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:

eldridgegravy

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.

no matter quote

 

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:

wdc union station

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.

chicagounionstation

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:

empirebuilderempirebuilderlake

empirebuildertrestle

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:

eggnog

Behold this amazing cover by AngstyG:

ThereYouAre_postcard_front_DSP

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!

MerryandBright_DSPsite

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?

 

Artistic Inspiration with Antonia Aquilante – Post + Giveaway

December 21, 2015

Artistic Inspiration

Hi, everyone! I’m Antonia Aquilante, and I’m here to talk with you about my novel, The Artist’s Masquerade, which is out today. The Artist’s Masquerade is the second book in the Chronicles of Tournai series, but it can be read on its own if you haven’t read the first book in the series yet. Here’s the description:

As the first-born son of the Duke of Tournai and cousin to the prince, Cathal has always tried to fulfill his duty to family and country, including following through with an arranged marriage to Velia, cousin to the emperor of Ardunn. But it’s Velia’s companion, Flavia, who fascinates Cathal. Cathal doesn’t know that Flavia is really Flavian, a man masquerading as a woman to escape Ardunn, a restrictive place in which Flavian’s preference for men is forbidden.

Even when Cathal discovers Flavian’s true gender, he cannot fight his attraction to him. Flavian is intrigued by Cathal, but Cathal is still betrothed to Velia, and Flavian worries Cathal is more taken with his feminine illusion than the man beneath it. While both men battle their longings for each other, spies from Ardunn infiltrate the capital, attempting to uncover Tournai’s weaknesses. They are also searching for Flavian, who possesses a magical Talent that allows him to see the truth of a person just by painting their portrait—a skill invaluable to Ardunn’s emperor.

In The Artist’s Masquerade, as the title states, Flavian is an artist, and he’s an extremely  talented one who hopes to make his living as an artist once he is able to shed his disguise and is settled in Tournai. Things don’t go quite to plan upon his arrival in Tournai, but his belief in his dream and his confidence in his own talent never waver.

There are many references to art in this book, and in the previous book in the series, The Prince’s Consort. Amory, one of the main characters of that book, enjoys art and drawing, though he’s only a talented amateur. Tournai is famous all over for its glass art. And of course there’s Flavian himself, who spends as much time with his art as he can.

I would love to say I planned all of this out before I started writing the series, but I really didn’t (I’m such a pantser!). I can tell you that my own love of art certainly influenced and inspired the inclusion of the art references in the stories. I’ve always enjoyed art, learning about it, drawing and painting. I took art class each year in high school and drawing class in college, and my art history class in college was one of my favorite classes. I went to college in Washington, DC and spent so much time in the National Gallery of Art during those four years, wandering among the paintings, even sitting and sketching. My family used to joke that I made a weekly visit to the Monets there. The National Gallery is one of the places I miss most now that I don’t live in DC anymore. But I do live near New York City, so the Met isn’t far, and I love visiting art museums when I travel (my family puts up with it… to a point). When I was lucky enough to visit Florence, Italy, a major highlight for me was the Uffizi Gallery. I could have spent all day there (my family would not have liked that), and most of it staring at Botticelli’s Primavera, which is one of my favorite paintings.

So I guess it’s no surprise that my love of art has made its way into my stories.

Giveaway: My favorite types of art are Renaissance and Impressionism. For a chance to win an ebook of The Artist’s Masquerade, tell me your favorite artist or type of art or even your favorite art museum.

 

About Antonia:

Antonia Aquilante has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, and at the age of twelve, decided she would be a writer when she grew up. After many years and a few career detours, she has returned to that original plan. Her stories have changed over the years, but one thing has remained consistent – they all end in happily ever after.

She has a fondness for travel (and a long list of places she wants to visit and revisit), taking photos, family history, fabulous shoes, baking treats which she shares with friends and family, and of course reading. She usually has at least two books started at once and never goes anywhere without her Kindle. Though she is a convert to ebooks, she still loves paper books the best, and there are a couple thousand of them residing in her home with her.

Born and raised in New Jersey, she is living there again after years in Washington, DC, and North Carolina for school and work. She enjoys being back in the Garden State but admits to being tempted every so often to run away from home and live in Italy

She is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the New Jersey Romance Writers.

Find Antonia here:

Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads

Life’s Sacrifices by J. J. Lore – Post + Giveaway

November 11, 2015

Lifes sacrifices1

Drumroll please and here it is, my big debut, both as a Dreamspinner Press author and as a writer of m/m romance. It’s pretty nerve-wracking for any author on release day, but with those additional factors, I’m a bit of a wreck right now. My new sci-fi book, Raider Captured, is finally available after what has seemed like months and months of writing, submitting, waiting, and editing. Hold on a minute, that’s exactly how long it has taken. Hopefully all that hard work both on my part and all the talented folks at Dreamspinner will result in an entertaining read for you.

Raider Captured, as the title implies, is, in addition to being a romance and outer space adventure tale, my exploration of the strictures and pressures of imprisonment on both sides of the cage. My initial inspiration for the story was putting two characters in opposition to each other in the most fundamental way; prisoner and jailor. How could I weave romance into such a power imbalance? Both characters would have to overcome many obstacles to eventually place trust in each other and finally discover love. Equally important was having each character empathize with the other’s position. Sagiv, the captured warrior, knows that Daran, his young captor, is facing tremendous pressure to return him for a ransom. Sagiv is certain none of his people would offer up anything for his return as he’s disgraced in defeat. Daran realizes he should feel nothing but disdain for Sagiv, a man who attacked his ship, but he can’t suppress his innate curiosity about the mysterious fighter. There is a connection between them, forged first in the manacles around Sagiv’s wrists, and only strengthened when Daran decides to remove the restraints and free his fearsome prisoner.

There’s always an element of risk when falling in love. Oftentimes we have to give up things we thought were important in order to create that emotional bond with another person. We might have to move, face a friend or family’s disapproval, or open ourselves up to the possibility of rejection. Everyone has to make a leap into the unknown for the chance at romance.

I’m curious about what you had to risk in order to find love. Please leave a comment below for the chance to win a copy of Raider Captured or something useful if you’re ever captured by an alien.

Check out Raider Captured here!

RaiderCaptured_FINAL

 

Check out J. J. Lore’s website and follow J. J. on Twitter! 

Here, kitty, kitty, kitty… with M.A. Church – Post + Giveaway

October 30, 2015

Here kitty kitty kitty

Hey! My name is M.A. Church, and I’m stopping by to talk about my newest release called Behind the Eight Ball. One of the most asked questions about this series is what inspired me to write it? Well, several things lol. That’s clear, isn’t it?

*Grin*

Actually, this series started as a flash last New Year’s Eve. That’s where Trouble Comes in Threes sprang from. What I wanted for this story was a crotchety man with a sharp tongue and bad attitude sitting at home for the holiday. What I got was Kirk, a clowder full of cats that aren’t overly fond of humans, and the beginning of a series.

The first book dealt with Kirk and all the trouble life had thrown at him. In that book, you meet the betas: Aidric, Heller, Brier, and Remi. I had originally planned for the second book to be about Remi and his mate, but I figured out right quick that wasn’t going to work. Heller was the one demanding my attention. And believe me, Heller can be quite demanding. I call him a diva for a reason, lol.

It turned out going with Heller as the second in the series was the right choice. While writing Behind the Eight Ball, a very interesting set of secondary characters made their presence known. Now I knew why I couldn’t do Remi’s book yet. Heller’s book had to come first because Remi’s mate makes his appearance in Behind the Eight Ball.

Now, I write a lot of paranormal and scifi, and read just as much. While I have absolutely nothing against wolves and other big, cool shifters I’d noticed there wasn’t much out there about smaller, regular shifters. Don’t they deserve love too? This is where I mention I love cats. *Grin* I know, shocking right? If you know me, or follow me on social media, you’ve seen pictures of my writing buddy, Kitty-Kitty.

I’ve loved cats since I was a very little girl, but I was unable to have pets due to my allergies. Needless to say, as soon as I left home the first thing I did was get a cat! The second thing I did was get married, have children, and had a child who was asthmatic. We had to say bye-bye to the cat.

So twenty years later what was the first thing I did when my son moved out? You got it. I got a cat. Okay, that’s not exactly right. The cat got us, lol. On Halloween night about four years ago, this cute little gray kitten showed up in the garage. He was very used to humans, and so playful.

But taking on a pet is a big responsibility, a responsibility I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted. The Eldest Kiddo had moved out, and the Youngest Kiddo was heading off to college. The hubby and I would finally have the house all to ourselves. I refused to call the kitten anything more than Kitty-Kitty because I didn’t want to get attached.

For all the good it did.

Next thing I knew, the hubby was sneaking the kitten in. And that was the end of that. We bought all the things a cat needs and then came the trips to the vet for shots and stuff. (Wanna guess who had to deal with the crying cat? Right, lol. Me.) And that’s how we ended up with Kitty-Kitty, who the hubby calls Skeeter. *Cringe* Don’t ask me why, I couldn’t tell you. The strange thing is, the cat answers to both names.

Each title relates to the characters in its book. The first book revolves around how bad things come in threes. It’s a superstitious old saying. In the book Kirk has had a string of bad luck, and he’s waiting for the next crappy thing to happen.

In book two Heller finds himself in the position of chasing after the very mate he first rejected. He’s behind the eight ball. It means he’s in a bad situation, in a losing position. The phrase comes from pool (or billiards). When the cue (white) ball is behind the eight (black) ball, a player usually has no shot.

In book three Remi and his man mate pretty quickly, but then end up dancing around one another as they struggle with the power dynamics in their relationship. I have a title in mind for that one too, along with rough outlines and titles for Aidric and Brier’s books. *Sigh* I just need to get them written.

And that’s what inspired the Fur, Fangs, and Felines series! I’m doing a giveaway for the release of Behind the Eight Ball so comment for a chance to win an e-book from my backlist. Do you have a pet? If so, what kind? If you can’t or don’t have a pet, what kind would you have if you could?

 

Author Bio:

M.A. Church is a true Southern belle who spent many years in the elementary education sector. Now she spends her days lost in fantasy worlds, arguing with hardheaded aliens on far-off planets, herding her numerous shifters, or trying to tempt her country boys away from their fishing poles. It’s a full time job, but hey, someone’s gotta do it!

When not writing, she’s exploring the latest M/M novel to hit the market, watching her beloved Steelers, or sitting glued to HGTV. That’s if she’s not on the back porch tending to the demanding wildlife around the pond in the backyard. The ducks are very outspoken. She’s married to her high school sweetheart, and they have two children.

She was a finalist in the Rainbow awards for 2013 and is a member of Romance Writers of America, Rainbow Romance Writers, and Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

 

Author Links:

Blog * Twitter * Facebook * The Harvest FB fan page * Goodreads * Amazon

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Character Creations with Antonia Aquilante – Post + Giveaway

October 14, 2015

Hi, everyone! My name is Antonia Aquilante, and I’m excited to be here today to talk with you about my debut novel, The Prince’s Consort, releasing October 16th. The Prince’s Consort is a fantasy romance about a prince and the son of a glass merchant. Here’s the blurb:

 

Legends tell of large cats defending the principality of Tournai, but such creatures have been lost to time. 

Or have they?

Prince Philip inherited the throne at a young age, and since then, his life has centered around ruling his country and resisting those pressuring him to take a wife and conceive an heir—forcing him to hide his attraction to men. When kind-hearted Amory is offered to the prince in exchange for more time for Amory’s father to complete a commission, both Philip and Amory are horrified. But Philip agrees to keep Amory at the palace, where they gradually become friends, then lovers. For the first time in his life, Philip is free to share not only his heart, but the magical shape-shifting ability that runs in the royal bloodline.

Neither Amory nor Philip imagined falling in love, and they certainly don’t expect the lengths those who oppose their relationship will go to keep them apart—maybe even resorting to murder.

***

When I’m writing, the ideas for my stories often come in the form of characters first, and that’s what happened with The Prince’s Consort. I was actually writing a different story entirely, and Amory and Philip were meant to be minor characters who were only in a couple of scenes. They were much older in that story and had been together for a long time. The first scene I wrote with Amory in it just flowed – and I loved Amory immediately.

More about Amory and Philip’s characters kept coming to me, but I was writing a story about someone else. So I made notes about Amory and Philip and set them aside, telling myself I would write their story later, after I finished what I was working on. But even as I wrote that other story, Amory and Philip kept filtering in. I suddenly knew how they meet; I could see the scene in my head. I learned more and more about who they are – Amory’s quiet strength and huge capacity for love, Philip’s protectiveness and hidden vulnerability. And I really wanted to know how they got from that first meeting to the place I knew they’d be in the story I was writing at the time (living happily ever after, of course).

I repeated to myself – and them – over and over to be patient. Soon – I’d write their story soon.

And then I hit a wall in the story I was writing. Something wasn’t working, and I couldn’t quite place what. I beat my head against that wall for a long while, but I got no closer to the problem, and Amory and Philip were still demanding their story be told.

I’m the type of person who likes to finish a project before moving to the next. Every story I’ve written, I’ve finished before beginning another. Normally I just keep working at it, keep thinking and writing, and I get back on track. I didn’t this time. I did something I never do; I put the other project aside and turned to Amory and Philip’s story. I’m so happy I did. And not just because The Prince’s Consort has become my first published novel (even though I’m still giddy about that!), but because I loved figuring out who Amory and Philip are and the world they live in, and what happens to them on their road to happily ever after. I hope you enjoy reading their story as much as I did writing it.

***

For a chance to win a copy of The Prince’s Consort, tell me about a time when you did the opposite of what you would normally do and the situation turned out better than you expected. Or did it not turn out so well?

***

Bio: Antonia Aquilante has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, and at the age of twelve, decided she would be a writer when she grew up. After many years and a few career detours, she has returned to that original plan. Her stories have changed over the years, but one thing has remained consistent – they all end in happily ever after.

She has a fondness for travel (and a long list of places she wants to visit and revisit), taking photos, family history, fabulous shoes, baking treats which she shares with friends and family, and of course reading. She usually has at least two books started at once and never goes anywhere without her Kindle. Though she is a convert to ebooks, she still loves paper books the best, and there are a couple thousand of them residing in her home with her.

Born and raised in New Jersey, she is living there again after years in Washington, DC, and North Carolina for school and work. She enjoys being back in the Garden State but admits to being tempted every so often to run away from home and live in Italy.

 

Website: www.antoniaaquilante.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/AntoniaAquilanteAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/antoniaquilante

Lasting Friendships with Melanie Hansen + Exclusive Excerpt and Giveaway

September 28, 2015

lasting friendships

Hey, everyone, I’m Melanie, a frazzled and busy mom of two preteen boys (Lord, give me strength!). My little family is also about to face our 8th Navy move in 15 years, so things are a little hectic at the moment. But today I’m so excited to talk about my recent release with Dreamspinner Press, Signs of Life, the second book in my Resilient Love series! I love Kai and Jeremy with all my heart; they are very, very special to me. Sometimes, very rarely, a story just flows, and writing it is easy and natural; that’s how Signs of Life was for me. Despite the heavy themes of grief and loss, something I really want readers to take away from this book is the delight Kai and Jeremy both take in their friendship with secondary characters Loren and Jase. That’s what I would like to talk about today in this post, the dynamics of their friendship, and I’m also going to share a deleted scene and an exclusive excerpt with you.

Along with the romantic relationship enjoyed by the main characters in Signs of Life – Jeremy Speer and Kai Daniels – a major element of the story is their friendships with others. In real life no couple in a healthy relationship exists in a vacuum, and in my stories, I try to weave in secondary characters who are very important to the main couple. We all have friends who fulfill various needs in our lives separate and apart from our significant others, and my book characters are no different.

Jeremy and Jase
Jeremy Speer and Jase DeSantis (my romantic lead from Everything Changes) are high school friends and lovers who reconnected as adults. They have some history, but they hadn’t been all that close in recent years. When Jeremy’s husband is fatally injured in a car accident, Jase is the first one Jeremy thinks to call, and Jase, being the innate caretaker that he is, drops everything to be there for him at Brent’s death and the immediate aftermath.

This deleted scene gives you a glimpse into their relationship, and how important they are to each other. Their friendship is one of the foundations of Jeremy’s character development, and although this scene didn’t make it into the book for several reasons, I love it, and I wanted to share it:
Jeremy couldn’t even count how many times he’d stumbled out of the guest bedroom in the middle of the night to find Jase already up, wrestling with his own demons. Jase would never talk about the war with him, though, his eyes haunted and full of pain.

One particularly bad night, wanting and needing some physical forgetfulness, Jeremy made a clumsy sexual advance, pushing Jase back into the cushions of the couch and kissing him with a sort of panicked desperation. Jase cupped Jeremy’s face in his hands and responded briefly, letting Jeremy deepen the kiss, but when Jeremy reached between Jase’s legs to touch him, Jase caught his hand, kissing the palm and squeezing his fingers before gently pushing him away.
“Jase, please, I need you,” Jeremy begged, clutching at him. Jase disengaged Jeremy’s hands again and knelt on the floor at his feet, resting his hands lightly on Jeremy’s knees.
“No, babe, this isn’t what we need from each other right now,” Jase said softly. “Not like this.”
In an agony of embarrassment, Jeremy pushed Jase away and stood, bracing his hands against the nearest wall and breathing deeply, trying to find some control over his emotions and losing the battle. He felt Jase come up behind him and wrap his arms around his waist, anchoring him as Jeremy fell apart once again. He turned and buried his face in Jase’s neck as he sobbed, “I just miss him so much.”
Jase rocked him, rubbing his hands up and down Jeremy’s back, kissing the top of his head over and over as they rode out the storm together. Afterwards, weak with emotional overload, Jeremy let Jase lead him to his bedroom and pull him down onto the rumpled bed. Jase spooned up to Jeremy’s back and held him close as he whispered, “One day at a time, bud. One day at a time.”
Jase’s words, so simple yet so powerful, struck Jeremy like nothing else had. One day at a time. He didn’t have to worry about how he’d get through next month, next week or even the next fucking day. All he had to do was get through this day, and he needed to stop trying to use people, or drugs, or alcohol, to do it. If Brent could see him now, a sad, defeated and broken man, he’d be devastated.
For weeks Jase had been touting the benefits of yoga, so Jeremy tried it a few times, deciding it wasn’t for him. But running…running calmed him, focused him, quieted the noise in his head like nothing else could. He and Jase ran together as much as possible, and soon Jeremy was outdistancing him, running for hours, coming back to the apartment in a pleasant state of physical and mental exhaustion. He started sleeping better, and it was becoming easier to ride out the bad days.
Jeremy had learned to exist, and that was more than he could have hoped for a year ago.
When Jase got home from work one night, Jeremy told him that he was finally ready to move on. There was a flash of relief in Jase’s eyes, quickly masked, even as he protested that Jeremy could stay as long as he needed to.
“I have, Jase,” Jeremy said quietly. “I’ve stayed as long as I needed to. It’s time for me to make my own life and leave you to yours.”
“Will you move to your Coronado house, then?” Jase asked. They were sitting on Jase’s small balcony, sipping cups of coffee.
“No, I don’t want to live in San Diego anymore. Too many memories. I need a fresh start, a totally fresh start.”
“Where will you go? I assume back to Florida isn’t an option, for the same reason.”
Jeremy nodded. “I asked my realtor to look for listings in Northern California, and she actually stumbled across this.”
He pulled a folded piece of paper out of his jeans pocket and handed it over. Jase perused it with a raised eyebrow.
“Bend, Oregon?”
“Yeah. The city isn’t too big, but it’s big enough. And the running trails are supposed to be superb.”
“So you’re going to go up there and isolate yourself in this cabin in the woods – which is a fucking awesome cabin by the looks of it. ‘A Jacuzzi on the wraparound porch,’” he quoted from the listing using his best Robin Leach voice.
Jeremy shrugged, fighting a small smile despite himself.
“Fuckin’ moneybags,” Jase said without heat, tossing Jeremy’s paper back to him. Jeremy shrugged again. It was true enough.
“Jere,” Jase began tentatively. “I’m only saying this because I love you, man. I understand the fresh start, I do, but are you sure isolating yourself like this is the answer? How are you –“
“How am I ever going to meet someone?” Jeremy finished bitterly. “I don’t want to meet anyone, Jase. I had everything I ever wanted, and now he’s gone.”
“So you’re just gonna live the rest of your life alone, without companionship, without intimacy?”
“You mean without fucking? Oh, I expect that someday I’ll want to fuck. In fact, I already tried that once and got shot down.” Jeremy let his eyes travel with deliberate crudeness over Jase’s body, fury boiling through him.
“Jeremy,” Jase said earnestly, ignoring the insolent look, “you feel this way now, and I understand it –“
“Do you? Do you understand it, Jase? How can you possibly understand a goddamn thing about the way I feel? Stop shoving bullshit up my ass and let me live my life the way I fucking want!”
Now Jase was as angry as Jeremy had ever seen him, and he stood up and towered over Jeremy.
“And you don’t understand a fucking thing about me, Jere,” he hissed. “How I watched the man I love be blown into pieces right in front of my eyes, how I worked through my tears to keep him from bleeding to death right then and there. How I felt when I learned his heart had stopped twice on the way to Kabul. Fuck you!”
“But he’s alive, Jase, so fuck you!”
They were both breathing hard, staring each other down.
“Yes, he’s alive,” Jase finally whispered. “But he doesn’t want me. He’ll never want me. In a way he’s as lost to me as Brent is to you. I’ll have to watch him fall in love, and get married, maybe have children someday. I’ll have to watch him be happy with someone else. And that will fucking kill me.”
Jeremy watched the agony that suffused Jase’s face, and he set aside his own self-absorption long enough to come to terms with the fact that yes, maybe there were differing degrees of loss, but loss is still loss. He reached out and took Jase’s hand in his, squeezing his fingers.
“Jase,” he said gently. “I’m sorry. I truly am.”
Jase blinked back tears, then squeezed Jeremy’s hand in return and sat back down.
Jeremy blew out a breath. “I’m not ready for anything else, and I don’t know if I ever will be. If I even want to be, Jase. And besides, I don’t see you taking your own advice. Since I’ve been here, I haven’t seen you go on a single date.”
“I’m not ready either,” Jase said ruefully. “But at least I’m open to the possibility. I’m sorry I brought it up, but I’m worried about you. You’re just going to go stick yourself in BFE, man, and I don’t think that’s right.”
Jeremy opened his mouth to argue, and Jase held up his hand. “But it’s your life, babe. I’ll leave you to it. And I hope you know I’ll always be here for you.”
Later that night, Jeremy packed up his belongings as quietly as he could and stole out of the apartment, not before leaving Jase’s spare key on the counter along with a note: Thanks for everything.

Kai and Loren
Kai and Loren have a slightly different relationship than Jeremy and Jase do. They met as adults, each carrying some emotional baggage, and have been extremely close for eight years. They do most everything together, such as camping and hiking, or simply hanging out. Their friendship also contains an element of sexual intimacy, although Kai hates to classify Loren as a “fuck buddy” – he’s so much more than that.

They aren’t in love, but they love each other very much. Loren is Kai’s emotional support, the one he goes to when he has a problem he needs to talk out, or when he just needs a shoulder to cry on. When Kai first meets Jeremy, things are pretty rocky between them, so Kai turns to Loren more than once for a sympathetic ear and, yes, some plain talk. Loren isn’t afraid to call it as he sees it because he cares about Kai’s well-being. In this exclusive excerpt from Signs of Life, Kai has just had another upsetting encounter with Jeremy:

“You’d think he could have shared that little tidbit of info with you before he let you suck his dick,” Loren said caustically, looking up at Kai from his sprawl on Kai’s couch. It was a couple of days since the evening at Jeremy’s house, and this was the first time he’d been able to pin Loren down to talk about it.
He handed Loren a freshly opened beer and then plopped down beside him, taking a huge slug of his own.
“Honestly I think the whole evening took him by total surprise, from issuing the dinner invitation in the first place to the sex. I don’t think he’d planned it, Loren, in order to spring his ‘conditions’ on me after he got his rocks off at least once.”
“You’re nicer than I am, Kai. I’d have told him to get bent.” Loren drank some beer and then grabbed the TV remote, flipping on the TV and mindlessly scrolling through the channels so fast it made Kai dizzy.
“No, you wouldn’t have,” Kai retorted. “Jesus, the dude has suffered almost unimaginable loss. You can’t blame him for being closed off, cautious of letting anyone get close to him again.”
“He treated you like shit at the club, and what he did the other night wasn’t a whole lot better, Kai. Handing you your clothes and pushing you out the door like a john who was getting rid of a trick. Don’t let him use his loss as an excuse to be an asshole.”
“Would you turn that shit off?” Kai wrestled the remote away from Loren and clicked off the TV, throwing the remote into the chair the farthest away, knowing Loren was too comfortable and lazy to get up and go after it. “I want to talk to you about this!”
“The more you tell me, the more I want to go kick the dude’s ass,” Loren grumbled, but sipped his beer and looked at Kai expectantly. “So talk.”
Kai took a sip of his own beer, marshaling his thoughts. “He told me that the night at the club was the first sex he’d had since his husband died. When did we go, about two and a half, three months ago?”
“Something like that.”
“And he said his husband died more than two years ago. I’m the first one he’s even tried with since he lost his husband.”
“You think that makes me feel any better?” Loren asked. “To know you’re basically his rebound, his stepping stone from ‘unimaginable loss,’ as you said, back to the wild and wonderful world of dating and sex?”
“He’s got to start somewhere, Loren,” Kai said quietly. “You know I’m tough, and resilient, and obviously now I know the score. I think I can be good for him, and I won’t let him hurt me.”
Loren set his beer down on the coffee table and took Kai’s from his hand, putting it down next to his. “I know this will fall on deaf ears because you really can’t seem to help yourself, but you don’t have to save the world, Kai. You don’t have to be his little experiment boy.”
Kai sighed and leaned his head on Loren’s shoulder. “It’s not just that. I really like him, Loren. I don’t know why, exactly, but I do.”
“I know why. Because you want to fuck him,” Loren said.
Kai didn’t answer, and Loren heaved a sigh of his own. “Okay, have fun with that. Get laid, have a great time. But if he breaks your heart, so help me, I’ll break his goddamn face.”
Loren’s voice was fierce, deadly serious, and affection for him clogged Kai’s throat for a minute, making his own voice hoarse as he replied, “I know you will, man.” A short silence fell and then Kai asked, “Don’t you ever get tired of putting my broken pieces back together?”
Loren put an arm around him and hugged him close, kissing the top of his head. “Never,” he vowed in a whisper, then shoved Kai away and lunged for the remote, laughing at Kai’s curses, both of them letting the emotional tension relax into the comfort of easy friendship.

As a military brat and now a military spouse, building lasting friendships have been an ongoing challenge for me my entire life. My childhood and high school years were filled with transfers, both my family’s and my military friends’ families. Sadly, I’m not in touch with anyone from back then, even with the advent of social media.
During my 15 years as a Navy spouse, in each of our duty stations I’ve found that other military spouses hesitate to make friends with each other, because we’re eventually going to leave anyway. Oh, we’re friendly enough and we have our kids in common, but there’s nothing lasting about it. I think that’s partly why I’m fascinated with the idea of exploring close friendship in my stories.

More recently my online friends have become precious to me, because I can “take” them with me everywhere I move to. In fact, when we face another Permanent Change of Station within the next several months, and it’s such a relief to know that I don’t have to worry about losing touch with “my girls.” They’re always a tweet or a FB message away!

 

*Giveaway*

I’d love to hear about your experiences with friendship, the longest-lasting one you’ve had and why you’re so close. Please share in the comments! 2 lucky winners will be given a $10 Dreamspinner Press gift cards!

 

meljhansen@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/MelJoyAZ

http://www.melaniejhansen.com/

Signs of Life at Dreamspinner Press

SignsofLifeFS

Beautiful Thunder by Louise Lyons – giveaway

August 31, 2015

Hi everyone, Louise here. I’m giving away one eBook from my backlist to one lucky winner!

You’ve all heard a little about my new release, Beautiful Thunder, on the previous two posts. Alex and Lindsey, a singer and guitarist in a struggling rock band in the 1990s, fall in love despite many obstacles, including fears of commitment, a health scare, trust issues and difficulties in the band.

What difficulties have you overcome to be with the one you love? Everyone who comments on this post to answer the question, will go into a random draw to choose one of my previous eBooks.

The books available to choose from are:-

Conflicted

Cover art finalisedTwo competing gangs of car and drag racing enthusiasts with a shared history of pain and rivalry leading to outright hatred. Two men from opposite sides of the tracks, yet with more in common than they’d like to admit.

Paul Appleton is a troubled man who has never been in a relationship, having lost everyone he cared for in his life. His mother died when he was very young and subsequently, he lost his brother and his best friend. Now Paul is convinced love will always end in tears.

Greg was living on the streets after his parents died and was stabbed by a junkie, ending up in hospital. The Buchanans took Greg under their wing while doing charity work, and Greg joined their loving family when he was adopted. He and his siblings are also car enthusiasts with much more money and therefore better cars than Paul Appleton’s gang.

When they eventually find a connection, Paul fights his feelings and tries to convince himself his lover is only a temporary bit of fun, but Greg has other ideas.

The Eye of the Beholder

Final cover artVince Voss is obsessed with physical beauty. Influenced by his aunt, with whom he runs a modeling business, he has become unfeeling and cruel. Vince’s mother, who was a witch in life, returns to show him a better way to live. She casts a spell to take away his good looks and he finds himself challenged with searching for someone to love him, without the use of physical attraction.

Vince eventually meets a lonely male vampire, Peter, and despite his reluctance to get involved with him, he decides to use Peter to help him lift the spell. Little does he know that at first, Peter is using him too, and he finally realizes what’s really important when he falls for Peter along the way.

Beyond The Scars

Beyond the Scars final coverAfter years of physical and mental abuse, Tommy Chadwick finally finds the strength to leave Colin, his tormentor. But Tommy soon finds that escaping his violent boyfriend was only the first step on his path to recovery. Now he must overcome feelings of worthlessness in order to rebuild his battered self-esteem.

Tommy’s lack of self-confidence prevents him from going out… at first, but then has him ricocheting from one man to another, desperately trying to please them in his search for love and acceptance.

After being rejected on New Year’s Eve, and then beaten after leaving the gay bar, he agrees to accompany his best friend, Sarah, to a martial arts club. There Tommy meets Marcus, a strong older man, who at first becomes his friend, introducing Tommy to new interests, and later, tentatively asks him on a date.

Will Marcus be the man to help Tommy put his past behind him and fall in love for real?