Marguerite Labbe on the Struggles with Addiction and her new story ‘A Whole Latte Sass (Geek Life #2)’

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A Whole Latte Sass (Geek Life #2) by Marguerite Labbe

Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Kanaxa

Buy Links:  Dreamspinner Press  |  Amazon  |   Barnes & Noble 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Marguerite Labbe here today to talk about the next story in her Geek LIfe series, A Whole Latte Sass.  Welcome, Marguerite!

 

 

Hello everyone. It’s great to be back at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words. When I write, I like a mix of the serious and the humorous. I like to touch on topics that have affected me personally. For years I’ve wanted to write a main character who was a recovering addict, but it was always either too close to home or I just didn’t feel as I could do my best by him at the time. Then Trask Briscoe came along and I knew he was the one.

Trask had a rough start in life. His parents were addicts and his home was not a safe environment to be in. He did have his Grandmother though. She’s the one who gave him love and discipline in equal measure. She is the only one from his home that he thinks of with affection and respect. But that didn’t stop him from starting to use too. And when he left home, running as far as he could to the east coast, that demon followed him.

Addiction is a fact of life in my family as it is in so many other families, though people often don’t want to talk about it. I was sixteen years old when my mom went into rehab for drug use. I attended Alateen sessions for years. There’s a condition called “dry drunk” that can persist even after a person stops using. It’s where they continue the same behaviors and attitudes they had while they were using. Living with that is as bad as living with the addict. Though, my mom got clean, she might as well have been using for many more years before her time in therapy, rehab, and AA meetings started to make a profound change within her. She’s so strong and even now with almost thirty years of being clean she still goes to AA meetings and she’s a much more happy and stable person than before.

Trask had his ups and downs too. His road to getting clean was not an easy one and it’s why he clings so hard to his rules and the path he’s on. He’s utterly committed to staying off the drugs and alcohol. He’s very aware of the dangers of having “just one” as that “just one” bit him on the ass after being clean for over a year. I’ve seen people in the AA rooms who had five years sobriety and that one drink sent them on a tailspin. And I’ve also seen them have the amazing courage to stand up and collect that 24 hour chip after using again. I’ve lost people to this disease and so has Trask and I’ve also watched people transform their lives for the better.

My sister drank for years, hiding it from everyone. All the signs were there, but it’s so hard to see it sometimes. I ask myself how I could’ve missed it as do my parents and other siblings. I knew her history as a teenager. I worked at a rehab center for years. I missed it. We all missed it until we couldn’t any longer. So we staged an intervention and she went to AA for two years claiming the entire time she wasn’t an alcoholic until she was ready to face it. Her husband at the time didn’t believe alcoholism was really a disease and that caused other problems. It’s hard to quit when your SO thinks it’s only a matter of control. During the divorce she didn’t start drinking again, but she started using like mom, sleeping pills, antianxiety pills, anything she could get her hands on, until she hit a bottom on that one and crawled her way back out of the pit. She has a new husband who supports her whole-heartedly and her life is going in a new direction.

I have so much respect for the both of them. And there were times when I wrote scenes with Trask that I just cried because I recognized his struggle. I wanted to get it right and even with as much as I know it’s not the same as having gone through it. My sister read his scenes for me and gave me her input and her and my mom’s permission to talk about it. They are two tough beautiful ladies and a constant reminder to me not to let the statistics take your courage away. There are here and today they are clean. They provide leadership within their NA/AA circles and have made lifelong friends who know exactly what they are going through.

So if you, or anyone you love is struggling with addiction, please know that those circles work. I’ve seen them work. I’ve felt the energy and love there as well as the kind of firm, no nonsense accountability that everyone needs from time to time. And if you ever want a non-judgmental ear, I will be blessed to answer any email. Blessings to you all this New Year.

Excerpt

*  *  *

“I don’t know why you didn’t tell them to fuck off,” Felipe fumed as they made their way to the truck.

Trask had been tempted. He hated being judged, hell, even when he deserved it. It got his hackles up every time. And times like this, when he didn’t deserve it, it dug under his skin even more, making his temper simmer. “What would it have solved other than drive a deeper wedge?” Dammit, he hated uncomfortable family situations, hated them with a holy passion. He slid behind the wheel and rested his head back against the seat. “And damned if I can’t see their point.”

“Don’t you fucking dare take their side.” Felipe twisted to face him. “All I asked was for them to give you a chance, not jump all over you. I don’t care about the twenty years between us. And dammit, your past has made you the man you are today. So yeah, it fucking sucked, and you put yourself in some shitty places, but you got yourself out of them too.”

Trask shook his head and started the truck. Felipe had his points, but if Trask was a dad, he was pretty sure he’d have serious reservations about a forty-year-old man hooking up with his son or daughter.

Felipe huffed out a breath and let out a few more choice oaths. His phone rang, and he ignored it. “So you said you inherited the money for the store. Who from? I thought you and your family didn’t get along.”

Trask sensed that Felipe was asking more out of a need to distract himself than curiosity, but he had to stop dodging the questions or giving only partial answers. Might as well tell all tonight. There was no reason to hold back anymore.

“My grandmother, but I had to be clean to collect on it. And man, I wanted that chance. I wanted her to see that I could build on what she left me. That I wouldn’t be like my parents. I wanted her to be proud of me. So I found myself a program, got clean, showed up back in Texas a year later with my paperwork, test results. Pissed my old man off to no end. He was hoping to contest her will and take the money for himself.” Trask sighed and scrubbed a hand through his hair.

“How long did you stay clean after that?” Felipe asked softly.

“Almost another seven months.” Trask shook his head, his hands tightening on the wheel. “Once I’d bought the place, got everything settled, inventory in stock and the initial flurry of activity was over, I convinced myself that one drink to celebrate wouldn’t hurt anybody. I could handle one damn drink. Goddamn, I was wrong.”

Trask had zero recollection of the next few nights. “All I know is that I finally came out of it several days later, naked in some damn flophouse, with a shit taste in my mouth, fresh track marks, and too many bruises.”

He glanced over to find Felipe watching him with wide, solemn eyes. “And a whole shit pile of shame and guilt?”

Trask nodded. “You nailed it, and I couldn’t face it, so I went right back to using. I couldn’t face her memory, knowing how upset it would make her if she saw me.”

Felipe caught Trask’s hand and lifted it, studying his knuckles before laying a kiss on them. “Maybe for a while, but you found the strength to fight it back again and again until you were able to say you have almost sixteen years clean. You ever think that your grandmother looked at you and didn’t see a man who kept failing but instead saw the man who kept picking himself up to wage that war again?”

Trask’s throat tightened to an unbearable ache. He’d never looked at it quite that way, but knowing his grandmother the way he had, yeah, he could see that. Felipe opened up such a wellspring in him sometimes, emotions that had been shunted aside so he could deal with the day-to-day, that the intensity of allowing himself those feelings almost physically hurt. He tugged Felipe to him. “You’re incredible, you know that?” he asked as Felipe wound his arm around Trask’s shoulder. “She would’ve loved the hell out of you.”

Blurb:

It’s no secret cosplayer Felipe Suero is looking for his happily ever after—in his love life as well as his career. He’s getting his degree so he can quit his miserable job and start his own costume business. Now he just needs to land the sexiest silver fox to ever attend a con.

Trask Briscoe’s life revolves around staying clean and sober, running the Magick Den, and attending local cons. His rules haven’t left much room for romance. But he can’t deny Felipe has caught his complete attention. He’s just not sure what he can offer a man so full of joy and sass.

When Trask finally accepts Felipe’s offer for a cup of coffee, he soon finds himself on a second date and a third. Between cosplay projects and roleplaying games, they discover a deeper connection than either of them expected. And Trask realizes that sometimes rules are made to be broken.

Now Felipe just has to convince his family—and Trask—that Trask has more love to offer than he ever dreamed.

About the Author

Marguerite Labbe loves writing stories about the beauty of love and the strength of family, whether it’s the family you’re born into or the one you create. She married her next-door neighbor and best friend, and they have one son, one dog, and two cats who rule them all. She has finally converted her Alabama born husband into being a Red Sox fan and now only needs to convince her son. She runs Apocrypha Comics Studio with her husband and they often trek off to comic book conventions on the weekend where they celebrate all manner of geek culture.

Social Media:

Author website: http://margueritelabbe.blogspot.com/

Twitter handle: @MargueriteLabbe

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marguerite.labbe.3

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Release Day Review: A Whole Latte Sass (Geek Life #2) by Marguerite Labbe

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Felipe Suero is a cosplayer. He’s also a gamer, a costume designer, a college student, and a tollbooth operator for the state—a job he loathes. As soon as he graduates and gets a decent job he’s out of there.  In the meantime, he attends conventions, making his own highly detailed costumes, flirts outrageously, and hangs with his bestie, Morris (A Little Side of Geek). 

Trask Briscoe, silver fox, over forty, clean and sober for fifteen years, owns the Magick Den, a haven for gamers, and lives his life a day at a time, always thinking things through thoroughly before acting.  He doesn’t date but finally gives in when the much-younger Felipe continues to ask him out for coffee.  It’s turns out to be the best decision he’s ever made.

This is a May-December, very slow burn romance, complete with moments of humor and heartache.  The author handled the aspects of addiction and recovery necessary to this story beautifully, being true to the twelve-step philosophy, while showing the heartbreak of failure. And family?  Family is the heart of Felipe’s upbringing, and he still lives in an apartment he rents in his family’s sprawling complex.  He’s surrounded by his parents, grandparents, and his sister, and he wouldn’t have it any other way. Trask is not so fortunate, having been raised by parents who didn’t meet the definition. 

Its difficult to even begin to cover everything this story encompasses. There’s the family of origin and the family of the heart. There’s the not-so-mismatched, older, quieter Trask dating the younger, energetic, outgoing Felipe. Trask calls him his “imp”—a perfect descriptor.  The story is fun to read and yet it’s also serious. There’s no insta-love here. Instead, there’s a slow and steady movement forward, giving each man the opportunity to not only get to know the other, but also their friends and support group, and to make a conscious decision on how each can mesh their lives with the other. 

If you are a fan of silver foxes, personable characters, age gap, slow burn, gaming, cosplaying, strong characterization, and solid writing, by all means read this story.  Check out my review of book one and add that to your list as well.  This can be read as a standalone, though reading A Little Side of Geek will make this experience so much better.  After all, Felipe did have a secondary role in that story, and having the chance to watch him find his HEA was like adding the cherry to the top of the whipped cream on the sundae.  Just yummy.  Highly recommended.

The cover by Kanaxa features a young Latino man set against a golden background.  It’s a good representation of Felipe, but would be so much better if he were wearing a costume! Nevertheless, it coordinates well with the cover of book one.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner PressAmazon

Book Details:

ebook, 290 pages
Expected publication: January 1st 2019 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 139781644050088
Edition Language English
Series Geek Life #2

A Little Side of Geek

A Whole Latte Sass

Marguerite Labbe on Convention Life and her new novel, A Little Side of Geek (Geek Life #1) by Marguerite Labbe (author guest blog)

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A Little Side of Geek (Geek Life #1) by Marguerite Labbe
Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Kanaxa

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Marguerite Labbe here today talking about her new release, A Little Side Of Geek, one of our highly recommended stories. Welcome, Margie!

Convention Life

Hello everyone. It’s so good to be back at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words. The books in my Geek Life series follow the people who make up the comic book convention scene. I could probably write a dozen more book in this setting. Years ago, when our son was still little, my husband Keir decided that he was going to stop dreaming of making comics and commit to actually doing so. We started small, getting a table here and there as he continued his job as a social worker.

My sweet man has a degenerative heart condition and after several years we talked it over and had him quit doing the social work. The stress was too much for him and he became a full-time comic book artist and awesome stay-at-home Dad. We had been doing conventions several times a year, suddenly that became at least one a month, sometimes more. He got involved with a group called Artway Alliance run by the amazingly dedicated Eric Suggs. That allowed him to teach comic book art in various schools in the DMV area.

The two of us always said that by the time our son became an adult he’d either hate this life or be as big of a geek as us. Many weekends he was hauled out of town, stuck at a table for hours on end, hanging out with more adults than kids. One year we lost him at Awesome Con. If you’ve ever been to one of the mega cons you have an idea of how huge they are. As I was frantically going up one end of the con to the other looking for him with security I kept reminding myself that he personally knew a number of the vendors. He’d be able to find someone within a hundred yards. When we did finally find him, he looked at us like what’s the big deal.

In my books, Morris has a friend with a son like that. When he has to take a break from the table for whatever reason Jaydon will come by and guard it for him. My son got into cosplaying at the cons and now he’s old enough to be a volunteer and help out behind the scenes. He’s even a member of our podcast Role with Us so I think it’s safe to say that he’ll be a mega-geek.

It’s a fun life. You meet so many really creative, fun people. It’s also so much work and being naturally introverted it is exhausting. You have to get there early, set up your space, be on all day long, and then break it down again. If it’s a multiple day show you usually go out to dinner with your crew. There’s traveling. And all kinds of things involved. It’s funny because at work everyone seems to think I’m spending the weekend partying and wonder why I’m tired on Monday. It’s super fun, but it is work.

I haven’t done an excerpt in a bit, so how about one with Morris as he’s preparing to head out to a convention and contemplating his relationship with Theo. I hope you enjoy.

Excerpt

Morris rose and flipped on the TV, scrolling through his movie options. He put on Big Trouble in Little China. That was entertaining background noise and a movie he’d seen so often it wouldn’t pull away his attention from his work, but it would keep him from feeling lonely. When it was over, he’d text Theo.

When Morris finally finished the last of what he wanted to get done, his hand trembled and throbbed, his eyes stung with strain, and his back ached with the knots Theo had promised would end up in his muscles, but all of his projects were done. He carefully tucked away the images of Chessie, then found sleeves for the dozen new trading cards he’d sketched, inked, and colored. It was always good to have new material on the table, the quick trading cards as well as the books.

He shook his hand as he rose and stretched up on his toes, and for a moment the room spun. Morris leaned against the wall as his stomach growled and he realized how thirsty he was too. How long had it been since he’d eaten or had anything to drink? In the background, the TV droned on with the next late-night movie option.

He made his way into the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of water, downing the entire thing in one go. Then he pulled out a box of crackers and a can of spray cheese and munched as he considered his mostly empty fridge. He really needed to hit the grocery store on Sunday. This was pathetic.

Morris opened his freezer, looking for something to pop in his microwave, and frowned. He hadn’t realized how much food Theo had given him over the months. Instead of processed potpies, there were homemade empanadas. No more crappy but fast burritos, instead there were neatly labeled single-portion casseroles and soups. It was amoral.

Somehow, despite the plan that this was just a fling, they were beginning to blend their lives together. Morris even had his second-favorite sketch pad upstairs tucked against Theo’s couch. Scowling, he dug through the freezer until he found a frozen pizza. Maybe it wouldn’t taste as good as one of Theo’s creations, but it was the principle of the matter.

Morris ate a few more crackers and cheese while the pizza baked, pondering the problem of Theo. Cassie came into the kitchen, pausing to stretch each hind leg before coming over to Morris. He scooped her up. “Why’d you let Daddy sit all day and not eat?”

She gave him her special patented look that said quite plainly he was an idiot. “Yeah, I know. I must’ve remembered to feed you, though, or you never would’ve let me alone.” He glanced at her food and water dishes and noted they were half-full. As long as no part of the bottom of the bowl was visible beneath the kibble, Cassie was happy. But let one glint of silver show, and she was convinced Morris was starving her.

She accepted his nuzzling attention for a whole three minutes before wiggling to be let down. Morris crouched down with a sigh. “Fine, walk out on me. That’s been happening a lot today.”

He glanced at the ceiling. He couldn’t remember hearing anyone move around up there, but then again, he’d been in the zone. Lincoln could’ve broken out his sax and Morris never would’ve known.

Restless, he looked in the freezer again. The cheese and crackers weren’t cutting it. He could heat up some of Theo’s tomato basil soup; that would be done before the pizza. He hesitated and then grabbed the carton. He was too hungry to be picky over principles. It was soup, not a life decision.

By the time he finished eating the soup, his stomach was happier and the pizza was steaming on the stovetop. Gooey cheese, pepperoni, sausage, and extra-thick crust. Maybe not as good as a fresh one from Ledo’s, but it would do. As Morris cut it, he couldn’t help but wonder what kind of a homemade pizza Theo would make. He bet it would be awesome, whatever it was, probably have eggplant on it and it would still be good.

Morris leaned against the counter and bit into his first slice. The roof of his mouth was instantly scalded and Morris dropped the slice, swearing as he reached for a paper towel to spit into.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck.” Somehow, the pizza on the floor seemed like a perfect metaphor for the day.

His hand ached, his brain was short-circuiting, and he was not in a good place. Grumbling, Morris picked up the slice and tossed it into the trash, then wiped up the mess he’d made. He glared at the rest of the pizza, his appetite for junk food gone. He wanted something home-cooked and comforting. Despite getting his work done, his day had sucked. He’d been stressed and upset, replaying his argument with Theo every time he paused to think.

He missed Theo. Maybe it wasn’t too late to go upstairs and say hi. And maybe apologize. He wasn’t entirely sure why he was apologizing, because there was no way he could’ve gone off with Theo for the afternoon, but maybe he could’ve handled it better.

Morris glanced at his watch. 4:00 a.m. Yeah, definitely too late. Fuck.

He eyeballed the rest of the pizza and sighed, going back into his freezer. He was being an idiot for no reason. His stomach knew what it really wanted. Not long after, he was sitting down to hot spanakopita manicotti, yeast rolls, and a tall glass of sweet tea.

He was willingly eating spinach in the wee hours of the morning. If that didn’t say something for Theo’s influence over him, Morris didn’t know what did. But damn, it tasted good. Maybe a little change in his life wasn’t such a bad thing.

Blurb

When opposite worlds collide, it’s anyone’s game.

Proud geek and comic book artist Morris Proctor wants nothing more than to live in semiseclusion with his devil cat and gamer friends. Despite what his well-meaning family thinks, he’s perfectly content with his status quo. The last thing he needs is to date another nongeek hell-bent on changing him.

Then he meets his adorkable new neighbor, Theo Boarman, who doesn’t know Star Trek from Star Wars, but who tempts him like no other.

Theo has spent the last year recovering from the loss of his parents and trying to play both roles for his teenage brother, while working to keep the family restaurant afloat. Dating is the last thing on the menu, especially with a man who thinks the height of dining is shoving a packaged meal into the microwave.

But if Morris gives him one more shy smile or flaunts that kilt he wears so well, Theo will be forced to convince him that a hot summer fling is just the recipe to let off a little steam.

When that fling gets serious fast, Morris has to decide if he’s willing to give his heart to Theo on the chance that they’re a perfect mix.

About the Author

Marguerite Labbe has often been called both Trouble and Sunshine by those who know her. She’s not sure how she manages to make both those nicknames work together, but apparently she does. She’s a New Hampshire woman who married an Alabama man, an Air Force brat who has somehow managed to settle herself firmly in Southern Maryland, with one overgrown son and two crazy cats.

Marguerite loves to spin tales that cross genre lines, where stubborn men build lifelong ties of loyalty, friendship, and family no matter the odds thrown against them, and where love is found in unexpected places. She has won the Rainbow Award for Historical Romance with Fae Sutherland, as well as the Rainbow Award for Paranormal and the Rainbow Romance Award for Excellence, also in Paranormal.When she’s not working hard on writing new stories, she spends her time reading novels of all genres, enjoying role-playing and tabletop games with her friends, and helping out her husband with Apocrypha Comics Studio.

A Barb Release Day Review: A Little Side of Geek (Geek Life) by Marguerite Labbe

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

It amazes me how some authors can take a handful of words, craft them in a certain way, and produce a novel that can bring characters to life, evoke emotions, and leave a reader thinking about them for days afterward.

In this tale, geeky comic book artist Morris Proctor is perfectly happy living with his cat and his art. Give him some easily heated convenience food or pizza delivery and he’ll rarely need to leave his house. Except, of course, for the cons he attends—not as a gamer or cosplayer—but as an exhibitor where he sells his artwork and comic books, and commissions art and logo designs.

He’s surprised to realize one day that he’s never met his upstairs neighbor who is apparently never home. Either that or the guy is home for only the few hours Morris sleeps or spends at cons. But his cat ends that one day when she escapes and runs right into the handsome neighbor. As Morris later describes him, Theo Boarman is adorkable and he’s also a chef who runs his family’s restaurant, trying to keep to the spirit and ambience in which his parents founded it. He’s also got custody of his teenage brother—a situation that sadly came about when they lost both their parents a year ago.

Totally opposite in appearance as well as temperament, it’s hard to believe that the young, tall, black geek who wears kilts and lives in the world of comics, games, and cosplay could possibly ever get together with the young, short, white chef who doesn’t even know the difference between Marvel and DC Comics. Add to that their crazy schedules and the fact that neither wants to make any kind of commitment, and it seems impossible that these two could ultimately get together.

Marguerite Labbe takes the time to build the character of both men, using opportunities to fill in back stories cleverly, while giving us a view of current relationship-building. The men do not jump into bed together quickly, nor do they take their relationship lightly, and yet at the beginning, neither thinks of it as any more than friendship with sexual benefits.

That changes over time, however, as their lives become entwined and the ripples of their partnership extend out to include their friends and family members. Without even realizing it was happening, Morris and Theo have become a team and provide the unconditional love and support each need for completion.

An outstanding story with an outstanding cast of characters, I can’t wait to read the next in the series. Why not a full five stars? Well, there’s a quirky, seemingly out of place chapter from a secondary character’s POV that doesn’t go anywhere. It felt odd reading it and even odder afterward when it didn’t connect to any other chapters, though now that I’m at the end of the book I suspect it was intended to plant a seed for book two. There are better ways. This one pulled me from the story and left me with a big question mark hanging over my head so I just have to take off at least a quarter point.

All in all, however, and despite that, I absolutely very highly recommend this story. Gamers? Don’t miss it? Lovers of a slow burn romance? This is the one. Plus, tag it interracial, men with children, and hurt-comfort. This book has it all. It’s definitely also going on my Best of 2018 list. 

~~~~

The cover by Kanaxa is symbolic of a comic book in the background and features a photo of a young black man, with dreadlocks and eyeglasses, dressed sharply in a lightweight jacket and black pants. It’s possible the black pants are the black kilt the MC wears in the story and if so, the cover would serve as a spot-on description of Morris, the comic book artist.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 306 pages
Expected publication: May 22nd 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781640804746
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesGeek Life #1

Marguerite Labbe on Writing SciFi, and her latest release ‘Pandora’ (author guest blog)

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Pandora by Marguerite Labbe
D
SP Publications
Release Date: April 25, 2017

Available for Purchase at

 

amazon square borderB&N border

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Marguerite Labbe here today talking about her latest release, Pandora.  

Welcome, Marguerite!

✒︎ 

This Scardy Cat Luddite Wrote a Creepy Sci-Fi

by Marguerite Labbe

I am a fan of mixing up genres when I write. I’ll do a little paranormal and mystery with my romance. Spin together myth with contemporary. Since I read all genres, I love writing most of them too. And though I’ve added a touch of horror to some of my other stories, until Pandora I have never written Science Fiction. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Science Fiction. My first love was fantasy, but my Dad’s Frank Herbert books fascinated me and I think I first read Dune in the sixth grade. I’m a huge fan of science fiction shows, probably more a fan of them than I am of the shows based off comic books. (Shhh, please don’t tell my husband.) But writing Science Fiction myself seemed way out of my league.

I just bought my first smart phone last year after much pressure from my husband who was dismayed that I still had a flip phone. He called me a Luddite. The flip phone did everything I needed it to which was have something on me in case of an emergency and to call for a ride home from my commuter bus. A smart phone was too smart for me. I couldn’t find anything I needed at first. I used to love video games, back when it was on the classic NES system. But then more buttons were added to controllers and my brain shut down. I love watching my son and husband play because I enjoy the stories and graphics, but when I try it’s pretty much punching random buttons and hoping for the best.

As for the horror part, though depending on your level of comfort Pandora may be more creepy than horror, horror movies have terrorized me since I was a kid. Yet I was drawn to them. It was a love/hate relationship. I wanted to know what happened, I wanted to watch, but I wouldn’t sleep without a light on for months. To this day, I have to be careful with what I watch. When I saw Grudge, I was a grown assed woman hiding under the covers, trying not to wake up my husband to keep me company. My son loves horror. He accidentally saw Alien when he was three. I walked into the living room, it was on and my son thought the monster was the coolest thing he’d ever seen. I hid from that movie during my childhood, though I love it now. My son likes to put on Paranormal Activity while I’m writing. He knows that stuff freaks me out. And he’ll wait until I’m distracted and freaky part is about to come on and go “Mom, look!” Just to watch me jump.

So when I came up with the first scene idea, of Riff waking up trapped alone in the prison I knew I would probably scare myself a couple times. (I did, though I’m not saying which scenes.) But I hadn’t thought of mixing in Science Fiction until a few friends asked me to join a dark sci-fi anthology. My first thought was no way. I’ll read all the stories, but I couldn’t possibly write one myself. Then one of my muses poked me and said, “Hey… don’t you think that story you never finished would work so much better on a space prison ship? You don’t plan on leaving me trapped forever in that story do you? Withering away, dying for lack of attention?”

One thing I’ve learned since my muses adopted me, They Always Win. Always. I have one, the one poking me above who will just give me the big, brown, sad eyes or dramatic quips like that. I think the sad eyes are the worst. The other one gets a gleeful look and goes, “really, watch this.” And then I know I’m in trouble because he will keep throwing crazy things at my brain, keeping me hopping and turning me around until I’m doing exactly what he wants. And he doesn’t shut up.

So if you write, and you have muses like mine, let them win. They know more than I do and they’re always right about the direction a story should go. In case of Pandora, Science Fiction, Horror, with a little bit of romance. I hope you enjoy.

****

Excerpt

Sanity returned in dribbles of half-lucid thoughts. Those brief flickers of consciousness brought the scent of dried blood and bloating flesh rotting in the stale air. They awoke the pain that stabbed through Riff’s body. The temptation to sink back into madness, to let the sounds of distant drums, wild music, and piercing screams take over, to become part of the chaos again and its dancing obscene figures, won more times than Riff could count.

But the sanity always returned, and finally, with a start, Riff came to full clarity in a silent cell. The memory of hazel eyes hard with irritation first in his thoughts. It was never quiet in the penal wing, not even in the middle of the night. Snores came from the cell beside him, grunts and distressed whimpers from farther down the corridor, the continuous hum of the ship’s engines. Never a silence this pregnant with foreboding.

Riff smelled the carnage around him, and it made him reluctant to open his eyes. He didn’t want to see it as well. Seeing it would make it real, and fear was a living creature inside him, screaming to get out. Sharp pains stabbed his wrists, and his body ached with numerous bruises.

He had vague memories of a strange man with short near-white hair and bottomless eyes. They’d found him in a hiber unit on the derelict. The only sign of life on the entire yacht. Riff’s salvage team had rescued him and taken him aboard. Noyes. Yes, that was the name.

The memories afterward were even hazier. A confrontation with Vidal. Another with Jakobsen. Rioting. Quick flashes of violence and lust, of hurting and being hurt, taking and being taken, all mixed in with that insane music. Even now he could hear the drums in the rapid beating of his heart, hear the reedy instruments in the whistle of his breath through a broken nose.

What happened to them, to the ship… or was he just hallucinating and Vidal had gone too far with his sadistic pleasures? He’d been ready to kill the last time Riff had seen him.

Riff forced himself to draw a deep breath despite the stench. This wasn’t him. He didn’t let fear rule him. He had to assess the situation, calculate how bad it was, then make a plan. Otherwise he’d be trapped here, a broken, terrified mess, and he’d deserve whatever punishment came his way.

****

Blurb

Haunted by the screams of the men he murdered, ex-Marine medic Riff Khora is serving a life sentence on board a prison ship. Seeking more punishment for his crime, he strikes a deal with the corrupt Captain Vidal—an exchange of pleasure and pain—and forges a new life leading the team that surveys space wreckage for salvage.

Ship engineer Zed Jakobsen’s psychometric abilities make prison a sentence worse than death, and the barrage of emotional stimuli is an unending torment. His only regret is that he didn’t kill the monster who sent him to prison, and only a glimmer of hope to escape a judgment he doesn’t deserve keeps him clinging to a brutal existence.

When they board derelict ship Pandora and discover a lone survivor, the hell of prison life plunges into abject horror. An epidemic of violence and insanity consumes their ship, driving the crew to murder and destruction. Mutual need draws Riff and Zed together, and their bond gives them the strength to fight a reality they cannot trust. But Vidal possesses the only means of escape from the nightmare, and he’s not letting anyone leave alive.

About the Author

Marguerite has been accused of being eccentric and a shade neurotic, both of which she freely admits to, but her muse has OCD tendencies, so who can blame her? She loves writing stories about the beauty of love with all of its fascinating quirks and the strength of family, whether it’s the family you’re born into or the one you create. Marguerite was born in New Hampshire, grew up as a military brat, moving from one end of the U.S. to the other before settling down in Southern Maryland. She married her next-door neighbor and best friend, and they have one son and two cats who rule them. To her dismay, she has failed to convince her Alabama born husband to move north, where being a passionate Red Sox fan is perfectly normal. She runs Apocrypha Comics Studio with her husband and they often trek off to comic book conventions on the weekend where they celebrate all manner of geek culture. In her spare time she loves reading novels of all genres, enjoying a table top role-playing games with her friends, many which end up on the Role With Us podcast, and finding really good restaurants where she can indulge in her love of food and wine.

Social Networking Links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marguerite.labbe.3

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MargueriteLabbe

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Other Side of the Line by Marguerite Labbe

Standard

Rating: 5 stars out of 5   ★★★★★

Other Side of the Line coverThis was a sweet, nostalgic walk down memory lane as Caleb Hudson and Hal Zimmer recall the first day they met sixty years before, and with the urging of their children and grandchildren, relate the long, sometimes painful road they traveled to find the balance necessary to merge that friendship with love and long-term commitment.

In 2023, at a family reunion held in honor of Caleb and Hal, who are now husbands, their children and grandchildren presented them with a memory book filled with photos, letters, and other memorabilia that symbolized the time they spent together and apart in their early years. Prompted to tell tales of what happened at various points of their lives, readers are treated to what is surely one of the best stories this reviewer has read all year. I must admit, though, it may be partially because the story encompasses my own history, taking place over the course of time in which I grew up and grew old. But from that perspective, I can also guarantee the authenticity of the flavor of the times.

In 1963, when Caleb Hudson first attended what used to be an all-white elementary school in Charleston, South Carolina, his early days were fraught with negativity and racial prejudice—from both the students and the teachers. Though he dreaded going to school each day, he knew that he and others like him had to step up to the task so segregation would be something others would read about in history books and not experience in real life. Fortunately, a new kid—a Northerner—joined his class, and some of the attention was diverted from him onto this new kid. Hal Zimmer, an adorable, friendly redhead, couldn’t understand why his parents moved from New York to a place where he was not only an outsider, but was shunned for not being a native. When the bullies cornered him after school, he thought he was a goner until another kid showed up to help him and scared the bullies away. Caleb was that other kid and from that moment on, they became best friends for life, and neither of them ever dreaded going to school again.

As the boys mature, Hal comes to realize that he is gay, and shunned by his father for his “sissy ways,” he acts out by joining the antiwar movement, hanging out with hippies and others in the Village once he gets to college in New York. In the meantime, Caleb is becoming aware that he has feelings for Hal that are more than brotherly, but rather than embrace those feelings, he denies them. But when he’s drafted and sent to Viet Nam, he extracts a promise from Hal that Hal won’t protest against the soldiers returning home. If he must protest the government, that’s fine, but not the men who have no choice but to go to serve their country.

Once Caleb is back and the two are reunited, sparks fly between them, Caleb confesses his attraction to Hal, and they have their first look at how hot they can be together. But it doesn’t last, and circumstances separate them yet again as Hal decides to join the Peace Corps and serve two years in Ghana. It’s not until he returns from there that the two men finally face their demons, but they have to fight against outside forces, former lovers, family, and friends to be able to forge their way to what they really want and need.

Thank you, Ms. Labbe, for ending this story, not with a tragedy, but with hope for a long future together as the men look forward to making good use of their time in retirement. There are few stories in which the MCs grow old together, and even fewer in which the seniors look forward to a happy future. Twenty-four hours after completion, my emotions are finally settling into a warm and fuzzy ball in my tummy after having been on a rollercoaster throughout the book. There are heartbreakingly poignant moments in this story, periods of worry and concern, and times of angst-filled distress, yet there are times of joy and happiness as well, and I’m left with a feeling of awe from having just read a book that will live in my memory for a long time to come.

I highly recommend this story to all lovers of M/M romance. If you love a good tale, or a story of an interracial couple, or if you simply enjoy a walk back through history, please don’t’ miss your chance to read this story.

~~~

Cover Art by Catt Ford depicts an interracial photo of two young boys, one with his arm around the other, another photo of two hands being held—the same young boys—books, and various memorabilia collected throughout their lives. The cover is perfect for the content of this story which spans this couple’s love and friendship over the past sixty years.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon |  Buy It Here

Book  Details:

ebook, 330 pages, also in paperback
Published September 18th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
original title Other Side of the Line
ISBN 9781634765
edition language English