Venona Keys Talks Inspiration, Short Stories and the Anthology ‘Once Upon a Time in the Weird West’ (Dreamspinner Press guest post and giveaway)

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Once Upon a Time in the Weird West
by Langley Hyde , Astrid Amara , Ginn Hale , Nicole Kimberling ,
C.S. Poe, Lex Chase , Venona Keyes , Tali Spence

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have  Venona Keyes here today to talk about her short story and the inspiration behind it in the Dreamspinner anthology Once Upon a Time in the Weird West.  Welcome, Venona!

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Short Story Title: POMH byVenona Keyes

When people ask, “What inspired you to write this story?” It’s usually a song or a human interest  story or a news event.  For the Weird West, my inspiration was the movie Bicentennial Man and The Jetsons. Really? In a steam-punky inspired story, I drew upon those things? Yes, in an old fashioned way.

A re-imagined West, one where a new mechanical revolution was the norm. Tracks laid down  by steam powered machines; built not just for a train, but for individual carriages or wagon carriages. I could see people zooming by (actually steaming by), to escape the confines of the crowded and polluted East, to conquer the wild open spaces of the West. To spread out and make a fortune, or a better life.
Inventors were key to this expansion. They were much like what blacksmiths were back in the day; a valuable member of the community who helped build the community with metal items.  Inventors in this west make mechanical items while the blacksmiths still made metal items; horseshoes, wagon wheels, hinges, door knockers, and weapons.

Inventors were the craftsman of machines that made life easier.  No matter where you were on the economic ladder, you had at least one item made by an inventor.   Some of these items were steam-powered baby prams,  child corrallers, tree fruit harvesters, and horseless carriages to name a few.  As you got up in the social and monied classes, the disposable income went to a more frivolous or luxurious type item, like gilded mechanical flying birds, encrusted with jewels and ivory. The ingenuity of the item was only limited by the imagination of the inventor.
In POMH, the main character, Lorem Farcome, is in dire need of an assistant. He no longer wants a human assistant, but one that is steam powered.  He dreamed and designed it, and with a find of a rare prism, he can make his dream come true.  Jealousy and envy prove to be a big stumbling blocks, as another, more monied and more powerful inventor has his sights on taking the creation, Pomh, from Lorem.

Have you ever had a dream come true, and was the path to the dream an easy or hard one?  Or, what has inspired you to achieve something you always wanted to do, and you did it?  Comment to enter into the Rafflecopter!

POHM Blurb:

Lorem Farcome makes inventions that cater to the working class. He dreams of a lost chance in love and a lost apprentice. The lost love he can do nothing about, but an apprentice, he can surely build. With a rare red prism, Lorem creates and animates his assistant, dubbing him “Pomh.” The road never runs smooth, and a wealthy and powerful competitor, Markus Reighn, accuses Lorem of stealing the red prism and claims Lorem’s mechanical man for himself. But an odd-looking

About Once Upon a Time in the Weird West Anthology

This isn’t the same old Wild West. The usual suspects are all present: cowboys, outlaws, and sheriffs. There’s plenty of dust, tumbleweeds, horses, and cattle on the range, but there are also magical gems, automatons, elementals, airships… even dinosaurs and genetically modified insects. Roaming among the buffalo and coyotes, you’ll encounter skinwalkers, mad engineers, mythical beings cloaked in darkness, and lovers who stay true to their oaths… even beyond the grave. On this frontier are those at the mercy of their own elaborate devices as well as men whose control of time and space provides a present-day vision of the West. There might even be a dragon hidden amongst the ghost towns and wagon trains.

If you like your Westerns with a splash of magic, a touch of steampunk, and plenty of passionate romance between men, these genre-bending tales will exceed expectations.

Hold on to your hats, cowboys and cowgirls. The West is about to get weird, and you’re in for a hell of a ride.

Purchase Links

           

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About the Author

Venona Keyes is a modern woman who believes in doing it all; if doing it all is only in her head. She amazes people that she can be wholly unorganized yet pack a perfect carry on suitcase for a ten day trip to Paris. Ms. Keyes is a believer in the just in time theory, and can be seen sprinting in airports to the gate before the plane door closes.

Venona has experienced love and loss at the deepest level, and is thankful for writing and daydreaming, for it kept, and still keeps her sane. Writing also introduced her to some of the most supportive and wonderful people, to which she will always be grateful.

Venona is a voracious reader, loves her feline boys, volunteers at an animal shelter, attempts to cook everything in her CSA boxes, is an accomplished speaker, is a seasoned triathlete, and enjoys swimming, biking, hiking, skipping, dancing, and her beloved overgrown garden.

Social Media links

Website: http://www.venonakeyes.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/venona.keyes

Giveaway

1) Steam-punk inspired heart shaped pendant necklace

2) Title: The Trust,  Coming of Age, and All Steamed Up Anthology

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Blog Tour Schedule

12/6 – Gay Book Reviews – Jana Denardo

12/7 – The Novel Approach – Kim Fielding

12/8 – Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words – Venona Keyes

12/9 – Diverse Reader – Tali Spencer

Sinfully Gay MM Book Reviews – Jamie Fessenden

12/12 – Love Bytes – Lex Chase

12/13 – Boy Meets Boy – Astrid Amara

12/14 – Prism Book Alliance – Ginn Hale

12/15 – Alpha Book Club – C.S. Poe

12/16 – Joyfully Jay – Langley Hyde

12/19 – Divine Magazine – Nicole Kimberling

12/20 – My Fiction Nook – Shira Anthony

Open Skye – Andrew Q. Gordon

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Best of 2015

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 From Books, Audiobooks to Book Covers

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Best of 2015

Happy New Year! Looking back over 2015 I’m  amazed at all the changes here and marvelous tales that came to our door. I’m thinking about the new reviewers we’ve added,  all the wonderful books we’ve read, new authors we’ve discovered, and the way Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words has grown in this past year.  Along with new reviewers, came new columns like Paul’s Paranormal Portfolio (his New Year’s edition is posted today), our Author Discovery along with all our author interviews and guest posts.

As the market for audiobooks has increased so has our reviews.  Even a audiobook virgin like myself jumped into the format and found that I enjoyed it immensely. What a surprise…for me!

I hope 2016 brings a new look to Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words, a few new reviewers to help us read more, listen to, review more about the thing we love…books! I hope we find more new authors to discover, and more ways in which to write about them and the writing process.

But before we move forward, we’re going to look back at the books and covers we loved best.  So here are some of our favorites. Free Dreamer is traveling, and Paul was working on his Paranormal Portfolio but some of the rest of us had our lists ready. Are some of yours among them?  Which ones do you think we left out?  And are there new discoveries among those we love so much? Check out our Best Books and Covers of 2015 below…

 

 

From BJ:

✪Favorite Books Read in 2015:

Captive Prince One and Two by C.S. Pascat
The entire Straight Boys series by Alessandra Hazard
The entire Guardians of the Pattern series by Jaye McKenna
For Real by Alexis Hall
Control by Cordelia Kingsbridge
Give an Inch by K.D. Sarge (because it was so cute AND it was written from my prompt)

✪ Best Audiobook of 2015:

Into Deep Waters by Kaje Harper, Narrated by Kaleo Griffith

✪Favorite Covers of 2015

Ghost in the Mythe coverFor Real coverSong of the NavigatorBurn The Sky cover

Ghost in the Mythe by Jaye McKenna, artist Chinchbug
For Real by Alexis Hall
Song of the Navigator by Astrid Amara
Burn the Sky by Jaye McKenna, artist Chinchbug
Leythe Blade by Jaye McKenna, artist Chinchbug
Something Like A Love Song by Becca Burton
In Discretion (Ylendrian Empire, #3) by Reesa Herberth
Neskaya (Bittersweet Dreams) by Augusta Li

Leythe BladeSomething Like A Love SongInDiscretion_500x750Neskaya

I really admire original covers that are drawn or created specifically to represent that book so much more than those that just use stock photography…so here are some I love.

 

 

From Stella:

 

✪BEST BOOKS

Beneath the Stain by Amy Lane
Sacrati by Kate Sherwood
✪BEST COVERS
Sand and Gold and RuinThe Fifth Son coverCabin NightsACID coverStormBeforeTheCalm[The]FS
Sand and Ruin and Gold by Alexis Hall
The Fifth Son by Blaine D Arden
Cabin Nights by Ashley John
ACID by Wulf Francu Godgluck and S. van Rooyen
The Storm before the Calm by Cate Ashwood
✪BEST AUTHOR DISCOVERIES
Family of Lies Sebastian by Sam Argent
Go On Your Own Way by Zane Riley
The Rules of Ever After by Killian B Brewer
The Union of Sun and Moon by Gus Li
The Last Yeti by Tully Vincent
In the Middle of Somewhere by Roan Parrish

                                                                                        From Ali

✪ Best books:  These are my top 5 plus

The Subs Club by JA Rock
Darker Space by Lisa Henry
Trust the Focus by Megan Erickson
Kick at the Darkness by Keira Andrews
Sutphin Boulevard by Santino Hassell
Lonely Hearts by Heidi Cullinan
Crash & Burn by Abigail Roux
A Seditious Affair by KJ Charles

  ✪Best Short Stories:

Fawn by Nash Summers  **this was probably my favorite thing I read this year in this genre
One Perfect Night by Lisa Henry
Lima Oscar Victor Echo & the Truth About Everything by Suki Fleet
Ten Simple Steps for Surviving the Apocalypse by Cari Z
Waiting for Clark by Annabeth Albert

 ✪ Best Covers:

 Sutphin Boulevard coverIn the Middle of Somewhere coverFawn coverStygian
Stygian by Santino Hassell
Fawn by Nash Summers
Sutphin Boulevard by Santino Hassell
Level Hands by Amy Jo Cousins
Level Hands
In the Middle of Somewhere by Roan Parrish

From Mika

✪My Favorite Books of 2015

. Sunset Park by Santino Hassell & How To Be A Normal Person by T.J. Klune. They are tied for me. I loved these books. (

Rest in any order
Conscious Decisions of the Heart by John Wiltshire
Carry the Ocean by Heidi Cullinan
Trust the Focus by Megan Erickson
Breakaway by Avon Gale
Fish Stick Fridays by Rhys Ford
Kick at the Darkness by Keira Andrews
Him by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy
Definitely Maybe, Yours by Lissa Reed
The Subs Club by J.A. Rock
Restless Spirits by Jordan L. Hawk
Down & Dirty by Rhys Ford

✪Best Covers:

Conscious Decisions of the Heart civCarry the OceanTrust the Focus

Carry the Ocean by Heidi Cullinan
Conscious Decisions of the Heart by John Wiltshire
Trust the Focus by Megan Erickson

From Sammy:

✪Best Books of 2015:

– Unwrapping Hank by Eli Easton
– Dirty Dining by E.M. Lynley
– The Wrong Man & The Right Time by Lane Hayes
– The Shearing Gun by Renae Kaye
– Slasherazzi by Daniel A. Kaine
– Where There’s Smoke & Where There’s Fire by Cari Z
– The World in His Eyes by A.J. Thomas
– The Ultimate Team by Tricia Owens
– The Biggest Scoop by Gillian St. Kevern (A YA pick!)
And an upcoming release in 2016 that I had the pleasure of beta reading:
– Thorns & Fangs by Gillian St. Kevern

From Melanie

For me there  were so many. You really had to look no further than our best book of the month to see that.  Its especially hard in a year where favorite  series came to a finish.  Those were so tough on the heart.  But so were so many others. I laughed with these characters and boy, did I cry.  Sometimes, I did both at the same time.  Looking at you Renae Kaye and John Inman!
Alex Beecroft and Alexis Hall almost deserve their own section.  Beecroft’s Trowchester Blues was a trilogy so marvelous it was illuminating.  And Alexis Hall?  His words flow with a lyricism and magic  that make reading his stories a privilege.
John Wiltshire’s excellent series More Heat Than The Sun starts off with one of my favorite books of 2015, Conscious Decisions of the Heart (also Best Cover).  Heidi Cullinan’s Minnesota Christmas trilogy which ends with my favorite story of them all, Eden Winter’s Diversion series (be still my heart) got a new installment that I’ve read several times, see?  I can  go on and on.  And I haven’t even talked about Astrid Amara who is on several of the other reviewers lists!

✪Best Books

The Shearing Gun by Renae Kaye
Waiting for the Flood by Alexis Hall
Sand and Ruin and Gold by Alexis Hall
Conscious Decisions of the Heart by John Wiltshire
Holding Out for a Fairy Tale (Least Likely Partnership #2) by A.J. Thomas
My Magical Palace by Kunal Mukherjee
Blue Eyed Stranger (Trowchester Blues #2) by Alex Beecroft
Trowchester Blues (Trowchester Blues, #1) by Alex Beecroft
Blue Steel Chain (Trowchester Blues, #3) by Alex Beecroft
Blowing Off Steam by Joy Lynn Fielding
Redemption (Diversion #5) by Eden Winters
Tigers on the Run (Tigers and Devils #3) by Sean Kennedy
A Solitary Man by Shira Anthony and Aisling Mancy
Where the Grass is Greener (Seeds of Tyrone #2) by Debbie McGowan and Raine O’Tierney
Winter Wonderland (Minnesota Christmas #3) by Heidi Cullinan *loved them all
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(Humor & Pathos Division)
Shawn’s Law by Renae Kaye
Coming Back by John Inman
You Are The Reason by Renae Kaye
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Four of Club series by Parker Williams (Pulp Friction 2015)
Jack of Spades series by Lee Brazil
King of Hearts series by Havan Fellows
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Best Audiobook

Best Covers:

Theory Unproven 400x600Blowing Off Steam coverConscious Decisions of the Heart civWaiting for the Flood cover

 

 

 

 

 

Theory Unproven by Lillian Francis, artist Meredith Russell
Conscious Decisions of the Heart by John Wiltshire
Waiting for the Flood by Alexis Hall, artist Simone
Blowing Off Steam by Joy Lynn Fielding

 

Sand and Gold and RuinSnowman coverForging the future coverRunning with the Wind cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shawn's Law coverChasing the Swallows coverSomething Like A Love SongFirst Comes Marriage

 

 

 

 

 

Shawn’s Law by Renae Kay, Paul Richmond artist
Something Like A Love Song by Becca Burton, unknown artist
Chasing the Swallows by John Inman, artist Maria Fanning
First Comes Marriage by Shira Anthony, artist Paul Richmond

The Sub Club by J.A. Rock, artist Kanaxa
My Magical Palace by Kunal Mukherjee, artist unknown
Winter Oranges by Marie Sexton, artist L.C. Chase
Trowchester Blues trilogy by Alex Beecroft, artist Lou Harper
Trowchester Blues cover

 

 

TheSubsClub_600x900Winter Oranges coverMy Magical Palace

A BJ Review: Charmed and Dangerous: Ten Tales of Gay Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy – authors Jordan Castillo Price, Rhys Ford, Ginn Hale, KJ Charles, Nicole Kimberling, Jordan L. Hawk, Astrid Amara, Andrea Speed, Lou Harper, Charlie Cochet

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Charmed and DangerousTake a cauldron full of magic, add a pinch of humor, a dash of snark and a huge dollop of m/m goodness, and what do you get? Charmed and Dangerous: Ten Tales of Gay Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy. This all-new collection is packed with arcane action and intrigue, and every story will whisk you away to a fantastical world where the hero finds his prince and the paranormal investigator always gets his man.

Overall Rating:  4.25 stars out of 5

Tales of magic in some of its many forms with, according to the intro, a theme of sympathetic monsters. Well, hell, doesn’t that play right into my love for a good anti-hero! Plus when I saw the lineup of authors on this one, my mouth just about fell open. What a line up! I’m so on board to read this one. Please note that a few of the stories hook into a series and doubtless you will enjoy them those few more if you’re familiar with the series. One of them was a series I’d read, but the other, unfortunately, I was not at all familiar with as it’s a new to me author. Therefore, I discussed that one but did not rate it as I didn’t feel I had the background to do it justice.

The stories are listed in the order in which they appear in the anthology rather than by rating.

Dim Sum Asylum by Rhys Ford – 3.5 stars
Half-fae Detective Roku MacCormick works Arcane Crimes in San Francisco’s Chinatown. He’s cleared for duty after shooting his last partner and back on the job with a new case and a new partner. Trent Leonard, isn’t at all what he’d expected.

I own some books by this author that I’ve not gotten around to reading, but after this I definitely will soon. Because she can tear up the page.

Rich with description and detail, and since I’ve actually lived in San Francisco for a while, that was pretty cool for me. It starts with a rip-roaring chase scene through the streets of Chinatown complete with dragons and mermen, but despite the action I found the story hard to sink into. I felt lost, like I’d been thrown into the middle of an action movie with nothing to hold on to or maybe like jumping into part two of a series when I’d missed the beginning–it was jarring and confusing. Chapter two did clear up a lot of things and bring me more smoothly into the world and story, but the overall fast pace continued and it was hard for me to connect with the characters until closer to the end. That said, the imagery, imagination and details are amazing and vibrant. And the sex was smoking. If you like a kick ass story that goes from zero to sixty in five seconds flat with a flaming hot sex chaser, this story is for you!

Swift and the Black Dog by Ginn Hale – 3.75 stars 
The wizard Jack Swift became a national hero when he killed a tyrant and won the revolution. They even made movies about him! But now it seems like someone in the new government wants him dead.

Well-written, superb imagery. So wizards aren’t well accepted; they’re mostly considered trouble. And gay men are scorned as well. That, and living with his past, makes life hard for Jack despite his hero status.

First few chapters, the author did three things. One: The beginning of this story was slow to pull me in—until suddenly it grabbed me by the throat. Two: I didn’t like Jack much—and then it was made vividly clear that neither did he. Three: In one paragraph, one sentence really, I suddenly hated Peter with a fiery passion that put me completely in Jack’s corner yelling, “Kill the bastard, Jack. Kill him NOW!” Except that would be real hard considering… ah, well… no spoilers.

There’s a romance here, but it’s neither sexy nor sweet. Mostly this story is an eloquent, twisted tale of betrayal and revenge.

A Queer Trade by KJ Charles – 4 stars
Apprentice magician Crispin Tredarloe returns to London to find his master dead and some of the papers he’d written spells upon sold. Some of those spells might mean death so he sets out to get them back. Waste paper seller Ned Hall can’t resist Crispin, but can the two find the papers and prevent a disaster?

Well-written with a beginning that pulled me into it quickly. I enjoyed that it was written from both character’s POV as it gave me a connection to them both. Two likable main characters, but Ned especially for sticking by Crispin as he did. There was chemistry and some lovely hot, sexy bits between them. Nice plot that picked up speed as it went along with a satisfying resolution.

However, I should mention that this story did have parts that rather grossed me out. So warning, possible high ICK factor here, depending on what pushes your ick buttons, of course. *shudder*

Magically Delicious by Nicole Kimberling – 4 stars
Attacks against NIAD agents aren’t Keith Curry’s department–until his transmogrified goblin boyfriend, Gunther, is the target. Keith begins working the case even though that means pissing off powerful mages, crossing leprechaun picket lines, and braving dinner with goblin parents.

This one was so much fun. Mages, goblins, leprechauns, and pixies, oh my! The beginning just sucked me in immediately. Such interesting characters that I wanted to know all about them. Love the mage pistol and well, heck, this was just a super imaginative story. I figured out where the pixie dust had come from long before it came out, but it was still a fun ride getting to the bottom of exactly why and how. Gunther’s goblin family were great fun. The pixies and leprechauns (esp. Carrot Beard) were hilarious. But most of all, I adored Gunther the transmogrified goblin and would love to read more about him and Keith’s relationship, how they came to be together and definitely more in depth sexy bits please.

Everyone’s Afraid of Clowns by Jordan Castillo Price – 3.75 stars
Psychic medium Victor Bayne can spot a ghost any day of the year, but Halloween holds some special surprises. Victor and Jacob are on their way to a Halloween party, when Victor remembers something from his past. His psych-groupie boyfriend Jacob coaxes him to the location of the old spirit sighting, but they can’t ghost hunt without enduring a cheesy “haunted house” that’s even more disturbing than they realize.

Within the bowls of an old theatre, the guys encounter far more than just a ghost clown needing to cross over. As always between these two, any excuse for a sexy encounter is taken and the heat level between them is as hot as ever.

Well-written with ghost exhibitionism, glitter and goo, painted pumpkins and lots of spooky imagery. I’ve always found clowns and fun houses to be extremely creepy, but I do love this series. Victor and Jake are so darn hot together—wherever they are.

The Thirteenth Hex by Jordan L. Hawk – 5 stars
Dominic Kopecky is a Metropolitan Witch Police fanboy who failed the magic aptitude tests when he was young. He’d dreamed of working at MWP with witches and their familiars who take the form of birds, toads, and cats. But his lack of magic led him to become the next best thing—a hexman who does the grunt work of using ink, paper and gemstones to create spells that witches later activate with their magic. But hexes were an exact science and a badly done one could turn very deadly when activated.

When the beautiful unbonded crow familiar, Rook, seeks Dominic’s help investigating murder by hex Dominic isn’t sure why. He’s not a witch, the case has already been closed, and someone seems willing to kill to keep it that way.

I loved this one right from the start. Well-written, well-paced, intriguing characters, and a very unusual world set up. I thought it was funny that the familiar was a crow and Dominic’s last name was KoPECKy. Made me laugh. As did some of lines like ‘keep your beak out of it’ and a bunch of others. A lovely sweet romance, some nice heat, and a fun story. Overall, it just hit all the right notes for me.

The Soldati Prince by Charlie Cochet – 5 stars
Riley Murrough is a barista cleaning up after a day’s work when he’s suddenly being chased by demons, and rescued by tigers, one of which transforms into a huge man covered in tribal tattoos. If that wasn’t bad enough, he’s told that he bears the mark of a shapeshifter and whisked off to a magical realm.

Well-written story told from both Riley’s and Khalon’s POV, this story started off a bit confusing for me but very soon that changed and it sucked me in. At first witty, snarky fun with some really interesting side characters, but then things begin to shift. Within a chapter, there was a sweet romance that made me swoon and events that had me in tears and I completely loved Khalon and Riley. I really want to read more about this world and especially about the side characters Toka and Rayner as well. Loved those guys, too. The way Khalon and Rayner (best friends) bickered rocked. And the ending line was perfect Riley!

This was my first read by this author and will definitely not be my last, I really enjoyed her writing style.

One Hex Too Many by Lou Harper – 4.25 stars
Veteran detective Mike Mulligan is an expert on violent occult crimes at the Extramundane Crimes Division. Most of his fellow officers consider him cursed because of how many partners he’s lost and refuse to partner with him. Detective Hugh Fox is a rookie, eager to partner up and prove himself. However, Mulligan is accustomed to flying solo and not used to trusting a partner with his life. Not helped when one of the first things out of Fox’s mouth is to point out to Mulligan that he’s not gay.

Communicating via the bathroom mirror. Rogue hacker wizards=wackers (love that). A flamboyant blond desk clerk who can change sex at will uses glamour and charm spells on everyone in the force regularly as exposure training. All that in the first few pages let know right away that this was going to be a fun ride.

The duo is assigned to track a killer using dark magic—an offense at the top of the list of Prohibited Practices. Despite having gotten off to a rough start, I liked how Mulligan treated Fox from the get go. He seemed such a natural at training for a guy who hadn’t wanted a partner. Considerate of not making him look bad by correcting in front of others even when he was a trainee for instance. Early on a semi-drunken kiss motivated by a big red bed after the two of them had sung some off-note Karaoke made things a bit awkward—and yeah, that’s the kind of fun that ensues. The pace of their relationship development is fairly slow, which I liked, but I wanted to see/feel more heat. I enjoyed this new to me author’s writing style, quick paced, witty and fun, but with close attention to details of world building as well as the mystery elements. I would love a story about Leslie.

Josh of the Damned vs. the Bathroom of Doom by Andrea Speed 
It’s a boring night at the Quik-Mart for Josh and his friend Doug. Until a vampire with a grudge—and the most adorable backup ever—crashes the store. Can Josh survive the Bathroom of Doom?

A new to me author and I’m not familiar with this series, so right off that put me at a bit of a disadvantage going into this. Overall well-written story, but I was rather lost some of the time and for that reason, I am not going to assign this story an individual star rating. Honestly this story squicked me out, including how Josh described and thought about things—I’m pretty sure this had to do with my total lack of background reference on him to go on, but I have to be honest and say that Josh and Doug didn’t appeal to me. The Medusa bracelet was cool. I think fans of this series will enjoy this well-written quirky story. It just wasn’t for me.

The Trouble With Hexes by Astrid Amara – 5 stars
P.I. Tim Keller has a problem. And the only person who can solve it is his ex-boyfriend, Vincent, whose job as a hexbreaker was the reason they broke up. It’s hard admitting he was wrong, especially when coughing up organs. But there’s a missing person to find, a hexmaker to hunt down, and a romance to repair before Tim breathes his last.

Wow, this one grabbed me by the throat. With a death grip. Tim broke up with Vincent, a tattoo artist, six months ago because he didn’t believe in the mumbo jumbo he’d started working with in his spare time and couldn’t stomach the danger it put him in. Conversely, Vincent made more effort to hide what he was doing than to explain and show it to Tim right up until the blow up at the end.

A few months later, Tim began to sicken and when doctors found no cure he had to face the truth he’d sensed all along… he’d been hexed. He shows up on Vincent’s doorstep a mere shadow of the man he’d been, suddenly having no choice but to believe in what he’d scoffed at. But even if Vincent wants to help him, it turns out that breaking a withering hex is no easy matter.

The writing in this last and lengthiest story is excellent as is the pacing. The characters are well-drawn and sucked me right into their life and world. Plenty of heat, some “aww” moments, and some parts that made me teary. And even a sweet little dog. What more could I want? My favorite of this anthology—for me, an excellent example of saving the best for last.

Cover is both hot and intriguing, it also most definitely says paranormal to me and made me want to check this book out upon first sight.

Sales Links:  JCP Books |  Amazon | Buy It Here


Book Details:

Expected publication: August 25th 2015 by JCP Books LLC
original title Charmed and Dangerous: Ten Tales of Gay Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy
ISBN139781935540809
edition language English

ScatteredThoughts Summary of Reviews for November 2013

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November really was such an extraordinary month for books.  It almost makes me giddy with joy. I can’t remember when I last had more 5 and 4 star  rated books as I have had this month.  And their genres and plots ran the spectrum, from contemporary fiction to what I might best describe as fantasy horror, making this truly a rainbow month of great books by outstanding authors.

There are quite a few books that are a part of a series and should best be read in order, while others are stand alone pieces of fiction, with one or two in between in that they are a part of a series but could be read by themselves. It’s all in the reviews which I have linked to each title.

The holidays are upon us and ebook gift cards are a wonderful way of sharing books with those we love.  Make a list, check it twice to make sure you have the titles listed below on yours:dried flowers for november
November 2013 Review Summary

*part of a series

5 Star Rating:

Corruption by Eden Winters*, contemporary
Encore by Shira Anthony*, contemporary
Lessons for Suspicious Minds by Charlie Cochrane*,historical
Shock & Awe by Abigail Roux*, contemporary
Sweet and Sour by Astrid Amara, contemporary
The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men by Eric Arvin*, horror, fantasy
Too Many Fairy Princes by Alex Beecroft, fantasy

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

After The Fall by L.A. Witt* (4 stars), contemporary
Bar None Anthology (4.5 stars) mix of contemporary, scifi
Close Quarter by Anna Zabo*(4.75 stars), supernatural
Family Texas by R.J. Scott*, (4.5 stars), contemporary
Good Boy by Anne Tenino*, (4.5 stars),contemporary
How I Met Your Father by LB Gregg (4.25 stars), contemporary
Illumination by Rowan Speedwell (4.5 stars), contemporary
Long the Mile by Ally Blue (4.25 stars), contemporary
The Retreat by BA Tortuga*, (4 stars), contemporary
The Stars that Tremble by Kate McMurray, (4 stars), contemporary

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Captive Magic by Angela Benedetti* (3.75 stars), paranormal
Hat Trick by Chelle Dugan (3 stars), contemporary
The Blight by Missouri Dalton (3.75 stars), fantasy

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:
N/A

Review: Sweet and Sour by Astrid Amara

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Sweet and Sour coverMiles Piekus should be the happiest man around.  He has just finished a renovation of the family deli, Piekus Pickles, he bought from his parents and his shop is more successful than ever.  Miles has started a catering business and expanded the vegetarian selection in his Kosher deli.  He lives above the business in the apartment he grew up in and loves.  So what’s wrong?  Well, his Israeli boyfriend Itai, a software designer, was supposed to be his partner but can’t be bothered to help out.  And Miles thinks Itai is cheating on him again, after taking him back for a second chance.

As Thanksgiving and Hanukkah collide to form Miles’s worst nightmare with the deli to run and a party to cater and no help with either, a surprising arrival might be the answers to his problems.  Detective Dominic Delbene, a pickle enthusiast and all around foodie, has been staking out Piekus Pickles, on the lookout for a narcotics ring operating in the area.  He wants to use Piekus Pickles as his undercover spot and offers to help out behind the counter as his cover.  Turns out, Nic’s family used to own a deli and soon things are running smoothly, too smoothly as it turns out.  As romance starts to collide with business for both men, can Miles and Nic find the perfect recipe for love and a future together?

C.S. Lewis said “Eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably.” In Sweet and Sour, that combination is not just admirable but downright delectable!  Each holiday season I look forward to a Hannukkah story from Astrid Amara, normally one that includes the remarkable Bellskis.  This year the author introduces us to Miles Piekus and Piekus Pickles and I fell in love all over again with this author and her captivating characters and stories.

Starting from the very first, we get a clear idea of who Miles Piekus is as a person and business owner.  He’s covered in splattered pickle juice, working on orders and trying to assuage an old time customer of his parents who mistakenly picked up the wrong pickle and, of course, blames Miles for the error!  It’s a perfect scene from the imagery to the dialog which is so authentic to that age group of elderly Jewish men and women that I could swear I was sitting over at Pumpernickels at the early bird special.  We understand immediately that Miles is overworked, feeling  unappreciated by long time customers, and irritated by the attitude and absence of his IT boyfriend.  Astrid Amara gives us Miles, the gay, hardworking, family and culture loving Miles, and she did so in a nutshell as they say.  That’s wonderful characterization, made all the better by the ease in which she accomplished it.

Then enters Detective Dominic Delbene to further confuse and help the situation.  Nic Delbene is another wonderful character in a whole slew of them.  For one, he is not the typical detective in that he’s unhappy being a cop.  Furthermore, Nic is a pickle enthusiast and a foodie in his own right, having come from a delicatessen owning family himself.  Those unexpected and genuine layers add such texture to a person who could have been a stock character that I connected to Nic from the moment he walked into the store just as Miles did.  Nic loved the food Miles served up and he ate with an enthusiasm that was so contagious that my mouth actually watered.  One of the reasons this connectivity works so beautifully is because we understand Miles reaction to Nic because it is ours as well.

This book is chock full of memorable people, as different in flavor as the pickles you would find in Miles’ shop. And that includes Itai, the software designing boyfriend with ideas of a relationship at the other end of the spectrum from Miles.  Most people will dislike him deeply.  I have to admit I am not terrfibly fond of him myself. But I loved the manner in which Miles dealt with him. From the beginning to the end, Miles behaved like an adult and a loving, responsible human being.  In fact most of the people here are those who would garner your respect if you met them outside these pages.  As for the other characters?  Well, while we wouldn’t want to be more than acquaintances we would surely recognize them as the living breathing real women and men that Amara has created them to be.  From their actions to their dialog, it all works and works so smoothly that the pages just speed by along with the plot.

Layered overtop of the characters and plot is the author’s love of food and the Jewish culture.  These elements add such a richness to this story  that it almost needs its own review.  Miles keeps a Kosher kitchen and works hard to deliver kosher food that is still very “upscale”, pushing the boundaries of the expectations of those people in his community and the customers his store has served, some for years.  Astrid Amara gently imparts some of the specific about keeping Kosher to the reader without going into plot deadening detail.  We learn that Miles serves vegetarian because of the kashrut law that says meat and dairy must be kept separate.  We watch as Miles prepares his first catering job for Rabbi Kevin Fine, the  four-course Sabbath dinner for fifteen reform rabbis and their spouses at the Jewish Community Center. We get a complete menu and reactions from the dinners.  It’s a rich, funny, and ultimately heartwarming scene.  And I wanted to be there.  We are also are there as Miles spends his first Hannukkah alone, lighting the candles and saying the prayers by himself in his upstairs apartment.  We know how important tradition and his religion are to Miles because Astrid Amara has made it abundantly clear through Miles’ actions and words.  It’s moving and authentic.

And then there is the food and the recipes.  Oh my, such food!  Each chapter is labeled with the title of a recipe.  Chapter One is Warmly Spiced Cranberry Chutney. Chapter Four is Kosher Dill Half-Sours, Chapter Eight is Indian Hot Lemon Pickle right up to Beet Pickled Duck Eggs.  Each recipe sent me running to my computer and Google.  The food inside this story filled my head with aromas and flavors of such mouth-watering variety that I wanted to sample a bit of each and you will too.  I have been told that all the recipes in Sweet and Sour are real to my delight.

The holidays are upon us and Sweet and Sour is the perfect accompaniment for your holidays no matter what you celebrate. It is full of laughter and family, of traditions both old and new, of friends and lovers and our hopes for the future.  And of course, food, lots and lots of food and new recipes to try out. I asked for one from the author and here is the sufganiyot recipe.   Now I am off to bake.  You will want to as well. http://www.chow.com/recipes/30225-mexican-hot-chocolateglazed-sufganiyot-hanukkah-doughnuts-with-marshmallow-filling.

Sweet and Sour by Astrid Amara is one of ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords highly recommended reads for 2013.  Don’t miss out!

This is how it all begins:

Chapter One

Warmly Spiced Cranberry Chutney

“It’s a disgrace, what you’ve done to this pickle!”

Mr. Frank Elder, a loyal customer of Piekus Pickles for over fifteen years, brandished a sad pickle aloft, as if its very appearance were something so appalling everyone in the establishment would gasp in horror.

As it was, Miles Piekus, owner of Piekus Pickles and the one being verbally accosted, wiped the spatters of pickling liquid from his face and affixed an apologetic smile upon his face.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Elder. Can I get you another one?”

“You try it!” Mr. Elder cried, shoving the offensive vegetable in Miles’s face.

Miles took the small green pickle and bit off the end. It tasted crunchy, garlicky, and tart, just like a pickle should taste.

“It’s very sour!” Mr. Elder complained, and Miles understood the problem.

“This is a full-sour pickle. You usually buy half-sours.”

Half sours were brined in salt and spices only. This pickle had been brined in vinegar and for a longer time. Miles wondered if the old guy had finally lost his sense of smell. “See how dark it is? Half- sours are a lighter green.”

Mr. Elder scratched his temple. “But I thought I got my usual…”

“Did you select pickles from that first barrel by the window?” Miles pointed to one of six large wood barrels lining the wall of the deli. “Because I moved the barrels around when I renovated, and I bet you selected full–sours instead of your regular.”

“Even if that was the case, your mother would have caught the mistake before ringing me up.”

That was likely true, and not the first time Miles had heard the complaint. He’d inherited his family’s store when his parents retired and moved to Arizona three months ago, and the transition embittered many of the older, traditional client base that found Miles’s youth and enthusiasm off-putting.

“I’m sorry,” Miles repeated, his smile firmly attached. “Let’s get you half a dozen half-sours on the house.”

“You don’t have to go that far—“

“I insist. You’re right. I should have caught the mistake and I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again.” Miles gathered up a jar and used the tongs in the half-sour barrel to fish out a dozen small cukes from the brine. He sealed the lid and moved quickly to the cash register to ring up the sale. As he did so the bells over the front door jingled and two couples hurried in from the rain, talking loudly. Miles smiled at them then stole a glance back to the closed door behind him. The door opened to a narrow flight of stairs that connected to the second floor of the building, where Miles’s boyfriend currently sat, ostensibly not helping with the business. Miles sighed. He handed the jar to Mr. Elder and made a note for his Regular Clients board hidden behind the counter about the man’s tastes.

“Thank you, Miles,” Mr. Elder said in a complaining voice. “I’ll give you one more chance.”

Book Details:

ebook, 138 pages

Expected publication: November 26th 2013 by Loose Id
ISBN139781623004163
url http://www.loose-id.com/newest/coming-soon/sweet-and-sour.html

Special Note and  Recipes From the Author:

The one recipe I’ve personally made a few times before is a two parter – you need to make Pickled Beets first, and then you get to make Beet Pickled Duck eggs (thats the recipe in the book Sweet and Sour, but you can use chicken eggs instead).

Both recipes courtesy of “The Joy of Pickling” by Linda Ziedrich
Pickled Beets

– Makes 8 pints

7 lbs. beets with their rootlets and 2 inches of their tops, well scrubbed
2 4″ cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
1T whole allspice berries
1t whole cloves
1 c granulated sugar
1 c firmly packed light brown sugar
2t pickling salt
1 quart cider vinegar
2 c water

1. Put the beets into a large pot and pour enough boiling water over them to cover them. Return the water to a boil and boil the beets for 15-35 minutes, depending on their size, until they are just tender.
2. Drain the beets and cover them with cold water. When they are cool, trim them and slip off their skins. If they are large, halve or quarter them – or if you like, slice all the beets into 1/4 inch thick rounds.
3. Tie the spices in a spice bag or a scrap of cheesecloth. Put this in a nonreactive pot with both sugars, salt, vinegar, and water. Bring the contents to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat and simmer the liquid, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
4. While the liquid simmers, pack the beets into pint or quart mason jars. Pour hot liquid over the beets, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Close the jars with two-piece caps. Process the jars for 30 minutes in a boiling water bath.
5. Store the jars in a cool, dry, dark place for at least 3 weeks before eating the beets. After opening a jar, store it in the fridge. Save the liquid in the jar for the eggs below:

Eggs Pickled in Beet Juice

– Makes 1 quart

1c liquid from Basic Pickled Beets

1c white wine vinegar or distilled white vinegar
1t pickling salt
1/2 t whole black peppercorns, crushed
1/2 t whole allspice berries, crushed
1 Mediterranean bay leaf, crumbled
About 12 hard-cooked duck eggs (to fill a quart jar), peeled

1. In a nonreactive saucepan, bring to a boil the beet-pickling liquid, vinegar, salt, and spices. Remove the pan from the heat and let the liquid cool.
2. Put the eggs into a quart jar and pour the cooled liquid over them. Cap the jar and refrigerate it for 6-24 hours. The longer you leave the eggs in the liquid, the farther the red color will penetrate into the whites. To keep the yolk from coloring, slice and serve the eggs before a day has passed.

***

A good basic bread and butter pickle recipe:

Time to give Thanks and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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thanksgiving-clip-art cornecopia

This is Thanksgiving week for those of us in the United States and for Americans abroad.  It is a holiday associated with family and friends, get togethers and dinners surrounded by those we love.  Traditionally it is also a time we give thanks for the things we have, from health and happiness to work and a place to live and call our own.   These are things that we may take for granted and others are bereft of.  Some by choice, others by force, and many more by fate and a fluctuating economy that seems to favor the wealthy while leaving the rest behind.

Here are some agencies and shelters that could use our help in these times of need.  Notice the scarcity of LGBTQ shelters, including the lack of one in the DC Metro area:

LGBT Shelters:

  • Ali Forney Center:

The mission of the Ali Forney Center “is to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning (LGBTQ) youth from the harm of homelessness, and to support them in becoming safe and independent as they move from adolescence to adulthood.” To learn more about this charity or to donate directly, please visit their website: http://www.aliforneycenter.org.

  • Lost-n-Found Youth, Inc.:

Lost-n-Found is the outgrowth of Saint Lost and Found, an LGBT homeless youth fund project of the Atlanta Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
Founded by Rick Westbrook, Art Izzard, and Paul Swicord after each of them experienced being turned away when attempting to place queer youth into local shelters and youth aid programs, the three resolved that something needed to be done to address the immediate need.  Their website: http://lostnfoundyouth.org/

Food Banks:

Most areas have several  food banks in need of canned goods and nonperishables this year.   Here are some in the Metro DC Area:

There are so many worthy organizations out there competing for your attention and assistance.  If you aren’t sure of the organization’s viability as a charity, check with the Charity WatchDog Group with the American Institute of Philanthropy which lists the tops organizations with regard to the amount of money that goes directly to the charity involved.  Here is the link http://www.charitywatch.org/toprated.html.

If you know of other LGBT  youth shelters or organizations I have left out, please forward the information to me for future use.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and Hanukkah.  I have a wonderful week ahead in reviews.  This includes Astrid Amara’s wonderful story Sweet and Sour, Eden Winter’s Corruption, a great anthology, an enchanting fantasy by Alex Beecroft and a timely new release and author blog by Ally Blue that focuses around the relationship of two men who are homeless, Long The Mile:

Monday, Nov. 25:        Corruption by Eden Winter
Tuesday, Nov. 26:        Sweet and Sour by Astrid Amara
Wed., Nov. 27:              Bar None Anthology
Thurs., Nov. 28:            Too Many Fairy Princes by Alex Beecroft,  HappyThanksgiving!
Friday, Nov. 29:            Ally Blue Author Spotlight and Guest Blog for Long The Mile
Sat. Nov. 30:                  Long The Mile by Ally Blue

Scattered Thoughts Summary of Reviews for August 2013

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August banner with pencils

August 2013 Review and Blog Summary:

5 Star Rating:

Fifty Fifty Chances Are (Chances Are #3) by Lee Brazil, contemporary
Ghost of a Chance (Chances Are #4) by Lee Brazil, contemporary
Wicked Guidance (Wicked’s Way #4) by Havan Fellows, contemporary
Wicked Incarcerations (Wicked’s Way #3) by Havan Fellows contemporarysummer images with book

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

Chances Are (Chances Are #1) by Lee Brazil (4.5 stars) contemporary
Dance Only For Me (Dance With The Devil #6) by Megan Derr (4.75 stars) fantasy
Demolished by Astrid Amara (4 stars), contemporary
Home Sweet Home (Home #5) by T.A. Chase, (4.5 stars) contemporary
Second Chances Are (Chances Are #2) by Lee Brazil
The Beast Without by Christian Baines (4.75 stars) supernatural
Welcome, Brother (College Fun and Gays #5) by Erica Pike (4 stars) contemporary
Wicked Bindings (Wicked’s Ways #2) by Havan Fellows
Wicked Solutions (Wicked’s Ways #1) by Havan Fellows

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Burden by Annmarie McKenna (3.5 stars) contemporary
Faire Fugitive by Madeleine Ribbon (3.75 stars) fantasy
Fall For Me (Rock Gods #1) by Ann Lister, contemporary
Handle With Care by Josephine Myles (3.5 stars) contemporary
Mixed Tapes, Vol. 2 by Kris Jacen editor (3.5 stars) contemporary
Nischal (Leopard’s Spots #9) by Bailey Bradford (3.75 stars) supernatural
Subtle Innuendos (Mixed Tape series) by Z. Allora (3 stars) contemporary
The Boy Who Came In From The Cold by B.G. Thomas ((3 stars) contemporary

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

The Queen’s Librarian by Carole Cummings (2.75 stars) fantasy

1 to 1.75 Star Rating:

Aching For It (Dominican Heat #1) by Stanley Bennett Clay (1 star) contemporary

Other Blogs:
Author Spotlight: Havan Fellows    
Author Spotlight: Lee Brazil
Wait? That Was The Ending? A Writing Mini rant From Scattered Thoughts

Review: Demolished by Astrid Amara

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Rating:  4 stars out of 5

DemolishedWhen Calvin Quarry meets up with his anonymous hookup, he is startled and upset to find out that the man is none other than Felix Bracks.  Felix Bracks was responsible for the death of Calvin’s closest friend in high school and several of their classmates.  Calvin flees from the encounter, horrified.  But Felix pursues him, calling and texting Calvin over the next week or so.  Felix wants Calvin to hear his side of the story.  While it’s not something Calvin wants to hear, eventually he gives in and listens to a version of the story that differs greatly from the one he knew.

Felix Bracks has spent years as a social outcast because of that accident in high school.  Physically and emotionally scarred, he thought he had recovered.  But feeling the distain and hate from Calvin after all these years, hurts him.  He is attracted to Calvin and wants the man to like him.  But Felix only tells Calvin part of the truth, keeping the full story to himself.

When Calvin’s cousin Robbie gets involved in something sinister, something that is derailing his life, Calvin decides to investigate.  After all Calvin is an journalism major, this is something he knows how to do.  But as Robbie falls deeper and deeper into trouble, Calvin’s investigation starts to lead him not only to Robbie’s problem but Felix’s past as well.  As the past starts to intrude on Calvin and Felix’s relationship, will they be able to trust each other or will the revelations from the past demolish the love they have found with each other?

Astrid Amara is an automatic go to author for me.  I love her stories, especially her holidays with The Bellskis which rank among my favorite.  So when I heard she had a new story coming out, I was thrilled.  Demolished has all the elements I have come to expect from this author.  Great characters and an mystery that involves the reader emotionally as well as mentally.

Amara starts us off with Calvin agreeing to meet his online hookup, Bikenut, in person for some hot, and decidedly casual sex.

After four weeks of online flirtations and cybersex, Calvin Quarry finally got up the nerve to meet Bikenut in person.

Meet wasn’t the correct term. Screw worked better. Bikenut agreed to host. Cal would knock on the man’s apartment door five times, walk in, and he would be grabbed and taken aggressively and quickly. Then he’d depart.

It was the kind of online hookup Cal always dreamed of engaging in but never had the nerve to. But after weeks of conversations online with the guy with the username Bikenut, a series of photographs showing the man’s impressive endowments, and the guy’s general sense of good humor and intelligence, Cal gave in to his fantasies and arranged the meeting.

But from the moment, Calvin and his online buddy meet face to face, everything starts to go wrong.  Because Bikenut turns out to be Felix Brachs, the boy Calvin and his community love to hate.  Felix was involved in a car accident turned fatal for several high school students, including Calvin’s best friend and secret crush.  For that alone Calvin has hated Felix all these years.  Amara does a wonderful job in making Calvin and then Felix, open and appealing young men.  We understand the emotions each person is feeling and can relate to each of them, easily seeing that horrendous event from both sides of the story.  As created by Amara, these are earnest young men with their futures ahead of them.  But both Calvin and Felix have a joined past that they need to put behind them before they can go forward.  The author’s characterizations give Calvin and Felix each a layer of vulnerability that goes hand in hand with their youthfulness.  Each has experienced past angst and trauma, from the devastation of the accident to their coming out as gay youths.  And in every scene, Astrid Amara makes us feel their pain and confusion with a vividness that is heartbreaking.

Robbie is another wonderfully engaging character.  Younger than Calvin and Felix, Robbie is in trouble.  His grades have fallen, he is sullen and keeping secrets.  All the hallmarks of drug and alcohol abuse.  Robbie’s situation becomes increasingly grave over the course of the story and the reader’s anxiety over Robbie’s future deepens as clues from the past intertwine with revelations about Robbie’s current predicament.  For me, this is where Amara really shined.  Amara’s portrait of Robbie, a youth in trouble,  is  both realistic and grim and handled with sensitivity.  The author ticks off the boxes of the parental check sheet of things to look out for to see if a child is in trouble.  But she incorporates that knowledge seamlessly into Robbie’s personality and behavioral changes noticed by Calvin and Robbie’s parents.   We watch it happening, we see the missteps by Calvin that we know can be laid at his youthfulness and inexperience, and the dread just seeps into the reader, spreading over the story as we wait to see how it will all play out.

I have a few quibbles with Demolished.  The first of which I am not sure really mattered in the end.   Perhaps I have watched far too many police procedurals on cable, but I could see some of the plot twists and turns coming, including the biggest of them all.   That said, the journey to  that point was so suspenseful and thrilling it didn’t matter so much that I knew where we were headed to begin with.  The other quibble was the almost instantaneous love that sprang between a young man with hatred in his heart and the object of his distain.  I wondered if Calvin could really push all those carefully hoarded feelings away and fall in love almost immediately with Felix.  Maybe or then again, maybe not.  That was a harder bump in the road to get over.   But once I accepted their relationship, the story moved forward quickly, attaching my feelings in the process.

If you are new to Astrid Amara, there are so many books out there for you to start with.  Whether it is the science fiction of Hell Cop,  the contemporary holiday romance of The Carol of the Bellskis, or the mystery romance of Demolished, you can’t go wrong.   Start here and work your way through her backlist.  Astrid Amara lives in Bellingham, Washington, the wildly quirky town that is home to another one of my favorite authors, Nicole Kimberling.  I have never been to Bellingham but feel a road trip coming on.  What a place it must be to have such wonderful authors residing there and writing such amazing stories.  No matter, Astrid Amara is a terrific author. Begin your journey with her here.

Cover artist, Valerie Tibbs, has created a terrific cover for Demolished, the red is the perfect color in tone and emotion for the story within.

Book Details:

ebook, 165 pages
Published July 16th 2013 by Loose-ID
ISBN13 9781623004156
edition language English

Martin Luther King, Jr., I Had A Dream speech, and This Coming Week In Reviews

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MLK on the MallIt’s the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s speech on Wednesday and yesterday tens of thousands of people gathered to commemorate that momentous occassion and to remind  the world that his dream still needs to be fulfilled.   Racism still exists and we as a nation still have such a long way to go for all to be equal under the law and in each other’s eyes.

Just in time for his anniversary, the MLK statue on the memorial was “fixed” so that awful truncated version of MLK’s speech is now gone,  That was just another example of how this man and his message is still misunderstood by some, in this case the Chinese artist and a group of architects responsible for that statue..   IMLK statue am not a fan of that statue.  To me it belongs in Tiananmen Square not Washington DC, it exemplifying the type of statuary so often seen in the communist nations.  Where is the man of passion?  Where is the man of fire and vision?  I don’t see him in the statue but instead look to his speeches where he and his dream will live forever.

Martin Luther King’s “I Had A Dream” speech:

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Now to the week ahead in book reviews.  I have the second series from the Pulp Friction authors and a guest blog from Lee Brazil this week.  I love these series and can’t wait to bring the third one to you the week after next.  That will be the Triple Threat series by Laura Harner.  I also have two books by authors who are always on my TBR list, Astrid Amara and Josephine Myles.  Be sure to grab those up as well.

The weather is exquisite.  Present are those clear blue early autumn skies that make you smile and stay outside until twilight falls.  I heard my first flock of snow geese go trumpeting overhead last night, the first of many that signal an early fall.  The whitetail deer herds are also reforming early.  That would account for the over 15 of them in my neighbors yards last night.  Did it make the terrors three crazy?  Why, yes it did!  As well as every other dog in the neighborhood.  Almost time to start winter proofing my gardens but not just yet.  I will enjoy them for a little longer.  So its time to gather up my Kindle and my knitting (and of course the dogs) and head outside to enjoy the day.   I hope you will enjoy yours too.

Monday, Aug. 26, 2013:                     Fifty Fifty Chances Are by Lee Brazil

Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013:                     Ghost of Chances Are by Lee Brazil

Wed., Aug. 28, 2013:                            Author Spotlight: Meet Lee Brazil

Thurs., Aug 29, 2013:                           Demolished by Astrid Amara

Friday, Aug. 30, 2013:                         Handle With Care by Josephine Myles

Sat., Aug. 31, 2013:                              A Summary of Scattered Thoughts August Reviews

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Book Wishes for 2013 – Authors, are you Listening?

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Book Wishes for 2013:

While everyone has been busy making New Year’s resolutions, I have been thinking about what I would wish for 2013 in books.  Turns out I have quite a few wishes, some  I would like to share in hopes they reach an author’s ear or more…..

❋I wish that 2013 brings a new book from JL Langley, this one to feature Sterling and Rhys, her wolf shifters…boy have we been waiting for their story.

❋I wish that 2013 brings another book in the Knitting series from Amy Lane *cough Jeremy cough*

❋I wish that 2013 brings Roan, Dylan, Holden, and the rest back with a fervor because Andrea Speed is killing me with anticipation over what the virus is going to do to Roan next.

❋I wish that Josh Lanyon is relaxed and happy from his sabbatical and ready to unleash some new books on his adoring fans.

❋I wish that I finally have time to start and finish JP Barnaby‘s Lost Boy series.

❋I wish that when authors are describing human eyes, the term “orb” doesn’t even come to mind as a word choice.  Really, people, you are making me mental with this one.  No more “his adoring blue orbs”.  Do you hear how dumb that sounds?  Magical orbs, alien orbs, fine.  Human orbs, no. Emphatically, unwaveringly, absolutely no.  See my Vocabulary Gone Bad series.

❋Ditto man tits.

❋I wish to that Abigail Roux doesn’t hurt Ty and Zane too badly in her next Cut & Run series, but that probably won’t happen.

❋I wish to see fewer instances of “instalove”, more measured steps towards a romantic relationship.

❋I wish that 2013 brings new stories about the Roughstock gang (BA Tortuga) and see Sam further along in his recovery.

❋I wish that Mary Calmes gives us another story in her werepanther universe and Domin Thorne and Yuri, really love those two.

❋I wish that I start taking my time reading books I have been waiting for instead of rushing through them (and then having to start over).  Patience, I need more patience.

❋I wish that when authors put their characters through hell (rape, savage attacks etc), there is no instant recovery without any effects from the abuse.  If you are going to go there, then at least make what happens to these people realistic all the way through.  No brutal multiple rapes and then joyful snowmobiling through the countryside. This makes me crazy too.

❋I wish that Andrew Grey is as prolific as he was in 2012.  I need more  Range stories and Taste of Love series.

❋I wish that 2013 let’s me finish and write the rest of the reviews for Charlie Cochrane‘s outstanding Cambridge Fellows series, really I have no good excuse for this one, time just got away from me.

❋I wish that RJ Scott continues to write in her Sanctuary series, love those boys and TJ Klune brings back more bad poetry from the Kid as well as the Kid himself.

❋I wish to see less rushed endings and more complete backstories.

❋My wish for Sarah Black is for the Pacific Northwest to be as big a muse as the American southwest has been in the past.

❋I wish for more great m/m science fiction.

❋I wish for more in the Wick universe from Megan Derr.

❋I wish for anything new from Laura Baumbach.

❋I wish to see Tucker Springs explode with stories from many of my favorite authors (Marie Sexton, Heidi Cullinan and LA Witt).

❋I wish for more of the Bellingham Mysteries from Nicole Kimberling and Bellski stories from Astrid Amara.

❋I wish that 2013 let’s me discover more new authors I can’t live without.  Thank you, 2012 for RC Cooper, Amelia C. Gormley, Rodney Ross, Shira Anthony, Poppy Denison, Marguerite Labbe, Joel Skelton, Katey Hawthorne, Piper J. Vaughn, Cardeno C, Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane to name the ones that jump into my fogged brain this morning.

❋I wish to thank those authors whose stories I have been reading for sometimes for the continued enjoyment and hours of escape you have given me and so many other readers…..Ariel Tachna, Ethan Day, Anne Tenino, James Buchanan, SJ Frost, Josephine Myles, Willa Okati, Carole Cummings, Isabelle Rowan, Kate Steele, Lynn Lorenz, and so many others (again fogged brain from late night and Redskins game).

❋And a final wish for 2013 is for people to remember and rediscover the wonderful Home series by William Neale, an author who will truly be missed.

So that’s it, all my pathetic brain can spew out today.  I am sure there is much more trying to battle their way forward but they will have to wait.  A shout out to all the couples in Maryland that starting getting married at 12:01am this morning. Congratulations and a Happy New Year.  I will be leaving you all with a picture of Kirby in his New Year’s finest, please note the black leis, a nice touch don’t you think to go with his tiara?

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