A Free Dreamer Review: Priest & Pariahs (Centauri Survivors Second Chance Chronicles #3) by J. Alan Veerkamp

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Costa McQuillen has escaped from Earth, where being para-human—a Pariah—with tech empathic abilities is illegal, and marks him for extermination. Arrogant and standoffish, Costa is unable to trust anyone but is willing to risk everyone’s safety in his desperate effort to reach the planet Omoikane. His best solution, gaining passage on board the Santa Claus.

Arbor Kittering is the crew’s newest coding tech. Having spent a short time in prison for data hacking and falsifying government files, the Santa Claus is his last chance at a new start—if he can decipher the strange malfunctions plaguing the ship.

Eugene “Priest” Jones, the Santa Claus’s Head Pilot, is a bit of a scoundrel. Perpetually single, Priest is attracted to Costa and Arbor. In truth, he’d like to have both, but it’s clear even his grifting and gambling skills can’t make that happen.

Now as they all travel together, it appears Priest needs to make a choice before it’s too late as each of their lives intertwine with potentially dangerous and deadly consequences.

I didn’t realize “Priest & Pariahs” is actually part three of a series before I began reading it. It works perfectly fine as a standalone, though.

After reading the blurb, I’d hoped for a good SciFi story with potentially a MMM dynamic. Those were the completely wrong expectations. This book is mostly porn, with a whole lot of romance drama, and a bit of SciFi to spice things up. Needless to say, I was rather disappointed by that.

The setting baffled me. The Santa Claus seems to be a sex cruise, essentially. Only gay men are allowed, be it staff or passengers. And everybody’s having sex with everyone, pretty much, which is very much encouraged by the Captain. That seems a bit unrealistic, sexual and romantic relationships inevitably lead to conflicts and when you’re stuck on a spaceship for weeks on end, that really doesn’t seem like a good way to keep a ship running.

Costa was the most interesting of the three MCs. Sadly, he also got the least on-page time. He remained pretty flat and a lot of questions about his past were left unanswered.

Arbor was a bit annoying. I get that he was feeling very insecure, given his past. But it seemed over the top.

Priest was boring and horribly insensitive. I could have done without him. The book would probably have been much more interesting, had it been about Arbor and Costa.

The romance was quite rushed. I never really felt the spark between Arbor and Priest. Especially Priest gave me whiplash with his change of attraction. There’s a ton of relationship drama that frankly got old fast. I don’t have patience for this stuff.

What really bothered me were the very demeaning reactions to Arbor. I can see how he would draw a lot of attention in a world where disabilities are essentially non-existent. But calling somebody “dwarf” or “midget” is just not okay and it’s not funny either.

There was no world building to speak of. Maybe there was a bit more ground work in the previous books, but “Priest & Pariahs” was pretty much a porny romance drama set on a spaceship, with some other SciFi elements thrown in for the heck of it.

Overall, “Priest & Pariahs” just wasn’t for me. I’m still not a traditional romance reader and I need more than sex scenes and relationship woes to keep me engaged. As it is, the book left me cold and kinda “meh”.

The cover by Natasha Snow is a bit boring. The blue is pretty but I’m not a fan of covers with some random guy and nothing else.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book details:

ebook, Second Edition
Published September 24th 2018 by NineStar Press (first published July 29th 2016)
ISBN139781949340761
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series Centauri Survivors Second Chance Chronicles #3, Ship Logs of the Santa Claus #3

Cover Reveal for Addis on the Inside by Annabelle Jay

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Title: Addis on the Inside
Author: Annabelle Jay

Release Date: January 8, 2019

Category: Future, Dystopian, Lesbian

Pages: 125

Cover Artist: Blake Dorner, blakealexanderart@gmail.com

 

Blurb:

 

Seventeen-year-old orphan Jayla lives in NORCC, or the New Orleans Rehabilitation Center for Children, where all the children of morphoid-addicted Addis go to wait for a clean family to adopt them. When Jayla’s long-lost sister, Jo, arrives from the dome where the Addis are kept and tells her about the Authority’s plan to gas all the domes across the country, Jayla decides that she’s been in NORCC long enough.

 

With the help of her NORCC crew of girls, including her almost-girlfriend, Arla, and a new love interest, Riley, Jayla must take down the Authority while discovering powers she never knew she had. Unfortunately, the plot to kill the Addis is not the only secret their leaders are keeping. Jayla must fight both the Authority and her own demons in order to stop the annihilation of her people.  

 

Buy Links:  to come

 

 

 

Author Bio:

 

If there’s one thing author Annabelle Jay believes with all her heart, it’s that there is no such thing as too many dragons in a book. As a fantasy writer with few other hobbies—does dancing awkwardly in the kitchen count?—she spends every day following her imagination wherever it leads her.

A hippie born in the wrong decade, Annabelle has a peace sign tattoo and a penchant for hugging trees. Occasionally she takes breaks from her novels to play with her pets: Jon Snow, the albino rabbit who eats all of Annabelle’s bookmarks; Daisy, the Angora rabbit who constantly tries to escape her cage; and Stevie, the crested gecko who climbs glass with the hairs on her toes.

During her day job as a professor of English, Annabelle is often assumed to be a fellow student playing a prank on the class—that is, until she hands out the syllabus. When people stop mistaking her for a recent high school graduate, she will probably be very sad.

Annabelle is a current PhD student in creative writing at Florida State University. She alternates between Tallahassee and Northern Virginia with her husband, pets, and new baby.

Website: http://www.annabellejayauthor.wordpress.com

Email: annabellejayauthor@gmail.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Annabelle-Jay/376249719245415

A Stella Review : Falling into Love (Family Found #1) by Kris T. Bethke and Nell Iris

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Liam O’Donoughue is happy with his life. He runs V Wilderness Adventures with his best friends, his chosen brothers, and gets to spend his days hiking in the gorgeous Adirondacks. What’s not to love? But when he meets Austin on a hike, he thinks he’s found something he didn’t even know was missing.

Austin Jock is content with his work as a radiology tech and playing bass in a cover band. Someday he wants to find his forever person but doesn’t believe in romantic fireworks and isn’t sure it’ll ever happen. Then Liam comes crashing into his life, igniting sparks. Huge, life-altering sparks.

The connection between the two men is instant, and things move fast. But Austin isn’t sure what to do with everything he’s feeling inside. Can Liam convince him falling in love is the easiest thing in the world?

This novella was quite cute and sweet.  A quick and simple reading. I already read these authors in the past and as this time, found their writing well done and smooth. That’s why I picked Falling Into Love and I have to say I spent some interesting hours with the characters.
The plot is nothing special ( and I’m telling this in a good way), the guys are lovely and the romance flows without drama or misunderstandings. I especially liked the idea of developing a series about five best friends so protective and close to each other. I have to say I am very curious and can’t wait to read each guy’s story and see what HEA they will get.
Liam and Austin were very special young men, both of them so pure and clean. I adored how they didn’t falling in bed the first time they met.  Probably they were often a little childish, but it didn’t bother me cause they were actually refreshing.
Although the ending part of the book seemed a little rushed to me, I understood where the MCs feelings were, I saw the needing and desires  and so I appreciate the authors choices.
I feel to recommend this new release and hope to have the next book in the series soon in my hands.
Cover art is adorable and heartwarming.
Sales Links:  JMS Books LLC  | Amazon
Book Details:
Kindle Edition, 1st edition, 112 pages
Published September 1st 2018 by JMS Books LLC
ASINB07GM1GLJQ
Edition Language English
Series Family Found #1

A MelanieM Audiobook Review: Crocus (Bonfires #2) by Amy Lane and Nick J. Russo (Narrator)

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

 

Saying “I love you” doesn’t guarantee peace or a happy ending.

High School Principal “Larx” Larkin was pretty sure he’d hit the jackpot when Deputy Sherriff Aaron George moved in with him, merging their two families as seamlessly as the chaos around them could possibly allow.

But when Larx’s pregnant daughter comes home unexpectedly and two of Larx’s students are put in danger, their tentative beginning comes crashing down around their ears.

Larx thought he was okay with the dangers of Aaron’s job, and Aaron thought he was okay with Larx’s daughter—who is not okay—but when their worst fears are almost realized, it puts their hearts and their lives to the test. Larx and Aaron have never wanted anything as badly as they want a life together. Will they be able to make it work when the world is working hard to keep them apart? (

 

I fell deeply in love with these character in Bonfire, the first story in this series.  Amy Lane made it so easy because, as it’s often the way with her contemporary romances, it’s an ensemble piece.  We don’t just have a couple to focus on, but, just as in life, Amy Lane gives us growing and grown children  on both sides to deal with, separate households, pets, jobs, and even coming out to mesh and deal with.  Life is messy.  Amy Lane gets it and writes the hell out of it.  Same goes for the complexities of family dynamics, let alone two.  Then throw in kids you end of taking in and making a part of a sort of paramecium ever growing family, extending  little  arms out into a community that needs it so badly.

Talk about a book I wasn’t ready to let go of.

Now comes Crocus.  And it’s everything I could have wanted and hoped for.  More even.

Our families are back, still adjusting to each other and all the events of Bonfires.  As with all families, there’s no downtime, no respite.  And  the first upset to deal with is a pregnant, and clinically depressed daughter returning to the households.  This whole element, from baby daddy (which has some wonderfully humorous and serious elements ala Amy Lane) is folded beautifully into the story, never overwhelming the many other themes here, including the foundation love story of Larx and Aaron, who center and ground each other as well as their expanding family.  Boy, are there other serious story threads!  Child abuse, PTSD, gang violence, substance living, just to name some of the issues the author deals with here. Yet all work together in one tapestry of a novel, weaving together so many threads that combine to become an incredible story.

There are new dramas and emergencies as you might expect with Larx’s job as Principal and Aaron’s in the Sheriff’s office.  New members are slowly melded into the combined Larkin/George family outfit and seamlessly into your heart.  Jaime, who I fell in love with immediately, his broken brother Berto, Elton (not the name you will remember him by)…all welcomed and loved, all understood and embraced.  Each and everyone not characters but people that stick with you, get under your skin, and remain in your memory of those that you care about and love.

That crocus poking its head up out of the snow, offering up its promise of new life and growth?  Of hope?  Perfect for this family and story.  How I love it and them so.

I read Bonfires but listened to Crocus.  Narrator Nick J. Russo did an amazing job with such a huge cast of characters. He switched effortlessly between ages, teenagers to men in the middle ages, genders, and accents even held no issues for him.  It felt like a number of people narrating this story instead of one, the flow was so even and the acting so excellent that I lost myself instantly in the story and forgot about everything else.  I highly recommend him as a narrator, not just here but in other audiobooks.

If you haven’t already read this series, start with Bonfires and then come to Crocus.  This is a beautifully written series, with fully realized characters…a true ensemble cast that’s unforgettable in every way.  I loved listening to the audiobook version.  It makes me want to experience Bonfires in the same format.  And yes I highly recommend them both.

Cover art:  Reese Dante.  I adore this cover.  The artwork combined with the title and imagery within the storyline is shear perfection.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Audible |

Audiobook Details:

Audible Audio, 9 pages
Audible Audiobook
Listening Length: 8 hours and 32 minutes
Published September 11th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press LLC (first published April 17th 2018)
Original Title Crocus
ASIN B07H51CDSN
Edition Language English
Series Bonfires #2

A Lucy Review: At Long Last: Scott and Preston (Scott and Preston #1-2) by Shawn Lane

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Rated 1.5 stars out of 5

When Scott Trask gets a job at his law firm, Preston Reynolds begins to feel the same attraction he felt for his best friend’s younger brother years earlier. But he couldn’t be sexually attracted to the young man. Preston isn’t gay.

Scott has been in love with Preston for years, but just because Preston is now divorced doesn’t mean he’s available. Yet soon enough, they surrender to their desires, and begin a passionate affair.

At first, Scott thinks he can handle it when Preston wants to keep their private life together a secret but he’s wrong. Then when Preston promises to change, there is hope. Sort of. Preston has a tough choice. Learn to accept himself at long last or risk losing Scott forever.

I always feel bad when I read a book that doesn’t work for me because I know the effort that goes into writing.   But this one was nearly a DNF and I struggled to find any redeeming qualities in it.  Sigh. I had high hopes for it. A “straight” man in denial about who he is coming to terms with what he really wants.  I thought it would be an easy win.  The problem is, Preston, the closeted lawyer, is so extremely unlikeable.  Scott, the target of Preston’s attraction, is a complete doormat and it made me crazy. 

This edition has two books that used to be separate and really they still are here.  The first, At Long Last, end and the next, Until the End of Time, is a separate novella that happens seven months after the first.  Okay, the things that didn’t work for me were big ones.  Preston, who co-owns the law firm with Scott’s brother, Jack, and Jack and Scott’s father, has been married and has two children.   He has never had sex or wanted sex with a man before, yet within days of Scott starting a job in their office he is all over him.  I’m sorry but the way he dove into everything gay (rimming on the first time together, for example) didn’t work for me when he was so in denial and worse, homophobic about it all.

At first, I was willing to give Preston some time.  After all, this is all new to him.  “I’m kissing a guy” is mind-blowing for him.  He then immediately (literally minutes later) jumps into rimming because, “…he didn’t want to hurt Scott either emotionally or physically by refusing to do it.”    Yet just a little later, “Don’t mention anything about this to anyone, all right?”  There might be some pretty words sometimes but it is sex, sex, sex for Preston.

So I thought I would at least like Scott (Scotty) but he’s very immature (showing up to work in jeans and then blaring loud rock music through the office where there are clients) and he is a total doormat.   There were so many times I wanted to shake him and say, “have some self respect”!  He suggests playing hooky from work for a weekend away right after he starts there and right after he and Preston are together for the first times.  When the trip has Preston acting like a closeted jerk (wanting separate rooms at the hotel, pushing Scott away repeatedly, hurting him and then a quick I’m sorry to fix) Scott shouldn’t have been surprised. 

Preston just never redeems himself.  “He would allow the relationship to continue, but on his terms.”  So hiding Scott from everyone and using him for sex.  Nice, especially when it is Preston attacking Scott for sex all the time.

The killer for me was Preston’s assertion, to Scott’s face no less, that “Scott, being g…attracted to the same sex is not normal.” He can’t tell his parents because “I can’t let them know about me.  I can’t have them thinking I’m abnormal.”  Hold on.  You are telling a gay man, one you are sleeping with, that being gay is abnormal?  Why, Scott, why would you stay for that?  Because of Preston there is also a terrible moment with Scott’s father and I had to wonder – you forgive Preston at the drop of a hat but won’t for your father?  Scott also has a betrayal by his brother, Jack, who does love him but I thought broke Scott’s trust.

Preston never takes responsibility enough.  “I think we broke each other’s hearts.”  No, that isn’t what is happening.  “But when someone point-blank asks you if you are seeing someone you say no.  You don’t acknowledge me in any way.”  It didn’t get any better in the second novella, where even though they are living together Preston is now asking his children to lie for him so his parents don’t know about Scott.  He acts like the victim so often, “Scott judged his every action and found it lacking”; “Why are you being so difficult? Please, just…just try to see this from my point of view.”  The problem with that is all the issues stem from Preston being homophobic and closeted.

I know this author has a very dedicated fan base so I’m going to be in the minority on this one but I also felt for the length of the novellas there was just too much sex.  You fill the holes of character development with sex but here sex took the place of making the characters three dimensional.  Things felt very rushed and I couldn’t see the connection between these two.  I am sorry to say I can’t recommend this at all.  The only thing saving it from being a one star read was I liked Marilyn, the ex-wife, and Candace, Preston’s daughter.

Cover art is two sets of legs intertwined on a bed but I didn’t feel it fit the mood of the book.  It makes the book seem cute and that wasn’t really the feel.

Sales Links:  JMS Books LLC  | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition
Published June 8th 2018 by JMS Books LLC (first published July 25th 2009)
Original TitleAt Long Last / Until the End of Time
ASINB07DMFHF92
Edition Language English
SeriesScott and Preston #1-2

Laura Lascarso on Research, Strip Clubs, and her new novel In the Pines (A Charlie Schiffer Mystery #1) (author interview and excerpt)

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In the Pines (A Charlie Schiffer Mystery #1) by Laura Lascarso

Dreamspinner Press
Publication Date: October 23, 2018V

Cover Designer: AngstyG

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Laura Lascarso here today talking about writing, research, and her new release and series In the Pines (A Charlie Schiffer Mystery #1).  Welcome, Laura.

 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with  Laura Lascarso

 

The excerpt I’ve chosen to share is a scene from IN THE PINES, where our amateur sleuth Charlie Schiffer, and his love interest, Dare Chalmers, travel to Café Risqué, which is a real strip club just outside of Gainesville, Florida, in search of clues to Dare’s brother’s murder.

For those who are unfamiliar with this particular strip of I-75 in Central Florida, Café Risqué is something of a legend because it’s the only strip club within a hundred-mile radius, and all along the interstate are suggestively graphic signs pointing you in that direction. All throughout my college career at the University of Florida, friends would tell stories about their adventures at Café Risqué. I never made the pilgrimage myself, but I knew that I wanted to include a scene from it in my story, simply because it was such a magnet for local lore.

That’s where my research came in, and to my surprise, the best place to get actual details and information about the club wasn’t from their website, which was pretty sparse, but from their Yelp reviews. Here are a few of my favorites:

The ladies were nice and very sweet to me being a newcomer. I ordered chicken tenders with my side as rice and gravy. Thought it was an oddest thing to put on rice, so I ordered it. The gravy was good, just wish it was a little less than that. Not taking over the plate. Still an enjoyable dinner.

Often times when I’m embarking on a cross country expedition in my big rig 18-wheeler, I try to make Cafe Risque my first stop. Drop-in, take a shower, eat some food, make some new friends, then back on the road again! Definitely would recommend the Tuna Salad sandwich. Britney is also my favorite staff member and often times I think she lets me get in a free song or two.

I’ve been here. It’s amazing. I won’t say whether or not it’s a good amazing or a bad amazing. Just imagine 2 eggs over easy with bacon and toast. Then imagine a Reddick, FL native bringing it out to your table completely nude. I mean naked. If that’s not enough, imagine eating it while that same Reddick, FL native gives the guy next to you a lap dance.

I could go on, but you catch my drift. The most interesting thing to me, was that all of the Yelp reviews really focused on the food, with the dancers only being a second or sometimes third consideration. I suppose part of the reason is because Yelp tends to focus on the restaurant aspect of establishments, more so than the entertainment, but I found it fascinating nonetheless.

So, in this very sexually charged setting, I knew that I wanted for Charlie to be very uncertain and nervous (and a little judgmental) while also worried that he’s going to unintentionally offend one of the dancers. And I wanted for Dare to be cool and collected, and absolutely enjoying Charlie’s discomfort. I think I pulled it off, while also getting at some information important to the mystery itself. All in all, I think this is my favorite scene from IN THE PINES, and a good example of the balance I was trying to achieve between camp and sincerity.

Maybe one day I’ll take that trip to Café Risqué and give their chicken tenders with gravy a try.

The excerpt I’ve chosen to share is a scene from IN THE PINES, where our amateur sleuth Charlie Schiffer, and his love interest, Dare Chalmers, travel to Café Risqué, which is a real strip club just outside of Gainesville, Florida, in search of clues to Dare’s brother’s murder.

For those who are unfamiliar with this particular strip of I-75 in Central Florida, Café Risqué is something of a legend because it’s the only strip club within a hundred-mile radius, and all along the interstate are suggestively graphic signs pointing you in that direction. All throughout my college career at the University of Florida, friends would tell stories about their adventures at Café Risqué. I never made the pilgrimage myself, but I knew that I wanted to include a scene from it in my story, simply because it was such a magnet for local lore.

That’s where my research came in, and to my surprise, the best place to get actual details and information about the club wasn’t from their website, which was pretty sparse, but from their Yelp reviews. Here are a few of my favorites:

The ladies were nice and very sweet to me being a newcomer. I ordered chicken tenders with my side as rice and gravy. Thought it was an oddest thing to put on rice, so I ordered it. The gravy was good, just wish it was a little less than that. Not taking over the plate. Still an enjoyable dinner.

Often times when I’m embarking on a cross country expedition in my big rig 18-wheeler, I try to make Cafe Risque my first stop. Drop-in, take a shower, eat some food, make some new friends, then back on the road again! Definitely would recommend the Tuna Salad sandwich. Britney is also my favorite staff member and often times I think she lets me get in a free song or two.

I’ve been here. It’s amazing. I won’t say whether or not it’s a good amazing or a bad amazing. Just imagine 2 eggs over easy with bacon and toast. Then imagine a Reddick, FL native bringing it out to your table completely nude. I mean naked. If that’s not enough, imagine eating it while that same Reddick, FL native gives the guy next to you a lap dance.

I could go on, but you catch my drift. The most interesting thing to me, was that all of the Yelp reviews really focused on the food, with the dancers only being a second or sometimes third consideration. I suppose part of the reason is because Yelp tends to focus on the restaurant aspect of establishments, more so than the entertainment, but I found it fascinating nonetheless.

So, in this very sexually charged setting, I knew that I wanted for Charlie to be very uncertain and nervous (and a little judgmental) while also worried that he’s going to unintentionally offend one of the dancers. And I wanted for Dare to be cool and collected, and absolutely enjoying Charlie’s discomfort. I think I pulled it off, while also getting at some information important to the mystery itself. All in all, I think this is my favorite scene from IN THE PINES, and a good example of the balance I was trying to achieve between camp and sincerity.

Maybe one day I’ll take that trip to Café Risqué and give their chicken tenders with gravy a try.

About In The Pines

A Charlie Schiffer Mystery

When your high school crush is also your number one suspect, what’s a boy to do?

After the disappearance of Eastview High’s homecoming king, seventeen-year-old Charlie Schiffer must put his detective skills to work to help class heartthrob Dare Chalmers find his missing twin brother. From the gator-filled swamps of Paynes Prairie to the truck-stop strip club Café Risqué, there’s no situation too dicey for this amateur sleuth when he’s on the prowl for clues to this mystery.

Meanwhile, Dare is everything Charlie could want in a boyfriend—charismatic, handsome, polite—but as Charlie’s mother always says, the unlikeliest people can turn out to be criminals. When evidence surfaces revealing his suspects’ hidden motives, Charlie must dig deep to suss out who among them is innocent and who is guilty, even if it means betraying the man he cares for most.

 

Excerpt:

 

We headed out into the inky, starless night, southbound on I-75. All along the stretch of interstate between Gainesville and Ocala, Café Risqué billboards promised great food in a welcoming venue where “We bare all.” The billboards used to have a picture of this blonde woman from the eighties with feathered hair, which could have easily been mistaken for a teen pregnancy hotline or a missing persons advertisement. But in recent years, the business rebranded to feature silhouettes of busty women in provocative poses, and one in particular of a woman gripping a pole in ecstasy.

It seemed we were all chasing some ridiculous fantasy.

A trip to Café Risqué was something like a rite of passage for central Florida teens on the cusp of manhood, and one I’d always assumed I’d happily forgo due to my sexual orientation, and yet, there I was, racing to the famed truck stop with Dare in his sleek silver Jaguar, intent on looking for clues to the identity of Mason’s killer.

We arrived at about 10:00 p.m. Dare gave me Mason’s ID, which could pass for my own if the lighting was dim and the bouncer didn’t look too closely. Still, I was nervous about potentially breaking the law. The first place they’d call was the local police, who would contact my mom. She’d probably send someone to arrest me just to scare me straight.

The bouncer in question roved his flashlight over Dare’s ID and then over his person. Dare’s height made him look older, along with the scruff of a few days without shaving that had accumulated on his jaw. It was pretty sexy, actually, and I scolded myself for even looking at him in that way.

When it was my turn, the bouncer inspected me a little closer.

“You’re twins?” he asked while side-eyeing the both of us. “You don’t look alike.”

“Fraternal,” Dare clarified. He made a motion to move past the bouncer, who held out his hand to block him. The man turned to me.

“What’s up with your hair?”

“It grew out.”

“What’s your sign….” He squinted at the ID. “Mason?”

“Scorpio,” I said easily. I’d memorized that a long time ago.

“Where do you live?”

I recited the Chalmerses’s address. I had a knack for memorization. And riding past their house on my bike when I was at the height of my stalking phase didn’t hurt my recall either.

“You been drinking?” he flashed his light in my eyes, blinding me.

“No, sir,” I answered.

“All right, then.” He passed the ID back to me. “No funny business, and make sure you tip the ladies. They aren’t here for their health.”

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I entered into the surprisingly well-lit Café Risqué. It was kind of like when you built something up in your mind so much that the reality couldn’t possibly match up to your expectations. I wasn’t disappointed by the interior, not exactly, but it seemed so much smaller than I’d imagined. Other than the poles, it really did resemble a Denny’s or some other greasy spoon. There were booths along one side of the dining area and a bar that butted up to a small empty stage, where I assumed the main event would take place. There was also a side shop that sold ladies’ lingerie and pornographic DVDs, but overall, it was pretty underwhelming.

There were a few truckers in the booths, being served by women in revealing outfits, something like a costume you might pick up on a discount rack after Halloween—naughty nurse or curious co-ed. So far, nothing that lived up to the motto of “We bare all.”

Dare suggested we sit at the bar and soon after, a waitress approached us. She appeared to be in her late thirties, dyed red hair, heavy on the makeup, with her ample, freckled bosom squeezed into a cropped leather bustier. “What would you handsome fellas like to drink?” she asked with a salacious grin.

I knew from the signs out front they didn’t serve alcohol, which seemed a little strange to me, but if this venue really catered to truckers, then I supposed it wouldn’t do to get them liquored up while pulling an all-nighter. In fact, the idea of a place where truckers could get a square meal while also admiring naked women to help pass their long and lonely rides had an almost wholesome appeal.

“Cherry coke?” Dare asked, looking at me. He seemed perfectly comfortable with our situation and not at all put off by the strange mix of fry grease and sex pheromones circulating in the air.

“Coke’s good. Regular for me,” I said as I steered my eyes away from our server’s chest. I’d kind of zoned out there for a minute. She left us with two menus, and Dare scanned his dutifully.

“This is not what I was expecting,” he said in a low voice.

“No, me neither,” I admitted.

“I really can’t believe this.” He studied his menu with a look of deep concentration.

“What is it?” I thought perhaps he’d stumbled across a clue.

“The food’s actually very reasonably priced.”

I laughed out loud at Dare’s practicality. He glanced over with a small smile that acknowledged the sheer oddity of our situation. Our waitress, Cherry, returned soon after and took our order. Mine was a hamburger and curly fries. Dare’s was soup and salad, and I remembered what he’d told me before about how greasy food upset his stomach. As she was leaving, Dare grabbed her arm. “Wait a minute, if you would.”

“No touching, sweetie,” she said in an almost motherly fashion.

Dare released her immediately and apologized. “I was wondering if you’ve ever seen this man.” Dare pulled up a photo of him and Mason on his phone, the one taken from the pep rally with Mason in his singlet.

“You a cop?” she asked with dismay.

“No, ma’am. It’s my brother. He’s gone missing, and he used to come here from time to time, over the summer, I believe. I was wondering when he might have been here last. If you might have seen him?”

His sincere desperation came through in his appeal and Cherry took another hard look. “I don’t recognize him, but one of the late-night girls might.” She pointed to the stage, which was really just an extension of the bar and less than two feet in front of us. “They come on in about a half an hour, if you want to ask them.”

The place had a definite between-shift vibe. Cherry herself said she’d close out our order when she brought us our food. “It’s past my bedtime,” she said, yawning unapologetically as she collected the money for the food and her tip. Dare insisted on paying for my meal, but it wasn’t like we were on a date. More like he was paying my expenses.

We were just finishing our meal when the jukebox kicked on. I hadn’t noticed it before, but it stood in a dim corner of the room. There were a couple of burly men going over the choices with an almost academic fastidiousness.

I recognized the song after the first couple intro bars of a searing guitar riff: “Sweet Child of Mine” by Guns N’ Roses. Dare grabbed my arm. “Charlie, look.”

I turned. Onstage, among a cloud of fog and strobe lights, five women of varying ages, ethnicities, and statures entered the spotlights, wearing stilettos and nothing else.

“We bare all,” Dare said with wonder. As it turned out, Café Risqué’s motto was absolutely true. Dare handed me a stack of bills. “Time to splash some cash, Charlie.”

And then with a look of childlike glee, Dare made it rain.

I didn’t realize until after their performance, Dare was baiting the dancers. When they finished their set, the women circulated through the bar, offering up private dances to the patrons. All of them had their eyes on Dare. The first two women he slipped a twenty and showed them his phone, asked them if they’d ever seen Mason. They hadn’t but were happy to take his cash nonetheless. One of the women told Dare she’d give him a deep discount on a private dance on account of him being so easy on the eyes. It actually took quite a bit of the Chalmers’s charm to let her off easy.

The third woman, who was blonde, or perhaps wearing a blonde wig, was the closest to our age. She looked from the picture to Dare and said, “Private dances are forty bucks.”

I thought she was only angling for an upsale, but Dare seemed on board with it. “My friend Charlie here wants a dance. And I want to watch.”

“Each dance is forty. No freebies,” she studied me with a peculiar expression. I wiped my mouth, thinking there might be ketchup on my face.

“Lucky for me, I’m a rich bastard,” Dare replied.

The woman introduced herself as Crystal and led us to a back room where there were booths covered in red vinyl, kind of like a Pizza Hut. Easy to wipe clean, I thought and then shivered with disgust. About five feet away was a video camera recording everything that happened in the room. I prayed my mother never saw this footage.

“Don’t worry,” Crystal said, perhaps noticing my unease. “It doesn’t record sound.” She then gave us a list of rules, which included, among other things, no touching.

“You don’t have to worry about that,” I assured her, sweating profusely. I’d never seen a naked woman this close before, and even after watching Crystal grind and gyrate on the pole, having her practically on top of me felt criminal. Her boobs were everywhere. I didn’t know where to put my hands so I wouldn’t accidentally touch her, so I shoved them between my legs.

“Are you sure this is legal?” I asked Dare.

He gave me an amused look. “You’ll have to excuse my friend, Crystal. Charlie has a girlfriend, but like I told him, so long as there’s no touching, it’s not cheating. Am I right?”

“That’s right, baby,” she said, winking at Dare. A rap song came on, something fast with a deep bass line. Crystal straddled my knees, which were pressed tightly together. “Just relax now, baby. Crystal will make you feel all right,” she cooed in my ear. Her hair tickled my neck, and her heavy bosoms nearly brushed up against me.

“Maybe you should take this one,” I said to Dare, who sat to the side of us, watching with complete rapture. His arms stretched out along the top of the booth like this was an everyday occurrence. Funny thing was, his attention seemed more focused on me than the naked woman on my lap.

Dare shook his head with a huge smile on his face. He was really getting a kick out of this. “It’s your birthday, Bud. Just sit back and enjoy it. Let’s see what turns up.”

I gulped and pressed back as far as I could into the slightly reclined seat. It felt a little bit like being at the dentist’s office when you’re trying really hard not to get any of your bodily juices on the dental hygienist. But the more I retreated, the more Crystal advanced. She gyrated in lazy circles, cupping her boobs and pinching her nipples to perhaps add to the excitement. She moaned a little, trying to sell it. I wanted to squeeze my eyes shut and count in my head until it was over, but I didn’t want to be rude.

“Did you recognize my brother Mason?” Dare finally asked, studying her critically. He didn’t seem aroused in the least by her performance, just deadly focused on getting answers.

“I saw him in the news,” she said. “Is he… dead?”

“Yes, he is.” Dare ducked his head so that she wouldn’t see his face. Still, Crystal seemed sympathetic to his pain.

“I’m sorry. He seemed like a nice guy.”

“He was,” Dare said quietly. “So, you met him?”

“He came in here a couple times while I was on shift.” She reached down to spread my knees open, as though she could force me to relax. She grabbed my hands as if we were dance partners. I probably resembled a very stiff puppet.

“I thought there was no touching,” I said, feeling a little panicked.

“You can’t touch me, but I can touch you,” she said with a teasing smile. It made absolutely no sense to me. Touching was touching, but I didn’t want to argue the point with her.

“Did you see him with anyone else?” Dare asked.

“Yeah, a beefy red-headed kid. Bad attitude. He complained about the girls being fat. He was kind of an asshole, if I’m honest. Not your brother, though. He was a good tipper, just like you.” She dabbed Dare’s nose with the tip of her finger. He went cross-eyed for a moment and then drew his finger along the end of his nose where she’d touched him.

“Did it seem like my brother was just here to enjoy the entertainment, or was he meeting someone?” Dare asked.

Crystal turned around so I could get a full view of her bulbous butt, jumping up and down to the beat with practiced efficiency. At least now she couldn’t see me cower.

“There was another man here with them. Older. White hair and a fake tan. Looks like he works out a lot. He’s a regular.”

Dare leaned in closer. “When was the last time you saw him?”

“He’s here tonight,” she said. “He was sitting next to you at the bar.”

My mind flashed back to the guy she was describing. He was wearing a sleeveless shirt and a red bandana and his arms were grossly huge, like a Hulk Hogan wannabe. I suddenly knew what pills Mason had been taking.

“Steroids,” I said aloud.

Dare slumped back into his seat, realizing my meaning. A speaker piped up in the room. “Crystal, finish up. The cops are here.”

I glanced over at Dare. “It might be GPD.” As I was indisposed, Dare poked his head out of the room to take a look down the hallway. He turned back to the two of us, both of us having given up this charade and awaiting his word.

“One more favor, Crystal. You’ve got to get us out the back.” Dare laid a stack of bills on the red vinyl booth.

“Is it your girlfriend?” she asked with exasperation, as though that sort of thing happened frequently.

“Nope,” Dare said. “It’s Charlie’s mother.”

About the Author

Laura Lascarso wants you to stay up way past your bedtime reading her stories. She aims to inspire more questions than answers in her fiction and believes in the power of storytelling to heal and transform a society. When not writing, Laura can be found screaming “finish” on the soccer fields, rewatching Veronica Mars, and trying to convince politicians that climate change is real. She lives in North Florida with her darling husband and two kids. She loves hearing from readers, and she’d be delighted to hear from you.
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lascarso 
Twitter: @lauralascarso

Release Blitz Tour – I’ve Been Careless With A Delicate Thing by Marina Vivancos (excerpt and giveaway)

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Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK  – Available exclusive to Amazon and on Kindle Unlimited
 
Length: 27,000 words approx.
 
Cover Design: Natasha Snow
 
Blurb
 

Silas meets gorgeous, grumpy-looking Oscar at a bar. He’s never had sex with a guy, and what better place is there to find someone to pop that particular cherry?



He knows what he’s getting with the broad-shouldered, I-can-pummel-you-with-one-look Oscar: getting bent over a hard surface and satisfied until he’s blaspheming. Turns out, though, there’s a lot more to Oscar that meets the eyes. Needs that you’d never guess just by looking at him. Needs that Silas turns out to perfectly meet.


One night turns into two, turns into three, turns into a dozen. It’s just a little friends-with-benefits relationship with a dollop of kink on the side. No feelings involved, right?


Right. Because Silas is just so good at keeping his heart in check.


This is an erotic ~27,000 word novella. Expect plentiful sex scenes with a friends-with-benefits (yeah, right), soft Dom/sub relationship.
 
Excerpt
 

“You look like you’re having fun,” Silas said, peering at Oscar whilst the other two leaned towards each other, falling into conversation. Oscar raised his eyebrows a little, and the clear sarcasm in the move made Silas grin.


Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad.


“Let me guess. You dragged Johnny here to get your dance on, didn’t you? ‘I need to shake my thang’, you wailed, and now here you are, crying on the inside because they’re playing a Madonna remix and this is your jam.” He perched his chin on the palm of his hand, looking at Oscar through his eyelashes.


“My thang,” Oscar repeated, not bothering with a question mark. His voice was deep and everything you would want to come out of a face that looked like it could be used as a cornerstone for a gothic church.


“Yeah, your thang. Your badonkadonk. Your caboose. Your derriere. Your full moon rising. Your juicy double.”


“Are you done?”


“Your all that junk inside your trunk.”


“What are you drinking, exactly?”


“Why? You wanna buy me another?”


“I was actually planning on telling the bartender to cut you off.”


Silas grinned at him for a moment before knocking back his drink. “Let’s dance,” he ordered.


“I don’t dance.”


“Sure you do, big guy.”

 
Author Bio
 

When Marina was a child she couldn’t sleep. Night after dissolving night she just couldn’t sleep. Nothing much worked – until she started making up stories in her head. Suddenly, the transition into unconsciousness was a smooth dive into calm waters.


Marina is currently in a period of sleepless upheaval, and she hopes writing down the stories in her head will cast the same spell it did decades ago.


Marina hopes to write in a variety of romance sub-genres, from contemporary to supernatural to sci-fi. Her style, however, tends to focus on character-centred stories that explore different facets of the human experience, such as mental health. She also enjoys writing explicit, drawn-out sex scenes, so expect those to be a prominent feature of her stories.


Marina tends to keep to herself unless prompted, so don’t be shy in approaching her!

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A Paranormal Highlight! Check out Panther Queen (Morrighan House Witches #3) by Amir Lane (author interview, excerpt and giveaway)

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Panther Queen

 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with Amir Lane 

 Panther Queen by Amir Lane

  • Describe yourself using… ( a food, a book, a song, a movie, an animal, a drink, a place etc)

Not how I would describe myself but a friend of mine calls me 6ft of Anger, after the song by Corroded. The joke is that I’m actually 5’3”, so it’s a shot at my height. I don’t really listen to the sort of music you want to describe yourself as but food-wise, I’d call myself microwave mug cake. Everything you love about cakes, but in a smaller form.

  • When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?

I can’t think of a time when I didn’t want to tell stories. A teacher of mine once said everyone starts out making up stories, most people just grow out of it. I never did grow out of it. I was in, I think, sixth grade when I started putting those stories on paper. It’s always made me happy. As for when I discovered I was good at it, I think it’s not that I discovered I was good but that I got good because I practiced so much. And still, it’s a back and forth of, ‘this is garbage’ and ‘wow this is decent’ that keeps going until the book is good, not me.

  • Do you ever base your characters on real people? If so, what are the pitfalls you’ve run into doing so?

I really try not to base my characters on real life people. I might borrow a trait or a turn of phrase from someone, but I don’t like using whole people. I have borrowed names, usually for throwaway characters who are mentioned in passing or one scene, which has the problem of people I know reading those bits, seeing the name they recognize, and trying to pick out who everyone is supposed to be.

  • What was the hardest part of writing this book?

The hardest part of this book was the research. This book takes place in Brazil, which I’ve never visited, and I wanted to do it right. There wasn’t a scene where I didn’t have to open Google to look something up, or as someone. I’m lucky to have a few friends from Brazil who were happy to help me out. That made it a lot of fun, where they would just tell me the same kind of stories I always love hearing from any of my friends; things like a vacation they took, or a funny thing their siblings did. So, really, it was the most fun part of the book, but it presented a unique challenge because it was an exercise in, ‘you don’t know what you don’t know.’

  • Who did your cover, and what was the design process like?

The cover was done by Daqri Bernardo at Covers by Combs. She’s done all the covers in the Morrighan House Witches series, and I can’t be happier with how they came out. Panther Queen is probably my favourite.

Daqri is super easy to work with. I comment on a lot of the covers she posts in her Facebook group, so I think she’d had a bit of an idea of what I liked before we started on this series. What I did was find the main photo I wanted – the person or, with Panther Queen, the jaguar – and tell her what kind of background I wanted, and the colour I associated with the character. For Panther Queen, I did find a few backgrounds, too, since it’s a less conventional setting. For the rest, I just told her some settings that show up and she did the rest. I try to be pretty hands-off, since I’m not a designer. She does the rest.

  • What are you working on now, and when can we expect it?

I am working on Gift of Curses, the second book in my Barrier Witch Trilogy. The series follows gay witch and detective Fairuz Arshad as she investigates supernatural crimes and tries to take down a dryad gang. The whole series will be out in 2019.

♦︎

QSFer Amir Lane has a new queer/transgender paranormal book out: Panther Queen.

When cattle rancher Lenna Alvarez rescues a black jaguar, she discovers there’s more to the animal that meets the eye. Bonding with a centuries-old Aztec Warrior wasn’t part of her plans. Then again, neither was simultaneously facing off against an American businessman and poachers encroaching on her family lands.

With her newfound powers, Lenna is sure the poachers don’t stand a chance. Only, Lenna isn’t the only one bringing strange animal powers to the game. The poachers have them too, led by businessman Ansen Peters. Lenna is in over her head, and not even the jaguar can save her.

Ansen Peters doesn’t want the ranch. He wants the jaguar. And he’s willing to kill her for it.

Get It On Amazon


Giveaway

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Excerpt

BANNER 4 - Panther Queen

Night fell around Lenna, and her ass had long since gone numb. Her camera was full of new pictures but she didn’t have anything for night photography. The equipment was bulkier and heavier than she was willing to carry through the Pantanal.

As she prepared to dismount from her tree, she tried to see how awake her legs were. Not very, judging by the tingling in her feet. She scanned the riverbank for her boat while she kicked her heels against the tree trunk and spotted two others. That was odd. When had someone else shown up? Maybe it was Valente and Luciano looking for her. But she had taken their only boat, and they would never venture this deep into the Pantanal unless she’d been missing for at least a day, not just a few hours. They didn’t know their way around like she did.

It was probably just wildlife photographers trying to get shots of the nocturnal animals. Something made her feel uneasy, though. She looked around for the occupants of the boats and spotted them approaching her jaguar.

The two men were not wildlife photographers. She knew hunting equipment when she saw it. She also knew the hunting regulations for the area. The regulations were pretty simple: no fucking hunting.Which meant there was no way these men were allowed to be killing anything out here. Which meant they were poachers. Their faces were only just visible in her camera. She doubted anything would happen to them if she reported them. Nothing ever happened to poachers.

The poachers found a spot close enough to the jaguar to hit it, but not close enough to attract its attention. She had to do something before they fired. At this distance, they wouldn’t miss.

She thought of her own shotgun tucked uselessly in the back of Luciano’s truck. She’d never needed it before, and there didn’t seem to be any point lugging it with her. It would have done her a hell of a lot more good than the machete at her hip. It looked like she was going to have to get creative.

“Hey!”

Her voice carried over the Pantanal, farther than she would have thought possible. The deep shout certainly got their attention. They shot at her, grazing the trees around her.

“Shit!”

Lenna couldn’t stay up here. She’d be a sitting duck. She climbed down the top branches to avoid breaking her legs and jumped down from the tree. It was still too high, and she hit the dirt with bruising force. She pushed herself back up without a moment of hesitation. She could have lost them in the wooded area, easy. But the odds of getting lost or eaten by an anaconda were higher than the odds of getting shot before she made it to her boat.

Hopefully.

Camera still in hand and binoculars thumping painfully against her tattooed chest, she took off across the grassy plains of the Pantanal. The silencers on the guns muffled the shots, making them sound more like thumps than bangs. Though, that might have been her heart pounding in her ears. The still-rational part of her brain that was still working told her to run in a zig-zag to make herself harder to hit. The animal part of her brain told her the shortest distance to her boat was a straight line run as fast as physically possible. She had no idea where the bullets were or whether or not they were even close to hitting her, and she sure as shit wasn’t going to stop to check.

A roar that sounded more like a throaty cough filled her ears. For a split half-second, she thought the jaguar was on her. But that wasn’t her screaming. No, it came from behind her. She didn’t dare look back, not even as she heard more gunshots, not even as she heard the jaguar cry out in pain.

They shot it! They shot her jaguar!

Rage filled her, and she had half a mind to turn around, but self-preservation won out. Her boat was right there. Right there, just eight, six, four feet away. Keys, where the hell where her keys? Where were her goddamn fucking—

Found them.

Lenna shoved her keys into the ignition, her eyes scouring the Pantanal for the jaguar and the poachers. The jaguar was limping away, and the poachers’ bodies were lying on the grass. One was shifting, dragging itself away from the animal. The other was not. Lenna had no sympathy for them, and she wasn’t about to stick around to make sure they were okay. They could be eaten by caimans for all she gave a fuck.

The boat started without any issue. Though the poachers were down and the jaguar was obviously in no state to come after her, Lenna couldn’t wait to get as far away from here as possible.

She ran on foot through the brush, never wanting to leave her horse alone with the night predators, until she found her truck, the green paint chipping to show the silver metal underneath, in the same place she always left it. The roar of her engine drowned out the shriek of birds. Muscle memory alone guided her back to the ranch house. She practically threw herself through the front door and slammed her bedroom door hard enough to rattle the walls.

“Lenna?” Vidonia called.

Lenna leaned against the door. She knew Vidonia wouldn’t hurt her. Nobody in this house would, and not just because she could practically bench press one of their cows. She was safe here. So why did she feel the urge to push the dresser against the door and hide under the bed?

“Lenna? Honey are you okay?”

No, no she wasn’t.

She slumped down against the door and pressed her forehead to her knees. Exhaustion washed over her. This day suddenly felt so long. The solace she’d found watching the Pantanal was gone. She just wanted to curl up somewhere safe. Home should have been safe, but the memory of Ansen Peters’ standing just down the hall from her room with that sly smile made her shudder.

“Lenna, please talk to me. Did something happen? Luciano!”

There was panic in Vidonia’s voice. She was afraid for Lenna.

This place was safe, Lenna reminded herself. Nobody would get past Vidonia and Luciano. Nobody could hurt her here.

“I’m fine,” Lenna said, though her voice cracked and she wasn’t sure she believed herself. “I’m fine, I’m just tired.”

There was a long silence. Lenna struggled to keep her sobs quiet. She didn’t want them to know. She didn’t want to get in trouble.

“Are you sure?”

“I’m sure, auntie.” Her voice trembled, and cleared her throat. “I’m— I’m going to sleep. I have an early morning.”

She changed into a pair of boxers, crawled into bed, and pulled the pillow over her head to drown out the screams ringing in her ears.


Author Bio

Amir Lane is an LGBT+ supernatural and urban fantasy writer from Northern Ontario. Engineer by trade, they spend most of their writing time in a small home office or in front of the TV watching every cop procedural on Netflix. They live in a world where magic is an every day occurrence, and they strive to bring that world to paper.

When not trying to figure out what kind of day job an incubus would have or what a Necromancer would go to school for, Amir enjoys visiting the nearest Dairy Queen, getting killed in video games, absorbing the contents of comic books, and freaking out over how fluffy the neighbour’s dog is.

Author Website: http://www.amirlane.com

Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/amirlaneauthor/

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