Artists and Book Covers Spotlight: Meredith Russell. This Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

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Artists and Book Covers Spotlight: Meredith Russell

If you’ve read a book by RJ Scott or V.L. Locey to name two authors quickly off the top of my head, well, then you’ve seen the covers of Meredith Russell.  If you read some or all of the stories  in The Christmas Angel series by various authors, then you’ve seen the covers of Meredith Russell.  And of course, if you’ve read Forever In The Sun (co authored with RJ Scott) or Fallout,  you’ve seen a cover created by the artist for a book she’s written.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plus if you are a follower of either RJ Scott or VL Locey or the MM Hockey Romance Group, then you are familiar with the adorable chibis that Meredith Russell draws of the characters of the Harrisburg Railers hockey players and their mates and families.  I’m hoping she will extend it to the Rush soon.  Here is the first chibi she drew.  It’s Tennant Rowe! The others can be found here at

Railers Chibi-style promo pieces

Adorable, right?  If you are a fan of the Harrisburg Railers series by RJ Scott and VL Locey, then you know Ten is featured in a very special story that’s to be released this summer, June 30th 2019.  Here’s a look at the cover by Meredith Russell, of course|
Now onto our interview….

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interviews Meredith Russell on Art, Book Covers and Much More

  • How long it takes to put together a cover draft and whether or not they make multiple drafts to show authors/publishers?

Making a draft varies author to author for me. Some come with ideas, or a set style they’ve adopted, or images they’ve found themselves and so we go down one route and a single draft, and it’s a rather painless process. Then others need to see something to help decide what they actually are after from a cover. I’ve never really paid a lot of attention to exactly how long I spend on a draft. There are various stages I go through – getting any info or ideas from the author, looking at what images are available and which might work together, some back and forth with the author as to whether images fit with what they’re after, and finally the cutting/pasting/making etc of the draft. The time adds up but usually after a few days I have something to show them and a starting point to tweak into something final.

  • How much of your covers are original art and how much do you rely on using content purchased elsewhere (like Shutterstock

I work pretty much exclusively with images from stock sites so I am limited in some ways to what I can find on them and how I can maybe manipulate them into what we need. However, I would love to venture into digital art but I haven’t found the time to devote myself to figuring it out or getting the resources I’d need. I’ve had fun creating some simple drawings for RJ Scott, and a couple of others, who have had me turn their characters into little cartoon people though.

  • How much input comes from the author and/or storyline?

Again it varies. Some authors have a set idea of what they want. Some (naming no names lol) come to me requesting a man with brown hair and give me a couple of details about the story’s setting. I do like to know about the storyline or at least key moments or places that can be incorporated into the cover.

  • How did you get to become a cover artist?

What feels like a long time ago now, I used to do bits of fan art, mostly fanfiction banners for myself and some other writers. When RJ Scott went on to self-publishing she asked me to create her a cover and it went from there.

What mediums do you use? 

I work on a pc. I do have a pen and tablet that I use for drawing the cartoon characters (see above), but also a lot of those do actually start out as pencil and paper sketches that I then digitize and use as a guide.

Do you have a favorite cover you have done? 

Oh that’s a tough one. I recently did a set of seven covers for a series called The Christmas Angel. I liked how they turned out along with the challenge some of them offered considering they were all set in different time periods. A few others I really like include Liam Livings’ And Then That Happened, RJ Scott’s Boy Banned, KC Wells’ A Christmas Promise, and an as yet untitled merman cover I created as a premade that Amber Kell bought off me. Somebody should poke her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have a favorite cover artist yourself?

I do. I really love Jay Aheer’s work. She does some beautiful pieces.

Did you look at book covers or were influenced by book covers as a child?

I don’t think so much as a child. I was more about the title and blurb, particularly considering what was popular in way of covers back then, or at least for the kinds of books I was reading. It wasn’t until maybe early twenties where I started being tempted by pretty covers, quite a few being the YA type books, or having a striking female model on them.

What do you find most rewarding as a Book Cover Artist?

I just really enjoy getting to work with the authors. I enjoy the sharing of emails, building a working relationship and even friendships.

If you could ask yourself a question, what would it be?

It would be, ‘Have you remembered about that request you got over on Facebook?’ Seriously, I have a terrible memory and am constantly emailing myself or telling people to send details in emails as my inbox is something I have open all day whilst on my computer and can easily check on my phone when I’m not at my desk.

From the Christmas Angel series…

For both the Author and Cover Artist:

  • What or how do you see the role of the Book Cover?

Firstly, as an attention grabber. If you’re looking for something beyond the regular authors you read, the title and cover are the first things you’re exposed to so it helps if they make an impression. And secondly, covers can be a way of making a brand for authors. It might be they all have a set look – so maybe a single model on the cover, or simply keeping the font for their name consistent for all their books.

  • How has the eBook format changed that , if any?

I don’t think it’s changed it too greatly, in that whether you’re walking a row of books in a store or scrolling through online pages of somewhere like Amazon, covers are there to grab your attention.

  • What trends do you see in Book Covers in the industry? Past, present, and future?  {for example the rise of the naked half male torso, model overuse, generic covers ,etc.)

I think like with everything styles come in and out of fashion. There was the time of the headless models, shirtless torsos, two models, touched up single image covers,  Recently, for me at least, it’s been focusing on a single model on covers, for example The Christmas Angel series and having just one of the characters on there. And unfortunately, because cost is a factor for many authors when paying for cover art, repeated use of models from stock sites is difficult to avoid, but it offers artists the challenge to try and use them differently.

  • How do you feel about them?

Personally, I think the only trend I didn’t like was the headless men one. I know it was a way to make use of limited models in the earlier days, plus allows readers to form their own image of the character simply from whatever descriptions the authors wrote about them, but for me, I just wasn’t a fan. Otherwise, each trend has its place and does its job. There’s a risk of all books looking the same, but that’s then up to the artists, and also the authors and their input, to put their own twist on what’s popular.

  • Anything you would like to share with our readers?

If you’re interested in my work both as an author and cover artist you can view details at my website meredithrussell.co.uk, or find me over at Facebook https://www.facebook.com/meredithrussellauthor. Thank you.

 

About Meredith

Meredith Russell lives in the heart of England. An avid fan of many story genres, she enjoys nothing less than a happy ending. She believes in heroes and romance and strives to reflect this in her writing. Sharing her imagination and passion for stories and characters is a dream Meredith is excited to turn into reality.

Meredith Russell’s Media links
I hope everyone enjoyed this week’s spotlight with Meredith Russell.  It has been a joy getting to know her further.  Please check out more of her artwork and stories at her website listed above.
We have more Artist Spotlights Scheduled. The schedule to date (with links in case you missed one):
February 09:  Aisha Akeju
February 10:   Garrett Leigh
February 17:   Meredith Russell
February 24:  Reese Dante
March  3           Paul Richmond

Cover Artist Giveaway:

Please don’t forget to leave comments or questions for our artists to be entered into our Book Cover Artist Giveaway, a Gift Certificate for $10 the person chosen.  Please leave a email address where you can be reached.  Open until St. Patrick’s Day.
Now for this week’s reviews and tours.  Happy Reading and Listening!

This Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Sunday, February 17:

  • Artists and Book Covers Spotlight: Meredith Russell.
  • This Week At Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
  • A MelanieM Review: Hat Trick (Harrisburg Railers #8) by R.J. Scott and V.L. Locey

Monday, February 18:

  • Release Blitz Milo by Lily Morton
  • Amy Lane Author Guest Post
  • Harmony Ink YA John Goode
  • An Alisa Review: Port in a Storm (Kitten and Witch #1) by K.L. Noone
  • A MelanieM Review: Wolff (Redemption #1) by J.J. Harper
  • A Lucy Review: Shine (Uncorked #4) by Shea Balik
  • A Free Dreamer Review: For the Clan by Archer Kay Leah

Tuesday, February 19:

  • Book Blitz for Blood Lust by L.E. Royal
  • Cover Reveal – Broken by Colette Davison
  • An Alisa Release Day Review: Diplomatic Relations (The Sci-Regency Series #4) by J.L. Langley
  • A MelanieM Release Day Review: Ithani (The Oberon Cycle #3) by J. Scott Coatsworth
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Release Day Review: My Fair Brady by K.C. Wells
  • A Lucy Audio Review: Rocking the Cowboy by Skylar M. Catesj and  Colin Darcy (Narrator)

Wednesday, February 20:

  • Ostakis by Angelica Primm
  • Review Tour – Sam Burns – Eagle In The Hawthorn (Rowan
  • Cover Reveal,- The Rising by Morgan Brice
  • A MelanieM Release Day Review: Diplomatic Relations (The Sci-Regency Series #4) by J.L. Langley
  • A Lucy Review: Sweet (Uncorked #5) by Shea Balik
  • A Free Dreamer Review:  Eagle In The Hawthorn (Rowan Harbor Cycle #8) by Sam Burns
  • A Chaos Moondrawn Review: No Fae is an Island (Endangered Fae #4) by Angel Martinez

Thursday, February 21:

  • BLOG TOUR Salute to the Stud by Beth Laycock
  • An ALisa Review: The Romantic by Elodie Parkes
  • A MelanieM Review: Gage (Redemption #2) by J.J. Harper
  • A Lila Review The Mercenaries of the Stolen Moon by Megan Derr
  • A Free Dreamer Review: Foreign to You by Jeremy Martin

Friday, February 22:

  • OLD SINS by Charlie Cochrane Tour by Charlie Cochrane
  • Release Blitz – Jay Northcote – Better Place (Rainbow Place #3)
  • DSP PROMO Andrew Grey on Reunited
  • Book Blast – Apple Boy (The Quiet Work #1) by Isobel Starling
  • An Alisa Review: Ace of Hearts by Caitlin Ricci
  • A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Broken Alpha (The Alpha/Omega Verse #1) by D.C. Juris
  • A Caryn Review: Salute to the Stud by Beth Laycock

Saturday, February 23:

  • Release Blitz Signal – Kris Jacen – Step Up With Me
  • “Ithani” by J. Scott Coatsworth Mark (OWL) Tour
  • A MelanieM Review:  Step Up With Me by Kris Jacen
  • A MelanieM Review Waiting on the Rain by Freddy MacKay

An Alisa Review: Hidden Hearts (Bad Valentine #3) by Clare London

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Rating:  4 stars out of 5

Accident-prone Ethan has a dating history that reads like a disaster movie script. Strong and silent Kel can’t seem to master the necessary small-talk on a proper date. When they both get signed up anonymously for a Valentines’s night event—”for those with an adventurous spirit but an open diary”—they never imagined they’d be matched. They never imagined the romantic sparks would fly. To be honest, they never imagined they’d survive the week.

A catalogue of disasters dogs the footsteps of their blossoming romance, including a coffee date with food allergies as an added extra, an intimate dinner that strays too close for comfort to chopped chillies, and a sensual massage with hot wax candles that threatens to alert the local fire brigade.

But if they can hold tight to their sweet, surprising, yet single-minded attraction – they might just survive this Valentine’s Day with something very special to look forward to.

Oh gosh, I loved this story.  Ethan isn’t who Kel would have usually gone for but they connected immediately on their blind date.  Kel is everything Ethan has dreamed about but never thought he could have.

I liked how this was a bit opposites attract but they connected so beautifully.  I loved how Kel didn’t even blink at Ethan’s clumsiness and wouldn’t let it scare him away.  And the best part an epilogue, it always wraps a story up nicely to me.

The cover art by Jordan Castillo Price is cute and I love the visual of Ethan.

Sales Link: Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 68 pages

Publication: February 1, 2019

Edition Language: English

Series: Bad Valentine #3

Release Blitz and Giveaway for My Anti-Valentine Collection by DJ Jamison

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Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UKExclusive to Amazon and Available to Borrow with Kindle Unlimited
 
Cover Design: Garrett Leigh @ Black Jazz Design
 
Blurb
 

My Anti-Valentine: Jaded by relationships gone wrong, Bret throws an anti-Valentine’s Day party to celebrate being single and burn his ex-boyfriends’ belongings. Bret’s low interest in sex has destroyed every relationship he’s had and tarnished his view of romance, but a cute blond guy at the party who says all the wrong things inspires him to hope for more.


My Anti-Boyfriend: Brad has everyone fooled. He’s the casual, sexy friend. The fun-time guy who sleeps around. Except not really. There’s one man who holds his heart: his best friend — with benefits — Riley. Too bad Riley has no interest in a relationship, and as far as Brad can tell, never will. But once Brad acknowledges his feelings for Riley, he can’t continue to ignore them. Riley’s days of having his cake and eating it too are over. Then again, maybe Brad is tasty enough to keep a man satisfied.


My Anti-Marriage: Love has never been a good bet for Chris, so going on a Vegas wedding trip for his friends is bittersweet. Especially when Ant, the last man to break his trust, is suddenly along for the ride. Which explains why Chris wakes up in his hotel room with the mother of all hangovers. Not so much why Ant is in his bed … or worse, wearing a matching wedding band.

 

EXCERPT FROM MY ANTI-VALENTINE


Bret pointed an accusing finger. “No couples! This is anti-Valentine’s Day. You can take your cards and your candies and your flowers and go to one of the bajillion places celebrating loooove tonight.”


“Ew, no,” Darla said with a laugh. “Harry is my cousin, not my boyfriend. I wouldn’t break your rules, anti-love guru!”


Bret did love the name Harry, mostly when applied to a boy wizard with a lightning bolt scar on his forehead. He gave Harry another onceover, noticing his sky-blue eyes and perfect cheekbones. Nope. Still didn’t like him, especially the frown that was twisting his features.


“Someone must have done a number on you,” he said.


Bret bristled. “Why do you say that?”


“I mean, to be this bitter about Valentine’s Day? It’s hard to imagine you really hate the commercialism of the holiday that much. I bet if you had a girlfriend it would be a different story.”


Bret rolled his eyes. “It really wouldn’t. Romance is a manufactured concept, you realize that, right? You might love someone, but if you do, you should appreciate them every day, not once a year with the most predictable gifts ever. That’s without even getting into the origins of Valentine’s and how very un-romantic it actually is.”


Darla grabbed a drink from the counter and swatted Bret’s butt playfully. “I’m going to leave you boys to it. If you get over your romance phobia, Harry’s on the market, and he hasn’t landed a nice guy in ages, so he’s pretty much a sure thing.”


“Darla!” Harry shouted after her, his cheeks turning bright red. “What the hell? Jesus, that’s not how I usually …”


“What?” Bret asked, feeling uncomfortable.


He’d thought he was engaging in friendly debate with a straight guy, only to discover he’d been bantering with someone cute, available, and gay. And that wasn’t at all the point of this party.


“Um, you know. Tell people I’m gay, or that I’m available. I definitely try not to go the ‘I’m so desperate I’ll take anyone route,’ but Darla seems to have taken care of that for me.”


He cracked a smile. It was crooked, a smidge embarrassed, and way too charming for Bret’s well-being.


“I’m not interested,” Bret said stiffly. “This is an anti—”


“I know!” Harry said, holding up his hands. “I’m not actually desperate.”


Bret stopped short, frowning. Was Harry implying he’d have to be desperate to like Bret? Ouch. He wasn’t Abercrombie and Fitch material like Harry, but he didn’t think he was that bad.


“That came out wrong,” Harry rushed to say. “You’re cute in that nerdy hipster way.”


“Unbelievable,” Bret muttered under his breath.


“I mean it,” Harry said, misunderstanding the reason for Bret’s shutdown. “I would totally do you.”


Bret avoided his gaze. “Thanks, but no thanks.”


He made a quick exit from the kitchen, more than ready to get the real party started now that everyone had arrived.


“Hey, who wants to burn some shit?” he called out, grinning when a round of cheers went up.


EXCERPT FROM MY ANTI-BOYFRIEND


Brad had everyone fooled.


He wore his sexuality like a disguise. The short shorts, making his ass look fine and flashing perfectly tanned skin 12 months a year? The mesh shirts, the halter tops, the extra-tight T-shirts that showed his lithe form and nipple rings? Yeah. It was all the equivalent of his bat ears, cape and tights.


Well, tights worked for every disguise. But that wasn’t the point, he reminded himself. It’s just that tights can be so distracting, and Brad — like a playful kitten — could be easily distracted by shiny objects or balls of … well, not yarn. More like balls of Riley.


Too bad he couldn’t fool himself.


Brad watched Riley grinding on another slender guy with platinum blond hair and sultry lips on the dance floor of Club Ozone. A guy who wasn’t him. And his heart panged.


Fucking panged.


He threw back another shot to drown that feeling ASAP and flashed a grin at the two guys at the table with him.


He’d come out with his regular circle of friends. For the past few years, he’d met up with Riley, Chris and Harry for a few drinks before they each went out to pick up a man. Then Harry met Bret, his boyfriend of a little more than a year now, and he gave up their regular nights out.


Tonight, he and his boyfriend were both there, having been guilted to attend, so Brad had to put on a cheerful face. Just one more element of his disguise.


“You guys ready to get your dance on?”


Harry looked at Bret, and his boyfriend shrugged. Bret was a real cutie, and he could crack up a whole room at a board game night or house party, but put him around a bunch of sweaty, half-naked men and he went quiet.


“Maybe in a few,” Harry said with a smile.


He leaned in and kissed Bret’s cheek. Gag. Who needed that kind of affection, right?


Pang.
Brad jumped up. “Okay, party poopers. Catch you on the other side!”


He stormed onto the dance floor, ready to burn away his sudden onset of melancholy. A good adrenaline rush and an erection rubbing against his ass would take care of him in short order. After all, why should he care that Riley was sexing up his next conquest on the dance floor? That’s what he did. That’s what they both did.


They agreed years ago that hearts and flowers were not for them. They were friends, wingmen and occasional fuck buddies.


But that was all.


EXCERPT FROM MY ANTI-MARRIAGE


“We’ll take off the rings. Problem solved.”


“No, problem not solved. We’re still married.” Chris’s breathing sped up. “We have to undo it!”


Ant guided him to the bed and pushed him down on the edge. Squeezing his shoulders, he met Chris’s eye.


“Come on now. Maybe this isn’t what it looks like.”


Chris laughed harshly. “I know that line is like your bread and butter as a player, but it’s always what it fucking looks like. Why the fuck else would we be wearing wedding rings?”


“I don’t know,” Ant growled.


“Do you remember last night?”


“Some,” he said grudgingly. “I remember hitting every casino we passed on the strip and taking a few shots at each one. You were hell-bent on checking out wedding venues for Brad and Riley. Maybe we took that too far, huh?” Ant smiled wryly. “What about you?”


“Not much after you found me at the fountain,” Chris admitted. “You were playing the responsible sober guy card with me, trying to get me to go to dinner. So, how the hell did we end up here?”


“My guess? You were totally unreasonable,” Ant said.


Chris huffed. “Sure, it’s my fault. I made you follow me around like a muscled-up bodyguard.”


Ant rolled his eyes. They were getting off-track. “So, we both have a few memory gaps,” he said, massively understating the issue. “I’m sure I’ll remember eventually. Or you will.”


Chris sighed. “What now? Everyone’s waiting on us downstairs.”


Ant shook his head. “Brunch first. Try to act normal. No one has to know. Divorce can wait for dessert.”


“Annulment,” Chris corrected. “Annulment makes it like it never happened, right? I want that one.”

 

Author Bio


DJ Jamison is the author of more than a dozen m/m romances, including the Ashe Sentinel series and the Hearts and Health series. She writes a variety of queer characters, from gay to bisexual to asexual, with a focus on telling love stories that are more about common ground than lust at first sight. DJ grew up in the Midwest in a working-class family, and those influences can be found in her writing through characters coping with real-life problems: money troubles, workplace drama, family conflicts and, of course, falling in love. DJ spent more than a decade in the newspaper industry before chasing her first dream to write fiction. She spent a lifetime reading before that, and continues to avidly devour her fellow authors’ books each night. She lives in Kansas with her husband, two sons, two fish and, regrettably, one snake.

 

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An Alisa Review: Home is Where The Heart Is (Isle of Misfit Toys) by Pelaam

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

On the Island of Misfits, Artie waits. As a teddy bear toy, no one wanted him, and he yearns for love and his forever home. When finally taken back to the human world, Artie doesn’t find a child waiting to claim him. Instead he has a life he never dreamed of and a niece to care for as Christmas fast approaches.

He’s given an opportunity for love but only has until Christmas. If he fails, he’ll lose not only the memories of his past life, but the chance to be united with his soul mate.

In a magical antique shop, Artie finds the man of his dreams. With time running out can Artie not just have his own happy ever after but save the shop from the owner’s unscrupulous nephew.

This was a cute story.  I thought the idea of these were interesting, the toys have both a human and a toy body that they can in either at any time but not shifting just seemingly shifting consciousness.

I felt for Artie and how lonely he felt but loved how willingly he took the reins of the new life he is given.  Cody is so adorable sweet and it is wonderful that he had Jeremy to support him and that Artie came to help him too.  Chrissy was also so adorable, even though she wasn’t around that long.  I enjoyed this story but didn’t feel a lot of depth in it, it felt like a nice fluffy story which was perfect for me right now.

The cover art by Kris Jacen is nice and liked the visual of the characters and the all so important Christmas tree.

Sales Links: MLR Books | Amazon | B&N

Book Details:

ebook, 21,000 pages

Published: November 9, 2018 by MLR Books

ISBN: 978-1-6412-21924

Edition Language: English

Series: Isle of Misfit Toys

Poll Results, Posts, and This Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

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Poll Results, Future Posts, and  How We Look At Covers

I loved looking at our poll results from last Sunday.  It turns out that most of our readers like short LGBT stories and find the ones they are reading pretty enjoyable.  Also gleaned from the polls? Most of the books are purchased from Amazon first, then the publishers, then a third source, which is probably not a surprise to anyone as that juggernaut  continues to plow on with major consequences for all, not just the book world.  Only time it seems will be able to stop Amazon.  All others will have to adjust.

Audiobooks?  A surprise!  I really thought our numbers would reflect the industry’s here.  But for our readers only 50 percent listen to audiobooks, 43 percent don’t, and the rest don’t but can’t tell you why.  Huh.  According to the  industry many more are listening to books these days than actually  reading them.  A figure I   also find surprising.  Maybe the real answer lies somewhere in between.  Another assumption of mine?  That more readers actually followed narrators but that turned out not to be true.  They listened to books no matter who narrated them.  Now I’m sure people actually do look for certain narrators. I certainly do.  But it doesn’t stop them from listening to stories with other narrators, including narrators they may be unfamiliar with.  Which is great news for new narrators and all companies who produce audiobooks.

Then it comes down to book covers. Do they still matter?  The answer is a resounding yes!  A majority of our readers, 72 percent, say covers matter.  Which might surprise some in this age of the eBook but it shouldn’t because those covers are heavily featured too.  In tours, ads, and yes, on the books themselves on publishers sites and Amazon.  People still choose books by their covers (29 percent) but no one said they don’t look at them.  Everyone looks at them and has a judgement about them.  Do you love them?  Do they make you go meh?  Do you glance over them or is your attention grabbed immediately?  Are you transported to another world or into a story?   Did the artist do their job?  And what is their job?

And do you, my readers, sense a post coming on? lol

Why yes, you do!

You see, I have been passionate about covers all my reading life, since the first cover caught my attention and made me want to pick it up and ask “what’s this about?”  I’ve been asking that question ever since no matter the  genre.  Great artists continue to pull me in.  I even have an oil  painting on my wall that was once the cover of a book.  It’s gorgeous.  I can look at certain covers and at a glance know that it was done by Garrett Leigh or Paul Richmond, Simone’ or Anne Cain.  There’s a style , a tone that shouts that artist’s name.  The same goes for Reese Dante.  A Reece Notley cover?  Yep.  Aisha Akeju is another who’s artist is quirky and different.  Just look at that artist’s covers for Mell Eight’s series.

When I think of new or newer artists that stand out, Natasha Snow jumps to mind.  Her covers are  extremely popular and well done. Meredith Russell and Kris Jacen too.

I love it when I see a gorgeous cover that has been carefully crafted so that its not only dramatic but that it tells a story, as it should.  Covers have a job to do.  And many are forgetting that these days.

If I had a Skittle for every cover that had nothing to do with the story within, that seemed generic, that had a half naked male torso on it and left it at that, etc, I would have a gallon full.

Boy, I struggled to find great covers this year.  First time ever.

So here we go.

 

And if you could ask a cover artist any question, what would it be?  Send them in and be entered in our Ask A Cover Artist Giveaway!  Ends in 2 weeks.

And I have also give you all three covers for the amazing novel,  The Left Hand of Darkness (Hainish Cycle #4) by Ursula K. Le Guin.  My version was that first one.  Each was a different edition with, of course, a different cover.  What do you think of them and which do you prefer?  And why?  And how many of you have read this story?  Curious on my part…..

 

This Week At Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Sunday, January 20:

  • Poll Results, Posts, and This Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
  • Freebie Blitz for Shane and Trey (Enemies to Lovers #1) by Anyta Sunday

Monday, January 21:

  • Cover Reveal  – Rat Park by Marina Vivancos
  • Release Day Blitz Rough Terrain (Out of Uniform #7) by Annabeth Albert
  • BLITZ Unlocking the Doctor’s Heart by Liam Livings
  •  PROMO R.L. Merrill
  • An Alisa Review: Elemental Magick (The Donovan Coven #1) by Jacki James
  • A Stella Review: How Not to Blend (Lovestrong #1) by Susan Hawke
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review Out in the Offense by Lane Hayes

Tuesday, January 22:

  • Review Tour – V.L. Locey – One-On-One (Cayuga Cougars #5)
  • BLITZ Contact by M.D. Neu
  • Tour for Abaddon’s Locusts (A BJ Vinson Mystery #5) by Don Travis
  • An Ashlez Release Day Review: The Princess of Baker Street by Mia Kerick
  • An Alisa Review: At Home (Finding Home #1) by Carly Marie
  • An Ashlez Review: I Wished For You by Colette Davison
  • A MelanieM Review: One-On-One (Cayuga Cougars #5) by  V.L. Locey

Wednesday, January 23:

  • In the Spotlight Tour and Giveaway:If I Ever by SE Jakes
  • BLITZ Half Life by Gregory L. Norris
  • Blog Tour Rough Terrain (Out of Uniform #7) by Annabeth Albert
  •  PROMO Claudia Mayrant
  • An Alisa Review: Home is Where The Heart Is (Isle of Misfit Toys) by Pelaam
  • A Lucy Review: Pisces Floors Taurus (Signs of Love #4.5) by Anyta Sunday
  • A MelanieM Review: Sins of the Son (Arcadia Trust, #3) by Christian Baines

Thursday, January 24:

  • Release Blitz – I Wished For You by Colette Davison
  • BLITZ The Fairy Pond by Jason Black
  •  PROMO A. Nybo
  • A Lucy Review:  Love Around the Corner (New Milton #1.5) by Sally Malcolm
  • An Alisa Review : There’s Something about Flying by Schuyler L’Roux
  • A MelanieM Review: At War with a Broken Heart by Dahlia Donovan

Friday, January 25:

  • Ward Maia on Beneath These Fields
  • Blog Tour Stay by KM Neuhold
  • Blog Tour for A World Apart by Mel Gough
  • An Alisa Review Gargoyle’s Embrace (Polar Nights #3) by Siryn Sueng
  • A Stella Review: Living on the Inside by Londra Laine
  • A MelanieM Release Day Review: Beneath These Fields ( World of Love) by Ward Maia
  • A Jeri Review: Shane and Trey (Enemies to Lovers #1) by Anyta Sunday

Saturday, January 26:

  • Release Blitz – Jessie Pinkham – Acts Of Service
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review – See the Light by Kate McMurray

A MelanieM Review: Away in a Manger by JC Owens

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

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

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

Everything they have is suddenly on the brink of disaster.

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

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

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

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

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

Sales Links:  MLR Press | Amazon

Book Details:

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

 

Final Lists of 2018 and This Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

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Happy 2019! Here Are Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Final Best of 2018 Lists!

Here are the  last of our lists for 2018, in many categories and divided out as each reviewer saw fit.  So many books read and listened too.  It’s been an amazing year.  It was tough to narrow down lists as always.  Gone from mine was the cozies.  I love my cozy mysteries and that category will probably come back next year.

Many of the books that came out went to other reviewers here, speeding past me and they have now landed on my huge TBR list.  I see many on our reviewers Best of 2018 that I also haven’t gotten to yet, having my own huge set of stories to read this year.

Isn’t it lovely to have these stories to look forward to?

And new one to come in 2019!

So one last look all the book that rose above the many we read and loved this year to end up on our Best of 2018 this year, along with the covers, Best of Audiobooks as well.  Check them all out below:

 

From Stella:

Here are my Best of 2018

 
Tomte by Jamie Fessenden
 
 
BEST SERIES
 
Go On Your Own Way by Zane Riley

Sawyer’s Ferry by Cate Ashwood

North Star Trilogy by Posy Roberts
Butterfly Hunter by Julie Bozza 

From Lucy

I am the first to admit I am so stingy with my five star reviews.  I like many books, I love quite a few but for me the five stars are the ones that I want to read over and over, that stick with me long after I’ve finished them and the ones that make me sad I’m finished because I don’t want to leave them.  For 2018, some of the ones I loved weren’t released in 2018 (or just the audio was released this year) but I read them this year.  So in random order, my five star reads for this year…

From the Ashes by CM Valencourt – While my list is in no particular order, this is the exception.  This was my absolute favorite book of 2018 and may end up being one of my favorite books of all times.  I gave it five stars, rare enough for me, but I would have given it more if possible.  Justin is the most amazing character and I cried, laughed, cried more and just had so much respect and love for that selfless man. 

A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss – A sweet children’s book about embracing your differences and not being a stink bug.  I have this one on audio as well and John Lithgow and Jim Parsons make it absolutely perfect.  I thought it was funny that I bought the book and then had four different people give me copies as gifts!

My Crunchy Life Mia Kerick I am a fan of Mia Kerick’s young adult books and this one was amazing. The ending of this was so perfect, sweet and YA and lovely. This coming of age story isn’t incredibly angsty, despite some very serious themes, but it’s a story of growth and I thought it was just right.  It was so spot on with the confusion and angst that can be the teen years.

Exorcising the Exes Jill Wexler  Loved it. I can’t even do justice to how amazing Tanner is, and once he meets Dan things just get so much better.  It makes me smile every time I read it.  The insane goose posse, the taco binge, the hashtags, the everything!

Bump Matthew Metzger I read a couple by Matthew Metzger this year and I was hard pressed to decide if I liked Bump or Erik the Pink more, but ultimately went with Bump.  As a trans man who just want to be seen as a man, this was such a struggle for David and it was perfectly encapsulated in this book. David’s gender dysphoria was handled realistically and the emotions are so strong.  Even more interesting for me was that David didn’t give birth and immediately become super parent.  I loved that because it is a fact that not everyone has that Hallelujah, bonding and perfection moment immediately. 

Promises by Ruby Moone  Ruby Moone is a favorite of mine for historicals. I loved this one even more than usual because our characters, Sebastian and Charles, are realistic and likeable but also because the secret that Sebastian is hiding from everyone is not only being attracted to men, shameful and dangerous in that time period, but something else that isn’t understood.  I ust loved it.

Suicide Watch Kelley York  So bittersweet, it was sad and hopeful. Best of all, it was true to the feelings of Vincent, Casper and Adam.  This definitely wasn’t a sweet and fluffy read (my usual) but these characters were so real and made me smile and cry.

Phoenix Goes to School: A Story to Support Transgender and Gender Diverse Children – Michelle Finch and Phoenix Finch  The book was written by Michelle and Phoenix Finch, a real life seven year old transgender girl who was assigned male at birth. At the end of the book there are comprehension questions and some open-ended critical thinking questions that as a teacher I appreciated. Possibly even better, there is an informational section at the end for grownups. 
I loved the story of Phoenix going to school but more importantly, I hope that transgendered and gender diverse children will read this and know they are not alone, they are perfect just the way they are.

AUDIO FAVORITES

Tell Me It’s Real and Until You by TJ Klune  – These are my go-to re-reads when I’m having a lousy week.  I know I’m late to the party, as I just read them this year when I bought the audio.  I can’t believe it took me so long.  If I were to get to be any character I’ve read, I’d be Paul Auster!

Audio: A Family for Christmas Another one that was introduced to me via audio.  The car ride to work is so much improved with these books.  I loved Rudy and my heart went out to Zac. This is a sweet story of a man afraid to let anyone in and a family who refuses to keep anyone out. 

Favorite cover because it perfectly captured the feel of the book: 

 

From Lila:

As of today, I have read 234 books of my goal of 144. Just like last year, I don’t have one favorite book for the year. Some have been great, others not so much, but I can’t say one was the best of them all. Therefore, I’m using the same format as last year to tell you more about the books I enjoyed. I’m really looking forward to that perfect book though. I hope to share it with you all next year.

Looking back on my shelves,

The Best of 2018 (according to me) are:

·         Best Cover – Art House (Buchanan House #6) by Charley Descoteaux. Cover by L.C. Chase

·         January – Felix and the Prince (Forever Wilde #2) by Lucy Lennox

·         February – Off the Beaten Path by Cari Z. [Audiobook]

·         March – Fake Out (Fake Boyfriend #1) by Eden Finley

·         April – Beneath This Mask (Enhanced #3) by Victoria Sue [Audiobook]

·         May – Object of Desire by Dal Maclean

·         June – Logan’s Need (The Escort #3) by Sloane Kennedy

·         July – Unexpected (The Protectors #10) by Sloane Kennedy

·         August – Creature (Bureau #3) by Kim Fielding [Audiobook]: John is now my favorite MM character of all time.

·         September – A Gentleman’s Position (Society of Gentlemen #3) by K.J. Charles [Audiobook]

·         October – Dirty Desire (Dread and Terrible #1) by Avril Ashton

·         November – Bond (Forbidden Desires #2) by Piper Scott & Virginia Kelly

·         December – Home in Austin (Lone Star Brothers #4) by Susi Hawke

 

Free Dreamer’s Best of 2018

2018 was a great reading year. I read 80 books, just like planned, which is 14 books and about 2000 pages more than in 2017. I have finally decided that normal literature just isn’t for me, especially if it’s supposed to be Meaningful and make you Think. Maybe I’m just too immature. But I’ve also discovered that there are some very interesting non-fiction books out there. None of them quite made it to my list, but it’s definitely a genre I’ll keep pursuing.

While I only review LGBT+ fiction for Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words, my reading habits are far more varied and my “Best of” list just wouldn’t be complete without them. Those books mostly contain little to no romance, since I’m not much of a romance reader anyway.

An honorable mention should go to the “Taking Shield” series by Anna Butler. I read the first three books in quick succession and really enjoyed them. But they just didn’t quite make it to “Best of”.

I hope 2019 will be another good reading year, for me and all the other readers out there. Happy New Year!

LGBT+:

  • Showers, Flowers and Fangs” by Aiden Wayne (adorable YA fantasy)
  • Salt Magic, Skin Magic” by Lee Welch (fascinating historical fantasy)
  • Bones and Bourbon” by Dorian Graves (what a wild ride; brilliant fantasy)
  • Amberlough” and “Armistice” by Lara Elena Donnelly (very surprising espionage thrillers set in an AU 1940s)
  • The Seeds of Dissolution” by William C. Tracey (very unique magic system)
  • Another Day” by David Levithan (loved part one and finally read the great sequel)

Non-LGBT:

  • Arcanum Unbounded” by Brandon Sanderson (collection of novellas and short stories set in the Cosmere, Sanderson’s main universe; great for hardcore fans like me)
  • Empire of Sand” by Tasha Suri (Fantasy set in a desert world, inspired by the Indian/Arabian culture)
  • Snapshot” by Brandon Sanderson (Novella; Mind fuck like woah)
  • Verwunschen” by Mara Lang (New Adult Fantasy set in a modern fairy tale world, dark as hell; Sadly only available in German)
  • Not Quite Narwhal” by Jessie Sima (super adorable picture book)“The Doldrums and the Helmsley Curse” by Nicholas Gannon (children’s fiction with gorgeous illustrations, reminded me of classical adventure stories)

 

MelanieM Best of 2018

Best Science Fiction, Fantasy, and  Paranormal/Supernatural for 2018

The Calling by MD Neu

Bones and Bourbon by Dorian Graves

Stone the Crows (Wolf Winter #2)by T.A. Moore

Green Death by Madeleine Ribbon

Sweet Clematis (Being(s) in Love #9) by R. Cooper

The Rising Tide (Liminal Skies #2) by J.Scott Coatsworth

And God Belched by Rob Rosen

Apocalypse Alley (Blue Unicorn #2)by Don Allmon

Lander (The Oberon Cycle, #2 by J. Scott Coatsworth

Best Historical Novels of 2018

I will admit this category is owned almost entirely this year by Marshall Thornton

and two series of his:  Pinx Video Mystery and Boystown (all of the novels were reviewed this years and were 5 stars)

Hidden Treasures (A Pinx Video Mystery #2) by Marshall Thornton

Late Fees by Marshall Thornton

The Stars May Rise and Fall by Estella Mirai (recent historical retelling of the Phantom of the Opera)

Best of 2018 ~ Contemporary Novel

Forged in Flood by Dahlia Donovan

Stand By Your Manny (The Mannies #3) by Amy Lane

The Eye of Ra (Repeating History #1) by Dakota Chase

Mammoth! (Repeating History #3) by Dakota Chas

The Evolution of Jeremy Warsh by Jess Moore (coming out, coming of age)

Wait For Me by Kris Jacen

Learn with Me (With Me #3) by Kris Jacen

Loving A Warrior by Melanie Hansen

Homebird by Amy Lane

One Thousand Cranes (The Yakuza Path #3) by Amy Tasukada

The Deafening Silence (The Yakuza Path #4) by Amy Tasukada

Best Series of 2018

Blue Unicorn Trilogy by Don Allmon

Offbeat Crimes Series by Angel Martinez

The Yakuza Path by Amy Tasukada

Liminal Sky Series by J. Scott Coatsworth

Boystown series by Marshall Thornton

This Time Forever Series by Kelly Jensen

Faith, Love & Devotion by Tere Michaels (series finale 2018)

 

Best Audiobook of 2018

Crocus (Bonfires #2) by Amy Lane and Nick J. Russo (Narrator)

When Everything is Blue by Laura Lascarso and Michael Mola (Narrator)

Spun! by JL Merrow and Mark Steadman (Narrator)

The Lion and the Crow by Eli Easton and Scott Richard Ehredt (Narrator)

Best Covers of 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Yakuza Path series by Amy Tasukada, artist Natasha Snow

Blue Unicorn #2 and #3 by Don Allmon, artist Simone’

Mary, Queen of Scotch by Rob Rosen, Cover art: Written Ink Design

Homebird by Amy Lane, Artist: Reese Dante

The Rising Tide by J. Scott Coatsworth

Wish Upon The Stars by T.J. Klune, Artist Paul Richmond

Special Mention for 2018

 

It would have to go to Ethan Day who left us all too soon and his wonderful series, Summit City,  who had a new release in 2018 that gave his beloved characters the wedding and his readers a ending we had long wanted.  That would be the third and now last story Life In Union.

 

This Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Sunday, January 6:

  • Final Lists of 2018 and This Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Monday, January 7:

  • BLITZ Tea by Matthew J. Metzger
  • PROMO Marguerite Labbe
  • E.J. Russell on Devouring Flame
  • A Lucy Review The Replacement Husband by Eliot Grayson
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audio Review:The Soldati Prince (Soldati Hearts #1) by Charlie Cochet and Manuel Pombo (Narrator)

Tuesday, January 8:

  • PROMO Robert P. Rowe
  • BLITZ My Fake Canadian Wife by M. Hollis
  • An Alisa Release Day Review: Unfamiliar Waters by Andrew Grey
  • A Caryn Release Day Review: Devouring Flame by EJ Russell
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review:Something Like Forever (Something Like #10) by Jay Bell

Wednesday, January 9:

  • Release Blitz – The Choice (The Faction, book 2) by Addison Albright
  • Release Blitz Is It Over Yet – LA Witt
  • BLITZ There’s Something about Flying by Schuyler L’Roux
  • A MelanieM Review: Valhalla by L.A. Ashton
  • Review: The Choice (The Faction, book 2) by Addison Albright

Thursday, January 10:

  • PROMO Elizabeth Noble
  • Tour for Out in the Offense by Lane Hayes
  • An Alisa Review: Ta Weezo’s Blues by Layla Dorine
  • A MelanieM Review:  You Forever Always by KA Merikan

Friday, January 11:

  • PROMO Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton
  • An Ashez Review: Elias by  Erin E Keller
  • A Melanie Release Day Review:  Don’t Fear the (Not Really) Grim Reaper by Carole Cummings
  • A LIla Review: Not on My Bucket List by Tom Munroe
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audio Review:The Alpha Heir (Kingdom of Askara #2) by Victoria Sue and Joel Leslie (Narrator)

Saturday, January 12:

A MelanieM Review: Prince of Air and Darkness by M.A. Grant

 

An Alisa Review: Best Christmas Ever by Terry O’Reilly

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Bowing to his parents’ homophobic demands, Professor Henry Rodimacher always chose Christmas with his family over spending it with his partner. However, when Jeremy became terminally ill, Henry defied his family and stayed home for Jeremy’s final Christmas.

After Jeremy passes, Henry decides it’s time to mend fences, so despite a raging snowstorm, he starts the long drive home. Before he gets very far, though, he’s alarmed to see a hitchhiker out in the weather, Henry offers the man a ride, and is surprised the hitchhiker is Jimmy Wilks, a former student of his.

The heavy snow eventually forces Henry and Jimmy to leave the highway and take refuge in an abandoned log cabin. As the two hunker down to wait out the storm, they give into their mutual attraction and celebrate a wonderful Christmas together.

Can their newfound love survive once the snow thaws? Will history repeat itself with Henry going back home alone, or will the magic of their best Christmas ever live on into the New Year and beyond?

I really liked the bulk of this story.  It starts with Henry being very shy and uncertain of himself because of his past relationship and family.  Jeremy seems to know what he wants but isn’t quite ready to say it out loud.

I liked how they interacted once they were on the same page and really did have a great little Christmas together, though everything just worked out great from their feelings to the owner of the cabin being fine with everything, not very realistic.  Most of this is told from Henry’s point of view so I feel a little more connected to him and was very glad for him to realize his parents’ restrictions are too much for them to ask.  There was a big flash of doubt for Terry near the end which didn’t seem like him but it was quickly resolved.

The cover art by Written Ink Designs is a nice picture for the story.

Sales Links: JMS Books | Amazon | B&N

Book Details:

ebook, 68 pages

Published: December 15, 2018 by JMS Books

ISBN: 9781634868334

Edition Language: English

An Alisa Review : Midnight Angel by Kevin Klehr

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Dinner is overcooked. The guests haven’t arrived.

Luke is sitting alone at his dining table on New Year’s Eve. He was hoping to romance Nathan, one of the people he invited for this intimate evening meal.

As midnight draws closer, it seems an angel, who has magically appeared in Luke’s apartment, is the only person to drink champagne and watch the fireworks with.

But this angel has other ideas. He’s about to grant Luke the New Year’s Eve party he thought he wanted.

 

This was a different story and it’s so short I’m afraid to give everything away.  I understood the point of what the angel did but didn’t like the execution and mostly just felt for Luke as he was being blindsided.

 

In the end we get to see Luke find the love he wants just not in the way he had originally hoped.  Unfortunately I didn’t feel a big connection to any of the characters but felt as if I was watching from the sidelines.

I like the cover art by Natasha Snow is cute and one of the standard for holiday shorts this year.

Sales Links: Nine Star Press | Amazon | B&N

Book Details:

ebook, 10,500 words

Published: December 10, 2018 by Nine Star Press

ISBN: 978-1-949909-61-6

Edition Language: English

A MelanieM Review: Finders Keepers: Hot Flash by Rob Rosen

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Dan and Steve, two ships passing in the night, so to speak, find each other and a lucky penny before heading into a private airline-club room. Their encounter is brief yet intense, the attraction off the charts, but the lay, like the layover they’re both on, is all too short for either of their liking.

Fate, plus a little bit of luck, brought them together, but will they ever dock at the same port again?

Note: This short story was originally published in the charity collection, Love Is Proud.

Finders Keepers is a very short story by Rob Rosen that’s center’s around a brief but memorable meeting over a lucky penny, a quick hookup in an airport frequent flyer lounge and a connection that continues to strengthen without further ties.  It begs the question almost about love at first lust and the truth about lucky pennies.

All in 11 pages.

Normally I do a bit of eye rolling over stories like these but Rob Rosen brings in his usual charm to the narrative, lovely characters, and yes, lots of sex.  There’s no instant love but a more believable HFN which I really enjoyed.

In short, Finders Keepers: Hot Flash by Rob Rosen is a sweet, hot short romance for the holidays.  One I recommend.

Cover art shows a half naked hot guy.  Ok but says nothing about the story or characters which I always consider a fail for covers.

Sales Links:  JMS Books LLC | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 11 pages
Published December 1st 2018 by JMS Books LLC (first published July 30th 2016)
ASINB07KNJHGSX
Edition LanguageEnglish