A Stella Release Day Review: Gone by the Board by August Li

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RATING 5 out of 5 stars

The sea is full of jealously guarded secrets, but everything washes up eventually….

Betrayed by a trusted partner, Nathan figures he might as well be lost and heartbroken in the sunshine, and he heads to the coast of South Carolina, to stay with a friend and find a new direction for his life. But despite his efforts, he is lost in the fog, unable to find a guiding light and sometimes unable to find a reason to go on. His only respite from depression and anxiety is the soothing rhythm of the tides and the comfort he draws from proximity to the water.

When the sea sends a lifeline in the form of a strange and beautiful man, it’s easy for Nathan to ignore all the things that don’t add up about his new friend. But the tides can turn without notice, and it’s those mystical traits that will either finally lead Nathan safely to shore or drown him in confusion and despair.

I probably have a weakness for this author, some of his stories, like The Kitchen Boy or The Union of Sun and Moon, were a huge success to me but Gone By the Board is exactly what I like to read, exactly what I want from books like this. Maybe it’s just cause August Li has a way with words that are able to bring me in the characters’ world and let me live and breath their lives with them. This is a specific quality of the author writing, the reason why I come back to his books (new and old ones) quite often. His works are always so evocative and well done I can’t have enough of them.

Gone by the Board is a moving story, it’s about Nathan and his deep struggle with a dark depression, very hard to live with. Add to it a breakup with a husband who deserves really nothing from life, least at all a man like Nathan. So Nathan decides to move to South Carolina where his best friend Rachel lives in a peaceful place along the beach. Just what Nathan needs. Some quiet to put his life back on track. And then Brume happens.

Since I received this story I already read it twice and I surely will reread it sooner. Something caught my heart. Don’t let the blurb scares you, this is not a dark story, although it deals with important themes like depression and anxiety (SPOILER ), they aren’t there to turn the story into a dark one, like often books that deal with those themes do, they put me down and give a sense of resignation, the bad kind of it. Although these themes, Gone By the Board is sweet, light, heartwarming and so full of feelings. And with an unexpected HEA. I was waiting for the author to develop the plot into the obvious (to me) kind of ending, instead he went to the opposite and it was more perfect. I still smile rethinking of it.

I didn’t reveal a lot of important details in this review, because I don’t want to spoil anything at all. I think the right way to approach this reading is knowing just what the blurb tells you and no more. That way, this new release will conquer you, surprise you and leave you with fluffiness in your tummy. I feel to recommend Gone by the Board if you are looking for something different and real even if real it can’t be.

The cover art by Anne Cain is just perfect, so well done and fitting. I can see Brume and it’s just how I imagined him in my mind.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

BOOK DETAILS

ebook, 98 pages

Publication Date: May 24th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press

ISBN 1635334977 (ISBN13: 9781635334975)

Edition Language English

An Alisa Review: Laurent and the Beast (Kings of Hell MC #1) by K.A. Merikan

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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
— Nothing can stop true love. Not time. Not even the devil himself. —

1805. Laurent. Indentured servant. Desperate to escape a life that is falling apart. 
2017. Beast. Kings of Hell Motorcycle Club vice president. His fists do the talking.

Beast has been disfigured in a fire, but he’s covered his skin with tattoos to make sure no one mistakes his scars for weakness. The accident not only hurt his body, but damaged his soul and self-esteem, so he’s wrapped himself in a tight cocoon of violence and mayhem where no one can reach him.

Until one night, when he finds a young man covered in blood in their clubhouse. Sweet, innocent, and as beautiful as an angel fallen from heaven, Laurent pulls on all of Beast’s heartstrings. Laurent is so lost in the world around him, and is such a tangled mystery, that Beast can’t help but let the man claw his way into the stone that is Beast’s heart.

In 1805, Laurent has no family, no means, and his eyesight is failing. To escape a life of poverty, he uses his beauty, but that only backfires and leads him to a catastrophe that changes his life forever. He takes one step into the abyss and is transported to the future, ready to fight for a life worth living. 

What he doesn’t expect in his way is a brutal, gruff wall of tattooed muscle with a tender side that only Laurent is allowed to touch. And yet, if Laurent ever wants to earn his freedom, he might have to tear out the heart of the very man who took care of him when it mattered most.
I generally don’t read biker books.  It’s a genre I’m not fond of at all but I like these authors and the time travel aspect sounded so unique I had to give it a try.   I’m glad I did because I really enjoyed this.  
The story is told is alternating points of view.  I liked this because we got to see what both Laurent and Beast were thinking.  They were very different men and their perceptions of each situation was totally different.  They start off not trusting each other but as the story goes on they start to slowly open up to each other.  
I thought both MC’s were really well done and I liked them both but for different reasons.  Beast was the tortured hero that you really want to see get a happy ending.  He struggled with his own self-esteem and it was wonderful to watch him as he starts to trust Laurent and open up to him.  Laurent was a little immature (as expected since he was very young) but overall he took the whole situation like a trooper.  He didn’t whine or complain and he made the best of a bad situation.  It was also a bit funny to watch him explore the present time and learn all about the things around him.  Their scenes together were both sweet and sexy.  The two men had great chemistry and I was really rooting for them the entire time.
The overall plot was a mystery of sorts and I loved the paranormal aspect.  There was a devil and a serial killer and a present day bad guy.  I liked the ending and was excited to see that there are more books planned in the series.  We meet all of the guys in this book and my interest was peaked for all of them.  
I thought this was unique and well done.  It had a bit of everything.  There was some action and adventure, some sexy times and a beautiful love story.  This is a definite recommend from me.
The cover was done by Natasha Snow and I loved it.  It’s got a great vibe to it and it really catches the eye.  It’s also a great representation of Beast.
Sales Links:  Amazon
Book Details:
Kindle Edition, 360 pages
Published April 29th 2017 by Acerbi & Villani ltd (first published April 2017)
ASINB071NCQZPZ
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesKings of Hell MC #1
CharactersLaurent Mercier, Kai

Review Tour – Laurent and the Beast (Kings of Hell MC #1) by KA Merikan (excerpt and giveaway)

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Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK


Length: 135,000 words


Cover: Natasha Snow


Blurb

Nothing can stop true love. Not time. Not even the devil himself. 


1805. Laurent. Indentured servant. Desperate to escape a life that is falling apart.

2017. Beast. Kings of Hell Motorcycle Club vice president. His fists do the talking.

Beast has been disfigured in a fire, but he’s covered his skin with tattoos to make sure no one mistakes his scars for weakness. The accident not only hurt his body, but damaged his soul and self-esteem, so he’s wrapped himself in a tight cocoon of violence and mayhem where no one can reach him.

Until one night, when he finds a young man covered in blood in their clubhouse. Sweet, innocent, and as beautiful as an angel fallen from heaven, Laurent pulls on all of Beast’s heartstrings. Laurent is so lost in the world around him, and is such a tangled mystery, that Beast can’t help but let the man claw his way into the stone that is Beast’s heart.

In 1805, Laurent has no family, no means, and his eyesight is failing. To escape a life of poverty, he uses his beauty, but that only backfires and leads him to a catastrophe that changes his life forever. He takes one step into the abyss and is transported to the future, ready to fight for a life worth living.

What he doesn’t expect in his way is a brutal, gruff wall of tattooed muscle with a tender side that only Laurent is allowed to touch. And yet, if Laurent ever wants to earn his freedom, he might have to tear out the heart of the very man who took care of him when it mattered most.


Excerpt 

Hound’s alarmed growling was coming his way, along with whines, when he reached the right door and opened it, only to have the massive Rottweiler’s body rush past him and into the corridor. Beast expected his pet to rush toward the room where the accident happened just minutes ago but Hound looked back at Beast, as if signalling he wanted to be followed, and rushed the other way, stirring the worst of feelings in Beast.

Was there an intruder somewhere in the house? With the sheer size of the former asylum that has served as the Kings of Hell Clubhouse for the last fifteen years, it was easy to overlook things happening in the disused parts of the property. They once had a bunch of teenagers who came over wanting to spy on the orgy. That thankfully didn’t end in blood, and out of the whole mess they got Jake to join their ranks.

Beast wondered whether he shouldn’t go back to the armory and get himself a gun but ultimately decided against it. There would be police and emergency services coming for Davy, and he didn’t want to run around with a firearm, no matter how good their relationship with the local police was.

Hound moved as if he were following a clear trail, but Beast couldn’t smell anything apart from dust and dampness. They were leaving behind the shouting and even the sound of the ambulance approaching, and eventually entered a corridor so disused it had a thick layer of dust on the floor. Now even Beast could see faint footprints in the dust, and next to them, dark droplets that could be blood.

Hound smelled the traces, looked back and broke into a run, which had Beast following him with the worst of expectations as to what he would eventually find. His heart beat faster as they ran down the dark hallway.

The building was a labyrinth, and this far away from where they all lived and worked, it wasn’t even wired anymore, so he breathed in the smell of mildew and followed Hound through the darkness in hope he would not stumble.

Windows in the doorless rooms on both sides of the corridor were the only source of light, now delivering a faint red and blue glow of the approaching ambulance. For all Beast knew, this could have been a gothic castle, something out of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, with bloodthirsty monsters waiting for their next victim in one of the endless hallways, and yet he only ran faster, listening to the steady tap of Hound’s paws.

Without any hesitation whatsoever, Hound rushed inside one of the rooms and gave a growl so vicious something inside Beast mourned his decision not to take a gun with him. But no one shot at him when Hound let out a single bark. Beast pushed past the empty doorway, jumping over a fallen chair, only to see someone hiding in the shadows.

Judging by the long, wavy hair and small stature, Beast at first thought it was a woman, but then the person spoke with a distinctly male voice.

“I… I’m not certain where I am.” The stranger took half a step out of the shadow, and into the flashing light coming from outside. His accent was distinctly foreign. French maybe?

Beast took him in with a scowl. Blood covered the stranger’s face, hair, dripped from his chin, from the tips of his trembling fingers, and stained the outfit that looked as if he’d stolen it from the set of a costume drama. Knee-high boots, fitted pants, a vest worn under a tailcoat.

“What the fuck are you doing on our property, boy?” hissed Beast, watching the soft features of a very young man. “Whose blood is this?” he asked, still cautious. In his experience, a non-threatening presence could hide an adept fighter, so he was not taking any chances as he joined Hound in front of the stranger, who was so short in comparison to Beast’s own six foot five form that his red-stained head only reached Beast’s pecs.

The stranger backed away into the corner, whimpering in fear the moment Hound growled at him again and lowered his head, but Beast wasn’t having any of it and grabbed the boy’s arm. “Is the blood yours then? Someone attacked you? Where?” he asked, not hesitating to pat the intruder down, to make sure there were no weapons hiding under the fancy coat.

The boy tried to weasel out of his grip, but he didn’t seem adept at using force. “N-no. I don’t think it’s mine. I don’t know. Is this hell?”

Beast groaned, staring at the silly-looking young man, whose white shirt was completely drenched in red. Someone must have died to produce this much blood.

“You will explain yourself to King.”


 

May 15 – Dirty Books Obsession, Urban Smoothie Read, MM Good Book Reviews
May 19 – Bonkers About Books, Diverse Reader, Just Love
May 22 – We Three Queens, Book Love, Books Laid Bare Boys, Keysmash
May 24 – Padme’s Library, Angels With Attitude Book Reviews, Bayou Book Junkie, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, Mikku-chan

 
 
Author Bio

 

K. A. Merikan is the pen name for Kat and Agnes Merikan, a team of writers, who are taken for sisters with surprising regularity. Kat’s the mean sergeant and survival specialist of the duo, never hesitating to kick Agnes’s ass when she’s slacking off. Her memory works like an easy-access catalogue, which allows her to keep up with both book details and social media. Also works as the emergency GPS. Agnes is the Merikan nitpicker, usually found busy with formatting and research. Her attention tends to be scattered, and despite pushing thirty, she needs to apply makeup to buy alcohol. Self-proclaimed queen of the roads.

They love the weird and wonderful, stepping out of the box, and bending stereotypes both in life and books. When you pick up a Merikan book, there’s one thing you can be sure of – it will be full of surprises.

 

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An Alisa Review: Truth or Lie by Lynn Lorenz

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Rating:  3 stars out of 5

 

Anthony Pappas has known since puberty he was gifted with a special gift due to his Greek ancestry. After all, he’s the descendant of Artemis and Socrates’ one night stand. It’s good, because he has a passion for teaching. It’s bad, because he can tell when someone is lying to him. As he’s matured, he’s realized his superpower is a relationship killer.

 

Everyone lies. And if they lie over the little things, like jobs, they’ll lie over the big things, like cheating. So he just hangs back, teaching elementary school, waiting for Mr. Tall, Dark and Honest. So far, it’s been a bust.

 

Travis Conner is just a dumb fire fighter, or at least it’s what he’s been told and he believes. He’s hated school his entire life, but one thing he does love is his nephew, Rusty, his sister’s kid. When Rusty begs him to come to school for Bring Your Dad to Work, Travis can’t say no, no matter how uncomfortable it makes him feel.

 

But when he gets there, and meets Anthony, Rusty’s sexy, but geeky teacher, he’s smitten. And for Anthony, Travis’ honesty and honor draw him to Travis like a magnet. Both men have stayed aloof, each for his own reason, but can their attraction pull them out of the shadows and into a relationship?

 

Can Travis be Anthony’s Mr. Honest and will Anthony still want Travis when he finds out he barely graduated high school? Both men have secrets, but when they get down and honest about them, will those secrets, especially Anthony’s gift, tear them apart?

 

This was a nice story.  Travis and Anthony have both been hurt in previous relationships and are a bit gun shy about getting involved with anyone.  Travis won’t make the first move because he can’t believe a teacher would want a dumb jock but all Anthony can see from their first meeting is how honest and caring Travis is.

 

I liked both Travis and Anthony in the general terms but it felt like they both kept doubting themselves and waiting for something bad to happen.  Travis is quick to jump to conclusions but after taking some time to think and talk to his sister and nephew he realizes that maybe he should be a bit more trusting.  They both came together rather quickly and resolve their one problem fast too.  I think it would have been nice to see them build up a solid relationship and not have everything work out so well so fast.

 

The cover art is nice and gives visuals of both of the characters.

 

Sales Links: Amazon | B&N

 

Book Details:

ebook, 108 pages

Published: May 9, 2017 by Hartwood Publishing

Edition Language: English

An Ali Release Day Review: Lochlann (Order of the Black Knights #6) by Andrea Speed

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Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Violence has been Lochlann O’Connor’s companion since he was born into a family of old-school Irish terrorists. From there he is recruited into Alpha, a secret government agency dedicated to fighting terrorism—with extreme prejudice. Lochlann’s bravery, efficiency, ruthlessness, and the natural dead eye that lets him hit anything that moves, quickly make him one of the shadowy organization’s most valued operatives.

Cas Vega joins Alpha because it’s marginally better than a prison sentence. He’s a former drug cartel assassin—or at least that’s his story. But Lochlann is suspicious. Despite an irrational and overwhelming attraction to Cas, Lochlann has questions, and they soon lead to a deeper and deadlier mystery. What is Alpha’s true purpose, and why does it seem they want to eliminate Lochlann?

Lochlann and Cas must work together to get to the bottom of Alpha’s scheme and escape it—and all while Cas keeps secrets that could cost him his life if they’re revealed. But it’s not an alliance that can last. Duty turns the men into enemies, even while fate compels them into each other’s arms. Before they can contemplate which will prevail, they must figure out how to survive.
 
This is the 6th book in the Order of the Black Knights series.  This series is unique in the fact that each book is written by a different author and they can all be read as standalones.  There is a short, but thorough description of the world and the events that are happening in it so you know what’s going on when you start the book.
I was excited about this book as the author is a favorite of mine.  Unfortunately the book was just ok for me.  Lochlann works for Alpha, a secret  government agency, and he thinks he is a good guy.  Through the course of this book he finds out that things are not quite what they seem.  Lochlann and Cas meet when they are assigned to work together.  Lochlann knows something is off about Cas but he doesn’t realize Cas’ secrets are going to implode his entire world.
The action scenes were good and entertaining.  Very Jason Bourne-ish.  The romance part was where the book didn’t meet my expectations.  I didn’t feel any connection between Lochlann and Cas at all.  Most of their time intimate time takes place off page.  I’m not talking about sex scenes, although those were fade to black too, but we don’t see much of them getting to know each other and falling for each other.  When they’re on page together it is usually some sort of action scene.  So, even by the end, I didn’t feel I knew either MC and I hadn’t at all bought in to their relationship.  The story was all telling and no showing.
Overall, this was just an average read for me.  It wasn’t bad but also wasn’t what I was hoping it would be.
The cover was done by Aaron Anderson.  I think it is well done and I like how all of the books in the series have covers that are similar.
Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press | Amazon
Book Details:
ebook
Expected publication: May 22nd 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
Original TitleLochlann
ISBN 1635333954 (ISBN13: 9781635333954)
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesOrder of the Black Knights #6

May Flowers and This Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

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May Flowers

After my blog last week, May flowers are taking up all my time this Sunday.  Yesterday was garden time prep and today is planting.  So its short and sweet today.  Thanks to all the comments, its been certainly dreary enough for lots of reading, crocheting and other indoor pastimes!  Hopefully now I can catchup outdoors too!

Melanie’s Soppy Garden Contest

The winner of my giveaway is Ami!  Congratulations, Ami, Stella will be in touch about your gift card!

Now onto this week’s schedule!  More next week I promise!  Is that June I see peering around the corner?  Oh my!

This Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Sunday, May 21:

  • This Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
  • Release Blitz Lace by KC Wells

Monday, May 22:

  • Blog Tour The Lure of Port Stephen by Sydney Blackburn
  • DSP GUEST POST Sean Michael on Golden
  • Release Day Blitz Drama Queens and Adult Themes by Kevin Klehr
  • Surrender the Dark Blog Tour (M/M Contemporary Romance)
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review:Surrender the Dark  (M/M Contemporary Romance)
  • An Alisa Audiobook Review: In Your Eyes​ by Cardeno C and Charlie David (Narrator)
  • A MelanieM Release Day Review:  Farlough by Xavier Mayne
  • A MelanieM Review: How We Operate By A.R. Moler
  • An Ali Release Day Review: Lochlann by Andrea Speed

Tuesday, May 23:

  • Blog Tour Frozen Heart by Heidi Cullinan
  • DSP GUEST POST Laura Bailo on The Sun Still Rises
  • INTERLUDE PRESS TOUR And It Came to Pass by Laura Stone
  • Release Blitz for Isobel Starling ‘s As You Wish
  • A MelanieM  Review: Frozen Heart (Love Lessons #1.5) by Heidi Cullinan
  • A VVivacious Review: Reckless Seduction & Reckless Behavior by Amanda Young
  • An Alisa Review: Truth or Lie by Lynn Lorenz
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audiobook Review:Summer Lessons (Winter Ball #2) by Amy Lane and Nick J. Russo (Narrator

Wednesday, May 24:

  • Release Blitz Tour Request – RJ Scott – Back Home
  • Release Blitz Equality (Dublin Virtues #2) by Helena Stone
  • Review Tour – Laurent and the Beast – KA Merikan
  • A MelanieM Review: Hawaiian Orchid (The Hawaiians 2) by Meg Amor
  • A Stella Release Day Review: Gone by the Board by August Li
  • An Ali Review: The Well by Marie Sexton
  • An Alisa Review:  Laurent and the Beast by KA Merikan

Thursday, May 25:

  • RIPTIDE TOUR & Giveaway: The Wrong Woman by Cass Lennox
  • Release Blitz Keira Andrews – Road To The Sun
  • DSP GUEST POST Andrea Speed on Lochlann
  • DSP GUEST POST Diana Copland
  • A Caryn Review: A Good Neighbor by Clare London
  • A Free Dreamer Review: Seidman by James Erich
  • A VVivacious Review: Performance Review by Tamryn Eradani
  • An Alisa Review: Cutting Cords by Morticia Knight

Friday, May 26:

  • DSP GUEST POST Mario Kai Lipinski
  • Review Tour – By The Numbers by RJ Scott
  • Review Tour The Devils Pride MC Series by Jessie G
  • A MelanieM Review: By the Numbers by RJ Scott
  • An Alisa Review: The Devils Pride MC series by Jessie G
    (Tricking Chase (The Devils Pride MC #1) Talk Dirty to Me (The Devils Pride MC #2)
    Tys that Bind (The Devils Pride MC #2.5)

Saturday, May 27:

  • Release Blitz Before You Break (Secrets #1)  by KC Wells
  • Release Blitz Josephine Myles – Junk (Bristol Collection #1)
  • A MelanieM Review: Wallaçonia by David Pratt

An Alessandro Review: Behemoth and the Wisp by Linn Edwards

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Rating: 2 stars out of 5

 

The Compound protects the remnants of often horrific human experimentation during World War II. Now a new generation comes of age, some with strange powers and abilities, groomed to be weapons for justice.

Mason and Jordie are young men, each with a special gift and strongly attracted to each other. When they finally reach out and really connect, they must also be careful. Mason can become intangible like a mist, then completely whole and solid again — even during sex. Jordie is a nine foot tall giant, able to leap great distances in a single bound. Together they face challenges in figuring out sex and love.

When a woman in their group at The Compound appears to be kidnapped, Mason and Jordie must put aside their own secrets to help her. But they soon discover everyone secrets, and not everyone in The Compound is who they seem.

 

Mason aka The Wisp and Jordie aka Behemoth are living in a compound founded by the government, they are basically heroes in training. They are told that they would be safe in the compound, but when Mason wants to get some alone time to relieve the sexual tension he has build up because of Jordie, his room-mate, one of their fellow companions gets kidnapped. So Behemoth and The Wisp has to work together to solve the problem that came up. Not only the kidnapping, but other things that seem strange in the compound.

First of all, I really liked the first few pages of this book. Basically it was the only thing I liked about this book.

The first few pages actually explain how those super heroes came to be. Also there was a small side-story about a folks-tale, which was quite interesting. I didn’t know the name of the folks-tale, but apparently it is called “Widows Walk” at least that’s what it’s called what the woman does in said Folks-tale.

It was quite a good beginning and I thought, this is probably relevant to the story in this book, because there is also this woman, who is just named “Madame” in this facility who is basically the “mother figure” of said super heroes in training. But I thought wrong. It wasn’t something I expected.

 The story was really fast paced, after only a few minutes I was already at 15% or something. So I thought to myself, that this is just a super short story, so I lowered my expectations about this book. But even then I couldn’t really find anything to enjoy about this book. Every time a problem came up, it was resolved in a few sentences. There was no story build up at all, there was no struggle at all. I thought this book would involve some action, but there was like minimum to non action. The sex scenes were quite predictable, because every time there was progress in the plot there was a sex scene. Then came another plot scene and another sex scene.

I also struggled with the relationship of the MC. Yes it is said that those MC know each other for some years know, but neither of them exploited their sexual desire or emotions. I just thought there was not a real connection between those two, maybe there was, but we, as readers, didn’t get to read about that. And after one event they’re in love and behave like they were in a relationship for I don’t know how long?

To my next point. I didn’t enjoy the writing either. It was good to some extend, but even I who is not a native English speaker, could see some mistakes in tenses and grammar.

This book is written in third person POV, so I expect, when I’m following more than one person, that in every chapter or section there will be an indication to which person I’m following at the moment. This was the case, to some extent. Often I was confused which person I was following in the moment, so I had to reread some sections of the books, which is quite shocking, because it was such a short story.

I feel like there was such potential in this book. The ideas were great, but the execution was lacking. This story would be okay, if it would be a start of graphic novel or a comic book? But not really in book form. There was just not much to picture here, so I think the author didn’t do a good job in portraying the story she wanted to tell.

 

The cover of “Behemoth and the Wisp” by “Written Ink Designs” was okay. I think it could be used to any book about super heroes to be honest. Although the suits of the characters portrayed in the cover didn’t match the suits of the characters in the book.

 

Sales links:   JMS Books LLC | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook
Published April 22nd 2017 by JMS Books LLC
ISBN139781634863650

 

Love a Fantasy? Check out ‘The Castaway Prince’ by Isabelle Adler (author interview/excerpt/giveaway)

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Title:  The Castaway Prince

Author: Isabelle Adler

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: May 15, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 20000

Genre: fantasy, fantasy, royalty, androgyny, cross-dressing, friends to lovers, disguise, princes

Add to Goodreads

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Isabelle Adler here today.  Welcome, Isabelle, tell us a little bit about yourself!

✒︎

~Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with Isabelle Adler~

✒︎

If you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpowers to be?

There are so many superpowers I’d like to have! For instance, the power to slow or stop time entirely. I’d get so much done! Telekinesis would be rather useful as well; and don’t get me started on teleportation!.. The one thing I definitely wouldn’t want, though, is telepathy.

If you could trade places with one of your characters, who would it be and why?

If you could sequester yourself for a week somewhere and just focus on your writing, where would you go and what would the environment be like?

I guess my perfect writing getaway would be a ski lodge somewhere in the Swiss Alps, sitting in a comfortable armchair in front of a roaring fire, with snow falling outside and an endless supply of hot chocolate. Hey, we can dream, can’t we?

What’s the one thing, you can’t live without?

Coffee. Definitely coffee.

What internet site do you surf to the most?

YouTube and Thesaurus.com

When you got your very first manuscript acceptance letter, what was your initial reaction and who was the first person you told?

Oh, wow. When I got the acceptance letter for Adrift from the editor at NineStar Press, I was ecstatic. I could hardly believe my eyes! I mean, somebody thought my manuscript was good enough to publish! I wish I could say I did a happy dance, but unfortunately, I was too busy organizing my kids in the morning. I told my husband right away, though; he was even more excited than I was!

Synopsis

Ostracized by his family for his sexual identity, Prince Stephan is forced to flee his homeland before his older brother ascends the throne.

Stephan has been drawn to feminine things for as long as he can remember, so when the dire need for secrecy arises, he seizes the chance to don the perfect disguise. With the help of his loyal servant, Stephan picks his way through hostile territory, hiding his identity by posing as a woman. His only hope for asylum lies with the man who had been his friend and lover three years ago. But when that man also happens to be the crown prince of a rival country, things are a bit more complicated.

With war looming on the horizon, the danger of discovery grows by the moment. With all odds stacked against him, will Stephan find a safe place where he can be his true self, or is he doomed to remain a castaway?

Excerpt

The Castaway Prince
Isabelle Adler © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

“My, aren’t you a beauty.”

“Shut up,” Stephan said as he hoisted his skirts. The wind and the rain had made the pier boards slippery, and he nearly fell over as the wet fabric twisted around his legs. All his surreptitious practice wearing dresses and feminine undergarments hadn’t prepared him for the trials of this kind of miserable weather. In the course of a few minutes after stepping out of the relative coziness of their private boat cabin, he’d managed to get soaked through down to his stockings and narrowly avoided falling into the river.

Warren, his manservant, seemed to be rather amused by Stephan’s efforts. He was grinning as he watched him try to drag his bags onto the pier. Stephan really wasn’t supposed to do that, but the port hand was currently busy unloading another boat, and the prospect of warming up in front of a cozy fire had lost Stephan all patience.

“Help me, you oaf!” Stephan glared at Warren from under the hood of his fur-lined cloak. The man was having a bit too much fun at his expense.

“Watch your language. You’re a lady, remember?” Warren said, quickly coming to his aid, shouldering the heavy travel bags. “One who’s too pretty to be so bad-tempered.” He winked at Stephan and led the way across the busy dock, farther into the streets of the city.

Zenna, the capital of Esnia, sprawled on both banks of the river, its two halves connected by a multitude of stone bridges. This was a city Stephan had never thought he’d be visiting—certainly not in his current predicament. The royal castle, partially visible from the docks, was an ominous presence that loomed over the city and more resembled a prison. It spanned the narrowest point of the river with its massive arch of a weathered stone bridge. Built to withstand invasion and siege, it was supported by great rectangular pillars rooted deep in the riverbed, now almost entirely green with centuries-old buildup of slime and algae.

Stephan was glad when its daunting bulk was lost from view as they headed to the more genteel part of the city, where the smell of fish and refuse wasn’t quite as overpowering. They had to walk a good distance from the docks, but as they left the bustle of the riverfront and fish markets behind, the streets became broader, and the mud was replaced with cobblestones. The rain was bitterly cold, making him miss the slightly gentler climate of his homeland.

Thankfully, with so much traffic this time of day, they didn’t attract too much notice. They found a respectable-looking inn, situated on one of the main streets, where noble folk, even those traveling ostensibly without a retinue, weren’t an uncommon sight.

“My sister and I require lodgings for tonight,” Warren announced with a haughty air as they stepped inside the common room and the innkeeper rushed to meet them. Really, Stephan thought as he pushed back his hood to watch Warren dispense silver coins, the man was doing a startlingly good job imitating nobility, even considering he came from a well-off merchant family and not some backwater village. Stephan stood aside, waiting meekly for his “brother” to finish giving instructions regarding their meals and baths, and then followed him upstairs. He would be overjoyed to finally see a dry bed and a lit fireplace in a room that didn’t sway with the river’s tides.

They were given two adjacent rooms on the second floor. Warren deposited Stephan’s bags in his room before retiring to his own, where Stephan could hear him unpacking on the other side of the wall. He took off his cloak and fumbled with the lacings of his bodice, cursing under his breath. The wretched things were so wet it made them more difficult to handle, but finally the knots came undone, and the heavy dress, crumpled and dirty from the journey, slipped from his shoulders to the floor. The corset that cinched his waist and added discreet padding to his chest was next to come off, and Stephan could finally draw an unrestricted breath, standing in nothing but a fine cotton chemise and bloomers.

As this was a room intended for a lady, there was a large standing mirror in one corner. Its ornate frame must have been the pride of the innkeeper.

Looking into the spotless polished surface, Stephan had to admit his bedraggled state didn’t quite mesh with his idea of feminine charm. The paint he’d used to accentuate his lashes had smeared beneath his eyes, and his chestnut hair, usually done in a low bun, was now in complete disarray.

Despite the dress being uncomfortable at times—particularly when it was nearly soaking wet—he was growing more and more accustomed to it. At the beginning of their journey, he’d been nervous about appearing ridiculous, despite all the previous careful preparation and the endless hours spent on modulating his voice and perfecting his posture in front of the mirror. His shoulders were too wide, his hips too narrow, his gait too awkward. Perhaps he’d been lucky no one had peered too closely at a noblewoman traveling under the protection of her fierce-looking older brother.

It was one thing to put on a costume once in a while for the sheer fun of it, and quite another to wear it constantly, living in it and assuming it as a part of his identity, affecting a wholly feminine character at all times. Especially when this identity—as attuned as it was to his preferences—was the only thing keeping him alive.

Still, as he wiped away the streaks of paint and grime from his face and leaned in to look more closely—at the smooth cheeks so rarely in need of shaving, the long lashes, and the finely arched brows—the familiar similitude of womanly features reasserted itself. There was nothing overtly masculine about the face staring back at him. Turning slightly, he lifted a shoulder, affecting a coquettish pose, and smiled at his reflection. Maybe the possibility of him pulling this off wasn’t so entirely unfeasible.

There was a knock on the door, and he turned around in alarm, clutching the chemise that had slipped off his shoulder, but it was only Warren, carrying a tray with two steaming cups of tea.

“Your Highness,” he said, after shutting the door with his heel.

Stephan took the cup gratefully, warming his fingers. The scalding-hot fragrant tea made him feel marginally better about the world.

Warren set the tray on the table. He took a quilted silk robe out of one of the bags and helped Stephan put it on, after which he proceeded to pick up the discarded articles of wet clothing strewn across the floor.

“It would behoove you to be a bit more circumspect,” he observed in a neutral tone as he shook the water out of the velvet. “For a pampered aristocrat, you behave like a loudmouthed milkmaid sometimes.”

Stephan barked a laugh and turned away from the mirror. “Only when I’m too cold to wait on my servant’s alacrity.”

It was meant as gentle ribbing, not real censure. Warren seemed to take it as such, because he draped the dress neatly over a chair to dry, and sat down without waiting for permission, pouring another cup for himself.

While Stephan had been busy ogling himself in the mirror, Warren had taken the opportunity to change out of his travel clothes. The plain linen shirt clung to his broad shoulders, and his short auburn hair was half dry already. He was tall and solidly built, the very image of hale masculinity, whereas Stephan was slender and almost petite, with fine bones and delicate features. He’d been teased for these attributes since adolescence, but now he worried they were not nearly as effeminate as the situation required.

“You seem glummer than usual,” Warren observed. “I’d have thought it would take more than a bit of rain to dampen your spirits.”

“The prospect of being thrown in prison and possibly executed if anyone were to recognize me doesn’t exactly make me cheerful,” Stephan said dryly, setting his cup down and removing the needle-sharp pins that held his long hair back. “And it’s so…dreary here.”

He supposed his own anxiety made the surroundings seem more depressing than they truly were, but so far nothing about this city had appeased him, apart from the tea.

“At least we’re off that cursed boat,” Warren offered wryly, watching him over the rim of his cup. He’d had some difficulties adjusting to that mode of transportation, and spent the first few days on the upper deck, leaning over the rail. The experience hadn’t served to lighten the moods of either of them. “And no one has followed us.”

Stephan nodded in acquiescence as he languidly finger-combed his hair, working out the knots. There had been no signs of pursuit, or of anyone actively looking for them, as far as he could tell. Of course, he was counting on the likelihood of his seeking refuge in Esnia being rejected as outright preposterous. Just as his outfitting himself as a woman would have been thought to be. It was one reason—though admittedly not the chief one—why he’d resorted to this type of disguise.

“We’re due to arrive at the royal castle tomorrow,” Warren reminded him. Stephan could tell he’d been steeling himself to have this conversation. Again. “Are you absolutely sure you want to go through with this? You know what I think about this whole matter, Your Highness. It’s not too late to turn elsewhere.”

“We’ve come this far already,” Stephan said. “To back down now would be—”

“Prudent,” Warren interjected. “Up until now, we’ve been traveling by the waterways, which was safe enough. Not a lot of people, more privacy to be had, no fear of discovery. And if anyone thought you behaved strangely—well, gentle-born women are peculiar in their manner, you know? But it won’t be like that in Zenna. Here, there are real noblewomen aplenty, around whom you will need to take special care of how you conduct yourself. Not to mention people who might recognize you from before.”

“Who? The only ones who might would have been the members of the Esnian delegation to Seveihar, and that was three years ago. A lot has changed since then.” Three years was a long time, especially in that awkward age between sixteen and nineteen. Stephan was reasonably sure it would be difficult enough to associate him with the shy, lanky youth he’d been back then, even without the disguise.

Warren shrugged and took a sip of tea. For a moment, his eyes lingered on Stephan’s hands going through his hair, and then he looked away. “When you have reason to hate someone as the Esnians hate us, you remember your enemies’ faces. You send spies that would know what they look like. We’ve talked about this already, but what makes you think Prince Arlen himself won’t call the guards when he sees you? As you’ve said, a lot has changed in three years.”

“He wouldn’t,” Stephan said with a conviction he wasn’t feeling.

Warren rolled his eyes, his expression that of a long-suffering voice of reason. At twenty-five, he was only six years Stephan’s senior, but at times he acted like Stephan’s aged grandfather.

“It’s not as if I have a lot of choice,” Stephan said bitterly. He finished combing his hair and picked up his tea, which was rapidly growing cold. “I don’t have anywhere else to go. Arlen is the only one who might grant me asylum.”

“There are other people who could help you,” Warren said carefully. “I mean—”

“You know very well there aren’t,” Stephan cut him off. “None that would support me against Robert and my uncle.”

Warren opened his mouth and then paused as he seemed to reconsider what he was going to say.

“With all due respect, you have no idea what kind of man Arlen is now. Do you really want to risk your life on his ability to handle seeing you in a petticoat?”

Stephan turned away and walked to the fireplace, letting the warmth spread through his weary body. As much as he wanted to snap back at Warren, he couldn’t. Warren was right, of course, and it wasn’t only Stephan’s life that hung in the balance. Stephan’s title as the prince of Seveihar—even while he was fleeing his own country—offered at least some semblance of protection, while Warren had none. Furthermore, the circumstances in which Stephen’s identity could be discovered—namely, pretending to be a woman—would mean nothing but shame and ridicule for his family, regardless of his ultimate fate. Shame and ridicule that they would not react well to.

Stephan often wondered why Warren had agreed to accompany him and share in his uncertain fate—loyalty notwithstanding. More than loyalty, really, as a bond had formed between them, tenuous but certain. But it had become clear from their first night on the road that Warren’s plan had been to continue to dissuade him from this folly—a plan that had proved futile in the face of Stephan’s blind determination.

It wasn’t as if Stephan wasn’t aware of the risks. He knew exactly how dangerous this scheme was. He’d known that when he’d first devised it, but then it had seemed like a daring idea, a shockingly outrageous adventure, even if it had been conceived of out of sheer desperation. Making his way through enemy territory, securing invitations to the High King of Esnia’s annual ball under false names—all for a chance to reconnect with the man who had been his first love and best friend years ago, and seek refuge with him—it all seemed improbable.

But after surviving a third alarming “accident” at the royal palace at Sever, his home in the valley-situated capital of Seveihar, Stephan was more than ready to risk appealing to an old lover rather than tempting fate by remaining in the family nest.

Certainly, in coming to Esnia, he was placing himself in no lesser danger. Seveihar’s relations with Esnia had been tenuous for decades, and then there was King Feden’s personal dislike of him. If exposed, Stephan would most likely face captivity and incarceration.

At least the choice of disguise for his escape had come easily to Stephan. If he was going to be persecuted for his idiosyncrasies, he might as well embrace them fully. Stephan had always enjoyed exploring his feminine side, and despite the audacity of it, when the idea of this subterfuge entered his mind, he’d directed all his efforts to delving deeper into it. He was still not entirely certain of his ability to fool others, of not making some stupid mistake that would give him away, but it was attainable, given time. He just wasn’t sure he had enough of it at his disposal.

“I have to at least try to get through to him,” he told Warren. “I can do this. I promise I’ll be careful. And it’s not like anyone would miss me should anything happen.”

Warren wisely didn’t contradict him, but his expression grew pensive. He seemed to put his arguments aside, as he’d done so often before when Stephan refused to be swayed.

“I wish you’d listen to reason, Your Highness. But since you won’t, and we’re here, we might as well go through with it. I’ll fetch you some food and hot water,” Warren said. “I’ve requested for you not to be disturbed.”

“Thanks, War,” Stephan offered him a smile. The man insisted on addressing him by his title, but in truth he was more a friend than a servant; he’d become the only one whom Stephan could trust when so much was at stake.

Warren left to get their dinner, and Stephan shed his robe before stretching on the bed, luxuriating in the crispness of clean starched sheets against his skin. After a three-week boat journey at the wane of autumn, he was grateful for all the little comforts he’d always taken for granted. The linen smelled vaguely of lavender. Stephan liked lavender. His household staff had scented his pillows with the dried flowers, and he remembered the smell clinging to Arlen’s hair as they rolled about in bed, laughing.

He closed his eyes, breathing in deeply. The memory of that long-ago summer had lingered on the edge of awareness. Now, he could see in his mind’s eye the bright-colored light that had spilled from the stained-glass windows of the throne room, lending an almost festive appearance to the first and only Esnian delegation to Seveihar. How handsome Prince Arlen had been, wearing a silver circlet in his hair and Esnian royal blue. How happy they’d been later, finding joy in each other’s company. He wished he could stay in that memory a little bit longer, but it dissolved in the warmth, transforming into deep, exhausted sleep.

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Meet the Author

A voracious reader from the age of five, Isabelle Adler has always dreamed of one day putting her own stories into writing. She loves traveling, art, and science, and finds inspiration in all of these. Her favorite genres include sci-fi, fantasy, and historical adventure. She also firmly believes in the unlimited powers of imagination and caffeine.

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J Tullos Hennig on Writing, Books, and her release ‘Summerwode (The Wode: Book Four)’ (Author Interview/DSP Publications GUEST POST)

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Summerwode (The Wode #4) by J. Tullos Hennig
D
SP Publications
Cover Artist: Shobana Appavu

Sales Links:

DSP Publications
Kobo
Barnes & Noble
iBooks
Amazon

✒︎

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host J. Tullos Hennig here today. Welcome, J. and thank you for sharing something about yourself and your writing!

✒︎

~Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with J Tullos Hennig ~

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

Research has a role in every genre. It has to; nothing can be created in a vacuum. We need some verisimilitude to latch onto, be it with our own cobbled-together universes or a world with a firmer attachment to ‘reality’. We’re all beholden to some sort of history, however intrinsically flawed or truthful. And living life can be its own research, as much as perusing a library’s closed stacks.

So what can you say but yes!—and embrace it?

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

Genre was a LOT less specific when I was young, but it was a factor. I loved other worlds and times, history and anthropology, devoured mythic tales and legends, preferred stories where animals were individuals (because in a lifetime of working with them, they are), and was an nerdy Speculative Fiction fan way before it was pop culture cool.

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

No, though I had a very short stint of romance reading as a teenager. As I said above, I’m a Historical and Speculative reader to the bone. I do enjoy epic stories that include romantic themes. And write them, natch!

Who do you think is your major influence as a writer?  Now and growing up?

I always offer sage to the three Marys: Mary Stewart, Mary Renault, and Mary O’Hara. And especially recognise the Chickasaw storyteller known as Te Ata.

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

For me, as a writer, if I’m not immersed then the writing isn’t working. And of course it hurts. Again, what can you say but yes? Amazing things are winnowed from pain AND joy.

Do you feel there’s a tight line between Mary Sue or should I say Gary Stu and using your own experiences to create a character?

Hmm. This question alone has spawned tomes of rhetoric—not an easy thing to answer in a few sentences. I was around when the “Mary Sue” thing got started, and one thing seems plain in that experience: “Mary Sue” has become a fannish pejorative that has gone wildly off its original course. As a result, women are often the ones feeling the brunt of the harshest judgments. All this, when the original plaint had as its source a complaint about lazy writing and juvenile characterisation.

The thing is, in any well-crafted story a writer has to mine one’s own experience to inform their characters. But well-rounded characterisation, whatever its source, is a skill learned over time and practice. So baby writers often fail… should fail, because if we don’t, we don’t learn. But when you put something out for public consumption before it or you are ready…?  Well. Consequences. And everyone seems to be getting less, not more, tolerant of what doesn’t fall into their own set of expectations.

Do you like HFN or HEA? And why?

Neither, really. I prefer to read and write what I term a “satisfactory” ending. I want the immersive experience, both for my readers and when I read. If I’m lucky enough to experience that immersion, I don’t get terribly picky about what those feelings are. To quote James Joyce: “First you feel… then you fall.”

How do you feel about the ebook format and where do you see it going?

Living in a small house, it’s space-wise and convenient to have a e-reader filled with titles. But I don’t prefer it. I like the feel and smell of paper books. The idea that someone can whisk my books away and into the ether on a whim, or that my reading relies solely on a source of external power—well, its worrisome. And unappealing. But convenient, no question! And I can markup files in an e-reader, where I refuse to mark in my books.

Where the technology goes from here, I wouldn’t dare to guess, save that I imagine audio will play a bigger role than ever.

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

I think about the cover artist and whether their style speaks to the story. I do consider myself blessed in that I’m able to have input on my covers through DSP Publications. My former experience with publishing houses serves to remind me that not all authors are so fortunate.

What’s next for you as an author?

I’ve a lot of projects in the wings. The main one I’m shopping now is culturally based more on my grandmother’s Choctaw/Chickasaw people than my grandfather’s U.K. heritage; a different voice, to be sure, but one underserved and vital.

But as to ‘thisnow’, as the denizens of the Wode say, I’m amidst SUMMERWODE’s release, and working on the final book in the series, WYLDINGWODE. All of the Books of the Wode are dense, character-driven, and immersive. If you’re quite strict about your Romance tropes, they mightn’t be your cuppa. But if you’re up for a good old-fashioned, epic Historical Fantasy with a goodly dose of magical realism, then the Wode might be for you!

Thanks for hosting me on your blog!

COVER BLURB for SUMMERWODE

The Summer King has come to the Wode…
Yet to which oath, head or heart, shall he hold?

Once known as the Templar assassin Guy de Gisbourne, dispossessed noble Gamelyn Boundys has come to Sherwood Forest with conflicted oaths. One is of duty: demanding he tame the forest’s druidic secrets and bring them back to his Templar Masters. The other oath is of heat and heart: given to the outlaw Robyn Hood, avatar of the Horned Lord, and the Maiden Marion, embodiment of the Lady Huntress. The three of them—Summerlord, Winter King, and Maiden of the Spring—are bound by yet another promise, that of fate: to wield the covenant of the Shire Wode and the power of the Ceugant, the magical trine of all worlds. In this last, also, is Gamelyn conflicted; spectres of sacrifice and death haunt him.
Uneasy oaths begin a collision course when not only Gamelyn, but Robyn and Marion are summoned to the siege of Nottingham by the Queen. Her promise is that Gamelyn will regain his noble family’s honour of Tickhill, and the outlaws of the Shire Wode will have a royal pardon.
But King Richard has returned to England, and the price of his mercy might well be more than any of them can afford…

~ ~ ~ ~

 

EXCERPT from SUMMERWODE:

“You look proper fetching in those breeks.” This from Much, behind Robyn and just inside the drawn-back pavilion entry.

“I wish I could say the same for you in that Templar’s tabard.” Marion had lingered with him.

Silence.

Then, “Why didn’t you say anything?” If the wretched tone in Marion’s voice set a crack in Robyn’s heart, Much’s answer shivered it into anger.

“Marion, you knew it was temporary, me being banished, like—”

“It must run in your bloody Order,” Robyn growled, just loud enough and with a glare toward the pulled-back pavilion flap. “Bein’ so reticent, like, with sommun as shares your bed.”

Within the entry, Much had his mouth open, about to make some retort. He thought better of it and shut it with an audible pop.

Marion let out a curse that could have scorched the pavilion’s fabric.

“You’d best start talking, man, and keep on,” Robyn muttered, though to which Templar, he was uncertain.

Another silence, then more conversation—this low, unintelligible. Robyn grinned—no pleasant expression—and crept closer, ready to lob another volley should it be necessary.

He halted. Frowned. Cocked his head and snuffed the air, turned sharp eyes upon the drifting smoke; previously aimless, it sucked backward, then curled forth.

The soldiers began to appear, then, silent and armed to the teeth, akin to phantoms in the wisps of murk and sun. Despite any impulse to duck back into the pavilion and hide, a dull fascination kept Robyn there, watching the men pass with ranks doubling, tripling, all parting like water around the surrounding pavilions.

The odd lull receded and filled itself with a singular rhythm; Robyn realized it was the dull tap… tap… of sword against shield, timing the tread of heavy boots, the clink and thap of chainmail against leather, the heat and menace of determination.

Some of them were Templars.

They were converging upon the gatehouse. Just a stone’s throw away, the army—and it was one, no question there—stopped.

There was a grind and clank from the main gate. A small door revealed itself, creaking outward from the great one’s leftmost corner. The waiting army angled forward—slight, but there—and a shaky voice issued from the three-sided gap. A rich baritone echoed in answer, bouncing off the gatehouse door.

Robyn knew that last voice. With a tiny skip and step forward, he confirmed said recognition: the tall, white-clad Commander of Temple Hirst with—of course—his most trusted bodyguard. Both of them standing in the bloody front of the battle line. Hubert was speaking to the one who was hiding behind the little door, and Gamelyn stood beside him, holding the Templar’s banner, with shoulders squared and russet-gold head bared beneath an abrupt shaft of the inconstant sun.

That same bit of sun spilled upon the gatehouse tower. It illuminated, through a tall and bloody narrow opening, a figure lurking behind the thick, curved wall. The odd combination of sun, smoke, and shadows betrayed a glint, here and there, wielded within. Likely a crossbow.

Eyes narrowing, Robyn kept his gaze upon the arrow loop, shrugged the longbow from its place athwart his shoulders, and fingered a flax string from its pouch at his belt.

Whatever Hubert was saying, the man at the door wasn’t having it, not a bit.

The sun making its play for Gamelyn’s bright hair slid behind a bit of smoke, and the gatehouse went dark.

Robyn stepped his bow with a soft grunt of effort, slipping string over horn tip, and kept eyeing that arrow loop. The sun crept back; one shaft of light in particular kept dancing, above and behind, to backlight the crossbowman in the upper gatehouse. Pulling a quintet of arrows from his quiver, Robyn set to knotting three in his hair.

“What is it?” Marion came up beside; he spared a swift glance. Much was nowhere in sight, and her eyes were swollen, but the look in those eyes dared Robyn to so much as mention it. And—he smiled—she carried her own bow, strung and ready.

“Hearken where our Summerlord bides.”

Marion’s eyes widened, and her pale eyebrows did a dance, one up and the other down. But all she said was “Aye, well, no wonder Much lit out like he were afire” and drew several arrows from the quiver at her hip.

Robyn loved his sister.

“Y’ canna chain t’ wind,” he quipped. “Such wishes are for Christians and rich men.”

She smirked.

“There’s more’n one bloody crossbow sighting our lovely Templars. Two there on the hoarding, one… nay, two”—he could see another now, moving into position behind the second loop—“in t’ loops, and… bloody damn!”

This as the smoke stalled upon a breeze and the gatehouse went into shadow.

With a breathy paean to the wind, Robyn drew several arrows from his quiver, slow and sure. “You’ve the lighter bow, Mari. Best cover the ones up top.” He pushed, light and ready, into his grandda’s longbow as she nocked and fisted her own arrows. “I’ve marked those buggers behind the loops; do they so much as twitch, I’ll have ’em.”

“Who let this…?” A cry rose from within the walls and garbled into more shouting. The man at the door whirled angrily, then lurched sideways with a yip and disappeared. Several of the front-line soldiers leapt after as the door was heaved shut—one ran into it with a curse.

More shouts, with one from behind the wall that left no doubt. “Shoot!”

And everything went to hell.

Crossbows discharged. Lances flew. The ground troops dove left and right, wrenching their shields atop them like turtles ducking into their shells. The Templar banner alone remained upright, sprouting from a ceiling of shields as, from the wall-walk—and more, from those damned dark arrow loops—the bolts kept coming.

Marion loosed once, then again. With a shout, a man fell from the hoarding and crashed into a brace of the waiting shields, an arrow in his throat. Robyn danced sideways, watching another quarrel spring from the loop; he loosed a desperate shot, chance and trajectory alone. It slid between the narrow lintels as if greased, and there was a yelp. Had he hit? No way to tell; instead he took aim at the other loop. Whoever was stuck in up there—they weren’t the normal dusted-off clot handed a crossbow—kept loosing bolts with unerring efficiency into the soldiers below….

And still no sign of Gamelyn, though the piebald banner flew, obdurate. The shields below it were beginning to resemble hedgehogs. Robyn’s heart clenched to quivering in his breast, forced tight his breath.

Surely he’d know, if….

L’arbalète!”

The throaty bellow made Robyn start; indeed, ’twould have brought the cows in from a hundred-acre field. Save that all the cattle here were English, and that was definitely Frankish talk.

More shouts resounded against the high bailey walls. A burly, bright-haired man fair exploded from the fancy crimson pavilion a stone’s throw west, still spewing Frankish.

It was answered by a round of cries—“Pour le roi!” “Du roi!”—and a mass of crossbowmen poured from behind the pavilions, rushing the gatehouse.

Roi? That was their talk for a king…. Robyn fisted two more arrows, all the while eying the man who still bellowed like some Frank bull. King Richard? Nay, that was unlikely. His tent was big and fancy, but the man wasn’t dressed to match. His fair hair bore no crown, was tied back all haphazard, its gingery cast picked out by a shaft of breakthrough sun. He’d an even ruddier complexion, with cheeks and nose that seemed more too much wine than too much sun, and a bit too much around the belly, as well, for some warrior king.

Still.

Something in him required pause; a pure vitality slapping at Robyn’s face like sand in a whirlwind. And the man’s bellow would stir an army from sloth to ambition, at that.

Robyn shook it off with a curse, aimed another arrow for that far loop, and hissed the wind-breath from entreaty into desperate command. Marion too was waiting, arrow to string, for another of the topmost bowmen to show themselves….

Sun rippled over the gatehouse, backlight and satisfaction and, as if similarly conjured, a rush of crossbow- and pikemen converged from behind the crimson pavilion. One of them was yelling, in Anglic: “Archers! We need more crossbows!”

Marion picked off the last of the wall crossbowmen.

But Robyn saw only the two forms, backlit behind those arrow loops. With a half-breathed snarl, he loosed; one, then immediately another.

And just like that, no more arrows came from the loops.

About the Author

J Tullos Hennig has always possessed inveterate fascination in the myths and histories of other worlds and times. Despite having maintained a few professions in this world—equestrian, dancer, teacher, artist—Jen has never successfully managed to not be a writer. Ever.

Her most recent work is a darkly magical & award-winning historical fantasy series re-imagining the legends of Robin Hood, in which both pagan and queer viewpoints are given respectful voice.

Social media links:

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Pearl Love on Writing, Books and her latest novel ‘Salvation’s Song’ from Harmony Ink Press (author interview)

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Salvation’s Song by Pearl Love
H
armony Ink Press
May 16th 2017
Cover Artist: Paul Richmond

Available for Purchase at

Harmony Ink Press

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Pearl Love here today.  Welcome, Pearl, and thanks for answering some of our author questions for us!

✒︎

~Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with Pearl Love~

  • How much of yourself goes into a character?

It varies from story to story, but in the case of “Salvation’s Song,” quite a lot.  The most obvious (to anyone who knows me) is the fact that Jeremy is a band geek. I played in band from the time I was in fifth grade through my senior year of college. It was my most singular defining characteristic as a kid. I never particularly felt like I fit in well with my peers, but being in band gave me a sense of belonging. 

I also borrowed heavily from my personal experiences to create Tyrell’s grandmother. I am extremely close to my own, and she is suffering from some of the same difficulties, though fortunately at a much older age. I wanted to try and convey that sense of helplessness and absolute love between Tyrell and Lucille. Having her illness be the result of something more than nature gone awry was my attempt to make sense out of things.

Lastly, there’s Tyrell’s mother, who I assured my own mom is no reflection on her whatsoever. LOL! The only resemblance is that they are both heavily into church, but really, that’s it. 

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

I have tried writing contemporary (and will again very soon), but I’m not very good at it. I’m an aromantic asexual, so I have very limited real life experience with romance or relationships. It’s all fantasy to me, which is why I have no difficulty writing gay men even though I’m not one. I do have a tendency to insert fantastical elements into modern-day settings, which I’ve done with this story as well.  So, I guess my preferred genre these days is urban fantasy. I find it fascinating to think about the mundane and then turn it on its ear in some interesting way. In this case, I decided to meld the ancient (Assyrian gods and demons) with the world of high schoolers trying to determine their sense of self. So, the research for “Salvation’s Song” focused mainly on the supernatural aspects, since they are based on an actual religious construct.

I also really wanted to make the city of Chicago a character in the story. I grew up there and visit my family there as often as possible. It’s such a beautiful city with a lot of diversity in terms of neighborhoods and people. Being able to revisit the haunts of my youth, as well as discover new places I’ve never been, has been wonderful. Thank goodness for Google maps!!

For other books I’ve done, in particular The Garden series, which is set in Victorian London, I have to research every aspect of the story. I was never into history when I was younger, but lately it has become a singular fascination. Writing in a world that is part of the not-too-distant past but that is so different from our modern day-to-day has been a real treat.

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

Honestly, it’s been a long time since I’ve ready in either of those genres. I’m not a fan of the current trend for depressing teenage dystopias…expect for the Maze Runner series (thank you Dylan!).  I was heavily into fantasy and sci-fi when I was younger, so my love of those types of stories has definitely carried forward into my own work.

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

Here’s where I get to give my plug for plotting vs pantsing. For anything longer than a short story, I never type a word until I have the story completely plotted out. That way, I know exactly where I need to end up and generally how to get there. Some of the details may change as I write to accommodate the flow of the story or characters that get unruly, but for the most part, my outline dictates everything. Fortunately, this has allowed me to avoid getting stuck.

As for the emotional aspect of a story, since I’m not drawing on any personal experiences, I can stay detached from my characters to a degree. I would never write a story that doesn’t affect me on an emotional level, but the mechanics of getting the story into words gives me distance. That being said, when going back to edit a story for submission, I have occasionally surprised myself and teared up. I try to put a story away for a good length of time after writing the first complete draft so I can read it with fresh eyes. When I’m not buried in the technicalities of grammar and word choice, I can appreciate the story more for its emotion. If I sniff, I know I’ve done my job.

  • Do you like HFN or HEA? And why?

Since romance is like fantasy to me, I treat it as such. “Once upon a time” leading to “happily ever after.” I honestly don’t see the point in HFN. If I’ve taken the trouble to guide my characters through an emotional journey toward each other, I want it to stick! Relationships fail or fade away in real life. I don’t need to read about it in a romance novel. Of course, anyone who has read “’Til Darkness Falls” is probably laughing or screaming at me right now. LOL!

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

I’m giggling because of a particular thing that happened to me in high school. When I was a freshman, I got caught reading a Harlequin romance in class. How? I was hiding it behind my text book and it fell out onto the floor. I was sitting in the first row. Yeah. I was an aide for the teacher because I was a total goodie-two-shoes. During my next volunteer time with that teacher, I apologized profusely for what happened. She just laughed and said, “That’s why you have such a good vocabulary.” Nice!

To answer the question, yes. I read romances like they were going out of style! My grandmother had a huge collection, and I steadily made my way through them starting at age twelve when she finally let me see one.  At first, she would only let me read the ones with little or no smut, but I would sneak the juicier titles while she wasn’t looking. I fell off only after I went to college and my supply dried up.  Now, I read mainly M/M romance, a lot of them in manga form.

  • How do you feel about the ebook format and where do you see it going?

I know there are people who are devoted to print, but I am not one of them. I have a ton of books. My house is a fire hazard! But the ability to have so many reading options on a single device like my Kindle or tablet is miraculous! Not having to deal with physical books just makes everything easier, particularly when I’m commuting to and from work or when I want to read in bed at night with the lights off.

I’m pretty sure there will always be some market for paper books, but I honestly believe the market is shifting permanently toward digital. With every generation that lives more of their lives on computers and mobile devices, the demand for physical reading material will shrink. It’s sad to a degree, but progress is all about change. I welcome our ebook overlords!

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

It really depends for some books (“To Be Human”/”To Be Loved”) I wanted the covers to reflect a moment from the story. For The Garden series, the covers reflect the setting of Victorian London or of the brothel. The original DSP cover for “’Til Darkness Falls” was intended to be a puzzle where elements from the story and the characters were hidden or in plain view. For “Salvation’s Song” I wasn’t really certain what I wanted, but I am thrilled with what the DSP/Harmon Ink art department came up with. The elements of the story, in particular Jeremy’s pendant and the music theme, are the prominent features, which is simply perfect.  The type of cover I would reject is one that has zero connection to the fabric of the characters or the plot. I’m not a fan of posed bodies that are just there to be seen. I also don’t love photo covers because the models never look how I pictured my characters, but I suspect most authors feel that way.

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

My favorite is probably still my first: “’Til Darkness Falls.” It is my most ambitious plot, and I poured months (if not years) of effort into creating it. There is a lot my personality in Brian (bless his shy, awkward heart), but I absolutely fell in love with Alrick. I made him a sexy, cheesy romantic cello player who is a contentious assassin. Marry me! And now you know more about me than you probably want to. *smile*

  • What’s next for you as an author?

I am currently working on the third book in The Garden series. I also have a contemporary (gasp!) in the hopper. It will feature an established couple that goes through some pretty serious drama. After that, I will work on the next book in the Salvation series. Since it is a YA series with Harmony Ink, I am going to try stepping outside my M/M comfort zone and to tackle a F/F couple. Wish me luck!

“Salvation’s Song” blurb

Only a chosen few can prevent an ancient evil from overtaking the world: the Singers, the Seekers, and the Saviors….

Tyrell Hughes and Jeremy Michalak are both juniors at Winton Yowell High School in Chicago, and aside from sharing a homeroom, they couldn’t be more different. Tyrell is well-liked, surrounded by friends, popular with girls, and looking forward to a bright future. Jeremy transfers to Winton Yowell to escape the troubles of his past. He’s hoping to survive his last two years of high school by flying under his new classmates’ gaydar and indulging in his passion: playing clarinet.

Tyrell and Jeremy struggle to ignore their attraction to each other. But that becomes increasingly difficult as young people across the city start dying. Both teens realize they alone know the true cause of the tragedies—and have the ability to put a stop to them. They’re the city’s only chance to defeat the dark forces threatening it, but to succeed, they’ll need to find common ground and reconcile the desires they’re trying to deny.

About the Author

Writing Manly Romance From The Heart! Pearl Love has been writing since she was a kid, but it was the pretty boys who frolic around in her head who finally convinced her to pursue it seriously. She’s a mid-west transplant who current thrives in the hustle and bustle of the nation’s capital. She enjoys any type of story so long as the boy gets the boy. Pearl is a Marvel fan girl and owns a ridiculous stash of knitting supplies.

Facebook: Pearl Love Books (https://www.facebook.com/Pearl-Love-Books-158363940846627/)

Twitter: @pearllovebooks