What is Control? w/ Leigh Carman + Excerpt

July 7, 2017

What is Control

 

 

Hello Dreamreaders! I’m Leigh Carman and I’m here to discuss the release of Two-Man Advantage, book 3 in the Players of LA series. Two-Man Advantage is the story of a hockey player named Viktor Novak, a self-destructive young man who for reasons you find out in the book, cannot stop his life from spiraling out of control. Viktor is reckless, immature, and prone to violent outbursts.

That’s when Bowen Miller steps in. Bo is the absolute epitome of control. The cocky PR specialist operates under the mistaken belief he can teach Viktor a thing or two about self-discipline, and the ability to clamp down on his emotions, successfully bringing the guy to heel. Bo finds out how wrong he is.

Now that I gave you some background on the MC’s, it’s clear that in Two-Man Advantage, I put one man who is way, way out of control, up against an obsessive-compulsive control freak. Reckless vs. cautious. Spur of the moment vs. planned out to the nth degree. Of course, these differences lead Vik and Bo to butt heads constantly, the friction between personalities sending tempers exploding with every interaction. But it’s possible Vik and Bo’s relationship goes deeper than two polar opposites who rub each other the wrong way. Perhaps their constant bickering is a sign that there’s more going on in Vik and Bo’s minds than visible at first glance. The back and forth, the men playing off each other, delving into both men’s histories to carve out each individual persona is what drove me as an author. I have to admit I loved writing these two highly emotional, temperamental, and stubborn men.

After I pinned down traits for each character along with the reasons behind them, I had to shape Vik and Bo’s relationship with each other. To do this, I researched a lifestyle called Power Exchange. For those of you who don’t know, a Power Exchange is a facet of BDSM in which one person gives up total control—a.k.a. the submissive—trusting their partner to make every decision, thus caring for their needs. The partner in control—or dominant—has the responsibility of ensuring the submissive is happy, healthy, and fulfilled. A Power Exchange can be a full-time lifestyle, or something that only comes up in certain situations, such as in the bedroom.

What I found interesting was the more I read, the more realistic the dynamic between Vik and Bo became. Except despite the research, I still had questions. Who would be the one to take control? The man who plans out every action and word in advance, or the man who struggles to get a grip on his flying-off-the-handle temperament?

Does the rigid control freak in Bo extend to every part of his life, including dominating any action in the bedroom? Or is it possible that Bo is exhausted. Weary from having to make every single decision down to the smallest minutiae, on a day-to-day basis. Maybe Bo needs a minute, an hour, a night, to let go and allow someone to see the cracks in the façade. To stop doing so much thinking, even if only for a brief respite.

Or is it Viktor who steps up to the plate? Is it possible for the guy who feels as though he has no say over anything that happens in his life, in both his career and personal interactions, to find safety within the walls of his bedroom? Is sex the one and only facet Vik actually can control, whereas he’s a passenger in every other aspect of his life?

For me, it could go either way, but it was fun figuring it out. To find out who dominates who, you’ll have to read Two-Man Advantage. Here’s a brief excerpt to introduce you to the guys.

 

Check out Two-Man Advantage today!

 

TwoManAdvantage_postcard_front_DSP

 

Blurb:

A hockey star skating on the edge of a catastrophe.

A PR specialist so adept, he’s called “the Fixer.”

Working together will be the biggest challenge of both their careers.

The LA Vikings hockey team is fed up the violent outbursts of its huge, intimidating enforcer, Viktor Novak. Hounded by a homophobic and domineering father, Viktor takes out his frustrations by spilling blood—on and off the ice. Now he has one last chance to clean up his image, or his career is over.

That’s where Bowen Miller comes in.

Bo has taken on the hardest cases and succeeded—by micromanaging every aspect of a client’s life—at the expense of his own happiness. But in the stubborn, hot mess that is Viktor, Bo might have met his match—both in and out of the bedroom. One man is out of control, and one controls everything. But when sex and attraction come into play, those roles are open to negotiation.

 

 

Excerpt- Bo and Vik meet

Bo

After speaking with Dom then meeting with upper management about working with the Vikings to clean up Viktor Novak and his explosive personality, I spend the rest of the weekend doing research on my new client. More research than strictly necessary for this type of job, but for some reason every time I try to close down my computer and walk away, I’m drawn right back in, addicted to skimming through photo after photo of Viktor Novak.

Hockey isn’t a sport I’m very familiar with as I’m not a fan, and this will be my first NHL client. I don’t know why, but I’m shocked to find out the rugged hockey player is flat-out physical perfection. No missing teeth or crooked nose, though Viktor does have the requisite scar slashing across one pale eyebrow.

According to his Vikings stats, the man is twenty-three years old, six foot three inches and two hundred pounds, with blond hair and blue eyes that pretty much confirm the Eastern European—or possibly Scandinavian—heritage that his surname suggests. As I stare, my mind begins to wander, and I can’t help but wonder if Viktor Novak is blond all over. Actually, from the looks of him, he probably doesn’t have much body hair.

Damn. I blink back the dirty thoughts, determined to get my mind on track. I need to figure out a plan, not fantasize about my client.

In 99 percent of the pictures I flicked through online, a deep frown furrows Viktor Novak’s strong, handsome face. Even in his team photo he’s wearing a menacing scowl. It’s as if the man doesn’t know how to smile. For such a young guy, he looks way older.

By the time I walk into the conference room of the Vikings’ home office at Brinks Arena Monday morning, I pretty much know what to expect. A grumpy, grimacing, angry blond hulk of a hockey player with a hair-trigger temper and a loud bark. When I enter the room, however, what I see instead shocks the hell out of me.

First, the man in the conference room isn’t merely big, he’s freaking enormous. Even with Viktor sitting down, I can tell he’s much, much larger than he appeared in any of the photographs. Second, not a single one of those hundreds of pictures did the man justice. At this moment, he doesn’t look scary, or even angry for that matter. No, what Viktor Novak does look like is drop-dead fucking gorgeous. The hockey player in front of me is so good-looking, his physical presence so overwhelming, I can’t bring myself to look directly at him for fear I’ll either spontaneously combust or come in my dress slacks like a horny kid.

To avoid embarrassment and maintain control of the situation, I keep my eyes low, my jaw clenched, and force myself to focus on the task at hand. Anything to keep from staring at the stunning man who is no doubt watching my every move with his sharp, calculating gaze. I’m sure if I were to glance over and make eye contact, I wouldn’t be able to hide the fact I’m undressing him in my mind.

My sudden inability to speak or look at him must piss Viktor off, because he threatens to leave.

“If you’re not going to talk to me, or even look at me, I see no point in being here. I’m a busy guy and don’t have time for bullshit games, so, I guess I’ll see you later.” His voice is low and menacing. Husky and over-the-top sexy, just as I imagined. It vibrates straight to my groin, sending a rush of heat down my spine and into my cock.

Jesus, get ahold of yourself, Miller, and act like a professional, not some simpering virgin.

Unfortunately, the method I choose to deal with my inappropriate attraction to my new client overrides common sense. My need to seize back control of my body and the awkward situation has the first words out of my mouth making me sound like a massive douche.

I stare at the attractive man, my fingers curling into the polished wood of the table to maintain restraint and keep my dick under control. “I suggest you stay exactly where you are, Mr. Novak. If you want to keep your job, that is.”

The big man jerks back in surprise. “Now you’re going to speak?”

Afraid I’ll say something laced with innuendo—instead of apologizing or remaining calm—I continue acting like a flaming jackass, poking the beehive with a pointy stick. “I’ll speak when I’m ready, and you’ll listen. That’s how this works. You make messes, and I clean them up.”

The inexplicable need to get closer to the shocked man has me thinking with the wrong head. Even as dangerous and hostile as Viktor appears, I circle the conference table, drawn to the hockey player like a moth to a flame. Once I’m close—too close—I lean over his chair in a show of dominance. Big mistake. For the first time in my life, it backfires on me. When I inhale, Viktor’s raw, masculine scent clogs my nostrils, hitting me hard. The potent scent sends a dizzying sensation from my brain straight to my dick. When he turns his head to scowl at me, I catch a whiff of… sour apple?

As I wonder what that apple scent is, Viktor shoots me a deadly glare, his upper lip curled back to expose perfect white teeth. Viktor’s blue eyes spark with…. What? Lust? No way. Fury. It must be fury. A man like Viktor Novak doesn’t appreciate being put in his place.

So what do I do? Do I back off and put some space between us like any normal human being with any sense of their own safety would do? No, I choose to lean in even closer toward the dangerous man, watching with rapt interest as the hockey player’s cheeks turn red.

“So, do you understand why we’re here?”

Viktor nods, shifting in his chair uncomfortably. I glance down and note his big hands are balled up, clenched tight in his lap. That’s my cue to get out of his face before he lands one of those enormous fists on my chin.

“Good.” Now that he knows who’s in charge, I step back and extend my right hand. “I’m Bowen Miller. Call me Bo.”

 

About the Author:

Leigh Carman is the pen name for the M/M romances written by bestselling Contemporary romance writer, Heather C. Leigh.

She lived outside Atlanta for 15 years and recently moved to Houston with her husband, 2 kids, and French bulldog.

She is leaving explicit directions in her will for her friends to discreetly scatter her ashes around Fenway Park. Then they are to sit back, watch a game with a beer and a Fenway frank and have a wicked good time.

Summertime Fun w/ Sean Michael + Giveaway

July 5, 2017

Summertime Fun

 

Hello, Dreamspinners!

It’s summertime! If you know me already, you probably know that summer is not my favorite season. It is however when Making a Splash takes place. Austin is showing off for his friends at the public pool and diving when Vince discovers him.

Going to the pool is a great summer activity. I prefer the country and a lake to the city and a pool – the chlorine irritates my eyes and skin. And I prefer the breeze off the lake, which is usually lacking at a city pool.

Other summer activities I enjoy are evening walks because it’s cooler when the sun begins to go down. Picnics if there’s shade. And sitting inside with the air conditioner cranked high!

What’s your favorite summertime activity? One responder will win a copy of Making a Splash.

 

Sean Michael
smut fixes everything

 

Check out Making a Splash today!

 

MakingaSplash_postcard_front_DSP

 

Dreamspinner Press
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Blurb:

After a scandal of Olympic proportions, Vince Dawson lost his job as a diving coach and is on a downhill slide. So when he sees Austin Brody at a local pool, diving like a trained athlete, he thinks he’s found his ticket back to the big leagues.

Austin thinks Vince is crazy for wanting him to dive competitively. He dives for beer and smokes, while working double shifts as a welder. Still, he’ll give training with Vince a shot.

But Austin isn’t willing to let Vince rule his life, and Vince—used to hopeful young athletes folding under pressure from him—finds Austin baffling… and hot. Even if they can work together and become more than friends, they still have a long way to go before they’ll be ready to compete.

 

Excerpt:

Vince took it, the kid’s hand cool and damp, the sensation familiar. How many times had he hauled a diver up out of the water? Too many to count. Vince gritted his teeth and didn’t linger on the handshake, stepping back to find his perfect dive-watching spot again.

Austin swarmed right up the ladder, waved. Then the little fucker did Louganis’s reverse two and a half somersault in the pike position. The entry was shit this time, but still.

Fuck him.

He had a hunch dinner was going to cost him his last dime, but, damn it, it would be money well spent if he could convince Austin he had to start competing. The assholes on the national team would shit bricks if he showed up at the next meet with this diver in tow.

He pushed his way back to the edge of the pool, there when Austin hauled himself up out of the pool. “Your entry was crap.”

“You still owe me a steak.”

“I do.” He nodded toward the street. “You wanting that now?”

“Sure. Let me go get my jeans on and shit. Oh. I’m Austin Brody. Pleased.”

“Vince Dawson. I’ll wait outside the gate for you.” He could have a cigarette and work on his pitch.

He got one and a half smoked before Austin came sauntering out of the showers, dressed in a black T-shirt and a pair of jeans, straw hat on his head. The kid lit up a cigarette on the way over, nodding to him and grinning. “Hey. Wasn’t sure you’d hang out.”

He shook his head. “I’m a man of my word.” Not to mention that every second made him want to coach this kid more. He hadn’t seen a natural diver like this since he was a kid himself. “So where do you like your steak?”

“There’s a steakhouse down the road. My aunt Jenny’s a waitress there and can get us the rolls right out of the oven.”

He gave Austin a smile. “Sounds good. I like warm buns.”

The kid hooted, blew out a big puff of smoke. “Oh, you’re clever. I like it.”

“You shouldn’t smoke, you know. Those things’ll kill you.” He pointed to his red Dodge truck, then headed toward it as he took another puff on his own cigarette.

“Gotta die of something. Nice ride.”

 

Bio:

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

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

Sean Michael on the web:

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

Slim Chance: Toxic Thoughts w/ Jeff Erno + Giveaway

June 30, 2017

toxic thoughts

 

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

 

Can We Overcome Our Toxic Thoughts?

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

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

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

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

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

Reading them is like looking into a mirror.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

* * * *

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

Trust Me_lowres

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

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

WEDANCED_JEFFERNO_FINAL

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

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

dumbjock

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

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

 

Check out Slim Chance today!

SlimChance_postcard_front_DSP

 

Blurb: 

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

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

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

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

self2015

Author Bio:

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

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

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

 

Backlist Giveaway

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

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

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

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

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

Family Love w/ Tray Ellis

June 28, 2017

Family Love

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

~*~

 

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

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

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

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

 

~*~

Excerpt:

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

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

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

Ruth let go. “Do you see it now?”

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

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

 

~*~

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

 

Check out Pyresnakes today!

~*~

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

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

Too Many Temples: Bali Meets Australia w/ Erik Swill

June 28, 2017

bali meets australia

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Erik Swill

Check out Too Many Temples today!

 

TooManyTemples_postcard_front_DSP

Dreamspinner Press
Amazon

 

Blurb:

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

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

 

Author Bio:

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

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

 

Excerpt:

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

“So it is better to avoid it completely.”

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

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

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

 

 

Together or Separate w/ Sean Michael

June 27, 2017

Together or Separate-

 

 

Hello, Dreamspinners ☺

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sean Michael

smut fixes everything

 

Check out The Dom’s Way today!

 
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Dreamspinner Press eBook
Dreamspinner Press Paperback
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Kobo

 

Blurb:

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

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

 

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Scared for me?”

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

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

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

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

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

 

Bio:

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

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

Sean Michael on the web:

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

Falling in Love by BA Tortuga

June 22, 2017

falling in love

 

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

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

But.

What I want to talk about is falling in love.

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

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

Our Wedding Anniversary.

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

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

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

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

Me? I say look at my wife.

Look at my beautiful wife.

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

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

Much love, y’all.

BA

Check out What the Cat Dragged In today!

 

WhattheCatDraggedIn_postcard_front_DSP

Dreamspinner Press
Amazon

 

Blurb:

A Sanctuary Novel

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

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

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

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

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

 

About BA Tortuga:

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

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

 

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

June 20, 2017

Historical & Paranormal Shenanigans

 

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

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

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

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

 

____________________________________________________

 

 

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

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

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

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

Check out Patron today!

 

Patron_postcard_front_DSP

About C.B. Lewis:

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

http://cb-lewis.tumblr.com/
https://www.facebook.com/CB-Lewis-369293759939573/

 

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

June 9, 2017

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

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

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

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

“Foreign” baking terms translated:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SunsetAtPencarrow 200x300
 
Description:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Fuck! Earthquake,” Nate said.

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

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

“Are you all right?” he asked.

“Yeah. Dandy.”

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

Dreamspinner Press
Amazon
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And don’t forget to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

June 8, 2017

mood music

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Check out Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch today!

 

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Blurb:

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

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

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

 

Author photo

 About the Author:

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

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