Celebrating Chanukah w/ Avery Duran + Giveaway

December 12, 2017

Celebrating Chanukah

 

Thank you so much to Dreamspinner Press for hosting me today to talk about my novella, Ahava is Love. Ahava is Love came out this summer, but the majority of the book takes place during Chanukah, and the themes of the holiday – faith, miracles, and resilience – run through the story.

I thought it would be fun to celebrate with a Chanukah blog party. Since no celebration is complete without food, conversation, and gifts, I’ll spend the rest of the holiday visiting different blogs to share recipes, stories, excerpts, and a great giveaway. Tonight is the first night of Chanukah, and I hope you’ll join me for the rest of the holiday!

In the fall of 2000, I lived and worked in Brooklyn, NY. I loved my job and was enjoying the city life, yet I felt like something was missing.  I just couldn’t put my finger on what it was. In a real life plot twist, I was speaking to a friend about my need to shake up my life, on the same day she had just spoken to someone who mentioned they were interviewing for American group leaders for a 10-day trip to Israel. She suggested I apply; I took her advice, and I got the job.

On December 25th, 2000 (my 31st birthday), not knowing any of my fellow voyagers, I boarded a plane to Israel. I spent the next 10 days traveling with a group of young adults. Being in a land with such history, making new friends with diverse backgrounds, seeing members of my family who had settled there, celebrating Chanukah while in Israel, all added up to one life changing experience. For me, it was not about romance, I did not find love or a happily ever after with someone else—but I did find myself, and I came home much more comfortable in my own skin.

When I was thinking of writing for the World of Love line, I was intrigued by the concept of taking my own adventure to the next level. What would happen if one of the group leaders fell in love with another? Layering romance (and sexytimes) on top of such a meaningful experience would be so powerful. Same sex leaders share a room, so if there is a mutual attraction, resistance can be futile – and frustrating!

I loved writing this book, using my journals, pictures, imagination, and a whole lot of research to create Josh and Yaron’s world. Josh is frustrated with where his life is going and hopes a change of scenery will help him find his way. To that end, he accepts a position as a group leader for a tour of Israel. He meets Yaron, the Israeli security guard for the group, who lost his boyfriend in a terrorist attack a few years earlier. Yaron now lives his life without strings, looking for the next good time. Their chemistry is off the charts, but they are in different places – both emotionally and physically. Making a relationship work between them would really take a miracle.

Thanks for taking the time to get to know a little about me and my writing process. I will be sharing more over the coming days, so please join me when I visit the below blogs. They have been kind enough to host me to celebrate Chanukah with Ahava is Love!

Ahava is LoveAhava is the Hebrew word for love, I think you’ll enjoy falling in love with Josh, Yaron – and Israel!

Check out Ahava is Love today!

 

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Blurb:

Brooklyn Realtor Josh Perlman desperately wants to settle down. Unfortunately he can’t find a man who wants the same. Tired of disastrous dates, he travels to explore his heritage.

Yaron is an Israeli security guard and medic charged with looking after Josh and his pilgrimage group. For Yaron, the need to protect has become more a duty than an honor since he lost his long-term boyfriend to a terrorist attack—a loss that continues to haunt him.

As they embark on their journey through the Holy Land, it’s hard to deny the attraction that sparks between Josh and Yaron. Yet with America calling Josh home, and Israel, and the death of his lover holding Yaron prisoner, it seems only a miracle can keep them together.

But Israel is an ancient land, one that has seen miracles before. Surrounded by structures that have been destroyed and rebuilt time after time, Josh and Yaron might just learn that their futures can be found in the wisdom of the past.

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

 

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About the Author:

Parent Association President by day, Romance Author by night, Avery Duran enjoys the best of all worlds. She’s a minivan-driving, cupcake-baking, soccer mom, who works outside the home while raising three rambunctious boys. Easily distracted by shiny things, Avery found making up stories in her head was an effective way to fool people into thinking she was paying attention. Eventually she decided to write down one of those stories, and her alter-ego was born.

She’s always been a voracious reader, Avery’s mother still brings up the time her school called because she refused to stop reading during math class. Avery is pleased to confirm that she has managed just fine without whatever important math lesson was being taught that day.

A native New Yorker, she often incorporates her favorite city into what she writes. During the day, while driving, watching endless YouTube videos, or animated shows with her offspring, she plots her stories. At night, when her husband and children go to sleep, Avery sits in a quiet house and puts those words on paper. She loves spending her down time creating a world filled with people loving and laughing their way to happily-ever-after.

She’d really love to hear from you!

Author Social Media Links

Website & Blog:  http://www.averyduran.com/ Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Avery-Duran/e/B018RE20I0 Facebook https://www.facebook.com/the.avery.duran Twitter:  https://twitter.com/TheAveryDuran Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/averyduran18/ Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/averyduran0234/ Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14742913.Avery_Duran BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/avery-duran

 

Giveaway

Win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

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PLUS, enter to win a $5 Dreamspinner Gift Card. Simply tell us what one of your favorite adventures has been in the comments and you’ll be entered!

 

Other Tour Hosts

Dec 13: V’s Reads
Dec 14: Pointedly Blunt Reviews
Dec 15: Samantha Macleod
Dec 16: Ebs and Her Reads
Dec 17: Pick a Genre Already

What’s in a Name? By Kelly Jensen + Giveaway

November 22, 2017

What's in a Name

 

Sometimes I have a name without a story, and sometimes I have a story without a name. Counting Fence Posts remained unnamed until my second revision round when Henry’s habit of counting things popped out of the first paragraph. I loved the idea of naming the book after one of Henry’s quirks, and as I developed this story into a series, the theme of counting naturally followed.

Counting Down had a name before I sat down to write. With the story occurring on New Year’s Eve, this title came easily. I also enjoyed working the counting motif into the story from Marc’s point of view. Henry is the one who counts things, but Marc ends up imagining a ghostly clock counting down the hours to midnight—until he gets distracted by laundry sex.

Counting on You, the third and final novella in this series, was originally going to be called “Counting Out.” I planned the story as Marc’s coming out and had in mind a line where either Marc or Henry said something like, “Don’t count me out.” I often carry around snippets of dialogue I’d like to use in a story. Fun fact: I rarely use them in my final drafts. While I do use an outline, my stories are quite organic and often grow away from what I planned.

It wasn’t until I got near the end of this last novella that the title happened. It came out of another line of dialogue that was in the same conversation I had planned. Marc tells Henry, “I was counting on you…” and there it was, my title. I really love this one because it not only wraps the series, but perfectly encapsulates the emotional arc of this particular novella. This one is the big test and the answer to the question of whether these two have what it takes to not only have a real relationship, but one that works.

So what about my characters’ names? I often put a lot of thought into these, including researching the meaning and etymology to make sure what I’ve picked really fits. As with my titles, I often have a name before I have a story. Sometimes I have a story with no names. Just guy one and guy two. In Out in the Blue, my first novella with Dreamspinner Press, Jared and Fin wore each other’s names all through the first draft. They never quite fit, though, and when it came time to start revising, I switched the names and everything fell into place.

Henry is one of my favourite names. (It’s not weird to have favourites!) I have a list of these and I’m a bit funny about using them because once they’re out there, in the world, they’re done. I can only write one Henry and this is him. This particular usage pleases me very much because Henry is such a personal character. This story started with him and his quirks!

Marc named himself. I have this happen quite often as well—especially when I’m writing from a single point of view and haven’t really given a lot of consideration to the other main character. I know from experience that they’ll let me know who they are as the story progresses and it’s not unusual for me to flesh out their character history after I’m done with my first draft.

HENRY MARC

I don’t generally base characters on people I know. Marc’s last name is similar to that of a friend I had in college, however, and I chose it because I greatly admired this friend. He had the same drive I’ve written into Marc. In his sophomore year, he broke his neck in a diving accident and lost the use of his right hand. As a graphic artist, this could have meant the end of his studies and career—but it wasn’t. My friend learned to draw with his other hand and to this day is successful at what he does. Marc is my tribute to him.

If you’ve been following along with Henry and Marc’s journey, I hope you enjoy this last novella and their happy ever after. (It’s not a spoiler to tell you that’s how it ends. I’m a romance writer, after all.) If you’ve yet to start, this is a great time to do so as the first two novellas are currently discounted at all retailers, including the Dreamspinner Press store!

Thanks for following my tour! At the end of every post, I’ll be asking a question. Leave a comment with your answer (and your email address), and complete the Rafflecopter to enter! There are two prizes, both available internationally. One winner will receive $15 (US or equivalent) to spend at the Dreamspinner Press store. A second winner will receive the entire Counting series in ebook format, gifted through the Dreamspinner Press store.

Q: Do you have a favourite name? (If so, please share!)

 

Check out Counting on You today!

 

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Blurb:

Henry and Marc can’t seem to catch a break. They’ve had two disastrous dates—the first trapped in a car during a blizzard and the second locked in a basement—followed by nearly two months apart. Even though they work for the same firm, their relationship is held together by flying visits, phone calls, and text messages. A joint assignment in Washington D.C. might be more togetherness than they can handle, however.

Henry is still battling insecurity, and this assignment is too important to his career to mess up. Marc is committed. He’s falling for Henry and looks forward to having him permanently on his team and at his side. But the real test isn’t the assignment. When Marc finally lays his heart on the line, can he count on Henry to be there for him, in every way that matters? And can he do the same for Henry when Henry needs it the most?

Amazon | Amazon UK | B&N | Kobo | iBooks | Dreamspinner Press

 

Author Bio:

If aliens ever do land on Earth, Kelly will not be prepared, despite having read over a hundred stories of the apocalypse. Still, she will pack her precious books into a box and carry them with her as she strives to survive. It’s what bibliophiles do.

Kelly is the author of a number of novels, novellas and short stories, including the Chaos Station series, co-written with Jenn Burke. Some of what she writes is speculative in nature, but mostly it’s just about a guy losing his socks and/or burning dinner. Because life isn’t all conquering aliens and mountain peaks. Sometimes finding a happy ever after is all the adventure we need.

Connect with Kelly: Twitter | Facebook | Website

 

Follow the Tour!

11/22 Dreamspinner Press Blog
11/27 We Three Queens
11/28 Love Bytes
11/28 TTC Books and More
11/29 The Novel Approach
11/29 Boy Meets Boy Reviews
11/29 Scattered Thoughts
11/30 Joyfully Jay
11/30 Bayou Book Junkie
12/1 Diverse Reader

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Felicitas Ivey’s Book Collection + Giveaway

November 21, 2017

Book Collection

 

I love physical books. The smell, the weight, the feel of them. New or old books. I’ve had a lot of fun wandering through used bookstores over the years. I’ve found some amazing books that way, books that have been long out of print or on odd topics like the evolution of the British Country house. I don’t hit the newer bookstores because most of my pleasure reading is in ebook form currently. I wander through a new bookstore once in a while, but there isn’t one I can get to easily. And they don’t have the variety a used bookstore has. Book buying is a lot more fun to me than clothes shopping. It also doesn’t help I have a friend who works at a publishing house and occasionally brings home books from work which end up at my house also.

My house became overrun with books, since the house was a lending library for my circle of friends. This was before the ebook revolution, when dead tree books were passed to other people when you were done reading it, so the other person could also enjoy said book. And then there were intense discussions about plot, characterization and other things over dinners or other gatherings. Also a book could be used to prop up your laptop when it overheated and read in the bathtub with very little worry.

My second husband, Mark, used to read real fast and devoured books. Mark lived in a small apartment with his family, so there wasn’t a lot of room for books. And the books usually ended up in my house, because my first husband and I would read them last, after everyone else did, and then they would never leave. And it’s not a very big house either.

Because of the sheer volume of books involved, plus all the books I’ve bought on my own over the decades, there are books all over my house. There isn’t a room in my house that doesn’t have some sort of book collection in it.

I have a couple of bookcases in my bedroom, filled with mostly non-fiction books, mostly military histories (I’m addicted to Osprey Press books!), fashion books and occult books. Plus a small part of my Lovecraft collection. Not only his work, but all the additions and variations of it, like Sherlock Holmes Lovecraft or 50s Pulp Horror Lovecraft.

I’ve wedged in a small bookcase for my cookbooks in the kitchen corridor. I have a lot of baking books, specialty cookbooks like spicy or ethnic cooking or how to eat like an Ancient Egyptian or Roman, as well as cookbooks from the fifties and sixties. I don’t cook a lot of different things, I just seem to collect cookbooks. Also cooking for one is difficult, but none of my books seem to think anyone lives alone. I always end up with leftovers. That isn’t too bad of a thing, because I bring them to lunch at work. But I do get tired of eating the same thing for several days in row.

My study, which used to be the spare bedroom, has more books: languages, Japanese literature and histories, my malexmale romances and the odd book. Since I work at a university, I was able to take courses over the years, all which added to the book collection. I’ve mostly taken language, literature and art history courses through work. That and I was a history major in college, so I have a lot of books from that too.

The library proper has all the paperback and hardcover fiction, some more histories and the gaming book collection. I’d been a gamer for a couple of decades and have books for several systems, like RollMaster, Paranoia and Steve Jackson’s GURPS. Some of those books are really useful for novel ideas. I don’t game anymore because it’s hard to find the time or a good group. Writing takes up a lot of my time.

The TV room’s mostly the out-of-control DVD/Blu Ray collection, since I don’t have cable or internet in my house, so if I want to watch something that isn’t on television, I have to pop in a disk. I also like having a physical copy of what I want to watch, since you never know when it’s going to disappear. You also can find things you wouldn’t if you’re streaming it. I’m very fond of my Cantonese/English laserdisc of ‘Aristocats’. You haven’t lived until you hear “Ev’rybody Wants To Be A Cat” sung in Cantonese with a French accent.

Some of my library is also in the TV, mainly my hoard of knitting books, along with some stray hardcover novels. I have a lot of knitting books, because I nab the ones I like when I can, because they go out of print too fast.

In the living room are all the books that didn’t fit anyplace else are going to line the wall. I have about 20 boxes of books in storage, a legacy of my second husband, Mark, which I’m slowly transferring to my house from storage. There are about fifteen boxes of books I still have to deal with.

I have had several decades of collecting by now, so the hoard is a little out of hand. But I never seem to get the time or have the interest to cull through the collection to get it down to a manageable size.  I know there’s probably a lot of doubles to deal with. There’s always so much else to do so I haven’t been able to cull the collection. What has helped is an app on my iPhone, Libib which is helping me catalog the books and DVDs in my house, by just scanning the ISBN. It’s a timesaver and can be exported to a spreadsheet if you want to.

So books are your friends, even if they attempt to crowd you out of your house!

Giveaway:

I’m doing a raffle for my new book.  A winner will be chosen on November 28, 2017. The winner will be chosen at random from all those who enter.

The winner gets the following: A paperback of my new book “The Secret of the Sheikh’s Betrothed”, a paperback of my first novel, “Dreamlands”, a tote bag with “The Secret of the Sheikh’s Betrothed” cover art. A second tote randomly chosen from my stash of tote bags with another one of my book’s cover art on it. Both are good for groceries, books or anything else you need a bag for.  And three hand knit dish towels. Can double as hot plates also.

 

Check out The Secret of the Sheikh’s Betrothed today!

 

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Blurb:

Billionaire Fathi al-Murzim is a workaholic businessman, too busy running the family’s companies to even think about marriage. Too bad he never told his grandfather he’s gay, because Grandfather just announced a childhood betrothal—to a Bedouin girl Fathi never heard about before…

Ikraam din Abdel was raised as a woman by his avaricious and abusive older sister, who didn’t want him to be their father’s heir. He’d never thought to be married either, and is surprised when his sister informs him of his betrothal.

When Fathi and Ikraam meet, they are drawn to each other in a manner neither of them expected. As the plans for their wedding progress, they both realize they need to tell the other the truth. But can they, with both cultural taboos and family pressures to deal with.

 

Author Bio:

Felicitas is a frazzled help-desk tech at a university in Boston who wishes people wouldn’t argue with her when she’s troubleshooting what’s wrong with their computer. She lives with three cats who wish she would pay more attention to them, and not sit at a computer pounding on the keyboard. They get back at her by hogging most of the bed at night and demanding her attention during the rare times she watches TV or movies. She’s protected by her guardian stuffed Minotaur, Angenor, who was given to her by her husband, Mark. Angenor travels everywhere with her, because Felicitas’s family doesn’t think she should travel by her lonesome. They worry she gets distracted and lost too easily. Felicitas doesn’t think of it a getting lost, more like having an adventure with a frustrated GPS.

Felicitas knits and hoards yarn, firmly believing the one with the most yarn wins. She also is sitting on hordes of books, which still threaten to take over her house, even with e-books. Between writing and knitting, she brews beer, wine, mead, and flavored liqueurs. Felicitas also bakes, making cakes whenever she needs to work out an issue in her novels. Sometimes this leads to a lot of cakes. Her coworkers appreciate them though, with the student workers buzzing about on a sugar high most of the time.

Felicitas writes urban fantasy, steampunk, and horror of a Lovecraftian nature, with monsters beyond space and time that think that humans are the tastiest things in the multiverse. Occasionally there’s a romance or two involved in her writing, with a happily-ever-after.

Website: www.Felicitasivey.com
Facebook: felicitasivey
Twitter: @felicitasivey
Email: felicitas.ivey@gmail.com

 

 

Sweet Tooth by Kim Fielding + Giveaway

November 20, 2017

sweet tooth

 

I admit to quite a few vices. Some of them harm my bank account and lead to storage issues, like my book and footwear addictions. Others have the potential to impact my health—such as my terrible sweet tooth. I blame my forebears for that one. My ancestors came from Central and Eastern Europe, and I’ve learned during my travels in those places that a predilection for sweets is common. In most cities you can hardly go a block without encountering tempting bakeries or deliciously scented chocolate shops. And don’t even get me started on the gelato and ice cream….

Given my own vice, perhaps it’s no surprise that Peter, one of the main characters in Ante Up, has a taste for sweets. In fact, sugary stuff comprises most of his diet. (You’ll have to read the book to learn why!) It’s a bit of a contrast to the other protagonist’s meals: Ante is a vampire, so while Peter’s gobbling pie and candy, Ante is satisfied with some nice A-Pos. Especially if the blood in question is Peter’s. (Don’t worry—Ante is careful when he snacks on Peter.)

In Peter’s honor, I thought I’d share a somewhat unusual recipe for something sweet. This was my grandmother’s recipe—I have no idea if she invented it or got it from somewhere—and it’s one of my favorite comfort foods.

 

Rose’s Rice Pudding

1 cup raw rice
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup sugar
1 Tbsp butter
1 tsp almond extract
7/8 cup orange juice
1 cup raisins

Cook rice. To warm rice, add butter, eggs, vanilla, almond extract, OJ, sugar, and raisins. Mix. Spread in greased 9×13 baking pan. Bake at 325F for 40 minutes. Cut into squares. Can be eaten warm or cold.

What sweet do you have a weakness for? Comment with your favorites, and don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter below.

 

Check out Ante Up today!

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Blurb:

Love is a high-stakes game.

A century and a half ago, Ante Novak died on a Croatian battlefield—and rose three days later as a vampire. Now he haunts Las Vegas, stealing blood and money from drunken gamblers and staying on the fringe of the powerful vampire organization known as the Shadows. His existence feels empty and meaningless until he meets beautiful Peter Gehrardi, who can influence others with his thoughts.

An attraction flares instantly, bringing a semblance of life to Ante’s dead heart. But the Shadows want Peter too, and they’re willing to kill to get him. As Ante and Peter flee, they learn more about themselves and each other, and they discover that the world is a stranger place than either of them imagined. With enemies at their heels and old mistakes coming back to exact a price, how can Ante and Peter find sanctuary?

 

Author Bio:

Kim Fielding is the bestselling author of numerous m/m romance novels, novellas, and short stories. Like Kim herself, her work is eclectic, spanning genres such as contemporary, fantasy, paranormal, and historical. Her stories are set in alternate worlds, in 15th century Bosnia, in modern-day Oregon. Her heroes are hipster architect werewolves, housekeepers, maimed giants, and conflicted graduate students. They’re usually flawed, they often encounter terrible obstacles, but they always find love.

After having migrated back and forth across the western two-thirds of the United States, Kim calls the boring part of California home. She lives there with her husband, her two daughters, and her day job as a university professor, but escapes as often as possible via car, train, plane, or boat. This may explain why her characters often seem to be in transit as well. She dreams of traveling and writing full-time.

Follow Kim:

Website: http://www.kfieldingwrites.com/
Facebook: http://facebook.com/KFieldingWrites
Twitter: @KFieldingWrites
Email: Kim@KFieldingWrites.com
Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bau3S9
A complete list of Kim’s books: http://www.kfieldingwrites.com/kim-fieldings-books/

 

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Donovan and Ethan by Anne Barwell + Giveaway

November 14, 2017

Donovan & ethan

 

Thanks for hosting me today as part of my blog tour for One Word, the 3rd book in my Hidden Places series from Dreamspinner Press.  I have a Rafflecopter running as part of the tour so be sure to enter.

Although One Word is the third book in my Hidden Places series, it takes place during the last six weeks of the events in book one—Cat’s Quill.  One of the fun parts about that was writing a new relationship for a couple who were already together in a story that had been published a few years earlier.  Instead of describing what that was like as a writer, I figured it might be more interesting to invite Ethan and Donovan to talk about the experience from their perspective.

Silence.

The author clears her throat.  “Umm, guys, that means you.”

There is a muffled noise of clothing being rearranged, and a discreet cough, and then a room lined with books comes into view.  In one corner sits a rocking chair. The cat on it opens a lazy eye, glances at the two men, and then starts washing her paw.

“Bloody hell,” mutters a male voice with a distinct British accent. “What is it with the cats in this place?”

The camera pans the room before settling on two men sitting next to each other on a nearby sofa.  “Technical difficulties,” one of them says in an American accent. “Right, Ethan?”

Ethan rolls his eyes, and slips his hand into Donovan’s. “Yeah, that.”

“So…. ?“ the author prompts. She picks up the cat, settles her on her lap and then takes a sip of kawakawa tea.  “Floor is all yours. Pretend I’m not here.”

“I wish.”  Ethan sounds as though he would have said more, but Donovan squeezes his hand and whispers something into his ear.  Ethan clears his throat. “It’s wasn’t easy,” he finally admits.  “We’ve been together two years now, and although it brought up memories of when we first met, we’ve come a long way since then.”

“And been through a lot together,” Donovan smiles softly.  “I’ll always remember that first time I saw Ethan at the train station.  I thought he was hot then felt guilty as I didn’t think I should be hitting on someone who was worried about a missing friend.”

“I’ve always been rubbish at making friends, and I was still trying to put a… relationship behind me,” Ethan adds. “We took so many steps forward and then back during those few weeks. I was such an idiot.”

“If you were an idiot, then so was I.” Donovan bits his lip. “When I think about how close we came to—”

“Spoilers,” mutters the author, looking up from her tea.

“Says the person who wrote a story with a prologue set six months after the epilogue of the last book.” Ethan doesn’t sound impressed. “So yeah, if you want the truth, it was bloody difficult.  You put Donovan through all that crap again, and made him relive those nightmares. And not only that, you put me in a position when I couldn’t help him like I usually do. So don’t—”

“Ethan…” Donovan leans over and kisses Ethan gently on the cheek. “Sorry, we know how difficult it is to write something like this, and we appreciate the fact that you took the time to write our story. Don’t we, Ethan?”

“Yes.” Ethan pauses for a moment. “I must admit, I enjoyed reliving our first kiss. I’m looking forward to the rest of our future together too.” He glances at the author suspiciously.

She studies her tea. “A future together?  Hey, I’m a romance writer. Of course you’ll get a future together.”

Donovan glances at Ethan. “She’ll make us work for it though. But, whatever happens, we’ll get through it together. Right, Teach?”

“Right.”  Ethan looks over at the author, but she’s gone.  “I love you,” he murmurs to Donovan, pulling him close for a kiss.

“Love you too.”  Their lips meet and the screen fades to black.

 

Check out One Word today!

 

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Blurb:

A Hidden Places Story

Ethan Leavitt arrives in the idyllic village of Oakwood to search for a missing friend. Having always prided himself on his ability to find rational explanations, Ethan’s trust in concrete evidence and logic is tested by the mystery of Oakwood and Tomas’s disappearance.

Donovan Campbell’s happy, sometimes flippant, exterior hides a past he’d rather forget. As he struggles with his memories and to hold on to the inn he owns with his best friend, the last thing Donovan needs is for some guy he’s only just met to start getting under his skin. When a bank robbery escalates into a dangerous situation, Donovan must embrace a part of himself he can no longer ignore in order to save a future that might never have the chance to exist.

Ethan learns that often the person you’re looking for is not the one you find. But have he and Donovan both realized that too late…?

 

 

Excerpt:

“I’m so sorry, Jane,” Ethan said, “and I apologize for my insensitivity earlier. It was completely out of line.”

She managed a shaky smile. “Thank you for being understanding. Good afternoon, gentlemen. I guess it’s a good thing that I have the day off, isn’t it?”

“I’m sorry for kicking you,” Donovan said after she’d left.

“I can be an insensitive jerk at times. Lord knows, I’ve been told that often enough.”

“Not always. You’ve got a kind side to you too.”

Ethan’s concern for Jane had been real enough, as was his mortification that he’d been rude once he’d seen that she was upset.

“You say that like it’s a good thing.” Ethan retrieved his napkin from the side of his plate and wiped his mouth. “Sometimes it’s not, you know. People take advantage. Not that I’m saying she is, but….” He sighed. “Just forget it, okay.”

“Okay.” Donovan wondered who had hurt Ethan and recently. He’d seen enough to connect the dots. “Lots of assholes in this world, unfortunately.”

“And some decent people too. Oakwood’s been good for reminding me of that.”

“Are you sure you’re okay to come to London with me tomorrow?” Donovan couldn’t help but think that something in their conversation had triggered Ethan’s reaction. He’d said Mitchell and Vincent were good friends. Perhaps it was this acquaintance he’d mentioned? The one who had introduced him to them.

“I’m looking forward to it.” Ethan glanced at Donovan’s empty plate. “Have you had enough lunch?”

“Yes, thanks. I was hungrier than I realized.” Donovan finished the last of his beer.

“I went to see the owner of the Chronicle the other day, but he was too busy to talk and suggested we meet briefly today instead. I’m hoping, as he’s been working at the newspaper a while, he can tell me some old stories about Oakwood that didn’t end up in print. You’re welcome to come if you’d like.”

“Thanks for the offer, but I need to do some work at the inn this afternoon. We had to replace some weatherboards a few months ago, and I need to get them painted before winter.” Donovan wished he could have said yes, but Heidi was stressing about it. If he didn’t get onto it soon, she’d be out there doing it herself, and she did enough already. Part of their agreement in taking on the inn was that they split the workload between them, and Donovan made sure he pulled his weight. “You’re okay to find your own way back?”

“Yes, I’ll be fine. Thanks for asking.” Ethan pushed back his chair and walked over to the counter to pay for their meal. “I’ll see you later, at the inn.”

“Okay. Sounds good.” Donovan didn’t follow him immediately but instead stayed at the table watching Ethan at the counter. His hair curled up slightly at the back, his jacket falling to mid-ass, not quite covering it. He had a very nice ass.

Bet he kisses well too.

Oh fuck. Donovan closed his eyes for a moment. Where the hell had that thought come from? He was falling for the guy, wasn’t he—falling for a guy who wasn’t interested and would be walking out of his life in a couple of days.

Donovan heard footsteps walking away. He opened his eyes just in time to see Ethan disappear out the door. It was time to leave and bury himself in the work he needed to get done. He stood and headed for the door, giving Eoin and his friends a wave as he passed their table.

He hadn’t missed the money the three men had given Craig or the grins they all wore.

Donovan groaned. Great, that was all he needed. The pub door slammed as he stalked through it. Yep, they were running another betting pool all right.

It wasn’t his fault they were wasting their time. They’d find that out soon enough for themselves.

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

You can find the list of sites taking part in the blog tour here:

https://annebarwell.wordpress.com/blog-hops/

November 3 – Open Skye Book Reviews
November 6 – Book Reviews and More by Kathy
November 6 – Top to Bottom Reviews
November 6 – Two Men Are Better Than One
November 6 – Gay Book Promotions
November 7 – Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
November 8 – Happily Ever After Chapter
November 9 – Love Bytes Reviews
November 10 – Boy Meets Boy Reviews
November 10 – Nic Starr
November 13 – The Novel Approach Reviews
November 14 – Dreamspinner Press Blog
November 15 – Aisling Mancy

 

Bio:

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand.  She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.

In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth. She also hosts other authors, reviews for the GLBTQ Historical Site “Our Story” and Top2Bottom Reviews, and writes monthly blog posts for Authors Speak and Love Bytes.

Anne’s books have received honorable mentions four times and reached the finals three times in the Rainbow Awards.  She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical.

Website & Blog: http://annebarwell.wordpress.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/anne.barwell.1
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/sylvrebarwellhoffmann/
Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/115084832208481414034/posts
Instagram: https://instagram.com/anne.barwell
Twitter: https://twitter.com/annebarwell
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4862410.Anne_Barwell
Dreamspinner Press Author Page: https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/authors/anne-barwell-65
DSP Publications Author Page: https://www.dsppublications.com/authors/anne-barwell-49
Queeromance Ink Author Page: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/anne-barwell/
New Zealand Rainbow Romance Writers: https://www.facebook.com/groups/491382394538058/

 

The Cover Artist Made Me Write This Scene by Z. Allora

November 2, 2017

The Cover Artist Made Me Write This Scene

 

 

Greetings! I want to thank Dreamspinner Press for not only publishing The Librarian’s Rake but for allowing me to share this excerpt, and do a giveaway on their blog.                    

To celebrate the release of The Librarian’s Rake I’ll be giving away 3 e-books of Secured and Free, (Book #2 of Entwined Dreams) and a $20 gift card to Dreamspinner Press. Details below.

 

Truth be told I was rather a mess while picking The Librarian’s Rake’s cover. This is my first nondrawn book cover which makes sense because this is my first true (non-yaoified) contemporary romance. Combine that with the fact I have this obsessive need to capture a scene from my book on the cover and you can imagine how pleased the art department is with me… (No, thankfully they were VERY patient!).

I had originally hoped to capture Tristan (the librarian) and Phillip (the rake) pre-library sex. Like maybe Tristan pressed against one of the library bookshelves looking flustered and hot with Phillip ready to debauch him like a duke with the virgin governess of a bodice ripper. But none of the photo covers fit that imagine. Though they offered to rework it for me but I had already gotten attached to the current cover.

It captured the very moment Phillip realized maybe there was more to happy endings than just swallowing. It was at that second he let in the possibility of happily ever after. I knew the pivotal scene happened but I started the scene directly after the realization so the words were not on the page.

Soooooo, I added the moments the cover captured. The night before was BJ 101 and Phillip was still telling himself it was just sex… and then he peers over…

 

Here’s the excerpt for The Librarian’s Rake:

 

An adorable snore signaled that the intense snuggling had sent Tristan back to dreamland. When he rolled over in his sleep, Phillip followed and cuddled up to his back feeling… complete.

He lay there for a long time, listening to Tristan breathe. If Phillip were the romantic sort, he might even believe their hearts had synchronized. Instead he focused on trying to tame Tristan’s wild hair. Blowjob class did no one’s hairstyle any favors.

As Phillip finger-combed the sun-kissed strands, Tristan started making the cutest little sighs. The contented purrs continued, smashing through the crumbling walls around Phillip’s heart.

What was happening?

Phillip didn’t want to let go… even as part of him struggled with the need to escape what his heart craved. Maybe he could—

No! He needed to exit.

Pausing, he leaned over his sleeping beauty and pressed a kiss on Tristan’s cheek. Wait, his sleeping beauty?

Granted, he’d put that satisfied smile on Tristan’s face. But the pleased gratification was simply the result of a cock well sucked not of a relationship. Last night was simply a sexual tutorial. It was just sex.

Tristan wasn’t his.

Though why did everything about this amazing man make Phillip wish he could—

Time for a shower!

           He bypassed Tristan’s bathroom and opted for the guest bath—afterall he was just a visitor. He used the facilities, brushed his teeth, and took a quick shower.

It was ridiculous how a night of good orgasms could make him want…. Ha! What, Tristan sucked his cock and all of a sudden Phillip was looking to settle down? Did coming that hard make him lose track of reality and melt his common sense? Whatever! He needed to get a grip.

He tried to ignore it was the time he had been spending with Tris that made his feelings of lust and friendship morph into—

Shit! How did this happen? He needed to get the hell out of here.

Fuck! Where were his clothes? He not only wanted the barrier clothing would give him, but needed it.

Everything seemed too much.

He wrapped a towel around his waist, braced himself, and opened the door. Damn! His clothing from last night had been washed and folded and set outside the door, along with a plain blue T-shirt, giving him the choice so he didn’t have to wear a T-shirt proclaiming, “Save A Lollipop, Suck A Cock.”

Pulling on his underwear, he chuckled at what Tristan must have thought while washing his unmentionables. They were little more than a black pouch to hide his cock, with bands of rainbow elastic highlighting the availability of his ass.

Phillip wiggled into his jeans and did some knee bends to loosen them. He grabbed the two T-shirts and stared at them.

It was just a fucking T-shirt. However, one yelled fun and flirty, and the other said… I have a boyfriend.

“God, Tris! What the hell are you doing to me?”

How could this be happening? T-shirts didn’t talk! It was a goddamn shirt. He tugged his own on and stared in the mirror. Without product in his hair, he looked a bit of a mess. After a search under the sink, he found a sad can of generic mousse and did what he could.

He washed his hands and headed for the door. Catching his image in the mirror on the back of the door, he stopped. “Shit!” He ripped off his T-shirt and pulled on the other, resettled his hair, and ignored any implications the change in T-shirt meant. Folding his shirt neatly, he told himself he wanted to save it for the next time he went out.

 

Check out The Librarian’s Rake today!

 

LibrariansRake[The]_postcard_front_DSP

 

Blurb:

Opposites might attract, but is acting on that attraction wise?

Librarian Tristan Cooper can’t steer clear of sexy, motorcycle-riding bad boy Phillip—the man is hot—but Phillip is bound to and quiet, bookish Tristan boring, like all Tristan’s boyfriends. Tristan yearns to explore his wild side, the part of himself he’s only allowed into his fantasies, and maybe rakish Phillip is just what he needs to feel free.

Sexperienced hairdresser Phillip is more of a believer in happy endings than happily ever afters. Experience has taught him not to hope for more— until he meets sweet, vulnerable Tristan, who seems genuinely interested in his heart. But Phillip can’t trust enough to see himself as a man Tristan might want for more than a night.

With the help of a pair of matchmaking grandfathers, Tristan and Phillip might and the courage to step beyond their comfort zones and discover what has been missing from their lives….

 

To enter the giveaway by telling us who you are more like the librarian or the rake. Winners will be contacted Nov 8th.

 

Bio:

Z. Allora believes in happily ever afters for everyone. She met her own true love through the personals and has traveled to over thirty countries with him. She’s lived in Singapore, Israel and China. Now back home to the USA she’s an active member of PFLAG and a strong supporter of those on the rainbow in her community. She wants to promote understanding and acceptance through her actions and words. Writing rainbow romance allows her the opportunity to open hearts and change minds.

To contact Z. Allora:

E-mail: Z.AlloraHappyEndings@gmail.com
FACEBOOK:   Z Allora Allora
Website: www.zallorabooks.com
Twitter: @ZAllora
Blog: http://zallora.blogspot.com
Queer Romance Ink: www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/z-allora
Dreamspinner: www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/z-allora-637-a

A Tribute To Category Romance w/ Louisa Masters + Giveaway

September 28, 2017

Tribute to Category Romance

 

I’ve been reading category romance for a long time. For those of you not familiar with the term, I’m referring to Harlequin-style romances.

My first was actually my first ever “adult” romance novel. When I was eleven, spending the day at my grandparents’ house during the school holidays, I snuck it off the bookshelf. I’d been eyeing that book for months. I knew what it was, and I’d been dying to read it, but circumstances never played in my favor. For one thing, there was my brother. My grandmother, who couldn’t read English very well, might not have known exactly what that book was (it had been left behind by my mum when she moved out many years before), but my brother would have if he saw me reading it.

Finally, the day came. My brother was at a friend’s house, and I knew if I was careful, I could read the “grown-up love story.”

Mind you, this was a Mills&Boon from the seventies. It actually had nothing in it that was inappropriate for an eleven-year-old to read—certainly some of the other books I’d been reading, like Little Women, explored themes that were just as adult. The prose was so flowery that to this day, even having reread it as an adult, I’m not entirely certain if there was a kiss or not. But oh, the tension! I was too young and naïve to recognize it as sexual, but I knew it was something!

From then, I was hooked. Within the year I had expanded my contraband reading beyond the category romances I sneaked from Mum’s collection when she wasn’t paying attention, and was reading a wide range of romances, from pretty much every subgenre. But I’ve always had a soft spot for category romances. They do say you never forget your first!

So what was it that appealed so much? Many people deride category romance. Formulaic, they say. Completely predictable. In no way realistic.

They’re not wrong. But that’s what’s so wonderful about them! When you pick up a category romance, you have a guaranteed comfort read. There will be no sharp plot twists. There is no chance of a main character dying. And you are guaranteed a happy ending. There might be lots of dramatic angst along the way, soap opera style, but in the end, you know it will all be okay. For a little while, you can take a step out of your life to be swept away to a foreign land with a hot billionaire, or a sheikh. You can immerse yourself in a world where the nanny does end up with the hot dad, and there’s no harassment suit involved. Or the assistant with the boss… or the housekeeper with the lord of the manor. Or maybe just two ordinary people, but in an unfamiliar situation. Category romance removes the boundaries of reality while still presenting a familiar world.

If you’ve never read a category romance, you should give it a go. Just once, and see what you think. If you read for escapism, there’s nothing better—and now that Dreamspinner have launched Dreamspun Desires, there’s no reason for m/m readers to miss out!

Ben wished hed kept his mouth shut

 

Louisa is giving away five swag packs to mark the release of The Bunny and The Billionaire.
Enter to win! https://tinyurl.com/yag5gasq

 

Swag giveaway

 

 

Check out The Bunny and the Billionaire today!

 

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Blurb:

Spending their fortunes and losing their hearts.

Hardworking Australian nurse Ben Adams inherits a substantial sum and decides to tour Europe. In Monaco, the home of glamour and the idle rich, he meets French billionaire playboy Léo Artois. After getting off on the wrong foot—as happens when one accuses a stranger of being part of the Albanian mafia—their attraction blazes. Léo, born to the top tier of society, has never known limits, and Ben, used to budgeting every cent, finds it difficult to adjust to not only Léo’s world, but also the changes wealth brings to his own life.

As they make allowances for each other’s foibles, Ben gradually appreciates the finer things, and Léo widens his perspective. They both know one thing: this is not a typical holiday romance and they’re not ready to say goodbye.

 

Louisa Masters Logo2

Author Bio:

Louisa Masters started reading romance much earlier than her mother thought she should. While other teenagers were sneaking out of the house, Louisa was sneaking romance novels in and working out how to read them without being discovered. She’s spent most of her life feeling sorry for people who don’t read, convinced that books are the solution to every problem. As an adult, she feeds her addiction in every spare second, only occasionally tearing herself away to do things like answer the phone and pay bills. She spent years trying to build a “sensible” career, working in bookstores, recruitment, resource management, administration, and as a travel agent, before finally conceding defeat and devoting herself to the world of romance novels.

Louisa has a long list of places first discovered in books that she wants to visit, and every so often she overcomes her loathing of jet lag and takes a trip that charges her imagination. She lives in Melbourne, Australia, where she whines about the weather for most of the year while secretly admitting she’ll probably never move.

Find Louisa on Facebook and Twitter:

www.facebook.com/LouisaMastersAuthor
@authorLouisaM

Remember When? with SJD Peterson + Giveaway

August 24, 2017

 

 

Remember When-

 

So, I’m trying to come up with a blog post and I look over at my mom and ask;

Me: What’s the first thing that pops into your head when I say, remember when?”

Mom: Remember that time when I didn’t have indoor plumbing.

Me: Um, no. I wasn’t born. But seriously, that’s the first thing that pops into your head?

Mom: Yes, you don’t know how horrible it is to go out there and go in a slop pot?

Me: Nope! Nope! Nope! This conversation is over. *Sigh*

 

This wasn’t what I had in mind when I was thinking of romantic or cute memories. I guess I should have been more specific. Especially when talking to Linda Faye. She is after all my mother and where my evilness comes from lol.

 

RememberWhen_headerbanner

 

I shall be more careful this time. You and your significant other are having a romantic candle lit dinner. She/he looks into your eyes and says;  “Remember When…..”

Finish the sentence and one person will win any ebook copy from my back list.

“Good Luck”

 

Check out Remember When today!

 

RememberWhen_postcard_front_DSP

 

BLURB:

Life is simple and hopeful in youth. Luke and Nelson are best friends exploring their budding sexuality. They have big plans for the future, and nothing can stand in their way or tear them apart—except a family move that puts a continent between them.

Ten years later Luke and Nelson meet again, but nothing is simple anymore. As strong as the attraction remains, obligations and expectations come between them as Luke is forced to honor family responsibilities over the desires of his heart.

Impossibly, fate sees fit to offer them a last opportunity to see what might have been. Will the third time be the charm, or is trust so badly broken it is impossible to repair? Can they recapture the innocent love they once knew and make up for all the wasted years? In a love story that spans half a lifetime, two friends destined for each other will have to fight hard for their happily ever after.

 

J

 

Meet Jo Peterson

SJD Peterson, better known as Jo, hails from Michigan. Not the best place to live for someone who hates the cold and snow. When not reading or writing, Jo can be found close to the heater checking out NHL stats and watching the Red Wings kick a little butt. Can’t cook, misses the clothes hamper nine out of ten tries, but is handy with power tools.

FACEBOOK | WEBSITE | TWITTER | GOODREADS

AUTHORS AMAZON PAGE

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
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Kobo

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Blurb: 

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

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

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

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

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Author Bio:

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

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

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

 

Backlist Giveaway

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

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

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

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

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