Slim Chance: Toxic Thoughts w/ Jeff Erno + Giveaway

June 30, 2017

toxic thoughts

 

Thanks so much for joining me on the Dreamspinner blog. This is Jeff Erno, and I’m here to talk about my new release, Slim Chance, which is a gay romance featuring two not-so-conventional protagonists. Oliver Paxton is twentysomething computer programmer who has battled obesity his entire life. His coworker Benjy has struggled with his own baggage, primarily a social anxiety disorder that sometimes cripples him. The two become friends and share a mutual love of computer gaming, but as Benjy helps Oliver embark upon an epic weight-loss journey, their relationship evolves into something romantic and beautiful. But the demons that Oliver can’t seem to get out of his head threaten to destroy the best thing that ever happened to either of them, and Oliver must figure out how to reconcile the new and improved, thin version of himself with a past he wants to leave behind.

 

Can We Overcome Our Toxic Thoughts?

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to read minds? Personally, I think if offered this superpower I’d elect to pass. I’m not sure I’d want to know the private thoughts of even the people I love the most. Even the kindest, most forgiving, most compassionate among us have negative thoughts. It’s a reality with which I’ve struggled most of my life. While those around me have seen me as generous, polite, and unselfish, I harbor secret thoughts that threaten to betray me.

Back when I was religious, I believed these negative thoughts—selfishness, greed, envy—were temptations. Although I felt guilty for experiencing them and was certain I was nothing but a hypocrite, I also believed that the thing that mattered most was not that I thought something bad, but rather what I chose to do about those thoughts. How did I act? That’s what mattered.

So if someone irritated me, I would definitely register a thought about how annoying they were, but then I’d make a conscious choice to treat that person with respect and be just as polite and kind to them as I was to everyone else. If I felt jealousy toward another person, I made a deliberate effort to be gracious and congratulatory toward them rather than petty and spiteful. If I wanted the biggest piece of cake, I didn’t rush in to get mine first. I waited my turn and acted thrilled when I received my much smaller slice.

And you know what happens when you go through life striving to be a better person than your thoughts? You actually do become a better person, at least in the eyes of those around you. These little white lies—these hypocritical responses—are almost never perceived as phoniness. No, they are simply viewed as good manners. We don’t always have to say out loud everything we think. We can choose to police our own thoughts and deal with them internally.

In literature, we’re sometimes given the chance to see into the minds of characters who have very negative, toxic thoughts. Our knee-jerk reaction is to judge. That’s horrible. Why does he think this way? How selfish! Those thoughts, when presented in black and white before our very eyes, are ugly and scary. They make us uncomfortable.

Reading them is like looking into a mirror.

I’m most comfortable when a character is presented in a way that portrays his good side. I want to know the altruistic motivations that compel him. I want the positive realizations and epiphanies. I want to feel the goodness of his heart. But as soon as he is portrayed realistically and his negative thoughts are revealed—the same thoughts that I myself have always battled in my own head—he becomes unlikable.

In Slim Chance, I chose to portray the dark side of my main character, Oliver Paxton. I elected to offer the reader a peek into the mind of this tortured man. As I set out to write this story about a man who had been struggling with weight issues his whole life, I had a choice to make. I could present him as the heavy-set guy everyone loved and give him an inner monologue that would appeal to readers who were seeking a feel-good romance about a really swell person who happened to be overweight…OR I could present a very flawed but realistic character, a man who has been victimized his entire life and as a result has become his own shield. He’s used cynicism to mask pain. He’s used selfishness to cover vulnerability. He looks out for himself first mentally, mainly because nobody else ever has been there to protect him.

Slim Chance is a story about how a person like Oliver Paxton can change. His transformation is not rapid. He doesn’t magically rid his mind of the negative thoughts, and in fact, he never will. Those who have undergone cognitive therapy know that we can’t control when a negative thought enters our brain, but we can decide whether or not we’ll accept that thought or challenge it. Ultimately, we see Oliver beginning to challenge those thoughts, and more importantly, we see him acting on his decision to be a better person. And love wins.

Interestingly, the idea for Slim Chance did not begin from Oliver’s perspective. Although in recent years I’ve struggled with my own weight and body issues, it was the character Benjy I related to. Like Benjy, I suffer from social anxiety. My condition has worsened over the years, probably due to a number of factors. For one, I’m a writer and don’t spend a lot of time outside my house. The less chance I have to interact with people, the more reclusive I become.

A couple years ago I ran into a friend, someone I used to be very close with. It was at a conference where there were a lot of people. This person, when I used to know her, was extremely overweight, but she’d had a surgery and had taken off—I dare say—two hundred pounds. When we were friends, both of us were social outcasts, which was probably why we bonded the way we did. We hung out together, commiserated with one another.

The new and improved version of my friend—the slender, sexy bombshell—had a new hairstyle, all new flashy clothing. And she wasn’t suffering from her social anxiety anymore—not in the least. In fact, she was the opposite. She’d become the life of the party, surrounded by a ton of friends, and all of them were laughing and joking…and she hardly noticed me. We didn’t spend any time together one on one that weekend. I saw her up on the dance floor at the evening parties. I saw her photos plastered all over social media as she got selfies with almost every important person at the conference.

But I wasn’t her friend anymore. And though she used to be one of my biggest fans, I don’t think she continued reading my books either.

That’s what gave me the idea for Slim Chance. But I deliberately chose not to present the story from the social-anxiety-ridden best friend’s perspective. I wanted to get into the mind of the person who lost all the weight. I wanted to understand how and why a person could dump their loved ones, the ones who stood beside them back when they were heavy, and exchange their true friends for the superficiality of the glamor crowd—the popular people.

And I think I do understand the situation a lot better now. I think allowing myself into the mind of Oliver Paxton helped me understand him and love him. And like Benjy, I get it. I see why Oliver, once he’d improved himself physically, felt the desire to continue upgrading. He’d never had friends! Not the popular people. No one had ever found him attractive or even tried to kiss him. He’d never even been on a date. So yes, of course, those temptations played out in his head. Who can honestly say they wouldn’t be tempted given the same set of circumstances?

But Oliver did something my former friend did not. He stopped, looked back, and realized who he was leaving behind. And therein lies the purpose of the story. You don’t have to be a perfect, lovable person that everyone adores. You don’t have to think only the purest thoughts. You don’t have to be the best looking, the most in-shape, the most popular. Love is not about any of those things. Love is larger than obesity or social anxiety. Love doesn’t demand we rid ourselves of all our faults but accepts us as we are—flawed and beautiful.

 

* * * *

My life-changing journey with Dreamspinner began seven years ago when I signed a contract for Trust Me. I didn’t exactly expect to be taken seriously as an author back then. I wrote as a form of therapy—a catharsis for my emotions. Trust Me helped me open up and deal with events in my past, including child sexual abuse, my struggle to reconcile my religious faith with my sexual orientation, and the internal homophobia that I couldn’t quite shake. The story chronicled the childhood experiences of two very different boys, one religious and the other a rebel. Eventually, in their teen years, Shawn and Bobby connect and fall in love but have to contend with a 1980s society that isn’t ready to accept boys who love other boys. They emerge triumphant and at last, 130 thousand words later, live happily ever after.

Trust Me_lowres

Following Trust Me, Dreamspinner published my anthology of short stories called Bullied. The compilation included seven fictional accounts of teen bullying, featuring gay and lesbian protagonists. Originally released at Dreamspinner, the anthology was later moved to their young adult imprint, Harmony Ink. It won a Rainbow Award the year it was released.

My best-selling book to date at Dreamspinner is We Danced, the closest story I have to a formulaic romance. It features a young veterinarian intern named Josh who moves to a small town in Kentucky where he encounters a handsome bar owner named Rex. After accidentally leaving his cell phone at the bar, Rex returns after hours to retrieve it, which is when Rex and he dance to the country-western jukebox music and share their first kiss. Later, Rex reveals that he’s a father. He has a six year old son, Tyler, whom he has adopted. The three form a family and together face all the obstacles that a small-town Kentucky community can throw in their way.

WEDANCED_JEFFERNO_FINAL

Choosing America’s Next Superstar was my nod to reality-TV, featuring a gay romance between two of the musical talent show’s top-ten contestants. Left-Hand Path is my one and only Dreamspinner paranormal. You Belong With Me is a young adult romance, a jock-nerd fantasy about two neighbors who communicate by holding hand-written signs up in their bedroom windows.

Dreamspinner has also published a couple of series of mine, the most notable being Dumb Jock. It too has a jock-nerd theme in all six of its installments. The first book of the series is actually the very first novel I ever wrote. I even used my own first name for the protagonist. The next four books in the series are stand-alone reads about new characters who are in some way connected to the original characters, and the final book of the series pulls all of the books and characters together for a final reunion. Book two, Another Dumb Jock, also received a Rainbow Award.

dumbjock

And most recently, I have a three-book detective/mystery series called Full Nelson which showcases the hyper-masculine detective hero, Chris Nelson, and his sidekick, Ethan, who happens to also be Chris’s husband and works as a middle-school teacher.

So, not counting the audio, foreign translations, and bundled compilations, Slim Chance is my sixteenth book with Dreamspinner, but hopefully not the last.

 

Check out Slim Chance today!

SlimChance_postcard_front_DSP

 

Blurb: 

Can a man improve his appearance without losing everything good inside him?

Oliver has always been obese and suffered from a negative body image. He’s tried diets before, failing time after time, but he vows this time will be different. As he begins an exercise program, his confidence increases—and so does his interest in his friend and coworker Benjy. Though they bonded long ago over a love of online gaming, it takes a lot of courage for Oliver to share his new body and be intimate with another man.

A passionate romance blooms, but as Oliver nears his goal, it seems he doesn’t need Benjy—with his chronic anxiety and troubled past—now that he’s made attractive new friends at the gym. But not all relationships are equal, and Oliver realizes that Benjy, who loved and supported him when no one else did, is more than a reminder of his old life.

A pleasing appearance means nothing when it hides a lonely, empty heart, and if Oliver cannot decide what’s truly important, he’ll lose what he cherishes most.

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Author Bio:

Jeff Erno began writing LGBT fiction in the late 1990s. Although an avid reader and amateur writer from a very young age, Jeff pursued a career as a retail store manager in Northern Michigan. When his first gay-themed novel was published, he was shocked that anyone would even want to read it. Nine years later, he writes full time and has published over four dozen novels. Jeff now lives in Southern Michigan, where he resides with his brother, Eugene.

Jeff’s writing credits include a variety of themes and sub-genres including gay romance, Young Adult, Science Fiction, erotica, and BDSM. He is the winner of a 2012 Rainbow Award and an Honorable Mention in 2011. His style is unpretentious and focused upon emotionally-driven, character-based stories that touch the heart. Jeff is especially passionate about young adult literature and combating teen bullying and youth suicide.

Jeff’s website: http://www.jefferno.com
Jeff’s Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jefferno

 

Backlist Giveaway

I’d like to offer readers a chance to sample my backlist if they’re interested in reading any of my books. Please use the comment section to post your thoughts on any one of the following questions:

1. How do you feel about a more nuanced portrayal of a protagonist like Oliver? Does it bother you to hear his inner thoughts, some of them being toxic and negative? Will this layered view of the main character prevent you from empathizing and rooting for him the way you would a more altruistic lead character?

2. Do you prefer a limited or alternating point of view? In Slim Chance, the entire story is told solely from Oliver’s point of view. We have to rely upon what we see, through Oliver’s eyes, in order to know Benjy.

3. Do we place too much emphasis on physical appearance in the m/m community? Why aren’t there more stories featuring characters with less-than-perfect body types? Is this too heavy (no pun intended) a topic to deal with in romance, which is supposed to be uplifting fantasy and happy-ever-after?

Three winners will be selected, one from each question. Feel free to answer more than one, but please use separate comments to do so. Winners will receive their ebook of choice from my backlist (which includes any Dreamspinner book other than the new release).

Family Love w/ Tray Ellis

June 28, 2017

Family Love

 

Hello readers! My name is Tray Ellis and I’m excited to be here today for the opportunity to discuss my new story Pyresnakes, available starting on June 28th (today!) through Dreamspinner Press.

Here’s the Pyresnakes story summary to get you up to speed:

There is another world existing alongside the one most see everyday, and although it is a place of magic and wonder, the dangers are very real. 

Aran, an artist, grew up on his grandmother’s tales of the Side-by-Side world. He never expected his knowledge of folklore would aid his boyfriend, Brandon, in an arson investigation, but the snakes that burst into flames when agitated are something he recalls from those childhood stories. 

When Aran vanishes, Brandon knows his time as a State Trooper won’t help find him, so he enlists the aid of Aran’s grandmother, Ruth, and they venture into the Side-by-Side world.  

But Aran has no memory of his life prior to crossing between worlds, and he’s enjoying the company of his handsome new companion, Ren. Even if Brandon and Ruth reach him, convincing him to return to his former home won’t be easy. In a contemporary fairy-tale adventure set among forests and trails, Aran must choose between a mystical fantasy world and the man he loves.

 

~*~

 

Although Pyresnakes is a decidedly romantic story, with a great couple in Brandon and Aran, this is also a story about family love. Aran’s grandmother, Ruth, plays a strategic role when she becomes Brendon’s guide and advisor through the new world of the Side-by-Side.  Ruth is an unusual choice for such a prominent character in a romantic story. She’s much older and a family member. The reader may think she’ll actually slow Brandon down, but she doesn’t! Her involvement in the story is crucial, and I think she’s a perfect fit for her role.

In her youth, Ruth had to overcome the circumstances of her life when what she wanted for herself clashed with her family’s expectations. She spent time having her own adventures and making her own friends in the Side-by-Side world. Part of her strength comes from her innate personality and from the time she had independence and freedom.  Her youthful adventures, along with her years of experience, give her a perspective and a calm wisdom that is needed to assist Brandon.  He is full of deep worry and concern as he embarks on his rescue mission, and Ruth helps keep him moving forward.

Less overt, but still central, is Ruth’s love for her grandson and her genuine fondness and acceptance of the man he’s chosen as his partner. Aran is like his grandmother. He can walk in the Side-by-Side just as she can, and she adores that someone in her family has inherited that trait from her, even as she cautions him about it. She understands what he is going through because she’s gone through it, too. Her responses and empathy are all the more impressive because this time around, she is on the opposite end of the situation. She’s been left behind, along with Brandon, while Aran has gone on an adventure.

When Brandon calls to tell her that Aran has gone missing, she never hesitates. She is ready to support Brandon and Aran in whatever way she can. It’s a testament to the love of her family that she becomes so involved.

 

~*~

Excerpt:

Brandon scanned the area, but he didn’t see a trail. With enough determination, a person could push through the vegetation and rocks, but it would be rough going. There was no reason he could see for Aran to decide to go off trail at this point. He also couldn’t detect any sign of a person leaving the trail. None of the branches were broken, no footprints marred the dirt, and the moss and ferns looked beautifully intact. “I don’t agree,” he said. “There aren’t any signs of someone stepping on anything. Aran’s careful, but he isn’t a ghost.”

Ruth made an aggravated noise. “You can’t see it.” She clutched a handful of Brandon’s shirt and pulled him to the side of the path.

“Hey,” he said, jerking back. There was nothing at the edge but trees and weeds, rocks and stones. Ruth’s grip was tight, and she tugged harder than he’d expected. He tottered off-balance, and his feet skidded off the trail. For a moment, everything grew confused. Then his orientation returned, and he realized a side trail did join the first. It was almost comically obvious, since it stretched three feet wide and sloped straight down, as if hewn out with the help of a straightedge.

Ruth let go. “Do you see it now?”

“Where did this come from?” Brandon asked. He turned in a circle. He noted the first trail and then the obvious junction where the second one branched off. He stepped backward onto the original trail, but the second trail remained clearly present. Brandon moved forward again. He scratched at the side of his face, trying to piece it together. “Shit,” he said. “I couldn’t see it thirty seconds ago.” He looked over to find Ruth watching him with bemusement.

“Aran saw this,” she said. “Like I see it and now you do too.”

 

~*~

Here is my gorgeous cover, by the talented artist Christine Griffin, which contains so many important elements of the story itself, and definitely lets you know this is going to be adventurous as well as amorous:

 

Check out Pyresnakes today!

~*~

Tray Ellis grew up across from an empty field, where she spun a lot of imaginary adventures, helping to prepare her for a lifetime of writing. When she isn’t writing, she stays active by hiking, cooking, stacking the odd cord of wood in the shed, baking, and being too busy to keep her home in any semblance of order. Currently she tries to find a balance between the logical way she thinks and the flights of fancy she often daydreams about. Mostly, the daydreams are winning.

Website: trayellis.dreamwidth.org
Facebook: www.facebook.com/tray.ellis.54
Blog: trayellis.blogspot.com
Twitter: @TrayEllisWrites

Too Many Temples: Bali Meets Australia w/ Erik Swill

June 28, 2017

bali meets australia

 

I am very pleased that Dreamspinner Press decided to take a chance on my latest novella, Too Many Temples, as part of their “World of Love” series. This story was actually a long time in the making and went through more facelifts than Joan Rivers ever did. A large part of this was due to the setting of the novella. I had written it and planned to pitch it to Dreamspinner before finding out that they had recently launched their “World of Love” series, where a single country or region (read: outside of the US) serves as the backdrop for the story.

The problem was that my story had two distinct settings: Bali and Australia. I needed to center it on one or the other. I chose Australia. Then I changed my mind and chose Bali. Ultimately, and with the editors’ consent, we went with both. I like to think I’m not a troublemaker, but this story just worked so much better with the two-country setting. Well, I suppose now that it is published, it is up to the readers to make that call whether or not it is successful at that. But from my perspective, both settings were crucial to the story.

So why couldn’t I leave Australia out of it?

This story is one that the two protagonists are from different countries and cultures. And while it is easier to pick one location and have one of the characters be a fish out of water, I wanted to color the story with the way each protagonist acted and fared in the other’s homeland. Being outside of one’s comfort zone (on many different levels of interpretation here) really brings out some core truths about individual identity. I wanted that in this story.

As for Australia, it used to be home for a number of years. This was quite a number of years ago now, but it is still very much in my imagination. This applies for my lived experiences and also my romanticizing of Australia’s allure, both the good and the bad.

Adrian, the Aussie protagonist, is not from Melbourne or Sydney. He never lived or studied in those cities despite having had the opportunity. Instead, he has lived his whole life in southeastern Queensland. This is significant in flavoring his personality. While that corner of Queensland is the most (or is it the only?) liberal and socially tolerant part of the state, it nevertheless is no Melbourne or Sydney. This more conservative worldview is the climate in which he grew up in. It shapes who he is and also how he responds to his relationship with Ketut (the Balinese protagonist) and how he accepts the views of others of their “thing together.”

Queensland has some truly beautiful beaches and attractions. It also has a lot of cows and culturally uncouth people (I’m trying to be politically correct, but I’m sure you get the idea). This normative behavior is not necessarily one that Adrian identifies with–he is, after all, from the most multiracial and largest city in the state–but it is one that he has never really considered as being problematic either. His relationship with Ketut then adds a new level of perspective not just about himself, but also about his home.

Late in the story, rural Queensland becomes the backdrop to the story development. This is in stark contrast to scenes set in Brisbane or the Gold Coast, and certainly with those set in Bali itself. As the dynamics of the story’s setting change, so do the attitudes and perspectives of the protagonists. This also parallels the complicated development of their relationship.

What I like about the idea behind the “World of Love” series is that it exposes us as readers to a world outside of the usual tropes set in the US (with obligatory side trips in Paris or London). Sure, Australia may feel quite familiar to residents of North America and Europe, but it is unlike anywhere else in the world. (OK, sorry New Zealand. To make this claim, I must pretend you don’t exist)! I look forward to hearing from readers of Too Many Temples to see what they think of this region of Australia that I am presenting in the novella.

And what a coincidence. It is released today! Hope you enjoy it!

–Erik Swill

Check out Too Many Temples today!

 

TooManyTemples_postcard_front_DSP

Dreamspinner Press
Amazon

 

Blurb:

Looking to spice up his stagnant sex life in Brisbane, self-professed player Adrian takes a week-long vacation in Bali, anticipating sun, surf, and plenty of no-strings-attached hookups. He doesn’t expect his attraction to the tour guide, Ketut, to become an obsession. As he travels around the beautiful Island of the Gods, Adrian is startled that he might be falling in love after swearing off relationships for good.

When Ketut opens a window of opportunity for a real relationship in Queensland after the vacation ends, Adrian retreats into his life of commitment-free fun. Unable to forget about Ketut, though, Adrian strikes out to the rural Queensland town of Rockhampton to find the man of his desires—hoping he hasn’t lost the chance for true love.

 

Author Bio:

Erik Swill is a professional editor and a cheeky storyteller. He has spent half of his life living abroad and half of that time trying to convince friends that he is not an international fugitive or secret agent. He isn’t. Really. But it probably doesn’t help that he writes under several pseudonyms, moves house frequently, and rarely posts anything on his social media accounts. He has published short fiction in Gay Flash Fiction and erotica in the Nifty Archives. With his longtime partner, Swann O’Hara, he coauthored the novella Wild Goose. Erik likes to write contemporary fiction but will try any genre once. Because why not?

Twitter: @ErikSwill
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ErikSwill

 

Excerpt:

“The sea here is both beautiful and deadly. The color of the water and the temptation to walk out at low tide to the base of the temple… but when the tide comes in and you are left stranded out there, the currents are strong and poisonous sea snakes swim here in large numbers. It’s odd that something so beautiful can also be so deadly. Many people have died here.”

“So it is better to avoid it completely.”

Ketut thought for a moment before answering. “No, Adrian. That makes it all the more important to visit. That people have died to see something so beautiful, so holy, makes this even more special. Sometimes taking a risk can lead to a life-changing experience. Or at least one that you will never forget for the rest of your life. How long will you remember this moment, Adrian? Right here, right now?”

Adrian had been staring into Ketut’s striking eyes as he spoke. There was a depth to him that Adrian admired, something that he would never know based solely on their first encounter. For a moment, Adrian wondered how many of the guys who had served as one-off fucks for him over the years also had something more than a tight ass to offer him. But the thought was short-lived.

Ketut leaned in and pressed his lips lightly against Adrian’s, pulling back slightly after a brief kiss. Adrian refused to let go. He pushed his face forward to continue what Ketut had started. He wasn’t done. The moment was too immediate to settle for anything less.

 

 

Together or Separate w/ Sean Michael

June 27, 2017

Together or Separate-

 

 

Hello, Dreamspinners ☺

The Dom’s Way is #5 in the Iron Eagle Gym series. This is one of those series where all the books are set in the same place, but they don’t always necessarily have to be read in order. Some of the stars of one book, might have cameo appearances in other books. There are a couple of exceptions to that, because some of the characters insisted they needed a second book.

I enjoy working on this kind of series, though. Often one book will grow out of another. For instance, my just subbed sixth book in the series came out of a scene at the end of The Closet Boy – Robin and Stack needed their story told. Other times, the characters are brand new – such as Saw and Day in The Luckiest Master.

With the main setting/’club’ a gym, there’s no limit to the number of books there can be, as there’s so many men who could be members. Someone new can have joined the gym at any time. And of course with BDSM, there are so many different aspects that can be the focus.

So far there are five published books, but as I said, the sixth has just been submitted and I’m working on the seventh, which stars two never before seen characters.

I thought I’d share the reading order and whether or not the book stands alone for the Iron Eagle Gym series.

#1 – The New Boy – stand alone – Tide and Lance’s story
#2 – The Perfect Sub – should read The New Boy first – continues Tide and Lance’s story as well as spends more time with Bran and Ty, who are introduced in The New Boy
#3 – The Luckiest Master – stand alone – Day and Saw’s story
#4 – The Closet Boy – stand alone – Neal and Way’s story
#5 – The Dom’s Way – should read The Closet Boy first  - continues Neal and Way’s exploration into BDSM
#6 and #7 will both be stand alone.

How do you prefer your series? Loosely connected but standalone? Following the same set of characters from book to book? Following different main characters but still needing to be read in order?

Do you still read books in a series in order if they’re only loosely connected but stand alone?

Sean Michael

smut fixes everything

 

Check out The Dom’s Way today!

 
DomsWay[The]_postcard_front_DSP

 

Dreamspinner Press eBook
Dreamspinner Press Paperback
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Kobo

 

Blurb:

Neal and Way from The Closet Boy are back, only now they’re Dom and sub, and exploring their relationship through the lifestyle. Way is eager to learn everything, and more in love with his master every day. For his part, Neal can’t believe how lucky he is to have found such an innocent but sensual boy.

As they learn what works best for them both, Way has trouble obeying some of the rules Neal imposes. Like the no touching himself rule. Neal wants Way to learn control, but Way, after so long holding back, has trouble not indulging. The two men must work together to find the balance that brings them each the most satisfaction and happiness.

 

Excerpt:

Way hid his face in Neal’s arm, and both Neal and Tide chuckled softly.

“Robin and Stack are working out. And by that I mean actually working out.” Tide grinned.

“Excellent. Come on, boy. Let’s go speak to them.”

“Okay. Yeah. Let’s do this.” Way took a deep breath. He didn’t suppose there was any reason to delay.

Neal took his hand again and led him into the second floor gym, and then across to where Robin and Stack were using the equipment.

Every inch of Robin’s body that he could see was shaved bare. All of it. Head. Eyebrows. All of it. Way’s cheeks burned, and he didn’t know where to look.

Robin smiled and waved at him but didn’t stop working out until Stack did and signaled to Robin to stop.

Then Robin bounced right over to where they were standing. “Hi, Way! And Master Neal.”

“Hello, Robin. You look quite striking. Doesn’t he, Way?” Neal asked.

He looked at the collar of Robin’s shirt, absolutely unable to meet Robin’s eyes. “Yes. I’m sorry about yesterday, Robin.”

“Oh, honey.” Robin came right up to him and grabbed his hands. “I’m sorry we upset you.”

“I….” Then he could look at Robin because Robin wanted to be his friend, and he wanted that too. He grabbed Robin and hugged him tight.

Robin hugged him right back, holding on for a long moment. Then he leaned and looked at Way. “Are you okay, honey?”

“I was so…. I mean, I’d never seen. Never.” He knew he was babbling, but he couldn’t stop.

“It was pretty intense, wasn’t it?” Robin fanned himself. “God, I was flying. Just flying.” Robin glanced over at Stack, the look… incendiary.

“I was a little scared for you,” Way admitted.

“Scared for me?”

He looked over at Stack, then whispered, “The… the… the dildo was so big and then… I saw. I’m so sorry, but I looked and I saw everything.”

Robin preened a little. “Did I look good?”

“You looked amazing.” And that was the truth. Terrifying and overwhelming, but amazing.

“Good.” Robin hugged him again. “I wouldn’t have minded if you’d stayed, but I can totally understand not wanting to, especially without your master.”

“I… I’m not used to… I never even knew that… you know? This?” He was still babbling.

 

Bio:

Best-selling author Sean Michael is a maple leaf–loving Canadian who spends hours hiding out in used book stores. With far more ideas than time, Sean keeps several documents open at all times. From romance to fantasy, paranormal and sci-fi, Sean is limited only by the need for sleep—and the periodic Beaver Tail.

Sean fantasizes about one day retiring on a secluded island populated entirely by horseshoe crabs after inventing a brain-to-computer dictation system. Until then, Sean will continue to write the old-fashioned way.

Sean Michael on the web:

WEBSITE: http://www.seanmichaelwrites.com
BLOG: http://seanmichaelwrites.blogspot.ca
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/SeanMichaelWrites/
TWITTER: seanmichael09
INSTAGRAM: seanmichaelpics

Falling in Love by BA Tortuga

June 22, 2017

falling in love

 

Hey y’all! I’m BA Tortuga, resident redneck and lover of…well, my wife.

So I’m supposed to be pimping What the Cat Dragged In, which is a fun as hell shifter romp that has action adventure and comedy and is a goofy, wonderful read, and I love it.

But.

What I want to talk about is falling in love.

You see, I’m writing this blog post on a Wednesday and tomorrow is my wife’s birthday and our 3rd wedding anniversary.

Let me say that again – our third wedding anniversary. You can’t understand how important those words are if you have been in the position where you couldn’t say those words.

Our Wedding Anniversary.

Julia and I met each other 17 years ago. We will have been together for 14 years in September. We have lived together 11 years this month.

She’s my life, my heartbeat, my muse and my whole world.

When we got married, three years ago, it was a simple, quiet ceremony. We had music (I promised her, years ago, that I would sing “The Cowboy In Me” to her. I did.), we had rainbow cupcakes, we had Indian food and rainbow shawls and flip flops. She was (is) the most beautiful woman on earth.

You hear a lot about how romance isn’t real, about how it can’t happen, about how it’s fake and tropey and fluff.

Me? I say look at my wife.

Look at my beautiful wife.

We’ve been married 3 years tomorrow. She’s my happy ending, and she always will be.

I believe in happily ever after with all my heart and I hope you can too.

Much love, y’all.

BA

Check out What the Cat Dragged In today!

 

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Blurb:

A Sanctuary Novel

Don’t people know that cats and dogs don’t mix?

Connor Ragbone finds things. Sometimes it’s gold, sometimes jewels, sometimes people. Set in his hippie ways, he never thought he’d find a pack, but with Sam and Gus and their goofy shifter family, he fits right in. Then he finds Brock.

Shifter Brock Herman is undercover alone, working to break up a poaching ring. The last thing he needs is for Connor to wreck his sting. And now the crazy bobcat just won’t go away!

The poachers lead Brock and Connor on a merry chase all over Western Colorado, looking for shifter bears, but it’s a lost pup who brings them back to Nevada and the pack Sam and Gus are building. That’s when Brock has to decide whether he still travels alone or if Connor and his crazy family are where his heart belongs.

This follow-up to Just Like Cats and Dogs is a feel-good shifter romance novel where cats and dogs prove they can be way more than the enemies nature has made them.

 

About BA Tortuga:

Texan to the bone and an unrepentant Daddy’s Girl, BA Tortuga spends her days with her basset hounds and her beloved wife, texting her sisters, and eating Mexican food. When she’s not doing that, she’s writing. She spends her days off watching rodeo, knitting and surfing Pinterest in the name of research. BA’s personal saviors include her wife, Julia Talbot, her best friend, Sean Michael, and coffee. Lots of coffee. Really good coffee.

Having written everything from fist-fighting rednecks to hard-core cowboys to werewolves, BA does her damnedest to tell the stories of her heart, which was raised in Northeast Texas, but has heard the call of the  high desert and lives in the Sandias. With books ranging from hard-hitting GLBT romance, to fiery menages, to the most traditional of love stories, BA refuses to be pigeon-holed by anyone but the voices in her head. Find her on the web at www.batortuga.com

 

Patron: Historical and Paranormal Shenanigans w/ C.B. Lewis

June 20, 2017

Historical & Paranormal Shenanigans

 

Hello again! This is C.B. Lewis and I’m back with my new novella, Patron. You may know my writing from the Out of Time Series or from Private Truths, but Patron is something new and a little bit exciting:

Theodore Wentworth, who possesses little more than a sharp and well-educated mind, is trying to solicit a sponsor for his studies of Greek antiquity by performing recitations at gatherings of collectors. Desperate for luck and better skills in oratory, in jest, he places a coin at the feet of a statue of Hermes. It seems like coincidence when his fortune turns and a gentleman calling himself Alexander becomes his benefactor. Despite his friend John teasing him about it, Theodore continues to offer tokens to Hermes and sinks himself into his study of the classics.

Alexander encourages Theodore’s interest, prompting Theodore to face desires he tried to put aside years before. As Theodore embraces the knowledge, he must also resist his attraction to Alexander—knowing his feelings are a serious crime in Victorian England.

But the secret Alexander keeps will change everything in a love story for the ages, steeped in taboo, temptation, history, and myth.

 

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Yes, I’m doing historical, paranormal shenanigans :) I will freely admit that I’m a giant history nerd. I’ve bounced around many periods over the years and Patron is a union of two of the eras I know best: Victorian and Ancient Greek with a tasty splash of paranormal thrown in for good measure.

I’ve always been kind of fascinated with the Victorian obsession with Ancient Greece. Byron was especially famous for it (among… ahem… other things) and it got me wondering about the next generation on from him, the ones who had all these wealthy and influential Philhellenes to look up to and how someone from lower down the social scale would see them. It was going to start life as a character study and then the plot – and the divine – got in the way and lo, novella!

It’s been a fun respite from the rest of the Out of Time series, which is getting into its final stages, plus now the mythology bug has bitten again, I suspect I may fall back into more historical and mythology-based fiction :)

So back to you, my lovely readers. Which kind of mythology would you love to see incorporated into fiction more often? I know I would definitely love to see more of the Polynesian lore and mythology. Maori mythology alone is fascinating and I’ve barely even dipped my toe in that pool. How about you?

Check out Patron today!

 

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About C.B. Lewis:

A book-lover from infancy, C.B. has been writing and telling stories for as long as she can remember. Based in Edinburgh, she has diverse tastes and will quite happily attempt to write any genre, but always come back to history, fantasy, and sci-fi like an old friend. C. B. Lewis is small and Scottish and can often be spotted perched around historical monuments with her notepad and pen. She has been writing and telling tales for almost as long as she can remember, and has a brain that constantly fizzes with an abundance of ideas. If she’s not working on half a dozen things at once, it should be considered a slow day. She loves to travel and just has one continent left to complete her travel bingo card. A lot of the travel has also been research-based, and if pointed at any historical event, she will research it vociferously, just because she can. Normally, she is based in Edinburgh, where she tends toward the hermit-lifestyle, needing nothing but a kettle, a constant supply of tea, and – of course – the internet. There are no cats, no puppies, no significant others, only a lot of ideas, and an awful lot of typing. And occasionally, cake. Never forget the cake.

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Lou Sylvre’s Lamingtons (a yummy New Zealand treat)—The Sunset at Pencarrow blog tour

June 9, 2017

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Hi! I’m Lou Sylvre, and along with co-author Anne Barwell, I’m touring blogs to celebrate the release of our novella, Sunset at Pencarrow, the New Zealand story in Dreamspinner’s World of Love collection. It came out a couple days ago, so if you’re inspired to give it a read after you read the blurb and excerpt and get a look at the gorgeous Reese Dante cover, just follow the buy links below. We also have a Rafflecopter giveaway going on, and that link is coming up, too, as well as a link to the schedule and blogs for the whole tour.

Before I get to that, let me tell you about lamingtons. They are yummy. Well, except I’m not particularly fond of coconut, but the ones I made are the raspberry variety, and that flavor seems to work well with the coconut, so I liked them anyway. And truly, I’ve always wanted to visit New Zealand, but who knows if I’ll ever get there. So bringing a little Kiwi-style to my kitchen—like bringing a little New Zealand into my writer’s life—was a fun exercise.

Although also favored in Australia, even some Australian bloggers mention the New Zealand origins of lamingtons, and in Sunset at Pencarrow, our characters Nate Dunn (New Zealander) and Rusty Beaumont (American) get treated to some by an old friend of Nate’s. Rusty loved them (though the rest of the visit was less than pleasant), so I decided to make some and see what the fuss was all about. Our guys had the chocolate-covered variety, but I opted for the raspberry—only because the other New Zealand treat I made, Afghans, are chocolaty-umptious. (I’m going to blog about making those on Rhys Ford’s blog on the 15th.)

So lamingtons… yes. The recipe I used came from The Kiwi Cook website, and it was pretty straightforward. I only had to convert one measurement—the butter was in grams—and translate a couple words to Americanese.

“Foreign” baking terms translated:

* castor sugar = superfine sugar (not a common household item, but available at the supermarket
* corn flour = cornstarch (I’ll leave it to you to decide which term is more accurate.)
* jelly = gelatin (This one would have thrown me if it weren’t for two things: I’d been watching the Greatest British Baking Show, for one, and for the other… well, jelly in the US, the stuff you spread on toast like jam or preserves, doesn’t come in “packets,” unless you count those little jobbies you get at the diner.)

So, with the decoding done and the ingredients lined up, I set out to make the sponge that forms the basis of the lamington. The recipe says to put the eggs, sugar, and salt into a stand mixer bowl and let the machine whip them on high for fifteen minutes. Well, I don’t have a stand mixer. In my childhood, my mother, the daughter of a baker, would have had me counting hundreds of strokes, beating by hand. This time I used my hand mixer. Obviously I couldn’t measure the other ingredients while doing that, so I’d measured them ahead of time, and folded them in as instructed. The batter was lovely.

My Opa, his second wife, and a customer my mom called, "Just Some Lady" in his bakery. Frankfurt am Mein, c. 1930s.

My Opa, his second wife, and a customer my mom called, “Just Some Lady” in his bakery. Frankfurt am Mein, c. 1930s.

Now, being the granddaughter of a baker, I at one time (in my forties) decided I would really learn to bake a cake, and I got pretty good at it, so I at least had an idea of what things were supposed to look like. That said, I’d never in my life baked a cake using cornstarch rather than flour. The finished product was, basically, a little overbaked. I didn’t let that discourage me though and proceeded to coat them in the raspberry “jelly” mixture, and then the coconut studs, and finally fill the little hummers with whipped cream.

In the end, they looked pretty and even though they were raspberry instead of chocolate, I’ll second Rusty’s declaration: “These… what did you call them? Lamingtons? They’re delicious.”

Thanks, Dreamspinner, for hosting our blog tour, and thank you all for reading. Have you ever eaten foods particular to New Zealand culture? What’s your favorite Kiwi-style dish, or one you’ve heard of that you’d like to try? I’d love to hear about it comments, and that will get you an extra entry in the raffle, as well. Please join Anne and I on our other tour stops, too! To find the schedule and links to the blogs, just click right here.
 

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Description:

Kiwi Nathaniel Dunn is in a fighting mood, but how does a man fight Wellington’s famous fog? In the last year, Nate’s lost his longtime lover to boredom and his ten-year job to the economy. Now he’s found a golden opportunity for employment where he can even use his artistic talent, but to get the job, he has to get to Christchurch today. Heavy fog means no flight, and the ticket agent is ignoring him to fawn over a beautiful but annoying, overly polite American man.

Rusty Beaumont can deal with a canceled flight, but the pushy Kiwi at the ticket counter is making it difficult for him to stay cool. The guy rubs him all the wrong ways despite his sexy working-man look, which Rusty notices even though he’s not looking for a man to replace the fiancé who died two years ago. Yet when they’re forced to share a table at the crowded airport café, Nate reveals the kind heart behind his grumpy façade. An earthquake, sex in the bush, and visits from Nate’s belligerent ex turn a day of sightseeing into a slippery slope that just might land them in love.

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

[Rusty] had to pay attention to his footing now. The trail was truly steep—muddy and slippery in places.

Immediately on thinking those words, slippery in places, he felt like it was about something besides the muddy ground of the Orongorongo forest. He associated the phrase with his own intentions, coming out here with a man who—okay, I’ll admit he pulls at me like sex on toast. If he wasn’t so sure he didn’t want anybody, he’d think he wanted Nate. And yes, he knew he was skirting the truth.

Is that a rock in my shoe? Hard to think about anything else, really, with that irritant. He needed to do something about it. “Nate, hold up. I have a—”

A rolling blast of thunder cut his words short. In his mind’s eye, he saw explosions all around him in a cornfield around a sleepy, dusty town in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. But he’d come a long way since leaving that year of his life behind, and he knew almost instantly that he wasn’t there; the sound he heard wasn’t war.

“Fuck! Earthquake,” Nate said.

That made perfect sense—especially as the ground suddenly lurched beneath Rusty’s feet, knocking him off-balance. He fell forward, and gravity carried him downslope against Nate, who went down under him. Instinctively, he tried to shield Nate’s head from hitting the hard ground, cradling it against his chest with his hands. The packs on their backs weren’t bulky, but were enough of a lump to keep them from rolling far. Instead they slid, and by the time they came to a stop, they’d nearly reached the river.

Rusty lay still, concentrating on steadying his breath, but when he realized his body lay spread over Nate’s like butter on bread, his heart took off racing all over again. Trying to rein in his senses—ignore the feel of the man, the scent of him, the rush of his own blood heating his veins—he pushed up onto his elbows.

“Are you all right?” he asked.

“Yeah. Dandy.”

For a limited time, get 30% off at Dreamspinner Press with code PENCARROW at checkout. Here are some buy links:

Dreamspinner Press
Amazon
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And don’t forget to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Mood Music: Writings Playlists and Setting the Tone w/ L.A. Merrill

June 8, 2017

mood music

 

My life has always had a soundtrack. My mother sang Beatles’ songs as lullabies; my sister and I listened to endless OBC albums on our brown plastic Fisher-Price record player. As a teenager, I would spend hours trawling through the radio stations late at night, seeing what I could hear, what words and music could keep me company. Christian allegory radio plays; experimental orchestral suites; French-Canadian car ads and dirge-like love songs about fisherfolk.

The first album I ever bought was KT Tunstall’s Eye to the Telescope. This was quickly followed by Sara Barielles’s Little Voice, and Brandi Carlile’s Give Up the Ghost. I exhausted the cd sections at the library, finding Ingrid Michaelson, Regina Spektor, Carole King, and Katie Melua. I devoured music, and it accompanied everything I did—washing dishes, homework, daydreaming on the kitchen floor about the romantic life I would lead in a Scottish island castle all my own.

The inevitable progression of growing up surrounded by music and books was that I would either start writing stories or making music of my own. I did neither of these things in any kind of a normal, expected way. I didn’t teach myself guitar and write songs about feminism—I joined a tiny DIY opera company. I didn’t write my way into an MFA—I waited until I was bedridden with autoimmune disease and then started scribbling gay romances and chucking them into the void.

Music remained constant. The music itself changed and morphed and expanded to fill different corners of my life, but music was always, will always be there. Hymns and spirituals, opera choruses and classic rock. And then a whole new area opened up: THE WRITING PLAYLIST.

I’d always listened to music when I wrote anyway, but it was usually familiar, repetitive classical pieces, used to build a wall of sound in place of a room of my own. A young woman on the NaNoWriMo message boards introduced me to the concept of listening to music that evoked your story; character music, leit motifs to help structure and solidify the story in your mind.

Now I usually pick a couple albums that remind me of the story I’m trying to tell, songs with a soul sound I want to echo, a kind of musical subtext. For my latest novella, Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch, I went back to one of my first (and most constant) musical loves, Brandi Carlile. I don’t think there’s a single one of her albums I haven’t loved, from The Story up through The Firewatcher’s Daughter. I collected all of them into one gigantic playlist and hit shuffle every time I sat down to write about my Montana men. Falling into a difficult but ultimately rewarding love; fucking up and making amends; finding ways to be who you are come hell or high water—this is what her music says to me. It is strength and beauty in variety and grace, and there’s an underlying respect for nature and a higher power. Her music has held me up through many rough patches in my life so far, and it bolstered this story that I didn’t think I was going to finish, until suddenly, I did.

Now I’m deep into writing a Hanukkah story about a man whose ordered life starts unravelling at the edges until everything is a tangled mess—but at the calm center of it all are eight mysterious gifts and a scatterbrained scholar who wants to show our hero the magnificent, beautiful chaos of the cosmos. I think this calls for some Beethoven, Coldplay, and Of Monsters and Men’s My Head is an Animal. What are you listening to? Are you a creative person? What do you listen to while you work, or are you a fan of the sound of silence? Leave a comment below and tell me! I’m always on the lookout for new music—you never know, the right song might strike the right note and tell a story all its own

 

Check out Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch today!

 

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Blurb:

         David Marks is looking for the perfect place to film his new web series and recover from his latest failed relationship. When reclusive writer Michael Sharp opens his Montana ranch to paying guests, David knows he’s found the right place—but he doesn’t expect to find Mr. Right too.

         Forty years ago, Michael Sharp’s father was murdered in front of him. No one believed a six-year-old boy’s testimony against the powerful Carver brothers. For years Michael has lived in self-imposed exile, the only living witness who can bring down the Carver criminal empire. But now the money is running out, and he’s forced to play host to a troupe of temperamental web actors and their energetically attractive director in order to stay alive.

         The Carvers aren’t about to stand for rebellion. Michael has outlived his usefulness. Now Michael and David have to find a way to end this fight once and for all, finding justice for Michael’s father and meeting David’s funding deadline—all before one or both of them ends up dead.

 

Author photo

 About the Author:

         L.A. Merrill is a tiny blonde woman who loves a good story. She has worked as a tour guide and an assistant stage director, and spent one memorable summer as a camp counselor. After five years in vocal performance, production work, and arts education, she now writes full-time. Her work has appeared in Kansas City Voices magazine, on the YouTube series The Blank Scene, and online. Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch is L.A.’s fourth story with Dreamspinner Press, and her first published novella. (There’s an unpublished novella, about murderous husbands and Scottish ghosts, written when she was thirteen, that is sitting in a file at home. It will likely never see the light of day.)

         An avid knitter, she has yet to follow a pattern and has made some interestingly shaped hats as a result. L.A. makes handknit and crocheted blankets and hats for local charities, as well as leading a LGBT+ writers group in her hometown. She lives with her family in the Midwest, where she can usually be found reading, writing, and making things up as she goes along. Follow her on Twitter for feminism and fangirling at @la_mer92

 

Julia Talbot’s Top Ten Cowboy Moments

June 6, 2017

Julia Talbot's Top Ten (1)

 

Hey y’all! I’m Julia, and I’m chatting about Riding the Circuit, the third in the Riding Cowboy Flats series. This is an all new novella, and I love Matt and Frost so much. They’re such guys, you know. Just regular Joes making it work.

Anyway, I decided since Frost is a rodeo man, I would do my top ten cowboy moments. I’ve had a lot, from rodeo and bullriding events to just being at my wife’s daddy’s ranch. So here we go, counting down.

10. Watching my wife string fence with her daddy. In yoga pants and flip flops. With the pit bull by her side, killing field mice. It doesn’t get a whole lot more Western than that, y’all.

9. My mom taking us to rodeo practice at NMSU when I was a kid. The college has a rodeo team.

8. Watching cattle drives down the main street. They do it for tourists at the Stockyards in Fort Worth. They still do it for work in Collbran, Colorado and a hundred other tiny towns from Texas to Montana

7. Benson Mule Days in North Carolina. I know, right? NC? But there were mule races and that was harsh. Those boys cowboyed up.

6. Watching my Grandpa Blair ride. He was a cowboy, for sure. He was a water commissioner on Grand Mesa in Colorado, and he spent weeks on horseback, checking water quality.

5. PBR Bullrider Guilherme Marchi recognizing us at events and making the other fans mad by calling us by name…

4. The PBR finals in Las Vegas. The meet and greet the year before Adriano Moraes retired was epic. Chris Shivers, Mike White, Justin McBride, Greg Potter, JW Hart, Ty Murray, Rob Smets… Y’all look them up. EPIC

3. My BIL Jeremy breaking his neck playing redneck polo. Take a watermelon and a stick. Every time you hit the melon, take a drink. Fall off in a ditch and fracture a vertebra. Go back to work three weeks later, climbing cell towers in your halo brace… I never said cowboys were bright.

2. Being told by my brother that a calf can’t buck you off if you sit backward and hold its tail. No. No, it can’t. It will just turn you everywhichways but loose.

1. Cheyenne Frontier Days. The biggest outdoor rodeo in the States and the Daddy of ‘em all. Bonus points because I got to hear George Strait sing I Can Still Make Cheyenne there. I cried like a baby.

Thanks for letting me babble! Now go read Riding the Circuit. Shoo.

XXOO

Julia

Check out Riding the Circuit today!

 

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Blurb:
Riding Cowboy Flats: Book Three

Rodeo cowboy Frost Barton spends most of his time on tour, and that’s the way he likes it. But when his dad dies suddenly, Frost returns to southern New Mexico to attend the funeral and help his mom decide what to do with their small family ranch. Frost is already considering retiring from bull riding and planting his itchy feet in the ground. Meeting horse trainer Matt Morales just adds another pull in that direction, though Frost still isn’t sure he’s ready to give up the circuit—even if Matt makes settling down look mighty tempting.

Matt is old enough to know better, but he falls for Frost anyway. They only have so much time to spend together before Frost goes back on tour, but Matt believes they might have something special. He keeps the home fires burning while Frost earns his living, but Matt hopes he can convince Frost to come home—to stay.

 

Author Bio:

Stories that leave a mark. Julia Talbot loves romance across all the genders and genres, and loves to write about people working to see past the skin they’re in to love what lies beneath. Julia Talbot lives in the great mountain and high desert Southwest, where there is hot and cold running rodeo, cowboys, and everything from meat and potatoes to the best Tex-Mex. A full time author, Julia has been published by Dreamspinner and Changeling Press among many others. She believes that everyone deserves a happy ending, so she writes about love without limits, where boys love boys, girls love girls, and boys and girls get together to get wild, especially when her crazy paranormal characters are involved. She also writes BDSM and erotic romance as Minerva Howe. Find Julia at @juliatalbot on Twitter, or at www.juliatalbot.com “The mountains are calling, and I must go”

www.juliatalbot.com
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Romantic Resort w/ Ari McKay

June 1, 2017

Romantic Resort

 

Hello, everyone! Ari here, and I’m so very glad you decided to drop by to spend a few minutes with me on the release day for our new Dreamspun Desire story, Breaking Bonds! This is the second book we’ve written featuring one of the Walker boys, from our big family of Texans who love food, family, and romance, and we hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed writing it!

I probably tend to get carried away with my excitement over the stories McKay and I write, but like many authors, we put so much of ourselves into our stories that we can’t help but become attached to them. I found myself more than a little attached to Liam Walker, our MC who takes a break from the cut throat competition of the New York culinary scene to try to get back his sense of perspective. The place he chooses to do that is a fictional resort called The Overlook which happens to be set in a very real place – Maggie Valley, North Carolina.

I’m not a professional chef, although I do love to cook and have a fond wish to someday own a bakery. But one thing I brought to this story was my experience with the food service industry. I spent several years while I was in school working at a country club in Miami, where my cousin was the maitre d’. We catered parties of up to seven hundred people in the big ballroom, and so I became intimately familiar with how big commercial establishments are run. The executive chef of the place was a large, loud, demanding man whom we all called Chef Ray. He was a perfectionist in all things, and while the catering staff were mostly teenagers like myself, we learned quickly to adhere to his standards or risk a tongue lashing that could reduce anyone – the boys included – to tears. There’s a little of Chef Ray in Liam, I have to admit, and while I’m sure Chef Ray has passed on by now, I hope he wouldn’t mind.

Liam was interesting to write because he has so much drive and determination, and knows exactly where he’s going and how he’s going to get there. Or he does until he meets a certain dark haired, dark eyed resort owner who needs help, and that throws a bit of a curve into all his carefully laid plans. But love has a tendency to do that, doesn’t it? That’s the core of Liam’s conflict, because he learns that the issues he had thought were so overwhelming in New York suddenly mean nothing in the face of finding someone he really desires and connects with, someone he comes to realize that he wants more than he wanted his career. And yet he isn’t free to just walk away, either. I’m sure a lot of us have been caught in a similar situation, torn between desire and obligation, between love and duty. It’s a hard place to be in, as Liam discovers, and no matter what choice you make, you feel like it could be the wrong one.

Fortunately for Liam, his personal happily-ever-after was assured, but it doesn’t always work out like that in real life, alas. But that’s one of the wonderful things about fiction — you can use your own experiences, and yet make sure the outcomes are everything you want them to be.

So now I want you to share with me! Tell me what real life experience you have that you think would make an interesting story? Who knows, maybe our next story we’ll be asking for your input!

 

Check out Breaking Bonds today!

 

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Blurb:

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.

 

About Ari McKay:

Ari McKay is the professional pseudonym for Arionrhod and McKay, who have been writing together for over a decade. Their collaborations encompass a wide variety of romance genres, including contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, gothic, and action/adventure. Their work includes the Blood Bathory series of paranormal novels, the Herc’s Mercs series, as well as two historical Westerns: Heart of Stone and Finding Forgiveness. When not writing, they can often be found scheming over costume designs or binge watching TV shows together.

Arionrhod is a systems engineer by day who is eagerly looking forward to (hopefully) becoming a full-time writer in the not-too-distant future. Now that she is an empty-nester, she has turned her attentions to finding the perfect piece of land to build a fortress in preparation for the zombie apocalypse, and baking (and eating) far too many cakes.

McKay is an English teacher who has been writing for one reason or another most of her life. She also enjoys knitting, reading, cooking, and playing video games. She has been known to knit in public. Given she has the survival skills of a gnat, she’s relying on Arionrhod to help her survive the zombie apocalypse.
Visit Ari on:
Website: arimckay.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Ari-Mckay/266185570179748
Twitter: @AriMcKay1