In Our Holiday Spotlight Today: Hearts Alight by Elliot Cooper (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Hearts Alight

Author: Elliot Cooper

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: December 19, 2016

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 26700

Genre: Romance, paranormal, holiday

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Synopsis

Dave Cunningham hates the rampant consumerism that’s come to dominate his family’s Hanukkah celebrations. But a chance to bring a bit of a holiday happiness to his long-time crush, Amit Cohen, helps put him in a more festive mood.

In the quest to craft the perfect gift, Dave tries to urge a few personal details out of stoic Amit. Unintentionally, he learns the Cohen family’s secret: Amit is a golem. But Amit has a problem that runs deeper than his magical origin, and a Hanukkah miracle might be the only thing that will keep the budding flame between him and Dave from going out.

Excerpt

Elliot Cooper © 2016
All Rights Reserved

Nothing made Dave Cunningham want to hibernate in his apartment for the winter quite like shopping for Hanukkah gifts with his brother-in-law. He stared up at the shelves full of brightly colored toys with an internal groan. Only another hour, he told himself. Two if he was unlucky. He fought the urge to plug his headphones into his ears to drown out the omnipresent Christmas music filling the store.

“What d’you think of this LEGO set?” Jake held up a large box depicting a desert island playset, complete with pirates and skeletons. His wide brown eyes looked frantic, panicked. He shook the box and pulled a face at the heavy rattling. “Shoshie loves pirates, but she’s probably too old for LEGOs. Or…I mean, is anyone ever too old for LEGOs?”

“She’ll love whatever you get her.” Dave half glared at Jake but caught himself and shook his head. It wasn’t Jake’s fault the delightful minor holiday of their youth had been swept up in consumerism. “You shouldn’t have to get her anything. We go through this same torture every year.”

“It’s not torture; it’s fun. It’s festive!” Jake insisted and flashed a bright smile. “Just thinking about her face when she opens the big one on the eighth night? I love it. And, more importantly, she loves it.”

“My sister likes getting presents,” Dave said. He couldn’t help but blame her for the deterioration of their family’s Hanukkah celebrations. There wasn’t any malice left in his blame, though, just an understanding of the sad truth. In trying to keep Shoshana invested in and excited about her Jewish heritage, their parents had put them on a dark path to celebrating materialism.

It had started when he was in high school and Shoshana was in middle school. First, with her upset at her Christmas-celebrating friends and their incredible hauls of gifts. Then the growing jealousy over not being able to participate in the Santa-spangled sweep of dominant American culture. Finally, they’d all endured one too many crying fits and months-long debates about whether or not modern―or historical―Christmas was even about Jesus’s birthday.

Their mother and father decided to do what some of their friends had done: one small gift for each night of Hanukkah. And since their father had grown up in a Christian family, he liked the idea of gifts exchanged between everyone, not just from parents to children.

For the first few years, the new tradition seemed all right. Shoshana’d been made happy. Dave had even enjoyed helping pick out gifts for his sister and parents. But as time went on, the presents got bigger, and their importance in the scheme of the holiday celebrations almost usurped their father’s latkes. They’d definitely overshadowed the lighting of the menorah and family game time.

“Don’t act all high and mighty like you don’t like gifts,” Jake said, arching a brow. He glanced back at the second box he’d picked up―a pirate LEGO set of a huge ship. “Ship or island?”

“Ship, so she can display it after it’s built.” Dave didn’t bother looking at the boxes or their respective price tags. Jake made plenty good money running Gin Teal, his hipster bar downtown. “I’m not saying I don’t like gifts or that she shouldn’t. Just that Hanukkah isn’t about gifts. It’s the festival of lights. Celebrating the rededication of the Temple. The miracle of the oil. Spending time with family and―”

“You’re saying you don’t want a totally secular Hanukkah, I get it. But Shoshie does.” Jake put the ship set in his shopping cart and headed down the aisle toward the board games. “She’s an atheist. I’m agnostic. It works for us and we can celebrate with old traditions and more modern ones. Without guilt, even.”

Dave plucked at the fringe on his blue-and-silver-striped scarf, his mind a jumble of rebuttals. There was more to it than the consumerism, the secular chokehold. He didn’t mind a dash of either. Modernity wasn’t the problem. It was the lack of balance. And the horrible pressure to be thoughtful and tasteful and have enough money to bring material happiness to his loved ones. He’d tried not giving gifts the year before, after explaining his tight budget and distaste of the focus on presents. No one had batted an eye; they’d all been understanding. And then they’d lavished him with gifts and, without meaning to, had made him feel terrible for not being able to reciprocate. It was a vicious cycle he couldn’t break.

“Maybe I should just celebrate on my own this year. I could open up my schedule to take more evening shifts at work, make a little extra money. Business is picking up with people wanting to do pottery-painting parties to make holiday gifts. And we’re booked up for three of our five holiday-themed painting classes,” Dave said as he trailed after Jake, hands thrust deep into his jeans pockets.

“You just said Hanukkah is about families celebrating together.” Jake shot him another look, pursing his lips in disbelief. A slow smile crept across his lips. “Oh, I know what this Scrooge act is about.”

The gleam in his eyes was the same one Shoshana and his mom got when they tried to set him up on dates.

“Don’t say it!”

“You’re lonely. Romantically lonely.” Jake picked up a game box and skimmed over the descriptions on its side and back. “Hiding at work and in your apartment isn’t going to change that. Besides, no one’s going to be doing art classes the week after Christmas. You’ve told me before your Valentine’s customers don’t start until after the first of the year.”

Dave groaned and picked up a Magic 8 Ball, flipping it over a few times without reading the message in the inky window.

At least Jake hadn’t said the dreaded “you need to find a woman.” Dave had tried dating women, but it had never worked out, for one reason or another. He was too oblivious. Too attentive. Too observant. Not observant enough. And, once, he’d been so lackluster in bed that his girlfriend had told him to stop, thanked him for his time, and walked out of his life.

Dating men hadn’t gone much better, if he were being honest with himself. He was no towering gym-honed testament to manhood, with his short stature and soft middle. He wasn’t highly educated, having done a failed stint at one of the local community colleges. He didn’t have much money, though he did have a decent job at his dad’s art studio. Since he’d gotten his own place, he’d been treading water. No one wanted to stick around and join him in his ambitionless pool.

“You should swing by the bar Saturday night,” Jake said after placing a dice game in his cart. He smiled at Dave with the brotherly warmth that had been there since high school, when they’d only been best friends, and then reached over to grip Dave’s hunched shoulder. “I’ll buy you a beer if you’ll just show up. You don’t even have to talk to anyone. Just…be present.” He smirked and cocked his head to the side, putting one fabulously thick sideburn and wooden earlobe plug on display.

“Har-dee-har. Let’s see what the oracle has to say. Should I go to Jake’s hipster haven on Saturday?” Dave shook the Magic 8 Ball, still secure in its packaging. When he flipped the ball over, the answer floated to the window. Dave sighed. “It is decidedly so.”

“Good!” Jake pushed his cart down toward the seasonal area of the store, beyond the tinsel trees and endcaps bursting with foil bows and rolls of wrapping paper. “Just a heads up, my uncle Amit’s working that night.”

The man was physically everything Dave wasn’t: chiseled muscles, strong chin, tall, huge hands, and slightly wavy black hair that swept perfectly to one side. Amit Cohen straddled that maddening line between men Dave wanted to be and men he wanted to be with. So what if he was a reclusive workaholic?

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon

Meet the Author

Elliot Cooper writes speculative fiction featuring queer characters. His novels and novellas come with hopeful and happy endings, though his short fiction runs the gamut of styles and genres. He strives above all to make his readers feel, while also increasing positive representation of LGBTQ characters and their stories.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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A BJ Review: Junk Mage by Elliot Cooper

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Rating:    4 stars out of 5

Junk MageWhen technomancer Quillian Defote crash-lands on remote planet Marutuk, he has limited time to repair his ship and get off world. If he fails, he’ll forfeit his position as professor of mechanical transmutation at the prestigious Ivy Arcanarium and ruin his employment prospects in yet another sector.

Hunter, a cyborg guarding a junkyard that holds what Quill needs, is charmed by the wayward mage and wants to help him. But Hunter is bound by honor to dutifully guard his mistress and her possessions, no matter how cruelly she treats him.

Together Quill and Hunter stand a chance of starting a new life together if carnivorous wildlife, a violent necromancer, and stubborn pride don’t keep them apart.

For the first bit, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this story. It took me a while to get into it and begin to care about the characters and fully understand all that was going on. However, that changed for me at the thirty percent or so mark.

Really excellent world-building especially for such a short novella. It’s actually science fiction, but for some reason it almost reads like outer space steampunk sorta. This world is intricate and has a TON of potential, and I wish this story had been longer in order to explore more and really do it justice.

However, even in this short length, we get lots of interesting creatures, magic, computer tech, cyborgs, just all sorts of fun stuff. There was a ton of potential, but I couldn’t quite give it five stars because I felt it ended too soon and could have been filled out a lot more. There are so many ideas, so much going on in this, it could easily have been twice as long I think. As it was, it felt rather rushed due to the length. I found myself longing for more sensuousness, more feels, more UST maybe. But that is just me, a personal taste thing maybe.

Quill is a great character. I enjoyed the type of mage he is… junk mage is a great title. I enjoyed Quill’s rather laid-back attitude. He is nothing like your typical hero. In fact, it seems he’s been rather a screw up in the past due to his attitude. I like how he cared about everyone else even when he was in danger of losing his job and maybe even his life on that strange planet. Despite his predicament, he cared about the dangerous little narl… and the dangerous cyborg with the gun… and even the evil mage who tried to kill them.

Hunter the cyborg was also a great character, and I wanted to know more about him than we were given. Adored how touched he was by the gift of the ereader, his love for books resonated with me. And then when he immediately found the m/m erotica, that was great!

Although there could easily have been a lot of angst in this, there was very little. This didn’t come across as a sweet, flowery romance, neither was it a smoking hot erotic read–there was actually no sex. It was more an imaginative, action-packed story of two men with good hearts finding each other… and then your imagination has to take it from there. Unless there ends up being sequel.  Which would be good, because I could totally see this taking off as a series. Plenty of potential.

And I must mention the hideous narls (bone sucking creatures!). Junior was great. I rather wondered what was going on with him though, like why was he different that the others? Why did he need Quill’s help at one point from a gang of other narls and then turn and face a gang of them to save another smaller narl later on? What had changed? Regardless, the narls were cool. And the thing with the eyes and the goggles, oh my. Loved that.

The cover is nice but I think it may be part of why this read as steampunk to me even though it’s sci-fi. The cover rather screams steampunk for me.

Sales Links

      NineStar Press  

Book Details: 

ebook, 49 pages
Published July 4th 2016 by NineStar Press
ISBN139781911153580
Edition LanguageEnglish
URLhttp://ninestarpress.com/product/junk-mage/