A Stella Review: If the Fates Allow Holiday Anthology

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RATING 4 out of 5 stars

During the holidays, anything is possible—a second chance, a promised future, an unexpected romance, a rekindled love, or a healed heart. Authors Killian B. Brewer, Lynn Charles, Erin Finnegan, Pene Henson, and Lilah Suzanne share their stories about the magic of the season.

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Gracious Living Magazine Says It Has to Be a Live Tree
By Killian B. Brewer
Determined to make his first Christmas with his new boyfriend magazine-perfect, Marcus seeks the advice of lovable busy bodies, the Do-Nothings Club. When he learns that his boyfriend, Hank, may have ordered a ring, Marcus’ attempts to transform his home into a winter wonderland get out of hand.

Shelved
By Lynn Charles
When library clerk Karina Ness meets a new patron, lonely business owner, Wesley Lloyd, she puts her own love life on hold and begins a holiday matchmaking mission to connect Wes with her uncle Tony.

Last Call at the Casa Blanca Bar & Grille
By Erin Finnegan
As the one-year anniversary of his lover’s death rolls around on Christmas, Jack Volarde finds himself at their old haunt—a bar called the Casa Blanca, where a new bartender helps him open up about loss, and see brightness in a future that had grown dim.

True North
By Pene Henson
Shay Allen returns to her hometown in Montana for the holidays with her best friend Devon with the intent to return home to L.A. by New Year’s Eve. Instead, the weather traps them in the small town, but the there’s a bright spot: her old crush Milla is still in town.

Halfway Home
By Lilah Suzanne
Avery Puckett has begun to wonder if her life has become joyless. One night, fate intervenes in the form of a scraggly dog shivering and alone in a parking lot. Avery takes him to a nearby shelter called Halfway Home where she meets bright and beautiful Grace, who is determined to save the world one stray at a time.

I’m a fan of holiday stories and I’m a fan of this publisher o I soon jumped at the chance of having this collection of LGBT shorts on my hands. I have to say some titles worked better than others but it still was a pleasurable reading.

Gracious Living Magazine Says It Has to Be a Live Tree By Killian B. Brewer 5 stars

I was waiting for new works from this author since I read Lunch With The Do-Nothings At The Tammy Dinette on January and I was so happy to meet Marcus again here in this short. Marcusa has moved to Georgia six months ago, he’s now working at the Tammy Dinette. He got new friends, new job and a new lover, Hank, the hot mechanic. Since I adored the novel, I was over the moon the author filled my wish to know more about Marcus and his new life. I found them ready to spend their first Christmas together, but most of all, ready to take baby steps toward a real future side by side. And a little misunderstang added more spice to the plot. I loved it!

Shelved By Lynn Charles 3 stars

this is not the first story I read by this author and although I was able to see her amazing writing style, I didn’t loved Shelved as I loved the other books Lynn wrote. Maybe cause there is a “double story”, one with a ff couple and one with a MM couple. And I would have preferred to have just Wes and Tony romance, simply cause I’m more interested in mature MCs. That said, I liked this short story and the amazing people and athmosphere the author created.

Last Call at the Casa Blanca Bar & Grille By Erin Finnegan 3,5 stars

This was the first time I read this author’s work and it was a surprise. To be honest, I’m actually not sure why, cause the writing was really good and intriguing, but I soon at troubles with the reading and I found myself pretty bored, I didn’t understand where the author was going to lead Jack. I was hoping something was going to happened and the story to take a new energy. And then I got an answer, and everything fell into the right place. It gave me hope and faith. A touching short about love and grief.

True North By Pene Henson 4 stars

I like the author writing and I was expecting this to be a FF story, it didn’t go exactly how I was hoping and fearing, the usual fake boyfriend clichè was ignored and the plot went versus the friends to lovers theme. I liked how both girls slowly approached each other after years of being apart. And I adored the ending, the promise of a plan to actually be together, gave the short some reality.

Halfway Home By Lilah Suzanne 3 stars

This short warmed my heart, if you are a dog lover, you can’t not like it and cheer for Avery to come out of her shell and open her life to Grace and to the world. I hoped for her to find some happiness and joy in the arms of a beautiful woman and in the sweet Rudy.

The cover art by CB Messer is adorable.

Sales Links:  Interlude Press | Amazon

BOOK DETAILS

ebook

Published December 1st 2017 by Interlude Press

ISBN13 9781945053481

Edition Language English

INTERLUDE TOUR If the Fates Allow Holiday Anthology (excerpts and giveaway)

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If the Fates Allow: A Holiday Anthology

from the Authors at Interlude Press, an LGBTQ Publisher

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host the tour for If the Fates Allow: A Holiday Anthology from Interlude Press.  If you love holiday stories, check out all the wonderful stories the authors have for you below, read the excerpts and don’t forget to enter the  giveaway at the bottom of the post!

SHELVEDLYNN CHARLES

Libraries are honored and respected institutions in our communities. From providing free literature for pleasure and information, to offering quiet work space and free Wi-Fi, a town’s library can be a sanctuary for anyone who wants or needs it.

In large metropolitan libraries, resources can seem limitless: musical scores; complete medical encyclopedia; drawers of historical maps; comic books; movies; books stretching in themes from fundamentalist Christianity to Paganism, from science fiction to horror to westerns to bodice ripping romance. Meeting rooms are available for community businesses, children have their own spaces where they can read, learn and engage their creativity. Some have cafes, most hold free classes for computer usage, job and careers, adult learning, or business and finance. The options seem as endless as the available materials. And their focus is on the entire community: young and old, rich and poor, all races, nationalities, sexual orientations and religions.

The Library Bill of Rights—yes, it’s a thing—requires it. It states that libraries should provide services for all people, present all points of view, challenge censorship, honor privacy of inquiry, and make the library and its full facilities available to all.

What happens, however, if you live in a smaller town, a conservative town? What happens when the administration who runs your library carries strong opinions about certain sectors of their own community? When they refuse to post a Pride display in June, or a collection of books celebrating Ramadan or Diwali? When even finding such books in circulation is difficult or downright impossible?

In “Shelved,” my short romance in the holiday anthology, If the Fates Allow, the story is told by Karina Ness, a library clerk who works in such a library. She has made it part of her mission at this small county library to diversify the catalog, to expand the offerings for her community who aren’t all white, straight, Protestant folk. She, and her new patron friend Wes, talk about the challenges of getting proper library materials when you’re not like “everyone else” in your community.

“Minions don’t have to provide résumés,” Karina explained. “We have to prove we can spell our names and recite the alphabet.”

Wes patted the seat next to him, and she took the invitation. “Not your dream job, I take it?”

“It’s a step. I was an annoying patron who wants to be an annoying librarian, so they gave me an opening.”

“You’re helpful, not annoying.”

“Well, you’re not the conservative circulation manager. Her, I annoy. Regularly. Because this is a library, not a Christian bookstore.”

“See, now. You proved it. You’re the kind of librarian I liked.”

“You were a library kid too?”

“I read like a fiend. Still do, but the books at school didn’t include many people that looked like me.”

“Sadly, they still don’t.”

“No. And once I was a teenager, I couldn’t find books that helped me understand why I thought boys were much cuter than girls.” He smiled. “No offense.”

“None taken. I mean, you’re wrong; girls are much cuter than boys.”

Wes smile broadened. “See? I needed librarians like you. Mom would take me up to the city library where they had more options. Once I could drive, I’d go and find the deepest stack and read everything I could.”

“Because you couldn’t take them home…”

“Nope. Especially with Dad.”

Which brings up another concern. Kids and teens want to see themselves in books—queer heroes fighting for a cause, boys who fall in love with boys, girls who think the girl in her math class is so incredibly hot, trans or enby kids who struggle to find their identity in our binary world. They don’t dare buy the books at the Scholastic Book Fair, or use allowance money to get them at the closest book store. Without a supportive family, bringing materials like that into their homes can be dangerous. Libraries are a safe haven to read, to steal away, to allow their imaginations run wild and to see themselves as their hero in their own story. And for kids in small towns, the haven isn’t as available if the books aren’t there.

In my story, having those types of books available might have made a huge difference to Karinas Uncle Tony, who didnt come to terms with his bisexuality until his 40s.

But it’s not hopeless. Karina Ness might be a fictional character, but she is in every town. Clerks and librarians like her regularly annoy acquisitions managers, some of whom would rather fill the shelves with Christian romance novels, and speak up for kids like Karina by doing what they can to get the materials in the hands of the readers who need them.

When I worked at my small county library, even though our situation was much like what Ive just mentioned, I quickly learned that if you request a book to be added to the circulation, a librarian will do their best to get it for you. Go equipped with titles or themes and talk to the people on the floor. If one person doesn’t seem helpful—or if she’s your Sunday School teacher or your next-door neighbor and you just cannot ask her—find someone else. If face to face isn’t something you’re comfortable with, even the smallest libraries have an online presence where you can make requests via email or an online form. I have never had a request rejected on premise of theme, character nationality, race, religion or sexual orientation. If the administration of that library isn’t interested in diversifying its circulation, then help them out by letting them know that their community wants it. Your on-the-floor librarian should be glad to help you. If not, ask another.

Characters like Karina are on staff all over the country. Libraries, big and small, are truly for everyone.

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Lynn Charles is an author of queer contemporary romance novels. She lives in Central Ohio with her husband and daughter where a blind dog and his guardian cat rule the roost. She holds a bachelors degree in music education, worked at her county library, and absolutely never judged you for what books you checked out. Her novels Chefs Table (2014), Black Dust (2016)a finalist for the Foreword Review Indie Award in Romance, and Beneath the Stars (2017), can be found at Interlude Press, and most online book retailers. Keep up with Lynn at lynncharles.net.

IF THE FATES ALLOW  ~ SUMMARIES & AUTHORS

Gracious Living Magazine Says It Has to Be a Live Tree by Killian B. Brewer: Determined to make his first Christmas with his new boyfriend magazine-perfect, Marcus seeks the advice of lovable busy bodies, the Do-Nothings Club. When he learns that his boyfriend, Hank, may have ordered a ring, Marcus’ attempts to transform his home into a winter wonderland get out of hand.  Featuring the characters from Lunch With the Do-Nothings at the Tammy Dinette.

Killian B. Brewer lives in his life-long home of Georgia with his partner and their dog. He has written poetry and short fiction since he was knee-high to a grasshopper. Brewer earned a BA in English and does not use this degree in his job in the banking industry. He has a love of greasy diner food that borders on obsessive. Lunch with the Do-Nothings at the Tammy Dinette was published in January, 2017. His debut novel, The Rules of Ever After, is available from Duet Books, the young adult imprint of Interlude Press.

True North by Pene Henson: Shay Allen returns to her hometown in Montana for the holidays with her best friend Devon with the intent to return home to L.A. by New Year’s Eve. Instead, the weather traps them in the small town, but the there’s a bright spot: her old crush Milla is still in town.

Pene Henson has gone from British boarding schools to New York City law firms. She now lives in Sydney, Australia, where she is an intellectual property lawyer and published poet who is deeply immersed in the city’s LGBTQIA community. She spends her spare time enjoying the outdoors and gazing at the ocean with her gorgeous wife and two unexpectedly exceptional sons. Her first novel Into the Blue (Interlude Press, 2016) received a Lambda Literary Award for Gay Romance. Her second novel, Storm Season, was published by Interlude Press in 2017.

Last Call at the Casa Blanca Bar & Grille by Erin Finnegan: As the one-year anniversary of his lover’s death rolls around on Christmas, Jack Volarde finds himself at their old haunt—a bar called the Casa Blanca, where a new bartender helps him open up about loss, and see brightness in a future that had grown dim.

Erin Finnegan is a former journalist and a winemaker who lives in the foothills outside Los Angeles. Her novel Luchador was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2016, and along with her 2014 debut novel, Sotto Voce, received both a Foreword Reviews INDIES Book of the Year award and a PW starred review. 

Halfway Home by Lilah Suzanne: Avery Puckett has begun to wonder if her life has become joyless. One night, fate intervenes in the form of a scraggly dog shivering and alone in a parking lot. Avery takes him to a nearby shelter called Halfway Home where she meets bright and beautiful Grace, who is determined to save the world one stray at a time.

Lilah Suzanne has been writing actively since the sixth grade, when a literary magazine published her essay about an uncle who lost his life to AIDS. A freelance writer from North Carolina, she spends most of her time behind a computer screen, but on the rare occasion she ventures outside she enjoys museums, libraries, live concerts, and quiet walks in the woods. Lilah is the author of the Interlude Press books SpicePivot and Slip, and the Amazon bestselling Spotlight series: Broken Records, Burning Tracks and Blended Notes.

Shelved by Lynn Charles: When library clerk Karina Ness meets a new patron, lonely business owner, Wesley Lloyd, she puts her own love life on hold and begins a holiday matchmaking mission to connect Wes with her uncle Tony.

Lynn Charles’ love of writing dates to her childhood, when thoughts, dreams, frustrations, and joys poured onto the pages of journals and diaries. She lives in Central Ohio with her husband and adult children where a blind dog and his guardian cat rule the roost. When she’s not writing, Lynn can be found planning a trip to New York or strolling its streets daydreaming about retirement. Her novel Black Dust (2016) was named a finalist for a Foreword Reviews INDIES Book of the Year award. Her other novels include Beneath the Stars (2017) and Chef’s Table (2014).

Excerpts

Gracious Living Magazine Says It Has to Be a Live Tree by Killian B. Brewer

Hank ran his hands down Marcus’s back and tucked them into Marcus’s back pockets. He pulled Marcus tight against his body. “So how was it today?”

“It was a good day, Baby.” The warmth of his boyfriend’s body soothed Marcus’s tired muscles, and he relaxed into the embrace. Marcus breathed in deeply at Hank’s collar bone. The smells of the home-cooked food reheating upstairs that lingered in Hank’s cotton shirt mixed with his cologne and filled Marcus with two types of hunger. He satisfied one by turning his face and placing his lips on Hank’s. The other man let out a low hum of pleasure as they kissed. Marcus pulled away slightly and looked into Hank’s eyes. “I’m going to want seconds of that later, but right now I’m starving.”

“Let’s get upstairs and get to rectifying that.” Hank stepped toward the stairs and pulled Marcus along behind him, only letting go of his hand when they reached the narrow stairway and had to ascend single file. “You can tell me all about how the dinner went. Was it a big crowd?”

“Big doesn’t even begin to describe it. I can’t count how many plates I fixed today.” Marcus concentrated on Hank’s backside, which was accented by worn spots on his tight blue jeans, as it bounced up the stairs ahead of him. The sight of Hank’s firm body inches away and the scents of food wafting from the apartment set Marcus’s two hungers warring inside him. As he clomped upward, a loud rumble from his stomach signaled which desire would win this time.

“Was that your stomach?” Hank paused on the stairs and turned to shoot Marcus a concerned look.

“Yeah,” Marcus’s answered as he pushed Hank up the stairs into the apartment, “we need to get some food into me.” Remembering the Do-Nothings admonition not to ruin Hank’s surprise, he added, “I’m so tired I can barely climb these stairs. I don’t think I can cook another thing today. Maybe we should just make a frozen pizza.”

Hank spun around and grabbed Marcus by both wrists. Excitement danced in his eyes, and he shook his shoulders. “I’ve got a surprise for you! I made us a whole Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey and everything!” He pulled Marcus into the apartment and gestured toward the folding table beside the kitchenette along the wall of the large, open loft. “You don’t have to cook any more today!”

The table was covered with a russet tablecloth and had orange tapers burning in the center of a spray of autumn leaves and berries. Two plates sat on brown placemats embroidered with yellow leaves that Marcus recognized from Helen’s kitchen table. He was sure the tablecloth, napkins, and centerpiece belonged to the Do-Nothings as well.

“Oh, Hank. It’s beautiful. You shouldn’t have.” Marcus turned and kissed Hank on the cheek. His stomach interrupted the kiss with a loud grumble. “But, clearly, I’m so glad you did.”

“I wanted to make our first Thanksgiving together a special night.” Hank beamed as he stepped over to the counter and pointed out bowls of food arrayed there. “And I made all your favorites. Cathead biscuits. Creamed corn. And look!” Hank picked one bowl and thrust it toward Marcus. “Real mashed potatoes. Not from a box!”

True North by Pene Henson

Milla Dalya. Shay stopped worrying about the crowd of neighbors and her mom introducing Devon as her girlfriend. She stopped breathing too.

“Old crush,” she’d said to Devon in the car. “Nothing important.” That might not have been the whole truth.

For the first six months of high school, Shay had been first on the school bus each morning. Halfway through freshman year Milla and her twin brother Luka and uncle Ilie had moved into the dilapidated horse ranch up the hill. From then on, Milla and Luka were first on the bus; Shay was second. The three of them rode twenty minutes around the mountain before collecting anyone else.

That first frosty day, Milla had smiled at Shay.

“Oh, no,” Shay had thought as she pulled off her thick gloves and shoved them in her backpack. Milla’s smile was sudden and waywardly infectious. It balanced the seriousness of the girl’s pale, freckled face and silvery eyes.

Shay had managed to smile back and sit four seats away. Not too close, not too far. That was the trip to school. On the way home, Milla had asked Shay’s name. By week two they were sitting at the front of the bus sharing Shay’s iPod and a set of earbuds. When the bus swung around the mountain, Shay’s black, puffy jacket pressed against Milla’s sky-blue one.

They weren’t friends exactly. Shay didn’t have friends. She spent any time that wasn’t a class training in the gym or on the football field. She had goals.

Anyway, they’d never shared a class or a lunch break. Milla was a year older and a grade above Shay. She was soft-spoken and horse-mad, but so were lots of girls in Big Timber. She was quickly surrounded by people. Shay understood that. Milla was pretty and seemed easy with herself—graceful. She fit.

They weren’t friends, but however many other kids Milla could have sat with on the bus, she always saved a seat for Shay. They were bus allies. They ignored Luka and his friends and their never-ending noise. With the help of her iPod, Shay took on the development of Milla’s musical palate. Now and then, between Aaliyah and Amerie, Milla talked about her horses and the farm. Shay talked about fishing and basketball.

They weren’t friends, but every time Shay took the court, home or away, she scanned the bleachers to find Milla among the spectators before the starting whistle blew. And most afternoons Shay would run up the hill beside her house, testing herself on its uneven slope. At the top she’d look down on Milla’s blue-roofed farmhouse. Sometimes she’d see Milla walk across to the stables.

She didn’t jog down the hill to visit. It was simply reassuring to see the place, always there under the huge, blue bowl of the sky.

The whole brief time they’d shared here in nowhere, Montana, every single time Shay had seen Milla, it was as if she was the only person in the room.

Last Call at the Casa Blanca Bar & Grille by Erin Finnegan

Taking a seat at the Casa Blanca was like stepping out of a time capsule in Morocco circa 1941, by way of Hollywood. Located on the ground floor of an aging hotel, it greeted patrons with the sound of big band music on the stereo and framed photos of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman on the walls. Cast on crimson and gold accents, the warm, dim lighting suggested a permanent midnight.

A comfortable oddity compared to its five-star competition up the hill, the Casa Blanca’s style was part homage to the classic film, part tequila bar. The owner insisted on a sense of classic style— no jeans or T-shirts for its bartenders, who wore crisp, white dress shirts and black slacks, though he capitulated on the bow ties when the bartenders rose up against wearing the constrictive neck ware.

Admittedly, the Casa Blanca hadn’t always been Jack’s idea of a great bar. It had been an acquired taste, born of devotion and a willingness to follow. To some, it came across as fashionably ironic: Kasbah décor-meets-Mexican restaurant to a soundtrack from the American songbook. Jack would protest that it was a hipster joint, would try to default to something fashionably modern atop Bunker Hill, an elegant spot with a view, but the Casa Blanca’s quirks and contradictions grew on him over time.

Like a fungus, he would say.

Like love, he would be admonished.

Maybe it became so much a part of his routine because it was where they had spent many of their best moments together, and a few of their worst.

The Casa Blanca was a habit born out of a relationship, a routine that died of unnatural causes one year ago.

Rattan fans swirled overhead, casting erratic shadows across the depths of the near-empty room. Televisions at opposite ends of the bar echoed the play-by-play of ESPN in hushed and reverent tones; the voice of the broadcast team usurped by Peggy Lee.

At the far corner, his back to the entrance, a solitary bartender wiped glasses while glancing at the game.

“You open?” Jack asked.

“So long as you’re thirsty,” he answered without so much as a glance in Jack’s direction, as if anticipating the interruption. “But the kitchen’s closed.”

“That’s all right,” Jack said. He made himself comfortable at a table a few feet from the bar and adjusted his chair to face the television. It might not have been sociable, but he wasn’t here for conversation.

A napkin floated to the table. A bowl of Chex Mix settled in front of his fingertips. “What are you drinking?”

Jack glanced at the bartender’s hands without looking up—the prominent veins hinted at athleticism and the nails were buffed to a soft sheen.

He drank beer at games, but beer was a drink for the sociable, to be consumed among friends. Whiskey had an appropriately solitary feel, but seemed out of place for a warm evening.

“Tequila,” he said. “Casa Dragones.”

“And here I had you figured for bourbon.”

Halfway Home by Lilah Suzanne

She drives to Grace’s house next, even more anxious than she was about staging Rudy’s escape. “Just be glad you don’t have to date,” she tells Rudy, scooping out a bite of drippy ice cream. “You’d be dead inside after a while of that too.” Avery holds out the ice cream lid for Rudy to lick. Can dogs eat ice cream? It’s probably fine. “See? Who doesn’t like vanilla ice cream, right? It’s like all other ice cream owes vanilla its existence. Rocky road. Cookie dough. Moose Tracks. Cookies and cream.” Rudy looks plaintively up at her, so she sets the now-empty carton down on the seat for him. “Okay, yeah. I’m stalling.”

Covering him with the blanket again, Avery cuts the engine, promising to be back quickly before the cold seeps in, then runs up Grace’s driveway before she chickens out. Grace answers with two of her dogs at her heels.

“Hi,” Avery says, clouds of steam puffing out as she speaks. “Sorry to drop by.”

“It’s okay, I’m glad you did.” Grace smiles, and Avery shivers.

“I um, had a weird, yet inspirational, talk with Santa. I mean not real Santa. I don’t think he’s real; you know what I—”

Grace laughs. “I get it, yeah.”

Avery exhales a cloudy breath. “Okay. The thing is, I’ve been settling for feeling nothing because it was safe, or I thought it was, but I don’t want to feel numb anymore. Even though my nose and fingers do actually feel numb right now.” She rubs at her nose. It’s so cold; she has to wrap this up and get back to Rudy. “I just wanted to tell you that I really, really like you a lot. Like I haven’t liked anyone as much as you… ever, actually. Yes, including the person I lived with because— because I was afraid to speak up and say how I really felt. But I’m not anymore. Grace, meeting you was fate. And I don’t even believe in fate, but I don’t know what else it could be. If you need time, then I can give you time. But this is real, and it’s worth the risk to me.” Avery turns and jogs down the steps, not giving Grace a chance to respond. She said what she had say, she did what she needed to do and she’s proud of that, whatever happens or doesn’t happen. “Merry Christmas, Grace.”

Grace calls her name, just once, soft and hesitant. Avery doesn’t turn. The timing isn’t right, and that’s okay. It will be. Avery tucks this moment away, an ember warm and steady in her chest: hope.

Shelved by Lynn Charles

He put the car in drive, cranked up the heat, and grinned. “Point the way!”

She chewed on her bottom lip as she gathered the courage to mention the daydreams that had kept her mind occupied that afternoon. “I’ve been thinking,” she said. She kept her eyes on the road ahead in case her next sentence flopped like a basket of rotten tomatoes. “You might like my Uncle Tony.”

Wes remained quiet; his finger, softly tapping to the music, never paused. “Huh. What’s so special about Uncle Tony?”

Karina dared a glance Wes’s way. He seemed cautiously interested. “Well, he’s… I mean, he’s—” She was not going to say Uncle Tony’s interest in men was the main impetus. That was absurd and wrong, but— “He was married to my Aunt Jodi.”

“Your Aunt Jodi.” Wes pulled up to a traffic light. “If he was married to your aunt—what makes you think he’d be interested in me?”

Karina rolled her eyes. “There are such things as bisexuals, you know.”

“I—I do know, yes. I’m sorry.” He looked at her with a pained smile. “I’m so out of the dating game that I—yes.” He continued to tap his steering wheel to the music. “You said ‘was’ married—is that why it’s past tense?”

“Yeah. He didn’t come to terms with it until later and… she wasn’t keen on the idea.”

“That’s a shame,” he said. “Thing is, I’m not too sure I’m keen on getting back in the dating game.”

“But it’s Christmas!”

“What does that have to do with—” Before taking off from the light, he shot a look at her. “Your love bomb and your Christmas spirit are still tangled.”

She ignored him; of course they were tangled. That was the point. “But, Wes… walks in the snow and packages with pretty bows and eggnog under the tree.”

“You know, some people like being alone at Christmas.”

“Oh, come on. No one likes it; they put up with it. You said you were my age when—look, it was a long time ago, and maybe it’s time—”

“How old do you think I am?”

“You’re forty-six. Turn right up here.”

“Huh. Someone did more than fix my résumé, I see.” The smile he’d been visibly fighting this entire conversation finally broke free.

“Look, Uncle Tony is lonely, and you seem—”

“Lonely?”

“Well. Yes? And I think he’d make you laugh, and he loved James and the Giant Peach as a kid too…” She lingered and hoped that revelation would spark the ultimate flame. When he didn’t flinch, she rushed on. “And he makes the most amazing pasticiotti that should never go unshared.”

Pasticiotti?”

“It’s these custard-filled pastry… pie… things, and they take forever and a day, and he destroys his kitchen and my waistline. He shoves them off on his clients because—” She stopped rambling. Wes was laughing, and they’d driven right by her house. She directed him around the block.

“Does Uncle Tony know you’re trying to hook him up with a failed businessman?”

Giveaway

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A Stella Review: Beneath the Stars by Lynn Charles

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

On the cusp of launching his fashion line for transmen and butch women, Sid Marneaux receives a life-altering phone call. His father, who raised his family alone, is in failing health. As he returns home, he wonders if he could lose the business he has spent most of his adult life building.

What he could not have anticipated was meeting Eddie Garner, the city’s new fire chief. After a heroic rescue, their romance sparks hot, launching into a swift affair. But Eddie is harboring his own burdens: the painful death of his best friend and the responsibility of raising her young son—their son—Adrian.

Through the wisdom of a child and the connection of mothers-now-gone, Sid, Eddie and Adrian venture and fumble to define family, career, and most importantly, love.

Oh the joy of reading Beneath the Stars! It filled my heart with so many feelings, it was  impossible not to love it. I had already appreciated Lynn Charles in Black Dust, that’s why I was curious about this new release.

I loved everything in this novel. Let’s start with the characters. Eddie and Sid are simply beautiful people and together they are awesome. Both of them are real, their stories are real, messy, sad, like ours are. I soon emphasized with them and their struggle, I wanted to hug them from the start till the ending. Then there is Adrian, a force of nature, a little boy who has just lost his mum, a great woman. He simply took my heart. He is probably too smart for his age but his cuteness was the icing on the cake for reader like me who love books with children in the plot. And all the secondary characters are well done too, all of them positive, all of them well depicted.

The romance part was balanced with all the rest that was happening in Eddie and Sid’s lives when they met and knew something was going to be born between them. In a story like this, the author did a great work with a story believable and a brilliant writing that made the reading fly easily and dialogues engaging. In a way this was not an easy book to read, it’s too close to some themes I particularly care for, events I went through, losses I had. And so I cried a lot. But the tears were neutralized by certain emotions and laughs.

Beneath The Stars is a winner, the story is strong and solid, I want to highly recommend it. The author has quickly became one of my favorites.

The cover art by CB Messer is simply beautiful, this artist is a guarantee of very well done and most of all fitting covers.

Sales Links

Interlude Press

BOOK DETAILS

Published February 16th 2017 by Interlude Press

Kindle Edition, 300 pages

ASIN B01MS46RO7

Edition Language English

In Our New Release Spotlight: Beneath the Stars by Lynn Charles (author interview, excerpt and giveaway)

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Beneath the Stars by Lynn Charles
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nterlude Press
Release Date: February 16, 2017

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Available for Purchase from

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✒︎Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Lynn Charles Interview✒︎

Today Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is very lucky to be interviewing Lynn Charles author of Beneath the StarsHi Lynn, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and your current book.

I’m happy to be here! I’m an author, wife and mother living in Central Ohio. I’ve been writing—from lavish journal entries to fictional stories—most of my life. My novels, Chef’s Table and Black Dust were published with Interlude Press in 2014 and 2016. Beneath the Stars is about man at a major turning point in his career who gets called home to help take care of his elderly father. While there he meets someone, and together, they learn how to define happiness, home and family.

  • What genres do you enjoy writing in?

Contemporary romance has always been where my mind takes me when I’m writing. Interestingly enough, while I enjoy reading the same genre, my favorite reads are typically memoirs. But, I suppose there is an interconnectedness in that I like the real and relatable bits of contemporary romance the most of all. Sure, the fantastical is great—be in incredible careers or perfect bodies, the promise of happy endings and deep seeded contentment—but the bits where I can recognize the humanity in the midst of the fantastical appeals to me.

  • What was the hardest part about writing this book?

Getting the layers of my main character, Sid, out there without pages of info dump. He has a rich background and a complicated present. I over did it, then under did it and threw my hands up in the air a few times with it all. But, I pressed on and Sid will hopefully be a beloved character—he is to me anyway.

  • What did you enjoy most about writing your book?

The one-on-one relationships, even beyond the romantic relationship of Sid and Eddie. I loved moments with Sid and his father. Sid and Eddie’s son, Adrian. Adrian and his dad, Eddie, were painful and rewarding as an author. Sid and his sister have a complicated relationship, and exploring that was a joy.

  • What cultural value do you see in writing?

The same I see in all of the arts: it broadens not only the viewpoint of the author (or it should), but also the reader. It takes you to worlds you would have never explored on your own, or deepens your understanding of the worlds you have explored. The saying, “Write what you know,” is such a disservice for the author, when there is so much out there we don’t know, and even more we can learn from the places in life that we’re comfortable.

  • What is your favorite positive saying?

My favorite saying in general is, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should,” but I’m not sure that’s anything more than a neutral/kind way of considering decisions. I’d probably choose the Dalai Lama quote I use for the signature on my personal email account: Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. It’s not one I always remember, but I certainly try.

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BENEATH THE STARS ~ SUMMARY 

Sid Marneaux puts his fashion career on the line when he returns home to care for his ailing father. When he meets the new fire chief Eddie Garner, their romance sparks hot, but Eddie harbors burdens of his own. Through the wisdom of a child and the connection of mothers-now-gone, the men redefine family, career, and most importantly, love.

* * *

Excerpt from Beneath the Stars

Happiness doesn’t always come easily; sometimes you have to work for it.

* * *

“How is he doing?”

Sid began with a prepared answer, the one he used for old neighbors and family acquaintances. “He’s doing okay. Day to day, you know,” but when he stopped fidgeting with his food and looked into Eddie’s eyes, his breath caught in his throat. Eddie wasn’t making small talk, wasn’t being generically kind. He was tuned in, with an understanding and patience at peeling away the complicated layers of caring for an elderly parent that went beyond what Sid had felt from anyone—even his closest friends.

And so, with Eddie’s unrushed attention, Sid began to unpack the emotions and frustrations he hadn’t yet allowed himself to express. He talked about Anna’s overbearing control and her lack of understanding as to why that would make Lou lash out and became belligerent. He talked about Anna’s calendars and charts and the daily schedule she kept Lou on. About her refusal to let their dad do much of anything. “It’s like she’s already put him in the ground,” he finally said, feeling almost winded after exposing so much of himself, of his family.

“It’s hard on the caretakers,” Eddie said. “It completely takes over your life.”

“It’s hard on the patient too. Dad lived, you know? Just last year, he rode his bike five miles to the park and back almost every day. This is the man who threw on a backpack with a bunch of college buddies and hiked the fucking Hippie Trail. He didn’t stop until he found what he was looking for. He doesn’t stop. And now he has no choice.”

“What was he looking for?”

Sid grinned with memories of his mom and dad and their great love. “He didn’t know until he saw her.”

Eddie met his smile, and a blush crept up his neck. “Sometimes we don’t know what we’re looking for until it’s sitting across the table from us.”

“No,” Sid said, unable to pull his gaze away from Eddie. “We don’t.”

BENEATH THE STARS will be published by Interlude Press on February 16, 2017.

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About the Author

Lynn Charles’ love of writing dates to her childhood where thoughts, dreams, frustrations, and joys poured onto the pages of journals and diaries.

She lives in Central Ohio with her husband and adult children where a blind dog and his guardian cat rule the roost. When she’s not writing, Lynn can be found planning a trip to New York or strolling its streets daydreaming about retirement. Her previous novels include Chef’s Table (2014) and Black Dust (2016).

Connect with the author at lynncharles.net, on Twitter @lynncharlesnet and on Facebook at facebook.com/lynncharles.net.

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Giveaway

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Grand Prize $25 IP Gift Card + Multi-format eBook of Hold // Five winners receive Beneath the Stars eBook
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A Stella Review: Black Dust by Lynn Charles

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RATING 4,25  out of 5 stars

Black DustNo matter how busy he keeps himself, successful Broadway musician Tobias Spence can’t outrun the memory of a tragic car crash from his past that claimed a friend’s life and permanently injured his former boyfriend, Emmett.

Even after losing Tobias, Emmett Henderson made peace with that awful night, living in his Indiana hometown where he has become a revered choral director. When his students are asked to perform in New York City, he decides to chance reconnecting with his former love, if for no other reason than to get a proper goodbye.

When Emmett and Tobias finally meet 15 years after parting ways, it is clear to both of them that their feelings for each other have not changed. As they explore their renewed relationship, the two men face old hurts and the new challenges of a long-distance romance. Will Tobias lose his second chance at love to the ghosts he can’t seem to put to rest?

“If the past comes back to visit you, maybe you should invite it to tea.”

Black Dust is my frst book by Lynn Charles, I was curious and excited to read it. Now I can say I’m surely going to read her debut novel, Chef’s Table, in the coming weeks.

What I soon appreciated was the prologue. I adore authors who give me the basical facts at the start and don’t let me beg for crumbs of past events. In the prologue set in the 2000 Emmett and Toby are a young but solid couple, they met two years ago during the auditions at the local theater when they were just 16 and 18 years old. It’s the night before Emmett prom and they are going out with their best friend, Scott when they have a terrible car accident and Scott dies.

Fifteen years later Tobias is a Broadway musician, he plays piano all over the world. He left Indiana and Emmett behind. He came back to his life, but the struggle to forget what happened and the dreams shared with his lover forgotten, is still strong and the youthful, broken promises hard to forget. Now his home base is NY and his best friend Malik, a sculptor.

Emmett is living in Indiana, working now as a choral director. As soon as the chance of  a couple of days in NY come out, he hopeful and calls Toby, asking for a reconnection.

Among the two, Emmett was my favorite character, he’s strong, real, loyal and beautiful in his heart. I soon felt a connection with his attitude, in his everyday life, his relationships with his parents or with his students. Yes I fell for him.

Point is I haven’t fallen for Toby, at all. And this is the only reason I’m not giving the story five stars. I couldn’t feel his emotions, I found him to be cold-hearted and stiff in everything he does. To me he didn’t stand out as a good person and was almost impossible to me to see him with Emmett. I said almost because at the end, thanks to the author abilities, I was finally able to understand his loss, his guilt and the tragedy he is still trying to overcome. Hats off to Lynn for this and for giving Scott an importance and lovable portrait, I missed him like Emmett and Toby did.

The author put in the story her whole musical knowledge and beyond. The MCs’ passion and work had a huge role in the book, but it never overwhelmed my reading, on the contrary, with the help of a well developed and interesting secondary characters cast, gave the plot a foundation and realism needed. I liked the style and the writing a lot, I think she did really great. The “second chance at love” stories are one of my favorite trope in the mm genre and Black Dust greatly delivered. The book was definitely worth my time and I recommend it.

The book and cover design by CB Messer is a winner. I like it a lot, an amazing style. It’s one of the reason why I picked the novel.

Sales Links:  Interlude Press |  ARe | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 312 pages
Published April 7th 2016 by Interlude Press
ASIN B01DR4USSO
Edition Language English

Can Ex-Lovers Find A New Future Again? Find out with Black Dust by Lynn Charles (author interview, excerpt and giveaway

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Black Dust by Lynn Charles
Release Date: April 7, 2016

Goodreads Link
Publisher: Interlude Press
Cover Artist: Cover Art and Design by C.B. Messer

Today Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is very lucky to be interviewing Lynn Charles author of Black Dust. Hi Lynn, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and your current book.

I’m happy to be here! I’m an author, wife and mother living in Central Ohio. I’ve been writing—from lavish journal entries to fictional stories—most of my life. My first novel, Chef’s Table, was published in December 2014 with Interlude Press. Black Dust is about a couple who, fifteen years after a tragic car accident tore them apart, are given a second chance to heal and to love.

  • When did you write your first story/book? How old were you?
    • I honestly can’t tell you when I wrote my first ever story, but I didn’t realize I could write compelling stories until I was in my thirties. I had always had an interest in creative writing and was an avid journaler, but the bug didn’t bite me until adulthood.
  • Are you a plotter or pantser?
    • I am a pantsing plotter? That sounds like I’m out of breath. I like to have some idea where I’m going, but I’m usually pretty free to let the story take me places as well. I am learning in transitioning from writing “stories” to writing books to be more intentional with each scene. What is supposed to happen here? How does it contribute to the movement of the plot? It can’t just be a cute scene because it’s fun to play with the characters.
  • What do you think makes your book stand out from the crowd?
    • I tend to write stories about people who have much of life pretty settled. Mature love, so to speak. Now, their settled life might get upended, or they may realized that “settled” means they’ve let something go they should reach for again, but the men in my stories are grown. Adults. And saying that is not to disparage the younger protagonists that frequent romance novels, because god knows I love to read them too. There is plenty of room in the inn.
  • How do you find or make time to write?
    • Here’s where being a bit older than some of my fellow novelists is an advantage: my children are grown. I am fortunate enough that I was able to quit what was even a part time job to focus more on my writing (and to avoid a working situation that was making me battier than usual). I also have an incredibly supportive husband that says, “Get to it,” when I have fallen behind and need to dip into evening hours to get something done. My creative brain seems to kick in in the afternoon hours, so I use mornings to do the chores of life and work, and the afternoon and evening to write.
  • What do you like to read in your free time?
    • Recently I have been reading books by Indian and Bengali authors as my next book has a Bengali-American protagonist. Generally speaking, I love books with interesting characters. I think I could read a book that’s light on plot so long as the people driving the story have something to say, and they say it in compelling ways. With that in mind, I will always be happy to soak in a great memoir.

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Blurb:

Fifteen years after a tragic car crash claimed a friend’s life and permanently injures his then-boyfriend, Broadway musician Tobias Spence reconnects with his former love. As Emmett and Tobias explore their renewed relationship, the two men face old hurts and the new challenges of a long-distance romance. Will Tobias lose his second chance at love to the ghosts he can’t seem to put to rest?

 

Pages or Words: 312 pages
Categories: Contemporary, Fiction, Gay Fiction, M/M Romance, Romance

Excerpt

“I can’t, Emmett. I—can’t go back.”

“Then we are clearly not ready for any sort of commitment.”

“Wait. You won’t agree to—to us—unless I come to Indiana?”

“I won’t,” Emmett said. “It’s all feeling a little one-sided to me, and I’m not okay with that.”

“You don’t understand.”

“I do understand, Toby. I was there for everything that makes you afraid of that place.”

“Yes. You were,” Toby said, taking Emmett’s hand in his. “But my concerns about going back have nothing to do with you.”

“Maybe they should have something to do with me.”

“That’s—” Toby pulled his hand away. “That’s not fair.”

“It really is,” Emmett said. He reached across the table for Toby’s hand again. “Please?” Toby took his hand and Emmett squeezed, holding on as if he might never let go. “We experienced a great tragedy together. And while Scotty’s parents lost their son, no one felt the things we felt. No one else woke up screaming and sweating when we heard the sounds of the crash in our sleep.”

“Emmett—”

“No one else knew the fear of maybe never walking again. No one else lost weight and a semester of school because he might get thrown in jail. No one else felt the things we felt together. That’s all ours. As much as you want to, you cannot take me out of the equation.”

“But, that’s just it, Em. I don’t want to feel those things again. I cannot walk back into that—that darkness.”

Emmett pulled their joined hands to his lips and kissed Toby’s knuckles. “You already have. You have been so enamored­—you’ve practically spent this entire week making love to my scars. You’re there. And it’s not so dark anymore.”

“No, because you’re whole again. You’re not broken anymore.”

Emmett saw it, then. He saw in the way Toby had almost obsessed over the ridiculous tattoo and Emmett’s scars, as if begging for them to also bring him the powers that Derek had wished upon Emmett’s body those years ago. He saw it in Toby’s insistence that they start all over as if the accident never happened, as if the years of silence weren’t strung between them like a rope and plank bridge connecting two separate lands.

So he said it. To give it power. To make it a truth they shared—like their shared tragedy. “And you still are. Broken.”

Toby nodded, grasping at Emmett’s fingers like a lifeline. “I’m so—” He took a deep, shuddering breath. “I’m so exhausted making sure no one knows.”

“Oh, Toby.” All the more reason “trying again” was a bad idea. Unready to let go, Emmett kissed Toby’s fingers again. “Then come to my home,” Emmett offered, trite as it sounded in his own ears. “I’ve remodeled the master and made a party room in my basement for the kids.”

“You’ve never told me—”

“It’s beautiful, really. It’s on a couple of acres, and the back of the property is lined with a stream you can hear from the kitchen when the windows are open. It’s very peaceful. It sounds like you need some peace.”

“You deserve a beautiful life.”

“So let me share it with you. At least think about it?”

Toby nodded and began to clean up. “Will you still come see me in San Francisco after school’s out?”

“I don’t know. I’d really like an answer before I agree to see you again.”

“Okay. I’m sorry it’s not as easy as it should be.”

“I am too, Toby. Being with you was always so easy.”

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Meet the Author

Lynn Charles earned her degree in music education and for many years performed and directed choral music. When she’s not writing, she can be found strolling through local farmers markets near her home in Central Ohio in search of ingredients for new recipes. Her novel Chef’s Table was published in 2014 by Interlude Press.

Where to find the author:

 


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11-Apr: BFD Book Blog, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, Oh My Shelves

12-Apr: Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews, Sinfully Addicted to All Male Romance, Divine Magazine

13-Apr: Fangirl Moments and My Two Cents, Velvet Panic, Book Lovers 4Ever

14-Apr: Louise Lyons, Unquietly Me, Havan Fellows

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