Russell J. Sanders on Writing, Characters and his new novel ‘All You Need is Love’ (author interview/Harmony Ink Blog Tour)

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All You Need Is Love by Russell J. Sanders
H
armony Ink Press

Available for Purchase at

Harmony Ink Press

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Russell J. Sanders here today talking about writing, characters and his latest story, All You Need Is Love. Welcome, Russell.

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✒︎Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with Russell J. Sanders✒︎

  • How much of yourself goes into a character?

I think it’s impossible for an author to create a character that doesn’t have some aspects of him/herself. We are products of our own experiences, thus we use those experiences—whether physical or emotional—in our characters. But in my new novel All You Need Is Love, that “putting myself into the character” goes far beyond where I’ve gone before. The main character Dewey Snodgress is I, and I am he. I’m not saying that everything that happens to Dewey happened to me as a teenager. The plot of the book is totally fabricated. But Dewey has so much me in him that I consider the book autobiographical. Like Dewey, I was a soloist in my high school choir, I was an actor with my high school drama group, and I was so sheltered that I barely knew what was going on in the world outside my high school. Also like Dewey, I never met a black person. In my 1960s Texas world, we had no black kids in our high school. They lived across town, and we never had occasion to mix with them. My fantasy of how Dewey meets LuLu is inspired by how I met one of my dearest friends—many years later—a beautiful, wildly funny African-American woman. And adding to the similarity between me and Dewey, I graced Dewey with the same childhood nickname my dad christened me with.

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

I’ve done both. I have written novels like Special Effect and Colors where I’ve set the story in “today,” and not had to do much but create a story and characters from my own experiences and knowledge-base. Then there’s The Book of Ethan, set in the “now,” but is a book I had to meticulously research in order to create the world of a religious cult. Much of what I wrote is true, some is what I invented based on my research, in order to fuel the plot I wanted to tell. My first book Thirteen Therapists is set in modern-day Chicago, a city I love and have visited many times. But still I needed to do research to get the sense of place I needed. Then there are my historical novels, the current All You Need Is Love and the upcoming (in 2018) Titanic Summer. I did extensive research for both. I wouldn’t have thought I needed to research a story set in the era where I grew up in the town in which I grew up, but All You Need Is Love continuously sent me to experts to check facts or to fill me in on things my brain had lost. My brother, younger, handsomer, and smarter than I, was able to refresh my memories of our childhood neighborhood, while I got invaluable assistance from experts about the Vietnam War and the Texas one–act play contest of the time. For Titanic Summer, I spent hours reading about the famous ship that hit the iceberg so I could re-create that time and experience. Perhaps the novel I’ve researched the most is the one being released in 2019—You Can’t Tell by Looking. One of its main characters is a Muslim-American teen, and I read several books, learning about Islam, so I could get it all right.

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

When I was a kid, I read everything. And I do mean everything. My mother, a voracious reader herself, raised me with this philosophy: “If he doesn’t understand it, it can’t hurt him; if he does understand it, it can only broaden his perspectives.” I remember my sixth grade teacher, at the beginning of the year, announced that she wanted us all reading books outside of the classroom, but she wanted to approve of each book. After I took her three or four books I was reading, she threw up her hands and said I didn’t need approval any more. It wasn’t that she felt she couldn’t control me, it was that she trusted that I could read whatever I wanted, and what I wanted to read were often bestsellers written for adults. So my love of reading certainly influenced my choice to become a writer.

As for choosing to write young adult novels, that came about more because of my teaching career. Actually, when I grew up, young adult novel was not a genre. Books with teen protagonists were just books, either young enough in perspective for children to read or old enough in perspective for adults to enjoy. But as a high school teacher, I learned to love young adult novels and love teenagers. I wanted to create books that reflected their experiences and spoke to them, and thus my career writing YA was born.

  • 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?

Never. I’ve put aside stories because I suddenly got stumped and couldn’t continue because I didn’t have a clue where the story was taking me. But those were stories that weren’t meant to be. The process many writers follow is to outline a plot and write from the outline. I think of a character, a setting, an incident, and then I start writing. My fingers take me all the way to the end. I’m continually amazed at what my characters do and where they go. I once wrote a murder plot that had a choice of six different murderers, and I didn’t know who did the dastardly deed until he confessed! I love that my characters take on their own lives and let me write those lives down for them. I get to live through them instead of my creating their lives.

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

I love romantic stories. Romance novels, as a genre, are not something I pick up very often. Amazingly, the genre seems to require two or three explicit sex scenes, and I get bored reading those, whether hetero or homo. You’d think I, as a gay man, would want to read about a hot encounter, but I think I, as a storyteller, want the story to keep advancing, and a sex scene just stops the action for me. And so, in my romantic young adult novels, my sex scenes are pretty tame, created to show character or plot development, rather than to add steam. And don’t get me wrong, I applaud the readers of Romance novels and I admire and honor the writers of that genre. As they say, different strokes for different folks.

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

Definitely, growing up it was my mother. The woman had a book at her easy chair, a book in the car, a book in her purse, a book by her bedside, and yes, a book in the bathroom, so she would never be without something to read. And she kept all those ongoing plots straight! So how could I not be influenced by that? (And yet, to my chagrin, my younger brother is not an avid reader, although I’m proud to say he’s read all the books I’ve written and is one of my greatest champions.)

As far as now, I suppose one of my greatest influences is the award-winning author Benjamin Alire Saenz. He truly is the finest writer alive today in my opinion. He is also a great human being, and it shows in his writing. I love all his books from my favorite, his first novel Carry Me Like Water, to his young adult novels like his Lambda award-winning book Ari and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. If I could be one tenth the success that Ben is and garner even 1% of the good reviews he gets, I would feel like an ultra-successful writer.

Aside from Ben, though, I continually sing the praises of my mentors: Kathi Appelt and Kelly Bennett. Both are amazing writers, teachers, and friends. Kathi encouraged me by example and by words long before I even began writing novels, and Kelly not only taught me and critiqued me, she has been steadfast in supporting my quest to be published and the continuance of this budding career I have. And she is one of my dearest friends.

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

Love/Hate. I love that it is successful and that many younger readers are actually reading because they are comfortable tied to their electronic devices. And selfishly, I love that royalties from an ebook purchase are greater than those from a print book purchase. But personally, I hate ebooks. There is something cold about the format. I feel that I’m not reading a real book if I can’t turn pages, look back easily to see what I missed, turn to the back cover and read the blurb one more time. Reading a print book is a sensory experience that I don’t get from an ebook.

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

I’m blessed to be published by Dreamspinner/Harmony Ink Press. They have the most incredibly talented artists. From a questionnaire I fill out (where I present some outlandish, unworkable ideas,) the Dreamspinner Press artist comes up with the perfect distillation of the essence of my book. And presents me with three or four choices! And then I’m further blessed that my husband is a graphic artist, for he can look at each choice, ask me questions, take my feedback, and help me either choose the best or know what to say if I deign to ask my artist to do further work. But lordy, lordy, lordy—no matter what I suggest, the artist comes back with the perfect cover. I was honored to have artist Anne Cain design the cover for The Book of Ethan. She evoked the two worlds of the cult-fleeing Ethan and the black rapper Kyan so beautifully. Aaron Anderson did Special Effect, with its shadowy figure trapped in the half-light of a dark theater; Colors and its stained glass that main character Neil is so tormented over; and All You Need Is Love’s iconic gun with the daisy in its barrel with the 1960s-inspired psychedelic paisley lettering. Aaron’s covers take my breath away.

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

My favorite, I guess, is the one I’ve just finished. I finished Thirteen Therapists and loved it. Then I wrote Special Effect, and I was amazed I could create a murder mystery. Next came The Book of Ethan, and I was enthralled by the world I painted. Colors came after that, and I marveled at how I managed to tackle such an important, difficult subject. But oh—I wrote All You Need Is Love, and it is so much my life story that I can’t help but cherish it. The upcoming novels Titanic Summer and You Can’t Tell by Looking, when I see each in print, will probably capture my heart, respectively. What can I say? I love writing, and I love what I write. Does that sound too self-aggrandizing?

  • What’s next for you as an author?

What’s next? What’s next is to make sure All You Need Is Love finds its audience. Besides how much I love the story and want to share it with everyone, I think it is an important book because it sheds light on the era of the 1960s, a turbulent, life-changing time in America that most teens today know very little about. Even if they don’t learn enough from my book, I hope it spurs them to search for more about that time.

And then, of course, are my two novels already under contract. Spring of 2018 will see Titanic Summer, a novel that tells of a gay teen in the summer of 2015 in Houston, Texas, when the fight for the Houston Equal Rights Amendment was being fought. That fight was ultimately lost, but my hero wins his parallel fight with his gay identity, his problems with his father, and his feelings about a newfound friend. And along the way, I might add, he learns about a teen who perished on the Titanic.

A year later, I’ll have You Can’t Tell by Looking, a story of a love that develops between a Christian boy and a Muslim-American classmate, replete with all the things a relationship of that sort stirs up.

And finally, there’s a new story rumbling in my gut. I know very little about it, but sooner or later, it’s going to poke its head out and introduce itself. And then my fingers will fly across the keys to tell that story!

All You Need Is Love…blurb

It is 1969 when Dewey Snodgress, high school theater star, meets irrepressible hippie Jeep Brickthorn, who quickly inserts himself into Dewey’s life—and eventually, into his heart. Meanwhile, Dewey prepares to appear in a production across town, a play about protestors of the Vietnam War, where he befriends the wild and wonderful Lucretia “LuLu” Belton, who is also determined to follow her dreams and become an actress—whether her parents approve or not.

 The show has a profound effect, especially on Dewey’s father, who reconsiders his approval of the war after his son’s performance. But Dewey knows his dad won’t be so accepting if he reveals the love he’s developing for Jeep, so he fights to push his feelings away and keep the peace in his family.

 Still, Dewey can’t ignore the ripples moving through society—from the impending Woodstock Festival to the Stonewall Riots—and he begins to see that the road to happiness and acceptance for him and Jeep might lead them away from conservative Fort Worth, Texas—and Dewey’s dad.

Russell J. Sanders…bio

Russell J. Sanders is a life-long devotee of the theater. He’s a singer, actor, and director, winning awards for his acting roles and shows he has directed. As a teacher, he has taught theater arts to hundreds of students, plus he’s also taught literature and writing to hundreds of others.

Russell has also travelled the world, visiting Indonesia, Japan, India, Canada, the Caribbean, London, Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, Florence, and Venice—and almost all the US states. His friends think he’s crazy, but wherever he goes, he seeks out Mexican restaurants. The Mexican food in Tokyo was great, he says; in Rome, not so good. Texans cut their teeth on barbecue and Mexican food. Russell’s love for enchiladas led him on a quest to try them wherever he can find them, and he has found them in some very out of the way places. And good or bad, he’s delighted to sample his favorite food.

Most importantly, Russell is an out and proud Gay man, living in Houston with his husband—a relationship that has lasted almost twenty years. He hopes that his novels inspire confidence and instill pride in his young Gay fans, and he also hopes others learn from his work.

Media Contacts for Russell J. Sanders:

Author of…

   Thirteen Therapists (Featherweight Press)

   Special Effect (Harmony Ink Press)

   The Book of Ethan (Harmony Ink Press)

   Colors (Harmony Ink Press)

   All You Need Is Love (Harmony Ink Press, coming March 2017)
   Titanic Summer (Harmony Ink Press, coming Spring 2018)

Fickle, Fickle March ~ Its Snowing? This Week At Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

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Fickle, Fickle March Part II ~ Its Snowing?

So remember all that lovely warm weather I was talking about?  Well, out the window it went and here’s comes the first Nor’easter of our winter season.  The meteorologists are calling from anywhere from 6 to 12 inches of accumulated snow here in the metro area, possibly more.  Oh those poor cherry blossoms, to say nothing of the annual Cherry Blossom Festival that draws visitors from around the world.  Yep, those  blossoms will be history, taken down by nature’s blast this week!

And what will that do to our St. Patricks Day parades?  Will they be marching in the snow?  Most likely.

Oh, this mercurial March. Much like love and romance, it blows hot and cold.  It heats up and then quickly can become ice cold.  Then flare up when you least expect it.  I’m hoping for the more heat to melt this coming snow away quickly.

 

Lucky In Love – A St. Patrick’s Day Giveaway!

So new  giveaway for our  readers.  With it being St. Patrick’s Day this week, what are your favorite books with Irish settings, or Irish men and romance in them?  Lists please and  we will post a special St. Patrick’s Day Romance Book List of Love.  Random reader will receive gift card of $10 from Dreamspinner Press.  Please leave a name and email address with your recs!  I will start you off with one that still makes me cry and grabs at my heart every time I read it:

Where the Grass is Greener (Seeds of Tyrone #2) by Debbie McGowan and Raine O’Tierney

And don’t get me started on those magnificent Morgan men of Rhys Ford’s Sinners series.   I’ll add in more when list time comes.  Our  giveaway ends Saturday, March 18th at midnight.  Slainte’! D’fhĂ©adfadh grá i gcĂłnaĂ­ a bheith mise!  May love always be yours, in life and in our stories.  I can’t wait to see what books your lists may bring us.

This Week’s Announcements at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

đź“š~ Reviewers ~We have a new reviewer coming on.  Her name is Julia.  And we’re thrilled to have her here.  Let Julia tell you something about herself:

Hey, there!

I’m Julia, a mid-twenties gay language student from Austria. I love travelling, Japanese curry, Scotland, the sea and anything and all fiction-related. My current passions are writing (mainly short stories and flash fiction) and playing Dungeons & Dragons with friends (where I play as a half-mermaid cleric with a pet pufferfish named Huffl-Puffington Supreme Conqueror of the Northern Seas).

When it comes to literature, I’m basically open for anything that catches my interest in some way. I love books that make me cry, books that make me laugh, books that make me want to ram my head against a wall with spikes protruding from it – as long as a story can get any kind of emotional response out of me, I’m happily along for the ride. That being said, my most-read genre right now would probably be Fantasy and my favourite author Terry Pratchett with his glorious Discworld-series.

Well, I think that should give you a pretty decent picture of myself. Have a lovely day and as a friend of mine once said: Don’t get eaten by a dragon! (Unless they ask nicely and all around seem like a pretty ok-person.^^)

Say hi to Julia and be on the lookout for her reviews to start appearing soon!  We are still looking for reviewers.  So contact us at scatteredthoughtsandroguewords@gmail.com if you love books and want to tell other about them too!

📚~Last Week’s Giveaway ~ He Turned Out To Be What? Contest and the Winners:  Purple Reader (Stella will be in contact with you)

This Week At Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Sunday, March 12:

  • Fickle, Fickle March Part II ~ Its Snowing?
  • This Week At Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Monday, March 13:

  • DSP GUEST POST BA Tortuga on Two Cowboys and a Baby
  • DSP GUEST POST Ethan Stone on Wild Instincts (Seaside Shifters: Book Two)
  • Release Day Blitz Shaper by Christine Danse
  • RIPTIDE TOUR BLOG Sons of Devils by Alex Beecroft
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Release Day Review: Lickety Split by Damon Suede
  • A Lila Release Day Review: Step by Step by K.C. Wells
  • An Alisa Release Day Review:  Dinner at the Blue Moon Cafe by Rick R. Reed

Tuesday, March 14:

  • DSP GUEST POST Andrew Grey on Cleansing Flame (Rekindled Flame #2) by Andrew Grey
  • Release Blitz – Rick R Reed’s Dinner at the Blue Moon Cafe
  • In the Paranormal Spotlight: Insight by Santino Hassell (Riptide Publishing Tour and Giveaway)
  • A Jeri Review: Danced Close by Annabeth Albert
  • A Stella Review: Momo, My Everything by Posy Roberts
  • A Stella Review: Beneath the Stars by Lynn Charles
  • An Alisa Review: Falling Hard: Stories of Men in Love by Dale Cameron Lowry

Wednesday, March 15:

  • DSP GUEST POST Sarah Madison on Unspeakable Words (The Sixth Sense: Book One) 
  • Release Blitz & Review Tour – K.C. Wells’s  Step By Step
  • Who We Are by Nicola Haken Tour and Review
  • A MelanieM Release Day Review: Two Cowboys and A Baby by BA Tortuga
  • An Ali Release Day Review:  Sophie by JP Barnaby
  • An Alisa Release Day Review:  Running with the Moon by Kiernan Kelly
  • An Alisa Review: Love by Design by Sam B. Morgan

Thursday, March 16:

  • Release Blitz Tour – The Case Of The Guilty Ghost (End Street Book #6) by RJ Scott and Amber Kell
  • RELEASE BLITZ Between the Secrets by S. Ferguson
  • Release Day Blitz An Officer’s Submission by Christa Tomlinson
  • Release tour Who We Are by Nicola Haken
  • A MelanieM Review:  Who We Are by Nicola Haken
  • Step by Step by KC Wells Release Tour
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review:  Fallen Angel by Eden Winters
  • A Stella Review Spark to the Heart (Parkerburg series #4) by Lee Brazil & Havan Fellows

Friday, March 17 – Happy Ä’ostre or Ostara:

  • Blog Tour for Leaning into the Fall by Lane Hayes
  • Book Blitz Here For Us by AM Arthur
  • A Caryn Review : Bedside Manner by DJ Jamison
  • A Caryn Review: Drinker of Blood (SPECTR Series 2, #3) by Jordan L Hawk
  • A Lila Release Day Review: Falling Into the Black by Caitlin Ricci
  • A Melanie Releases Day Review:  There’s this Guy by Rhys Ford

Saturday, March 18:

  • A MelanieM Audiobook Review: Drama Muscle by Joe Cosentino and Narrator Chip Hurley
  • Blog for the audiobook of DRAMA MUSCLE, the second Nicky and Noah mystery, by Joe Cosentino, performed by Chip Hurley

An Ali Review: We Three Kings by AF Henley

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Chicago 1982 is a goldmine for the construction industry, and Eric and his two business partners are thriving. Once nothing more than orphans in a Catholic boys’ home, they’ve overcome poverty and abuse to obtain success. Now living the lives they once only dreamed of, they’re sure of one thing: they will never look back.

Then the past returns, by way of a cheap polyester suit and a smile Eric has never forgotten—and all the dark memories come crashing back. Lucky for him, Jimmy has no idea who Eric is, or who Eric used to be…
This is a beautifully written story about forgiveness and redemption.  Eric and his two best friends, Mark and Devin, have overcome the abuse they suffered at the hands of the church run orphanage they grew up in.  They are now successful businessmen and they try to live their lives in a way that is positive and helpful to others.  Eric’s past behaviors though still haunt him and the walls he’s built come crashing down when he interviews Jimmy for a job at their company.  Eric sees hiring Jimmy as a way to fix past wrongs. Unfortunately the longer Eric is not honest with Jimmy, the harder time he has with the truths about himself.
This story is told from Eric’s point of view and I found him to be a fantastic narrator.  He begins each chapter with memories from his past.  I was worried about this part of the story going in because I saw that movie Sleepers and I remember it being pretty hard to watch.  Fortunately the author doesn’t make these scenes graphic.  Despite that you still get the feel for the terror these boys went through in every creak in the hallway or dark shadow that passes their door.  I was on pins and needles for everyone of those flashbacks.
Despite his lack of honestly with Jimmy, Eric finds himself attracted to the man and begins a romantic relationship.  Eric is slowly unraveling and while he knows his decisions are bad, he can’t seem to stop himself.  Throughout he does a bunch of soul searching and he’s stuck on his anger at himself for both the past and the present.
While part of the story is about Jimmy and Eric falling for each other, Jimmy is almost a side character.  He has a strong role and a place of importance but really this story is Eric’s.  I thought the connection between the two men was touching.  Eric’s two friends have smaller roles but they play a major part in the end of the story.  By far though, my favorite side character was Meryl, a homeless man that Eric talks to every day.  This was so well done.  So creative and thought provoking. I don’t want to say more about this because I don’t want to spoil anything but I loved these interactions. He and Eric are characters that will stick in my head for a long time to come.
In the end, yes, this is a romance, but it’s also a story about letting go of your past, of your fear, you anger and/or self-loathing and starting afresh.
There are a few authors I wish got more attention and this is one of them.  I’ve loved everything I’ve read of hers and I would have everyone I know read this if I could (and after this go read her Wolf series).
Cover by Aisha Akeju:  I liked the cover.  It was nicely done but did not stand out in any special way to me.
Sales Links
Book Details:
ebook
Published March 1st 2017 by Less Than Three Press
ISBN139781620049600
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Free Dreamer Release Day Review: We Met in Dreams by Rowan McAllister

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

a-free-dreamer-release-day-review-we-met-in-dreams-by-rowan-mcallisterIn Victorian London, during a prolonged and pernicious fog, fantasy and reality are about to collide—at least in one man’s troubled mind.

A childhood fever left Arthur Middleton, Viscount Campden, seeing and hearing things no one else does, afraid of the world outside, and unable to function as a true peer of the realm. To protect him from himself—and to protect others from him—he spends his days heavily medicated and locked in his rooms, and his nights in darkness and solitude, tormented by visions, until a stranger appears.

This apparition is different. Fox says he’s a thief and not an entirely good sort of man, yet he returns night after night to ease Arthur’s loneliness without asking for anything in return. Fox might be the key that sets Arthur free, or he might deliver the final blow to Arthur’s tenuous grasp on sanity. Either way, real or imaginary, Arthur needs him too much to care.

Fox is only one of the many secrets and specters haunting Campden House, and Arthur will have to face them all in order to live the life of his dreams.

I’m usually not big on historical romance novels, but the blurb was sufficiently unusual and slightly creepy to make me curious. I definitely didn’t regret my choice.

First of all, you have to suspend your disbelief for this story. Fox breaks into Arthur’s house, late one foggy winter night. When Arthur catches him, Fox doesn’t knock him out or harm Arthur in any other way. Instead, he stays for a chat.

Once I got past that slightly strange beginning, I started getting caught up in the story. There are so many unanswered questions and so many secrets lurking here. Is Arthur truly hallucinating? Are the apparitions real ghosts? Or is his kindly uncle plotting against him and there’s a much more mundane reason behind those creepy noises Arthur hears every night? There’s an answer to all those questions in the end, rest assured.

The setting was subtly creepy. Not outright horror-story-like, but just enough to make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end every now and then. I like this kind of subtly creepiness and the author did a brilliant job creating an eerie atmosphere.

While the author managed to convey the creepiness of the setting extremely well, it lacked a “British” feel all over. I think it might have been better if she’d chosen to set this in the USA instead of London. Part of it is probably due to the fact that most of the story takes place in Arthur’s rooms and we hardly ever see the outside world. But when I first read “color” instead of “colour”, I found it really jarring and kept looking for the American spelling. I know it’s pronounced the same, but if a story is set in London and has English MCs, then I expect the British spelling. It should only be a minor niggle, but it started to quite bother me after a while.

The MCs were nice. A little too nice, really. I don’t see why Fox would return to the seemingly insane Arthur and risk a prison sentence in doing so. And Arthur was a little too concerned with everybody else’s well-being.

After all the suspense throughout the entire book, the ending was a little anti-climactic. The revelation felt a little mundane, to be honest.

Long story short, “We Met in Dreams” was good. It might not have been brilliant but overall, I quite enjoyed it.  If you like ghost stories and the subtle creepiness they bring, then you’ll like this book.

The cover by Anna Silkorska is perfect for this story. I love the haunted manor.

Sales Links

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Book details:

ebook, 268 pages
Expected publication: February 27th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1635332966 (ISBN13: 9781635332964)
Edition LanguageEnglish

New Love, New Beginnings. This Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

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New Love, New Beginnings. Hey, Its March!

March sails in this week full of itself!  March is a month just popping with meaning and celebrations of all kinds.  The Vernal Equinox begins March 20th (although it has felt like Spring here for days).  There’s the Ides of March (poor Caesar), St. Patricks Day (get out your green), World Wildlife Day is on the 3rd, International Forest Day is on the 21st and more religious days than I will go into here. Here in the States, even Daylight Savings Time returns (ugh).

For me, however, it signals the return of spring. New growth of all types from buds and tiny leaves appearing from shrub to perennial flowers to birds busy with their nesting building in anticipation of young to follow.  The eagles at the National Arboretum have already laid their first egg of the season. Yes, love is in the air whether it be new love or that of established lovers like the eagle pair I just mentioned.  Of course, that’s my link to my topic this week and perhaps this month.

Love stories! What’s your preference?  Do you even have one? New Love, New Beginnings. Lovers Reunited, Second Chance at Love?  I have to admit I have a huge fondness for the second trope.  I love it when ex-lovers get a chance to have their HEA, to get that love that de-railed back on track after whatever broke them up and time gone by (go ahead count up the cliches, lol).  But then again, ah, those stories of men finding their soul mates and never letting go, no matter the obstacles.  They grab me too.  Ok, I love them both.  How about you?  Do you all have a preference?  Yes? No?  I’m dying to find out. Giveaway time!

Give me your favorites and why.

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New Love, New Beginnings Love Story Giveaway

This week its name your favorite New Love, New Beginnings Love Story Giveaway.  Random reader chosen will get a $10 Dreamspinner Press gift card.  Its a short contest.  A new one starts next Sunday.  So comment all week along until midnight Saturday, March 4th.  Leave your email address, along with your favorite new love stories and why you love them.  Winner will be announced next Sunday along with our new contest!  Hey, its Spring, lets go crazy with love stories!

 

 

Spring Beauties

 

This Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

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Sunday, February 26:

  • After the Fire by Felice Stevens Release Day Blitz
  • In Our Author Spotlight:  Catt Ford on Cross My Heart and other releases
  • Release Blitz – Rick R Reed’s Class Distinctions
  • New Love, New Beginnings. This Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Monday, February 27:

  • In the Spotlight: Ethan Stone on Hacked Up
  • INTERLUDE PRESS TOUR Beneath the Stars by Lynn Charles
  • SNAPSHOTS release blitz by Addison Albright
  • A Free Dreamer Release Day Review: We Met in Dreams by Rowan McAllister
  • A Stella Release Day Review: Until You by TJ Klune
  • An Alisa Audiobook Review: Romancing the Wrong Twin by Clare London and Rusty Topsfield (Narrator)
  • An Alisa Release Day Review: Black Market Blood (New Canadiana #2) by Francis Gideon

Tuesday, February 28:

  • RIPTIDE TOUR BLOG and Giveaway: As La Vista Turns by Kris Ripper
  • Release Blitz/Review Tour – Ghost (Sanctuary #9) – RJ Scott
  • Release Blitz – Posy Roberts’  Momo, My Everything
  • A Melanie Release Day Review: Countermind by Adrian Randall
  • A Paul B Review: Credo (Demon Elite 8) by April Kelley
  • A MelanieM Release Day Review : Ghost (Sanctuary #9) by RJ Scott

Wednesday, March 1:

  • COVER REVEAL Between the Secrets by S. Ferguson
  • DSP GUEST POST Karen Stivali on Moment of Fate
  • DSP GUEST POST T.A. Chase on Why I Love Waiters
  • A Caryn Review: Goodnight My Angel by Sue Brown
  • A MelanieM Release Day Review: Snowblind by Eli Easton
  • A Stella Release Day Review:  My Paradise is You (World of Love) by Lucie Archer
  • An Alisa Release Day Review:  The Real Thing by BG Thomas

Thursday, March 2:

  • HARMONY INK PRESS GUEST POST Adrian Randall on Countermind
  • DSP GUEST POST Rowan McAllister on We Met in Dreams
  • A Jeri Release Day Review: Secrets of You by Skylar M Cates
  • An Alisa Review: Tortoise Interruptus by JL Merrow
  • An Alisa Review: Chinese Morning (Dragons Schooled #3) by Emily Carrington

Friday, March 3:

  • Blog Tour: Ardulum: The First Don by J.S. Fields
  • Blog Tour Fallen Angel by Eden Winters
  • DSP GUEST POST: BG Thomas on The Real Thing
  • A Lila Review: Jumping In (ALPHAS #6) by Cardeno C.
  • A Melanie Release Day Review: The Sparky by Marek Moran
  • A Paul B Review: Webb (Demon Elite 9) by April Kelley
  • An Alisa Release Day Review: Why I Love Waiters by TA Chase

Saturday, March 4:

  • Release Blitz – Nell Iris’ Unconditionally
  • Release Day Blitz: Guns n’ Boys: Bloodbath by K.A. Merikan
  • A Stella Review: Beneath the Stars by Lynn Charles
  • A MelanieM Review: Love Tokens by Megan Derr

black-market-blood-by-francis-gideonthe-sparky-by-marek-moranjumping-in-by-cardeno-cwhy-i-love-waiters-by-ta-chase-dsplove-tokens-by-megan-derrbeneath-the-stars-by-lynn-charlescredo-demon-elite-8-by-april-kelleyghost-sanctuary-9-by-rj-scott

Join Us for the Release Day Blitz for Justin’s Season by S. M. Sawyer (excerpt)

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Title:  Justin’s Season

Author: S. M. Sawyer

Publisher: Ninestar Press

Release Date: August 6, 2016 (print), February 29, 2016 (e-book)

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 101,300 words

Genre: New Adult, historical fiction, redemption, destiny, acceptance, sports, coming out, interconnected, small town, flashback, AIDS

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Synopsis

The year is 1988, and Justin Davis, a former nationally recruited football prep star, awakens from twelve years of masking his shame with drugs and alcohol to find he has been returned to his former self through what can only be described as a miracle.
Triggered by the confirmation of his closely guarded sexual orientation, his fall from grace of over a decade before sets the stage for his redemption. The fulfillment of his destiny is prompted by Providence and the serendipitous deeds of those who are a part of his new life, as their intertwined lives are likewise impacted. Though his rapid evolvement and acceptance of his homosexuality is countered by setbacks, Justin perseveres and eventually triumphs as fate, he believes, has led him back to the sports arena to recapture past glories.
In a stunning finale, however, he learns his destiny is not what he had envisioned. His calling has been thrust upon him by circumstances beyond his control. Can Justin embrace it and become the man he was always meant to be?

Excerpt

A sliver of light from the early morning sun came through an exposed slit of the basement window blind, creeping its way against the wall until it came to rest upon Justin’s eyes. He lay sleeping in a jumbled mass of musty blankets on an old steel-framed bed. After a few moments of the sun’s focused rays beckoning him to awaken, he flinched and turned his head away, and then rolled onto his left side toward a dark corner in a vain attempt to deny the day’s arrival.

For Justin, it had been another long night, and the reminder of a new day came with a reluctant anticipation akin to that of a prisoner serving a life sentence without a chance for parole. He lay there motionless, holding the sheets close to his chin as he gazed upon an iconic black-and-white poster of James Dean. The actor walked down a puddled street with a cigarette between his lips, hands in his coat pockets, and his collar turned up to keep the cold and drizzle at bay. Marching down the Boulevard of Broken Dreams and into immortality.

Though it had been hanging on the wall for fifteen years, Justin, enjoying a rare and lucid moment of circumspection, studied the poster in silence as if he were looking at it for the first time. You did it right, Mr. Dean, he thought. You died early…frozen in time. Leaving everyone wanting more. Never having to answer for life’s failings.

The unwelcome light from the sun continued to fill the room, exposing the remnants of Justin’s life before the troubles. Dusty citations, press clippings, photographs, scholarship offer letters, and trophies from his high school years. Collected over a decade before, they now served as the remaining threads that connected to past glories.

This is what happens, isn’t it? You peak early and get a little cocky that you’re in control, and instead of leaving on top, you live long enough to mutate into some bad apple that people use to warn their kids. “Don’t get too full of yourself or you’ll turn out like Justin Davis.” That’s right…I’m not remembered for what I was and what I should have been. It’s easier for voyeurs to whisper among themselves about the broken, washed-up, slow-motion train wreck I’ve become—how I let my charmed life slip away.

Justin sat up and swung his legs over as if getting out of bed, but stayed sitting there to give his head time to clear from another all-night bender and to gain a semblance of balance before stepping onto the cold cement floor. His still imposing six-foot-four-inch body, an inch taller than in his high school days, was out of shape and bloated. It served as a metaphor for everything else his life had become, contrary to the Greek god physique he’d had when he was seemingly in total charge of his life and circumstances.

His blond hair was long and greasy, and his face contorted by the miseries of daily self-flagellation through alcohol, drugs, and slovenly habits. His tongue felt thick and dry, and his eyes appeared as if seared on an iron skillet. He did his best to gather whatever strength remained to get up and to live what had become his own recurring Groundhog Day. He wanted water to quench his alcohol-induced thirst and to be bathed by a sympathetic and nonjudgmental geisha, washing away impurities and regret. But again he thought of sleep and of beckoning the dreams to reacquaint him with his previous life. He eased his head onto the pillow with hopes that sleep would allow him to wander back to his senior year in high school—to a time when he was admired by all and treated as the town’s favorite son.

Justin Davis was the class hero and the most likely to succeed. He had excelled at everything—sports, scholastics, popularity—and as the top quarterback recruit in the nation he received offers from scores of college football powerhouses representing the Big Ten and other major conferences. Why then, he continually asked himself, had he let his guard down—putting everything on the line and seeking confirmation from strangers?

Throughout his life he had felt that guardian angels were with him, but they’d abandoned him when he needed them most, so they could steward over someone more deserving…someone who wouldn’t risk all for a taste of what he had been brought up to consider the forbidden fruit. He couldn’t explain it, but life’s confusions made him feel that he no longer fit the role his angels had paved for him. That maybe he’d had a hand in sabotaging it before it went too far; a secret he kept hidden from himself and others with the aid of any mind-numbing substance he could get his hands on.

With his room in the basement of his brother’s home now bathed in full light, Justin drifted back to sleep, and from his sleep he could hear the marching band and cheers from the packed stadium as he led his team, charging onto the field through the gauntlet of cheerleaders. In reliving the moment, he managed a slight smile as his dreams took him back twelve years to the fall of 1976 and the sound of the PA system announcing the starting teams for the state of Ohio’s high school football championship game.

And as the dreams continued and the light of the sun streamed through the basement’s walk-out French door and remaining windows, Justin subconsciously felt a strange and unique sensation upon his dormant soul. The feeling of his angels returning to envelop his body like fresh snow on a blemished landscape—lovingly transforming his unkempt and damaged being. They had come to caress and heal his body and spirit, and renew his faith to trust what lay ahead.

Purchase

Ninestar Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes

Meet the Author

S. M. Sawyer is a retired military officer. He has also served as a defense contractor and as President for a nationally accredited charity whose mission is to recognize exceptional maritime rescues and assist voluntary search and rescue organizations worldwide. He lives in Virginia with his wife, Natalie. They have five grown children. Justin’s Season is his debut literary effort.

Find S.M. on Facebook or send him an eMail

 

 

 

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An Ali Audiobook Review: Murmuration by T.J. Klune and Kirt Graves (Narrator)

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Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
murmuration-audioIn the small mountain town of Amorea, it’s stretching toward autumn of 1954. The memories of a world at war are fading in the face of a prosperous future. Doors are left unlocked at night, and neighbors are always there to give each other a helping hand.

The people here know certain things as fact:

Amorea is the best little town there is.

The only good Commie is a dead Commie.

The Women’s Club of Amorea runs the town with an immaculately gloved fist.

And bookstore owner Mike Frazier loves that boy down at the diner, Sean Mellgard. Why they haven’t gotten their acts together is anybody’s guess. It may be the world’s longest courtship, but no one can deny the way they look at each other.

Slow and steady wins the race, or so they say.
Something’s happening in Amorea. And Mike will do whatever he can to keep the man he loves


But something’s wrong with Mike. He hears voices in his house late at night. There are shadows crawling along the walls, and great clouds of birds overhead that only he can see.
So this book is a trip. It’s impossible to discuss the plot without spoilers so I’m going to skip that. I will say that this book had me hooked from the beginning. At first I wasn’t sure what was going on. Then part way in I thought I had figured it out. I was wrong. Then I had a new theory and I was part way right. And then…….gah. (I could do this all day.) 

Here’s what you need to know. The writing was fantastic. It is some of TJ’s best work imo. I literally couldn’t put this down because I was dying to know what was going on. There are plot points that I really disliked. Plot points I’m not comfortable with. And yet……..I was captivated by this story.

There is a really unique romance. It’s so different than anything I’ve ever read before. It’s this sweet, pure, 1950’s courting type romance and I never would have thought that was my thing but apparently it is. (I still need my smut and won’t be running off to find these kind of romances in general but it really worked with the plot).

The end keeps you guessing. I mean right up to the very end. The very last paragraph or two. I was holding my breathe and while I knew I was intrigued I under estimated how emotionally invested I was because all of a sudden I had tears in my eyes. 

I did most of this on audio and the narrator, Kirt Graves, was excellent. One of the best I’ve listened to. I got about half way through on audio and then switched to reading because I was so impatient to find out what was going to happen. I then switched back to audio for the last few chapters. If you like audios I recommend doing this story that way. It was top notch and really added to the overall storytelling. 
Cover by Reese Dante: I love the cover.  I had seen the guy on the cover on some other books so I didn’t think much about it going into this story.  After reading it though, I have to say the cover is perfect for the story.  
Sales Links
 
Audiobook Details:
Audible Audio
Published January 16th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press LLC (first published October 28th 2016)
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Caryn Review: Unspoken by R.A. Padmos

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Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

unspoken-2I wanted to like this book so much.  Historical (yes!), set in the Netherlands (yes, yes!) during the  years prior to and during the second World War.  I expected a romance that would develop during a time of danger, sacrifice, and privation.  And I got – well, I’m not quite sure.

Stefan was a married man with 3 children, a caring wife, and a tremendous sense of pride responsibility for them.  In the interwar period in Europe, even in countries that had not been allies of Germany during WWI, there was too much unemployment, too much poverty, and too much hopelessness.  Stefan was a hard worker, and humiliated to find himself on the dole most of the time, punctuated by brief stints of working.  In his daily walk about the city to find work, he ran into Adri, an out of work painter, who was also in line to receive benefits.  Stefan had never been attracted to men in his life, but something about Adri just struck him, and the passion between the two of them was more than he’d ever had with his wife.

Adri always knew he was a homosexual, and had discovered those subtle ways to find other like minded men.  And though homosexual activity was not illegal – as it was in most of the rest of the world – it was still frowned upon and something to be kept hidden.  (The author was insistent upon repeating, frequently, that as long as the men involved were both over the age of 21 that sex between two men was legal.  Although Stefan and Adri did get arrested once, I wan’t quite clear on why that happened, but maybe public indecency?)  Adri was also drawn to Stefan from the beginning.  The men became friends first, then lovers, and eventually Adri was even adopted by Stefan’s family as a sort of honorary uncle.

The majority of the book takes place before the war starts, and was primarily an ongoing monologue in Stefan’s mind of what it meant that he and Adri were lovers.  He insisted to himself and Adri pretty much right up until the end of the book that he was not really a homosexual, and that effeminate men were worthy of ridicule and abuse.  He kept trying to walk away from Adri – resulting in his wife getting pregnant with a fourth child – but always ended up coming back to him.  He felt responsible to provide for his family, so he would not abandon them, even when he eventually realized that he loved Adri more than he loved his wife.  When the Germans occupied the country, he was even more sure that he needed to stay with them and provide food, shelter, and safety, but he still carried on with his affair with Adri.

I was never really sure where this book was going, whether it reached any particular goal, or even how to classify it.  It’s not a romance, not a memoir, certainly not an adventure.  To be honest, the closest I can come is saying that it was Brokeback Mountain set in prewar Holland – but I never connected to these characters.  To be honest, Stefan just irritated me – I wanted him to either accept that he was going to carry on an affair, or break up with his lover, or his wife (to be fair, I felt the same way about Ennis in Brokeback Mountain).  His ongoing denial of who and what he was just didn’t touch me at all.  In the end, it was just a long, meandering book with what seemed like endless angst without resolution from Stefan, that ended abruptly and unsatisfyingly.

I do not know this author, but I guess from the writing that English is not her first language.  I would believe that she was Dutch, or at least from some part of Europe, as she had excellent grasp of the culture and the history of life in occupied Europe, as well as the hidden culture of gay men of the period.

Cover art by Posh Gosh is absolutely beautiful, and the park bench is an important symbol in the book and really the perfect image to use.

Sales Links

Pride Publishing

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Book Details:

ebook, Revamp Edition
Published March 29th 2016 by Pride Publishing (first published May 1st 2012)
ISBN139781786513946
Edition LanguageEnglish

Tour and Giveaway: TWO NATURES by Jendi Reiter (exclusive excerpt)

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Title: Two Natures
Author: Jendi Reiter
Release Date: September 15th 2016
Genre: LGBT fiction, MM Romance

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Two Natures is the coming-of-age story of Julian Selkirk, a fashion photographer in New York City in the early 1990s. His faith in Jesus helped him survive his childhood in the Atlanta suburbs with an abusive alcoholic father, but the church’s condemnation of his sexual orientation has left him alienated and ashamed.

Yearning for new ideals to anchor him after his loss of faith, Julian seeks his identity through love affairs with three very different men: tough but childish Phil Shanahan, a personal trainer who takes a dangerous shortcut to success; enigmatic, cosmopolitan Richard Molineux, the fashion magazine editor who gives him his first big break; and Peter Edelman, an earnest left-wing activist with a secret life.

Amid the devastation of the AIDS epidemic and the racial tensions of New York politics, Julian learns to see beyond surface attractions and short-term desires, and to use his art to serve his community.

Goodreads

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | B&N | Saddle Road Press

**Kindle Price $0.99 from February 20th – March 17th ** (normally $9.99)

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Honors:
2016 Rainbow Awards: First Prize, Best Gay Contemporary General Fiction; First Runner-Up, Debut Gay Book
Named one of QSPirit’s Top LGBTQ Christian Books of 2016

TN Ch 8  Exclusive Excerpt for Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

“No repeats,” I told Phil. Again.

“What if there’s no one new around?”

Phil’s sulky tone, and the tickling of his fingers up my bare leg, distracted me in opposite ways from fixing us the sole breakfast dish in my repertoire, green tea and cheese grits, with a little something extra to chase away his hangover. “Try a different club. This is NewYork. They have more than one.”

“I don’t tell you what to do at your fancy-ass parties.”

“There are no parties. The only time I get down on my knees is to fix the wind machine.” Fourteen-hour days in the studio didn’t leave me much time to enjoy the no-strings-attached side of our relationship. Sure, I’d squeezed in a few gropes and groans in the back room of New Eden, jolts of furtive pleasure that left me dizzy with the momentary assurance that catching a boy like Phil hadn’t been just a fluke. Until I remembered that he could have the same adventures, and more, all day at the Ironman, training athletes who bench-pressed more than I weighed, while I was hauling tripods on the subway.

“So…no repeats, right?” I breathed out in a rush, before his hand between my legs could sidetrack the conversation. My arm jostled the pot on the stove, spattering the dingy wall.

“Okay, okay,” he murmured into my neck. His breath was hot, like cigarette embers. Phil was like that, rough words at cross-purposes with his body language. I was happier when I only believed half of it.

“And no bringing them back here.” I pressed my advantage, and my hip into his groin.

“You paying rent?”

“I will be, next month, I promise. But that’s not the point. I thought maybe, out of the goodness of your heart, you would spare me the sight of somebody else’s pubes on my soap when I shower in the morning.”

“Come on, maybe you’d like one of them. Probably take him away from me ’cause you’re so gorgeous.”

You’re all I want, I nearly said, but smiled and settled for the compliment, rather than admit something I wasn’t sure was true. Two months into living with Phil, and more than a year since our first hookup, I was working up the nerve to clarify our open relationship, and gaining a begrudging appreciation for its opposite. Marriage has the advantage of simplicity, like government forfeiture of your assets. Over here: you get the last name, the bankbook, the steering wheel, the 60-hour workweek, and the drunken tumble with your wife’s best friend. And you: here’s the kids, the white dress, the dinner table, the paid-up mortgage, and the moral high ground. As for me, right now the good life looked like a mattress in the basement with only two pairs of sneakers by the door, but this was proving more complicated than ordering a McDonald’s Happy Meal without the fries.

I was in my final semester at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and interning as an unpaid assistant to the photographer Dane Langley. More like assistant to the assistants; while Pierre accompanied Dane to Paris and Vince lunched with ad agency reps, I fixed lighting equipment and shopped for organic baby food. Everyone at school said I was lucky to have landed a spot with Langley, who had done album covers for Paula Abdul and Gloria Estefan, and had an ad contract with Revlon. Last week his girlfriend had dropped by with their new baby, which they left with me, sans backup diaper, while they went to lunch at Lutèce. The baby’s name was Taylor, which didn’t give me a clue to its gender. I figured, since the girlfriend was Swedish, it might respond to Abba, and indeed, it fell asleep for a full twenty-five minutes after I sang “Dancing Queen” four-and-a-half times.

Between these glamorous assignments and my job pouring three-dollar coffees at The Big Cup, I was barely at school anymore except to pick up my mail. Phil had resisted my switching my address to his apartment, claiming that his sublet wasn’t, technically speaking, totally legal. On the bright side, this spared me from telling my parents that I was living with him.

Having a male roommate wasn’t suspicious in itself, but combined with a career in fashion, and the fact that Phil and I could quote long stretches of dialogue from “The Prince of Tides,” my mother might be forced to recognize that her sensitive boy was experimenting with the homosexual lifestyle. Then would come the weekly letters, suddenly seeded with references to girls I hadn’t thought about since junior high, who had all grown up to be God-fearing, bosomy

A-students and were miraculously still single. Last week in Dane’s studio I had seen Allure cover model Cheryl Kingston’s rose-tipped breasts, pale and translucent as porcelain teacups. I was replacing the roll of seamless paper for the backdrop, and she ignored me, as was her right. Dane was all honey to her, a come-to-Papa smile on his swarthy bearded face. She didn’t have to worry about being touched, not like your average Tatiana or Mary Lou, as Dane guided them into

poses for some designer’s spring catalog, his hand steering this one’s waist, unbuttoning that one’s sweater. The Swedish girlfriend was half his age. They seemed very happy, but that was probably because her mother knew where to send her mail.

I was sorting through the latest stack of bills and credit card offers on our bed one morning while Phil fed me strawberries. He could be very sweet. Just when I’d gotten used to his blue-collar tough-guy routine, he’d surprise me with little things like washing my back in the shower, or reading to me from one of the books he read to make up for not going to college. As pillow talk, I ranked the I Ching above Atlas Shrugged but below Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder. But it’s the thought that counts. Without Phil, I might have forgotten that there were publications without pictures in them.

Leaning back against Phil’s warm bare stomach, I tossed my junk mail on the floor without looking through it. He ran juice-stained fingers through my hair. Sometimes I was so happy that a place like this existed, where I could be with a guy, naked and alone. He understood what it meant, too, a privilege that was all ours, no matter how many hours we spent running other people’s errands.

“Wait, that looks like a real letter,” he said, picking an envelope out of the discard pile.

I recognized my mother’s square ivory-tinted stationery. “See, I told you I’d be able to pay the rent.”

After depositing two fifties in the coffee tin on the windowsill (I never worried about our communal accounting; Phil had too much pride to be a sponger), I skimmed the closely written pages. “Huh, my sister’s looking at colleges in — whoa!” I caught my breath and my vision blurred for a moment. My jerky hands hunted around for the envelope. “What’s the postmark on this letter?”

Phil found the cast-off envelope under our rumpled blanket. “Last Monday. Why?”

“You see, this is what happens because I don’t get my mail here,” I snapped at him.

“Man, we’ve been through this. What is your problem?”

I reread the paragraph that had raised my heart rate faster than a triple espresso. “They’re coming.”

“Who? Where? Careful, your elbow’s in the bowl.” Phil rescued the strawberries in time to spare me from washing the sheets twice this month.

“My family. Here. Next week.”

###

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About the Author

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Jendi Reiter’s books are guided by her belief that people take precedence over ideologies. In exploring themes of queer family life, spiritual integration, and healing from adverse childhood experiences, her goal is to create understanding that leads to social change. Two Natures is her first novel; a sequel is in the works. Her four published poetry books include Bullies in Love (Little Red Tree, 2015) and the award-winning chapbook Barbie at 50 (Cervena Barva Press, 2010). She is the co-founder and editor of WinningWriters.com, an online resource site for creative writers.

Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter

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A MelanieM Release Day Review: Blossom of the Samurai (Sword and Silk Trilogy #3) by Sedonia Guillone

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

blossom-of-the-samurai-sword-and-silk-trilogy-3-by-sedonia-guilloneThe samurai’s only true master is his heart….

For seven years while training for his life as a samurai, Toho Morimasa has been away from Aoki, the beautiful actor who helped him to heal from the trauma of his parents’ brutal murders. Now, nightmares that Aoki is in trouble plague Toho’s sleep, and he makes the journey back from Edo to Kai, no longer wanting to be away from Aoki’s side. Once there, Toho meets the very real source of his nightmares and vows to honor and protect Aoki. When his beloved Aoki is brutally assaulted, will Aoki survive long enough to understand that the love Toho has for him is the love he too has been craving his whole life but doesn’t feel he deserves?

A Timeless Dreams title: While reaction to same-sex relationships throughout time and across cultures has not always been positive, these stories celebrate M/M love in a manner that may address, minimize, or ignore historical stigma.

Blossom of the Samurai ties up the stories of the three couples that make up the Sword and the Silk Trilogy by Sedonia Guillone and its such a lovely finish to this trilogy.

I’ve been reading her Samurai stories for years and started on this path with Flying Fish back in 2009 (it was rereleased by Dreamspinner Press in 2016).  Sedonia Guillone’s tales are gentle tales that move at a pace unusual for most stories, their narrative almost oriental in their flow and language at times.  Gentle and yet visited by the violence of the times, all the characters endure hardship to find their other half.  One samurai, the other an actor/courtesan, except in the second story which acts as a bridge to the first and third.

In Flying Fish, (a name for a traveling actor) its Genji Sakura and masterless samurai, the ronin Daisuke Minamoto, in Blind Love (Sword and Silk Trilogy #2) the couple is Hirata Morimasa and Anma Sho, leading to the final story with their foster son, Toho Morimasa and Aoki, the actor in Blossom of the Samurai.  All three couples (or 5/6ths of them make important appearances here).  It brings all their stories full circle, giving the reader further insight into Toho’s tale from Blind Love, and retribution for Hirata and Sho.

I’m hard-pressed to describe Guillone’s style of writing.  Soft, yet it has its share of sword  fights.  Flowery but able to recognize the harshness of life as it occurs to the  characters here.  And pain does come with a  swiftness that’s breathtaking even though we’ve been expecting it.  I love her layered characters and the way in which we are able to feel their deep connections to each other with a minimal amount of words as well as the inclusion of Japanese words and settings in an easy, informal manner.  It brings this era alive for the reader in a way I love.

However, I wish there was more to this story.  I wanted to know more about Toho and what was going to happen with Aoki and their life together.  I wanted more length, more of them.  It ended too soon.  At 112 pages (although that’s this author’s style too), that short length was not enough to bring this gorgeous tale to the fullness it deserved.  That’s my only qualm here.

If you love ancient Japan, and lovers in search of their soul mates, pick up Sedonia Guillone’s  Sword and Silk Trilogy.  I loved all the stories, ending with   Blossom of the Samurai.

Cover art by Reese Dante is lovely but not exactly spot on for all the characters.

Sales Links

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Book Details:

ebook, 112 pages
Expected publication: February 15th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634775449 (ISBN13: 9781634775441)
Edition Language English