Claudia Mayrant on Writing, Characters, and her new release Place Setting (States of Love) 

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Place Setting (States of Love) by Claudia Mayrant

Dreamspinner Press

Cover Artist: Brooke Albrecht

Purchase links:

Dreamspinner: https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/place-setting-by-claudiamayrant-10094-b

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Place-Setting-States-ClaudiaMayrant-ebook/dp/B07MHSLTYM

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with Claudia Mayrant

How much of yourself goes into a character?

Every character I write has at least a little something of me in them. What that thing is or how much there is varies.  Sometimes it’s something in their background, sometimes a hobby or an interest, and sometimes it’s in the way they approach a relationship with a person or persons they care about.  In Place Setting, both Gray and Cameron come from a place very familiar to me and I can see their hometown of Summer Corners clearly in my head because it’s very much based on some towns back home. My love of cooking comes through in Gray’s profession as a chef, but I also wrote Gray as coming to his profession after life through him curveball — his childhood dream wasn’t going to happen so he made a new dream and struck out on a new path which is something I’ve worked through myself.

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

Even if I wrote someone exactly like me in personality, appearance and background, I’d make an excuse to do research, because I love it so much (yes, I was one of those children who occasionally read the family’s World Book Encyclopedia for fun).  So, it doesn’t influence what genre I choose as I am going to find a way to do it anyway but I always look forward to it because no matter what I’m writing it gives me a more complete picture and makes the world of the book more real and solid in my mind.

I enjoy making up worlds and cultures but always have the reference books (and websites) close at hand when I do.

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

Yes, though I go through phases where I’m reading a lot of them and then hardly any at all; it’s always been that way for me, like I’m devouring a buffet and then take ample time to digest.  In these phases I’m also almost always sticking to one category. My first romance book love where the teen contemporaries that filled mass-market spinners at the local mall bookstore.  After that, I admit I started sneaking my mom’s racy historicals full of petticoats and pirates. After college, it was back to contemporary but usually it was a mystery or fantasy and lately I’ve been into regencies.  I couldn’t possibly pick a favorite kind, and I’d like to explore writing some of each.

What’s next for you as an author? Have you ever put a story away, thinking it just didn’t work?  Then years/months/whatever later inspiration struck and you loved it?

I’m treating this as one question and answering out of order, to boot! Yes, I have put something away, a story with two characters that I love and I think, have some sweet and sizzling chemistry but something about their relationship journey together just wasn’t jelling like it should. That was a couple of years ago and since finishing Place Setting, I’ve come back to it and there’s a clearer path – so that is what’s next, getting these two fellas through their story to their happy end

 

With so much going on in the world today, do you write to explain?  To get away?  To move past?  To widen our knowledge?  Why do you write?

I write to give myself- and hopefully my readers – an interlude away from real-life concerns and responsibilities for a little while.  I don’t think escapism and entertainment is mutually exclusive with explanation or education but as a storyteller, I’d say I’m most consciously trying to do the former though not at the expense of the latter.  I’ve found that experiencing hope, joy, and laughter often help make a fertile ground for a growing mind, so sharing those is something I strive to do with my writing.

 

 

Blurb

Cameron Dunlop has lived in the Lowcountry town of Summer Corners, South Carolina, his whole life. He loves his home, but his little town in the Deep South doesn’t offer much in the way of dating options.

Chef Gray Callahan has enjoyed success in the kitchen, but his last relationship sunk like a bad soufflé. When plans for his sister’s wedding go awry, it provides the perfect excuse to pack up and go home, where he can help out as he decides how to start his life over.

Gray’s path crosses Cameron’s, and he realizes together they might have all the ingredients to save the day—with maybe enough left over for something sweet just for the two of them.

States of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the United States.

About the Author 

Claudia Mayrant has been exploring the world around her since she was old enough to get around under her own power. Since then, she’s enjoyed visiting as many places as she can.

For all her love of travel, she’s most relaxed back in the South on a Gulf Coast beach with good friends, refreshing beverages, and plenty of sunscreen.

Author twitter: @ClaudiaMayrant

Author Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/claudiamayrant/

An Alisa Release Day Review: Place Setting (States of Love) by Claudia Mayrant

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Rating:  4 stars out of 5

Cameron Dunlop has lived in the Lowcountry town of Summer Corners, South Carolina, his whole life. He loves his home, but his little town in the Deep South doesn’t offer much in the way of dating options.

Chef Gray Callahan has enjoyed success in the kitchen, but his last relationship sunk like a bad soufflé. When plans for his sister’s wedding go awry, it provides the perfect excuse to pack up and go home, where he can help out as he decides how to start his life over.

Gray’s path crosses Cameron’s, and he realizes together they might have all the ingredients to save the day—with maybe enough left over for something sweet just for the two of them.

Such a sweet story.  Cam and Gray meet when Gray moves back to his hometown and they have an instant connection along with Cam helping Gray to find a place for and put on his sister’s wedding.

I really liked both of these characters.  Both of them are romantics at heart and are looking for love but haven’t found the right person yet, Cam can’t seem to find someone who will stick past one night and Gray has recently been burned by his previous partner.  The story didn’t get to in depth about their relationship but it was easy to see their connection and that they seem to have a great future together.

The cover art by Brooke Albrecht is absolutely perfect for this story.

Sales Links: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | B&N

Book Details:

ebook, 70 pages

Published: January 18, 2019 by Dreamspinner Press

ISBN-13: 978-1-64080-972-7

Edition Language: English

Series: A States of Love Story

Kaje Harper on the State of Minnesota and her new release Fair Isn’t Life (author guest blog)

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Fair Isn’t Life by Kaje Harper
Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Brooke Albrecht

Sales Links: 

Dreamspinner Press | Amazon  |  Amazon UK  | Barnes & Noble  | Kobo  | iBooks 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to hose Kaje Harper today on tour for her new release Fair Isn’t Life, a Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Highly Recommended story.  Welcome, Kaje.

 

So you think you know Minnesota… by Kaje Harper

When I decided to submit a Minnesota story for Dreamspinner Press’s series on The States of Love, I didn’t know what I wanted to include. The series includes one romance from each of the fifty US states, intended to give readers a flavor of the region, something unique to where it’s set. There’d been some excellent ones – check out Sarah Black’s War Paint (Georgia) for a recent favorite.

I decided I wasn’t going to start my story in the ice and chill of a Minnesota winter. That’s what a lot of people think about when they hear “Minnesota” and there’s no denying we have stellar winters. Or awful ones, depending on your point of view. We’ve had three feet of snow on Halloween, and frigid lows every winter hit -20 °F at some point. The record low temp in 1996 was -60 °F in the little town of Tower, MN. 

Temperance River is a State Park on the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota

I love the beauty of Minnesota winters, other than having to shovel that snow. But part of the goal here was to show people things they didn’t already know about the state, or to present things they did know in new ways. So I decided I’d start in the warmth— or lately, more often hot-th— of a Minnesota summer. And with that decided, it was only natural to start at the Minnesota State Fair.

We have one of the largest fairs in the country. In fact, in 2018 Minnesota came in second only to Texas for the number of visitors to the Fair, with 2 million people passing through our gates. Set in the heart of the Twin Cities, on a permanent fairgrounds, it’s an interesting mix of the urban and the rural.

Old traditions like crowning a Dairy Princess— Princess Kay of the Milky Way— and then having an artist sculpt a large bust of her out of butter, linger from the 1960s, 1950s, and earlier. The cattle judging and baked goods and biggest pumpkin contest hark back to the days when Minnesota was a largely rural state, heavy in corn and dairy, hogs and beans, turkeys and sugar beets. 

These days, the Fair also has displays of multicultural foods and music, educational booths, plastic souvenirs of all kinds, and huge concerts in the bandstand. The University of Minnesota’s Miracle of Birth center shows the facts of barnyard babies to a million people who’ve never touched a cow. The hulking agricultural tractors and balers that lined Machinery Hill have mostly given way to lawn tractors and snow blowers, with the occasional reaper still standing over them.

The Fair seemed like the ideal place to showcase the dichotomy between old Minnesota and new. Like many other states, we have a progressive urban population and a more conservative outstate one. My two main characters also came to represent some aspects of that, even though they both grew up in the same town an hour out of the Cities.

Luke is a dairy farmer through and through, still in love with a way of life that’s becoming hard to maintain. Mason is flamboyant and loves make-up and folk-metal concerts. And yet they cross those lines— Mason still loving his home town, Luke as a gay man not always comfortable in the church and rural-traditions world where he grew up.

Minnesota has a mixed legacy on LGBTQ rights, too. We were the first state to vote “NO” rather than yes on a one-man-one-woman constitutional amendment, but the vote was very close. We legalized equal marriage before the historic SCOTUS decision, but there are many fundamentalists who were deeply unhappy about that. I have a friend who runs a Gay-Straight Alliance in an outstate school, and those kids have had to fight for their rights. The school board changed rules on them, specifically to make things harder. They get backlash on every Spirit Day and Day of Silence effort.

While Fair Isn’t Life isn’t specifically about homophobia, it definitely affects the story. One of the things I like to write about is the varied shades of homophobia—  the fact that there is a lot of space between the cruel name-calling bully or Bible-waving hater, and complete support. A substantial portion of Minnesotans live in that in-between, not rainbow rights advocates, but not haters. They are part of the landscape.

At Pride last year, I had a guy tell me that things are changing slowly for him. When he married his husband (unofficially) fifteen years ago, his dad didn’t come to the wedding and wouldn’t let his spouse into the house, although he kept in touch. Years of partial estrangement led to softening, and they were asked to visit, but to not kiss under his dad’s roof. Now his dad is fine with them together at home, but very uncomfortable with PDAs if they are out to a meal together.

Partial acceptance is better than none, and it gives hope for change. But it can really hurt. In this story, Luke’s dad did his best, for the way he was raised, but that didn’t keep Luke’s heart from aching. We have a wonderful, gay-friendly Twin Cities, but we still have a distance to go.

(3) Minnesota also has a fun side. I didn’t put in some of the great MN stuff I considered. For example, in the Walker Art Center’s Sculpture Garden, the iconic “Spoon Bridge With Cherry” sculpture (yes, a giant cherry) is now joined by a huge blue cock (not that kind, folks. A giant blue rooster.)

 

Sadly, I couldn’t find a good spot in my story for a giant cock and cherry…

Hopefully, people will enjoy what I did get into my story, both about the state I’ve come to  call home, and about two young men with challenges who find happiness in each other.

-Kaje Harper

Nov 2018

 

Fair Isn’t Life – blurb:

Luke Lafontaine survived the past year by not thinking about the father he lost, the dairy farm he couldn’t save from bankruptcy, or his way of life that vanished with the rap of an auctioneer’s hammer. Cleaning up city folks’ trash at the Minnesota State Fair is just another dead-end job. But at the Fair, surrounded by a celebration of farm life, ambitions he’d given up on and buried deep start to revive. And seeing Mason Bell in the parade—gorgeous, gay, out-of-his-league Mason—stirs other buried dreams.

Mason left his hometown for college in Minneapolis without looking back. Student life is fun, classes are great, gay guys are easy to find, but it’s all a bit superficial. He’s at the State Fair parade route with his band when he realizes a scruffy maintenance worker is Luke, his secret high school crush. Luke should be safely home working on his dad’s farm, not picking up litter. Mason wishes he hadn’t fallen out of touch. He’s an optimist, though, and it’s never too late for second chances. Now he just has to convince Luke.

 

 About Author Kaje Harper 

I get asked about my name a lot. It’s not something exotic, though. “Kaje” is pronounced just like “cage” – it’s an old nickname. I’ve been writing far longer than I care to admit (*whispers – forty years*), mostly for my own entertainment, usually M/M romance (with added mystery, fantasy, historical, SciFi…) I also have Young Adult short stories (some released under the pen name Kira Harp.)

It was my husband who finally convinced me that after all the years of writing just for fun, I really should submit something, somewhere. My first professionally published book, Life Lessons, came out from MLR Press in May 2011. I now have a good-sized backlist in ebooks and print, both free and professionally published, including Amazon bestseller The Rebuilding Year and Rainbow Award Best Mystery-Thriller Tracefinder: Contact. A complete list with links can be found on my website “Books” page at https://kajeharper.wordpress.com/books/.

I’m always pleased to have readers find me online at:

Website: https://kajeharper.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KajeHarper

Goodreads Author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4769304.Kaje_Harper

Photo credits

#1 – depositphotos – https://depositphotos.com/  – standard license

#2 – depositphotos – https://depositphotos.com/  – standard license

#3 and #4 – personal photos, Kaje Harper, 11/01/2018 (content is artwork – not for commercial use.)

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Fair Isn’t Life by Kaje Harper

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

 

Luke Lafontaine survived the past year by not thinking about the father he lost, the dairy farm he couldn’t save from bankruptcy, or his way of life that vanished with the rap of an auctioneer’s hammer. Cleaning up city folks’ trash at the Minnesota State Fair is just another dead-end job. But at the Fair, surrounded by a celebration of farm life, ambitions he’d given up on and buried deep start to revive. And seeing Mason Bell in the parade—gorgeous, gay, out-of-his-league Mason—stirs other buried dreams.

Mason left his hometown for college in Minneapolis without looking back. Student life is fun, classes are great, gay guys are easy to find, but it’s all a bit superficial. He’s at the State Fair parade route with his band when he realizes a scruffy maintenance worker is Luke, his secret high school crush. Luke should be safely home working on his dad’s farm, not picking up litter. Mason wishes he hadn’t fallen out of touch. He’s an optimist, though, and it’s never too late for second chances. Now he just has to convince Luke.

I wasn’t entirely prepared for portions of this story. And I should have been by the description and the author’s talent for conveying pain and loss.  Still…

I live in a county that used to be almost entirely agricultural, horse farms, sweeping forests, orchards and fields of corn and grain.  Now mostly mini mansions or townhomes/condos as far as you can see depending on where you live in the county.  That you had a choice of a farm on your license plate was highly ironic given how fast the farms were being sold and plowed under.  But what we weren’t seeing was the emotional cost on the other end.  Kaje Harper puts a face to that loss. And it’s devastating.

That Kaje Harper now delivers in heart wrenching detail.  If for no other reason to buy this book, it’s for the portrait of what the loss of a legacy, a family, a person’s foundation does to one young man.  It will hit you in the gut.  And we don’t even go through the worst of it with him.  That’s already been done.  By the time we meet Luke Lafontaine, he’s survived the loss of his dad to cancer, the sale of his family house and farm, including livestock he himself  raised, to auction, and been homeless.  No, now he’s through that, but just barely.

But all through this story, how that has all impacted Luke, in small ways and large, will return.  And it will be shattering.  It will also be a reminder that it’s happening to kids and families all over the nation with  little media coverage.  It will make you weep for Luke, for all those he represents, and for the farmers that  no one seems to be speaking for anymore.  Remember Farm Aid anyone?  Kaje Harper gets this so incredibly, harshly right.  We feel the pain, as we should, of the struggle to  stay afloat in this economy.  And how fragile the bar is on keeping the farm or losing it.

Anyhow.  Combine Luke with a young man named Mason, eyeliner, clarinet, college going Mason (I love Mason) and you have such a wonderful endearing romance and relationship.  The dynamics between them was sweet and supportive. It went both ways  as Mason was used to guys being embarrassed by his love of lip gloss and liner. It felt so real, painfully so as they worked their way towards a future together.

I will remember this book for quite a while.  I’ll remember the trials and the joys that Luke went through, his “Anne” (no spoilers, but ‘sniffles”), and the fact that a Christmas story for me sometimes has a title called Fair Isn’t Life by Kaje Harper.  Really, I just loved this book.  I think you will too.  I highly recommend it.

Cover Artist: Brooke Albrecht.  I really like this cover, right down to the dairy cows.  Great job.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 148 pages
Expected publication: November 16th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 139781640808942
Edition Language English

Blog Post and Giveaway for Sarah Hadley Brook’s Gateway To Love

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Adulting

Hi! So glad to be here. My name is Sarah Hadley Brook and I’m here to talk about my new release, Gateway to Love, part of the Dreamspinner Press’s States of Love series.

The main characters, Craig and Mitchell, have just graduated college and are facing the prospect of moving to opposite sides of the country. They’ve spent years studying and preparing for their future and it has finally arrived. Both have accepted job offers and have only a short time before they move away from each other.

As I wrote this story, it brought back a lot of memories of that period of transition from teenager and student to a twentysomething adult with all the grown up responsibilities. No matter how much we look forward to the day we’re finally on our own, it can be overwhelming. Exhilarating, but overwhelming. Banking accounts, leases, jobs, and—gasp—cooking for ourselves!

The thing is, the more I thought about it and looked around at the generation starting out in the workforce, the more impressed I was. It seems to me that they are more engaged in the world, the country, the environment. They have goals and have a plan to meet those goals. They are more aware of everything. The biggest change though, is that they have an opinion and aren’t afraid to stand up for what they believe in.

I’m not sure I was ready for all that when I began “adulting” and I know I wasn’t as knowledgeable about our government as they are. No matter your political views, these young adults will be changing the world.

And, wow…now I feel old. I’m only in my forties—I shouldn’t be feeling old! Isn’t forty the new twenty-nine?

I hope you check out Gateway to Love and learn about the state of Missouri while you’re at it! I’ve listed all the ways you can follow or contact me below. And if you sign up for my newsletter on my website, you receive a free ebook!

You can follow me on social media:

Twitter: @SarahHBrook
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorSarahHadleyBrook
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/SHadleyBrook
Instagram: Sarah_Hadley_Brook_Author
Website: www.sarahhadleybrookwrites.com


 
 
Length: 32,793 words
 
Cover Design: Brooke Albrecht
 
 
Blurb
 

Ten days to finally make the leap from friends to lovers….


Craig and Mitchell have been friends for years, but each of them reached a point where that camaraderie became… more. Mitchell’s kept his feelings close to his chest. So has Craig, but now that they’ve graduated from UMKC, he knows it’s his last chance to show Mitchell they’re meant to be before their careers take them to opposite sides of the country.


He insists they can’t leave Missouri behind without one last adventure. Mitchell agrees to a road trip to visit all the touristy spots and say goodbye to their home state.


As they spend their days and nights together, buried feelings rise to the surface and hope blossoms. When their journey ends with a dance beneath the Branson stars, will they find love and a future together at the end of the road?



October 19 Two Chicks Obsessed, Xtreme Delusions, October 20Bayou Book Junkie, October 22SSLY, Bookaholic & Kindle, October 23 Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, October 24Cupcakes & Bookshelves, Love Unchained Book Review, Amy’s MM Romance Reviews, MM Midnight Cafe, Mikku-chan, October 25Boy Meets Boy Reviews, October 26Making It Happen, October 27 Mirrigold, October 29 Drops Of Ink, Bayou Book Junkie, Wicked Faerie’s Tales & Reviews, Nerdy Dirty & Flirty, Book Review By Virginia Lee, October 30MM Good Book Reviews

 
Author Bio



Sarah Hadley Brook lives smack-dab in the middle of the Heartland and is the mother of two wonderful young men, as well as two cats. During the day, she works in the nonprofit world, but reserves evenings for her hobby-turned-passion of writing, letting the characters she conjures in her mind take the lead and show her where the story will go. When not working or writing, she can be found reading, working on dollhouses, trying her hand at new recipes, or watching old movies and musicals. In her ideal world, Christmas would come at least twice a year, Rock Hudson and Doris Day would have costarred in more than three movies, and chocolate would be a daily necessity. She dreams of traveling to Scotland someday and visiting the places her ancestors lived. Sarah believes in “Happily Ever After” and strives to ensure her characters find their own happiness in love and life.


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Release Blitz – Gateway To Love by Sarah Hadley Brook (author guest post, excerpt, and giveaway)

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Length: 32,793 words
 
Cover Design: Brooke Albrecht
 

 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Sarah Hadley Brook today on tour for her latest story in Dreamspinner Press’ States of Love line, Gateway to Love. Welcome, Sarah.

Adulting


Hi! So glad to be here. My name is Sarah Hadley Brook and I’m here to talk about my new release, Gateway to Love, part of the Dreamspinner Press’ States of Love series.

The main characters, Craig and Mitchell, have just graduated college and are facing the prospect of moving to opposite sides of the country. They’ve spent years studying and preparing for their future and it has finally arrived. Both have accepted job offers and have only a short time before they move away from each other.

As I wrote this story, it brought back a lot of memories of that period of transition from teenager and student to a twentysomething adult with all the grown up responsibilities. No matter how much we look forward to the day we’re finally on our own, it can be overwhelming. Exhilarating, but overwhelming. Banking accounts, leases, jobs, and—gasp—cooking for ourselves!

The thing is, the more I thought about it and looked around at the generation starting out in the workforce, the more impressed I was. It seems to me that they are more engaged in the world, the country, the environment. They have goals and have a plan to meet those goals. They are more aware of everything. The biggest change though, is that they have an opinion and aren’t afraid to stand up for what they believe in.

I’m not sure I was ready for all that when I began “adulting” and I know I wasn’t as knowledgeable about our government as they are. No matter your political views, these young adults will be changing the world.

And, wow…now I feel old. I’m only in my forties—I shouldn’t be feeling old! Isn’t forty the new twenty-nine?

I hope you check out Gateway to Love and learn about the state of Missouri while you’re at it! I’ve listed all the ways you can follow or contact me below. And if you sign up for my newsletter on my website, you receive a free ebook!

You can follow me on social media: Check out my links below my author’s bio.

Blurb
 

Ten days to finally make the leap from friends to lovers….


Craig and Mitchell have been friends for years, but each of them reached a point where that camaraderie became… more. Mitchell’s kept his feelings close to his chest. So has Craig, but now that they’ve graduated from UMKC, he knows it’s his last chance to show Mitchell they’re meant to be before their careers take them to opposite sides of the country.


He insists they can’t leave Missouri behind without one last adventure. Mitchell agrees to a road trip to visit all the touristy spots and say goodbye to their home state.


As they spend their days and nights together, buried feelings rise to the surface and hope blossoms. When their journey ends with a dance beneath the Branson stars, will they find love and a future together at the end of the road?

 
Excerpt
 

THE SOUND of a horn jolted Mitch from a sound sleep, and he blinked his eyes for a moment, staring out the window at the busy highway.


“Sorry. Some idiot guy almost hit us. I had to lay on the horn,” Craig explained.


Mitch straightened himself in his seat and rubbed his eyes. “No worries. Sorry I fell asleep.”


Craig grinned at him. “You should be. I’ve had to listen to your snoring for almost two hours.”


“Hey, I don’t snore. You do, but I don’t,” Mitch said emphatically.


Craig snorted. “Whatever. I can hear you through the wall at night.”


“I don’t snore,” Mitch reiterated, and frowned when Craig chuckled. Then he started feeling bad about sleeping so long. “Want me to take a turn at the wheel?”


“Nah. Maybe when we stop for lunch? Although, we’ll probably be in Hannibal before then. We’ve only got about an hour and forty-five minutes left, give or take.”


Mitch nodded and checked his phone, but he couldn’t help watching his best friend out of the corner of his eye. Even after knowing him for four years, Mitch was still blown away by the reaction he felt whenever he looked at Craig. He’d certainly never forgotten the first day they met. It was imprinted on his brain forever.


That first day at Longview Community College had been brutal. He’d had to spend two hours in the admissions office because when he’d shown up for his first class, the professor didn’t have him listed. By the time his schedule was corrected, he’d missed two classes and was nearly late to his third.


He’d slid into an empty seat near the door just as the teacher turned around from the whiteboard. Someone next to him giggled and he glanced over to see the cutest boy he’d ever laid eyes on. Mitch had felt dumbstruck as his cheeks heated in reaction.


“Close call,” the kid had whispered with a nod toward the teacher. “I heard she doesn’t put up with latecomers.”


Mitch pulled himself together and smiled.


It wasn’t until class was over that they were able to talk.


“I’m Mitchell Moon,” he’d offered, as the guy rose from his desk. “Everyone calls me Mitch, though.”


Craig had beamed at him, his blue eyes sparkling a little as he leaned down until their faces were only inches apart. “Hi, Mitchell,” he said with a wink. “My name’s Craig Pruitt.”


And that was that—they became instant friends, bonding over video games, movies, and their love of Star Trek. It was the kind of friendship only found once in a lifetime. Mitch had come out to Craig within the first week of meeting him and his friend hadn’t even blinked.


There was only one problem with their friendship—Mitch had never been able to shake the attraction he felt for Craig. And over the years, as they earned their associate’s degrees from Longview and moved on to UMKC, their bond grew and his feelings for Craig only strengthened.


When Craig had confided in him that he thought he was bisexual their sophomore year, Mitch’s hopes had been raised, but by that time he was firmly planted in the friend zone. So he did what a best friend should—he supported Craig as he came to terms with things and accepted who he was. He’d admitted that he’d had a crush on a guy in high school, but it ran its course and he never acted on it. As far as Mitch knew, Craig had only dated two guys since then, nothing panning out toward a full-time relationship, though. But he’d had his share of casual hookups with men. Craig had gone a little wild when he’d first come out as bisexual, but had calmed down over the years. In fact, Mitch couldn’t remember him even going on a date during their senior year.


He’d seen the types of men Craig seemed to be attracted to, and they were nothing like Mitch, so he’d tucked his feelings away again and told himself not to go there anymore. It was an ongoing internal battle, but most of the time, he had a handle on it.


This last year of college, they’d found a cheap two-bedroom apartment near campus and moved in that summer. Sharing a small space with the man of his dreams had been hard. Especially when Craig often walked around their place wearing only a pair of boxers.


Mitch was honest enough to admit he’d fantasized about Craig too many times to count and would probably continue to do so long after he’d moved. Maybe that’s how it always was with a first love or major crush.


In his heart, he knew being apart would be good for them. Well, at least it would be for Mitch. Maybe he could finally go out with someone without constantly comparing him to Craig. But in the meantime, he continued to fight the attraction. The desire. The love. Because that’s what it had turned into. Love. Over the years, the longing, the emotional connection he felt with Craig, it had all turned to love. He wasn’t even sure when it had happened, but there was no denying Mitch was in love with his best friend.


And just when he was close to being free, there they were. One last hurrah before moving out of state. One last adventure with Craig.


What was he going to do without him? He turned to stare out the window, his eyes blind to the passing scenery. All he could see was a future without Craig, and it was shrouded in gray. Mitch was so tired of fighting his feelings. He chuckled to himself. He was the stereotypical guy in love with his best friend. He knew it was useless, but if Craig had asked him to go to California with him, Mitch would have dropped everything and followed him out west. He knew how pathetic that sounded, but when it came to Craig, Mitch didn’t care what others might think.


About an hour later, Craig pulled over to a gas station to fuel up and grab some snacks. Mitch used the disgusting bathroom, holding his breath as he did his business, quickly washed up, and made his way into the convenience store.


Craig was at the counter paying and held up a bag of items.


“I’m just going to get a drink,” Mitch told him as he walked past Craig. His friend grabbed his arm, wrapping his fingers around his wrist.


“I already got you your Dr Pepper,” he told Mitch with a smile. “And your Kit Kat.”


Mitch wanted to respond. Wanted to say thank you. But all he could do was revel in the sensation of Craig’s touch. Electricity prickled his skin, skittering through him.


“Mitchell?” Craig’s voice was low. He sounded worried.


“Sorry. Just… forgot what I was going to say,” he lied, knowing he sounded lame. He noticed Craig hadn’t let go of his wrist and raised his eyes to meet his friend’s gaze. Mitch was surprised at the intensity. The large black pupils. The flushed cheeks. “I-I’m… fine. Thanks for grabbing some things for me.”


Craig studied him, looking like he wanted to say something, but finally let Mitch go and they walked back out to the car and settled in.


“Less than an hour left,” Craig announced.


Mitch tried to tamp down his excitement, but it was difficult. He’d always wanted to visit Hannibal. He’d read all of Mark Twain’s stories, and knowing he was from Missouri had encouraged him when he’d dreamed about becoming a writer.


Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in English had put him closer to that dream. Being hired to work on a grassroots website devoted to getting people registered to vote had been exciting and he was looking forward to starting next month. He was less excited about the magazine internship. West Virginia tourism was definitely not something he remotely cared about. He’d only taken it because his sister, Samantha, lived in West Virginia, where the magazine was headquartered, and she had helped him get the interview. Plus he could stay with her until he got a feel for the area. Samantha was also providing him with apartment information, so he would have several to check out when he moved.


The magazine hadn’t been in his original plans. He’d wanted to stay in Kansas City after graduation and work on his writing. His dream was to become a published author. Mitch lived to write, creating fantasy worlds and bringing characters to life. Over the years, he’d managed to put some money away, through his work at the coffee shop. Add what he’d been given as graduation gifts from his mother, his sister, and various relatives, and he was confident he could afford to give the writing thing a try for a while—as long as he had a roommate and a part-time job.


When Craig announced he’d taken a job in California, working for a nonprofit that helped homeless teens, Mitch’s plans took a nosedive. While he’d been proud of Craig, the idea of staying in Kansas City without him was depressing. If he was going to start a new chapter in his life and really get over Craig, staying where he’d be constantly reminded of their times together was out of the question. Writing would have to take a back seat to making a living. Mitch was trying to be an adult and make responsible choices—decisions that would help him move forward.


Maybe a new start in a new city would help him finally find a man that he could be in a real relationship with.


He just had to survive this trip without telling his best friend the truth he’d hidden for years.

 

Author Bio


Sarah Hadley Brook lives smack-dab in the middle of the Heartland and is the mother of two wonderful young men, as well as two cats. During the day, she works in the nonprofit world, but reserves evenings for her hobby-turned-passion of writing, letting the characters she conjures in her mind take the lead and show her where the story will go. When not working or writing, she can be found reading, working on dollhouses, trying her hand at new recipes, or watching old movies and musicals. In her ideal world, Christmas would come at least twice a year, Rock Hudson and Doris Day would have costarred in more than three movies, and chocolate would be a daily necessity. She dreams of traveling to Scotland some day and visiting the places her ancestors lived. Sarah believes in “Happily Ever After” and strives to ensure her characters find their own happiness in love and life.


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Leigh Dillon on Writing, Characters and her new release ‘Raising the Bar (States of Love) by Leigh Dillon’ (guest post, and excerpt, )

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Raising the Bar (States of Love) by Leigh Dillon

Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Brooke Albrecht

Buy Links:  Dreamspinner PressBooks2Read

 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Leigh Dillion here today talkaing about her new novella Raising the Bar. Welcome, Leigh.

 

 

Hello, and thank you for stopping by to check out my new novella, Raising the Bar! This story started out as a story about horses and, oh yeah, a couple of guys. To my surprise, it quickly turned into a study of two men with completely opposite character traits. Every story I write becomes a meet-and-greet at some point, with characters who started out as vague concepts suddenly taking on personalities I never planned for them. In this case, what started out as a simple contrast of conservative character vs. outspoken character morphed into Irresistible Force vs. Immovable Object. Only this time, it turns out the irresistible force secretly longs to be stopped, and the immovable object needs a good boot to the rear to wake him up! Speaking truth is bad manners in some circles, but sometimes it’s good to clear the air and decorum be damned. Tonio Benedetto turned out to be quite the advocate of speaking one’s mind, as you can see in the excerpt. But do you think it was wise, or is it just one more way to blow up a promising love affair?

Blurb:

Destin Bellingham has inherited a problem. Thanks to his late playboy father, Destin faces putting a For Sale sign on his family’s historic horse farm. Getting his talented stallion, Black Sambuca, into the Grand Prix show ring would put Bellmeade back on the map—if only someone could make “Sam” behave like a show horse.

Disgraced top rider Tonio Benedetto has his own problems, but he can work magic with difficult jumpers, so Destin hires him despite his bad-boy reputation.  The street-smart, openly gay loudmouth from Miami and the closeted, buttoned-down son of Old Dominion Virginia make a rocky pairing, but time is running out to save Bellmeade from bankruptcy.

Opposites attract, sparks of tension grow into flames of passion. But if Tonio fails to tame Sam, will true love become a lost cause too?

 

Excerpt:

“Why so grim?” Tonio asked.

“Probably because I’m feeling pretty grim right now.”

“Uh-oh. Bad news?”

“Just the usual.” Destin shook his head. “If Sam doesn’t jump, this farm is going down the toilet. Not today, not tomorrow, but next year, if something doesn’t change, it’s going on the auction block.”

“Hey, I’m trying, okay?” Tonio wrinkled his forehead. “Whatever’s going on with Sam, it’s different than stuff I’ve dealt with before. I know I’ll crack him, but right now I just haven’t figured out what direction I need to come from.”

“I understand, and I’m not blaming you.” Destin paused, practicality battling with panic. “I know you’re trying. I appreciate what you’re doing more than I can put into words. It’s just that I’ve been thinking about things, and I’m starting to wonder—” He broke off, not sure he could trust his voice to stay calm.

Tonio’s face tightened, and he pressed his full lips into a razor-thin line. “Hey, I’m still fighting,” he said. “You gonna quit on me?”

“I don’t want to, but what am I going to do? It’s a mess. It’s all just a huge….” Destin raised his arms and dropped them again.

“So yeah, you’re giving up.” Tonio released the girth and jerked the saddle off, his disgusted expression deepening.

“I am not giving up! I just don’t know what to do anymore.”

Tonio stopped stripping Sam and glared at Destin over the horse’s sweaty back. “Well, you sure as hell aren’t going to listen to me, are you?” he snapped. “I thought I had some pretty good ideas, but I guess Miami answers don’t cut it for Virginia problems, do they?”

Destin rubbed his eyes. The barn floor felt like it was spinning under his feet. Everything was spinning—out of control.

“I need to think,” he said, his voice oddly faint in his own ears. “Just give me time to think.”

“You know what?” Tonio’s eyes burned in the shaded light of the aisle. “You think too fucking much. You wanna keep this farm? Stop thinking. Stop blaming your dad. Get real and do something.”

“I am doing something. That’s what I brought you here for.”

“Yeah, and you’re sinking because you put all your eggs in one stupid basket and did. Not. Listen. To. Me!” Tonio punctuated each word with a finger-jab in Destin’s direction. “You’re not going to fight to keep this farm. You’re not gonna fight to keep me, either. You’re so used to people handing you things, you’re gonna run out the clock on our contract and let all of it swirl down the shithole, and that’s a fucking shame because I love Bellmeade, I could really get used to being with you, and unlike some people, I don’t feel like dumping everything in the garbage and walking away.”

 

About the Author

Leigh Dillon is a native of horse-happy North Central Florida but has deep family roots in the Virginia and West Virginia areas. Coming of age in the dinosaur days of cable television, when fledgling channels filled their empty blocks of programming time by airing entire equestrian competitions, Leigh’s young brain became infected with a lifelong mania for show jumping, three-day eventing, and other exotic horse sports. Though tragically denied a pony of her own in childhood, Leigh has wreaked her revenge by including equine characters in almost everything she writes.

A bookbinder and librarian by trade, Leigh has also worked on local thoroughbred horse farms. Leigh’s short fiction has been featured twice in the Florida Writers Association annual story collection, and one of her book-length works received Book of the Year honors at the 2017 Royal Palm Literary Award.

Social Link:

https://www.facebook.com/Leigh-Dillon-Writes-229520631184036/?modal=admin_todo_tour

 

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Raising the Bar (States of Love) by Leigh Dillon

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

 

Destin Bellingham has inherited a problem. Thanks to his late playboy father, Destin faces putting a For Sale sign on his family’s historic horse farm. Getting his talented stallion, Black Sambuca, into the Grand Prix show ring would put Bellmeade back on the map—if only someone could make “Sam” behave like a show horse.

Disgraced top rider Tonio Benedetto has his own problems, but he can work magic with difficult jumpers, so Destin hires him despite his bad-boy reputation. The street-smart, openly gay loudmouth from Miami and the closeted, buttoned-down son of Old Dominion Virginia make a rocky pairing, but time is running out to save Bellmeade from bankruptcy.

Opposites attract, sparks of tension grow into flames of passion. But if Tonio fails to tame Sam, will true love become a lost cause too?

I really enjoyed this latest romance from the States of Love line at Dreamspinner Press.  Raising the Bar (States of Love) by Leigh Dillon hits a number of chords with me, starting with the state (Virginia) and horses, a long time love.  I’ve been around shows and show barns here in the East all my life so the world she writes about is vert familiar.  I have the horses and being in Maryland?  I know the scenery she’s talking about (and the towns) in Virginia like old friends.

The author did a great job with both.

They serve as a backdrop for the romance between Destin Bellingham, breeder and farm owner, and rider Tonio Benedetto.  I liked both the characters. Also had my issues with the instant love relationship between them.  I don’t always have that if the author can make a great argument for it and has a basis or chemistry between the characters.  I’m just not sure that I got that entirely here in this story.

The relationship between Tonio and the Sambuco Black?  I believed in that 100 percent!  That rocked!  Dillon had that relationship down pat.  That man and horse got each other and the reader knew it.  What a great character Sam was! Boy, have I known a horse or two like him in my time.  Not with his talent but his attitude and smarts.  Makes you both want to kill them and laugh your ass off.

The one between Destin and Tonio?  Needed some work even though they were jumping into bed, and love and total commitment.  Didn’t quite believe it in one month’s time.

Had the book and the relationship stretched over a longer length?  Absolutely because the ground work (as you do with any horse) had been laid.  And the epilogue, which took place in the Spring showed the growth that I wished we could have  been present to watch.

The only other thing?  If you are going to have a element in a story, like Destin and the Maserati, then close it out.  Don’t leave that aspect of the story open.  Even a line to finish that thread off is preferable than to leave it hanging.

I think Raising the Bar (States of Love) by Leigh Dillon has so much going for it.  A dynamic relationship between man and horse, a passionate one between two men, and a bright future.  At 91 pages, that was a lot to enjoy.  The States of Love line from Dreamspinners Press is a real hit and this story is another reason why.

Cover Artist: Brooke Albrecht.  What a perfect cover for this story.  That’s Tonio and Sam to a T  going over the jump, and Destin too. Love it.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 91 pages
Published September 7th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN13 9781640807365
Edition Language English
setting Virginia (United States) 

Cover Reveal for Gateway to Love by Sarah Hadley Brook

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 Gateway to Love by Sarah Hadley Brook

Cover Artist: Brooke Albrecht http://brookealbrechtstudio.com

Release Date: October 19, 2018

Buy Link:  Dreamspinner Press eBook

 

 

 

About Gateway To Love

 

Ten days to finally make the leap from friends to lovers….

 

Craig and Mitchell have been friends for years, but each of them reached a point where that camaraderie became… more. Mitchell’s kept his feelings close to his chest. So has Craig, but now that they’ve graduated from UMKC, he knows it’s his last chance to show Mitchell they’re meant to be before their careers take them to opposite sides of the country.

 

He insists they can’t leave Missouri behind without one last adventure. Mitchell agrees to a road trip to visit all the touristy spots and say goodbye to their home state.

 

As they spend their days and nights together, buried feelings rise to the surface and hope blossoms. When their journey ends with a dance beneath the Branson stars, will they find love and a future together at the end of the road?

 

States of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the United States. 

Category: Contemporary, New Adult, States of Love (Missouri)

Pages: 98 (ebook)

About the Author

 

Sarah Hadley Brook lives smack-dab in the middle of the Heartland and is the mother of two wonderful young men, as well as two cats. During the day, she works in the nonprofit world, but reserves evenings for her hobby-turned-passion of writing, letting the characters she conjures in her mind take the lead and show her where the story will go. When not working or writing, she can be found reading, working on dollhouses, trying her hand at new recipes, or watching old movies and musicals. In her ideal world, Christmas would come at least twice a year, Rock Hudson and Doris Day would have costarred in more than three movies, and chocolate would be a daily necessity. She dreams of traveling to Scotland someday and visiting the places her ancestors lived. Sarah believes in “Happily Ever After” and strives to ensure her characters find their own happiness in love and life.

 

Website: http://www.sarahhadleybrookwrites.com

Email: contact@sarahhadleybrookwrites.com

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

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/SHadleyBrook

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/SarahHadleyBrook

Cover Reveal for Prophet’s Pass by Chapman Brown

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 Prophet’s Pass by Chapman Brown

Cover Artist: Brooke Albrecht

Release Date: September 28, 2018

Buy Link:  Dreamspinner Press 

 

Blurb:

 

Political journalist Aiden McCabe is used to interviewing presidents and world leaders. On a night out with friends, Aiden has a chance encounter with a handsome, enigmatic young man who leaves a lasting impression. Soon after, Aiden is assigned to travel to Utah, where he’ll interview Orson Jensen, a prominent Mormon politician and Republican presidential hopeful. While the Jensens’ faith and values couldn’t be more opposite to Aiden’s urbane, Manhattan disposition, he can’t help but be charmed by the friendly clan… until the stranger Aiden met in the club reappears, and this time with a startling revelation—one that could tear the Jensen family apart, destroy Orson’s political career, and change Aiden’s world forever.

 

States of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the United States.

Category: Contemporary, States of Love (Utah)
Pages: 112 (ebook)

 

About the Author

 

Chapman Brown was born in the United Kingdom but drifted across the Atlantic a decade ago and hasn’t looked back. When not writing something or another, he enjoys cooking, traveling, and exploring the wonderful, beautiful, and occasionally confusing landscape of America. He lives in New York City.