Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Best Covers of 2013

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Best Book Covers of 2013

What is a book without its cover? That’s a question that gets asked more frequently in this age of eBooks and ePublishing.  For myself and, I think, many others, book covers are still the marquee for an author’s story, the path to a book and the delights found inside. ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords loves, loves book covers and the artists that work so hard to bring the author’s stories to life. Whether it is through photography or illustration or any combination thereof, 2013 had outstanding covers in every genre.  There are series whose covers are always marvelous, rich in design and emotion.  There were stand alone novels whose covers drew you into the story and beyond.  Here are some of the covers in 2013 that made me gasp, made me laugh and made me wish I had a copy of it for my wall:

Outstanding Contemporary Novel Covers:

Fire Horse by Mickie B. Ashling, Cover by Anne Cain
Illuminations by Rowen Speedwell, Cover by LC Chase
Lost and Found by Z.A. Maxfield, Cover by LC Chase
Still by Mary Calmes, cover by Reese Dante
The Sky is Dead by Sue Brown, Cover by Christine Griffin
Venetian Mask by Kim Fielding, Cover by Shobana Appavu

Fire Horse coverIllumination cover

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Still cover

 

 

 

 

The Sky Is Dead cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outstanding Historical Novel Covers:

On A Lee Shore by Elin Gregory, Cover by Mina Carter
Promises Made Under Fire by Charlie Cochrane, Cover by John Kicksee

On A Lee Shore cover

Promises Made Under Fire

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outstanding Humorous Cover:

Shy by John Inman, Cover art by Paul Richmond.
Too Stupid Too Live by Anne Tenino, Cover by LC Chase
When Dachshunds Ruled The Serengeti by Michael Murphy, Cover by Paul Richmond

Shy coverWhen Wiener Dogs Rule coverToo Stupid To Live cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outstanding Fantasy Cover:

Faire Fugitive by Madeleine Ribbon, Cover by Fiona Jayde
Goblins by Melanie Tushmore, Cover by  Ria Chantler
Too Many Fairy Princes by Alex Beecroft, Cover by Lou Harper

Goblins, Book 1

Too Many Fairy Princes

Faire Fugitive

 

 

 

 

 

Outstanding Paranormal/Supernatural Covers:

Creature Feature by Mary Calmes, Poppy Dennison, Cover by Paul Richmond
Into This River I Drown by TJ Klune, Cover by Paul Richmond, Kyle Thompson
Josh of the Damned by Andrea Speed, Cover by LC Chase
Strange Angels by Andrea Speed, Cover by LC Chase

Creature Feature cover

Into This River I Drown

Josh of the Damned The Final Checkout

Strange Angels cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outstanding Horror Cover:

The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men by Eric Arvin, Cover by Amy Morrison
The Beast Without by Christian Baines, Cover by David P. Reiter

Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men coverThe Beast Without cover

 

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Outstanding Science Fiction Cover:

Aria of the Eclipse by Vivien Dean, Cover by Trace Edward Zaber
Freedom by Jay Kirkpatrick, Cover by Anne Cain
Mindscape by  Tal Valante, Cover by LC Chase

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Freedom cover

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YA Cover Series:

Vampirism and You by Missouri Dalton. Guidebook Series, Covers by LC Chase
Necromancy and You by Missouri Dalton

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Necromancy and You cover

 

 

 

 

 

Consistently Outstanding Series Covers:

Leopard’s Spots by Bailey Bradford, Covers by Posh Gosh

Infected Series by Andrea Speed, Cover artist Anne Cain

TimothyNischal Leopards Spots 9

Infected Undertow coverInfected Shift cover

Scattered Thoughts Best Books of 2013

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ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords Presents:

best-books of 2013

Time for Scattered Thoughts to look back at all the wonderful books read and reviewed in 2013 and try to pick those stories that stood out the most among all the many stories I read.  As always it was a hard thing to do because there were so many this year that crowded at the top.  How to choose between Sarah Black’s The General and the Horse-Lord and her sequel, The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazeri?  Or Ariel Tachna’s Outlast the Night and her Conquer the Flames?  It was only by the mm (seems reasonable) that the latter book for each won out.parabook

Some authors did end up with two books in my lists, whether it was because they were in two different categories or because they were in different series or just because they were that good.  I also ended up with more categories this year, including  Best Humor, Best Young Adult, Best New Vampire and Best New Werewolf.  The variety in genres just begged for subcategories so I created them.  Something really new this year was the interconnected series from the Pulp Friction group. Each series and main characters were intimately connected to each other and culminated in a four author four series finale story.  It was outstanding and earned all four a place on my list.

And then there were the marvelous novels like Harper Fox’ Brothers of the Wild North Seas whose review has slid into 2014 but is one of my top novels of any year.  Anyway, here are the books I chose in alphabetical order.  Which authors/stories were on your list this year?

Best Contemporary Novels of 2013:

  • Best Stand Alone Novels:

Illumination by Rowen Speedwell
The Sky is Dead by Sue Brown

Best Action/Suspense Fiction of 2013:

Collusion by Eden Winters (Diversion series)
Corruption by Eden Winters (Diversion series)
Pulp Friction Series of 2013 (4 interconnected series)

Shock & Awe by Abigail Roux
Touch & Geaux  by Abigail Roux (Cut & Run series)
Worlds Collide by R.J. Scott

Humorous Fiction of 2013:
Books with wings in the sky

Shy by John Inman
Hobbled by John Inman
Tell Me It’s Real by TJ Klune

Young Adult/YA Subject Oriented Fiction:

Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane
Necromancy and You by Missouri Dalton
Vampirism and You by Missouri Dalton

Best Historical Fiction:

Lessons for Suspicious Minds by Charlie Cochrane
On The Lee Shore by Elin Gregory
Trick of Time by JL Merrow

Best Horror/Fantasy:skeleton-clip-art-15-315x600

Dance Only For Me (Dance With The Devil #6) by Megan Derr
Too Many Fairy Princes by Alex Beecroft
The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men by Eric Arvin

Best Science Fiction Novel/ Series of 2013:

Aria of the Eclipse by Vivien Dean
One Breath, One Bullet by S.A. McAuley
Dominant Predator by S.A. McAuley  (sequel to the one above)
Fragile Bond by Rhi Etzweiler
Scorpion (Memory of Scorpions #1) by Aleksandr Voinov (fantasy)

Best Supernatural/Paranormal Fiction of 2013:

Close Quarter by Anna Zabo
Into This River I Drown by TJ Klune
Re-entry Burn (Superpowered Love #5) by Katey Hawthorne
Undertow by Andrea Speed (Infected series)

Best New Vampire (a tie):

The Beast Without by Christian Baines
The Family: Liam by K.V. Taylor

Best New Werewolf:

Strength of the Wolf (The Tameness of the Wolf #2) by Kendall McKenna

Happy New Year, everyone!  Happy Reading To All and May 2014 Be Great!

New Year Book

Out With The Old and In With The New and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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New DirectionAnother year is almost gone, another is almost here.  Past regrets, future hopes, memories made and memories waiting to be formed.  It is a time of celebration and reflection.  A time to mourn those we have lost and be grateful for those still with us.  One Winston left me, another found his way home.

For many 2013 was a year in turmoil, the government closed, money was tight, and so many I know had  health issues.  But there was also plenty of reasons to rejoice.  DADA and DOMA fell, and there are 16 states and Washington, DC that have same sex marriage equality laws.   And when Russia outlaws gays just before the Winter Olympics , then gay athletes come out of the closet, meeting Putin’s challenge with their own courage.

There were so many great books published this year in every genre that it was hard to narrow down the lists.  Book covers too were over the top stupendous, that was a  hard list to compile as well.  Last year ScatteredThoughts had a list of resolutions.  I think I am going to let that pass this year.  I am both replete of energy yet so full of emotion that I hate to think what might tumble out.  Best let those dragons lie.

I did attend GRL this year in Atlanta.  Oh, what a time I had.  The authors, bloggers, readers, publishers…..what a treasure trove on every level.  I loved meeting so many people I had only talked to through emails and FB.  It was wonderful and I still didn’t get to meet everyone I wanted to.  I was turned on by listening to authors  read their own stories, listen to how they got their start in writing, met  readers and fans who sparkled with energy and love for the fiction and author of their favorite books.  What an amazing time and I hope 2014 sees me flying to Chicago for GRL once again.

So I want to thank all those authors whose books made me dance with joy  and bite my nails in suspense this year, from the Pulp Friction gang to Shira Anthony and Venona Keyes. Thanks to Abigail Roux and Amy Lane who never fail to make me cry in happiness and sob  buckets of tears with their angst. Thanks to Andrea Speed who writes with humor and ferocity, to John Inman who made me laugh hysterically, and Ariel Tachna who took me to Australia and a sheep station I love.  Thanks to Mary Calmes, Charlie Cochrane and RJ Scott for their series and novels and thousands of hours lost in the worlds and characters they created.  And a welcome return to Josh Lanyon and LB Gregg, who returned with a bang and a giggle and love found once again.   Thanks to Kendall McKenna and her extraordinary Marines (wolf shifters and human alike).  Thanks to Sarah Black for her General series and the soldiers so close to her heart.  Thank you, ZAM, thank you, Tere Michaels, KA Mitchell  for her twists and turns, thanks to Astrid Amara and Nicole Kimberling and more, so many more that I need a couple more pages here.  Thanks to Rowen Speedwell, Jessica Freely, BA Tortuga, Missouri Dalton, Theo Fenraven…..see its hard to stop. Thanks to Riptide Publishing, Less Than Three Press, Wilde City Press, Dreamspinner Press, MLR Press, Loose id, Torquere Press  and all the others I am just getting to know. Your hard work is appreciated in getting those authors and their stories to us.  Thank you to the cover artists.  Wow what great covers came out of 2013. I loved those too.

I know I have left a ton off but now my brain hurts and I have to close it off.  You know how it is. You are all such gifted writers and have brought so much joy.   I can’t wait to see what you all come up with in 2014. I will be waiting in anticipation.

And a special shout out to Eric Arvin and TJ Klune.  They both gave us memorable books in 2013, but the best gift was the gift of themselves.  We shared their joy, their engagement and their sorrow and tough times with Eric’s illness.  May 2014 see them happy, content and together.  There will still be plenty of medical bills to come and donations welcome.  A link to the Eric Arvin Support Fund can be found on my website.

Monday, Dec. 30:      STRW Best Books of 2013Year of the Horse 2014

Tuesday, Dec. 31:       STRW Best Covers of 2013

Wed., Jan. 1,2014:     Reese Herberth’s In Discretion Blog Tour and Contest

Thurs, Jan.2:                STRW Summary of December 2013 Reviews

Friday, Jan. 3:              In Discretion by Reesa Herberth

Sat., Jan 4:                     Symphony in Blue by Shira Anthony

Happy New Year, Everyone! Best wishes and joy from ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords!blue new year 2014

Review: Mindscape by Tal Valante

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Mindscape_500x750History of family service in the Spavy meant that Shane Cawley was just continuing in the family tradition when he joined the Interstellar Navy.  But for Mark Sayre joining the Interstellar Navy meant money for his mother and brother, for food and rent. Plus Mark had another goal, that of keeping his little brother out of the colony mines that sent their father to an early grave. When the two men met on the spaceship Cyclopes, Shane is an officer to Mark’s enlisted status but their affection grew despite Spavy regulations against it.  Mark completes Officer Candidate School  so that Shane and Mark are now free to move forward with their love. A love made deeper by the Resonance, a joining of two minds so rare that the odds were in the millions against it.

Then intergalactic war breaks out, the Cyclopes attacks and one of the couple is captured by the enemy.  In the aftermath of war, can love and their Resonance survive, when one of their minds is shattered?

Tal Valante’s Mindscape is an inventive jumble of romance and time periods, flashbacks and present day events, all set in outer space.  We enter the story as Shane walks down the hallways of the Rigsby Psychiatric Ward.  He is there to see Mark, a returned POW whose mind is shattered by torture endured while in captivity.  As Shane tries to reach Mark’s mind, the narrative moves back and forth between their past and their present.  This format is a little confusing to start off with, but in a strange way it works.  Tal Valante’s story is formed around the nightmare landscape of Mark’s mind and Shane’s attempts to reach him inside that mental framework.  It is full of shards of memory so a jumbled, somewhat confusing format works within this situation.  It takes a while to get used to it but once it starts to feel as real as the broken mind that Shane is trying to heal.

There are so many wonderful aspects to this story.  The “mindscape” that Valante creates for Mark is as haunted, and harrowing a place as one would expect from a prisoner of war.  That is the part that feels the most immediate and alive in the story.  I also found Shane’s emotions and the details from the Psychiatric Ward to be as painful and emotionally intrusive as the author intended them to be.  Shane’s many attempts to enter Mark’s mind and the anguish with which each failed attempt is met is believable and human.  I thought the twists of the plot as Shane moves through the obstacles raised by Mark are ingenious and some of the best elements in the story.

Did I think there were some less effective aspects here? A few, that with additional length could have been readily solved.  I thought the author’s universe building interesting but lacking in details that would have given it more substance.  The enemy was telepathic, that we find out.  But what else made them attack?  What did they look like? Where is the history behind the war?  That would have been a great layer to add.  Also a huge deal is made of the Resonance, that rare joining/meeting of minds.  I felt that again we needed to “feel” more of the Resonance between Shane and Mark in order for it to become as real as the men did.  And finally, I wish we had been given a few more scenes of Mark and Shane’s earlier relationship so the devastation that Shane feels upon losing Mark and the Resonance between them (and their long term love affair) felt as authentically deep  as they told us it was as it is central to the story.

I love science fiction and can absolutely recommend Mindscape by Tal Valante to lovers of romance as well as science fiction.  It is an inventive story by an author I was not familiar with.  This book has remedied that fact and now I look forward to investigating more works Tal Valante, whose creative mind brought this story forth.

This is how it starts…..

The first time Shane enters the Rigsby Psychiatric Ward, the noise and smells slam into him like a fist to the solar plexus. The air reeks of some lemony disinfectant. Somewhere, someone is screeching a song, and from nearby comes the hissing of a man whose burned hands are being tended by a nurse. It’s all Shane can do not to throw up. The thought of Mark, of all people, being locked in this place . . .

He’s grateful when the head nurse comes out to meet him, if only because it gives him something else to focus on. She insists on giving him the third degree.

“Shane Cawley,” he answers. “From New Wyoming, yes . . . His name is Mark Sayre. With a Y . . . I’m his partner.” His Resonance partner, he doesn’t add. “Not married, no . . . Yes, I know about his condition.” And finally, “Can I see him now ?”

She leads him down a hallway, past a woman who laughs at him like a hyena, and into a small room with two beds. One is occupied by a man who is lying on his back and burping repeatedly. On the other bed, looking dazed and oh so out of place, is Mark.

Cover art by LC Chase.  What a superb cover.  One of the best of 2013.

Book Details:

book, 94 pages
Published December 23rd 2013 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN13 9781626490918
edition language English

Tal Valante’s Mindscape Blog Tour and Contest

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Hello and welcome to the online tour of Mindscape! Thank you for joining me, and thank you to Scattered Words and Rogue Thoughts for having me.

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First, a quick note about the giveaway. I’m raffling off three $10 Amazon.com gift certificates at the end of this tour. For a chance to win, simply comment on this post with an answer to the following question: if your mind was a landscape, what would it look like? Winners will be picked randomly from all tour stops, and will be announced on 12/29. Drop me a comment at each stop to increase your chances of winning!

About the author:

Tal’s passion in life is building worlds, whether digital ones using programming languages, or literary ones using plain ol’ English.

When she’s not buried neck-deep in code, you can find her editing manuscripts, designing fantasy worlds, or torturing characters in her own original works.

You can get Tal going forever on her favorite subjects with a few well-placed words, such as “Babylon 5” and “Assassin’s Creed.” A word of caution, though: “forever” means just that . . .

Connect with Tal: WebsiteGoodreads

About the book:

Mark Sayre joins the Interstellar Navy for the money—his only goal is to keep his little brother out of the colony mines that sent Mindscape_500x750their father to an early grave. With concepts like duty and honor floating high over his head, he hardly expects to fall for the serious, idealistic Shane Cawley. Not to mention that Shane is his commanding officer . . . and his Resonance partner, a one-in-ten-thousand mental connection so profound that they can travel in each other’s mindscapes.

Shane Cawley is carrying on the family tradition by serving in the Interstellar Navy. He hardly expects to fall for the quirky, happy-go-lucky Mark Sayre. But as the Resonance between them grows, neither can deny what he feels for the other.

When war breaks out, Mark and Shane find their military training and their Resonance link tested to the edge of sanity. Shane is haunted by memories and flashbacks, and Mark becomes trapped in his own mindscape. But with help from an unlikely ally, they may be able to salvage their futures and the love they share.

Read an excerpt and order online at Riptide Publishing!

Review: Christmas Wish (a Romanorum world story) by Shayne Carmichael & Mychael Black

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

All I Want Christmas WishIt has been ten years since Elian was forced to leave his soulmate, mortal Ryan Nixon.  Elian was a angel, a grigori who is a watcher angel who teaches human certain life lessons.  They are not supposed to get involved with humans and Elian broke all their rules when he fell in love with Ryan and became his lover.  Forced to separate from Ryan, Elian has now completed his punishment and returned to Earth to find Ryan.

But the man has greatly changed.  The man Elian left was brash, intelligent and ambitious.  The Ryan Elian found was homeless, gaunt, and on the verge of dying.  Both men have now paid for their mistakes.  Ryan has lost everything his ambition and greed initially won him.  Elian lost ten years in isolation, banished from Earth to pay for breaking the rules.  Now the angel has found his lover once more.  Is it too late for their love to succeed?  Or will their christmas wish make a miracle happen so they can find a way back to each other?

Shayne Carmichael and Mychael Black’s Romanorum stories are among my favorites so I was delighted to see this Torquere Holiday Sip that ventured back into that universe and brought back a major character, Cian, albeit in a minor role.  The authors gifts of characterization and description bring the plight of Ryan Nixon powerfully to life.  This is Elian’s first sighting of Ryan after ten years apart and it is a heartbreaking one:

Elian spotted a lone figure on a wooden bench, partially hidden by a tattered coat. Elian’s heart broke all over again. Ryan had indeed learned about the dangers of greed and avarice, and the lesson had taken everything — everything — away from him, leaving him a broken, destitute man.

Threadbare gloves barely covered the hands that held the coat closed against the bite of the winter wind. Though he was only thirty-two, time had etched lines in the once- youthful face, and a sprinkling of gray dusted the black hair.

Huddled on the bench, he appeared to pay no attention to the few who braved the cold on their own business. A half-eaten sandwich lay forgotten in its plastic wrapping as Ryan stared off in the distance at a grove of trees.

Elian crouched in front of him, meeting Ryan’s empty gaze. He reached out and smoothed a lock of dark hair back from green eyes that once held a spark of life. Now they just seemed… lost.

The man Elian is confronted with is someone who has lost all hope and seems ready to die, one of many found on any winter street in any city or town.  An added layer to Ryan’s despair is the fact that he is to blame for his downfall, that his avarice and overwhelming ambition that made him rich also ruined him and Ryan has had ten years to realize that.

Carmichael and Black make Ryan believable in his self-loathing and despair.  He has gone beyond bitterness into an emotional place of isolation and emptiness that gives this portrait of homelessness a feel of authenticity.  Elian’s character, an angel who defied Heaven’s laws to be with his lover, is harder to grasp, probably because he is more of a two note persona, goodness and light, to feel entirely credible.  And their love story and reconnection, while emotionally engaging, felt too rushed to be believable, especially after all that has occurred during their ten-year separation.

These authors have made their angel characters multidimensional in the past so I think the issue with Elian is that the story length doesn’t give the authors enough space to imbue Elian with the depth of character he needs to feel real.  In fact, I think that shortness hurts this story in almost every way.  For those readers unfamiliar with the Romanorum universe, the lack of backstory will leave many of them confused about the plot.  Especially when Cian appears to offer his apologies to Elian.  Most people will wonder exactly what and who Cian is referring to (or exactly who Cian is and why he is important) when offering his explanation for his actions.  Unless you have read all the previous books or at least The Prince’s Angel, you will be lost during this section of the story.

I did really like this story but I had the background to do so.  I absolutely recommend this series and would want any new reader to start at the beginning with The Prince’s Angel to get a better understanding of the universe and the huge cast of characters to be found there, including angels and vampires.  Used as a part of the whole, then I can absolutely recommend Christmas Wish to all.

Cover artist is not listed as I suspect this is a blanket cover used for many of Torquere Holiday Sip stories.

Books in the Romanorum series:

The Prince’s Angel (Legends of the Romanorum, #1)
And the Two Shall Become One (Legends of the Romanorum, #2)
Forever May Not Be Long Enough (Legends of the Romanorum, #3)
Christmas Wish (Legends of the Romanorum, #4)

Book Details:

ebook, 26 pages
Published December 4th 2013 by Torquere Press

Release Day Celebration and Contest for Symphony in Blue by Shira Anthony!

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Merry Christmas, everyone! Today, Christmas morning at ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords, we  are celebrating the release of Symphony in Blue by Shira Anthony.  While everyone is enjoying family and loved ones, Shira Anthony is stopping by to talk about her Blue Notes series and  sharing some memories of holidays past.  Entries are still being taken for the terrific Blue Notes contest.  See details at the bottom of the post.

Now pull up a chair with some coffee or tea, and let’s  welcome Shira Anthony and Symphony in Blue:

Celebrating with the Blue Notes Series: Symphony in Blue Release Day Party!  Symphony in Blue-build (1) cover

Thank you, Melanie, for inviting me to celebrate the release day of the 6th book and the first holiday novella in the Blue Notes Series! I’m also celebrating because with Symphony in Blue, I’ll have published my 10th book with Dreamspinner Press. How appropriate that celebrations are the focus of Symphony in Blue. Celebrations of love, family, and friendship.

Symphony in Blue is written as a symphony might be, with “movements” in which a particular character pairing is featured. Complete with liner notes and a dedication, it is conductor/composer David Somers’s masterpiece—a piece of his heart, shared with his friends. And for David, who for years built a wall around that heart, it’s something of a holiday miracle that he can share the joys of love and friendship as deeply as he does. The focus of the novella is a Thanksgiving meal at David’s villa outside of Milan, Italy, where all his friends gather.

I have a bit of experience with Thanksgiving in Europe, since I lived in France for two years when I was in middle school. Back in the 1970s, there weren’t many people who were familiar with the Thanksgiving holiday. My mother loves to tell the story of her Cranberries20101210begging my grandmother to send her cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving dinner. You couldn’t find cranberries in Europe at that time. She meant for my grandmother to send her the canned variety. My grandmother sent fresh ones! By boat (back then, and even now, airmail for packages was very expensive)! Needless to say, they were pretty much ruined by the time they arrived 4 weeks later. My mother picked out all the “good” berries (i.e., the ones that weren’t moldy or mushy). We had about 2 tablespoons of cranberry sauce that year! But we still had our turkey, stuffing, along with some European traditions including cheese after the main meal, and some amazing French wine (which I totally didn’t appreciate at age 15!). I still remember that Thanksgiving in Grenoble.

Nowadays, you can find fresh cranberries and all the trimmings for a festive meal throughout Western Europe, so David Somers’s last-minute Thanksgiving dinner is entirely plausible. That meal also features regional breads and vegetables. Violinist Jules bread-recette-pain-paysan-pain-campagne-1Bardon helps round out the offerings by baking “pain paysan,” or French country bread (I make this from time to time – it’s actually quite easy!). Here’s a recipe you might want to try. For our Thanksgiving my year, my daughter made two round loaves of pain paysan, and it was amazing!

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season, whatever you celebrate in your home! And if after your Christmas dinner you want to settle down are read a story about love for the long-term, you might want to check the Blue Notes Series and my latest release, Symphony in Blue.

The Blue Notes Series books are about real men in real relationships, with real problems, each with a music theme. If you’re looking for a sexy hot romances with fluffy scenes, I think you’ll like the Blue Notes books. But if you’re also looking for something more—for something more real than Cinderfella and his prince? I think you’ll enjoy these stories about making love work over time and through obstacles. You can find all of my Dreamspinner Press books by clicking here. You can read more about me, even hear what I sounded like when I sang opera professionally, and read more about my books, including free fiction and excerpts on my website, www.shiraanthony.com.

Don’t forget to enter the Blue Notes Holiday 2013 Blog Tour giveaway (details at the bottom of the post) by clicking here (Rafflecopter). There are plenty of ways to enter, and you can enter more than once by commenting, tweeting, buying books, and liking pages. I’ll be drawing winners on New Year’s Eve at midnight!

Good luck! –Shira
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Excerpt (Symphony in Blue):
DAVID TAPPED his cellphone, shoved it in his pocket, and rubbed the bridge of his nose.

“Something ruffle the maestro?” Alex grinned up at him from the couch, his bare feet tucked underneath him, a pile of staff paper scattered about the floor and coffee table. He’d printed out a score for a new composition and managed to knock it off the printer tray. Of course, all the page numbers at the bottom of the sheets were cut off. Damn thing was at least thirty pages and would be a nightmare to organize.

“Nothing that can’t be managed. Unlike your score.” David raised an eyebrow and Alex saw the ghost of a grin on David’s face.

You could just reprint it, you know.”

“What? And waste paper?”

“You’re stubborn,” David said as he picked up several of the pages and set them on the coffee table before joining Alex on the couch. When Alex said nothing, David leaned over and feathered several kisses over Alex’s neck.

Delightfully so, of course. But stubborn nonetheless.”

Alex sighed contentedly and pushed the rest of the music onto the floor. Fine. He’d reprint the damn thing. Later.

Who was on the phone?”

“Aiden.” David spoke the name with his lips so close to Alex’s ear that Alex nearly gasped. David’s voice just did that to Alex—that sexy baritone seemed to resonate through every part of his body. Alex was pretty sure David knew what it did to him too.

“Aiden? I thought he and Sam were in Australia.”

David pulled away and offered Alex a sardonic eyebrow. “Austria.”

“Oh, come on!” Alex laughed. “You know I can hardly keep track of my own schedule. Now you expect me to keep up with his?”

“Not even the correct continent.” David went back to kissing him. “What was he calling about?” Anything to keep David focused on his neck.

“The party in Connecticut is off. They’re also postponing the civil ceremony in New York for now.”

Alex shot up off the couch. “What? But we’ve been planning the reception for six months now! It’s only two weeks away. What the hell happened? Are they okay? I mean…. Shit. You know what I mean.”

David smiled—a strange expression for someone who’d just learned that he’d wasted four months arranging the party to celebrate Aiden and Sam’s wedding. Caterers, musicians, guests, and a dozen different schedules to coordinate.

“Okay. Fess up. Why are you smiling?”

“Aiden and Sam are fine. They’re just postponing it.” David appeared entirely calm. Too calm. Happy, even?

“Postponing? They’ve been doing that for two years now.”

“Three.”

“Fine. Three years. So why are you happy about it?” Alex pressed. Of course, David was yanking his chain, but he liked that. Anyone who thought David Somers didn’t have a sense of humor simply didn’t know him.

“I’m happy,” David said as his eyes brightened, “because there’s a good reason for it. In fact, there’s a wonderful reason for it.”

Alex laughed. “What reason would that be?”

“Who might be the more appropriate way of say—”

“David,” Alex warned.

“Graziella Michaela Redding.”

“Graziella? You mean….”

“Mother and child doing quite well, I’m told.” David grinned outright this time.

“Cary and Antonio’s baby?”

“Born last night. Almost five pounds. Three weeks early but doing well.” David stood up and wrapped his arms around Alex’s waist. “A good reason to postpone a wedding, don’t you think?”

“The best.” Alex kissed David. “Should we plan a visit in a few weeks?”

“A few weeks?” David’s sly grin made Alex chuckle. “Just because we can’t have the party to celebrate doesn’t mean we can’t take advantage of the opening in everyone’s schedules.”

“What did you have in mind?”

“Thanksgiving in Milan. It’s been years since we’ve been able to get everyone together.”

“The villa?” David’s Italian villa was certainly large enough. “But—”

“Is that a problem for you? Last I looked at your schedule, your next performance is in Buenos Aires in three weeks.” David nipped at Alex’s earlobe.

“No… it’s not… ah…. Shit, David, I can’t think straight when you do that!” Alex shivered and closed his eyes. “And no. No problem for me. But didn’t you give the staff at the villa the entire month off?”

Alex knew David had completely forgotten about that particular detail. He frowned, then said blithely, “We’ll just have to do it ourselves. Jules and I can handle the cooking. You and Jason can get the placed opened up. Rachel can help you with the rooms.”

“You’re serious about this?”

“Am I ever not?” David pulled at Alex’s earlobe with his teeth. “I’ll call the travel agent and look into rebooking all the air travel.”

“Travel agent?”

Another kiss, a nip, and then: “The travel agent. Too complicated to handle that much rebooking online and you needn’t trouble yourself with that. Just call Jules and Jason and let them know we’ll meet them in Milan on Saturday. I’ll text them the flight information as soon as I have it.”

“Ah…. Okay. Sure. Jules and Jason.” Alex could handle that. He’d been meaning to call Jules to see how the Blue Notes album was coming along anyhow. He’d joined Jules and the other members of the trio on several of the tracks when he’d been in Paris three weeks before.

“Good.” David brushed his lips against Alex’s. “And one more thing.”

“Hmm?” Focus, Bishop, focus!

“This.” David pushed Alex onto the couch and began to unbutton his shirt. “First things first. Always.”

******
You can purchase the Blue Notes Series books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, AllRomanceEbooks, and on the Dreamspinner Press website.
Encore: link to DSP
Symphony in Blue: link to DSP

Contest Details for Blue Notes Series Holiday 2013 Giveaway:

  • Begins on release day for “Encore,” November 11, 2013
  • Ends on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2013, at midnight
  • Drawings are open to both U.S. readers and international readers, but physical prizes (Kindle, necklace, book, and t-shirt) are for U.S. readers only. I will award a virtual set of the first 4 Blue Notes Series books to one winner from outside the U.S.

Prizes (U.S. Only):

  • Grand Prize: A Kindle loaded with the first 4 Blue Notes Series books and some of my other back titles
  • 1st Place: A sterling silver music themed necklace
  • 2nd Place: Winner’s choice of one of my back titles in paperback (i.e., not including the 2 new releases)
  • 3rd Place: Blue Notes t-shirt, cover of the winner’s choice

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Blue Notes Holiday 2013 Blog Tour stops:
November 11th (release day – Encore): Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words (Melanie Marshall)
November 12th: Live Your Life, Buy the Book
November 14th: Michael Rupured’s Blog
November 15th: Joyfully Jay (Blue Notes Cover Art – Interviews with the Artists)
November 18th: Elin Gregory’s blog
November 22nd: Aisling Mancy’s blog
November 26th: Andrew Q. Gordon’s blog
December 6th: Oscar’s Bruised Petals (Sandra Garcia’s blog)
December 10th: Brilliant Disguise (Tali Spencer’s blog)
December 13th: Lily Sawyer’s Blog
December 16th: Rebecca Cohen’s blog
December 20th: Purple Rose Teahouse (Charlie Cochet’s blog)
December 23rd: Mrs. Condits and Friends
December 25th: Symphony in Blue Release Day Party at Melanie Marshall’s Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
December 26th: Book Suburbia
December 27th: Helen Pattskyn’s blog

Review: Housekeeping by Kim Fielding

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Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

HousekeepingNicky Hauser has never been able to figure out what he wanted to do with his life so he’s been gliding along from job to job until he rolled his life and love into one person by working at his boyfriend’s restaurant and living in his boyfriend’s apartment.  Then he walks into work only to catch his boyfriend cheating on him with  a co-worker and in that moment loses everything.  Now out of a job, a home and a lover, Nick scrambles from friend to friend, sleeping on their couches while looking for jobs.  Finally Nick lands a job housesitting for a wealthy couple and discovers he can make a living doing the one thing he loves to do – cleaning.

Computer consultant Spencer Cartwright is a messy person and has a cluttered, garbage strewn house to prove it.  When Spencer needs to go out of town on  business, friends recommend Nicky to house sit and clean, changing Spencer and Nicky’s lives forever. But Spencer is coming off a divorce and Nicky is wary of romance and a relationship so soon after being dumped.  Can these men sweep their past failures away and find love in a spotless home together?

Housekeeping by Kim Fielding is a charming little romance, a happy quick read that is perfect to way to spend some free time over the holidays.  Nicky Hauser and Spencer Cartwright are two quirky and complementary characters, each totally endearing in their own way.  Nicky is somewhat recognizable as that person who has never quite found their way in life.  Not quite emotionally a grownup, too old in years to be a teen, he has managed to go through life without making any real decisions over his future whether it be a profession or even something to be passionate about.  Fielding has made him totally believable, letting us connect with someone lacking direction in life and uncertain how to proceed.  He’s just too nice and gentle, and lacking in ambition.

Kim Fielding has crafted Spencer Cartwright  with a different set of issues.  Spencer’s been married, to a woman, before finally admitting his homosexuality.  He’s colorblind, constantly busy, and a total slob.  Clearly his life needs cleaning up and Nicky is just the person to handle the job.  And happily for us, Fields lets her characters turn from employer/employee to friends and finally to lovers, letting us watch as their relationship builds over trips to Ikea and a mixing of friends and relatives.

Don’t look for any angst, there isn’t any.  No real highs or lows to be found in this story, just a group of funny, lovely friends and two men looking for love and finding it where they least expected it, at home amongst cleaning supplies.  It’s charming and smile worthy.  I love Kim Fielding’s stories, she rarely lets me down and didn’t with Housekeeping. Consider this definitely recommended.

Cover art by Paul Richmond is really very funny, his m/m version of American Gothic.  I loved it.

Book Details:

ebook, 98 pages
Published November 13th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press (first published November 12th 2013)
ISBN 1627982183 (ISBN13: 9781627982184)
edition language English

Review: Indelible Ink (Boys Will Do Boys) by Marie Lark

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

indelibleink_msr_1Tattoo artist Jon Park has just left Seattle for a new start on the East Coast.  Jon fled a bad breakup with his ex boyfriend who also happened to own the tat shop that Jon worked as a tattoo artist.  Now he has opened his own place, a tattoo and piercing parlor,  with his college best friend in her hometown. But deciding to open Park Ink in the middle of winter  in a small town in Upper New York might not have made the most sense.  Business is scarce and the bills are barely getting paid, not a position Jon thought he would be in his thirties.

Then Jon runs into a group of guys beating up on a young homeless man outside a bar and everything changes.  Arthur is a young 22 year old  and homeless.  A product of the foster system since the age of 8, Arthur soon learned that lying and stealing were the quickest way to  get what he needed to survive and applied them often, gaining a dubious reputation in the bargain.  But when Jon saves him from a beating, everything changes for him.  Arthur sees the potential for change for himself and help for Jon, assistance that Jon is not even aware he needs.

Despite all objections and arguments from those around them, Jon and Arthur find themselves falling into love and a relationship.  But both mens pasts come forward to threaten their fragile relationship and Park Ink’s success.  Jon and Arthur will have to summon  their courage and face their opponents together or everything they have worked for and want will be lost.

Here is a story that charmed me utterly while introducing me to new aspects of the tattooing process.  I was unfamiliar with Marie Lark but Indelible Ink will have me seeking out more of her stories because I enjoyed this story on many different levels from plot to unusual characterizations.

Let’s start with her characters of Indelible Ink.  Jon Park is unusual in so many ways.  A 6’4″, long-legged and rangy, Jon is part Korean, part Hawaiian and on the cusp of 30 years old.  Jon is a much softer individual than his size would indicate, preferring floral and more delicate tattoo designs to the more hard line and popular artwork such as skulls and bones.  I think artistic and gentle are the words I would use to best describe this unassuming man.  Lark pulls us into the story on the strength of Jon Park alone because he is such a lovely and unexpected human being.  Then the author adds Arthur, a troubled 22 year old homeless young man with concealed strengths and artistry of his own.  Arthur’s true character is slowly revealed over the length of the story as he learns to trust Jon and  start to believe in a different future for himself.  Arthur will grow on you at the same pace that Jon accepts him, a terrific strategy by Lark to help connect the reader with this struggling man with a pile of problems behind him.  Lark also throws in several strong women characters to support Jon and Park Ink, from his best friend and business partner, piercing artist Val to another local bar owner and her husband who welcome him to the neighborhood.  Lark just fills her story with great characters, people you could see yourself spending the afternoon with, chatting about neighborhood politics while sipping coffee or getting a tattoo.

And that brings us to the tattoo element of this story.  I have read quite a few stories that revolve around tattoo artists and their shops and in each one I learn something new.  In Indelible Ink, Lark is able to bring the sensations of being tattooed alive by her intimate and detail oriented scenes within Park Ink, including the high you feel under the needle and the almost out of body sensation towards the end.  Here is an excerpt from the scene where Jon is starting to work on a tat he created for Arthur:

Arthur huffed a laugh and rolled his head to look over at his arm. “It looks great,” he said. “Yeah?”

Jon smiled down at his work and wiped away ink and a little blood with a damp paper towel. “How are you feeling?”

“Fine,” Arthur said quickly. “Good—great, actually. I forgot how good it could feel when you don’t have a rank amateur digging into your flesh.”

“It’s definitely addicting,” Jon agreed, pressing on the foot pedal and starting the machine again. “Do you have any questions about what I’m doing? This is supposed to be a tattoo lesson.”

Arthur closed his eyes and slowly rocked his head back and forth against the chair. “Nah. I’m—curious about tension in your hand and how hard to press down but I probably just need to practice that myself.”

“Yeah, we’ll get you working on grapefruits and oranges this week if you want.”

“Awesome. We still get to eat them after though, right? Shit is expensive.”

Jon could hear the smile in Arthur’s voice even though he’d redirected his attention to Arthur’s arm.

“Definitely. The needle never goes below the dermis—if you go the whole way through a grapefruit rind, we need to seriously reevaluate your career choice.” Pausing to glance up at him, he saw Arthur’s mouth fall gently open and his eyes flutter behind closed lids. If he hadn’t suspected already, that expression confirmed it—Arthur was a tattoo junkie.

There was something about the kind of pain that came from a tattoo machine—the way it fired along nerve endings, the way it vibrated down to the bone and in the brain—that had people just like Arthur and just like Jon coming back for more whenever they had the itch and the cash. It’d been well over a year since Jon had gotten his last tattoo and knowing what the sensations were doing to Arthur brought the itch back in a rush.

Her vivid descriptions just bring alive that moment in the chair where you commit to a design and the reality of a tattoo.  It’s sensational, emotional, and almost as addictive as getting a tattoo itself.

My only quibble with the story is that I felt the resolution and the ending arrived almost at the same time.  It would have been nice to have shared in Jon and Arthur’s happiness for a moment before the book ends.  But it just felt a bit rushed and not as satisfactory as the rest of the book.  The other thing I wish to point out is that Indelible Ink is listed as part of the Boys Will Do Boys series but that is a loosely connected group of stories with different authors and not a continuation of the characters and situations found inside Indelible Ink. So be warned if you are looking to purchase the others because you liked this story.

Small quibbles with the ending aside, I really recommend this story to all lovers of m/m romance and contemporary fiction.  This is not a case of instant love but a realistic, halting climb to trust and love with characters you will adore.  I enjoyed Indelible Ink and think you will too.  It will be released by Ellora’s Cave Publishing on December 6th, 2013.  Put it on your calendar!

Book To be Released on December 6, 2013.

Amazon Buy Link Kindle

Book Details:

Indelible Ink [Ebook] By: Marie Lark
ISBN 9781419948114
Book Length Novel
Publisher Ellora’s Cave Publishing Inc.
Imprint: Romantica®Line: Spectrum
Series: Boys Will Do Boys

Twas the Week Of Christmas Poem and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Winter trees longs

Scattered Thoughts “Twas The Week of Christmas” Poem!
(with my apologies to Clement Clark Moore)

It’s the week of Christmas and all through the house
Everyone was running around like crazy, even the mouse
Stockings need to be hung by the chimney with care
But until they are found, the mantel is quite bare.

The dogs were all nestled all snug in my bed
while visions of Dingle Rounds and bacon danced in their heads
And with Captain in his cage and the fish swimming laps
I settled in my chair for a long over due nap

With a bang and a pop on the lawn, there was a clatter
That I slowly rose out of my chair to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I tottered without a crash
Only to knock over the books on the table I had stashed

The moon on the crest shown on the lawn below
to highlight the waving penguins, bears and deer ornaments aglow
When what to my nearsighted eyes should appear
Not one fox but two instead of miniature reindeer

 
With my old wooden driver, I tried to be quick
So I hollered and shouted until I was sick
More rapacious than gluttons, definitely not tame
Those foxes yipped and danced until they were lame

Go Away, now, happy foxes, Be Gone you, Vixens
It’s late at night, everyone is sleeping or fixin’
to head up to bed, but to sleep won’t happen at all
until you find yourselves another place to hold your fox ball.

As the dry leaves before the leafblower did fly
Through the lawn figures and lights the foxes  did spy
A bunny running across the neighbor’s yard with a bound
So with a yip and a bark, they ran after the prey they had found

The bunny so brown, white tail and fleet of foot
That the foxes, exhausted and panting, found that it took
More energy and speed than had their little pack
So before I knew it they were all headed back

To commune with my lawn animals who twinkled so merry
That to those foxes eyes, they were not even a little bit scary
The penguins were waving, both wearing a bow
And the polars bears glowed white, glistening like snow.

The figure of the dog held a fake bone in its teeth
On its head was a Santa hat, with ribbons beneath
The figures were tall, with heads as large as their bellies
That they often fell over, looking like Great Aunt Nelly(snort)

The foxes danced as I watched, “so happy” I said to myself
that they looked like the fox figurine that now sat on my shelf
With a prance and tongues hanging out of their heads
I knew without a doubt, I had a wonderful memory to take with me to bed

I watched a bit more, and then with a jerk
I waved to my visitors and left with a smirk
And grabbing my cane and with a rub to my nose
Up the stairs to bed and my pups I did go

As the foxes went on their way, running through the thistle
Captain woke in his cage and gave a sleepy whistle
And I thought I heard that parrot say, as I turned off the last light
“Goodnight, sweetheart, Merry Christmas and Good Night”!

With my apologies to Clement Clark Moore’s poem, Captain didn’t say that.  What he said is not suitable for print (he cusses a lot). But I am sure the mumbles I heard were in keeping with the spirit of the week before Christmas.  I do have a wonderful yard for wildlife and they will be getting their own treats for Christmas and winter time.  So will the terriers three and Captain, the AG.

Here is hoping for joy and love and good health to all for the holidays no matter what or if you celebrate.  Especially for two special men in Virginia in so many peoples hearts and prayers at this time.  If you are inclined to give a little bit more at this time of year, I have a link below to the Eric Arvin Support Fund.  All donations are welcome no matter the size.

Now to the week ahead in reviews:

Monday, Dec. 23:          Indelible Ink by Marie Lark

Tuesday, Dec. 24:          Housekeeping by Kim Fielding

Wed., Dec. 25:                Shira Anthony’s Symphony In Blue Guest Blog

Merry Christmas!

Thurs., Dec. 26:              Christmas Wish by Mychael Black ,Shayne Carmichael

Friday, Dec. 27:              Tal Valante’s Mindscape Blog Tour and Contest

Sat., Dec. 28:                   Mindscape by Tal Valante