O, Research, What Art Thou? With Tinnean

April 8, 2016

O, Research, What Art Thou-

Greetings, everyone! I’m Tinnean, and I’ve been published by Dreamspinner since February 28, 2011. (I remember the exact date, since that was also the day I retired as head photo tech at my local Walgreens, thereby missing all the release day activities.)

The book that’s being released today is Whither Thou Goest, the second book in the Finding Home series, and the sequel to Call Me Church. Both take place during the Great Depression, and more specifically in 1933-34. While these stories are historical, they actually occur in an alternate reality. (Let’s face it—you’re not going to find saber-toothed tigers or wooly mammoths in this day and age!)

Whether I’m writing a contemporary or a historical, or even if either is set in an alternate universe where there are paranormal inhabitants or prehistoric beasts, I make a point of researching my story to within an inch of its life. It was interesting scouring the History Channel for Prehistoric Predators, which enabled me to include short-faced bears, mammoths, and saber-toothed tigers. The flying creatures were based on Haast’s eagle, which has its own Wiki page. Haast’s eagle was originally much smaller than depicted in the book—I took some liberties. *whistles innocently* I also relied on Roy Chapman Andrews’s book, All About Strange Beasts of the Past, something I’ve owned since I was a mere tot.

Research is enormously satisfying. As writers know, you can start looking into one thing and suddenly find yourself somewhere else entirely. Since this story wandered into the territory of ancient Rome, I ended up finding sites that have Roman and Greek names from approximately the first century A.D. Watching I, Claudius was a fun way to refresh myself on Robert Graves’s take on Roman history and was no hardship at all. Messallina, (alternate spelling) wife of the emperor Claudius, made a perfect villainess for my story. Marcellus, who led the Romans to the relative safety of Calvariam Insula—the island the occupants on the other side of the mountain range called Iwi Po’o—had a post in Pompeii, which was still thriving in 43 A.D. At that time, the eruption of Vesuvius was still thirty-six years in the future.

I remember my mother taking me to an automat similar to the one Church took Johnny to, (I refused to finish my cheese sandwich because someone was looking at me) and reading up about it was fascinating.

Horn_&_Hardart_automat
From: Wikipedia

It also helps for me to have a visual. Every once in a while, family or friends will send me emails that contain pictures, and I’ll say, “This is perfect as Iwi Po’o.” Although, of course, the island would have to be a good deal larger.

Aogasima

Credit: Wikipedia

Iwi Po’o is beautiful, but it’s also deadly. Would you be willing to travel with Johnny and Church and visit this island?

Or, “This is what Johnny’s Island of Many Waterfalls looks like!”

Elakala_Waterfalls_Swirling_Pool_Mossy_Rocks

Credit: By Forest Wander from Cross Lanes, USA – Elakala Waterfalls Swirling Pool Mossy Rocks, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8025248

In Call Me Church, the first book of Finding Home, people had taken shelter in Central Park’s “Hooverville” so named after the president who’d been in office when the stock market crash signaled the start of the Great Depression. These people also suffered the attack by Chetwood’s Kitty, the sabertooth he brought back from Iwi Po’o. This is what Central Park looked like in 1930, when a shanty town was set up there.
(enter picture labeled Central Park 1930)

Right now I’m working on Book 3 of Mann of My Dreams. My characters pay a visit to Savannah, where they meet the family introduced in Best Laid Plans. And let me tell you: just because the action is set in 2003, that doesn’t mean there’s any less research. ;-)
Louis L’Amour once said something that has always stayed with me: When I write about a spring, that spring is there, and the water is good to drink. I’d like my readers to be able to trust that have my facts straight. (no pun)

Check out Whither Thou Goest today!

WhitherThouGoestFS

Blurb:

Johnny Smith meets Church Chetwood during the dark days of the Great Depression. He knows Mr. Chetwood can’t be his forever. Why would the handsome and charming director want to stay with a young man who has nothing but his body and skills in bed to offer? His Mr. Chetwood can have any women—or man—he wants, but Johnny is going to keep him as long as he can.
When they have to leave suddenly on the SS August Moon to evade the process servers trying to find Church, Johnny is glad they’ll have more time together. But the crew rises up against the good Captain Johansen, urged on by a stowaway who wants the August Moon for himself. Johnny and Church, together with the captain, the cook, a wireless operator, and the little girl Johnny saved from prostitution, are cast off into a small lifeboat—and doomed to the open sea. Their other option is to try to land on the island where Church once discovered a saber-toothed tiger. The problem is, the last time Church was on this island, twelve men paid the price with their lives. Will Johnny, Church, and their friends make it out alive this time?

Bio:

Tinnean has been writing since the 3rd grade, where she was inspired to try her hand at epic poetry. Fortunately, that epic poem didn’t survive the passage of time; however, her love of writing not only survived but thrived, and in high school she became a member of the magazine staff, where she contributed a number of stories.

It was with the advent of the family’s second computer – the first intimidated everyone – that her writing took off, enhanced in part by fanfiction, but mostly by the wonder that is copy and paste.

While involved in fandom, she was nominated for both Rerun and Light My Fire Awards. Now she concentrates on her original characters. Recent novels have received honorable mention in the 2013, 2014, and 2015 Rainbow Awards, and two of the 2014 submissions were finalists.

A New Yorker at heart, she resides in SW Florida with her husband and two computers.

Ernest Hemingway’s words reflect Tinnean’s devotion to her craft: Once writing has become your major vice and greatest pleasure, only death can stop it.

She can be contacted at:
Email: tinneantoo@gmail.com
Live Journal: http://tinnean.livejournal.com/
Twitter: @tinneantoo
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Tinnean
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Tinnean/e/B004QS65KQ/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1391469662&sr=1-2-ent

August Li’s The Kitchen Boy

April 7, 2016

August Li's The Kitchen Boy

Hi everybody. I’m August (Gus) Li, here at the blog today to talk about my novella The Kitchen Boy.

If you’ve read much of my work, you probably know I like to put a lot of pressure on my characters to see how dealing with conflict will force them to adapt and hopefully grow. In a lot of my books, characters face large-scale battles, conspiracies, assassinations, and powerful magic. I took a little bit of a different approach to this book. There’s still magic, and there’s political intrigue, some fights, and a body count. There are characters with selfish motivations, and there are betrayals. But the main conflict for my main character, Yoli, is internal, which leads to the topic I’m interested in exploring.

Does personal interest have a place in romance?

It’s easy to say no, that of course a character should put aside personal pursuits to chase love, to sacrifice selfish goals for the greater prize of a lasting connection with another person. But I like to poke around in the gray areas where things aren’t so simple. Love and partnership is a wonderful thing to have, but is there a point when its price is too high? What if a character must give up a lucrative career to be with another, or leave his homeland? Do we as readers cheer, or do we have to wonder if he made the right decision? What makes it a fair trade for the character who is giving something up? What does the love interest have to provide to balance the scales?

Or, as is the case in my book, what if the character is given a choice between loyalty to the man he loves and safety, freedom from being hurt, having his basic needs met, and the opportunity to realize his dream? It sounds too good to be true, and, in a way, it is, but walking away will make his life much easier and more comfortable. It might even mean the difference between life and death. It’s an interesting conflict to explore, because the desire to find love is such a basic and compelling one. But self-preservation is also a strong need. And not every character is a tragic hero who would rather die than lose they person he loves. Some characters are more practical. Some characters have also learned from experience that they have to look out for themselves.

As my character finds out, loyalty is lovely as a concept, but can become messy in practice. He wants to be an idealist, to stick to his beliefs no matter the opposition, but he also wants a future, and he wants that future to include enough to eat and the chance to do something he finds fulfilling. He’s put in a position where he must make an impossible choice. You’ll have to read the book to see how he reconciles everything, but does a certain amount of self-interest make for a bad romance protagonist?

Nobody likes a self-absorbed jerk who only cares about himself, but personally, I also don’t like a character without his own interests, without an investment in his own success, or who doesn’t use his agency to ensure a satisfying outcome for himself. I don’t like a character who only cares about what his love interest wants, at the expense of his own wishes and goals.  Most characters are never forced into a situation where they must, in absolute terms, choose between one and the other, but putting them there makes their most basic personality rise to the surface. As a writer, moving that dial between selfish jerk and doormat is a delicate balancing act. Push it too far, and the result is an unlikable character—no one cares about his success because he really doesn’t deserve it. Wiggle it in the other direction, and you end up with a character who lacks believability at best, comes across kind of deluded and pathetic at worst. Most people have a strong survival instinct, but most people also want to be loved—and to see those they love thrive. If they cannot have it both ways, what do they do?

So how do you like your protagonists? Self-sacrificing idealists or practical people who look out for themselves? It’s somewhere in between for me. Do you prefer characters that lean more one way or the other? What lines can a character not cross without losing your affection?

Check out The Kitchen Boy today!

KitchenBoyFS

Blurb:

Kitchen servant Yoli is one of only three men who know a carefully guarded secret about High Commander Koehen, the brilliant general who united their lands against a common invader. The enemy wants that secret, and they are willing to use either kindness or cruelty to obtain it.

Yoli must decide if his loyalties lie with the commander, who has shown him more affection than anyone in Yoli’s life, or with his own best interests. High Commander Koehen’s attention is capricious at best—he summons Yoli only when it is convenient for him, and Yoli knows there’s little hope of a future together. Is a glimmer of a hope for love worth sacrificing a chance for prosperity beyond his wildest dreams?

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“Scrolls, why did it have to be scrolls?” With M.D. Grimm

April 6, 2016

scrolls (1)

Hello lovely readers! M.D. Grimm here, author of “The Shifters” series. I’m glad you all can join me, so let’s get to it!

 

ShiftingMoonRGBFS

 

I’m here to ramble on about book #10—good grief, 10?—of the series, titled “Shifting Moon.”

 

Here’s the blurb: (You can find more info on it here)

After a year together, wolf shifter Derek Williams and vet Brian O’Donogue decide to marry. All Brian wants is to be legally part of Derek’s family, after his own disowned him for being gay. As far as Derek is concerned, he already belongs to his mate, heart, body, and soul. But their plans are put on hold when Derek discovers an injured young shifter, Tommy, one night while running as a wolf.

When they learn the truth behind Tommy’s presence in Washington, they are quickly drawn into a war that has waged in the shadows for decades. Brian, Derek, and their allies must fight against the Knights and their leader, Arcas, to prevent them from attaining an ancient scroll, one piece of a weapon that can destroy all shifters.

When worlds collide, no one will be spared.

I hope many of you will be pleased with the return of Derek, the wolf shifter, and his veterinarian mate, Brian. We first meet them in the very first book of the series, “Psychic Moon.” They were truly the couple that started it all. When I wrote “Psychic Moon” I didn’t have a clear idea where I was going with the series, but by the time I wrote “Blind Devotion” (3) I knew for certain the direction.

I feel as though I’ve come full circle—at least one of the circles—in the series by bringing back my first couple. They’ve been together a year and have melded their lives quite well. But no relationship is perfect and it’s in times of tragedy that you see someone’s true colors. Their teamwork and trust warms my heart and I *knew* they were the ones who had to be in this book at this stage of the series.

After spending the previous three books (“Hunted Guardian,” “The Serpent and the Angel,” and “Predator and Prey”) in the past, it was refreshing to come back to contemporary times. I could use modern slang and references and focus more on plot and character. It was less research, and though I’m a research fiend, even I need a break sometimes. ☺ And working with an established couple allows me to deepen their relationship and once again focus on other things instead of the “getting to know you” part of the romance. It changes the dynamic of the story trajectory and I apparently love to shake things up for myself. Because if I’m one thing, I’m *never* easy on myself.

What was immensely fun about “Shifting Moon” was the introduction of new characters and re-introduction of Gregor. Do any of you remember him? He’s the right-hand man of Arcas, the main villain. He’s also Arcas’s lover and most trustworthy supporter. Fun fact: the prologue for “Shifting Moon” is actually the second half of the epilogue for “Master’s Blood.” They are connecting scenes in a sense, though I had to modify the scene in “Shifting Moon” to give enough information for readers to follow along. I greatly enjoy the circular motion of the series and interconnectedness of events over time and distance. I did this intentionally to illustrate the simple fact that *everything* is interconnected. Nothing is truly isolated, not an event or a person. Life is a constant ripple effect and though it might take years to see the connection, it’s there.

Without Quincy and Con in “Hunted Guardian” boarding a ship to North America, then the scrolls wouldn’t have been dumped into the ocean, which means Reef and Digger (“Predator and Prey”) wouldn’t have met and one of the scrolls wouldn’t have fallen into Diana’s hands (the mother of Arcas). Also, Quincy and Con helped found Haven, which is where Tobias and Angel (“The Serpent and the Angel”) ended up with their scroll, which will play a large part in later books…. And without the founding of Haven we wouldn’t have Jack and Travis (“Blind Devotion”) and later Xavier and Josh (“Healing Minds”). I could keep going but for all of you how’ve read the series, you know this already. ☺ I hope you all caught the connections and the part Arcas has played through the centuries in one form or another.

For “Shifting Moon,” the scrolls still play a vital role, and Derek and Brian get tangled up in the war. I’m dealing with a lot more characters in this book, in terms of POV, then I have in previous ones. That also adds some complications as well as complexities. It was a story that had to be told with an established couple. There just wasn’t time for “getting to know you” since the story takes place in the span of a week, thereabouts. So why not bring back the guys that started it all?

“Shifting Moon” also acts a little like a “part one” since it connects intimately with book 11, tentatively titled “Feather and Scroll.” A few new characters introduced in “Shifting Moon” will take a prominent role in “Feather and Scroll.” And then that book will lead into book 12, which also brings back another established couple… *cough* Nordik and Poe *cough*

For those of you who don’t know, this series will run into the low 20s. So hold onto your hats! I have all the individual plots, couples, and overarching series plot planned out for the series. I just have to write the darn things. That’s the hard part.

I still have more bird shifters to play with, the return of Ryan and Caleb (“Love is a Whirlwind”), master shifters finding their mates, a historical about the founding of the Agency, and Merlin, the master shifter of all shapes, himself. It all starts and end with him and the secret he’s keeping. You’ll want to stick with the series just to get to HIS story. Trust me, it’s a doozy. Plus, I’m sure you’d all like to know what/who the hell Arcas is and his grand plan. In due time, my pretties. In due time.

Well, that’s it for me. My question to you is: If you could shift into any animal, what would it be and why? For me, it would totally be a dragon. If I have to choose actual, living animals, then I’d say a golden eagle. I totally want to fly.

Here’s a short excerpt for “Shifting Moon” to hold you over until you can get your hands on the book itself.

Brian came home to a surprisingly empty house. He was an hour late, and it was raining hard outside. Careful about tracking in mud, he took off his shoes and coat at the entryway and walked on stocking feet to the kitchen. He draped his coat on the back of one of the kitchen chairs and set his shoes in a corner to dry. The simple trips to his car from the clinic, and from his car to the house, and he was soaked.

He had to assume Derek would be even more soaked. And the dogs. He groaned.

As it was six o’clock, Brian started dinner. About ten minutes passed before he heard noise at the front door. Hurrying back to it, he wasn’t quick enough.

Derek came in soaked to the bone, and their dogs were no better shape. And then, before his horrified eyes, all the dogs shook violently, spraying water and mud on the floor, walls, and even the fucking ceiling. Brian flung up his arms to protect his face and knew all hope was lost to avoid a mess.

Even Derek—the jerk—shook like a dog, a big-ass grin on his face.

“Honey, I’m home.”

Brian scowled and punched Derek’s arm. “Look what you did! And you are damn well going to clean it up!”

Derek looked around and had the grace to wince. Brian noticed the dogs trying to sneak away, their ears and tails down. They knew his tone.

“Oh, no you don’t,” Brian said. He pointed. “In the bathroom, now.” He sent them all an image to make sure his point was clear.

The dogs obediently padded down the short hallway into the downstairs bathroom, which was just big enough to accommodate them all. Brian winced at the tracks they left before glaring at Derek.

“What?” Derek said defensively. “There was no way to clean them all before getting in the house. And—”

“Clean them up, clean yourself up, then come back here and clean up your mess.”

Derek’s eyes sparked, his skin rippled, and Brian braced himself. He knew and accepted Derek’s temper. Since Derek had never once harmed him or their dogs and rarely even destroyed their property when he was really pissed, Brian didn’t fear him. But he still braced himself because Derek could shout with the best of them and curse like sailor.

Derek suddenly lunged at Brian and pushed him up against the wall. Before Brian could speak, his mouth was assaulted and invaded and strong, rough hands slipped under his shirt, pressing against his bare skin, cold and wet. Brian gasped and could only cling to Derek’s shoulders to keep his balance during the assault.

Brian became soaked by Derek’s sopping clothing, but he didn’t care. He couldn’t make himself care. They hadn’t made love since Henry had passed, and now Brian felt as ravenous as Derek was. As Derek slipped his hands into the back of Brian’s pants and gripped his ass, Brian yanked and pulled at Derek’s shirt and sweater, desperate to find skin and heat.

Intent on getting naked, they barely heard the several snorts and sneezes and whimpers nearby.

Derek pulled back, and Brian looked over to the source of the noises. Their dogs had returned and stared at them. Brian noticed a few, like Fenrir, were trembling from cold.

“Take care of them,” Brian said, his voice noticeably husky. He cleared his throat. “I’ll clean up here.”

Derek looked back at Brian, frustration in his eyes but acceptance as well. He pulled away and yanked down his shirt and sweater. Then he corralled the dogs back to the bathroom, and Brian, trembling and hard, searched for towels and cleaning supplies. Dinner would be later than usual.

 

May dragons guard your dreams,

M.D. Grimm

 

Website: www.mdgrimmwrites.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001710645622

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&query=md+grimm

When Characters Take Over with Tara Lain

April 4, 2016

when characters take over

Hi all! Welcome! You probably know that most romance authors think of themselves as either plotters or pantsers. We either plan out our books meticulously or we write “by the seat of our pants”. In truth, many of us are some combination of the two. That would be me. I’m Tara Lain and I write the Beautiful Boys of Romance. I think of myself as a plotser– one who creates a basic story arc with characters, basic conflicts, and highpoints and then let’s the story write itself in between. It’s a fun way to write because it keeps you on track while still allowing for surprises.

Usually.

But every now and then, a character steps in and changes everything. They have a story to tell and they plan to tell it no matter what you had in mind! That was the case with my new book, Prince of the Playhouse, book 3 in my Love in Laguna series. The hero, Ru Maitland, played a role in Knight of Ocean Avenue, book 1 in the series. If you read Knight, you remember that Ru is a snarky, flamboyant fashion designer and a deep and true friend to Shaz, the hero of that book. While I didn’t write a lot about Ru in Knight of Ocean Avenue, I still thought I knew him and knew his story. When I submitted the idea to Dreamspinner, I described a clandestine love affair between my out-and-proud Ru and a hugely successful action movie star who stays hidden deep in the closet, Gray Anson. Considering the consequences for gay action stars who come out, that seemed like plenty of conflict for one book.

Oh no.

Ru had different ideas. I was writing along early in the book. My hero Ru, whom we’ve seen watching Gray in the movies and learning that he’s to make costumes for Gray at the Playhouse, is walking home in Laguna at night. Suddenly, a guy shows up and tries to rob him. Now that surprised me a bit, but I liked it. But then – Ru fights back! I won’t tell you any more except to say that Ru took over this story and changed or should I say escalated the fundamental conflict by a lot. He wanted this history told his way. I must confess. I loved the ride – and hope you will too.

PrinceOfThePlayhouse_postcard_front_DSP

Here’s a nibble from Prince of the Playhouse

 

Prince of the Playhouse by Tara Lain – Not What He Seems!

 Dreamspinner Press—

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Driven by his desire to become a successful fashion designer and concerned with hiding his questionable past, Ru Maitland’s obsession with action movie star Gray Anson on the big screen has replaced his social life. Then obsession and reality collide when Ru is asked to design fashion costumes for a special performance of Hamlet at the Playhouse in Laguna starring none other than Gray Anson. Gray turns out to be a compelling mix of shy and brash and, despite a high profile engagement to a female socialite, the signals Gray sends Ru have his libido doing the salsa.

Gray Anson has everything any person can want – great wealth, huge fame, a job he loves. For that, he’s given up any semblance of privacy and the right to say no to the thousands of people who depend on him and the millions who love him. He sees everything he’s ever wanted just outside the bubble of his life, but how can he make the compromises needed to embrace it? When Ru’s shady past crashes into Gray’s paparazzi-haunted present, both men have to learn that sometimes the only acceptable compromise is the whole truth.

 

“Looks like you been shopping. Buy something for me?” The guy stepped closer. Thin, pale, probably drugs.

Ru stopped and faced the man. Not much older than he was. Twenty-four? Twenty-five? But lots of hard living. I know about that. “No, I didn’t. Why? Are you hungry? Need food?”

The man frowned. “No, asshole. I need your money, so why don’t you reach in those fancy fag pants and toss me your wallet?”

Frozen calm. Jesus, he remembered the feeling so well. Too well. Walk away. Get out of here. “No, I don’t think I’ll be doing that.” He tossed his hair out of his eyes. “You should know that I’m not as easy a mark as you’re expecting, so you’d do well to just leave, okay?”

“Oh yeah? And why the fuck would I do that, pretty fag boy?” He swung his hand wide, and the moonlight glistened off the blade of a knife.

Automatic pilot. A streak of adrenaline shot up Ru’s spine. He dropped the bag while his other hand slid deep in his pocket. The guy’s eyes widened at the nasty snick of the switchblade in Ru’s hand. In one move Ru stepped forward, wrapped an arm around the guy’s throat, and pressed the edge of the blade against it. “Drop it or you’re going to bleed, esé.”

“Shit.” The man’s body trembled and jerked. He smelled like sweat and garbage. Ru pressed the knife harder. The kid’s fingers loosened on his weapon, and it clattered to the pavement.

Ru took a breath. I could kill him. Easier than figuring out what the fuck to do with him. Think. You’re Ru Maitland. Think. “Sit on the curb. If you run, I’ll chase you, and you won’t like the outcome. Do you doubt I can catch you?”

The guy’s head moved a fraction side to side.

Ru eased his knife away and pushed the guy down to the street at his feet, then grabbed the other knife from the asphalt. He put one expensive shoe on either side of the kid’s thighs and reached for his phone. Shit, cops. Do I want to do this?

You’re Ru Maitland. Just do it.

Teaser #3 - Prince of the Playhouse by Tara Lain

You can find Tara HERE:

Website:              http://www.taralain.com
Blog:                    http://www.taralain.com/blog
Goodreads:        http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4541791.Tara_Lain
Twitter:               http://twitter.com/taralain
FB Page:            http://www.facebook.com/taralain

Tara Lain writes the Beautiful Boys of Romance in LGBT erotic romance novels that star her unique, charismatic heroes. Her first novel was published in January of 2011 and she’s now somewhere around book 32. Her best-selling novels have garnered awards for Best Series, Best Contemporary Romance, Best Paranormal Romance, Best Ménage, Best LGBT Romance, Best Gay Characters, and Tara has been named Best Writer of the Year in the LRC Awards. In her other job, Tara owns an advertising and public relations firm. She often does workshops on both author promotion and writing craft.  She lives with her soul-mate husband and her soul-mate dog near the sea in California where she sets a lot of her books.  Passionate about diversity, justice, and new experiences, Tara says on her tombstone it will say “Yes”!

Purple or Green? – Post + Ficlet with Jackie Keswick

March 29, 2016

Purple or Green

I’m Jackie Keswick and I’m happy to be visiting the Dreamspinner Press blog again. This time as part of the blog tour for House Hunt, the third book in the Power of Zero series.

Jack and Gareth had their unexpected reunion in Job Hunt. In Ghosts Jack decided to make a family for himself with Gareth, Daniel and Nico. So far, they’ve dealt with each emergency as it came and now it’s time to settle down and make that relationship work. Find ways to handle all the little mundane things that are part of becoming a couple.

That’s new territory for both of them and, of course, they both bring their own baggage. Gareth’s need to look after people and arrange situations as he sees fit is alive and well. And six months aren’t long enough for Jack to get used to having people in his corner ready to help him out.

Yes, getting into the team spirit is going to be interesting.

Especially for Gareth, whom readers have called a lot of things from a rock to a patient cat herder to downright invisible. I suppose he’s all those things at one time or another. He’s also gorgeous (of course! just imagine a cross between George Clooney and Laurence Nicotra and you have my Gareth), competent, stubborn, loyal and in love with Jack. More so than he expected to be after so short a time. More so, even, than he has admitted to himself just yet.

Jack’s pretty clueless about relationships. He’s uncompromising when it comes to his work. He’s just as determined as Gareth to have things his own way. And at times he appears to be more focused on helping Nico and Daniel than having a relationship. Does that make him difficult to love? Not to Gareth.

Most of the time Gareth sees past the armor and the crusades. He’s there, supportive, confident and determined to help Jack deal with whatever happens. He sees how similar he and Jack are. Jack can’t say no when someone needs help and Gareth loves to look after people.

He’s done it ever since his father was deployed and left him “in charge” at home. Gareth couldn’t stop taking care of people if you asked him to. He’s made an Army career out of it, and now does it at home and at Nancarrow Mining. Jack, Daniel and Nico need someone to make their lives a little easier and Gareth needs to be needed. So it just works.

I love both of Jack and Gareth, of course. But while Jack makes total sense to me – even if he makes sense to nobody else – Gareth tends to surprise me. Gareth grew up with loving parents. He has expectations of what a relationship and a family should be like. I often wonder whether Jack, and the crazy that follows in his wake, are like a bucket of cold water on those expectations. And whether Gareth is just too stubborn to walk away, even when he feels he should.

Few men would start a relationship by adopting two vulnerable, scared teenagers. Gareth does it without flinching, even when it means he has to watch Jack remember his own past every time he steps up to calm and soothe the two.

Jack’s past, and the way he deals with it, is a huge part of what makes Jack the character he is. His courage is without question, but Gareth’s courage is more than a match. He’s there every time Jack doesn’t realize he needs a wall at his back, quietly, patiently, while learning what makes Jack tick. He challenges Jack, pushes him when he needs it… and does a damned fine job hiding his own insecurities.

Oh yes, he has them. They’re just as valid as Jack’s troubles. And they will need dealing with if Jack and Gareth want to make it to their HEA. But that’s a couple of books away. So, for now, let’s take a look at Gareth as we haven’t seen him yet: vulnerable, worried, and intent to make himself as enticing and irresistible to Jack as Jack – with all his crusades and idiosyncrasies – is to him.

I’m glad to report that Jack gets it. Immediately.

 

Purple or Green?

A Jack & Gareth Ficlet

“Camouflage paint is so much easier to work with.” Gareth scrubbed the towel over his face. This was not going as he’d planned. He’d almost poked his eye out with the stupid pencil. Using the liquid stuff with the brush tip was no better. It smeared like nobody’s business and made him look like a grumpy panda.

How did Jack manage to draw such a sexy thin line? In less time than it took Gareth to unscrew the cap, too. He’d been trying it for the last half hour, and all he had to show for his efforts were a ruined towel and makeup smears all over his face.

It was lucky he had the house to himself for once, or he’d catch it big time from the boys. Daniel, with his recent interest in dressing to get noticed by the girls, might understand why Gareth was trying out Jack’s collection of eyeliners. Nico would pour nothing but scorn on the attempt.

The sad fact was, Gareth was jealous. It was juvenile and stupid and completely unwarranted. Gareth knew that, but he couldn’t change how he felt. Lisa had asked for Jack’s help shutting down an escort agency, so Jack was once more playing bait. And according to Baxter and Lisa, who were backing him up, Jack attracted a lot of attention in the clubs. From men and women alike.

Jack had come home in the early hours, hyped and buzzing, lipstick on his neck and his makeup a smudged mess. He’d looked gorgeous, dangerous… and so enticing that Gareth had been grateful that they had the house to themselves.

And yes, they’d been late for work that morning.

Once the lust haze cleared, though, it left Gareth feeling unsettled. As if he wasn’t quite enough any longer. And that had, by strange, meandering pathways, led to Gareth scowling at the mirror, Jack’s makeup case open on the dresser. He had no idea what he was doing, the ruined towel could attest to that, but he’d dare anyone to call him a quitter.

Maybe it was time to apply a little logic.

Jack’s stash of colors and implements was huge. Gareth had thought that eyeliner was black, but it seemed he’d been wrong about that. Jack had eleven colors of eyeliner in his case – thick, thin, pencil, liquid, brush, gel – and… really. What the fuck?

In the end Gareth chose purple, because it looked appealing, and a deep green that he could see Jack wearing. Deep green and Jack went together like pie and mash, even if he couldn’t explain why.

He ditched the pencils as unusable and too dangerous and was trying to get the hang of the liquid liners with the brush and sponge tips when he found one that looked like a felt tip pen. One side was as thin as a fineliner, the other side broader, more like a whiteboard marker. He used both of those every day, so that should be easier, right?

With grim determination, Gareth set to work once more.

He was putting the finishing touches on his right eye when Jack came home. The morning’s excellent mood hadn’t faded yet. Jack was whistling, calling out, bounding up the stairs… only to freeze in the doorway when he caught sight of Gareth. He lost his smile, too.

“What… are you doing?”

Gareth shrugged. “Trying to make myself a bit more presentable?” he offered, voice hesitant, not surprised when Jack got it right away.

“As if you have need.”

“I thought I might,” Gareth admitted, but then he turned his head this way and that. “So, which one? Purple or that deep green you use?”

Jack breathed out. His shoulders dropped. And then the smile returned.

“You’re hopeless, Flynn,” he pronounced as he joined Gareth by the mirror. “With your eye color, what you want is teal. C’me here.” He riffled through the brushes and pens until he found the shade he sought. “I bought that on a whim a while ago,” he explained as he reached for a pack of wipes that Gareth hadn’t even noticed. “It’s not my color and I had no idea why I’d ever want it, but…it’s perfect for you. Here, scrub your face.” He held out the wipes and watched while Gareth turned them purple and green, idly rolling the liner in his palms.

“There’s no reason for you to spruce yourself up with paint, unless you’ve got your eye on someone else,” he said. “I’m perfectly happy with the man you are. I don’t need embellishments. Besides…”

“Besides what?”

Jack looked uncomfortable all of a sudden. He waved at the case. “That’s camouflage,” he explained. “Armor. Walls made from bullshit and deception. I’ve no need for it unless I’m hiding.”

Gareth spun around on the stool and settled his hands on Jack’s hips. “So this was a bad idea?” he queried while his fingers teased along the edge of Jack’s waistband.

“Maybe… not entirely,” Jack decided after a moment and leaned into the touch. “I never thought you’d try liner, so while I have you here I might as well satisfy my curiosity. Hold still.”

He straddled Gareth’s lap and unscrewed the cap on the teal liner. It took him just moments to line Gareth’s eyes and when he surveyed his work, Jack’s breath caught in a way that Gareth found oddly comforting.

“Fuck… that’s hot,” Jack breathed almost reverently. “We can do that again.” He leaned back a little for a better look. “But I tell you one thing for nothing, Flynn: you are not leaving the house looking like that!”

 

Check out House Hunt today!

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Friends to Lovers: From Hurricanes to Hope with Skylar M. Cates – Post + Giveaway

March 28, 2016

Friends to Lovers- From Hurricanes to Hope

Hello! Skylar, here. Thanks for being here with me today as I release my new book, Close to You.

Last year at the Dreamspinner conference, I sat next to fellow author Eli Easton. When she asked me what new things I had planned for 2016, I immediately mentioned wanting a book with a best friends and a hurricane. Not sure if Eli would even recall this conversation, but I’m thrilled that a year later Close to You succeeded in fulfilling these goals!

 

HURRICANES

When it came to writing a hurricane, I only had to draw on personal experience. For better or worse, I have been through several hurricanes since moving to South Florida.

Behind the book interesting fact: when I wrote the hurricane scene in Close to You, an actual hurricane warning was in the area. Yikes! And yeah, for my next novel, two characters are definitely winning the lottery!

I wanted to capture what it is like to wait out a hurricane. One of my editors, who lives in England, found this pretty fascinating and kept wanting more details. For me, I simply love the man vs. nature idea. Add to this, two best friends who are having trouble with each other, and it was a great to force them together. Coincidentally, this falls into another favorite trope of mine— stranded together.  My idea was that the hurricane brewing outside their home matched the hurricane brewing internally between Tomas and Marc.  But the weird thing about tropes is they often lead to other ones. This was the case in Close to You.

BEST FRIENDS

Confession: I LOVE the friends-to lovers trope! Love!  And I have done different versions of this trope before, The Only Guy or Five Ways a Boy Can Break Your Heart come to mind, but in Close to You my goal was to take the trope even further.

Because Tomas and Marc are not just best friends now, they are best friends from middle school. Having the friendship have its roots so far back really shaped the present day conflicts in the book. I allowed the novel to explore the past fully in order to understand what motivated Tomas and Marc. Digging that deeply into their childhood was like digging for gold. Every time I would uncover a nugget, I would squeal with excitement.  Add to it the sexual chemistry between the guys in their present lives – and POW—emotional treasure.

In real life my childhood best friend and I have lost touch. We stayed friends for over twenty years, but distance and different interests eventually drove us apart. Still, as I write this, I feel a pang of sadness. I might go and contact her. Because although our friendship can’t be the same and I know it, I still love her and  will always  love her for being my first friend.

As for Tomas and Marc, they found their way home. This was a complex book to handle, but it is also a book that I’m extremely proud of completing. Tomas and Marc fought for their happily ever after. They told me time and time again —-their happiness mattered. Many outside forces tried to pull them away from each other, but it was their friendship that brought them back.

Close to You is about hope for me.

 

Question:  Tell me about your best friend from childhood

Giveaway:  Book of choice on my backlist

 

My Links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/skylar.cates

Twitter:   @SkylarMCates

Blog: https://skylarmcates.wordpress.com/

 

Check out Close to You today!

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Blurb: 

It’s hard to recover from a first love. Some people never do.

How hard would you fight to keep your best friend? Marc Lucas and Tomas Santos have been best friends forever, but now their friendship is in a crisis. When they were boys, betrayals ripped their world apart. They thought it was fixed, but some parts remained broken. Ever since he saved him from a humiliation at school, Marc has loved Tomas. The last thing he expects is for Tomas to love him back. To keep his best friend, Marc revisits an abusive past he’s tried to forget.

For Tomas, loving Marc has been anything but easy. His upbringing told him it was wrong, so why did it feel so right? Accepting who he is as an adult, Tomas decides he needs a committed relationship. To his deep sorrow, he can’t seem to find it with Marc.

When the two find themselves alone and in the grip of a hurricane, long-buried feelings emerge. Being “just friends” is no longer an option. They must risk it all on love.

Purging my Demons with Wade Kelly

March 25, 2016

Hello good people. This is Wade Kelly here with a special guest post. I’ve had a busy week. On Monday, March 21, I had an audiobook release. Names Can Never Hurt Me is now out for your listening pleasure! I am so very excited as I believe Jack Amber captures the voice of Nick Jones so very well!

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Then, today, March 25, my new novel Bankers’ Hours has come out!

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When thinking of what to write about for my blog tour, I asked my fan group The Wade Brigade what kinds questions they would like me to answer. One person, Eric, asked this:

Eric asked: Unlike a lot of authors, you do tend to write CLEAR across the scale. Do you have to balance out writing a tough novel with something lighter? Does it wring you out when you write the tough ones, or does it help you work through your own demons? (If you have any?)‬

SCALE 2016_FB 850x315 8 titles

I found this a good one to answer here. Eric is right, I DO write clear across the scale. So much so, I came up with an “Angst” scale of my own for people to refer to when choosing one of my novels. I believe you need to be prepared  for what you read. I do not want a fan of lighthearted romance to pick up When Love Is Not Enough and have their heart ripped out with out them realizing it until it’s too late. I want happy fans. If you want your heart ripped out, then by all means read my angsty stuff! But I know that I have fans who only want the light stuff. I give it to them straight on what NOT to read.

That said, Bankers’ Hours is on the lighter end of the scale. (Refer to my angst scale image) BH (as I often refer to it,) is #3. If any of you have read my stuff, so far My Roommate’s A Jock? Well, Crap! is rated #2 on the one end, with When Love Is Not Enough on the other end at #10. When I was writing Bankers’ Hours, I was having fun. I was in a relatively good place emotionally for most of the writing of BH and I hope when people read it, they will have fun. Of course it wouldn’t be a Wade Kelly novel without a little angst. I hope some of the struggles are realistic and the emotions my characters go through come across genuine.

Several other novels are not so light and fun. To answer Eric’s question—yes, I work through my own demons when I write. When Love Is Not Enough ( WLINE) was born out of pain. In 2010 when I wrote it I had lost all my friends because I had the audacity to write a book with gay characters. (That book is out of print right now.) I was shunned for portraying homosexuality as acceptable. I was supposed to condemn it, and I had not. This cost me my church family, my friends, and nearly my marriage. Also during that year, I was going through an adoption. This was the toughest year of my life and it poured out through my writing. The main character Jimmy Miller, commits suicide. (this is known at the beginning of the novel.) I had to focus my pain somewhere, and Jimmy, Darian, and Matt came out of that pain. Since then, I have been messaged by many readers who that me for that book. I can see it was needed, and part of me is thankful for the pain I went through because it made my characters very genuine. The sequel, The Cost Of Loving (TCOL) features the persecution I went through involving the church.

My Roommate’s A Jock? Well, Crap! was written right after WLINE. YES, Eric, I had to balance out the tough novels with something light. JOCK was fun. I needed fun after writing Jimmy and Darian. They felt such pain and I had to think of something lighthearted. Cole is my sarcastic self and was written when I was feeling really good about myself.

Names Can Never Hurt Me, is the book in the middle of my scale. I wanted to get back to some angst, but I wanted to come at it from a different side. Instead of writing the character angst happens TO, I wrote from the POV of the love interest of the guy with a hard back story. Nick Jones is sort of slow on the uptake and kind of stupid at times, he’s sort of a slut, but he’s got a heart of gold. RC is my opposites attract love interest for Nick. RC has the really though backstory. This gives some angst, but it isn’t first hand knowledge, which gives it a lighter feel. I actually do the same thing with No! Jocks Don’t Date Guys ( JOCK 2) as I use a harsh backstory in Alonzo’s life, but the main character, Chris, finds out about it after the fact. When the rough stuff is not experienced first hand, it is not as intense.

I wrote NAMES, and a book called Misplaced Affection back to back and both are much heavier than JOCK. So, to balance out the pain, I wrote JOCK 2 and BH back to back. I need the fun!

I just finished writing JOCK 3 and poured my feelings into my characters. Right now I’m writing JOCK 4. Both of these are being written when I have some major emotional upheaval in my life so that will probably translate into tougher emotions. IDK. It’s the JOCK Series so it is supposed to be light. I’m trying! But the JOCK books will end up across the scale, but no higher than a #4.

I think that writing what you feel does help purge the demons. I can also put a happy ending on something that doesn’t feel so happy to me at the time as a way of searching for hope in myself. My goal when I write is to touch on real life situations and connect with what readers feel, and then to give them hope.

So if you are looking for an escape that is somewhat light, then maybe you’d like Bankers’ Hours. It’s quirky and meant to make you laugh, and maybe cry a little. Or, if you like audiobooks, Nick Jones is the character I think shows the most growth of all my books in Names Can Never Hurt Me.

I hope you all have a great weekend! I will leave you with an excerpt from Names Can Never Hurt Me, but after you read that, look for my other excerpts and blog posts for my blog tour for Bankers’ Hours.

The links to all the posts are on MY BLOG, to be updated daily. There are prizes to win and contest rules on those blogs. I hope to see you there!

This is the official tour list of stops:

February 24 – Prism Book Alliance
March 18 – MM Good Book Reviews
March 22 – Long and Short Reviews
March 23 – My Fiction Nook
March 24 – Oh My Shelves
March 25 – Divine Magazine
March 25 – Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
March 28 – Love Bytes
March 29 – Gay Book Reviews
March 30 – The Novel Approach

For LINKS to all the stops, hop over to MY BLOG.

The BUY LINK for Bankers’ Hours is HERE.

The Names Can Never Hurt Me audiobook HERE.

Here ya go….

 

“Are you going to hide up here all night, or are you going to introduce me to your friend?” My mom smiled pleasantly, but I knew she was irked that I hadn’t already introduced him while we were all down in the kitchen. Not officially anyway. She stood in the middle of my room with her hands clasped behind her back. Waiting. If I didn’t do as asked, she’d probably stand there all night. I could comment about her being intrusive, but really, did I need to? I wasn’t bothered.

“Sorry, Mom, this is RC. RC, this is my mom, Cathy Jones.”

RC held out his hand and shook hers. “RC? Is that a nickname or your initials?” Leave it to Mom to broach the very question I had been dying to ask for a while but hadn’t.

He cleared his throat. “Um, they’re my initials, but also a nickname. My full name’s Raffael Charles Coppola, ma’am.” He looked unsettled as he told her.

“Raffael Coppola,” she repeated. “What a great Italian-sounding name.”

“Yes, ma’am. My father was Italian. My mother’s Greek.”

My mom smiled at RC and looked over at me. “I’m going to lie down and read before bed. Try not to be too loud in here.” She turned and walked out.

I knew her comment contained a double meaning of some sort. We weren’t loud before. She left the door open, and I was fine with it. We weren’t doing anything. I turned my attention to the TV and shot someone else. After a couple of minutes, I asked that burning question, “So, why do you go by RC? Raffy’s a pretty cool nickname.”

“That’s not what they called me in school,” he replied very quietly.

I noticed RC had stopped shooting when his character stood motionless and got killed by the advancing enemy soldier, so I looked over at him to see what was wrong. He was staring at the floor, controller limply held in his grasp. “RC?”

“I was a fat kid in school,” he whispered, however it was very quiet in the room after I paused the game so I could hear him well. He wasn’t looking at me. He was looking down, but I highly doubted he was counting carpet fibers. He continued slowly, “Kids weren’t very nice.”

RC sat very still and he didn’t look up. Am I supposed to say something? I didn’t know what was appropriate to say. “Um, yeah, I know. Kids can be mean. I’ve done some really shitty things.”

“Everyone called me Raffael until second grade. My mom liked my full name, and that’s how I got introduced. Then I remember eating a ham sandwich at lunch one day and some kid had just learned that capicola was a type of ham. He started laughing and slapping the table as if he’d heard some funny joke. When another boy asked what he was laughing about, he said my named rhymed with a type of ham. The whole table started laughing, and by the end of the day everyone was calling me Capicola instead of Coppola.”

“That’s not so bad. I like ham.” I tried sounding positive, but it didn’t help.

Without reaction to my comment RC said, “They all laughed and started making pig sounds. I was already fat and ridiculed by some kids, but when those other kids started oinking whenever I walked by, it only amped up the harassment because then almost all of my class was making fun of me. It went on all year. When I returned in third grade, I hoped it would change, but it didn’t. There were less random oinks in class, but I after threw up on the bus one morning the nickname changed from Capicola to Ralph.”

“That’s not bad. We have a neighbor named Ralph. I don’t see how that’s so awful when you could easily derive Ralph from Raffael.”

He looked at me then, and the pain in his eyes was dreadful. “It is when ‘Ralph’ is accompanied with retching sounds. It never stopped. The noises and euphemisms for vomit continued through high school. Kids didn’t oink as much, but they pretended to throw up when they passed me in the halls. I was called Vomit, Yackhead, Pukeface, and Upchuck. Kids asked questions like ‘Did you lose your lunch?’ or ‘Can I toss your cookies?’ I made the mistake of crying in front of someone in fifth grade, and that’s when it solidified into shameful taunting for the rest of my life. No one ever called me Raffy. It was always something derogatory.”

RC looked away. I guess looking at me as I sat there with a stupid dumbfounded expression glued to my face was not helping alleviate his embarrassment of the personal pain he had endured in school. He’d just revealed the truth behind his nickname RC, and I gave no reaction at all. I should have, but I didn’t know what to say at first. I’d been one of those guys. I was the jerk in school who pointed out the flaws in others and laughed when they puked on the bus. I was never as malicious as RC had experienced, but I also knew I was not very different from that now. How often had I judged others in my head, yet without verbal aspersions?

The main reason I hadn’t called RC fat when I first saw him was because Marcy said it. Hearing her cut somebody down made me feel bad. If I’d have done it first, I don’t think I would’ve apologized. I compared people, but I didn’t look at someone and automatically think fat, ugly, poor, Asian, bad hair, needs a bath…. Okay, I did think that with RC. He’d looked scruffy and unkempt and I postulated he needed lessons in proper hygiene. It was only because I didn’t know him. Once I’d found out about the job and the skin issues, it all made total sense. And now, he looked way better.

However, after hearing someone from his past would make him feel so worthless, I was angry. Raffael was his name, not Ralph or Capicola or—for fuck’s sake—Vomit! And Raffy was my friend. I’d never had a friend who had been bullied like that. I had always been the one joining in the torment of others. I never instigated, but I think it was because I feared getting caught. But if someone else started the teasing, I’d had no qualms assisting… back then. I was different now.

It happened in high school. Somewhere between eighth and tenth grade, our little “gang” gelled, and it wasn’t an issue excluding others. We didn’t need to make fun of them or bully them for being ugly or fat. We tended to stick to our own. We were the “pretty people,” as M-L had put it. Others stayed away by default. We became a gang without the hate crimes. We didn’t beat others up or stuff them into lockers. We hung out and partied and drank and had loads of sex and talked about careers and college and the future. Our gang became a stagnant bubble of “senior year” even though most of us had graduated college and found the careers we’d talked about in high school.

So when RC described his past, I couldn’t help but consider it could have easily been me tormenting him. It wasn’t, and it wouldn’t be now, but it could have been. I felt terrible thinking I had it in me to hurt him like that.

I finally worked up my nerve to whisper, “I’m sorry.”

RC straightened and took a deep breath. He stood up and shrugged it off. “If that was the worst thing to ever happen to me, I think I’d be grateful. But the rest is a story for another day.”

“You didn’t need to say all that to me. Not if it’s painful.”

“Yeah, I did.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s like you said three weeks ago… I feel comfortable around you. I know lots of things about you, but we hadn’t gotten around to me yet. I didn’t want to dump it all on you at once, but I felt like I should start with something. After your mom asked my name, it seemed like the right time.”

My heart warmed. “You feel comfortable around me?”

“Yes. It feels like you’re the first friend I ever had. And if you give me shit over it, I’ll pound you.”

 

BIO:

Wade Kelly lives and writes in conservative, small-town America on the east coast where it’s not easy to live free and open in one’s beliefs. Wade writes passionately about controversial issues and strives to make a difference by making people think. Wade does not have a background in writing or philosophy, but still draws from personal experience to ponder contentious subjects on paper. There is a lot of pain in the world and people need hope. When not writing, she is thinking about writing, and more than likely scribbling ideas on sticky notes in the car while playing “taxi driver” for her children. She likes snakes, can’t spell, and has a tendency to make people cry.

My social media:

Web: www.writerwadekelly.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wadekellywriter
Facebook Fan group, The Wade Brigade : https://www.facebook.com/groups/247976895406172/
Blog: writerwadekelly.blogspot.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/WriterWadeKelly
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/writerwadekelly/
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5141623.Wade_Kelly

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/advanced_search_result.php?keywords=bankers+hours&x=0&y=0

Pups and Prague with H. E. Kollef

March 24, 2016

Pups & Prague

Hello! My name is H. E. Kollef, and I’m here to tell you a little bit about my new book, The Danger in Bohemia, which came out from Dreamspinner yesterday!  I’d also like to say thank you to Dreamspinner Press for taking a chance on me.

The Danger in Bohemia is a love story about Max Knight, an American on the run, and Hadrian Walls, the British bartender he falls in love with. But there’s another love story weaving through the novel, one with the city itself. I spent nearly two years there living as an English teacher, like Max, and Prague sunk her hooks into me. I hope I was successful in working my love for the city—its food, history, and people—into the story. Maybe it will inspire you to take a trip of your own.

City herself aside, The Danger in Bohemia is populated with a lot of characters, almost none of who are based on real people (sadly, because I would love to get a beer with Hadrian and hear some of his war stories). The one exception is Vaclav the dog.

Prague in real life is an incredibly dog-friendly city; people bring their dogs into pubs and restaurants, to the grocery story, and even to work. Some of the sweetest sights you’ll see in the city are big Czech men, often very macho in appearance, walking tiny Minpins and Chihuahuas. And because dogs are so prominent in Czech culture, you quickly begin to recognize them just as you’d recognize your human neighbors.

Vaclav was named for my favorite dog in Prague. I never got his name, but he used to sit outside a coffee shop near my apartment on the Jiřího z Poděbrad square. He was big—as big as the Newfoundland I had when I was growing up—with short, course white hair and perky ears that stuck up like small sails on the top of his head. He usually had a few friends with him too—a Minpin that would sit tucked into his front legs and another small dog of indeterminate breeding that liked to sprawl out near his head. I loved walking past them on my way to work, especially on a warm day when they really seemed to be lapping up the sunshine.

If you want a visual for Vaclav, imagine this guy but bigger:

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From Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Shepherd#/media/File:Wgsd_walking2.jpg

Book-Vaclav lives in U Medvídků, the subterranean pub where Hadrian works as a bartender. Like his inspiration, Vaclav is a massive white dog, tall enough that his head is level with most men’s hips. He’s a sweet, friendly dog, for all his size, and loves nothing more than curling up by the fire (or sneaking a few treats from Hadrian).  He’s also very smart, which comes in handy when [Note: plot spoiler involving arson has been removed].

Hopefully, everyone reading Dreamspinner’s blog is an avid animal lover and will be won over to The Danger in Bohemia purely on the basis of having a great animal character. Or if you’d like to read more about Max and Hadrian, you can check out this guest post I wrote for DivineMagazine.net here.

***

Still not sure this book is for you? Wondering at the steam level of The Danger in Bohemia? Maybe this excerpt from Max and Hadrian’s first kiss might persuade you to pick up a copy:

“It’s okay, lad. That’s fine. Would a restaurant do?”

“Well….” Max took a deep breath while Hadrian held his. “I still haven’t tried goulash,” he said, carefully.

“That can be arranged,” Hadrian said. He moved closer, going slowly, letting Max see every move he made.

Max shivered but didn’t move, instead looking up at Hadrian through half-lidded eyes. His lips parted slightly, and Hadrian saw how full they were.

“Can I touch you, lad?” Hadrian asked, voice low.

“Yes,” Max whispered.

Gently, carefully, Hadrian lifted a hand and laid it against Max’s cheek. His skin was cold and soft.

Max leaned into his touch. “This is a bad idea, you know. I—”

“You’re dangerous, you’re trouble, you’re complicated,” Hadrian interrupted, rubbing his thumb along the ridge of Max’s cheekbone. “I know. I don’t care.”

“I’m just trying to be honest,” Max said, and Hadrian could hear that truth in his voice. “There are parts of me that are broken. I don’t know if they can be fixed. I don’t know what you’re expecting, but I probably can’t give it to you.”

“I. Don’t. Care,” Hadrian repeated, voice gentle but firm. “All I want is the chance to know you better.”

“Really?” Max asked, and the surprise—the genuine surprise, almost shock—pushed Hadrian the extra step he needed.

He leaned down, pressed his thin lips against the softness of Max’s mouth, and felt Max trembling beneath him. Hadrian held himself very still, rubbing thumb over Max’s cheek, trying to say with his body what his mouth could not: You’re safe. Let me know you.

Slowly, Max yielded to him.

 

Thanks for reading this far, if you didn’t run away already. And if you like this story, check out my previous short story, “One Cold Night in Prague,” published in Dreamspinner Press’  Random Acts of Kindness anthology.  You might recognize the main characters in the short story…including Vaclav!

Now, it’s my turn to ask y’all a question. Let’s pretend you’re the proud owner of a romantic, gothic pub in the heart of Prague. You can pick one animal to live in your pub—what do you choose? And why?

 

Best,

H. E. Kollef

 

PS: If you’d like to know more about my writing, follow me @HEKollef or on my website, HannahKollef.com.

Buy Links

Dreamspinner Press ebook
Dreamspinner Press paperback
Amazon.com
Barnes and Noble
Kobo
All Romance e-books

Blurb:

“Will Mracek is forced to flee to Prague when he witnesses his boyfriend, powerful security magnate Jean Claude la Bête, commit murder. On the run, and with help from his cousin John, Will becomes an English teacher named Max Knight and does everything he can to blend in. Meeting Hadrian Walls, however, changes everything.

Max falls in love with the grumpy ex-RAF, now bartender, and Hadrian finds himself doing the same, despite not knowing the secrets of Max’s dangerous past.

But trouble has a way of coming home, and Max and Jean Claude will face each other one last time in a confrontation that sends both of them over the edge….”

Author Bio:

H. E. Kollef currently lives in the UK, where she splits her time between her latest novel, tackling her MSc in Library Science and attempting to pet every dog she comes across. She loves Prague and romance almost as much as a well-organized library, and hopes to incorporate all three in her next novel. You can learn more about her work at HannahKollef.com, or follow her on Twitter @HEKollef

Are You What You Read? With Amberly Smith – Post + Giveaway

March 24, 2016

Are You What You Read-

Hello you fabulous readers. I’m Amberly Smith and I’m here to tell you all about my latest novel Waking Jamal, out tomorrow. Plus, giveaway!

You are what you read?

If that were true I’d be super sexy and adventurous and burden with too much angst.  Which isn’t true. Yet as a writer, I believe what we read influences what we write. My critique partner Valerie Roberts writes Sci-Fi Romance where the women are complete kick ass and rescue the hero. So when I thought about writing my first sci-fi book, Waking Jamal, I was dealing with serious bleed-over from reading her stories. But unlike Valerie who has a science degree and experience working in a lab, my science experience and knowledge of technology comes from Star Trek, Firefly and Scalzi’s Red Shirts.

Which makes it a bit overwhelming to tackle a whole futuristic novel. Yet Sci-Fi isn’t about just science. It’s about exploring radical ideas, human ideas like race equality and sexuality and uncharted parts of the universe and the deep, deep ocean. Looking in areas that haven’t been explored before. Finding familiar in the unknown. Right up my favorite alley.

I also had heavy influence from all the shifter romance I was reading at the time. Shifter Romance is the bomb diggety. Love me some aggressive, alpha, omega dynamics. Get downright giddy over pack angst. So it is no surprise that Waking Jamal has similar concepts in it.

Here’s the Blurb:

Their physical and mental survival depends on them bonding.

Jamal Zumati joins the military, determined to repay the country that fed and housed him. But during his Hamask activation, his senses go offline and he enters a berserker rage. The United States Hamrammr Program, or USHP, has only one option: put him into hibernation.

Despite his extraordinary ability to read and manipulate situations, Vargr Lt. Rum Walker has stepped on one too many brass toes, and the USHP demoted him back to teaching new candidates. Rum is one paranoid thought away from self-destruction when he is recruited for a covert mission: pull Jamal from hibernation.

The problem is, no one has ever survived a berserker fury—at least not officially. If Rum is to challenge the military stereotypes, he’ll not only need to wake Jamal—he’ll need to get him to agree to bond as a Hamra Pair, the ultimate supersoldier team.

When Jamal and Rum team up with an FBI Hamra Pair to stop the terrorist group Dios Provee, Rum thinks he’ll show Jamal their true potential lies in an equal partnership, but Jamal is convinced Rum should take the lead. Will Rum stop Jamal from going berserk again and destroying both of their futures?

***

Waking Jamal isn’t standard science fiction because reading Scalzi, Roberts, Collins, Le Guin doesn’t make me a scientist.  It doesn’t have shape shifting because Calmes, Vaughn, McCallister and Singh have done it and done it well. It’s happily a blend of genres, just like me.

If books really were a reflection of us, what would you be? Leave your answer in the comments for a chance to win a book from my back list. Also, I love to hear from readers. Find me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or my website.

Check out Waking Jamal today!

 

Excerpt:

Chapter 1

HAVOC Class, 2097

ACTIVATION FOR Jamal Zumati started on a Thursday morning. He ate with the others, then gathered his rations and gear and hiked to the farthest shed. The US military insisted on some of the antiquated practices of the early aboriginal tribes in order to bring his abilities online; isolation, little to no food or sleep, and meditation. The hardest part of his training had been the goddamn meditation.

You want a former Adderall-dependent guy to focus by sitting quietly and not thinking about anything? So not going to happen. One of the cadre had finally suggested yoga. The poses allowed him to focus on the strain, the heat generating from each muscle, rather than the mind-numbing silence.

The military either ignored the other historical aspects or felt they went a bit too far, voodoo and wives’ tales. So no eating mushrooms, bloodletting, or purging. Which was all fine and good, except being the farthest out meant he went last, and those mushrooms would have at least kept him from being bored.

He spent the week stretching his mind and body.

Some couldn’t handle being alone this many days. For Jamal, it felt like the first couple of weeks at a new group home. You got your bearings, established which of the kids were the bully, the narc, and the druggie, and then you shored up and tried to make it to school each day. There was always food at school.

Jamal kept to himself until the second time the foster had to enforce a rule. The first time they’re on their best behavior, so you don’t get the real picture. Second time, though, when they go apeshit, vein pulsing in their neck, that’s when you see the real them.

Wednesday morning, the sweat dried on Jamal’s chest as he held his sun pose then eased down to upward-facing dog. He heard them activating someone just down the hill: the sound of stomping boots and tears instead of the buzz of insects and the occasional rustle of an animal scurrying past. Maybe it was one of the girls, or a guy who had hung his masculinity on being a bear and knew instantly that he was a wolf. Bear or wolf—it made no difference to Jamal. He had a duty to his country. It had supported him through his whole life: paid his medical, bought his food, provided for his schooling. Now he would pay with his muscles or his mind. He’d act honorably and serve the people.

He placed his forehead to the smooth wooden plank and let the tension wash out the tips of his fingers as he took the balasana or child pose. It was finally silent again outside. Jamal’s ribs slid around loosely, his chest full of liquid heat, revved up to take on this vital step.

As the activation team entered his shed, Jamal stood and saluted his senior officers, no longer self-conscious about his nudity.

“At ease.”

He moved to a parade rest and surveyed the team: four military police, a nurse, a doctor, and Captain Chakosky. Chakosky was a Vargr and would be on hand to help with grounding Jamal if he activated as a Hamask. Chakosky was round of face, his size equivalent with Jamal’s broad shoulders, but Chakosky was rather soft for Special Forces. Genetics could still snuff gym effort.

“Are you ready?” The doctor’s eyes were bloodshot, his clothes creased in odd places.

They must have worked through the night and had one more to activate before they could call it a day. What, they couldn’t be bothered to dress up for the occasion? Jamal had on his birthday suit, so dress blues should at least be required for everyone else.

“Sir, yes sir.” Jamal sat on a wooden chair—the solitary piece of furniture was older than the shed—and stared straight ahead while they prepared his skin.

As he activated, Chakosky was the first thing he was aware of. The man stood in front of Jamal and had his hands clasped as if in prayer.

Wrong. Gross.

Jamal pushed the sickness in his stomach down.

There was a medical tray holding the empty vials and the thirty acupuncture needles, a few tipped with red. Jamal’s eyes felt dry and he reached up to rub at his eyelashes. His nails felt like metal files tearing at wooden lashes. Shit, what have they done to my eyes? He flattened his palm against his cheek and eye socket to gently, slowly rub away the debris. His dry, coarse fingertips shredded his skin like a cheese grater. Tears poured down his cheeks.

God, this is embarrassing. Fuck, yes, it hurts, but I’ve had worse.

Tears were a sign of weakness. Tears made you a target. He just needed to pull himself together. Just give him a minute to calm down, to process.

Chakosky took a step toward him. No. He held up a hand to ward the man off. He just needed another minute.

That wolf shouldn’t be touching me. Shouldn’t be in my territory.

The abraded skin itched, and Jamal staggered to his feet as he scrubbed with his fingernails. He was definitely a Hamask, could even feel the increased power in his arms and thigh muscles. His touch was all haywire, but realization felt distant, almost separate of self.

Chakosky took another step toward him and Jamal raised both hands to hold the Vargr off. “Just give me a minute.”

Something was wrong—his hearing was normal. Not all his senses had come online. That would be okay, no surprise to learn he was subpar at even this.

The nurse pulled out a brown bottle, and as she unscrewed the lid, the smell—lavender and rice starch in rancid water—made Jamal jerk his head back and stumble toward the wall, bile rising in his throat. He bumped into someone and his skin recoiled and shot with pain. “Stay the fuck back,” he whispered to the MP. Stupid jock was going to mess this all up.

They needed to clean the activation away. Left unattended, the chemicals would fry his neural synapses. Shit, he couldn’t focus around the pain. As the nurse advanced, an MP and Chakosky stepped up to take hold of his arms. Caustic bile churned in Jamal’s throat at their repulsive touch and he dry-heaved.

Hold on, you can do this. They’d clean him up, give him fresh water, and then he’d head back to the base with Chakosky keeping him grounded. That was how all activations were supposed to go. Except, even with the Vargr touching him, he wasn’t leveling out. Physical contact should help. “What’s happening?”

He tried to push Chakosky away and realized his fingers were smeared with blood. Had he cut himself on the wooden chair? Moisture dripped from his chin, and a red splotch smeared like oil over water on his chest. Not tears. Blood.

His hearing kicked in at the same time that a deep feeling of hatred, so hot and bright that he closed his eyes, poured through his bones. They had done this to him. Come in with their bullshit B game, used crap chemicals, and blundered around like idiots. Damn them. “Stop. Don’t.”

“Stand down.”

“Attention!”

No.

 

****

LT. RYAN “Rum” Walker could tell the men and women filing down the aisles of the lecture hall were ensigns, privates, cadets, and seamen. They looked like kids, and they had yet to develop that ramrod posture that came with any service past basic. The uniforms—standard issue and for the most part unadorned—told the same story. But being faced with their youth was another slap to his recently demoted face.

He waited for the creak of wooden seats and the quiet murmurs to settle down. His psych and anthropology training divided the room into Myers-Briggs subtypes and recognized those whose body language showed either confidence or secrets. A human map stretched across the tiered rows of wooden seats. With 78 percent accuracy, he could identify those who would be good wolves or bears, who had lied to get here, and who would kill to stay. Those were the things he should be teaching. How to read people. If they were going to pull him from the field because of insubordination, let him teach candidates actual battle-ready techniques, something useful. Instead they assigned him this propaganda bullshit they spoon-fed all the newbies.

Rum had a lesson planned, just not the one the brass were expecting.

As he stepped into view, someone called out “Attention!” They jumped to their feet, and Rum returned their salute. “As you were.” They settled back in their chairs and he let his voice fill the hall.

“My name is Lieutenant Walker. Welcome to HAVOC.” He then clicked the old-fashioned wireless remote in his palm.

“Hamask and Vargr Operations Center” projected on the forward wall. There were a few murmurs, and a girl in the front row, her hair tightly braided, shifted in her seat. Her eyes weren’t the only ones that gleamed.

“This morning I will give you a brief summary of what we do at HAVOC and answer any general questions you may have. You will then be divided into groups, where you will watch an in-depth video on the Hamrammr initiative, and then you’ll choose.”

He let the silence draw out. “Choose to be activated or… choose the blue pill. Choose to return to your current posting.”

When they got a Hamask to do the morning introduction for potentials, it turned into parlor tricks. Who used which soap that morning? Which male had masturbated in the last twelve hours? They’d have the class write something down at the room’s farthest corner and then the Hamask would read it. The instructor might even tell you the type of fabric you were wearing. Hello! We’re in uniform. The last one even Rum could do.

Rum squinted at them, glaring the murmurs back to quiet. He tilted his head to one side, leaning his right ear toward the noise, and took an audible sniff.

As a Vargr, his enhanced skills didn’t involve his senses, but his abilities were always in play. Hard to turn off, in fact. If there was a sleep mode for his brain, he sure hadn’t found it yet.

Rum clicked the remote again. Pictures of men and women, often in uniform, always in pairs, slid by on the screen. There was official verbiage on what, exactly, he was supposed to say. However, if he were any good at following orders, he wouldn’t be here.

He lowered his voice, knowing the microphones around the stage would carry to the full room just fine. “You are each here because you have potential. Your ASVAB scores and DNA indicate that you could be activated as a Bear or a Wolf. ‘You’re a wizard, Harry.’” He wasn’t surprised when no one laughed. Sometimes it took people a minute to warm up to him. “Half of an elite fighting pair. Pairs like—” He paused the screen on two female doctors. “—Dr. Janis McCarthy and Dr. Lynn Ladd. Hamask McCarthy is a renowned heart surgeon and Vargr Ladd has revolutionized the organ transplant process.”

He liked using this particular example because it showed possible endgames for those who wouldn’t become career military, and because McCarthy and Ladd weren’t in a traditional bonded relationship.

It would have been nice to include a picture of the FBI pair Bur-Longwei, but that suggestion had been nixed pretty damn high up the food chain.

He clicked the remote again and the screen displayed a new pair. The man and woman stood in front of their WREAC team—War Reconnaissance Extraction Assault Corps. “WREAC and HAVOC. Hamask Tidsdale and Vargr Lange are in the foreground with WREAC Team 3, instrumental in saving thousands during last year’s tsunami in Hawaii.”

A dark-skinned airman with soft eyes scoffed.

Rum snapped an index finger in his direction. “Skepticism. Good. But tell me, Airman…?”

The airman was slightly older than average, tall, broad shouldered. He stood upon being addressed. “Sir, Adayo, sir.”

“Airman Adayo. Why did you assume the woman was Vargr Lange?”

Adayo’s eyes widened, and then he swallowed. “Sir, I—”

Gawd, I love bein’ right. “Unvarnished truth, please.”

“Sir, I reacted to my programmed cultural expectations on gender roles. I assumed that the woman would be the Vargr and the man would be the Hamask. I know that is not always the case.”

And that was why Adayo was here. Because he was smart enough to see his own shortcomings. Rum nodded in acknowledgment, and Adayo reclaimed his seat.

“Less than 25 percent of Hamrammr initiates are women. Though when they make it through training, women have a slightly higher success rate of activation.” Which meant the most common Hamra Pair was two guys. He’d let them do the math.

He clicked to the next picture, a more stereotypical pairing. “This Hamra Pair both specialize in weapons and demolition.” The picture showed the two out in the field and heavily camouflaged, the Hamask distinctive with his bare hands. “A more… traditional team. Currently in deep assignment tracking Christian extremists in South America.”

He explained that those who stayed would face twelve intense weeks of physical and mental training. He highlighted the different military occupational specialties each successful Pair could be assigned to. He sprinkled in a few obscure references to old cultural evidence of Hamrammrs or those with the potential to change into Hamask and Vargr, including how the pair became two halves of a superserum soldier, i.e., Captain America.

“By the end of today, once you make the second-toughest decision, you’ll be housed in coed barracks with your fellow potentials.”

Rum did not talk about bonding, though he identified five of them who practically quivered to ask about it. He did not cover the activation process, though he strongly believed it was something they should know before making the decision to stay. He didn’t warn them of the political bullshit that came with activation. Only a third of the candidates would make it through training, and only half of those would successfully activate. Maybe ten people in this room would become part of a sanctioned, bonded pair.

He turned off the old projector. Military budget restrictions had curtailed the crazy spending that was so rampant fifty years ago, but this ancient tech was sad. At least the mission rooms had holo sets.

“Things you probably all know, but just to be thorough. Hamask and Vargr always work in pairs. Hamask, also called bears, learn to use their senses and strength. Vargr, the wolves, act as a guide, provide a baseline for the chaos bears live in.” That was an oversimplification if he ever spouted one, plus it didn’t explain the heightened speed Vargrs gained in reflexes and mental processing. “Feel free to ask questions, but for the sake of time, please do not stand.”

There were a few chuckles at this. Now to see if the seeds he’d planted would generate the questions he wanted them to ask.

The female marine with the braid raised a hand. He nodded to acknowledge her. “Is it true what they say about the bonding process?”

Rum raised his eyebrows and gave her an incredulous look. Seriously? That wasn’t going to give her the information she wanted. “True that a bonded pair is stronger than an unbonded one? Absolutely. Bonding isn’t a requirement and plenty of pairs never bond.”

Yes, I’m going to make you work for it. Try again.

“Sir, why are only officers activated?” asked a hesitant seaman with more freckles than hair.

“Good eye. Yes, all Hamra, short, of course, for Hamrammr, are designated officers. Upon activation Hamra roll over to an M-rank system, similar to noncommissioned officers. They use officer designations, and though not all of you are officers currently, you all have completed the required college degrees for that status or you wouldn’t be here.”

Which made the two seventeen-year-olds present even more impressive.

A private, so rosy-cheeked that he would probably be carded until he was in his midthirties, raised his hand and asked, “Are Hamrammrs allowed to choose their partner?”

“Yes. Let me emphasize that. Yes.” He nodded and then gestured to communicate exactly how important this was. “The military will make suggestions. If the partner you choose does not qualify for some of the advanced options, that may limit you. Thus the suggested pairings. But you get to choose. You, bear or wolf, get a choice.” A few heads shook in the negative, and Rum immediately labeled and categorized them as American-born, second generation, military service. Military brats.

They came in thinking that the wolves led the bears around by the nose; that the only way to keep a bear in check was to form a sexual bond and manipulate their own pheromones to keep the wolf as the dominant in the relationship. Total military-culture bullshit. Rum memorized each face. By the end of training, either they’d be gone or they would darn well have a new perspective on partnerships.

The next question was from a female airman with the palest blonde hair Rum had ever seen. “Sir, why wolf and bear? I mean, the transformation rumors have been disproved and the abilities of each don’t really match actual bears and wolves. So…?”

“The words hamask and vargr are from Old Norse. Viking mythology, legend, stories, whichever you prefer, tell tales of sending berserkers into battle. Changed men, fierce as bears and cloaked in wolf skin.” He raised his finger to draw their attention even tighter. Giddy warmth filled his chest even as his shoulders tightened.

“There have always been such people. The aboriginal people of North Sentinel Island. Celtic lore. Even Native American vision quests. When the United States discovered a way to fully activate these abilities, shortly after the September 11 attacks in New York, the first Vargr held a doctorate in Norse history. He chose the terms. Don’t worry. You’ll get more of a history lesson during training.”

A few arms shot up, and Rum indicated a tiny guy from the Coast Guard. Rum wouldn’t be surprised if he was one of those two seventeen-year-olds on the list of candidates.

“Can you explain the bonding process and specifically the sexual aspects?”

Better question. “This is the United States military. We are not known for our sexual acceptance.” It was his first use of “we,” and like most of what he said, it was a strategic decision. “Yes, sexually active pairs are bonded pairs. Do all Hamra Pairs have sex? In my opinion, that’s their business, and no one else’s. Bonding does not require sex.” The military strongly disagreed with him, but he wasn’t about to disillusion potentials. That was more of a week-three activity. “Next question.”

Adayo’s hand was the first one up. “What is the hardest decision?”

Bingo. Now to reel them in. “Good question.” He gestured to indicate the whole conference hall. They’d put in their time and deserved his best performance. “If you believe that I am a Hamask, raise your right hand. Starboard for the seamen in the room.” He smiled. “If you believe I am a Vargr, raise your left hand. Okay, keep your hands up.” He looked through the crowd and watched them look at each other. The training cadre were watching to see who would change their answer, and who were right.

“Adayo.”

“Yes, sir?”

“Why did you choose Vargr?”

Adayo smiled. “At first I thought you were Hamask. You fed that belief by emphasizing your use of senses. Squinting, cocking your head to hear better.”

Rum had also crafted each response and kept a tight lid on his accent. He’d teach them how to pick up on those clues eventually. “But?”

Adayo tilted his head and looked back at him with a critical eye. “Well”—he shrugged—“if you’re not Hamask, then only Vargr is left.”

“That is how most people see the Hamrammr initiative. If you’re not a bear then you’re a wolf. A second choice, less than. Despite the wolf being the leader in the pairing.”

Hell, a lot of what was broken in this program surrounded that inferiority complex.

“Toughest decision that you each need to make before deciding if you’ll stay: does it matter if I’m a wolf or a bear? Until we try to activate you, we don’t know which you are.” He scanned the room. “All of you are Hamrammr, but potential what? If you’ve got your heart set on being a Hamask, can you live with being only a Vargr?”

He checked his watch. 1122. Eight minutes to spare. Perfect. He tapped the watch’s face to bring up the group lists and sent it to the candidates’ smartwatches. “I’m sending each of you an itinerary and group list for the remainder of the day.”

“Lieutenant Walker?” Tiny Coast Guard had his hand up.

Rum blinked at the boy, genuinely surprised at the additional question and the gold bar indicating the seventeen-year-old was an ensign—college degree and officer training completion. “Yes, Ensign—?”

“Sir, Kramer, sir. Are there any potential side effects of being activated?”

Bastian Gero Kramer. Rum’s memory supplied the information. The ensign’s voice spoke of New Orleans and his Latino upbringing.

Damn, he was good. Rum had specifically asked General Khan whether he could cover this and had been shot down. Khan’s exact words were “don’t bring it up,” but he’d also told Rum to answer all their questions.

Rum smiled, and based on a few of their responses, he knew the grin looked evil. “You could fury.”

 

The Places and Spaces of The Worst Bad Thing with J.E. Birk

March 23, 2016

The Places and Spaces of the Worst Bad Thing (1)

It’s finally here: release day for The Worst Bad Thing! This book is close to my heart, as it was inspired by many events in my own life. The tragedy that opens the book is, most unfortunately, very similar to a tragedy that took place within my own community. I began writing this book as a means for dealing with all the emotions our community was experiencing in the aftermath of that horrible event.

Eventually this therapy-writing turned into a story which was very different from those events that first inspired it. As that happened, other events in my life also became inspiration for this book. I decided that Tate, the main character, needed to be somewhere far from his home for this plot to unfold properly …and what better place to have him disappear to than some of the places I had just visited?

And so I had Tate go on nearly the exact trip that my husband and I had recently taken: a trip through Iceland, England, and Paris.

As this book’s plot travels through three beautiful places filled with wonderful people, the specific settings Tate visits often become as important as the other characters he encounters. I so enjoyed writing about these places; in many moments it almost felt as though I was visiting them again. In honor of Tate’s journey to discovery, I thought I’d share my five favorite places that Tate visits in The Worst Bad Thing. With pictures, of course.

#1. The Blue Lagoon.

If you’ve never seen the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, I highly recommend it. What’s not to love? It’s basically the biggest and most beautiful hot tub you’ll ever encounter. No downside.

 

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I give you…the world’s most giant hot tub.

#2. The Globe Theater

The theater standing now may not be the same theater Shakespeare once stood in (we’re like three fires out from that), but it still holds the exact sense of grandeur and importance that you’d expect. Plus there’s a killer gift shop. You know, if you like that sort of thing. Now please excuse me while I hug my King Lear magnet.

 

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All the world’s a stage, and I have no idea who the people standing in front of this one are.

#3. Stonehenge

It’s not on the cover of the book by accident. Stonehenge is incredibly important in Tate and Gabriel’s story—as it should be. You feel the importance and wonder of Stonehenge the moment you walk between those rocks. I only hope I adequately transferred that importance to the pages of this book.

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Somehow the clouds make it even more majestic. Ah, England.

#4. The Louvre

I got lost at least five times in this place. It’s enormous, and there’s literally an important relic around every corner. Travel tip: everyone’s going to crowd in front of the Mona Lisa anyway, so don’t rush to get there. Tate goes right for Hammurabi’s Code, which has its own importance in the story.

 

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This place is so much bigger than it looks from the outside.

#5. The Roman Baths

Did you know that ancient Rome left a giant chunk of itself behind in England? A town called, ahem, Bath still houses several of the ancient Roman baths. It’s a beautiful city in itself (Jane Austin hung out there!), and it’s a strange and wonderful thing to see this piece of Italy just sitting around in the middle of the English countryside.

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I don’t even want to think about how long some of that water’s been there.

What’s the most impressive place you’ve ever visited? I hope you have some on your list that are as magical as the ones Tate and I were lucky enough to see. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy The Worst Bad Thing!

You can follow J.E. Birk’s ramblings on Twitter by looking for @jebirkwrites. She’s also been known to ramble on Facebook as J Elisabeth Birk.

 

Check out The Worst Bad Thing today!

Blurb: 

Iceland, Stonehenge, London, Paris….

To the casual observer, it looks like a dream trip. For Tate O’Reilly, it’s anything but. He’s a man on a mission to rectify a critical mistake, and there’s nothing to hold him back—certainly not friends or family. For Tate, it all comes down to one simple thing—he must fix what he has broken.

What he doesn’t count on is meeting Gabriel Carillo. Gabriel is kind, mysterious, and seems to be on his own mission to ensure their paths keep crossing. But Tate’s hiding an awfully big secret—one he’s certain even Gabriel can’t forgive.

Does a man’s past have to determine his future? In the middle of cities filled with history, Tate is going to find out.