Life’s a Zoo with Meg Harding – Post + Giveaway

January 6, 2016

Life's a Zoo

Hi all. I’m Meg Harding and my novella Fixer-Upper comes out today. Dakota and Jake’s story originally started as a much shorter anthology submission, that I then extended by about ten thousand words and submitted on its own. Despite the holiday timing, it’s not about Christmas or even New Years. But it is about new beginnings, so the new year is a fitting time for Fixer-Upper’s release.

I don’t know how many of you have seen Frozen—I’ll admit I’ve only seen it once—but there’s a song in it about the guy being a bit of a fixer-upper. I’d forgotten about the song, until one of my friends who was attending a wedding mentioned that the bridesmaids wanted to dance to this song in regards to the groom. I thought that was a little mean, but the idea of a fixer-upper stuck with me. But I wanted to twist it a little.

People on a whole tend to see themselves as fixer-uppers, and the house in this story is a metaphor for how Jake feels about himself. But Dakota, who is doing a large part of the fixing of the house, doesn’t view Jake as in need of a fix. He’s not waiting for Jake to change. He’s waiting for Jake to realize that he’s a-okay. He wants Jake to be comfortable with himself. I like the idea that Dakota doesn’t view Jake as something that is broken, but that he accepts and is willing to work with the fact that Jake does. It’s not his job to make Jake see the truth—that’s something Jake has to do on his own—though he can help him. This is a bit of a slow burn as far as things go, and that’s important to the story. Dakota is very careful of Jake.

One of the biggest influences on me for this particular story was the idea of meet uglies. I didn’t want characters who met in a cute way, where everything went to plan before the bumps appeared. I wanted to explore characters overcoming awkwardness and embarrassment because they kept making mistakes. I liked the idea of a character falling in love with someone because they messed up, because they were unintentionally a little hazardous. Throughout the beginning of the story, Jake has a series of accidents that all lead to less than desirable results for Dakota. This was partly influenced by my own experience—in that I’m as awkward as awkward gets. If I’m trying to flirt, or impress someone, chances are I’m going to end up falling on my face. Jake’s got my inability to look competent in the face of an audience in spades.

In the majority of the things I write, I like to slide my own interests in. If you’ve read any of my past titles, you’ve seen mentions of Sherlock Holmes, Marvel, LOTR, etc. This story isn’t an exception. The first date Dakota and Jake go on is to a zoo, which may seem like a not very adult date type of thing. But it’s literally my idea of a perfect date. I LOVE zoos. I spent the last year living abroad, and I tried to go to a zoo in every country I visited. It’s important to me that somehow, someway, animals are included in my stories. There’s even a majestically named puppy that appears at the end (yet another interest of mine popping up). But back to the zoos. This scene was very much inspired by the zoos I’ve been to in the last year, and the frankly amazing things I’ve seen.

So here’s some pictures I took that can help you picture just what these two were marveling at.

 

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Now, for the fun part. A giveaway! Want to win a copy of one of my previous books with Dreamspinner? Comment below to let me know what your best first date was and one person will win a backlist title of their choice!

 

You can find me at:

WordPress / Twitter / Facebook / Dreamspinner / Google + / Amazon / Goodreads

Check out Fixer-Upper by Meg Harding – out today!

 

Stay Focused, Live Free with Evan Gilbert – Post + Giveaway

December 30, 2015

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Greetings, all. This is Evan Gilbert, here for the release today of
my novella Eyes on Sparrow.

 

People and events in my own life often provide the spark that drives my fiction writing. Several months ago, I casually mentioned to a friend that I wanted to do another gay romantic story involving blue collar men. This friend has a fetish for construction workers and suggested (demanded, actually) that I include at least one in my new endeavor. That inspired the creation of Kele Smith, the sexy young Native American man who becomes a teasing object of desire while building a house. Originally, I was going to pair him off with an older construction worker. That changed when a cousin of mine graduated from high school in May. I asked her what she planned to do next, and she explained that she would be attending the college her parents chose, as well as pursuing the course of study they selected for her. Her interests, she further explained, lie elsewhere, but her parents were footing the bill, so what could she do?

 

I don’t usually stick my nose where it doesn’t belong, but I went to my aunt and uncle on my cousin’s behalf and told them she really wanted a different career than the one they were pushing her into. They told me my cousin had been directionless her entire time in high school and was still directionless, which is why they made the choices they did for her. I couldn’t get them to see that their daughter’s perceived lack of aim had more to do with their always leading her by the hand while she was growing up rather than stepping back and letting her do her own thing.

 

The discussions with my cousin, aunt, and uncle caused the character Morgan Breck to spring into the story. Newly graduated from high school, he’s a young man who has never asserted his independence, even sublimating his sexuality to the will of his parents. Religious themes worked their way in with Morgan and his parents, which led to Kele getting the “Sparrow” nickname. I wanted to use a title that played off the old gospel hymn “His Eye is on the Sparrow.”

 

Here we are on the cusp of a brand new year, a time for making bold decisions, changing direction, taking chances and taking control. Is there something you’ve wanted to do with your life but haven’t for some reason?  Have you decided to make a leap of faith in the coming year? Leave a comment with your resolutions, or share your thoughts on living freely and independently. After seventy-two hours, all commenters will be entered into a drawing and the winner gets to select an eBook from my backlist.

 

Thanks for reading, and all the best to you in 2016.

 

Get your copy of Eyes on Sparrow here!

 

Winners from There You Are Release Party

December 25, 2015

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MERRY CHRISTMAS to all who celebrate! And thank you to everyone who joined me for the There You Are Release party yesterday. It was a fun way to spend Christmas Eve.

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Dreamspinner   Amazon   All Romance   Barnes&Noble   Apple   Kobo   Google Play

And remember that Dreamspinner is having a great holiday 25% off sale through 12/28!

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And now… drum roll please… the three winners of a CJane Elliott ebook of your choice are…

LOUISE

DALE

H.B.

Please be in touch with hayley@dreamspinnerpress.com and she will get you your free ebook. It can be this new release or any of my other ebooks, including one of my novels.

THANKS ALL… AND HAPPY READING!

There You Are Release Party – Wrap Up, Giveaway Reminder, and Upcoming Events

December 24, 2015

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Before we end the There You Are party today, I wanted to mention two other novellas relevant to There You Are. Wild and Precious is Book One of the series. And Alex Harrison from Mercury in Retrograde makes a cameo appearance toward the end of There You Are in a scene at the same river rafting lodge featured in that story.

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Also, I’m excited to say that Wild and Precious is being made into an audiobook with a great narrator, KC Kelly.

Future writing plans: Book Three of the Wild and Precious series is under contract and will be released in May/June 2016. This one features Sandy, Phineas’s nephew, and is titled Sand-Man’s Family.

There You Are Buy LinksDreamspinner   Amazon   All Romance   Barnes&Noble   Apple   Kobo   Google Play

Remember that Dreamspinners is having a 25% off sale for the whole store through December 28!

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ALL THIS AND A BLOG TOUR TOO!

I have an exciting There You Are blog tour lined up with giveaways and intriguing interview questions, so I hope you’ll join me at these tour stops:

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GIVEAWAY: I will announce the giveaway winners tomorrow. Three people will be chosen at random from all who commented today on any of the blog posts. There’s still time to leave a comment and win a chance at a free ebook of mine, your choice.

Thank you for joining me today, and happy reading!

There You Are Release Party #6 – Sexy Excerpt feat. a Jealous Cody

December 24, 2015

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For the last post, how about some heat? Cody, being bisexual, is completely attracted to both the masculine and feminine qualities of Phineas. As we saw in the last excerpt, he finds Phineas as Phanny a huge turn on.

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This excerpt comes several months into their relationship after another Phanny Hill performance at Janelle’s. Cody is beginning to struggle with jealousy and goes a bit caveman on the guys who are swarming around Phanny in the lobby. He retreats to the dressing room to wait for her.

EXCERPT

Ten minutes later, Phinney, aka Phanny, came into the dressing room where Cody had holed up. No one was around at the moment, although there’d been a near-constant stream of queens coming in and out.

Cody jumped up, prepared to apologize for his caveman act in the lobby, his stomach doing a flip at the way Phineas was advancing on him in all his Phanny Hill glory, something dangerous flashing in her eyes. “Phinney, I—”

“Wait.” She—for he could only see Phanny in this moment—pushed the dressing room door so that it was almost closed, then shoved Cody up against the wall, her ruby-red talons digging into his shoulder. Cody grunted in surprise when she used her other hand to grip his cock through his jeans. A wave of her perfume tickled his nose and he hardened to the point of pain. God, she was glorious, her glittered breasts peeking out of her low-cut bodice, her big brown eyes framed by the false eyelashes. She unsnapped his pants and he found it difficult to breathe, even more so when she pulled down his zipper ever so slowly.

The hotness of the moment was enhanced by the door not being fully shut. Cody could hear people walking by and talking as she finally slid her hand under his briefs and took hold of his cock.

God, yes.

She looked up then, pinning him with a seductive glance, her ruby lips curved in a knowing smile. “You like?” she asked huskily, then licked those sultry lips.

“Um-hmm,” he rasped, unable to tear his eyes away from her mouth and that pink tongue. His cock twitched under her hand.

“You’re such a bad boy, scaring away all my men. I think I should punish you, hmm?” she purred, giving him a stroke for emphasis. “But I’d rather reward you, because that was smoking hot.”

“Ok-kay.”

“What do you want? And ask nicely. Phanny’s a lady, you know.”

Cody felt the room spinning as he tried to get out the words, the world having narrowed to the smell of her perfume, the feeling of her warm fingers on him. “Will you… please… suck me?”

****

I think I’ll be a tease and stop here! Thank you for helping me celebrate the release of my new book. I’ll be back in a bit with a wrap-up post.

There You Are Buy Links: Dreamspinner   Amazon   All Romance   Barnes&Noble   Apple   Kobo   Google Play

Question: Easygoing Cody finds himself jealous for the first time in his life and he doesn’t like the feeling.  Have you ever been jealous in a relationship? I have!

GIVEAWAY: Make sure you comment because three people who comment during the There You Are  Release Party today will win a CJane Elliott ebook of their choice. You can leave a comment any time. I’ll be checking throughout the day!

There You Are Release Party #5 – Drag Queens + Excerpt

December 24, 2015

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Buy Links: Dreamspinner   Amazon   All Romance   Barnes&Noble   Apple   Kobo   Google Play

Cody finds out early on that Phineas was a drag queen by the name of Phanny Hill and performed regularly at a local drag club, and that Phineas gave up doing drag after Allen died. One of the ways Cody helps Phineas come back to life is by encouraging him to return to performing as Phanny Hill.

I modeled the club Janelle’s in the book after Portland’s drag club Darcelle’s, which I went to a few years back with some other DSP authors. This is Darcelle herself who is Janelle in my book:

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Here’s the drag queen version of Phineas from Shutterstock. This is the same model as the cover. Isn’t she beautiful?

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I love drag shows! It was fun to include drag in my story. And when Phineas allows Phanny out again, he finds a whole new spark to his life. Cody likes it too. ;)

Here’s an excerpt from when Phineas returns to Janelle’s after four years to perform as Phanny Hill.

EXCERPT

Janelle herself, a regal old drag queen, took the stage. She bantered and told ribald jokes, pointed out some bachelorette parties and other would-be notables in the crowd, and then paused to take a sip of water. “And now, I’ve been savin’ the best for last, chickadees. Because tonight marks the return of one of the fiercest queens ever to grace our stage. It’s been too long, way too long, and I’m overjoyed that she’s here with us tonight. Please welcome back to Janelle’s stage our very own Phanny Hill!”

Cody and friends applauded wildly as Janelle exited and the stage went black. The first chords of Diana Ross’s “I’m Coming Out” accompanied the spotlight illuminating Phanny Hill, a vision in a formfitting scarlet sequined gown and short black hair. She was coming out, all right, strutting the stage in her spike heels, her lips ruby red, her long eyelashes fluttering, glitter in her cleavage. Cody had no idea where the breasts had come from, but it didn’t matter. Phineas had disappeared, leaving sexy, alluring Phanny. And fuck, was she a turn-on.

She sashayed in their direction, her painted mouth lip-synching the song, and stopped right in front of them. Blaine and Gemma had their dollar bills at the ready to stuff into the top of her dress. She leaned down to accommodate them, then slid her hand, with the long red nails, along the back of Cody’s neck, emanating a trace of tantalizing perfume. He lifted his face, and the crowd cheered at their kiss. Then she was off, playing to the audience, while Cody touched his lips and Blaine and Gemma laughed.

Question: I don’t have a good question for this topic, so how about asking me anything you want to know – about me, my writing, this story or my others. Fire away!

GIVEAWAY: Make sure you comment because three people who comment during the There You Are  Release Party today will win a CJane Elliott ebook of their choice. You can leave a comment any time. I’ll be checking throughout the day!

 

There You Are Release Party #4 – Funky Music + Excerpt

December 24, 2015

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Who Got Da Funk?

Those who have read my stories know I love music and musicians. I’m especially partial to funk and soul music, so I had fun putting Cody into a funk band.

The band Cody travels to Portland to join in There You Are is called Da Funk. I modeled the band after a real-life funk band with the cool name of Eldridge Gravy and the Court Supreme. My husband and I caught their act in Portland a few years ago and were blown away by the sheer size of the band and the joyous music that we all danced to for three hours straight. Here they are below:

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credit: https://jesselongname.wordpress.com/tag/eldridge-gravy/

The excerpt below shows Cody’s first rehearsal with the band. Sandy, Phineas’s nephew, has dragged Phineas to the rehearsal, and Phineas sits in the back with a book while Sandy joins the band on bongos. What Cody doesn’t know until this rehearsal is that Phineas is a wonderful singer and performer in his own right.

EXCERPT

“Okay,” Blaine said. “Let’s do ‘Funk Train’ next.”

“Who got da funk? We got da funk,” chanted Boze, the bassist.

“Um-hmm.” Creswell raised his horn while Jamie fingered the keys on her saxophone and said, “Let’s do it!”

Dude-Man, the organist, raised his head slightly. An enormous black man with shades and a bandana, he kept his own counsel. Cody hadn’t heard a peep out of him the whole rehearsal, but he was genius on the keys.

“Bueno.” Oscar grinned and started in on a Latin beat.

They swung into “Funk Train,” an original written by Oscar, and soon the garage walls reverberated with sound. Phineas appeared to be engrossed in his book, but Cody spied him tapping his toe and counted it as a win.

At the end, Blaine clapped his hands. “Pretty good. Need the horns to be tighter with the drums. One more time. I wish Clarice and Deena could’ve been here.”

“Who’re they?” Sandy asked, still beating softly on the bongos.

“Our backup singers.”

“Wow, this is a big band.”

“Yep. Okay, let’s—”

“Phineas can do.”

Everyone riveted their attention on Dude-Man, who remained impassive, the epitome of cool.

“Say what, hermano?” Oscar asked, a twinkle in his eye, while Phineas stiffened and lowered his book to stare at Dude-Man.

Dude-Man shifted, his massive hands on the keyboard. “I said, Phineas can do. Backup.” With that proclamation, he sat back on his stool and stared off into space, seemingly done with talking. Maybe he’d used up his daily word allotment, Cody mused.

Phineas had turned a becoming shade of pink. “Oh hell.” He tossed his book aside and, with one graceful movement, was on his feet and heading to the second mic set up next to Blaine, who grinned but didn’t say anything.

Oscar counted off the beat and they launched into the song, Boze laying down a funky bass line and the horns providing punctuation. Cody came in over them with a catchy riff, and Dude-Man filled in the spaces on the keys, while Oscar and Sandy provided a steady rhythm.

Once the vocals began, Phineas opened his mouth and a gorgeous tenor voice rang through the room, blending perfectly with Blaine’s baritone. The band members smiled, nodding their heads and riding the groove. Even Dude-Man was swaying.

****

This is the beginning of Phineas being drawn back into life after his mourning period of 4 years since Allen’s death. Cody soon discovers Phineas used to perform drag under the name Phanny Hill. We’ll get into that in the next post!

There You Are Buy Links: Dreamspinner   Amazon   All Romance   Barnes&Noble   Apple   Kobo   Google Play

Question: What kind of music do you love the best? Any favorite group or song you’d like to share?

GIVEAWAY: Make sure you comment because three people who comment during the There You Are  Release Party today will win a CJane Elliott ebook of their choice. You can leave a comment any time. I’ll be checking throughout the day!

There You Are Release Party #3 – Baggage (emotional, that is)

December 24, 2015

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There You Are buy links: Dreamspinner   Amazon   All Romance   Barnes&Noble   Apple   Kobo   Google Play

baggage

Both of the MCs in There You Are have baggage, i.e., unresolved issues from the past that are clouding their ability to make a fresh start with love.

Phineas has been widowed for four years and still hasn’t gotten over his long-time partner, Allen. In his grief, Phineas has retreated from the world, quit his job, and stopped performing as his drag queen persona Phanny Hill. He’s living a quiet life now, working part-time at a bookstore and hanging out with his close friends, Blaine and Gemma.

Cody Bellstrom appearing on the scene rocks Phineas’s world. Phineas can’t exactly ignore the sexy musician who is ten years younger than he. Not only is Cody now the guitarist in Blaine’s funk band, but he’s befriended Phineas’s nephew Sandy and made sure he got to Portland safely. And he’s the first man to attract Phineas since Allen died.

Phineas struggles with letting Allen go enough to make room for Cody. Part of the baggage Phineas is carrying is the fact that all his memories of Allen are so beautiful that the Allen in his mind is nearing sainthood. No living man, even one as caring and sexy as Cody, could ever measure up. Phineas finally recognizes how unfair he’s being to Cody and is able to let his Allen memories rest in a special place, but not be the place he goes to hide whenever things get difficult with Cody.

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At first blush, Cody doesn’t seem to have as much baggage as Phineas. He doesn’t have problems getting involved with people, men or women, and he quickly becomes a part of Phineas’s life. He helps Phineas figure things out about his nephew Sandy, he cooks them meals, and he finds himself more and more fascinated with Phineas. Cody is a nurturer and he likes to help people, so helping Phineas get over his grief and get back into life is right up Cody’s alley.

Cody’s problems start when he falls in love with Phineas. Cody has been in love once before – with a woman. And after they got engaged he got cold feet and ran. Ever since, Cody has kept on the move, never letting himself put down roots in one place or with one person for too long. The more Cody falls for Phinney, the more freaked out he gets. He has an escape plan – a Seattle band has invited him to move there and go on tour with them. He knows that what his friend Bette tells him is true: no matter where you go, there you are. But he sees no alternative until a chance encounter late in the book finally opens his eyes to why he’s run away from people all his life.

And now let’s go with a deeper question, because y’all know I like to go there!

Question:  Have you ever noticed that past experiences sometimes keep you from risking something new? What’s one piece of baggage that you can see you have? 

GIVEAWAY: Make sure you comment because three people who comment during the There You Are  Release Party today will win a CJane Elliott ebook of their choice. You can leave a comment any time. I’ll be checking throughout the day!

I’ll go first: I didn’t get married for a loooong time because my parents got divorced when I was 18 and it sucked. That instilled a fear in me of committing myself. I had to let go of that fear before I let my wonderful husband Michael come into my life.

There You Are Release Party #2 – Trains!

December 24, 2015

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Welcome back! Let’s talk about trains because they come into this story quite a bit. Cody has loved trains ever since he was little and his dad used to take him to the train museum. The story begins with him embarking on a cross-country train trip. The train station on the cover is Cody’s final destination – Portland, Oregon’s Union Station, where Cody first meets Phineas.

One strange fact is that all three main train stations of Cody’s trip are named Union Station.

He starts at Union Station in Washington, DC, where his disapproving friend Bette drops him off:

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Why is Bette disapproving? Because she adheres to the philosophy embodied in the movie quote: No matter where you go, there you are. She thinks Cody is running away one more time, like all the other times he’s picked up and left. And she doesn’t think Cody will be able to outrun his demons.

Cody doesn’t really listen to Bette because he’s too busy being excited about his trip. He takes the Amtrak to Chicago’s Union Station. This is where he boards the Empire Builder train and also where he meets Sandy Nixon, the young man who is running away to Portland and his uncle, Phineas MacDonald.

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The Amtrak brochure describes the Empire Builder trip in glowing terms:

Experience the Rugged Splendor of the American West

Traveling daily between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest along major portions of the Lewis and Clark trail, the mighty Empire Builder takes you on an exciting adventure through majestic wilderness, following the footsteps of early pioneers.

Here are some pictures from the Empire Builder Amtrak brochure:

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It looks amazing! I’d love to go on this train trip one day. Cody and Sandy become friends on the trip and when they reach Portland’s Union Station, Phineas and his best friend Blaine are there to meet Sandy.

By a romance-tropic coincidence, Blaine just happens to be the leader of Da Beat, the funk band Cody has come to Portland to join! Of course!

Our two heroes start right off in close contact but each of them brings baggage… and we’ll talk about that in our next post!

There You Are Buy Links:

Dreamspinner   Amazon   All Romance   Barnes&Noble   Apple   Kobo   Google Play

GIVEAWAY: Make sure you comment because three people who comment during the There You Are  Release Party today will win a CJane Elliott ebook of their choice. You can leave a comment any time. I’ll be checking throughout the day!

Question: Have you ever been on a train? If so, what’s the longest trip you’ve taken and if not, what would be a train journey you’d like to take?

There You Are Release Party #1 – Welcome!

December 24, 2015

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Hello Everyone! CJane Elliott here on this beautiful Christmas Eve to celebrate with you the release of my new novella, There You Are, Book Two in the Wild and Precious Series.

Here’s a cup of virtual eggnog to get things going:

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Behold this amazing cover by AngstyG:

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The train station you see there is in Portland, Oregon, which is where our hero Cody Bellstrom is going as the story begins. Cody loves to travel to new places, but as he discovers, “no matter where you go, there you are.”

BLURB:

Bisexual musician Cody Bellstrom is a free spirit, easygoing and unattached. On a cross-country trip, Cody befriends young Sandy Nixon and gets him safely to Portland and his uncle, Phineas MacDonald. Beautiful Phineas turns Cody’s life upside down, and Cody learns he’s not as unattached as he aspires to be. With the hard-won knowledge of what lies underneath his need to be free, Cody wins a chance at real freedom and true love.

Ever since his longtime lover Allen died, Phineas MacDonald has lived a circumscribed life. He stopped performing as fierce drag queen Phanny Hill and works part-time in a bookstore. Phineas never expected to find love again. But when sexy and caring Cody Bellstrom turns up, Phineas feels his orderly life slipping out of his control. Cody brings him alive again, but now Phineas must find the courage to let go of his grief over Allen and give love a second chance.

****

I’ll be back soon to talk more about the book.

GIVEAWAY: Make sure you comment because three people who comment during the There You Are  Release Party today will win a CJane Elliott ebook of their choice. You can leave a comment any time. I’ll be checking throughout the day!

And take advantage of the Dreamspinner Holiday Sale – 25% off everything in the store!

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There You Are Buy Links:

Dreamspinner   Amazon   All Romance   Barnes&Noble   Apple   Kobo   Google Play

 

So to start things off here’s an easy question:  How’s the weather where you are? Is it Christmas-y or not so much?