A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audio Review:Fire and Granite (Carlisle Deputies #2) by Andrew Grey and Greg Tremblay (Narrator)

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

When Judge Andrew Phillips’s life is threatened by a criminal who escaped while being transported to prison, Sheriff’s Deputy Clay Brown steps up to protect Andrew 24/7 and each man learns the other is not who he thought he was.  Neither man previously thought highly of the other, having been across the bench in the courtroom many times through the years.  Andrew is not the cold hard persona he presents. And Clay is more than the stern-faced deputy with no personality Andrew perceived he was.

Harper, the criminal who escaped, is Clay’s cousin, not a close connection, but nevertheless, Clay has some insight into their family situation that helps with the case.  In the meantime, just as Andrew finds his house has been ransacked by Harper, he receives a call telling him his sister’s depression is so severe she’s been hospitalized, and she’s named him guardian of her children.  Though upset about his own situation, he rushes to her side. 

And there is the basis for most of the story.  As the men try to hide from Harper and both attempt to comfort the children, they stay with Clay, and both men discover they have feelings for one another. The ups and downs and dramatic turns in the story are mostly centered around Harper and his threatening texts to Andrew and Clay’s attempts to track him down.  There is a small overlap with a few characters from the Carlisle Cops series as Clay works with Red and Carter and Andrew’s niece and nephew play with Carter and Donald’s little boy.  I always enjoy seeing where other characters are in their lives when some time has passed. 

One of the major issues that troubled me, however, is that Andrew revealed to Clay that he’d seen Harper in a park known to be a gay men’s hookup area prior to the trial, but he didn’t recuse himself from being judge. He stressed that he maintained impartiality but it seems to me that would have been a violation of ethics.  The explanation didn’t sit well with me, especially since the convict was convinced Andrew had treated him poorly because of seeing him at the park.

The ending was as sweet as one would expect from an Andrew Grey story and all worked out well. Narrator Greg Tremblay was as outstanding as usual and gave me several lovely hours of listening pleasure.  He doesn’t just read a story—he lives the story, adding drama and humor to the vocalizations where indicated, making his narration top notch. 

The cover by Kanaka features a muscular man wearing a flak jacket with the word police emblazoned at the top. It fits the story nicely.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | Audible | iTunes

Audio Details:

Listening length: 6 hours and 40 minutes

Audiobook, 7 pages
Published November 1st 2018 by Dreamspinner Press (first published July 10th 2018)
Original Title Fire and Granite
ISBN 139781641081603
Edition Language English
Series Carlisle Deputies #2

A MelanieM Review: Away in a Manger by JC Owens

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Two men from vastly different backgrounds; one city, one country. They have loved each other for over fifteen years, but the balance of their relationship has always been skewed, with Nathan desperately attempting to make Malcolm content on the ranch, when his restlessness and creative soul drives him to explore the world outside. After all this time, the differences were beginning to create a divide that seemed inevitable. Sometimes, love was not enough.

Then Malcolm’s nephew goes missing and a storm brings Nathan to his knees…

Everything they have is suddenly on the brink of disaster.

It will take a Christmas miracle to show two men that everything they are, everything they need, is tied up in a love that deserves a second chance.

Away in a Manger by JC Owens is one of those short stories that not only seems like a much larger book but one that you wish would go on to fill a series.  In just 53 pages, J.C. Owens manages to create a world of characters that feel real right  down to the horses and dogs, a ranch that  comes vividly to life, and an established relationship between two men that solidifies and deepens before our eyes.

Oh, and a missing teenager finds his way to a new home.  At Christmas.  And you don’t want to roll your eyes but embrace the spirit, the love that flows from the story and all the “miracles” it contains.

There is a depth and reality to all the characters here, that includes the horses and the dogs that play big parts in this tale.  I want to spend more time with all of them.  This story and these people cry out for a series of books.  I hope the author is listening.  Until then, spread out your holiday reading to just one more story and pick up Away in a Manger by JC Owens.  I highly recommend it.

Cover art by Kris Jacen.  Just gorgeous and perfect for the story.

Sales Links:  MLR Press | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 53 pages
Published December 13th 2018 by MLR Press
ASINB07LCLWQ2J

 

Parker Williams on Writing, Romance, and The Spirit Key (author guest blog, excerpt, and giveaway)

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The Spirit Key (Lock and Key #1) by Parker Williams

Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Reese Dante
Release Date: January 15, 2019

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press  |  Amazon

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Parker Williams here today on tour with his latest release, The Spirit Key.  Welcome, Parker.

 

~ Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with Parker Williams ~

How much of yourself goes into a character?

As with all my stories, a little piece of me goes into each of the characters I write. It might be something as simple as a desire to own a store, like George, or to see spirits, like Scott (though I could do without some of the ones he sees.)

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

Normally research plays a part in my stories, but since this one is a paranormal, it was a little harder. I had to write something, then ask my beta readers if it made sense to them. Putting things from my head onto paper sometimes doesn’t translate like I thought it might.

How do you choose your covers?  (curious on my part)

Ooh, the cover for this one is from Reese Dante! She’s done a lot of the covers for me over the years (she’s my absolute favorite, you know), and this one? She slammed it out of the park for me. When I told her I had no idea what I wanted, and gave her carte blanche, she said she wanted to try something and asked if I was feeling experimental. When she gave me this cover, I was head over heels in love with it.

Do you have a favorite among your own stories?  And why?

What’s next for you as an author?

That’s like asking a parent if they have a favorite child. (Of course they do!) I love Runner, but there’s another book coming called Stained Hearts that will give it a run for my affection. I even made another author cry when I showed her the first chapter, and that made me super-happy!

My next book is called Galen’s Redemption, and is the second book in the Links in the Chain series (Lincoln’s Park was the first) and Stained Hearts will be the third and final one.

If you write contemporary romance, is there such a thing as making a main character too “real”?  Do you think you can bring too many faults into a character that eventually it becomes too flawed to become a love interest?

To be honest, I’m not sure. I mean, it depends on what the author does with them. Galen has a lot of learning to do in his book, so he’s got a lot of little moments where he has self-doubt. In Spirit Key, Scott does something he thinks is right, but in the long run, he realizes that it wasn’t.

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.

Drunk, no. On Ambien? Yes. Let’s just say when I looked at it the next day, I have no freaking clue what any of it even said.

  

What’s next for you as a writer?

I just finished edits for Galen’s book, and expect to start Stained Hearts soon. Currently I’m working on a shifter book titled ‘The Night Wolf’, and then I’m going to start in on my writing goals for 2019, which will include book four of the Secrets series, ‘On the Same Page’.

 

Blurb(s):

Lock and Key: Book One

When he was eight years old, Scott Fogel died. Paramedics revived him, but he came back changed. Ghosts and spirits tormented Scott for over a decade until, thinking he was going mad, he did the only thing he could.

He ran—leaving behind his best friend, Tim Jennesee.

Scott’s had five normal, ghost-free years in Chicago, when the spirit of Tim’s mother comes to him and begs him to go home because Tim’s in trouble and needs him.

He isn’t prepared for what he finds when he goes home—a taller and sexier Tim, but a Tim who hasn’t forgiven Scott for abandoning him… a Tim whose body is no longer his own. The ghost of a serial murderer has attached itself to Tim, and it’s whispering dark and evil things. It wants Tim to kill, and it’s becoming harder for Tim to resist. To free the man who has always meant so much to him, Scott must unravel the mystery of the destiny he shares with Tim.

Pages, Words, or time (for audiobooks): 74,439 words

Book Categories: Ghosts/spirits/paranormal

Excerpt:

SUMMER, 2002

 

WHAT MEMORY stands out most in your mind from when you were a kid? For many of my friends, it was getting a good grade on a test they were sure they’d fail, making a catch during a football game, or finding out the person they were crushing on liked them back. For others, it was more physical, like their first kiss or having sex for the first time.

For me, the one that topped that list was in the summer of 2002. The memory? Me dying. Well, almost dying. I mean, technically, I was dead for twenty-seven minutes, at least according to the paramedics and doctors.

See, I had gone down to the quarry with my brother and some of his friends. I was eight at the time, and to be invited to go along with the “big kids” was a heady thing.

Okay, fine. My mom told them they had to take me, but they weren’t supposed to let me know.

That’s not the point of the story, however. Still, between us, when your brother tells you that Mom said he had to take you and that you ruined his day by dying? That kind of sticks with you.

Anyway. The whole week had been hotter than hell—upper nineties, heat index topping a hundred, with no breeze at all. What made it worse was the humidity. Everyone complained their clothes stuck to them, and we all would have given anything for a bit of cool air. Those were the days you wanted to do nothing more than stretch out in front of the air conditioner and fantasize about being in the arctic.

Of course, those are also the times that drive Mom mad, like when we’re there, whining about how hot it is, and my brother announces he’s going swimming with his friends, and she tells him to take me along to the quarry with him.

Fine. I’m a little hostile over that memory, but in my defense, I died, so I think I have a right to be a tad grumpy.

Moving on….

There were a few old trees that stretched out over a pit of water. In the seventies, the place had been used to mine rocks that were crushed to use in gardens and the like. When the company that owned it shut down, it left a huge hole in the ground. Over time, it filled with water, which attracted kids from all over, wanting to swim. That was our destination for the day.

By the time we got there, all of our T-shirts had soaked with sweat. I distinctly remember looking at Cole Turner and seeing wisps of dark hair on his chest and wondering to myself what it would look like once he took his shirt off. I wasn’t sure why that thought flitted through my head, but it was gone just as quickly, because I saw Tim Jennesee sitting on a rock, taking off his shoes.

“Tim!”

He turned and smiled at me, waving like a freak. I took off running. Tim had been my best friend forever—which at the time was probably a few months, but in my eight-year-old mind, that qualified as a really long time—and seeing him there was a surprise. Normally he preferred to stay inside and play on the computer, indulging in game worlds like the Sims. Later he graduated to MMORPGs like EverQuest, with the promise that one day he would be creating them instead of playing someone else’s.

I got to where he sat and took my spot at his side. He nudged me with his shoulder. “I didn’t know you were going to be here!”

“Ryan asked me to come along.” See? I thought my brother was all cool and stuff. Shows how much I knew.

“Really? My mom said I had to get out of the house. I figured I’d come swimming for a while. I tried to call, but—”

“We were already on our way here.”

I hadn’t thought to call him, and I felt bad… for about three seconds. I was with Tim and the day had gotten a thousand times better. His dark hair shone in the sun, and his brown eyes sparkled. Being with him was enough to make me smile, and having him there with me made the day perfect.

Okay, here’s where things go to shit, so you’ll have to indulge me a bit. I don’t often discuss my death with people, because they ask all kinds of inane questions, and I’m so over that shit.

There was a big tree that stretched out over the watery pit. Someone had climbed it, tied off a rope, then knotted it at the other end. See, the idea was to grab hold, push off, and soar out into the nothingness, then arc high in the sky before letting go and plunging into the water, sinking, then rising once again until you broke the surface, then rushed to have another turn.

Doesn’t that sound idyllic? Like a Norman Rockwell painting or something?

Yeah, you’d think that.

It was my turn. I’d hedged about it all day, because I hated the idea of being so high in the air and falling. Ryan openly mocked me, and his friends teased me to no end. When Tim got up and announced he was going to do it, well, that raised the bar right there. How could my best friend do it, while I was too chicken?

Wrapping his hands around the rope, Tim ran and leaped off the edge, soaring into the air with a loud cry. Then, as he reached the apex of the arc, he let go. For a moment everything stopped, as he rose a little higher, then hung in the air before he dropped like a stone, laughing all the way.

When he broke the surface of the water a few seconds later, my heart started beating again.

“So, nerdy Tim can do it, but little Scotty is too much of a baby.”

It’s funny how you don’t remember how much of an ass your brother was when you were a kid, isn’t it?

“I’m not a baby!”

“Then prove it, chicken.”

“Fine!”

I stormed over to the rope and took hold of it. I glanced down into the murky pit, and my heart stuttered once more.

“Come on, Scott. It’s fun!”

Tim came jogging over, water sluicing down his chest, his hair matted to his forehead. Weirdly, that stray thought about Cole? Yeah, so over it. Now it was Tim that I was staring at.

“Okay.”

I was going to make Tim proud of me. I didn’t understand why, but thinking of him running over and hugging me, telling me how great I’d done? It became the only thought in my head at the moment.

I turned back and set myself, ready to do it. One quick glance at Tim, who nodded at me, and I rushed to the edge, jumped, and flew.

It was amazing. One second gravity has been conquered, and you’re flying up, up, up. Then you remember that everyone is gravity’s bitch, and you’re jerked back down. I hit the water, flush with pride over having done it.

When I flapped my arms to go back to the surface, though, that was when shit got real.

I couldn’t move my foot. Something had wrapped around it and held me below the surface. In my mind, a shark had grabbed me and was dragging me down. I struggled, trying to swim up, and my lungs burned.

You have to know, at this time, my mind had refused to believe I was going to die. It kept screaming for me to fight, to do whatever the hell I had to in order to get back to the surface. And I fought as hard as I could. Only….

At one point, I thought I’d gotten free, and my struggles to swim back to the surface intensified. I pushed hard against the water, trying to get up, back into the sun, but then I knew I was still stuck, and I had no more breath in my lungs.

I remember opening my mouth to scream for Tim to help me, but the murky water rushed in, and I choked, which led to more water being drawn into my body. Everything sort of went hazy and then shifted to black.

I’d died.

 

About the Author

Parker Williams began to write as a teen, but never showed his work to anyone. As he grew older, he drifted away from writing, but his love of the written word moved him to reading. A chance encounter with an author changed the course of his life as she encouraged him to never give up on a dream. With the help of some amazing friends, he rediscovered the joy of writing, thanks to a community of writers who have become his family.

Parker firmly believes in love, but is also of the opinion that anything worth having requires work and sacrifice (plus a little hurt and angst, too). The course of love is never a smooth one, and happily-ever-after always has a price tag.

Website: http://www.parkerwilliamsauthor.com

Twitter: @ParkerWAuthor

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/parker.williams.75641

Email: parker@parkerwilliamsauthor.com

Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42934300-the-spirit-key

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

 

Giveaway prize offered: Signed Paperback copy of The Spirit Key delivered anywhere in the world.

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New Release Tour for Sins of the Son (Arcadia Trust, #3) by Christian Baines (excerpt and giveaway)

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Sins of the Son (Arcadia Trust #3) by Christian Baines

Expected publication: January 20th 2019

Buy Link:  Amazon

 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Christian Baines on tour with his latest novel, Sins of the Son.  Welcome, Christian.

 

SINS OF THE SON Blog Tour #3: Sloth

WHAT’S TAKING SO LONG? ARE YOU EVEN WRITING? HELLO?

Welcome to day three of my Sins of the Son blog tour. Thanks for joining me, and thanks so much to Melanie and the team at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words for hosting me today – where the theme is… sloth.

Yes, I know. Sloth? Others get exciting sins like wrath, envy, pride, and lust. I get sloth? Really, Christian?

Okay, I know sloth might not seem like the most exciting sin, but besides being a favourite sin of many (you know who you are), I decided to make this the ‘sloth’ post in honour of a question Melanie asked me in an interview about the last Arcadia Trust book, The Orchard of Flesh about the lengthy time span between books in the series. It’s usually a couple of years between Arcadia Trust books, which is slow compared to romance authors who put out a new release every few months, or even those ‘Big 5’ authors faithfully putting out one book a year.

First off, I want to promise you it’s not sloth! I’m attaching this topic to today’s theme in jest. But just in case anyone thinks I’m being mean or sitting on my hands, making my readers wait, I promise you, I’m not. I’m always working on something, even if it’s not an Arcadia Trust book. I love these books and these characters. If you like paranormal and want an introduction to my work that’s easy to get into and comes with a romantic streak, start with them. But I also love weirder, more experimental work, which has led me to do books like Puppet Boy and Skin. My current WIP also isn’t an Arcadia Trust book (though work on book 4 in the series is on the way).

When The Beast Without came out, that was my first introduction to the MM romance world. The book itself is a weird fit to that world, because while romance is an important part of its story, it doesn’t really follow romance beats and tropes, so I don’t sell it as a ‘romance’ novel. It’s urban fantasy with some male/male action. Possibly love. That’s it. No false advertising here. One of the things that hit me on entering this world was seeing the speed at which some authors pumped out new releases. Every four months, three months, or even less. I had no idea if this was ‘normal’ in romance world, but it was kind of intimidating. While I tapped away on the second Arcadia Trust book and Puppet Boy at the same time, I started to wonder how I was going to keep up. Did I have to keep up? Would people just forget about me if more than a year passed between releases?

When a friend reached out, asking if I had any short stories or other material that his publisher could take a look at, I bit. I spruced up a story I’d been playing with as an erotic short, gave it an ending I sort of liked and sent it off. To my astonishment, the publisher accepted it, and I had a contract, cover, and editor within a few days.

I like that short. I think it’s the beginnings of a great story. But it had no business going out into the big bad world on its own. It was like a short film that’s really just a teaser for producers you hope will invest in a feature. Yet the pull to produce something and keep my name out there was so strong, I felt compelled to release it. Critics were… confused, to say the least. I’m not embarrassed by it. It’s a good story. But it was also a valuable lesson that rapid-fire releases aren’t for me.

Anyone who seems to write and publish at lightning speed (and there are some fakes, but most just develop a solid habit of working quickly – I recommend L A Witt’s book Writing Faster FTW) will tell you

is that there is no good or bad speed at which to write. The ‘right’ speed is the one that allows each book you put out to be as good as it can be.

So what takes so long with the Arcadia Trust books? Planning. Insane amounts of plotting and planning.

The Arcadia Trust is essentially a serial. I make each one self-contained enough that a new reader can pick it up and get a complete narrative, but they will find references to a plot that unfolds over several books. If you’ve read either of the previous Arcadia trust books, you know my protagonist, Reylan, has a soft spot for troubled young men. The one he meets in Sins of the Son however, bears a startling resemblance to a lost friend. Reylan also receives help from an unexpected new ally. Or has Iain Grieg been in the picture longer than Reylan knows?

When writing a series, I try to drop hints, Easter eggs, veiled clues ,references to other books… anything I think will make it fun for loyal readers. That means knowing what’s going on in behind doors 1, 2, 4, and 5 while your camera is fixed and rolling on door number 3. Working out interesting ways to reveal that to the reader without switching point-of-view or spoiling whatever mystery you’re building. Having a character who subtly influenced events in book one come back to bring their plan to fruition later. It’s fun, and it forces you to dive deep, knowing your characters so well you can follow their actions and thoughts the whole time they’re ‘off-screen.’

And it’s time consuming for the author to keep it all clear and easy for a reader to follow. But it’s worth it, I think, for both reader and author, particularly in this genre.

In Sins of the Son, things are gearing up in the Arcadia Trust universe. The background players are emerging from the shadows and making their agendas known. Reylan and other characters you know and love have more at stake than their own safety and happiness. In short, Sins of the Son is where it all changes and things start to get real for the night-time denizens of Sydney.

I promise it was worth the wait.

GIVEAWAY: WIN your choice of one e-book edition of either of the first two Arcadia Trust novels, The Beast Without or The Orchard of Flesh. NEXT: Which trope keeps coming back to raise the WRATH of LGBTQs? Find out at Queer Sci-Fi on January 20, release day for Sins of the Son.

Blurb

Abandoned by his werewolf lover, the only thing Reylan wants is to return to his vampire life of blood and beautiful boys. It’s a solid plan, until his first meal as a single man tries to kill him.

Hoping to free his young would-be assassin from the religious zealots that sent him, Reylan enlists the help of Iain Grieg, a charismatic priest with unsettling knowledge of the night’s secrets.

Surrounded by conflicting agendas and an army fuelled by hate, Reylan fights to secure his future, if he can only trust the mysterious priest and bury the ghosts of the past.

Genre: Paranormal/Urban Fantasy

Release date: January 20, 2019

Series: The Arcadia Trust #3

Setting: Sydney, Australia

Length: 282 pages

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Excerpt

I ducked in time to avoid the stake that shattered the glass cabinet behind me. When I looked up, my young attacker was already closing in, a shining blade in each hand. Balancing my weight on the kitchen counter, I pushed my feet hard into his chest. A blade nicked my ankle. I leapt upon my target and pushed him the floor, gripping his chin and pinning his right shoulder.

He blindsided me across the jaw with the dull edge of the other blade, breaking my hold.

I staggered, sizing up the left-handed assassin. Narrowly avoiding his weapon as he lunged again, I grabbed hold of his hair and threw him into my dining table with a crash.

I clapped a firm hand over his mouth, muffling his cries as I slammed his left wrist against the table, forcing him to drop the knife. The blade in his opposite hand flashed as he struck out with it.

I yanked him off his feet and dragged him across the floor before he could find his mark. Ignoring muffled roars of protest, I buried my teeth in his shoulder, puncturing through his flimsy mesh vest. His youth, his anger, his alarmingly good health, all brought such a warmth and sweetness to…

The foul taste of bitter roots spoiled the stream. Poison. I shoved the boy away, spitting rancid blood over his face. When he came at me again, I used his momentum to topple him into the living room. I snatched up the knife he’d left on the kitchen table and trained it on him as he regained his feet.

The boy had to have known the true nature of his prey. Why else would he lead with a wooden stake, knowing he was far outclassed for natural speed and strength? Or was he?

He lunged again, this time happily using his right hand. Was he ambidextrous? I couldn’t tell, not while ducking his blows. He kicked me in the gut before pivoting his back foot up and into my chest.

I dropped to the floor just in time to sweep his legs out from under him. His forehead glanced off one of the side tables, though this didn’t stop him from grabbing the lamp and throwing it at me with a force that plunged the room into darkness. I caught his weight as he came at me again, spinning him into the living room, bound for a set of shelves which splintered and collapsed, spilling their contents and my attacker to the floor. He sprang to his feet and snatched up a piece of broken wood.

Contrary to the myths of horror fiction, it would take more than a splinter of wood through the heart to kill me outright. I was not, however, in a rush to be paralysed, nor left unconscious at the mercy of whatever lethal objects remained in the boy’s backpack. The one he’d collected from the club’s cloakroom, that he’d so adamantly held onto when I’d offered to carry it. The one he’d taken with him, when he’d retreated to my bathroom to change.

Did I have to start bag checking my trade now?

He sliced the air before me with his knife, following it up with a staking attempt. I grabbed his knife-wielding hand, but he twisted his arm out of reach, nicking my hand in the process. I licked the wound as I backed off, kicking away a broken cat figurine from the rubble that had once been my bookshelves.

“Alright, you little bastard,” I muttered under my breath. “Are we going to talk, or does this get nasty?”

“Maledetto.” He raised the stake once more.

“Excuse me?”

“Maledetto!” He cried, striking out at me.

I ducked to avoid it only to have the hand holding the knife slam into my jaw. I barely realised I’d been faked out before the stake plunged into my chest, missing my heart by inches. Choking down the pain that shot through my entire body, I caught the boy’s arm before he could slice my throat. Not that that would have killed me either, but to quote a wise and much underrated human expression, that which does not kill me still stings like a bitch.

About the Author

Christian Baines has written on travel, theatre, film, television, and various aspects of gay life, factual and fictional. Some of his stranger thoughts have spawned novels, including queer urban fantasy series The Arcadia Trust, the horror novella Skin, and Puppet Boy, which was a finalist for the 2016 Saints and Sinners Emerging Writer Award. Born in Australia, he now travels the world whenever possible, living, writing, and shivering in Toronto, Canada on those odd occasions he can’t find his passport.

Web: http://www.christianbaines.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/christianbainesauthor

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/xtianbaines

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7024194.Christian_Baines

Giveaway

The author is offering an e-book of either The Beast Without or The Orchard of Flesh to one winner.at each blog stop. To enter to win, leave a comment along with a email address where you can be reached if chosen.  Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.

Cover Reveal for In Case You Missed It by S. M. James (excerpt)

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COVER REVEAL

Book Title: In Case You Missed It

Author: S. M. James

Cover Artist: Story Styling Cover Designs

Genre/s: YA LGBTQ romance

Heat Rating: 1-2 flames

Release Date: February 12, 2019

Add on Goodreads

 

Tagline

Brooks measured his life in breaths, until Darien took his breath away.

 

Blurb

Brooks is convinced his life is totally, one hundred percent happy. 

Until Darien tracks him down.

Darien was supposed to be the guy he kissed once and remembered forever, but now he’s back in Brooks’s life, with easy smiles and big ideas.

The first of which … show the homeschooled Brooks everything he’s missed out on. But as the pair work through a spring of playing catch up on life, it becomes obvious to Darien that Brooks has a secret. 

And as things heat up between them, Brooks’s secret might just be Darien’s worst fear.

Because Darien has always lived in the moment. 

But Brooks has always lived for the future he knows is inevitable. 

When life is set to tear them apart, will love be enough to keep them together?

 

Excerpt 

“Yo, Dare!” Cameron shouts.

Darien turns toward us in the bleachers and throws up a little wave. From the corner of my eye, I notice Chelsea pointing at me, and Darien double takes. His expression is almost comical.

Darien tosses his lacrosse stick to the side and jogs over to where we’re sitting. His eyes and smile are so wide he looks deranged, but the happiness radiating from him bathes me in warmth.

When he doesn’t say anything, I step in to fill the awkwardness. “Careful. People might think you’re happy to see me.”

He huffs a laugh, slightly out of breath. “Damn, Brooks. You could have given me some warning.”

I stand up and make my way down the few rows until I’m on the one right above him. The others are watching us creepily and it’s weird to have an audience when he’s looking at me like that. I should keep my distance. I can’t. “Are you surprised?”

“Very. You realize this is something you’ve been missing right? Checking out hot guys at practice. We can theoretically check that off your list.”

I pretend to scan the rest of the team. “Mmm … jocks in their natural habitat. My favorite.”

He whacks me in the stomach. “Mean.”

“You said it.”

“Yeah but you were supposed to say, ‘there’s just one guy I’m here for’.”

“I didn’t realize this thing was scripted,” I say, gripping the metal barrier and leaning down a little.

“Don’t be embarrassed. You’re clearly not as well versed in flirting as I am.”

Finallyyour ego makes sense. Too much flirting, not enough criticism.”

He holds his arms out. “What’s there to critique?”

And with that view of his body—his lean legs and loose shorts and tight t-shirt—I have to agree. Damn … the list of reasons why I should give him up melts away. There’s no walking away from this pull between us.

“Mitreski!” his coach calls, snapping me from my thoughts.

Darien ignores him as he drops his arms and steps closer to me. He reaches up to wrap one of his hands over mine. “Wait for me after practice?”

My mind gets loud with warning. What if he’s sick?

What if I catch it again?

What if I end up in hospital this time?

What if.

What if.

What if … he’s perfect for me? Hope surges in my chest.

What if I tell him everything and he doesn’t walk away? What if I get better? It’s an impossible thought, but when I’m with Darien, he makes me want to entertain infinite impossibilities.

“Mitreski, now!”

“Yes,” I whisper. “I’ll be here.”

Darien’s hand tightens around mine. “I don’t want to let go,” he admits.

“There are some thoughts you’re meant to keep to yourself.” But as he goes to pull away, I catch his fingers between my own. Just for a second. Just long enough to show that while I’ll keep the thought to myself, I don’t want to let go either.

As soon as I release him, he jogs back to his team, and I walk back up the three rows to where the others are sitting.

Heat has surged to my face, my ears, my neck. I’m sure I must be embarrassingly red but no one says a thing about it.

Cameron smiles at me, blue eyes twinkling, and it hits me just how much I love my cousin. He’s always been there for me, looking out for me. He knew I needed this.

I nudge him as Darien and the team set up a practice game. “Thank you.”

Cameron shrugs. “I overhead you two today. It was sickening. Really sappy. I had to get you together again, because no one needs to hear that.”

If Cameron told me why he wanted me to pick him up, I probably wouldn’t have come. I would have used the excuse of Darien being sick, and stayed away, intimidated by the thought of showing up—especially with Chelsea here too.

But as I watch Darien run back and forth, with no clue what the rules are, I feel like I’m lit up from the inside. He scores at one point and I’m practically bursting with pride as we cheer and stomp our feet, making as much noise as possible.

Instead of getting embarrassed, he mock bows, loving the attention.

I lean over to Cameron. “I’m going to tell him.”

He jerks around to look at me, all humor gone. “For real? Brooks, are you sure?”

“You’re the one who said I have to.”

He shrugs. “It’s really not up to me.”

“I know.” I hesitate before letting out a sigh. “But it’s not up to me either. I really like him, but he has the right to know what he’s getting into, before anything happens.”

“I hate to agree with you … but it’s true.”

“I’m a lot to take on.”

No, you’re not. You need to stop seeing yourself as a burden. Fuck, Brooks. You’re always going on about wanting to be treated the same as anyone else, but you need to start treating yourself that way too.”

Cameron’s right. It pisses me off that he’s right so I’m definitely not going to agree, but I note his words. Let them sit, percolate. Soak them into my subconscious. “I have to tell him.” I push as much emphasis as I can into the words, trying to convince myself as much as him. “But I have no clue how.”

“Hey, don’t overthink it. The right moment will come up, and whatever happens from there, happens.”

I watch Darien, wishing the world could just slow and give me endless days of school, and watching practice, and making friends, as I plunge into a world of incomprehensible feelings.

“It’s the ‘whatever’ part I’m afraid of.”

But facing it is inevitable.

 

About the Author 

S. M. James writes books for teens about squishy sweet characters.

While not writing, S. M. is a readaholic and Netflix addict who regularly lives on a sustainable diet of chocolate and coffee.

Member of SCBWI. 

Unapologetically dishing out HEAs for LGBTQ characters.

 

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