Barb, the Zany Old Lady, Review: Grumble Monkey and the Department Store Elf by B.G. Thomas, audiobook narrated by Donald Tursman


Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

Grumble Monkey and the Department Store ElfNick St. George is an affluent New York art gallery owner with a mission—he has to get to San Francisco by the end of Christmas Day. As such, he’s pushing through ice storms and horrible road conditions to get there when he takes a quick rest stop break and encounters a very strange sight. A young man, tall, slender, pretty, with big thick eyeglasses and a red-and-white striped hat that is so long it wraps around his neck like a scarf strikes up a conversation with him, or at least talks non-stop at him. This man, Kit Jeffries, is on his way home for Christmas too, but his Jeep has broken down, and he asks to ride along with Nick since it’s two hours away in the same direction in which Nick is heading.

Nick tries to refuse, but this happy-go-lucky kid just won’t shut up long enough for Nick to do that, so he reluctantly agrees. Nick is a nasty SOB and nearly everything out of his mouth is negative and derogatory. On the other hand, Kit is a Pollyanna with never a bad word, literally. Golly gee, Kit won’t even say shit, saying poop instead.

This story is built around the trip to Kit’s house, Kit’s talent as an artist which Nick reluctantly admires, and the fact that Kit’s parents haven’t been able to fly home for Christmas as expected. Over the course of this short story, we get a glimpse of Nick’s soft side, along with a heap of reasons for his lousy behavior, and we get to see what happens when bombarded with kindness from Kit.

I’d like to say that I liked the story, but really it was tough to get through. Nick wasn’t just negative, he was downright nasty and there were so many homophobic slurs that I found it offensive. Yes, I understand the author was just giving us a character but it offended me nevertheless. And Kit was a bit too sickeningly sweet. Granted he was raised to be kind to others, but his character came across as childish and immature, certainly way too young and naïve for the likes of nasty Nick.

I’m not sure if the narration helped or hindered the story. The narrator didn’t have enough vocal range to distinguish between the characters and there wasn’t a clear break between words verbalized by Nick and internal dialogue or story narration, so it was hard to tell when the character was speaking versus the narrator speaking. Plus, there was an annoying clicking sound that occurred off and on throughout the narration, not always present but it was irritating, a sound almost as if the narrator was chewing gum or making another tongue-clicking noise. It’s hard to describe but occurred enough for me to need to cite it in this audiobook review.

So I can’t give more than a 2.5 star rating to the story itself, but I would recommend reading it rather than listening to the audiobook.

The cover artist, Paul Richmond, provided a bright and colorful, interesting cover which depicted the characters perfectly. In hindsight, I believe I may have picked the story due to the cute cover.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Audio   iTunes    Audible   Amazon    Grumble Monkey and the Department Store Elf

Book Details:

A story from the Dreamspinner Press 2013 Advent Calendar package “Heartwarming”.
Cover Artist Paul Richmond
audiobook clipart bwNarrator Donald Tursman
Length 2 hours and 19 minutes


Join In on Rachel Haimowitz’s Song of the Fallen Re-Release Celebration! (contest)



Song of the Fallen Re-Release Celebration



Hello all, and thank you so much for joining me to chat about the queer high fantasy duology Song of the Fallen! This series holds a particularly special place in my heart, not just because I absolutely adore high fantasy and sloooooooooooooow-burn enemies-to-lovers romance and there isn’t nearly enough of any of that to go round in queer fiction, but also because Counterpoint, the first book in the duology, was the first novel I ever sold.

One of the questions I—and probably most published authors—get asked the most often is how I got published. The path of the Song of the Fallen novels was both particularly easy and particularly fraught—Counterpoint is now at its third publisher (if you count a brief interlude of self-pub), and Crescendo, the second book in the duology, is also at its third publisher without any self-pub interludes. Though Counterpoint came out in 2010 and Crescendo in 2011, this month marks the very first time they have both been under the same roof—complete with gorgeous new cover art!—and I couldn’t be happier to have them there.

But when I first sold Counterpoint, it was to a teeny little startup epub called Guiltless Pleasure Publishing. The editor actually came to me, which was an unparalleled delight—she’d read and loved my fanfiction and wanted to sign me for original work. (Note: now that I’m an acquiring editor who also loves fanfic, I have the pleasure of doing this too.) She actually signed me on proposal, which, looking back, was pretty outrageously lucky for a first-time novelist.

What was meant to be one book of about 80,000 words grew and grew as the writing progressed (*shakes fist at high fantasy*), and at 120,000 words I found a natural conclusion to the first half of the story arc and told her there was no way to do this without a book 2. She agreed, and I set off to write Crescendo while Counterpoint went into edits.

Counterpoint came out to a fairly large splash, though I was new to queer romance and didn’t know it at the time. Again, looking back, I was pretty outrageously lucky. Unfortunately, halfway through Crescendo edits, the owner of Guiltless Pleasure came down with a serious, long-term illness, and despite Counterpoint’s success, she had to close up shop. Which left me with not one but two books without a home, one of which was literally paying my bills and the other of which was an eagerly awaited sequel. So, very slightly older and very slightly wiser than I’d been a year past, I self-pubbed Counterpoint, and went publisher shopping for a home for Crescendo. I was fortunate in that Counterpoint had sold well enough to open a lot of potential doors for Crescendo, but ultimately I went with another small press that was willing to use the same cover artist and offer very competitive royalty terms.

I won’t get into details, but more or less from the moment I signed the contract to the moment I got the rights back to that book three years later, that experience was an unmitigated disaster. Thankfully, in the meanwhile, me and some writer and publisher buddies launched Riptide. I’d self-pubbed Counterpoint around January of 2011, and in December of 2011 I signed the rights over to Riptide instead, where it nestled in quite comfortably and saw a huge sales boost thanks to Riptide’s amazing marketing department. Around the same time, Crescendo released at the other publisher while I stared longingly at it and wished I’d conceived of Riptide before I’d signed over the second book.SongOfFallen_150x300

So, like I said, weirdly easy but also kind of fraught. Fast forward three years, to just last month. I get rights back to Crescendo. It needs new cover art, so we decide, hey, let’s give the whole series a face lift. Plus, I’d been very excited about the work this particular cover artist had been doing for us (her name is Simoné, and I highly encourage you to check her out), and I was dying to get a cover from her on one of my books. Or, better yet, two of my books!

And so here we are. Three publishers and two covers per book, and my very first novel and its sequel are finally at home at Riptide. If you’ve read them, thank you from the bottom of my heart for making literally my entire writing career possible. If you haven’t, I hope you’ll consider sharing my babies with me ϑ

To help make that possible, I’m giving away a signed set of the Song of the Fallen paperbacks with the gorgeous new cover art. I’ll ship anywhere in the world, too. To enter, just leave a comment with a way to contact you if you win. You can enter multiple times by commenting on each blog this re-release tour stops at, so be sure to visit the other stops!

About the “Song of the Fallen” Series

Two enemies, three warring races, and a singular love with the power to change the future.

It is the twilight of mankind. Depleted by generations of war with a dark race, the human kingdoms and their ancient alliance stand on the brink of extinction. The outlands are soaked with the blood of the fallen. The midlands are rotting with decadence and despair.

Elfkind, estranged by past crimes, watches and waits for nature to run its course.

And then the two collide.

Ayden’s life has long been guided by two emotions: love for his sister, and hatred of all things human. When he’s captured in battle, he is enslaved in the service of a human prince, Freyrik Farr.

Freyrik has always known elves to be beautiful and dangerous, but never has one affected him as deeply as Ayden. Teetering on a dagger’s edge between duty and high treason, Freyrik discovers that some choices can change a life, and some an entire world.

Between prejudice, politics, pride, and survival, Ayden and Freyrik must carve a new path, no matter how daunting. For nothing less than the fate of both their peoples rests on the power of their perseverance—and their love.

About the Author

Rachel is an M/M erotic romance author and the Publisher of Riptide Publishing. She’s also a sadist with a pesky conscience, shamelessly silly, and quite proudly pervish. Fortunately, all those things make writing a lot more fun for her . . . if not so much for her characters.

When she’s not writing about hot guys getting it on (or just plain getting it; her characters rarely escape a story unscathed), she loves to read, hike, camp, sing, perform in community theater, and glue captions to cats. She also has a particular fondness for her very needy dog, her even needier cat, and shouting at kids to get off her lawn.

Connect with Rachel:

A MelanieM Review: Midsummer Law (Midsummer #3) by Megan Derr


Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

midsummerlaw400Kirby Hindon is Sheriff in MIdsummer, a magical, supernatural town.  On the easiest day, the job carries with it a almost constant list of surprises and supernatural  happenings that most Sheriffs never have to deal with.  But one of the toughest parts of his job is notifying the next of kin when someone is killed.  That’s the Kirby is facing now. Hobgoblin Kerry Greyling is dead and Kirby needs to contact his brother as next of kin.  The biggest surprise appears when Kerry’s brother, Merry, shows up to collect his belongings.

Merry is Kerry’s twin brother but they were alike only in appearance.  Where Kerry was dark, Merry is light as well as powerful.  In fact, Merry shimmers from head to toe.  He is a well respected and sought after clothing designer whose clothes are just as unique as Merry.  What happens when a lonely Sheriff  who also happens to be a witch meets up with an equally lonely hobgoblin?  Anything is possible in the town of Midsummer.

Midsummer Law picks up after the events of Midsummer Curse.  All the towns people are dealing with the aftermath of Ferdy the gremlin’s curse and the death of Kerry Greyling, Ferdy’s ex and all round rotter.  It’s been left to witch and town Sheriff Kirby Hindon to notify the closest kin of the deceased and depose of the body and personal belongings.  But what happens next is as unexpected to those involved as it is just what they need.

I love the town of Midsummer that Megan Derr has created.  A place where all the paranormal and supernatural belong, its both a haven and locus for events and relationships of all types.  We’ve had werewolves and kind of weres, weres and gremlins, vampires and vampire hunters and now a witch in search of love in the most unlikely of places.  Kirby Hindon has always existed on the secondary layer of the other stories as a character.  He arrives to haul off the culprit or at the ending of a nasty culmination of events.  Now he’s at the front of his own story and we get a better look at a lonely man with never enough time to practice his magic.

Merry Greyling, twin brother to the nasty Kerry Greyling, is a lovely delight of a character.  A sought after clothes designer, he wears what he makes, along with artfully applied makeup in unusual color combinations.  He’s powerful, quixotic, and lonely.  Hmmmm, where can a partner be found for him?  Derr brings these two together over the death of Merry’s brother and let the rest of the journey to love fall gently into place.

I say gently because there is no drama to be found here, that occurred in the previous story.  This is just two beings trying to work out a long distance relationship and it contain the commonplace errors and miscommunications  one would expect of such an attempt.  It gradually works itself out along the way as Derr starts to fold in the characters for the next short story in the series, Midsummer Baker.

This is a very quick read with none of the depth of the first  two stories.  There is no mystery involved, just two beings in search of love.  I did love the surprise that was Merry and wish we had much more of him and Kirby’s relationship.  We get a few answers to some left over questions but that’s it.  I missed the variety of characters and the layers to the plot that the other stories had, although the romance is a lovely one.   There were also one or two editing issues.  A moment where Kirby looks at Kirby (it should have been Kelly), easy enough to catch and fix but wasn’t.

Midsummer is a town guaranteed to pull you into its stories and relationships.  There is so much to discover here and so many more beings to meet.  I hope Megan Derr continues to develop stories in this series.  I can’t wait for more to come.

Cover art by Megan Derr.   She does a terrific job in branding the series and yet makes each design relevant to the story within.

Sales Links:     Less Than Three Press            All Romance eBook (ARe)        Amazon            Midsummer Law

Book Details:

ebook, 46 pages
Published July 2010 by Less Than Three Press
edition languageEnglish
seriesMidsummer #3

Midsummer Series in order they were written and should be read (available in print, ebook and audio):

Midsummer Moon
Midsummer Curse
Midsummer Law
Midsummer Baker
Midsummer Days (Print collection of all stories)

Team Up with Sean Michael on his Book Tour for Underground: Special Teams (contest)



Check out the latest from Sean Michael, Underground: Special Teams.  There is a interview to read, a hot nsfw excerpt to fan yourself over, and a contest to enter!  Now on to our interview…

STRW. A large percentage of your stories have a BDSM content. Why fold that element into your series?

Sean Michael:  Because it’s hot. I love the kink, I love the power play — it throws a whole new dynamic into a story. And some characters need it.

STRW:  The inclusion of kinky sex, including elements of D/s and BDSM get a wide range of treatment from authors, from the knowledgeable to the uninformed. How important is it to you that your stories are regarded as not only sexy and entertaining but factual?

Sean Michael:  Sane, safe and consensual are important to me, but my books are not instruction manuals – they are fiction.

STRW:  I love the way in which you show people why certain characters need to have bdsm in their lives. Which was the first character to show you that you had to go this route in a story?

Sean Michael:  Thank you! Secrets, Skin and Leather was pretty early on, as were the Velvet Glove books. Conner and Desmond were the characters who really started that series for me.

STRW: . Do you find that using BDSM is a turn off or turn on to readers? Or both?

Sean Michael:  I’ve heard from readers on both sides of that one, actually.

STRW: You also write M/M fiction that has little kink to them, some lovely sweet romantic stories. Do you find yourself alternating them to change up your writing or do you wait for the characters and storylines to talk to you?

Sean Michael:  The characters dictate things, though I can usually tell from the start which way they’re going to go. They have on occasion surprised me!

STRW:   You’ve been writing for some time. How has your writing changed over time?

Sean Michael:  I’m writing a lot more kink now than I did in the beginning.

STRW:  You are great friends with BA Tortuga and Julia Talbot. Do you find yourselves bouncing ideas off each other? And perhaps being crit partners too?

Sean Michael:  All the time!

STRW:  Favorite characters you have written?

Sean Michael:  I’m pretty sure I’m not allowed to have favorites. However, the ones that have stayed with me the most would be the Jarheads, a core group of the Hammer Club men, and the men of Chess. But I don’t have favorites. 😉

STRW: What childhood book or story had the greatest impact on you as a child and writer today?

Sean Michael:  I don’t think I could put my finger on one. I’d have to go with just books in general. My folks used to put a book in the crib with me when I was little so I wouldn’t wake them up immediately. Growing up, most evenings were spent sitting in the living room together after supper, reading. Books were very important in my childhood and beyond.

STRW:   What’s next for Sean Michael?

Sean Michael:  I just started a new series that really came out of the blue and it has no deadline, no home as yet, but my God the characters are noisy and hot and I keep sneaking away from the other stories I should be working on to play with Tide, Lance, Ty and Bryan! I say series because while it’s starting with these four, I have a dozen other characters already jumping up and down, demanding their turn.Thank you for the interview!

STRW:  Thanks for stopping  by and agreeing to sit a while in our author interview chair!  Now on to y0ur latest story, Underground: Special Teams!

Book Name: Underground: Special Teams
Author Name: Sean Michael

Author Bio:

Often referred to as “Space Cowboy” and “Gangsta of Love” while still striving for the moniker of “Maurice,” Sean Michael spends his days surfing, smutting, organizing his immense gourd collection and fantasizing about one day retiring on a small secluded island peopled entirely by horseshoe crabs. While collecting vast amounts of vintage gay pulp novels and mood rings, Sean whiles away the hours between dropping the f-bomb and pursuing the kama sutra by channeling the long lost spirit of John Wayne and singing along with the soundtrack to “Chicago.”

A long-time writer of complicated haiku, currently Sean is attempting to learn the advanced arts of plate spinning and soap carving sex toys.
Barring any of that? He’ll stick with writing his stories, thanks, and rubbing pretty bodies together to see if they spark.

Author Contact:

  • Email:
    Twitter:  @seanmichael09

Underground- Special Teams coverTitle:  Underground: Special Teams by Sean Michael
Publisher: Torquere Press
Cover Artist: Kris Norris

Sales Links:

Underground: Special Teams Blurb:

When Hunter Simms goes undercover at an underground BDSM party, the last thing he expects to see is SWAT’s leading shooter Keifer Magnessen bound, gagged, plugged and very naked. He is immediately drawn to Keifer, and wants to get to know his fellow cop better. Much better.

With such a high stress job, Keifer needs to give up control on his down time in order to decompress, but it’s a secret he holds close to his vest. So, when Hunter walks into his chosen place to submit, he tries to cut and run. Lucky for him, Hunter is shrewd, persistent and quite possibly just the Dom that Keifer needs.

Can these two strong men find a way to make their personal lives mesh?

 Underground: Special Teams Excerpt (NSFW):

“Do you want me to observe only this evening?”

“For a few hours at least. Jack has vouched for you, but it’s important to learn us, how we work.”

Hunter nodded slowly. If these people were forcing men to be subs, making them stay, abusing them, he’d be very surprised. This level of care didn’t come out of a place of abuse.

“Let’s go downstairs. I’ll introduce you around. Ben wants to shave his boy today, head to toe, and he wants an audience.”

“Even eyebrows?” That was some hard core shit. And wouldn’t that surprise people who thought BDSM was all about whips and chains?

“Everything. This isn’t a punishment, but Pete is having serious issues with hiding from Ben.”

“Ah, Ben sounds like a very wise man.” Inventive, attentive, a good master.

Hunt already liked this group. If it turned out anyone was being held here against their will, if they weren’t on the up and up, he was going to be extremely disappointed.

“They’re both learning, but they’re getting there.”


“Are they a new couple?” Hunt asked, watching Dan move around the kitchen, triple checking everything.

Jack answered him. “Yeah, Ben has been waiting for Pete for years, but the connection is new.”

“I look forward to seeing them together, then. Watching their scene.”

“It should be intense, emotional. Pete is a fighter.”

Hunt nodded, already affected, just by the conversation.

Daniel chuckled. “Pete used to be a surgeon, and he had a breakdown. Went to work on a construction crew before he started working from home.”

“Those high pressure jobs often produce subs, don’t they?” The best sub Hunt had ever had was a man who ran a fortune five hundred company.

“You know it. We have a number of subs that are desperate to break, to allow someone else in.”

“I enjoy a challenge.” Hunt had to remind himself he was here on the job, not to find someone.

Jack grinned. “Me, I’m looking for a sweet boy, a good bottom who likes a hard fuck but isn’t pushing constantly.”

Daniel’s laughter filled the air. “In other words, you’re not looking for a boy like Keif?”

“Fuck, no. No, Keif needs an owner, not a Dom.”

Hunt’s eyebrow went up. “Keif?”

“One of our unattached subs,” Daniel said. “He’s got the need to be hard-used, broken down. No one man can handle him, no offense Jack.”

“None taken.”

“Is he here tonight?” Hunter asked, intrigued despite himself.

“He’s with our group every night he’s not on call.”

“Is that a yes?” Because he hadn’t heard a yes.

“He is here — plugged, bound, gagged, and, I would imagine well-sounded by now.”

Jesus Christ. A bolt of pure desire went through Hunt.

Daniel grabbed a case of water. “Come on, guys. Let’s go down.”

“Can I take anything?” Hunt offered.

“Can you grab the fruit bowl? I find fruit to be hydrating, erotic, and less messy than chocolate.”

“You got it.” These guys were pros at this hosting a BDSM party thing and Hunt found himself once again hoping they were all on the up and up. He wanted to play, not to make arrests.

Following Dan downstairs, he felt his anticipation ramping up.

Instead of a dark, club-like atmosphere, downstairs there was a room with couches and lamps, pillows. It looked totally normal, at least until he saw the cage in one corner. The massage table. The man kneeling, wearing nothing but a collar.

Hunter took everything in, eyes moving over the men in the room, cataloging them. The man in the collar had to be Pete, the slender, whip-like man looking on proudly, Ben. There were a couple of men sitting together, a few wandering. In the back, bound and ring gagged, cock stuffed was…

Wait. Wait. Hunter knew that shock of near-white hair, the icy blue eyes. He saw that face every time the SWAT team was called out. Keifer Magnessen.

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