“What’s so funny?”

“I don’t need to have your number. Your significant other will hate me.”

“I don’t think he….” Ben looked left, then right, then back to Silas. “It’ll be okay.”

“How about you give me your number when you’re not as interested in my safety as you are in me?”

Ben nodded. The movement was so slight, so curt and tense, that had Silas not been paying attention, he would’ve missed it.

With a sigh, Silas left the cop formerly known as Officer Hot Body standing on the edge of the road just beneath the balcony at Lafayette’s. The farther Silas walked away, the more invisible Ben became, until he was lost to a sea of drunken bodies.

Silas made a right onto Cooper, heading south toward Peabody, all the while wishing he’d stayed back with Ben until all the booze wore off. He still had enough of a buzz that his lips tingled and walking felt… well, weird. He stopped at the corner of Union and Cooper, watching the blur of cars speeding by. This was the spot where he needed to pay attention, be careful. The last thing that needed to happen was him turning into roadkill for the beautiful Officer Logan and company to scrape off the road. That would be a hell of a way to end a pretty decent night.


Check out Dearly Stalked today!


Dearly Stalked by Allison Cassatta



Writing crime novels catapulted Memphis native Silas Cooper to fame and fortune, but when his words backfire and he becomes trapped in what could be one of his books, he needs a hero of his own.

Silas’s publicist insists he hire a personal assistant, and Silas chooses Scott Kramer. But before Scott starts, he already has a round of steamy phone sex to hold over Silas’s head, and his interest in his boss isn’t decreasing.

Benjamin Logan joined the Army to see the world, and while deployed he read every one of Silas’s books. With his military career over, Ben is back in Memphis working for the police department—and attempting a deeply closeted relationship with fellow cop Morgan Brown.

Over coffee, Silas and Ben become friends who support each other as relationships fall apart, and the attraction between them slowly emerges. When a dangerous stalker threatens Silas, it’s up to Ben to stop him.

If Ben fails, Silas might not live to tell this story… and Ben might not be able to live with himself.


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Dear Diary w/ Marina Ford + Exclusive Excerpt

January 25, 2017

 Dear Diary with Marina Ford


Hi, I’m Marina Ford and I’m introducing my debut novel, “Lovesick.” It’s a British gay romantic comedy, in which Leo, a university lecturer from London, finds himself sadly disappointed in love, and in need of a thorough re-evaluation of his life and goals. He eventually meets and falls in love with his neighbour, Alex, but both have quite a road to travel before they can have their Happily Ever After.

For now, please enjoy this exclusive excerpt from one of Leo’s diary entries!


Then Jack got engaged.

I had no idea he was even dating anybody, and then one day I went to see Sarah, whose office is right next to mine, and who knows everything about everybody, and she told me. I was standing there, hot tea in my hand, not moving or saying anything. It was as if I turned to stone—that was exactly how heavy my heart felt at that moment. I was too shocked to react.

“You all right, pet?” she asked pityingly.

I don’t remember what I said or how I got into my office afterwards. I just remember sitting behind my desk, dumbstruck, staring at the monitor of my computer, thoughts tangling themselves in my head. I eventually had it confirmed by Jack himself. Not personally. He sent out a mass email, and then I saw it on Facebook. She’s American. They’d had a long-distance thing going on for ages, apparently, and now she is moving to the UK and they’re getting married. She’s photogenic, the kind of pretty that looks effortless and natural. Like she got out of bed looking goddesslike: a big bright smile, glorious blue eyes, perfect skin. In pictures together they look incandescently happy.

I feel like I’ve gone insane. Was it really all just in my head? Did this just happen to me? How could I have got so far? What the hell happened to me? I mean, I know I’m in my head a lot, but surely I’m not literally delusional, am I?

It was horrible after that. Everybody discussed Jack’s wedding. He had brought her to some fancy dinner I didn’t go to, and afterwards everybody was full of gossip about her. The reports on her were generally positive—about how beautiful and charming she is. I didn’t want to hear it. The rumour ran that he was going to bring her to the Christmas party, so I didn’t go. When I was feeling particularly bitter, I went on Facebook to just hate-stare at their pictures and people’s congratulations.

And today was going to be different. Today I was not going to hate or feel bitter. I planned to sit in my flat and read or watch something. Play with my dog. Be normal. I was going to stop being a weirdo stalker-creep.

It’s not a flattering thing to find yourself doing, let me tell you. But I regret not going out after all. Or having someone over. I insisted I needed the weekend to myself, but while it sounded very reasonable when I was explaining it to my friends over the phone, in hindsight it turns out that just because you know how to be sarcastic better than your opponent, that doesn’t mean you’re actually right.

I had one mission for this weekend: that I would not go on Facebook.

I wouldn’t. I won’t.

All right, so I had a quick look at Facebook. I just needed to check that everybody was well. There was nothing on my news feed about that bloody wedding. Instead, I received an invitation. From Sarah. An invitation to a funeral, as a matter of fact. To be precise, an invitation to the funeral of Sarah’s cat. Her cat’s name being, by the by, Mr Bonkers. This is Sarah, and she’s awfully fond of me, so I had to accept. If ever the paranoid government of a dystopian future finds itself in need of proving my insanity so as to arrest me, they will probably use this diary as evidence.


Check out Lovesick today!

Lovesick by Marina Ford


Friday, 23 January
The cat funeral.
Yeah, that happened today. I went and participated in—aided and abetted?—a cat funeral.

London life is tough on idealists. In an ideal world, after years of flirtation, Leo would be cosily settled down with Jack, his long-time crush. In an ideal world, Jack wouldn’t now be engaged to a woman. And in an ideal world, Leo would move on.

When handsome new neighbour Alex moves in opposite Leo, an opportunity to do so presents itself. But Alex is probably straight, working class, and poorer than Leo. While Jack’s engagement unravels, and Leo’s friendship with Alex deepens, will Leo manage to find happiness with the right man? Or will he succumb to his enemies: self-doubt, family expectations, and pride?

Told in diary form, this is both the story of a love triangle in London and the chronicle of a man’s struggles to confront his self-image and overcome his insecurity.


Author Bio:

Marina Ford is a thirty-year-old book addict, who would, if permitted, spend all of her time in bookstores, libraries, or in her own bed with stacks and stacks of books. Luckily, she has a husband and a dog who force her to interact with humans of planet Earth from time to time. In fact, she so enjoyed falling in love with her husband that she can’t resist evoking those same feelings in the love stories she creates in her head. She does not believe in love at first sight— but she does believe in Happy Ever After, though it must be earned. She likes her stories to be light and frothy, since real life can be miserable enough without making up more of it in fiction. She lives in England, loves rain (gives one an excuse to stay at home and read books, right?), long walks (when it doesn’t rain), history, love stories, classical literature, pulpy literature, Jane Austen, languages, and dogs. It is her dream to one day possess an enormous country house in which each room is a library (okay, maybe except for the kitchen), and in which there are more dogs than people. A smaller and perhaps more realistic dream of hers is to make people smile with the things she writes.


Forever a Foodie w/ Jon Keys + Exclusive Excerpt

January 24, 2017

Forever a Foodie with Jon Keys


Hello! Thanks so much for having me visit on the release of “Camouflage”. I’m so thrilled with all the help from Dreamspinner Press. As always, the editors were so great and I love the book.

I thought I’d talk about an unusual character with several cameos in Camouflage. Who is this rascal? Food. I’ll admit it, I’m a foodie. More than once my birthday and Christmas gifts have circled around something food related. A new cookbook, the latest kitchen gadget, or trying a new place to eat, any of them are great gifts for me. I’ve always heard our strongest memories are tied to smells. I can believe without any trouble. I love trying new things, but comfort foods are such an important part of my life. Everyone has their way of dealing with problems. A great comfort meal is my way of dealing with the crap life deals out. Yes, sometimes the memories are better than the fact, but I’m always up for a good run at it.

Why the obsession with food? I have no idea, it just is. But it also means my characters enjoy food as much as I do. Some like Peter from “Home Grown” are hard-core foodies always looking for the latest food obsession. Others, like Luke in “Camouflage”, love the comfort food they grew up with. He enjoys the food his grandmother made (I’m sure chicken-fried steak was a favorite!), to local specialties, yes, including fried pickles. Luke is sharing his life with Nash by sharing the foods that gives Luke that warm feeling of place.

I think shared experiences with food are an important part of any relationship. The ritual and sharing of food are important in my stories, whether it’s Luke and Nash arguing about catsup or mustard on corndogs from the fair, to Anan roasting fresh taken daggerhorn in my high fantasy series, food plays an important role.

Check out Camouflage today!


Camouflage by Jon Keys



Nash Gallo and Luke Meyers seem like complete opposites on the surface. Nash is a city boy from Atlanta, while Luke is a rancher from rural Oklahoma. Nash is covered in tattoos and piercings, while Luke is self-conscious about his muscular, hairy body. Luke doesn’t have much sexual experience with other men, while Nash has plenty to go around.

But both men are lonely, and neither of them has ever been in love.

They also both have secrets. For Luke, it’s his shame over an affair with a local closeted and married man, something Nash accepts. Will Luke be as tolerant of what Nash is hiding—his job as a prostitute back in Georgia?

A week-long vacation on Luke’s ranch and the idyllic landscapes surrounding it gives both men the chance to relax and explore the attraction growing between them. But can the budding relationship survive secrets and small-town prejudices? As they search for the place where their lives might intersect, Nash and Luke risk far worse than broken hearts.


Author Bio:

Jon Keys’ earliest memories revolve around books; with the first ones he can recall reading himself being “The Warlord of Mars” and anything with Tarzan. (The local library wasn’t particularly up to date.) But as puberty set in he started sneaking his mother’s romance magazines and added the world of romance and erotica to his mix of science fiction, fantasy, Native American, westerns and comic books.

A voracious reader for almost half a century, Jon has only recently begun creating his own flights of fiction for the entertainment of others. Born in the Southwest and now living in the Midwest, Jon has worked as a ranch hand, teacher, computer tech, roughneck, designer, retail clerk, welder, artist, and, yes, pool boy; with interests ranging from kayaking and hunting to painting and cooking, he draws from a wide range of life experiences to create written works that draw the reader in and wrap them in a good story.

Email: Jon.Keys@ymail.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jon.keys.773
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Jon4Keys
Website: http://jonkeys.com


Exclusive Excerpt

Nash’s stomach knotted as he stared at Luke while waiting to see what he was going to do. The teasing banter they’d been exchanging made him hope they were becoming more comfortable with each other, but now Luke had been stalling on the bank of the lake for at least fifteen minutes. One thing after another kept him from getting into the water. Nash paddled closer, wondering what was going on.

“Luke, come on. It feels great.”

“Yeah, okay. Give me a sec.” He fiddled with the hem of his T-shirt, pulling it up and letting it drop, unconsciously giving a better tease show than some of the strippers in Atlanta. The glimpse of Luke’s flat stomach was having its effect. Nash moved closer until he sat on a submerged rock a few feet from Luke.

“What’s up? I thought everything was okay.”

Luke pressed his hands down his torso and shrugged, his eyes never meeting Nash’s. “Yeah. It’s all good. But, yeah….”

“What? It can’t be that big of a deal.”

“I’m kinda hairy,” Luke blurted out.


“Yeah, well. Some people don’t like hairy guys. I tried keeping it shaved but it itches like crazy.” His gaze dropped. “Besides, who would see it?”

Nash stood and made his way up the rocky shoreline to Luke, grabbed his shirt, and pulled it over his head with no further ceremony. He tossed the shirt onto the grass and stood admiring Luke’s chest.

“Your fur is fucking hot. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Now stop being a dipshit.” With a light slap on Luke’s stomach, Nash walked back into the lake, submerging to his neck. The sight of Luke without a shirt sent pulses of attraction through Nash. He hoped the cool water would help bring his cock down from the raging erection it was. But instead he only got harder as he watched Luke climb into the water.

So far as Nash was concerned, Luke’s chest was about as perfect as possible. The dusting of hair across his pecs darkened to a line down his stomach, which disappeared into the cutoff jeans he wore. His broad shoulders tapered to a waist that had a thick Adonis belt coming from both sides. Whoever had Luke worried that he didn’t look hot was a twisted son of a bitch.

Luke started into the water, following Nash. When he reached knee deep, he stepped off a rock shelf and instantly submerged to midchest. Nash chuckled at his gasp.

“Man! It’s kinda cold.”

“Nah, you’re being a pussy. Or are you worried about shrinkage?”

Luke snorted and splashed Nash. “Not me. Shrinkage isn’t a problem.”

Nash shot a rooster tail of water at Luke and drenched him.

“You fucker! I’m gonna get your ass.” Luke launched himself at Nash while the taller man took off swimming. But Luke was a strong swimmer and caught him in a few strokes. He grabbed Nash’s shoulders and shoved him under.

Nash came up sputtering and flipped his head to get the wet hair off his face. “Oh, you want to play that way.”

He grabbed as Luke yelped and dodged. They dove and wrestled until they both gasped for air. They’d moved farther into the lake until the water was over Luke’s head. To keep from being pushed under again, he wrapped his legs around Nash. But now with his crotch pressed against Nash’s stomach Luke’s erection was obvious. Their gazes met. Luke blushed and released the leg lock. “Sorry, didn’t—”

Nash wrapped his arms around Luke and pulled him tight. The kiss he planted went on for several minutes and left them both winded.

“Stop apologizing. You’re not doing anything I’m not enjoying,” Nash said.

Muscular legs wrapped around Nash’s midsection and in an instant they were tight against each other. Luke slipped his work-toughened fingers through Nash’s wet hair and pulled them into a snug embrace. Their lips met again. A slow kiss this time, but the fire it ignited in Nash was like nothing he’d felt before. As the kiss faded away, Luke nibbled at his ear and soon had Nash moaning in response.

Luke released his leg lock, but it seemed to be a reluctant gesture. “I think we better stop while we can.”

The Enchantment of New Orleans w/ Hunter Frost

January 20, 2017


The Enchantment of New Orleans with Hunter Frost


Hello dutiful Dreamspinner blog readers! I’m Hunter Frost and on January 18th, Cemeteries by Moonlight, my first novella with Dreamspinner Press was released out into the world. This book is part of the States of Love series and I was thrilled to be able to claim Louisiana as my state of choice. The story is set in New Orleans and revolves around a cast of quirky characters, anchored by the budding romance between a crime fiction writer and a cemetery tour guide. It’s noir-ish mystery at heart, with a dash of supernatural, steamy romance, and loads of New Orleans cuisine!

I’ve visited New Orleans at least five times in the past fifteen years and no one has to ask me twice if I’m up for another trip to the Big Easy. I’m ready now. Let’s go!

Besides the delicious varieties of food, the eccentric yet amazing people, and the nightlife filled with music and laughter, just the “feel” of the place is inspiring. It’s a difficult thing to describe, but something about being in such a history rich city, built on conflict as well as a melding of cultures, calls out to me. Maybe it’s because I consider myself part of the gothic subculture – though I don’t think dressing in black, wearing pale make-up, or dyeing your hair black is necessary to be goth (though I’m sure it doesn’t hurt ☺). I believe goth is a state of mind – the habit of attuning yourself to the romantic nature of humanity, celebrating the macabre of life and death, and loving all aspects of history and literature. But I’m getting too deep here, even for myself. I’m only trying to analyze why I, and many others, feel an instant connection to the Crescent City.

New Orleans and its often violent history make it easy to see why the place draws those hoping to catch a glimpse of the paranormal. Death and suffering is said to bring out the spirits! On one of my visits, a friend and I took a ghost tour, led by a wonderful woman with long graying hair and mischievous eyes, who took us all around the French Quarter. We stopped at numerous landmarks where horrible things had taken place listening to her recount the grisly details and describe the paranormal activity said to go on there. From vampire dens to psychotic lunatics torturing slaves, the stories were bone-chilling. Even though we got a bit of rain during the tour, it only added to the spooky ambience, and to this day my friend still claims a glowing dot we caught in one of our shadowy photos of the Jesus statue behind the St. Louis Cathedral is a ghostly orb and not a water spot. I guess we’ll never know.

That tour inspired the Ghostly Legends & Lore, Inc., tour company in my book. My characters give a variety of tours throughout New Orleans: Cemetery, Ghost, Voodoo, Vampire, and Garden District tours. Finn runs the Cemetery tour though he is well acquainted with the ghost stories of the region, and you get to hear some of those morbid tales if you read the book. It was a blast being able to translate those tour memories into my novel and I hope you get that same creepy feeling when reading it.

I know some ghost tours can be campy, silly, or overly dramatic, but I think it all depends on the guide. Have you ever been on a ghost tour? In what city? How did you like it? I’d love to hear about your experiences.


Check out Cemeteries by Moonlight today!


Cemeteries by Moonlight by Hunter Frost


When a serious bout of writer’s block threatens to delay mystery author Drew Daniels’s newest book, his aunt offers her New Orleans apartment in the heart of the French Quarter as a writing retreat. She neglects to mention that it’s occupied by the enigmatic and sexy Finn Murphy, a cemetery tour guide with a penchant for Victorian attire and a Cajun accent.

A body discovered in an open crypt forces reclusive Drew to deal with Finn’s eccentric group of friends and his underlying attraction to the hot Cajun—despite warnings about Finn’s violent past. Drew might write this stuff, but he’s never had to solve a real-life murder. With a deadline looming and a killer on the loose, this retreat is proving to be anything but helpful for Drew’s novel. Drew can only hope he won’t end up a tragic tale for the Ghostly Legends & Lore, Inc. haunted tour.

States of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the United States.


Buy Links:

Dreamspinner Preorder
Amazon Preorder
Barnes & Noble Preorder


Hunter Frost

Author Bio:

Hunter’s early addiction to the smell of printed books led her to spend most of her childhood in libraries and bookstores. There she fell in love with stories featuring medieval castles, ghosts, and handsome heroes. Though writing has always been a part of her life, after college she went on to explore careers in graphic design, the culinary arts, and dog grooming before returning to graduate school to get her MA in British history. To pay the bills she spends her days working for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, but to appease her overactive muse, she writes the kind of fiction that keeps her sane. She adores romance in all forms, but prefers her stories with two heroes that find their happily-ever-after with each other.

Hunter would rather watch Spaceballs (or any Mel Brooks movies really), despite being born in the same year as Star Wars. She loves Monty Python, MST3K, and cheesy rom-coms from the ’80s and ’90s. Her wacky sense of humor is only paralleled by her hopeless romanticism. She’s a goth at heart and a sucker for men with long hair. She adores everything British, but insists tea be drunk without milk. She’s a pescetarian with vegan tendencies and has two fat little cats named after her favorite beverage – Latte and Java. She dreams of coastal living, marshmallows, and Matt Bomer.

Feel free to connect with her through any of her social media accounts, or send her an email. She welcomes messages from readers and/or Brits looking to adopt.

E-mail: hunter@hunterfrost.net
Website: www.hunterfrost.net
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hunterfrostMM
Twitter: https://twitter.com/HunterFrostMM
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Writing Beyond Borders w/ Bonnie Dee + Giveaway

January 19, 2017


Writing Beyond Borders with Bonnie Dee


I’m Bonnie Dee, author and sometimes co-author of numerous gay historical novels which you may see on my web site. The Mighty Have Fallen is my first foray into contemporary since my earliest attempt at writing gay romance titled Undeniable Magnetism. I decided it was time for a change of pace in order to keep my historical stories from becoming too familiar. Everybody needs a little shake up once in a while.

Imagine you were to lose not only one of your primary senses but your mode of earning a living, your savings, and your lover all at the same time. That is the fate suffered by Trevor Rowland, the protagonist of The Mighty Have Fallen. Acclaimed star of the London stage, Trevor is struck by a serious illness which leaves him inoperably blind. His boyfriend/ financial manager deserts him after bleeding him dry. Trevor is felled in every way possible and can hardly summon the will to drag himself out of despair and back into life.

Enter Jack Burrows, a hard working East Ender with whom Trevor shares lodgings after leaving a rehab facility. At first, Trevor is too self-pitying and angry to appreciate his friendly flat mate, but soon they forge an unexpected bond beyond anything Trevor expected to ever feel. Through Jack, Trevor finds a way to continue to use his acting talents in a manner he never would have dreamed of, performing a drag act in a nightclub.

I have been writing UK based books for quite some time although I live smack in the middle of the U.S. I jumped at the chance to be included in Dreamspinner’s new Perchance to Dream line, staffed by British editors. I learned from my editor, Sue Adams, not only figures of speech but habits of English folk that I never would have known. She helped me make Jack’s Cockney accent thick and authentic, which I hope readers will enjoy.

As anyone who has read many of my books knows, I really have a thing for cross class romance. While Jack and Trevor may not be separated by the enormous chasm dividing the protagonists in my current work in progress—a gay take on Pygmalion (aka My Fair Lady), their differing backgrounds still bring an interesting element to their love story.

As for featuring a blind protagonist, this isn’t my first venture into writing a disabled hero. I have a het contemporary featuring a blind hero and a het historical with a deaf hero. I’m interested in how the loss of one sense heightens the others. Which brings me to a question for this blog’s readers, if you had to do without one of your senses, which would you sacrifice? Please drop a comment here with your answer for a chance to win any one of my backlist titles. Two winners will be chosen from among the commenters.

You can learn more about me, Bonnie Dee, and my backlist of many romance books at http://bonniedee.com. Find me on FB at Bonnie Dee Author or Bonnie Dee. My Twitter handle is @Bonnie_Dee. I’m not the most active social media person but I turn up occasionally. Most importantly, please take a moment to sign up for my newsletter to learn of upcoming releases. Newsletter signup form

Thanks for stopping by the blog today. Hope you’ll leave a comment and then pick up your copy of The Mighty Have Fallen.


Check out The Mighty Have Fallen today!


The Mighty Have Fallen by Bonnie Dee



Theatre headliner Trevor Rowland is at the peak of his career when disaster strikes. In one fell swoop, he loses his eyesight, his fame, and his boyfriend, who absconds with most of his money. Trevor must take on a flatmate, hardworking East Ender Jack Burrows, to afford the rent. Anger and bitterness have taken up residence in his heart—but Jack shines light into the shadowy corners with his relentlessly sunny disposition.

Jack introduces Trevor to a local drag club and convinces him he can enjoy the stage again. Trevor’s defences slowly come down as Jack becomes much more than a barely tolerated roommate.

But will Trevor’s fragile trust be destroyed when it appears he’s been manipulated yet again by a man he’s come to care for? Will he reclaim his life or crawl back into a shell of defeat? Trevor must learn to trust not only a man, but himself, once more.


About Bonnie Dee:

Bonnie Dee began telling stories as a child, the designated ghost-tale teller at sleepovers. She still has a story printed on yellow legal paper in second grade about a ghost, a witch, and a talking cat. Writing childish stories evolved into inventing fan fiction romances and later into writing for publication. Bonnie enjoys reading stories about people damaged by life who find healing with a like-minded soul. When she couldn’t find enough books to suit her taste, she began to write them. Along with frequent coauthor Summer Devon, she has written numerous historical novels, a couple of which have won Rainbow Awards for best gay historical.
Since giving up a day job, she has oodles of time to explore any plot idea that crosses her mind. Contemporary or historical, paranormal or mystery, the genre doesn’t matter so long as there is an abiding romance at its heart.

Website: bonniedee.com
Blog: www.bonniedee.com/blog
E-mail: bonniedeeauthor@gmail.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/bonnie.dee.144
Street Team: www.facebook.com/groups/BonnieDeeAuthor
Twitter: @Bonnie_Dee
Newsletter signup: tinyurl.com/hsdnfzj

Surreal Experiences with Reece Pine

January 18, 2017

Surreal Experiences with Reece Pine


Hi! I’m Reece, writer of In Your Court, in which recent college grad Ray happily finds himself in Vietnam for a week to teach English and play basketball. The kicker is that he knows doing any sport intensively will definitely cost him his health for a long while after it, but he needs closure with the sport that it broke his heart to abandon a couple of years earlier. To achieve it, he keeps his deteriorating spinal condition secret from people he shouldn’t.

The tall, dark and chewy guy who just happens to be well-placed to kick Ray’s ass for making good on that astoundingly dumb idea is Singaporean-Australian Xin. Xin’s a proudly upfront guy who gets frustrated by people not seeing others’ points of views clearly, and who’s struck with a bit of “Well, hello” at first sighting Ray’s joyous antics on court.

He can only do so much as a translator to prise open communication channels for Ray, though, or guide him towards a better future path. That’s something Ray comes to find through travelling – that there’s more than basketball out there and in himself, but he has to work hard to keep moving forward. Luckily, his athletic past has already primed him to be able to go above and beyond when the going gets rough, and Xin’s no pushover either. I have a lot of respect for athletes’ conviction to excelling in their sport, and anyone dedicated to learning new languages. Neither are easy!

Ho Chi Minh is somewhere I was lucky enough to work for a while, and a city of amazing contrasts: the bustle disappears and the place almost becomes a ghost town during every afternoon’s siesta; historic temples stand shoulder to shoulder with modern skyscrapers; amid large social crowds, everyone somehow knows your business sometimes before you do, so that everyone may look after one another. If an occurrence in the story sounds especially made up, it’s more likely to have happened in real life – such as the cab driver Ray sees navigating through a traffic jam by tapping out Jingle Bells on his car horn.

The improbably dreamy piano bar Ray and Xin visit is also based on one I was taken to by a friend. Hidden places like that, such as rooftop cafes accessed through shops or pop-up cinemas, abound throughout the city, but they might only be temporary. Because property taxes back in the day were calculated according to the width of the building that fronted the street, many homes in the city are “tube houses” (long and narrow, like you see in Amsterdam or Paris) and it’s not unusual for owners to open up their front rooms at their leisure to become a store that’s here today and gone tomorrow. Gardens or atrium in the center of tube houses help them “breathe”, so you never know – you might stumble upon a garden restaurant in the middle of a house. Imagine going on a baking spree and opening up your living room as an impromptu café whenever you felt like it!

As in any metropolis, less quirky aspects of Ho Chi Minh’s past also inform what you see there today. Damage from the use of the chemical weapon Agent Orange during the Vietnam war persists in society, having caused and still causing birth defects among people, which is something that deserves to be seen in fiction and elsewhere so it’s never forgotten. The disabilities of the children Ray teaches while in Vietnam are very different than his own, but his opinion that physical disabilities should always be acknowledged and supported by society at large comes from a place of empathy, and is one (I think) which bears repeating.

Of course, Ray hypocritically draws a distinction between how society treats disability versus how he treats his own disability…. He knows there’s support out there for him if he asks for it, so his silence isn’t about avoiding feeling guilty for potentially burdening others. He simply wants to bargain with his own body, by cutting loose and then paying the price. And where better to cash-in your well-being than a beautiful, tropical city while surrounded by awesome people? (Er, that’s a trick question. Treasure your health and travel safe, everyone.)

The excerpt I’ve chosen to share sees Ray decked out in a new suit in order to tag along at a meeting Xin has with charity benefactors. Hiding his worsening pain isn’t so hard while he’s enthralled by the sight of Ho Chi Minh’s streets at sunset, and seeing dapper Xin suited up helps too.


Have you ever experienced something that was so charming and surreal it sounds made up? Let me know below!



Continuing his explanation on the subtleties of Asian inner and outer relationship circles, he instantly loses me, because while I was feeling slick as hell in my new duds, all hell breaks loose behind my wide eyes the second they behold his bespoke Savile Row wet nightmare.

Fuuuuuuuck. That’s the only word for it, dragged out that long on my lolling tongue. As we walk to the hotel where the dinner is being held, the slurred syllable keeps pulsing through my head every time I catch a glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye, or head-on, or after zoning out while staring. Yeah, fuck indeed. I’m fucked. Figuratively only.

I’m glad that all Xin catches is me looking away.

“I’ll get to the bottom of you,” Xin interrupts my self-critical reverie.

“Uh, what?”

“How to pay you back properly for letting me hang out this week. I’ll fix you up.”

I’m unfixable. “Forget it. I don’t have any business.”

“You might after tonight. And everyone’s got business. Business is communication and everyone’s got value. Everyone deserves to be heard, so I matchmake the best people to let that happen.”

I’ve never heard the role of ‘middleman’ put like that. It’s not as cold as I imagined it would be… or Xin to be, now that he has that passionate flare lighting his amber eyes. “You really like your job, huh?”

“I love it.”

Good. Good for him. That’s how I feel—felt about basketball. My hands are sweating, and I take them out of my trouser pockets, flexing my fingers in the light breeze. The hand closest to Xin’s swinging hand stays uncomfortably hot.

Sunset drenches the city’s old French provincial facades in sticky tangerine light. Kids play street soccer and sometimes shuffle to give way for passing traffic, sometimes not. I’m learning that in concert with the unspoken bigger-has-right-of-way road rule, an overwhelming majority of weaker bodies can force a car to circumvent them, until they’re overpowered by a bus, which in turn halts for a truck. Traffic lights are suggestions. One cab we pass is honking its horn to the rhythm of Jingle Bells.

A  handful  of  people’s  elbows  get  knocked  by  people  on  slow-passing scooters, and when Xin drifts to walk on the outside of me, closer to the road, I move to his other side to be a barrier. I laugh when I realize he’s trying to do the same thing, the idiot, to guarantee my safety. All we’re doing is putting the pair of us nearer to harm’s way. I knock his shoulder with mine to lure him back in on the sidewalk. He takes the bait, knocking me, and we have this stupid giggling battle down the street, crumpling our suits in tandem.

Day three and I’m not just still mobile, I’m having fun. I hope reality will wait a bit longer to drop the hammer, but I can feel it lining up over my head, damn near blotting out the falling sun’s rosy glow.


Check out In Your Court today!


In Your Court by Reece Pine



With a shot at happiness in sight, it’s no time to drop the ball.

A back condition ruined Ray’s basketball ambitions, but he wants one last opportunity to play before hanging up his sneakers. While volunteering as a coach at a special needs school in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, he meets Singaporean Xin, who works matching wealthy corporations with compatible charities. Xin helps the American navigate the local customs in order to see the smile Xin fell for at first sight, but Ray makes sure no one sees how hard it is for him to keep upright, let alone keep enjoying Vietnam and playing the sport he loves.

When Ray’s back pain becomes too great to hide, Xin accommodates him in Ho Chi Minh and in Singapore—and in bed. Ray wants to imagine a future for them but fears he’s damaged goods, and Xin’s obligations in Asia aren’t easily forgotten. Ray won’t be another charity of Xin’s, especially when Xin also needs someone by his side. Their romance will be cut as short as Ray’s basketball dreams unless he can close the Pacific-sized distance between them.

World of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the globe.


Check out Reece Pine:

Personal website: http://www.reecepine.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/reecepine
Tumblr: http://www.reecepine.tumblr.com

By the Numbers: Firemen, Puppies, and Why We Love Them

January 16, 2017


Firemen, Puppies, and Why We Love Them with Chris Owen and Tory Temple


Good morning, readers! We’re Chris Owen and Tory Temple and we are so happy to announce the re-release of our cowritten novel, By the Numbers! This book was first published in 2011, but it’s back with a beautiful new cover and a clean edit. We are really grateful to Dreamspinner Press for all the hard work they’ve done to get this novel out there again!

Tory says: Chris and I have worked on a few other books together, but this is definitely one of our favorites. Both of us have multi-dog households, so drawing on experience was easy. I will admit to never having lived with a multitude of puppies. Deuce is a brave man.

As this book developed, Chris and I realized that it was more of a happy, feel-good story, rather than one that had pages and pages of conflict and heavy emotional situations. For a while we pondered how to get more “oomph” in there in terms of angst. When Trey and Deuce refused to cooperate with us, however, we decided to just let it flow. Both men are calm and easygoing, so why not just create a story that was natural to both of their personalities? I would definitely characterize this book as light and fluffy and fun. (Not to say that they don’t argue, because they do. Sparingly.) It really left me with the warm fuzzies after we finished it. Here’s hoping you feel the same!Tory’s right — this is nice, cozy read, just the thing to enjoy on a cold winter evening, or while on vacation somewhere warm. Once in a while I really enjoy sinking my writing fingers into something that’s a happy love story. This didn’t start as one of those times, however; we did actually try for conflict in several ways. The gentlemen were having nothing to do with any kind of drama, though, so sweet story it is. Writers really can’t argue with the way the story wants to be. For a pair of nice guys they sure were demanding.

Trey is a hero, in many ways. He’s a firefighter, a single dad, and he’s brave enough to take on a puppy. Deuce might be almost as brave, as Tory said. He chooses to deal with puppies and Trey’s seven year old at the same time, after all. It takes all kinds of people to be heroes — we all need different things in life. Trey and Deuce need each other, it turns out, and they work through any struggles in order to be together, to be each other’s hero. Clearly, heroes can come in many forms. Have you ever seen an unlikely hero? Someone doing an unexpected thing that made them a hero in your eyes? Let us know, and you could win a copy of the ebook.


I hope you read the story and Trey and Deuce as the heroes they are. I hope you find your hero.


Check out By the Numbers today!


By the Numbers by Chris Owen & Tory Temple


When Nathaniel, aka Deuce, arrives home to an apartment building on fire, he can only think of one thing: his pregnant dog. Luckily firefighter Trey Donovan rescues her, and Nathaniel is exceedingly grateful. In fact, he tracks down Trey’s station so he can show his gratitude properly—and explore the connection he senses between them. Trey’s interested, but a less-than-friendly ex-wife and the seven-year-old daughter he’s raising make things… complicated. Between everything on Trey’s plate and the newborn puppies Deuce must care for—while homeless—finding common ground won’t be easy. But the spark of attraction between them is too enticing to be allowed to fizzle.

First Edition published by Torquere Press, 2011.


About the Authors:

Chris Owen lives and writes in eastern Canada. She went to a bunch of schools, learned a lot of things, and now makes stuff up because not to do so is unthinkable. She’s fond of fountain pens, notebooks and day planners, and Steampunk fashions. Lately she’s been watching a lot of documentaries. Chris has a fondness for wool and for summer ales. The two work well together.
Chris is inspired by the day to day minutia of life and finds beauty in the way words go together. She likes texture and richness of experience. She is not shy. Her favorite vegetable is cauliflower. You can reach her at www.chrisowen.net and on Twitter at @chris_owen

Tory Temple lives and works in southern California where she happens to spend a lot of time around firefighters. It makes for excellent storytelling, so Tory definitely uses that to her advantage! She is guardian to three pit bulls who only attack with kisses, two snobby cats, as well as other assorted friends from the animal kingdom. (Husband included.) Her fondest wish is to be a stay-at-home dog mom. You can tempt her with promises of cheese and/or Mexican food. On Saturday nights, she is usually watching Netflix and thinking about how to get the newest firemen in her head to hook up. Tory loves reader e-mails and looks forward to hearing from anyone who wants to drop her a line.

Website: www.torytemple.com
Blog: torytemple.com/blog
Facebook: www.facebook.com/torytemple
Twitter: @ToryTemple
E-mail: ragingpixie@gmail.com

By Degrees Series Sneak Peak w/ Taylor V. Donovan + Giveaway

January 13, 2017

Sneak Peak with Taylor V. Donovan


Hello everyone. My name’s Taylor V. Donovan and I’m an author of gay romance and suspense. I’m here to celebrate the release of Six Degrees of Lust, Second Edition, and what better way to do so than with an excerpt from Six Degrees of Agony, the third instalment in my By Degrees series?

For those of you who haven’t heard about it before, By Degrees is a romantic suspense serial featuring a killer of gay men and the FBI team trying to catch him. It has an ensemble cast, multiple points of view, continuing story lines, and Special Agent Logan Brandenburg, FBI profiler extraordinaire and a favourite among readers.

His story has taken longer than I had originally planned. For that I apologize, and if you want to know the reasons for the delay, head over to my blog. I’ve explained what went down in several posts. He’s coming though. Finally! I’m diligently working on him, so, without further ado, here’s a little taste from his book. <3


Six Degrees of Agony

He’d looked everywhere. The backyard, the tree house and even the greenhouse, but he couldn’t find her. He had to find her. He had to explain to her that his moving out of the house didn’t mean he would abandon her.

He checked the basement and the kitchen, and then ran to the library in the second floor after checking the bathrooms.

He didn’t see her.

Logan raked his fingers through his hair and ran to her bedroom. It was empty.

Where the hell was she? Why wasn’t Megan waiting for him by the koi pond, just like he’d asked her to? She should’ve been sitting on her favorite bench by the pond. They should’ve been discussing his plan to find a job.

Megan thought he was running away—just like their older brother had ran away, but Logan was only going to college so that he could protect her. It was the only way of escaping. He’d attend classes and work any jobs he could find, and once he’d saved enough money he’d get a place he could afford and move out of the dorms. Then he’d come get Megan and take her away from this hell, and they would never have to see their father again.

Logan checked his own room and his brother’s old room. He checked the laundry room, the pantry, the dining room, the attic… he searched everywhere, and still wasn’t able to find her.

He ran up and down the stairs twice, looking inside every room and closet, yet always avoiding his father’s office. He went back outside, running as fast as he could. He was desperate. He couldn’t leave the house if he didn’t talk to Megan.

It wasn’t until he’d looked in the basement for the third time that he realized Megan had been sitting in the middle of a fire pit all along. There shouldn’t be a fire pit in the basement, and Megan’s entire body shouldn’t have been engulfed in flames.

Logan ran toward the fire pit at the same time Megan leaned forward and smiled at him peacefully. She blew him a kiss, and mouthed that she loved him. He tried to tell her to stop scaring him. To order her to get up and run to safety, but by the time he was able to pass the words through his constricted throat Megan’s features were melting.

Oh my God…

“Don’t touch it!” Logan’s voice was hoarse; almost hysterical. “Jesus, Meg, please. Don’t touch the flames.”

Logan’s hand only caught air when he reached for Megan in an attempt to stop her. Had she moved? Had she gone somewhere? Logan couldn’t see her.

He squinted and looked around frantically, then pushed the covers to the side and sat up so that he could take a better look.  He leaned so far off the side of the chair, he lost his balance.

“Damn it.”

Logan rolled on his back, lifted his left leg almost to his face and held his knee with both hands. He closed his eyes and breathed through the sharp pain reverberating from his knee to his lower back. It was excruciating, but he was slowly gathering his bearings.

The base of an adjustable bed came into focus, followed by white sheets, and IV pole, and a blond-haired head.

No basement and no fire pit.

He was in Sasha’s hospital room.

Careful not to wake Sasha, he got up from the floor and walked around the bed. He kept his mind blank as he used the bathroom and washed his hands. Yawning and rubbing his eyes with the heel of his hand, he went back to the room. Once he’d made sure Sasha was sound asleep, he lay down on the chair and covered himself with the blanket Margaret had brought him.

He didn’t try to make sense out of the dream he’d just had. He knew what it meant and he knew why he’d had it. He couldn’t let himself think about it. His very sanity depended on it.


Enjoyed the excerpt? Curious for more? Then grab your copies of By Degrees. As I mentioned before, Six Degrees of Lust, Second Edition, released January 2. ☺ And for those of you who read the first version, I’d still recommend you get this one as well, as some characters were fleshed out and, even though the story arc remains basically the same, there are tweaks foreshadowing events in Six Degrees of Separation, which in turn leads to events in Six Degrees of Agony.



P.S. I’ve brought some copies to give away. Leave a comment and you’ll be entered for a chance to win a set of electronic copies Six Degrees of Lust and Six Degrees of Separation, Second Edition.


Check out Six Degrees of Lust today!


Six Degrees of Lust by Taylor V. Donovan



New York City FBI team leader Samuel Shaughnessy lives for his immediate family and his job. After a marriage gone wrong he has stuck to a firm rule when it comes to relationships: he doesn’t have them. Sexually active and emotionally unavailable keeps him satisfied, especially now that he is in hot pursuit of a serial killer targeting gay men.

Former firefighter Machlan O’Bannon now manages a successful sports bar in Houston and after years of waiting he’s ready to stand up and be the man he always wanted to be: out, proud and drama-free. His politically-aligned family wants to keep him locked in the closet, but Mac just wants to meet the man of his dreams.

One man is as high strung as the other is laid back. A chance meeting brings the two men together, and one night of passion ignites a fire neither can fight. Their lives are not only miles apart, but as different as day and night. They don’t want to get involved, but they might not be able to keep apart.

First Edition published by MLR Press, December 2011.  


TVD Logo

About the Author:

Taylor V. Donovan is a compulsive reader and author of gay romance and suspense. She is optimistically cynical about humanity and a lover of history, museums, and all things 80s. She shamelessly indulges in mind-numbing reality television, is crazy about fashion, and passionate about civil rights and equality for all.

When she’s not writing or making a living in the busiest city in the world, Taylor can be found raising her two daughters and their terribly misbehaved furry baby in their home.



Finding Balance with Kelly Jensen + Giveaway

January 12, 2017

Finding Balance with Kelly Jensen


When I sit down to write a book, I don’t necessarily ponder themes. I usually start with a voice. A character will start whispering to me, their voice growing louder as the idea for that character slowly coalesces in my head. I then try to tell their story. It isn’t until afterward that I think about themes. One is always loud and clear. It has to be; otherwise my story would be pointless. It’s when I’m revising and refining that I usually uncover the other themes, and these are often like little messages from my subconscious—especially when they’re things that crop up in all my stories.

The theme I began with for Block and Strike, the reason I wanted to tell this story, was finding confidence. I started with fairly broad strokes, one being the title.


Block and Strike Teaser

Max has been blocking (or failing to block) for most of his life. Jake has been striking. In other words, these guys are struggling. They’re prolonging the fight. Jake is supposed to know better, but sometimes we only remember how something works when we explain it to others. It’s in helping Max that Jake puts all the pieces together. Coordinated moves take more confidence and that’s what self-defense is all about: learning the moves, practicing them until they’re second nature, and then trusting your instincts—which is about the same as finding confidence. You have to trust who you are.

What if you don’t know yourself, or don’t like who you are?

Well, that’s another journey and another major theme in Block and Strike. Accepting yourself is something I write about a lot. It took me a long time to accept myself. I still have a few questions… and I know I’m not alone. Life is a series of questions, and so many of them are directed inward. While I can be philosophical about a lot of it now, at Max’s age (21) or even Jake’s age (26) I did a lot of mental and physical flailing. Life can hurt, and figuring out who you are, and then being okay with that, requires some bruising and scarring.

Max is ashamed of his sexuality and his perceived weakness. Jake is ashamed of the incident that landed him in jail, and the decisions that led up to it. Both of these guys need to recognise their strengths and accept their weaknesses. Learn that both of these aspects are important. That everything they are has value—which leads me to the third theme in Block and Strike, the hidden one I didn’t see until all was said and done: yin and yang, or balance.


Jake's Tattoo

Once identified, it’s obvious. I poke at it everywhere, from the lopsided beginning of the story to the house of cards set off by certain events toward the end. It’s in the opposing personalities of my heroes: Max is quiet and shy, Jake is loud and outgoing. It’s in their living spaces: Max’s apartment is a hole in the ground, Jake’s is nice and full of light. They even have a conversation about balance when Max discovers Jake’s tattoo:



Max smoothed his hands across the patterned skin, over the circle of two fish, each chasing the tail of the other. One was outlined in sinuous strokes of black ink, the other almost all black, unmarked skin forming the outline and suggestion of movement. Max had seen the design before, but not with fish. One dark, one light.

“Is this a yin and yang symbol?” Max traced the outline of the darker fish, his finger running over a strip of smooth, unmarked skin.

Jake glanced over his shoulder, as if he’d forgotten he even had a tattoo. His cheek rounded as he smiled. “Yeah.”

“Do the fish mean anything?”

“I liked the idea of one driving the other, or chasing. It could be either, right? That’s what balance is about. Movement. Life isn’t a spectator sport.” Leaning forward, Jake braced against the wall, hands flattened against the tile. “It’s also me, in a way. I spent a lot of time wondering who I was when I was younger. I guess we all do. Being attracted to both guys and girls had me spinning in place a little longer than most, I suppose. When I got the tattoo, it was my way of making peace with the duality of being, of not being what I sometimes appear to be.”

Max’s post-coital state lent both more and less meaning to Jake’s explanation. On the one hand, he understood it perfectly, and the confession—if it had been that—warmed him. He wasn’t the only guy to struggle with his identity. On the other hand, he didn’t get it at all. Jake was the strongest guy he knew. The most settled and even. He saw no yin to his yang, or vice versa. But he did appreciate the fact Jake had a new depth to him, a thoughtful, almost philosophical nature that made absolute sense. This was why Jake was kind and good. Why he took the time to do things right. Why he breathed easily and contentedly. Why he laughed and sang. Why he seemed to be such a complete person.

Jake turned around and slid his hands around Max’s shoulders. He didn’t pull Max into a hug, just rested with him in a loose and easy embrace. “We’re all struggling, Max. Each and every one of us. Every day. Some of us just hide it better. Or cope better.” He moved one hand up over Max’s shoulder to caress his neck, the underside of his jaw. “You’re going to get there before I do.”

Max shook his head.

An easy smile pulled at Jake’s full mouth. “Oh, yeah, you are, and I’m gonna be the one clinging to your coattails. I’m going to ride up with you.”


The hand at his jaw tipped his chin up so Jake could lean in to meet his lips. “Because that’s what I want to do.”

Not a philosophical answer, but honest.


I love this scene. It’s one I considered cutting on and off because it’s one of those quiet moments that maybe didn’t really need to be on the page. But every time I read over it, the idea of balance and self-acceptance resonated so strongly that I had to keep it. This is my story, right here. This short scene basically covers every theme in the book and I didn’t really recognise it for what it was until later. Some part of me knew it was important, though, just as Jake—while still struggling—gets it and wants to pass the idea on to Max.

Sometimes we don’t really know why we’re struggling or what we’re fighting for, but we do it anyway, because that’s what accepting yourself and finding balance is all about.


Reader question: What are your favourite themes in fiction and romance? What kinds of stories resonate most deeply with you? Comment for a chance to win an ebook from my Dreamspinner Press backlist!

Check out Block and Strike today!


Block and Strike by Kelly Jensen


Jacob Kendricks is three months out of prison, estranged from his daughter, and ready to get his life on track. Taking care of the bum curled up on his doorstep isn’t part of the plan. When he realizes the man has been assaulted, Jake takes him to the hospital, where he learns that Max is his downstairs neighbor… and that he could really use a friend. Keeping Max in the friend-zone would be easier if he wasn’t so damned cute.

Maxwell Wilson has been bullied for years, and the only person who ever cared lives too far away to come to his rescue. Now his upstairs neighbor is offering support. Max remains cautious, suspecting he is little more than a project for the handsome Jake. When he learns Jake has had boyfriends as well as girlfriends, Max has to reevaluate his priorities—and muster the courage to take a chance at love.

Just when a happy future is within their grasp, life knocks them back down. A devastating blow leaves Max lower than ever and Jake wrestling with regret. They both have to find the strength to stand on their own before they can stand together.


About Kelly Jensen:

Kelly Jensen was born in Australia and raised everywhere else. Currently, she lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, daughter, and herd of four cats. After disproving the theory that water only spins counterclockwise around drains north of the equator, she turned her attention to more productive pursuits such as reading, writing, writing about reading, and writing stories of her own. She also enjoys volunteering at her local library, playing video games, and holds a brown belt in Kiryoku, a martial art combining Shotokan, Aikido, and Tang Soo Do. Her family is not intimidated by her.

Twitter: @kmkjensen
Website: kellyjensenwrites.com
Facebook www.facebook.com/kellyjensenwrites