A Free Dreamer Review: Adder and Willow (The Rowan Harbor Cycle #6) by Sam Burns

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Fletcher Lane has a problem. His boyfriend’s parents are coming for a visit, and they want to meet up. He’s ready to commit, so what happens if his prospective in-laws don’t like him? And how is he supposed to keep Rowan Harbor’s unique nature a secret when he might be the worst liar ever born?

To make matters worse, when he finds and helps two strangers stuck on the road, it leads him to a new threat: the man who’s been terrorizing the town has set events into motion that endanger more than just Rowan Harbor. Can Fletcher and his friends stop him before there’s nothing but a smoking crater where the Oregon coastline used to be?

In case you’re wondering, no, “Adder and Willow” is not a standalone. You have to start with book one to fully understand and enjoy all the other books in the series.

So far, Sean and Jesse were my favourite couple of the series. But after this book, Fletcher and Conner are definitely giving them a run for their money. They’re so wonderful together and I really love their dynamic. And Fletecher’s fox form is so adorable.

Their first book ended with them just starting to date and “Adder and Willow” starts with them as an established couple of a few months. I can see how some people might be disappointed by that but personally, I really like established couples. And there’s still a lot of serious relationship building happening. Meeting the parents is always an important turning point and there were also a few other things happening with serious impact on their relationship.

We get a lot of Fantasy action this time around and I absolutely loved it. I was so hooked, I just couldn’t put the book down and finished it in two sittings. It would have been one, if I hadn’t started reading so late at night. And we get to see more of Oak, so yay! I won’t go into any more details to avoid spoilers. Just know that you’re in for one hell of a ride this time around.

There’s quite a bit of character development happening as well. Fletcher has some serious growing and changing to do and by the end, he’s well on the way to overcoming his troubles. Conner is such a wonderful boyfriend and together, they’re absolutely perfect.

Honestly, “Adder and Willow” is easily my favourite book of the entire series so far. It felt like a whole new level of worldbuilding happened and we get a pretty detailed look into how magic works in this universe. I like how this series doesn’t just focus on the couples but also keeps showing us glimpses into the lives of the other residents.

So, yeah, this was awesome. If you liked the fantasy elements in the previous books, you’ll love “Adder and Willow”.

The cover by Melanie Farlow is pretty awful. It looks horribly fake and just really doesn’t fit the awesome story at all. I don’t think there are any mountains around Rowan Harbor to actually go hiking in, like the cover seems to imply.

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book details:

Kindle Edition,155 pages

Published October 11th 2018

The Rowan Harbor Cycle Series

Book #1 – Blackbird in the Reeds – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #2 – Wolf and the Holly – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #3 – Fox and Birch – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #4 – Hawk In The Rowan – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #5 – Stag and the Ashe – Amazon US | Amazon UK

 

A MelanieM Release Day Review:Gateway to Love by Sarah Hadley Brook

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Rating: 3.5 Stars out of 5

 

Craig and Mitchell have been friends for years, but each of them reached a point where that camaraderie became… more. Mitchell’s kept his feelings close to his chest. So has Craig, but now that they’ve graduated from UMKC, he knows it’s his last chance to show Mitchell they’re meant to be before their careers take them to opposite sides of the country.

He insists they can’t leave Missouri behind without one last adventure. Mitchell agrees to a road trip to visit all the touristy spots and say goodbye to their home state.

As they spend their days and nights together, buried feelings rise to the surface and hope blossoms. When their journey ends with a dance beneath the Branson stars, will they find love and a future together at the end of the road?

I happen to love the States of Love Line of stories from Dreamspinner Press.  Each with a particular focus on a State, I’ve ventured into backroads, tasted  state wines and foods, and visited many state local attractions as couples met or as here in Gateway to Love by Sarah Hadley Brook, friends found their way to lovers and HEA.

Sometimes I was able to totally immerse myself in the romance and state of choice.  Other times, It was a lovely brief fling, a romance I  enjoyed but it went by swiftly without as much  depth as some of the others.  Gateway to Love falls into the second category.  This might be due to the short nature of the story, 98 pages in length.  It didn’t give the author much to work with in order to expand on the road trip,  and describing the venues the young men visited.  It’s that element that really adds to the flavor and personal essence of each couple, their background, and relationship.  Here it should have been deeply personal because it was  where they grew up and went to college, and yes, full of  memorable sites for their last road trip together.  The author even supplies the readers with a map of the trip and state.

So why didn’t it feel as epic as it was supposed to be?  And except for a couple of brief stops, I could have been on the road to anywhere.

I liked the fumbling road to romance better than the actual road trip.  Both Craig and Mitchell are crazy about each other and have been for years. The trip is overlaid by fears about the boys losing each others friendship, miscommunication, and more, before they get the gumption to step forward before it’s too late and they part for different coasts.

The characters, with their indecision and vulnerability, seem believable. I wish for more background on both.  And the inclusion of their friend was jarring, taking away from the flow of their relationship and the small time it had to develop.

Still, this was a sweet, friends to lovers story.  Quick to read and enjoy.  If you are a fan of the States of Love line, here is another addition you will want to check out.

Cover art:  Brooke Albrecht.  Lovely cover with the arch in the background.  Great job.

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Dreamspinner

Book Details:

ebook, 98 pages
Published October 19th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
Original TitleGateway to Love
ISBN139781640808348
Edition LanguageEnglish
URLhttps://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/gateway-to-love-by-sarah-hadley-brook-9915-b

A Caryn Review Fireworks and Stolen Kisses (Lijun #1) by Angel Martinez and Freddy MacKay

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Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This book had tremendous potential, and I’m sorry I could not give it a higher rating, but as I’ve seen with some of this author’s other works, I felt that there was a lack of editing that could have made it a truly great read.

The setting of the book is an alternate reality where the lijun – beings who have an animal and human spirits and are thus shape shifters – coexist with humans, but secretly.  Although it is not entirely clear, it seems the societal origin of the lijun is Japanese, although the American lijun have native roots.  The world building was a bit incomplete in my opinion, and though there was a fairly extensive glossary at the beginning of the book, I found the necessity of its existence detracted from the book – I would have preferred either fewer Japanese (or perhaps they were made up specifically for this story?) words, or that they would have been introduced in an organic way where the glossary was not necessary.  I am also assuming that a lot of the societal norms of the lijun were Japanese, but again, it is not clear if that was Japanese or specific to this world.  It felt to me that the authors were assuming a greater understanding of Japanese culture than the average reader would necessarily have, and I found myself either a little confused, or just glossing over those sections.

Haru Tanaka was a satislit – a “bride-son”, raised to be bartered in marriage to a different clan for financial and social prestige.  They (Haru is agender) were from Japan, whose lijun community was very traditional and sanctioned outdated ideas like arranged marriage.  Haru was absolutely opposed to what they felt was essentially a family intent to sell them into slavery, and their rebellion broke out in various mischievous ways, culminating in drunkenly leading a group of children and teenagers to completely trash the buffet and hotel pool during an important international conference of lijun.  What should have been complete humiliation to their clan was averted when a wealthy American lijun, Tally Bastille, saw and spoke to Haru and fell in love.  He recognized Haru as his em’halafi, his soul-mate, the destined love of his life, and he approached Haru’s family to arrange a match.

A huge complicating factor is that Haru is an otter lijun, known for being playful and social, and Tally is a serpent lijun, frightening to just about every other clan.  The fact that Tally is wealthy, and is the leader of the Wisconsin lijun (all animal types) is also intimidating to Haru, even though they were raised to be the co-leader of a clan – there were a terms for these positions but I think those would be superfluous for a review.  Haru willfully saw only the negative aspects of Tally, despite all evidence to the contrary.  It wasn’t until after the marriage was legally consummated that Haru told Tally how they really felt – financially and legally obligated to do everything Tally wanted, including sex, and that Haru would never feel equal to Tally, nor would they reciprocate the feelings of em’halafi.  Tally was devastated.

Despite all my frustrations with the world building, the lack of explanation of some of the attitudes of the Japanese lijun (and also the occasional inconsistencies with Haru’s gender – “he” and “him” still snuck in there despite his agender status, another thing that careful editing would have corrected), I still found myself drawn into the building relationship between Haru and Tally.  Tally’s unfailing patience and selflessness eventually convinced Haru of his sincerity, but it was certainly hard won, and the outside challenges – especially the mystery of the murder during the engagement party – were actually very well done and pushed the story as well as their relationship forward.  The book started slowly, as I was bogged down in an unfamiliar culture without adequate explanation, but once I caught up, I really enjoyed it.  Despite the drawbacks, I would still recommend the book, and I am looking forward to reading the next in the series.

Cover art by Emmy@studioenp is a really lovely representation of the human forms of the two protagonists, but I think it would have been nice to have a hint of their animal forms as well.

Sales Links:

Pride Publishing | Pride Publishing (print) | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon Canada | Kobo | iBooks | QueeRomance Ink | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


 

Book Details:

ebook, 1st edition, 246 pages
Published June 26th 2018 by Pride Publishing
ISBN139781786516701
Edition LanguageEnglish

BL Morticia on Writing, Romance and her new novel Push (Music in Motion #1) by B.L. Morticia (author interview and excerpt)

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Push (Music in Motion #1) by B.L. Morticia
Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: April Martinez

Sales Links:

Dreamspinner Press Ebook and  Paperback |  Universal Buy Link  

 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host B.L. Morticia today on tour with her latest novel, Push.  Welcome to our author’s chair!

 

 Scattered Thoughts Rogue Words Interview with B.L. Morticia

Q: How much of you goes into the character?

A: I’d say a little depending on the book. For this one, I’d say Malakei’s passion about proving how much he knows about heavy metal because he is black. Even during the editing process, I had to explain to the interviewer why I wrote what I did. Many times when I’m at a live show or in conversation at a bar it’s as if some people don’t believe a middle aged black woman can love hard rock. I totally do. *smiles*

Q: Have you ever had to put an ‘in progress’ story aside because of the emotional ties with it?  You were hurting with the characters or didn’t know how to proceed?

A: Oh yes, plenty of times. Not with this one because it flowed through me and I didn’t have to stop. However, I did recently do that with a story because the characters weren’t doing as I wanted them to. The one time I actually want to guide a story in the right direction. Pfft! Anyway, yeah, once I let go of the reins sort of speak, the book turned out great. I suppose that’s the issue when you write by the seat of your pants.

Q: Do you read romances, as a teenager and as an adult?

A: Yes, I do. Admittedly, I read more MM instead of MF, but there are still some authors in het romance I love. LJ Shen being one of them. When I was a teen, I devoured my grandmothers Harlequins. Fern Michaels, Danielle Steel, and later Jackie Collins. *snorts* That’s where I got my naughty from.

Q: How do you choose your covers?

A: I want my covers to convey the mood of the story. For this one, I asked the cover artist for a lighter colored background because it isn’t an angsty story. There are some moments, but I figured the light brown told the tone of the book. Also, as an author of color who writes gay men of color, 95 percent of the time, I’d like that man on the front. While I know this might be a problem when it comes to sales, I don’t allow it to stop me from showing my diverse characters. This is very important to me in regards to representation.

Q: Ever drunk written a chapter and then read it the next day and still been happy with it?  Trust me there’s a whole world of us drunk writers dying to know.

A: *laughs* I certainly have. More times than I can count. This usually ends up being the love scenes in books because a little libation helps me relax. The first hot scene with Malakei and Seth on the pool table was written with the help of a few beers and a shot or two of whiskey. I remember it well because I raved to my author friends about it the next day.

Q: What’s next for you as an author?

A: Next for this muse, who is BLMorticia, is another story co-written with fellow DSP author and friend, Remmy Duchene. You can find out more on BLMorticia’s website.

Thanks for having me!

About Push Music In Motion: Book One

Malakei Oakley, aka rapper M. Prophet, is at the top of his game—but deep in the closet. Handsome, wealthy, and successful as the head of 315East Entertainment, Malakei should be on cloud nine. Despite his awards and a Midas touch that has every musician clamoring to work with him, something is missing.

Seth “Reaper” Davies is ready for stardom. His band High Stakes plays to small, packed houses all over Birmingham and London but has yet to get their big break. But Seth isn’t giving up on his dream—no matter what it takes.

A viral video prompts a message from a person he doesn’t expect—the talented M. Prophet. Their musical styles are worlds apart, and Seth has no desire to change his style to sell records. But his curiosity—and his attraction to Malakei—wins out.

Malakei can’t get Seth out of his mind. He also can’t come out without ruining his reputation. No matter how much he wants the sexy singer, his only option is to push Seth away. But he’s about to find out Seth isn’t one to give up on what he wants—and he might be just what Malakei needs.

Excerpt from Push – This is the initial meeting between Seth and Malakei. From the first handshake you can feel the sparks!

Malakei had gotten a text from Lena that she’d be coming in with High Stakes and family soon. He could barely hold in his excitement about seeing Seth Davies up close. Dang.

“Focus, M.” Malakei mentally checked himself and stood up when he heard the door open. He had to keep this as business because he wasn’t sure what to expect. However, Malakei had a hard time, knowing the fine guitarist was only feet away from his grasp.

“Malakei? We’re here.”

Malakei took another deep breath, then stood up. Making his way toward them, he glanced at everyone who appeared to be starstruck.

“Hello there. High Stakes and family, I presume. It’s so good to meet you.”

Lena cleared her throat. “Um, Malakei, from the left is Morty, the bassist, his girlfriend, Gina. Gio, and his mother, Theresa, and Seth along with his mother, Ethel.”

All of them said hi, and Malakei made sure he started with Morty, before greeting Seth and his mother. He kissed all the ladies’ hands and shook the band members’ hands as a gentlemanly display. The women blushed, apparently in awe.

Though Malakei didn’t spend that much time holding Seth’s hand, the feel of it wasn’t lost on him. As expected, it was rough, calloused, prickly around the tips from playing his guitar without a pick or even tape. He was a hard rocker through and through, not concerned with protecting the skin. Seth exuded rock and roll because in the minds of people like him, hard music meant sacrifice.

Other than the texture of Seth’s palms, Malakei couldn’t help but notice the outfit. Seth wore black jeans again and this time a classic Metallica T-shirt. Both hugged his lanky body like a glove, and as with most metal musicians he’d known of, they didn’t care for heavy coats. Seth wore a small leather jacket full of buttons on both lapels. Yes, he looked every bit of the part of the quintessential metalhead.

“Gods, you are even more handsome in person.” Ethel smiled at him.

“Um, thank you.” He chuckled. “And you, young lady have a very talented son. Along with his friends, I think we could help them be something special.” Malakei tried keeping his tone even. Out the corner of his eye, he could see Seth was actually at a loss for words.

“Um, yeah, Malakei,” Seth said. He held out his hand again and bowed his head slightly. “Thanks again for this opportunity. I’m totally gobsmacked you’ve asked us to play for you.”

Malakei accepted it again and gripped it firmly. “No, it is my honor. Can we offer you all something to drink? Coffee, tea, water, or soda?”

“Water for me, thank you.” Ethel spoke up first.

“Same with me,” Gina said, as did Gio’s mother.

“I’ll take soda,” Morty said.

“Me too,” added Gio.

Seth grinned at Malakei again. “Do you mind if I be different and ask for coffee? I’m a little drained and need to wake up.”

Malakei wished to follow that up with a snide remark, but he kept it to himself. “Of course. Lena, please grab refreshments while I show the ladies and gentlemen around the studio.”

Lena smiled at Malakei and walked out.

Malakei clapped his hands. “So, I was thinking we’d do a small tour of my space here; then I’ll listen to you guys play. I have a good friend of mine coming in that I’m working on a project with to help DIY bands like yourselves. He’s from my old label, Mustang.”

“Oh? May I ask why? We will not sign with a label.” Seth spoke up.

“Yes, I know, but if we come to some kind of agreement, Peter will help. Besides, he saw your video too. He was very impressed.”

“Al’right. Well, I s’pose that couldn’t hurt. Just reminding ya about what you said. No pressure.”

Malakei nodded. “That’s right. None. Follow me, please.”

About the Author

BLMorticia 

BLMorticia entertains her readers with hot and smexy sex, humor, and lots of swear words. She attempts to incorporate metal music or the military in most of her works. Nothin’ sexier than metalheads or military servicemen and women! 

Website – https://blmorticia.wordpress.com/

Metalrotica – https://metalrotica.wordpress.com/

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4436911.B_L_Morticia

Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/BLMorticia/

Facebook Profile – https://www.facebook.com/bl.morticia.16

Twitter – https://twitter.com/BLMorticia

Follow Me on BookBub – https://www.bookbub.com/profile/bl-morticia

Lou Hoffmann on Research, Writing, and her new novel Ciarrah’s Light (The Sun Child Chronicles #3) (author interview, excerpt, and giveaway)

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Ciarrah’s Light (The Sun Child Chronicles #3) by Lou Hoffmann
Harmony Ink Press
Cover art: Catt Ford

Sales Links:  Harmony Ink Press | Amazon

Dreamspinner Press   | Amazon paperback: (Link not yet available—will update)  |  B&N paperback: (Link not yet available—will update)  | Books 2 Read Universal Link (ebooks):

https://www.books2read.com/Ciarrahs-Light-by-Lou-Hoffmann

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Lou Hoffman here today talking about the latest release from Harmony Ink Press. Welcome, Lou.

 

♦︎

~ Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with Lou Hoffmann ~

*How much of yourself goes into a character?

Every character is me. That’s a cliché, but I think there’s a fair-sized chunk of truth at its core. We can’t write what we can’t imagine, and our imaginings are made up of everything we’ve experienced, whether through life, reading, observation, even dreaming. Every writer does things differently, so I’m speaking only for myself. With that in mind, for main characters, if I tried to make them up piece by piece—filling out a character sheet, or the like—they’d feel less authentic to me, and so probably to the reader. There are some fantastical characters in The Sun Child Chronicles, but they came more or less whole cloth to the story, and it was in writing the story that the characters were more fully revealed.

The first time I imagined the wizard Thurlock, for instance, he was old, and cantankerous, and simultaneously awesomely powerful and a bit bumbling. In my mind, he looked and acted pretty much exactly then as he does now. Is Thurlock me? Well, I’m certainly no wizard and I’m not a thousand years old, but I do know what it’s like to be the one who has to figure things out, the one who has to pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat and save the day. And, like Thurlock, I know what it’s like to succeed at that, I know what it’s like to fail, and I know what it’s like to have salvation come from an unexpected source. He’s not me, but he’s made out of parts of me, with a bunch of wonderment and imagination in the mix, and I know him in the same way I know myself—in one long journey of discovery.

One more word about characters being revealed through story, though. It’s not one-sided. The character also reveals the story. The more I know about the story, the more I see the character acting within it. The more I know about the character, the more they show me the story.

*Does research play a role into choosing which genre you write?  Do you enjoy research or prefer making up your worlds and cultures?

Short answers all in a row: 1) no, it doesn’t play a role in which genre I write, 2) yes I enjoy research, but also 3) yes I like making up worlds and cultures.

I can’t choose between research and making things up, and in my thinking the difference isn’t exactly crystal. Anytime a writer makes fiction, they are making up a world. It doesn’t matter how closely it resembles the mundane world we all live in. The minute you impose fictional characters and fictional events upon that world, it becomes fictional, and will have to be bent and shaped in places to accommodate the story and characters. So even with contemporary fiction, the writer is imagining a world that doesn’t exist.

Also, for me at least, it’s never proven true that fantasy requires less research than contemporary settings. In non-fantasy genres, if the setting you want is a contemporary or historical city, you research where things are and what they look like, what the weather is like, perhaps what people have lived there, major events or cultural facts, etc. To write a fantasy city, you might have to research what kinds of weather patterns might exist in a geography such as the one you’re writing, what kind of building material might be suited to the environment, what kinds of transportation might be available in a pre-mechanized society. Sure, you’re going to embellish that, but for readers to relate to the story it needs to be grounded in human experience, in what feels possible, even if it isn’t.

In creating the Sun Child Chronicles, I’ve had an interesting situation, in that the Earth in the story and the second world, Ethra, have a lot in common, because they came from the same root—a world in which the seeds of cultural and technological evolution had already begun to grow before it split into two worlds. The new worlds developed at different rates—time actually moves differently too, and unpredictably. In many ways, Ethra resembles a historical, pre-industrial earth. So a lot of research goes into creating the trappings—clothing, occupations, means of transportation, activities, food, facilities. homes, streets, arts—basically everything, just as if I was writing a historical. The result doesn’t match a historical earth, exactly, but it feels familiar in the same way history does.

Then an added layer of research has to do with making the magic itself credible within the story. One item on that agenda, for instance, had to do with the “twin blades” which are first introduced in Key of Behliseth, and gain importance throughout the story, as the title Ciarrah’s Light might indicate. The origin story about these sentient daggers is pure fancy.  The research came into play especially when I was determining what kind of stone might realistically be expected to produce the kind of “personality” each of these weapons have. I settled on obsidian for Ciarrah, the black blade—sharp, dark, strong, reflective. The other blade, Niamh, is amber, a smooth stone with a silky surface, soft, often preserving the stuff of life within it.

Has your choice of childhood or teenage reading genres carried into your own choices for writing?

I don’t know if I’ve ever thought of it that way, but now that I do, I think the answer is an obvious yes. I read a lot as a child and teen—cleaned out the library at my middle school, for instance—so naturally my reading included all sorts of genres. My favorites were often fantastical—like Wind in the Willows, the Borrowers, and A Wrinkle in Time in elementary school. And at that age my “real world” was so small that often stories that were not fantasy felt fantastical anyway. When I was a teen, I read Lord of the Rings, Gormenghast, Earthsea, as well as a good deal of sci-fi. Most of that wasn’t from the school library—my older brother passed his books down to me. In retrospect, those early literary loves certainly must have had a hand in creating my love of writing fantasy.

What’s next for you as an author?

The Sun Child Chronicles has three more books coming in the series proper: Dragon’s Rise, which is written and contracted for Summer 2019, and Kaynenh’s Triad and Suth Chiell’s Conquest in progress. I’m excited about the idea of some shorter, standalone stories that delve into the back story of the Sun Child, perhaps starring Zhevi, a young soldier, or L’Aria, a very exceptional magical girl, or maybe the story of a younger Han Shieth—gay man, perfect uncle, and fantastic warrior that he is in the series books. I’m right now putting together a synopsis for a brand-new series featuring a young woman as the central character, but with a wide cast of characters. Temporarily, I’m calling the series The Ashvale. We’ll see if that sticks.

Thank you for having me on STARW!

Readers, I hope you’ll check out Ciarrah’s Light, and enter the giveaway more than once. Several ways to enter, including the “Why I love fantasy…” poll. Thanks for reading!

Blurb

Sequel to Wraith Queen’s Veil
The Sun Child Chronicles: Book Three

Luccan, future Suth Chiell of the Ethran Sunlands, also known as Lucky, has reached the end of a months-long adventure and gained much. Now he wants nothing more than to relax and recover at home. His mother’s apparition has other ideas, and dark dreams drag Lucky further and further into unconsciousness until he’s nearly dead. With help from Lucky’s sentient obsidian blade, Ciarrah, he makes it back to the light, only to find his country is in deep distress, and it’s getting deeper.

 

The wizard Thurlock, Lucky’s dragon-kin uncle Han, and other friends help him muddle through as he becomes the channel for prophecy. War erupts in the Sunlands, and in a battle against wraiths created by the advanced science of a dying world, Lucky plays a key role. Physical weapons can’t stop the enemy, but Ciarrah’s light can, and only Lucky can wield it. With the help of his winged horse, his boyfriend, and Thurlock, Lucky sets out to prevent his mother’s shade from wreaking any more havoc. But will stopping her end the horrors facing his world?

Excerpt

___________________________

Lucky 

The path from the valley floor up to the top of the ridge wasn’t at all horse-friendly, so he left Zef to graze at the bottom. He enjoyed the physical exertion of climbing. It pushed worries further toward the back of his mind, and by the time he got to the top he was feeling more lighthearted than he had at any time since leaving Morrow’s farm—which had been either weeks or months ago, depending on whose time you counted by.

Lucky walked along the ridge toward the northern end. The ridge was bare of tall trees there except for the single oak that gave it its name. Probably the upthrust granite that formed most of the upland on this end, coupled with constant crosswinds sluicing down from the hills on all sides, kept all but the strongest of trees to a low, aromatic scrub. Once there had been more tall, broad trees, though, or at least one more. A long-ago fallen log made a perfect bench for someone who wanted to enjoy those breezes, take in the panoramic view, and be alone with his thoughts.

Lucky settled onto the log and looked out over the Behlvale, which stretched miles across, and many more miles long in both directions. It seemed vast, and the solitude of it peaceful. But after a few minutes of gratefully breathing air he didn’t have to share with anyone, he admitted that honestly, he didn’t want to be alone. He wanted to be with Rio.

Rio, the youngest of Stable Master Morrow’s seven sons, was the only real boyfriend Lucky had ever had, and he hoped it would stay that way. He was young, and who could know what would happen? He could have lots of boyfriends before it was all over. But he loved Rio—loved for real—and Rio loved him back, and Lucky didn’t want to move on. If keeping what he and Rio had meant missing him and being lonely, he was willing to do it.

That didn’t mean he had to like it, though. He remembered running his hands through Rio’s thick black curls, caressing his cheek with its maturing black beard, kissing him. He thought about looking into Rio’s eyes, putting an I love you into real words, walking with him and holding hands. When he imagined these things, he thought he felt an echoing ping against his heart, and he decided to believe Rio was thinking of him too.

It wasn’t more than seconds before the sweet joy of that thought turned into blue loneliness, but minutes passed before he realized that the darkness creeping into the corner of his vision to the northwest wasn’t the product of his sorrowful reverie. Peering into the distance, he saw several men moving about in a place where a series of tall, narrow stones stood in no discernible pattern. One man wore white robes, and magic disturbed the air around him like a vaguely purple heat mirage. Where the man faced and gestured, pillars and curtains of shadow were taking shape, anchored in or suspended from the stones, billowing and blossoming like fountains from the ground.

And they looked hauntingly, alarmingly familiar.

“Uncle Han? Can you hear me? It’s important!

Series description:

Cursed and exiled to Earth by a witch, Lucky has only his name, a pocketful of strange items, and the destiny to become the Sun Child and lead his world through its darkest time. In an epic adventure full of dragons, shifters, talismans, magic, alien enemies, shifting time, and wars waged for survival, humanity’s only hope is one young man’s unquenchable strength, spirit, and heart.

About the Author

Lou Hoffmann, a mother and grandmother now, has carried on her love affair with books for more than half a century, and she hasn’t even made a dent in the list of books she’d love to read—partly because the list keeps growing. She reads factual things—books about physics and history and fractal chaos, but when she wants truth, she looks for it in quality fiction. She loves all sorts of wonderful things: music and silence, laughter and tears, youth and age, sunshine and storms, forests and fields, flora and fauna, rivers and seas. Even good movies and popcorn! Those things help her breathe, and everyone she knows helps her write. (Special mention goes to (1) George the Lady Cat and (2) readers.) Proud to be a bisexual, biracial woman (of European and Native American descent), Lou considers every person a treasure not to be taken for granted. In her life, she’s seen the world’s willingness to embrace differences change, change back, and change again in dozens of ways, but she has great hope for the world the youth of today will create. She writes for readers who find themselves anywhere on the spectrums of age, sexuality, and gender, aiming to create characters that live not only in their stories, but always in your imagination and your heart.

Author Links:

Visit her on her blog: http://www.queerlyya.rainbow-gate.com

Like her page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LouHoffmannBooks/

Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Lou_Hoffmann

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Release Blitz – Gateway To Love by Sarah Hadley Brook (author guest post, excerpt, and giveaway)

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Length: 32,793 words
 
Cover Design: Brooke Albrecht
 

 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Sarah Hadley Brook today on tour for her latest story in Dreamspinner Press’ States of Love line, Gateway to Love. Welcome, Sarah.

Adulting


Hi! So glad to be here. My name is Sarah Hadley Brook and I’m here to talk about my new release, Gateway to Love, part of the Dreamspinner Press’ States of Love series.

The main characters, Craig and Mitchell, have just graduated college and are facing the prospect of moving to opposite sides of the country. They’ve spent years studying and preparing for their future and it has finally arrived. Both have accepted job offers and have only a short time before they move away from each other.

As I wrote this story, it brought back a lot of memories of that period of transition from teenager and student to a twentysomething adult with all the grown up responsibilities. No matter how much we look forward to the day we’re finally on our own, it can be overwhelming. Exhilarating, but overwhelming. Banking accounts, leases, jobs, and—gasp—cooking for ourselves!

The thing is, the more I thought about it and looked around at the generation starting out in the workforce, the more impressed I was. It seems to me that they are more engaged in the world, the country, the environment. They have goals and have a plan to meet those goals. They are more aware of everything. The biggest change though, is that they have an opinion and aren’t afraid to stand up for what they believe in.

I’m not sure I was ready for all that when I began “adulting” and I know I wasn’t as knowledgeable about our government as they are. No matter your political views, these young adults will be changing the world.

And, wow…now I feel old. I’m only in my forties—I shouldn’t be feeling old! Isn’t forty the new twenty-nine?

I hope you check out Gateway to Love and learn about the state of Missouri while you’re at it! I’ve listed all the ways you can follow or contact me below. And if you sign up for my newsletter on my website, you receive a free ebook!

You can follow me on social media: Check out my links below my author’s bio.

Blurb
 

Ten days to finally make the leap from friends to lovers….


Craig and Mitchell have been friends for years, but each of them reached a point where that camaraderie became… more. Mitchell’s kept his feelings close to his chest. So has Craig, but now that they’ve graduated from UMKC, he knows it’s his last chance to show Mitchell they’re meant to be before their careers take them to opposite sides of the country.


He insists they can’t leave Missouri behind without one last adventure. Mitchell agrees to a road trip to visit all the touristy spots and say goodbye to their home state.


As they spend their days and nights together, buried feelings rise to the surface and hope blossoms. When their journey ends with a dance beneath the Branson stars, will they find love and a future together at the end of the road?

 
Excerpt
 

THE SOUND of a horn jolted Mitch from a sound sleep, and he blinked his eyes for a moment, staring out the window at the busy highway.


“Sorry. Some idiot guy almost hit us. I had to lay on the horn,” Craig explained.


Mitch straightened himself in his seat and rubbed his eyes. “No worries. Sorry I fell asleep.”


Craig grinned at him. “You should be. I’ve had to listen to your snoring for almost two hours.”


“Hey, I don’t snore. You do, but I don’t,” Mitch said emphatically.


Craig snorted. “Whatever. I can hear you through the wall at night.”


“I don’t snore,” Mitch reiterated, and frowned when Craig chuckled. Then he started feeling bad about sleeping so long. “Want me to take a turn at the wheel?”


“Nah. Maybe when we stop for lunch? Although, we’ll probably be in Hannibal before then. We’ve only got about an hour and forty-five minutes left, give or take.”


Mitch nodded and checked his phone, but he couldn’t help watching his best friend out of the corner of his eye. Even after knowing him for four years, Mitch was still blown away by the reaction he felt whenever he looked at Craig. He’d certainly never forgotten the first day they met. It was imprinted on his brain forever.


That first day at Longview Community College had been brutal. He’d had to spend two hours in the admissions office because when he’d shown up for his first class, the professor didn’t have him listed. By the time his schedule was corrected, he’d missed two classes and was nearly late to his third.


He’d slid into an empty seat near the door just as the teacher turned around from the whiteboard. Someone next to him giggled and he glanced over to see the cutest boy he’d ever laid eyes on. Mitch had felt dumbstruck as his cheeks heated in reaction.


“Close call,” the kid had whispered with a nod toward the teacher. “I heard she doesn’t put up with latecomers.”


Mitch pulled himself together and smiled.


It wasn’t until class was over that they were able to talk.


“I’m Mitchell Moon,” he’d offered, as the guy rose from his desk. “Everyone calls me Mitch, though.”


Craig had beamed at him, his blue eyes sparkling a little as he leaned down until their faces were only inches apart. “Hi, Mitchell,” he said with a wink. “My name’s Craig Pruitt.”


And that was that—they became instant friends, bonding over video games, movies, and their love of Star Trek. It was the kind of friendship only found once in a lifetime. Mitch had come out to Craig within the first week of meeting him and his friend hadn’t even blinked.


There was only one problem with their friendship—Mitch had never been able to shake the attraction he felt for Craig. And over the years, as they earned their associate’s degrees from Longview and moved on to UMKC, their bond grew and his feelings for Craig only strengthened.


When Craig had confided in him that he thought he was bisexual their sophomore year, Mitch’s hopes had been raised, but by that time he was firmly planted in the friend zone. So he did what a best friend should—he supported Craig as he came to terms with things and accepted who he was. He’d admitted that he’d had a crush on a guy in high school, but it ran its course and he never acted on it. As far as Mitch knew, Craig had only dated two guys since then, nothing panning out toward a full-time relationship, though. But he’d had his share of casual hookups with men. Craig had gone a little wild when he’d first come out as bisexual, but had calmed down over the years. In fact, Mitch couldn’t remember him even going on a date during their senior year.


He’d seen the types of men Craig seemed to be attracted to, and they were nothing like Mitch, so he’d tucked his feelings away again and told himself not to go there anymore. It was an ongoing internal battle, but most of the time, he had a handle on it.


This last year of college, they’d found a cheap two-bedroom apartment near campus and moved in that summer. Sharing a small space with the man of his dreams had been hard. Especially when Craig often walked around their place wearing only a pair of boxers.


Mitch was honest enough to admit he’d fantasized about Craig too many times to count and would probably continue to do so long after he’d moved. Maybe that’s how it always was with a first love or major crush.


In his heart, he knew being apart would be good for them. Well, at least it would be for Mitch. Maybe he could finally go out with someone without constantly comparing him to Craig. But in the meantime, he continued to fight the attraction. The desire. The love. Because that’s what it had turned into. Love. Over the years, the longing, the emotional connection he felt with Craig, it had all turned to love. He wasn’t even sure when it had happened, but there was no denying Mitch was in love with his best friend.


And just when he was close to being free, there they were. One last hurrah before moving out of state. One last adventure with Craig.


What was he going to do without him? He turned to stare out the window, his eyes blind to the passing scenery. All he could see was a future without Craig, and it was shrouded in gray. Mitch was so tired of fighting his feelings. He chuckled to himself. He was the stereotypical guy in love with his best friend. He knew it was useless, but if Craig had asked him to go to California with him, Mitch would have dropped everything and followed him out west. He knew how pathetic that sounded, but when it came to Craig, Mitch didn’t care what others might think.


About an hour later, Craig pulled over to a gas station to fuel up and grab some snacks. Mitch used the disgusting bathroom, holding his breath as he did his business, quickly washed up, and made his way into the convenience store.


Craig was at the counter paying and held up a bag of items.


“I’m just going to get a drink,” Mitch told him as he walked past Craig. His friend grabbed his arm, wrapping his fingers around his wrist.


“I already got you your Dr Pepper,” he told Mitch with a smile. “And your Kit Kat.”


Mitch wanted to respond. Wanted to say thank you. But all he could do was revel in the sensation of Craig’s touch. Electricity prickled his skin, skittering through him.


“Mitchell?” Craig’s voice was low. He sounded worried.


“Sorry. Just… forgot what I was going to say,” he lied, knowing he sounded lame. He noticed Craig hadn’t let go of his wrist and raised his eyes to meet his friend’s gaze. Mitch was surprised at the intensity. The large black pupils. The flushed cheeks. “I-I’m… fine. Thanks for grabbing some things for me.”


Craig studied him, looking like he wanted to say something, but finally let Mitch go and they walked back out to the car and settled in.


“Less than an hour left,” Craig announced.


Mitch tried to tamp down his excitement, but it was difficult. He’d always wanted to visit Hannibal. He’d read all of Mark Twain’s stories, and knowing he was from Missouri had encouraged him when he’d dreamed about becoming a writer.


Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in English had put him closer to that dream. Being hired to work on a grassroots website devoted to getting people registered to vote had been exciting and he was looking forward to starting next month. He was less excited about the magazine internship. West Virginia tourism was definitely not something he remotely cared about. He’d only taken it because his sister, Samantha, lived in West Virginia, where the magazine was headquartered, and she had helped him get the interview. Plus he could stay with her until he got a feel for the area. Samantha was also providing him with apartment information, so he would have several to check out when he moved.


The magazine hadn’t been in his original plans. He’d wanted to stay in Kansas City after graduation and work on his writing. His dream was to become a published author. Mitch lived to write, creating fantasy worlds and bringing characters to life. Over the years, he’d managed to put some money away, through his work at the coffee shop. Add what he’d been given as graduation gifts from his mother, his sister, and various relatives, and he was confident he could afford to give the writing thing a try for a while—as long as he had a roommate and a part-time job.


When Craig announced he’d taken a job in California, working for a nonprofit that helped homeless teens, Mitch’s plans took a nosedive. While he’d been proud of Craig, the idea of staying in Kansas City without him was depressing. If he was going to start a new chapter in his life and really get over Craig, staying where he’d be constantly reminded of their times together was out of the question. Writing would have to take a back seat to making a living. Mitch was trying to be an adult and make responsible choices—decisions that would help him move forward.


Maybe a new start in a new city would help him finally find a man that he could be in a real relationship with.


He just had to survive this trip without telling his best friend the truth he’d hidden for years.

 

Author Bio


Sarah Hadley Brook lives smack-dab in the middle of the Heartland and is the mother of two wonderful young men, as well as two cats. During the day, she works in the nonprofit world, but reserves evenings for her hobby-turned-passion of writing, letting the characters she conjures in her mind take the lead and show her where the story will go. When not working or writing, she can be found reading, working on dollhouses, trying her hand at new recipes, or watching old movies and musicals. In her ideal world, Christmas would come at least twice a year, Rock Hudson and Doris Day would have costarred in more than three movies, and chocolate would be a daily necessity. She dreams of traveling to Scotland some day and visiting the places her ancestors lived. Sarah believes in “Happily Ever After” and strives to ensure her characters find their own happiness in love and life.


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Review Tour and Giveaway – Adder and Willow (The Rowan Harbor Cycle #6) by Sam Burns

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Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Length:
45,000 words approx.

Cover Design: Melanie Farlow @ Clause & Effect

The Rowan Harbor Cycle Series

Book #1 – Blackbird in the Reeds – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #2 – Wolf and the Holly – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #3 – Fox and Birch – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #4 – Hawk In The Rowan – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #5 – Stag and the Ashe – Amazon US | Amazon UK

Blurb

Fletcher Lane has a problem. His boyfriend’s parents are coming for a visit, and they want to meet up. He’s ready to commit, so what happens if his prospective in-laws don’t like him? And how is he supposed to keep Rowan Harbor’s unique nature a secret when he might be the worst liar ever born?

To make matters worse, when he finds and helps two strangers stuck on the road, it leads him to a new threat: the man who’s been terrorizing the town has set events into motion that endanger more than just Rowan Harbor. Can Fletcher and his friends stop him before there’s nothing but a smoking crater where the Oregon coastline used to be?

 

 

Read Scattered Thoughts and Road Words 5 stars out of 5 review here.

Sam wrote her first fantasy epic with her best friend when she was ten. Like almost any epic fiction written by a ten year old, it was awful. She likes to think she’s improved since then, if only because she has better handwriting now.

If she’s not writing, she’s almost certainly either reading or lost down a Wikipedia rabbit hole while pretending to research for a novel.

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