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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TN Ch 8  Exclusive Excerpt for Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

“No repeats,” I told Phil. Again.

“What if there’s no one new around?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You paying rent?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“My family. Here. Next week.”

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About the Author

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

Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Review: Encore (Blue Notes #5) by Shira Anthony

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Encore-BuildWhen teenagers Roger Nelson and John Fuchs  meet in the band room of Maryville’s Senior High School in 1971, they discovered they shared the same passion for music.  Roger Nelson with his violin and John Fuchs with his dream of conducting.  Each teenager came from different backgrounds and moved in different circles in high school, Roger Nelson, the “cool kid” popular with all crowds and John Fuchs, the stuttering, shy transfer from St. Barnaby’s, an expensive private school.  Brought together by music, they soon developed a deep friendship that made them inseparable.  Then it turned into something more.

John had always known he was gay so his love for Roger seemed natural and right. However, Roger’s attraction and love for John confused him, making him feel unsettled and insecure especially in the 70’s where homosexuality was still looked at with disgust and ignorance.  Together through college and graduation, John and Roger continue their secret romance despite growing opposition from Roger’s parents. Then two tragedies occur that immediately impact Roger and his family.  The ripples from those events serve to separate Roger and John, shattering their romance but not their love for each other.

For the next several decades, the men’s lives intersect only to  be pulled apart time and again.  When one more event brings them back together, will this be the encore they have been waiting for or will their last chance at love slip away forever?

Encore is Shira Anthony’s most ambitious and deeply layered Blue Notes story to date.  Over the course of the Blue Notes series, Anthony has been building a symphony of characters deeply involved in the world of music and their relationships.  Whether it was a pianist or conductor, violinist or opera singer, cellist or lawyer in the musical entertainment industry, Shira Anthony has introduced us to the men whose passions for music has driven their lives, loves, and careers. But those previous stories, for the most part,  have had a specific  short time span for the men and their love affairs.  Now in Encore, Anthony goes for the larger picture, not just a movement but the whole composition.  Here she strives for a symphony and achieves it.

Encore is a musical term derived from the French word “again”.  It is a repeat performance or an additional musical piece that occurs after the main piece or event concludes and it is the perfect term to apply to the on and off again relationship of Roger Nelson and John Fuchs, two characters introduced as a couple in previous novels.  Starting in 1971 and ending in 2006, Anthony creates a romance that encompasses a 35-year time frame.  It will see the beginnings of the AIDS epidemic, the fight for gays rights, and finally the beginnings of social acceptance of homosexuality.  Against such a historic and dramatic background, the author has created her most textured and multidimensional romance in this or any other series.

Even at the beginning of John and Roger’s relationship, each young man has their personalities already firmly in place.  John is already comfortable being gay, even in 1971.  The kids have already taken note of his “difference”, an aspect of his personality that will only deepen as John ages and finds his own style, totally comfortable in his skin and element.   And while John may stutter in emotional situations, his belief in himself and his music is unwavering.  I loved John.  I understood his behavior and his emotional outlook on life and his music because Anthony has made him so transparent and accessible even with all his layers.

Then there is Roger.  The wonderful, exasperating, heartbreaking Roger.

Roger Nelson inside is the antithesis of his outward appearance and behavior.  On the surface, Roger is all “coolness” and popularity, his easy nature and charm crossing high school and then college social circles.  But inside, he is a tumultuous mess.  Pressures from his parents, society, and their expectations for Roger’s future collide with his own dreams for himself and the resulting avalanche will derail everything Roger and John had planned for their lives together.  While all Roger’s friends and family is aware he loves music, none but John understand how crucial it is to Roger, that music and the violin are fundamental parts of Roger, as necessary to him as food and air. It’s that essential part of Roger that is lost or an aspect of it is lost.  And for the reader, it is important that we are able to connect with that feeling in order for us to really understand  Roger and his actions.  For Roger, the loss of music and his ability to play the violin is nothing less than the deepest wound to his soul, like losing an appendage.  The hole it leaves behind can never be forgotten or overlooked.  Roger too feels so real, a living, breathing walking gash of a man.  And, due to the author’s deep connection with her character and her ability to bring this man to life, Roger is also the character that will engender a wide spectrum of feelings from the readers.

Roger has the ability to become such a misunderstood character in this story if the reader doesn’t take the time to put him into perspective, both historically and emotionally.  John never had the pressures put on his that Roger has had throughout his life.  Nor has John had to deal with the worst thing that could possibly happen to himself and Roger.  That is the loss of their music, the destruction of all their hopes and dreams and that is exactly what happens to Roger early on in their story.  This loss guts Roger.  It takes his heart and shatters it, leaving Roger incapable of going forward with his life as a whole person.

I think that Shira Anthony captures that feeling, that crushing loss, and it’s resulting reverberations on someone’s emotions and behavior realistically and with great pain and insight.  The author has stated that in many respects “Roger” is her.  Roger, his  character, is her outlet to express the emotions and heartbreak she felt upon leaving her career as an opera singer behind.  And it shows in the realness, the pain, the constant turmoil and upheavals in his life that Roger finds himself going through.  She made me believe in Roger totally.

At times the reader will be frustrated with Roger’s  actions.  Trust me, I was.  But again, you need to keep in mind that the man going through the various stages in his life is a man bereft of his center, his heart.  Then Roger becomes someone who needs our compassion and empathy as well as our understanding.  I think so many of us can point to moments in our life when things went awry.  Maybe it was a slight altering of goals or a detour taken that we notice only in hindsight.  But for Roger and so many others, there are life shattering events and decisions that send them off on a journey they never expected or wanted.    Accident or warfare, a missed step or terrorism.  The why is sometimes less important  than what happens after.  And here, in Encore, Shira Anthony lays it all out for us as it takes Roger 35 years to come to grip with his eviscerating loss and his love for John.

As we watch Roger and John come together only to separate once again, I am reminded of the various acts in an opera.  Just as an opera has various acts, stages it must go through,  so is this book divided into different periods.  Each division moves the story forward, sometimes just a couple of years or so, sometimes a decade until we arrive at the last act and the highly satisfying encore.  This is an emotional journey, full of the cracks and crevasses that come over time and with two such diverse men at the center.  Have the tissues handy, you will need them. as this story has the ability to make you weep as well as smile.

I can’t say it enough, Encore is such a remarkable story.  It is definitely one of the best of 2013.  It is a symphony of emotions, its instruments the men Shira Anthony has created along with their deep love for music and each other.  Encore will have you calling for a repeat performance from this incredible author.  Brava, brava!

As with all her stories, here is the link to the playlist for Encore. http://www.shiraanthony.com/books/encore/#extras 

Cover art by Catt Ford.  This cover is perfection in every way, from the picture of the two men as boys to the branding that keeps it similar in look to the other Blue Notes covers.

Listed below are all the stories in the Blue Notes series.  The author has noted that she considers it a series of interrelated, classical music themed standalone novels that can be read in any order.

Knowing (Blue Notes, #0.5) a free read at Goodreads
Blue Notes (Blue Notes, #1)
The Melody Thief (Blue Notes, #2)
Aria (Blue Notes, #3)
Prelude (Blue Notes, #4) by Shira Anthony and Venona Keyes
Encore (Blue Notes, #5)
Symphony in Blue (Blue Notes, #4.5) Expected publication: December 25th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press

Book Details:

The Contest and Blog Tour For Shira Anthony’s Encore Release Continues!

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Encore’s release will be followed on Christmas Day by the release of a Blue Notes holiday novella, Symphony in Blue. Symphony will be my 10th Dreamspinner Press release, so I’m celebrating the release of both of these books with a blog tour contest ending on New Year’s Eve at midnight! Grand prize is a Kindle loaded with many of my Dreamspinner Press titles. You can get more entries by commenting on blog tour posts, tweeting, and buying the books. Here’s the link to the giveaway:Symphony in Blue-build (1)

Contest Details for Blue Notes Series Holiday 2013 Giveaway:

Begins on release day for “Encore,” November 11, 2013
Ends on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2013, at midnight
Drawings are open to both U.S. readers and international readers, but physical prizes (Kindle, necklace, book, and t-shirt) are for U.S. readers only. I will award a virtual set of the first 4 Blue Notes Series books to one winner from outside the U.S.
Prizes (U.S. Only):

Prizes (U.S. Only):

  • Grand Prize: A Kindle loaded with the first 4 Blue Notes Series books and some of my other back titles
  • 1st Place: A sterling silver music themed necklace
  • 2nd Place: Winner’s choice of one of my back titles in paperback (i.e., not including the 2 new releases)
  • 3rd Place: Blue Notes t-shirt, cover of the winner’s choiceEncore-Build

Blog Stops Currently Scheduled :
November 11th (release day – Encore): Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words (Melanie Marshall)
November 12th:   Live Your Life, Buy the Book
November 14th:   Michael Rupured’s Blog

Visit each stop on the tour for more of Shira Anthony and this incredible series.

Here is the link for ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords review of Encore.