A MelanieM Review: Hard Act to Follow (Shooting Stars #3) by K. Vale, Kimber Vale

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Hard Act To Follow coverKyrie Li is 23 and soon to graduate Boston College with a degree in theatre arts.  Greg Dwyer is 30 and a lawyer in a prestigious law firm in Boston.  What they have in common is Kyrie’s sister, Grey Dwyer’s ex-wife.  What else do they have in common?  The fact that each man is deeply and secretly in love with the other.

Kyrie thinks his best friend Greg is straight and still in love with his sister.  Greg believes that Kyrie would never be interested in “dull old” him or that Greg would be accepted if he came out to either his own family or Kyrie’s who Greg is close to.

But one drunken nights changes everything.  A kiss between Greg and Kyrie leads to a wonderful night of passion but misunderstandings in the morning’s light leads Kyrie to pretend he doesn’t remember and Greg to flee from Kyrie’s friendship and family.   Only a threat from Kyrie’s past pulls them back together. Can they patch up their misunderstandings and shattered relationship in time for Greg to save Kyrie and maybe find their own HEA?

Hard Act To Follow is the third story in the Shooting Stars series from Kimber Vale.  The first two stories revolved around the romance of two rock stars from different bands.  In the second story, Double Takes, we first meet Kyrie and Greg when Kyrie is hired to play the part of Gio Savale’s boyfriend on a reality tv series.  Kyrie and Greg appear in largely secondary roles but already Greg is jealous of the fake relationship Kyrie and Gio have.  They were almost my favorite thing about that story so I was happy to see that Kimber Vale was getting ready to write a story for them.

Kyrie is adorably irrepressible.  He blurts out whatever he is thinking and up to now, has had awful taste in men.  He is charming, artistic, with a slight build. Just a lovely character.  Greg is his exact opposite in physical stature and emotional makeup.  Greg is substantial, physically, materially, and emotionally.  Just the sort of anchor someone like Kyrie wants and needs.  Kimber Vale’s characters balance each other out in a way that makes a romance between them logical and perfect.

What holds them apart is Kyrie’s sister who also happens to be Greg’s ex-wife.  Kyrie believes, wrongly, that Greg still has feelings for her and wants to get back together.  Kyrie wants that too.  Why?  Because he is afraid that if Greg moves on to someone else romantically, he will lose him.  Kyrie also thinks Greg is straight (obviously) The last thing Greg wants to do is get back with his ex-wife however much he loves Kyrie and Kyrie’s family.  The connection between Greg and Jasmine as ex spouses feels real but I never got a solid emotional basis for their marriage in the first place.  That missing foundation between Greg and Jasmine was one of the weakest elements here.

Misconceptions and misunderstandings multiply between Grey and Kyrie as their feelings for each other deepen.  The lack of communication between Greg and Kyrie is frustrating but given their age difference and emotional makeup it also seems completely realistic as well.

Another aspect I liked here was the ease of the interracial romance.  Kyrie’s parents are Black and Korean.  That interracial quality to the family and siblings is not highlighted but rather just a gentle side note.  And its the warmth and acceptance that Greg finds in the Li household that he is missing from his own.  Another lovely touch.  Both Boston and New York City are well represented here, especially the boxes that go for apartments in the walkups in NYC.

I was so happy to find that Kyrie and Greg got their HEA.  Gio Savales even made a last minute appearance at Kyrie’s graduation.  There is drama and some danger for Kyrie but all ends happily for this couple.  If you are a fan of Kimber Vale and her romance series, if you love bubbly actors in search of their forever love, pick up Hard Act To Follow and enjoy.   I don’t think you will need to read the other stories to get into this one as I think Hard Act To Follow can be read as a stand alone.  Rockers, actors, or both.  Your choice!  The fun is always in the journey.

Cover art is uncredited.

Sales Links:           Liquid Silver Books         All Romance eBooks (ARe)       Amazon Hard Act To Follow

Book Details:
ebook, 66,000 words
Published August 18th 2014 by Liquid Silver Books
edition languageEnglish
seriesShooting Stars

Books in the Shooting Stars series include (but don’t have to be read in order)

Forever is Now (Shooting Stars #1)
Double Takes (Shooting Stars #2)
Hard Act To Follow (Shooting Stars #3)

Book Blast: CJane Elliot and the Stepping Through Book Tour (contest)

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CJane Elliot has a new release at Dreamspinner Press and to celebrate has brought along a blurb, excerpt and contest for you all to enter! 

Book Name: Stepping Through
Author Name: CJane Elliott

Author Bio:

After years of hearing characters chatting away in her head, CJane Elliott finally decided to put them on paper and hasn’t looked back since. A psychotherapist by training, CJane enjoys writing sexy, passionate stories that also explore the human psyche. CJane has traveled all over North America for work and her characters are travelers, too, traveling down into their own depths to find what they need to get to the happy ending.
CJane is an ardent supporter of gay equality and is particularly fond of coming out stories.

In her spare time, CJane can be found dancing, listening to music, or watching old movies. Her husband and son support her writing habit by staying out of the way when they see her hunched over, staring intensely at her laptop.

You can contact CJane at :

 

SteppingThroughFSTitle:  Stepping Through

Cover Artist: Paul Richmond

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Buy Links:  Dreamspinner Press

Blurb:

Cameron Wheeler’s life is all mapped out: he’ll finish business school, return home to Vermont, get a job, and marry his high-school girlfriend. He’s packed away what he really wants—a career as a musician—because he knows it’s never going to happen. But Cameron’s well-planned life is turned upside down when he walks into a musty jewelry shop in LA and meets the mysterious Apollo, who tells him to “follow his soul, not his past.” Apollo’s magical presence spurs Cameron to discover and follow his true path, in life and in love.

 

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Excerpt:

May I help you?”

When Cameron turned, he forgot to speak. Standing there was a man—a beautiful creature, whispered a voice in Cameron’s head. He didn’t quite look of this world. He was tall with dark hair swept off his face, its highlights of turquoise and green reminding Cameron of the peacock feathers he’d been looking at earlier. Dressed all in black, he was adorned with silver earrings, necklace, and rings, and his eyes were lined with purple. And what amazing eyes they were: sea green, ocean gray, ancient, wise, and warmly regarding Cameron as if the man knew him well. His generous mouth curved in a small smile. He looked to Cameron like some fantastic nobleman from the eighteenth century.

SteppingThroughBadgeItalicPurpleTour Dates: August 20, 2014

Tour Stops: Parker Williams, Regular Guys, Hot Romance, Amanda C. Stone, LeAnn’s Book Reviews, SA McAuley, MM Good Book Reviews, My Fiction Nook, Elisa Reviews and Ramblings, Love Bytes, Cate Ashwood, Up All Night, Read All Day, Fallen Angel Reviews, Prism Book Alliance, Jade Crystal, The Hat Party, Havan Fellows, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, Wake Up Your Wild Side, MM Good Book Reviews, Emotion in Motion, The Novel Approach, It’s Raining Men, Michael Mandrake, 3 Chicks After Dark, Inked Rainbow Reads, Smoocher’s Voice, Rainbow Gold Reviews

Contest: Rafflecopter Prize: E-book of one of CJane’s novellas.  Please use the link below to enter and for additional contest information.  Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.

Rafflecopter Code: a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

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Focusing In On Midnight Rodeo: Homecoming by Kiernan Kelly, Julia Talbot and BA Tortuga (contest)

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Welcomes Kiernan Kelly, Julia Talbot and BA Tortuga

and their latest anthology,

Midnight Rodeo: Homecoming!

Rope, wolves, leather, vampires, demons, hats, bears.

Rodeo.

 

Kiernan Kelly, BA Tortuga, and Julia Talbot have combined their wild imaginations and talent to come up with the Midnight Rodeo: Homecoming Anthology.  It’s an irresistible combination of “rope, wolves, leather, vampires, demons, hats, bears”…and the rodeo!

When offered an interview, I grabbed at the chance to float some questions by these terrific authors.  My interview with them follows directly.

Today there’s a contest to enter, an excerpt to read and much more.    The link for the Raffecopter contest can be found here and at the bottom of today’s post.  Winner receives an eBook copy of Midnight Rodeo:Homecoming.  So don’t forget to enter to win.  As always you must be 18 years of age or older to enter.  Good luck and Happy Reading!

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Contest:  Rafflecopter Prize: E-Book of Midnight Rodeo.  Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.  Visit this link or the one at the bottom of the post to enter.

Book Title: Midnight Rodeo: Homecoming

Authors Name: Kiernan Kelly, Julia Talbot, BA Tortuga

 

 

A ScatteredThoughts Interview with Kiernan Kelly, Julia Talbot and BA Tortuga! 

 

 

STRW:  You all have been friends/SOs (congratulations to B.A. and Julia on their wedding) and co-authors for a long time. Has that affected each other’s writing styles, do you think?

  • Julia Talbot: Thank you! I think it definitely affects our writing. I mean, for one thing, we were all kinda pioneers in taking m/m from online chats and boards to mainstream fiction, so we set our own “house style” if you will. Then there’s the fact that we’ve all co-written and been critique partners for years. Bound to spill over some in each author’s work.
  • BA: Oh, lord yes. There isn’t a single thing that Julia has written that I haven’t read as she worked on it and vice versa. I get to see Kiernan stories chapter by chapter. We all listen to each other talk and visit together. We all share a part of the brain. 😀
  • KKelly: think our writing styles are naturally similar enough to blend nicely in an anthology, yet still remain distinct enough for a reader to recognize the author’s voice in each one.

STRW:   Which comes first? The anthology idea or similar stories you are all working on?

  • KKelly: I usually work on stories simultaneously, with preference given to whichever deadline is looming.
  • BA: I would say that the anthology idea almost always comes first. We go…Ooh! Shiny idea! And then we go… Oh, look. Look at this boy! 😉
  • Julia Talbot:  The anthology idea, generally. We get together at cons and someone says, what if there was this bar…

STRW:  Between the three of you, you all have written about a multitude of professions. Which is your favorite profession to assign a character and why?

  • BA: Well, I’m a cowboy fan, for sure. Rodeo cowboys, working cowboys, country western singers in Stetsons. Honestly, I love a blue-collar working man.
  • Julia Talbot:  Mine is pretty broad. Someone pointed out recently that I like uniforms. Military, cops, doctors, skinwalkers. I like the trappings of a false skin.
  • KKelly: That’s a good question. I like blue collar workers (I find something inherently sexy about a man who works with his hands), but I’ve written lots of white collar professions as well. My favorite (even if I’ve only done it in one story, Change of Heart, and its sequel, Change in Attitude) was to make a shifter a veterinarian. In Change of Heart, the shifter is hit by a truck while in wolf-form, and ends up in his own vet clinic. That was a great deal of fun to write.

STRW: BA, Bullriders or wolf shifters?  Do you have a favorite?  I have been waiting for a wolf shifter bull rider to arrive (although I am not sure that would work due to the predator prey nature) and it looks like I will get my wish along with other supernatural beings.  How did that come about?  Did it involve alcohol or a yarn binge?

  • BA (only):  Well, the funny thing is that the whole idea happened because I couldn’t decide between bullriders and werewolves. They tell you, as a writer, you have to pick a genre, and I was stressing it. Do I write cowboys or werewolves? Cowboys? Werewolves? Ack! Then I went…Oh.

OH!

PARANORMAL COWBOY BUTTS OMG.

And then I may have sparkled. 😉

STRW:   Historical fiction (westerns included) is among the hardest genres to write. Supernatural fiction probably the most fun. Do you each have a favorite type of story to write?

  • KKelly: I write in every genre, but I love to write paranormal romances because the usual laws of physics don’t necessarily apply. My particular favorite are shifters, although I tend to favor unusual creatures over the more familiar wolves. My “In Their Own Skins” trilogy features just about every type of animal-form I could think of – hawks, horses, bear, T-Rex, velociraptors… You just can’t do that in a contemporary romance. LOL
  • Julia Talbot:  I have a long love of historicals. They’re not hard to write for me as I love research. They are a harder sell, though, because they’re so much more subjective. What if someone really hates 16th century Spain? I also love paranormals, because I love the animal nature of shifters, the alien apex predator nature of a vampire.
  • BA: I love my westerns, modern and historicals, but it’s very very difficult for the paranormal elements not to creep in. I also adore writing horror. 😀

STRW:   Cowboys and rodeos are a real passion for many, including myself. Can you all explain why they act as a muse for your writing? Is there a particular bull rider on the circuit today you root for? Or even a bull for that matter?

  • KKelly: I was introduced to bullriding back when I wrote “Riding Heartbreak Road.” I knew next to nothing about the rodeo, but I had this image in my head of a hunky cowboy wearing nothing but his hat and chaps. I knew if I wanted to write the scene, I needed to do research about the rodeo, and since I liked the idea of cowboys trying to stay on the back of a two-thousand pound monster for a mere eight seconds, I narrowed my research to bullriding. I began by watching PBR (Professional Bull Riding) on television, and became so involved in the sport that I began to go to local PBR events. I’ve always been a fan of Guilherme Marchi and Mike Lee, and little Gage Gay is just so darn adorable, I’d like to pick him up and carry him around in my pocket.
  • Julia Talbot:  Oh, my grandpa was a cowboy, and to some extent so was my mom. I married into a family of them. I tend to root for the Brazilian bullriders now, but my all-time favorites are Chris Shivers and Mike White.
  • BA: I grew up with cowboys – my daddy’s a cowboy, my brothers are cowboys. Those are the people I know and love. I can’t imagine choosing another muse. I am totally old school, and currently I’m rooting for the Brazilians in the PBR. Guilherme Marchi makes me fluttery. Will Lowe is my favorite PRCA rider. My all time favorite cowboy is Ty Murray. No, Jim Shoulders. Wait…

STRW: (for BA) I find the older bullriders/bronc riders especially poignant.  It’s such a young man or woman’s sport.  I know and love BA’s Rough Stock series that has some retired cowboys.  But any plans for a story or series about the bull riders or rodeo riders who are forced to retire or leave that lifestyle behind?

  • BA: I actually do have a series in the works called Out to Pasture featuring the ‘old guys’ – old guys in Roughstock are, what? 25? 😉

STRW:  . The PBR and Gay Rodeo circuits…any overlap that you see these days? Has the PBR gotten any more LGBTQ friendly? Or is your writing a way to bring that element to the mainstream?

  • KKelly: I’m not sure if the doors are open yet on the PBR circuit. You don’t hear about gay riders. They’re probably there, but they keep it on the down-low. I’m afraid the PBR isn’t the most open operation, and definitely not as welcoming to everyone as the IGRA (International Gay Rodeo Association). I think the PBR is still very much a “good ol’ boys” network.
  • Julia Talbot:  I wouldn’t be able to speak for any organizations with any certainty. My writing of cowboys in particular is a fantasy of how I would love people to react to all things LGBTQ.
  • BA: All I’ll say on that subject is that, once Julia and I came out the closet, our attendance has gone from 10-12 events a year to maybe 1 a year. I write a fantasy world wherein love is accepted.

STRW:   Vampires or werewolves? Do you all have a favorite and why?

  • Julia Talbot:  Werewolves. I mean, I am a vamp fan since Dracula at 11, and later, Anne Rice and Poppy Z Brite. But I adore writing werebeasts and exploring how their animal side makes them react to human situations.
  • KKelly: Again, I’ve written both, but I do favor werewolves over vampires.  I think there are many reasons for my preference – I’m an animal lover (no, not in THAT way, thank you very much), so the wolves play into that. I like that wolves mate for life, and I enjoy exploring the pack mentality. Wolves are affectionate with each other, strong, agile, and noble creatures. Vampires…yeah, not so much. Vampires are by nature solitary, decadent creatures, usually interested solely in their own survival. Plus, with vampires, unless their love interest is also a vamp, you need to worry about the whole immortality-watching-your-love-age-and-die thing. Werewolves need to worry about three things: the full moon, silver bullets, and wolfsbane. That’s about it. Vampires, on the other hand, need to watch out for garlic, crosses, running water, sunlight, holy water, crucifixes, wooden stakes, etc. In other words, vampires are high maintenance.
  • BA: Werewolves. I mean, I love vamps, but werewolves!!! 😀 I love animals and the whole concept of pack structure and being driven by instinct makes me incredibly happy.

STRW:  Next projects up for each of you?

  • Julia Talbot:  A menage novella called Georgia Knights out in September from TQ. I have the third Elemental Ops book with Changeling Press out in August and a long novella contemporary out in January or February with Dreamspinner. Find all the things at my website, http://www.juliatalbot.com
  • BA: I am working on a m/m contemporary about kids and cowboys tentatively titled “Ever the Same”, Brazilian bullriders, the next story for the Cereus universe, and a contemporary m/m about a redneck musician and his bodyguard. I’m also finishing up a f/f YA novel currently titled, “Stealing Bases”.
  • KKelly: I’m currently working on an m/m YA titled “Mad About the Hatter,” a short story for the next book in the “Butt” series, Butt Babes in Boyland, which I’ve tentatively titled, “Elf Esteem,” and an m/m novel about a vampire (I know, I know – high maintenance) and an angel/vampire hybrid titled “Riding Lucifer.”

 STRW:  That was a butt load of questions and the answers from all three of you were wonderful.  Thank you so much for taking the time to spend a little  time here with us today!

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Author Bios:

  • BA Tortuga:

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

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

Links:
Website: http://www.batortuga.com
Twitter: @batortuga

  • Kiernan Kelly:

Kiernan Kelly lives in the wilds of the alligator-infested U.S. Southeast, slathered in SPF 45, drinking colorful tropical, hi-octane concoctions served by thong-clad cabana boys.

All right, the truth is that she spends her time locked in the dark recesses of her office, writing gay erotic romance while chained to a temperamental laptop, drinking coffee, and dreaming of thong-clad cabana boys.

Sigh.

To date, Kiernan has over a dozen novels in print and ebook, and a plethora of short stories in both formats.

Links:
Website 
Email:  KiernanKelly@KiernanKelly.com
Facebook

 

  • Julia Talbot:

Julia Talbot lives in the great Southwest, where there is hot and cold running rodeo, cowboys, and everything from meat and potatoes to the best Tex-Mex. A full time author, Julia has been published by Torquere Press, Ellora’s Cave, and Changeling Press. She believes that everyone deserves a happy ending, so she writes about love without limits, where boys love boys, girls love girls, and boys and girls get together to get wild, especially when her crazy paranormal characters are involved.

Find Julia at:
Twitter  at @juliatalbot
Website  
Facebook

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Midnight Rodeo Homecoming coverMidnight Rodeo: Homecoming
Authors: Kiernan Kelly, Julia Talbot, BA Tortuga

Cover Artist: Anne Squires
Publisher: Torquere Press

Buy Links:    Torquere Press

Blurb(s):

What happens when rodeos start to get too tough for humans to compete in? Midnight Rodeo, of course, where supernatural creatures like shifters and vampires work for the prize money, and for the awe of their audience.

In Welcome to the Pack by BA Tortuga, when head bullfighter Denton is killed by a demon bull, his twin, Denver, comes back to take his place. Denver was gone for years, working mundane rodeos and missing his twin. He’s not sure the pack can heal him since the other bullfighters challenge Denver at every turn. All except Blaine, who’s an outcast himself, and who knows Denver is like no one he’s ever met.

In Oklahoma Rain by Kiernan Kelly, psychic Blaze scouts locations for the rodeo company, Darque and Knight, where he finds another psychic talent, Zack, who’s hot as the Fourth of July. Zack is complicated, though, thanks to his sidekick, Mikey, a damaged kid. Blaze invites the pair back to the rodeo, but not everyone is as happy as Blaze to have them there.

In Big Bear, Little Bear, by Julia Talbot, bear shifter Ben is returning to the rodeo after a long injury recovery. Big bear shifter Ozzie is the barrel man and clown, and he’s been waiting for Ben to come back to the big show. But is Ben ready to ride again, let alone be the lover Ozzie is ready to take on?

Excerpt:

Denver was– wow.

Denton had been stunning, making Blaine stare a lot. A lot. Still, Dent had been off-limits, and he’d bet Denver was, too. No one could be that hot and be like Blaine.

He was the weird one, the one brought into the pack by a she-wolf who had already had a single pup. Blaine figured he was lucky no one had killed him when he was a kid.

Everyone else was broad and wide, shaggy headed with eyes like green glass. All of them came from the same line. Denver was the spitting image of Denton, really. A little harder around the edges, a little more wild. A shit ton more bruised.

The guys had been taking turns. Two a night, just like clockwork, they’d come and challenge Denver. One at midnight, one at three a.m. Greg and Vince went, then Carter and Caul, and finally Hank and Mike. Boom.

He supposed Denver was waiting for him, now. Blaine sighed. He had no intention of trying to take the pack. God, the very idea made his head hurt.
The real question was, were they going to just start over, or was Denver going to get a night off, a chance to sleep before they settled in town for tonight’s show?

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Tour Dates/Stops: 7/28 – 8/22

 

BadgeMR Homecoming Rev
7/28: Prism Book Alliance
7/29: Parker Williams
7/30: Up All Night, Read All Day
7/31: Amanda C. Stone
8/1: LeAnn’s Book Reviews
8/4: Love Bytes
8/5: Book Reviews, Rants, and Raves, Jade Crystal
8/6: The Hat Party
8/7: Night Owl Reviews, Because Two Men Are Better Than One
8/8: The Novel Approach
8/11: Decadent Delights
8/12: Wake Up Your Wild Side
8/13: Tara Lain
8/14: MM Good Book Reviews, Emotion in Motion
8/15: Iyana Jenna, Rainbow Gold Reviews
8/18: Fallen Angel Reviews, Velvet Panic
8/19: Hearts on Fire
8/20: Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, Dawn’s Reading Nook
8/21: Book Reviews and More by Kathy, Kimi-Chan
8/22: My Fiction Nook, Smoocher’s Voice
Contest:   Must be 18 years of age or older to enter. Rafflecopter Prize: E-Book of Midnight Rodeo

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Jackie Nacht’s ‘Wrong Locker’ Book Tour (contest)

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Contest:   Enter to win Rafflecopter Prize: $10 Amazon card and a PDF choice from Jackie’s backlist.  Use this Rafflecopter link to enter and for additional contest details.  

maginifying glass with Take a LookNow that the contest information is out of the way, let’s focus in on Wrong Locker by Jackie Nacht…

 

Book Name: Wrong Locker
Author Name: Jackie Nacht
Author Bio:

Short, sexy and sweet— where a little love goes a long way.

That’s the best way to describe Jackie Nacht’s stories. She was introduced to M/M Romance through her sister, Stephani, and read it for years. Then, she thought it was time to put her own stories on paper. Jackie began writing short and sweet stories that ended with a happily ever after.

Thinking back to her own book addiction, where there were many nights Jackie stayed up way too late so she could read just one more chapter— yeah, right— Jackie decided to write short romances for young adults as well as adults. Hopefully, they will give high school and college students, or working men and women something they can read during their lunch hour, in between classes or just when they want to briefly get away from the daily stresses of everyday life.

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Title: Wrong Locker by Jackie Nacht
Cover Artist: Zathyn Priest – Scarlet Tie Designs
Publisher: Featherweight Press

Buy Links:  Featherweight Publishing      Amazon

Blurb:
Sometimes the best way to turn your bad luck around, is reach out for the hand willing to help.

Sophomore Shaun Richards could not have any worse luck. The front office ended up placing his locker in the senior wing this year. A month into the year and it hasn’t gotten any better. A group of seniors make it their mission to prove that he doesn’t belong and gives him a hard time on a daily basis.

While eating lunch alone one day senior, Nash Wilder comes to sit with him. Shaun has had a crush on the senior all year and wonders what the heck the senior was doing sitting with the geeky underclassman?

 

 

 

Excerpt:Wrong Locker by Jackie Nacht

I was in pure hell. As I stood in front of Northeastern High, I could already feel my body tremble in panic. I was barely able to swallow, my throat dry with fear. Scrubbing a hand over my face, I wiped away the stray beads of sweat that showcased my anxiety to everyone passing me by.

Why was I so afraid to walk through those double doors? Oh that’s right. The front office had assigned me a locker in the senior hallway this year due to overcrowding. A sophomore in the senior wing? What in the world had they been thinking?

“You get up late, Shaun? Do you need me to start calling you in the morning again?” Wade adjusted his backpack as he came to stand next to me.

Wade was my only friend in school. We had grown up together and were tight as they came. He was protective of me and vice versa. He was also the only one I’d ever told I was gay, outside of my mom, even though I was teased ruthlessly by the jerks who just assumed. I wasn’t hiding it, but it was no one’s business either, so I didn’t confirm or deny.

How could I tell Wade that every day I tried to be this late? That way I might avoid having to walk to my locker in a hall crowded full of jerks that made it their life’s mission to put me through hell on a daily basis. If I came in late enough, I would only have to deal with a few stragglers as opposed to the whole gamut.

“No, I’m good, Wade.” My voice quivered. I hated feeling this way.

We entered the school together, and Wade paused at the front of the sophomore wing, pursing his lips. “Do you want me to go with you?”

As much as I wanted to say yes, I knew these jerks would be horrible to Wade, and I wanted to protect my one and only friend. “Go on to your locker. We only have a few minutes to make it to class.

“

Walking away from Wade was a test of my courage. My whole body started to go on lockdown, ready to be verbally attacked, insulted and made to feel like a piece of chewing gum on the bottom of a shoe.

Putting my head down, I turned the corner, heading for my locker. I learned that if I didn’t make eye contact with the seniors, usually they would ignore me. I prayed that this would be one of those days. Getting to my locker, my fingers trembled as I grabbed my lock. Sheesh, I couldn’t even get the combination in I was shaking so badly. After screwing it up once, I had to try 

spinning the combination out and trying again.

I took too long. The presence behind me confirmed that my day of hell was about to begin. Leaning my forehead against the cool locker, I didn’t even bother to try opening it up as my breath quickened.

A fist slammed next to me, causing me to jump.

Blake was there, leaning against the locker next to me with two of his buddies standing next to him. I have no clue what I ever did to offend the guy, but he hated me with a passion and was the ringleader to a group of seniors that gave me hell on a daily basis.

“Why haven’t you left yet? No one wants you here, fag.”

Blake all but sneered at me.

It was the same thing every day. A sophomore wasn’t wanted in the wing, but it was more than that. This guy hated me. And I absolutely loathed being called a fag. That was just as bad as a slap to the face. Worse.

There was no point in responding. I’d tried the first couple times, explaining administration couldn’t switch my locker and that the sophomore wing was on overflow to other wings. Heck, there were a few more sophomores in this wing too, but they didn’t seem to have half as much trouble as I did. Of course, those sophomores were athletes.

Me, I was more on the small side, skinny as they came with stylish brown hair that I used to love but now seemed to be a beacon for these jerks.

“I don’t want to see you anymore. I don’t care how you do it, but I don’t want you walking in this hallway again.” Blake slammed the locker with his fist again. The three walked away, laughing and jeering at my humiliation.

I had hoped that it would get better, that these guys would get bored and leave me alone. Yeah, they hadn’t physically hurt me, yet. I knew that it was only a matter of time. Things had escalated too quickly in the last month since I had started school.

The bell rang, and I groaned, knowing that I was going to get into trouble for another tardy. Some days it just didn’t pay to wake up.

I ran all the way to my classroom and got a stern look from my Spanish teacher before sitting down in my assigned seat. This was the best part of my day. While one group of seniors were jerks, they weren’t all bad. Spanish was an elective that students were required to take two years of. Most waited until the last two years but I knew that I wanted to minor it in college so I wanted to have four years of languages.

This period, I got to stare at the back of the football co-captain, Nash Wilder. The man was gorgeous with sun-streaked light brown hair that had a short messy style to it. He was filled out 

with muscles that I would forever lack and a tan I wish I could achieve. However, in my paleness, all I could hope for was a third degree burn. The man was handsome and unattainable. It seemed every girl dreamed he would ask them out, but the guy remained oblivious, concentrating on sports and school.

Glancing up at the dry erase board, I began doing my silent work of conjugating verbs and putting them into sentences. The tension in my body was still there from my earlier confrontation, but a small amount slipped away, knowing that I would have at least a small reprieve.

I was just about finished when Nash turned and stared at me. I glanced up from my paperwork into his puppy dog chocolate-brown eyes, surrounded by long dark eyelashes.

My jaw threatened to drop as he just scrutinized me. What was he thinking? Did I have something on my face? Oh God I did, didn’t I?

“You okay, Shaun?” Nash whispered, doing a quick glance over his shoulder to make sure the teacher wasn’t looking.

Nash knew my name? He freakin’ knew my name. I didn’t think anybody as popular as him would ever notice someone like me, unpopular and not an athletic bone in my body. He also sounded concerned. About me?

“I’m fine,” I croaked out.

Someone in Nash’s social stratosphere didn’t want to hear about all my problems. Probably would bore the guy to death.

Nash stared at me for a moment more before he went back to his work. I blew out a breath with relief that I didn’t have to discuss the jerks that constantly harassed me. How embarrassing would it be to admit to Nash the extent of my struggles, while crowded hallways seemed to simply part for him as he strolled along?

Rolling my pencil between my fingers, I frowned down at my work. This year was going to be so long for me. How was I ever going to be able to get through it? Sighing, I decided to try not to think about it as I got back to my work. Maybe in time I would have an answer, but right then, all I wanted was to survive the day.

BadgeWrongLockerTour Dates: 8/20/14WillPride

Tour Stops: Parker Williams, MM Good Book Reviews, Full Moon Dreaming, SA McAuley, My Fiction Nook, Love Bytes, Prism Book Alliance, LeAnn’s Book Reviews, Will Parkinson, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, Charli Green, Dawn’s Reading Nook, Cate Ashwood, Hearts on Fire, Iyana Jenna, Rainbow Gold Reviews, Inked Rainbow Reads, Trisha Harrington’s Blog, Fallen Angels Review, Rainbow Warriors
Posting on 8/21/14:
Amanda C. Stone

Contest:
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