Author Spotlight: Leona Carver & her latest release, No Ocean Too Deep (Contest)

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No Ocean Too Deep by Leona Carver

Begzada Dastyaf, a warlord of the desert Amirate of Ujmah, descends into the deep sea to find his beloved prince and cousin, Sharouk. Not only must he navigate a strange new realm, but he must master an unfamiliar body and learn the ways of the folk who live within that dark and watery place … all while struggling with an unwanted attraction to his resentful sea folk guide, the witch Nils.

 

My name is Leona Carver and I’m here to talk about my new novella, “No Ocean Too Deep”, and the world in which it unfolds. I’m pleased to offer an e-copy of No Ocean Too Deep to give away.

Contest: To enter the draw, please leave a comment and an email address. The contest runs until midnight EDT June 1st, at which point I’ll draw a name from a bonafide hat.

  Where will duty and love take you?

The vastness of the ocean triggers a deep sense of awe. There are a myriad of ecosystems and flora, fauna, and in-between creatures (florauna?), and we know so little about it. Every week there’s some new discovery, an animal or a piece of footage of a place that had never been seen before. It is absolutely stunning. Immersing myself in that world both thrilled and challenged me, making No Ocean one of the most satisfying stories I’ve written.

I’m from the school of, “Write what you don’t know.” I find that I’m most passionate about those stories that challenge me, make me ask questions, make me fling out the long arm of imagination to grab at answers. Dastyaf and Nils travel in a place where there is very little light and the senses are both impaired and enhanced by the characteristics of the ocean. The challenge was to describe actions, emotions, and communication without the use of vision. I drew on research about the abilities of sharks to sense the electromagnetic fields of other animals, and had Dastyaf learn the language of scents and pheromones, which gives the sea folk a nearly telepathic ability to sense the thoughts and feelings of others. If I had had the word count at my disposal, I could have filled entire chapters with Dastyaf learning his new body.

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In addition to the difficulties of communicating in the sea, sans sight but with enhanced taste and skin receptors, that world adds another complexity: The entire place is alive. Tiny organisms exist everywhere, from harmful, to benign, to beneficial, and the culture of my sea folk needed to reflect that. They depend on their slimy coatings for protection; therefore, touching is limited and, when it does occur, it indicates a deep level of trust. Sea folk healers understand how some organisms can be used to fight malign organisms, how the deeper briny waters can be used to kill weaker microbes. Witches use that thick miasma of life to cast their magic, to the extreme of the leviathans, giant creatures built from the less-sentient organisms.

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The people were adapted to fit the environment, influenced by existing sea creatures. Sea folk come in all forms. The Angler Fish Deep Sisters: mighty huntresses wielding bait made of light, spiky with bone, their males little more than nubs and pustules attached to their skin. The Sirens: though they can be from any species, so long as they are witches, tend to be more vulnerable species. In No Ocean, they are delicate, translucent, highly venomous jellies, and their giant nautilus entombs a leviathan.

Environment is character: Active in the story, equipped with motivations and needs, acting on the other characters and reacting to what they do. In No Ocean, the environment is partially responsible for the existence of the leviathans. They would not be possible without the soup of microbes through which magic travels and acts on the world. When witches die, if they hold onto their lives strongly enough, the sea answers them and weaves them into herself. They are eaten away over time, losing more and more of themselves as their leviathan armour grows, until they become the silent, monstrous guardians of the ocean.

It was my intention to share my love of the ocean and all she holds, and create a new and interesting world to play in. Hopefully, this came through!

No Ocean was inspired by a simple prompt: Write a romance involving mecha. Somehow, that translated into organic armour built from corals, anemones, squids, fish, crabs, etc. Thankfully, Less Than Three Press went along with it. Because, once that seed was planted, it grew into a leviathan of its own. No Ocean Too Deep-Carver_Image 3There are deep seas, deserts, castles, a hostile Republic, and even a distant jungle nation to explore. No Ocean is only the beginning.

 

I’m currently working on the sequel, in which Dastyaf hunts for the ingredients needed by sea folk witches to maintain their sentience and fight their leviathan nature. Once that hurdle is overcome, he’ll need to deal with the Republic. Last we saw them, the Republic had rebuilt their fleet and commenced another invasion.

As well as the direct sequel, there will be a companion series beginning with The Clockwork Centurion. This will be another M/M fantasy/romance set in a Jules Verne-esque version of post-Roman Briton, with the heavier steampunk aspects that No Ocean Too Deep mostly missed out on, other than the Republic’s weaponry. Eventually, the characters from each series will meet and we’ll see what happens.

 

Sword fighting, probably. Topless sword fighting, if I have my way.

Leona Carver

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Book Blurb:

To buck the brutal rule of the Republic, Amirzade Sharouk and his men pull off a desperate plan: Destroying the Republic’s fleet by joining forces with the legendary sea folk, masters of the leviathans, immense living weapons born of the sea and magic.

Though the gamble succeeds, one of the leviathans vanishes with a valuable human, straining an already tenuous alliance. Her caretaker Nils needs to find her as quickly as possible to redeem himself before his superiors. His search is further burdened by Dastyaf, a furious human warlord and liability in the marine realm. But after combing the deep ocean and discovering the dangers it holds, Nils realizes he may need the human more than he thought, to save his mission and himself.

Buy Links:       Less Than Three Press          Amazon             Smashwords             ARe

Book Details:

ebook, 174 pages
Published April 9th 2014 by Less Than Three Press LLC
original title:No Ocean too Deep
ISBN139781620043448
edition languageEnglish
urlhttps://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-nooceantoodeep-1466468-153.html
series: A Loose Screw

Author Bio:

Leona Carver lurks in a Canadian basement with a cat and an aerospace engineer, one of whom helps with the science while the other scratches at the window to get out. She writes novels and short stories with a penchant for genre mash-ups—because fairy tales need space stations, historical romance needs steam powered cyborgs, merpeople should wear mecha, and all of the aforementioned need a little love. Or a lot of love.

Leona has published two M/M romances through Less Than Three Press: Piper, a space age version of the Pied Piper, and No Ocean Too Deep, a deep sea rescue with giant coral monsters and angry desert warriors.

Follow Leona Carver at: Leona can be rousted from her cave via email (leona.r.carver@gmail.com) or on her website (leonacarver.wordpress.com).

 

Into The Author Spotlight with Katey Hawthorne and her Fairy Compact Series

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spotlight on books

Fairy Bound cover

 

Into the Author Spotlight with Katey Hawthorne

 

I have asked author Katey Hawthorne to stop by today to talk about her Fairy stories and the end of the series, Fairy Bound. Katey has brought an entire set of the stories to giveaway as part of this blog. To enter to win, leave a comment and an email address where you can be contacted in the body of the comment. Contest ends 5/28.

Welcome, Katey, to ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords. I love this universe you have invented for this series. Nothing quite like winged fairy sex….and the complications that ensue with human/fairy relationships….

 

 

Of Fairies and Men and the End of a Series

by Katey Hawthorne

 

There are some tropes in romance that I’m just not that into. I don’t mean that in the “these are so wrong/uninteresting no one should like them!” way, but in the “it’s just not my thing” way. Some of these, I’m really vocal about—other ones not so much. One of them happens to be forced bonding and/or magically destined lovers. It’s just not my bag.

 

But when I saw Miya Kressin’s prompt at the goodreads mmromance group’s Love is Always Write event a few years ago, I knew it had to be mine. It was about two men who had a lifelong bond and didn’t know why, one a fairy, one a human priest… and then it was wide open. Which, to me—and to Miya, as I suspected from her wording—was calling for a twist.

 

That first novella, The Dangers of Fairy Compacts, is still available as a free read at the group and from me. Life as a Fairy Thrall continued the journey for Aeron and Tam, taking them out of the mortal world and into Faerie. And with its release today, Fairy Bound brings their journey to forge their own bond to its conclusion.

 

Which makes me kind of sad, to be honest. I’m gonna miss them. The snarky fae boy. The sweet human cleric. Their house. The wingsex.

 

Yeah, you read that right. I said wingsex. It’s a thing.

 

But all good things must come to an end, right? Or at least a new beginning. Hopefully, Aeron and Tammas will be happy with theirs.

 

Life as a Fairy Thrall and Fairy Bound both contain beautiful artwork by the amazing Ruxandra Lache, and you can see thumbnails of those here at my site, along with soundtrack music.

Author Bio at Goodreads:

Hi! I’m Katey. I write superpowered and fantasy romance of an LGBTQ bent. I live at Superpowered Love — kateyhawthorne.com.

I know, I know, it looks like I don’t read anything here at GoodReads. But I do, I swear. My reviews and stuff are all over at my other GoodReads thingie, KV Taylor. Relevant shelves to Katey Hawthorne stuff:

Romance, LGBTQ, and
Comics, Graphic Novels, and Trade Paperbacks

Contact/Follow Katey Hawthorne at:

 Books in the series are in the order they were written and should be read:

Fairy Compacts #1: The Dangers of Fairy Compacts
Fairy Compacts #2: Life as a Fairy Thrall
Fairy Compacts #3: Fairy Bound

FairyCompacts_largeLife as a Fairy ThrallFairy Bound cover

 

 

Author Spotlight: Kimber Vale and her latest release, Double Takes (Shooting Star#2)

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spotlight on books

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Double Takes Wedding InviteScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords is happy to welcome Kimber Vale here today to talk about her Shooting Stars rock star series and Gio Savale of Double Takes, her latest release.  Kimber has also brought along a contest to win a copy of Double Takes. Contest ends Midnight 5/16.  Details and link at the bottom of the post.

Welcome, Kimber.

My Inspiration for Gio Savale of Double Takes
By Kimber Vale

When I began writing Forever is Now, the first book in my Shooting Stars series, I envisioned it as a single, standalone story. At some point during my writing, however; the idea for my MC of Double Takes wormed its way into my brain.

Back when I was in high school, I remember hearing rumors that Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers was bisexual. I took them as truth (aren’t all rumors in high school true???) and I didn’t think much about it. For whatever reason, I thought he had admitted to being bi in some magazine interview. Roll forward a number of years (I don’t want to think about how many) and I’ve got this idea in my head to write a rock star with that sort of backstory. Out of curiosity, and maybe I can call it research—why the hell not?—I did an online search into Anthony Kiedis’ sexual orientation, self-proclaimed and otherwise.

Turns out I shouldn’t have put much stock in high school rumors.

But thanks anyway, rumor mill, because I was already invested in that plot point. Gio’s band did a show with the band from Forever is Now, which allowed me to introduce Gio however briefly. I had already begun writing Double Takes when I submitted Forever, so I was able to firm up Gio’s story and make sure the Gio in Forever matched the Gio in Double Takes. I was glad for that; otherwise I would have been stuck with initial concept Gio instead of 3-D Gio. 😉

The same happened when I started book three. Gio’s onscreen love interest in Double Takes, Kyrie, gets his own book next. I was happy to have a good chunk of Kyrie and Greg’s book complete while Double Takes was in edits so I could go back and make sure all of my facts jibed from book to book.
I’m not sure how authors do it when they start a spin off after the first book is already out. They’re locked into whatever they initially wrote, which could suck.

Anyway, I had a blast crafting Double Takes. I think it’s a multilayered story that will keep readers on their toes. I hope you’ll check it out. Gio and I thank you. 😉
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BeFunky_Stenciler_6Author Bio:
Kimber Vale writes romance of all stripes, from hot hetero stories to mouthwatering men falling in love (under the name K. Vale). Keep up with Kimber’s news and follow all her tour stops on her blog: http://www.kimbervale.me and friend/follow her on Facebook and Twitter @KimberVale. Come for the sex. Stay for the story. http://www.authorkimbervale.com

 

 

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Find Double Takes:
On Amazon:
At Liquid Silver Books:
All Romance: 
Barnes & Noble:  
Watch the Double Takes book trailer:

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Contest: Kimber Vale has a $25 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card (winner’s choice) up for grabs!  Ends midnight 5/16.  Go here at Rafflecopter to enter. 

Double Takes (Shooting Stars #2) coverBook Details:

Author K. Vale
Series Shooting Stars.Book # 2
Genre GLBT, M/M, Contemporary, Musicians, Music
Heat Level 3 .Words 63,000  Publication Date 04/21/2014

 

Double Takes Blurb:

Ah, the life of a rock star. Everyone thinks it’s nothing but sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

Not for Giovanni Savale.

For the lead singer of Three Deaf Mice, a band that reached its pinnacle in the late nineties, it’s nothing but an ugly divorce with a custody battle, money trouble, and now the nightmare exposure of starring in a reality television show. When his producer decides to cash in on an infamous interview Gio did years ago, and give the self-confessed bisexual rocker an onscreen boyfriend, things really hit the fan. Gio is certain his sexual experimentation back in his drug-abusing days meant nothing — after all he’s been married for nine years, clean and sober for nearly as long, and he has a son. And Gio is not remotely attracted to Kyrie, the funny, flamboyant actor they choose for his love interest. Of course, Lance Garrett, the mysterious and sexy owner of the local antique shop, Double Takes, is a whole different story. The guy has Gio planning out a future he never imagined. With the threat of losing all custody of his ten-year-old son, ghosts from the past returning for revenge, and the cameras rolling, can Gio keep his head above water and his heart from getting broken?

 

Excerpt:

Lance’s hand on top of his stopped Gio from silencing the irritating voice.

Gio sat down heavily next to Lance, one hand still burdened by his dinner plate and the other sandwiched between Lance’s palm and the remote. He didn’t dare pull it away, and Lance apparently wanted to see the entire commercial because he kept Gio trapped there until it finished.

“What was that all about?” Lance’s warm fingers slid from Gio’s, leaving his hand cold.

“Ah, it’s dumb. The world’s most degrading way to make a paycheck.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure.” Lance stared at something past Gio’s shoulder.

“The producers took some stupid poll and found out the viewers want to see me…” Gio paused in search of the right word. What the hell did people want to see? “They wanna see me squirm. They want to see a supposedly bisexual man drowning in the same-sex dating pool. It’s all bullshit—just for ratings.”

“So, you’re not really dating that guy?”

“No! Well, yeah, I have to for the show. But not really. It’s just a publicity stunt, you know?”

“So, you aren’t bi, then?” Lance cocked his head and skewered Gio with those intense hazel eyes

“Yeah! No! I mean … it’s not like I…” What the fuck was he even trying to say? You’ve screwed around with guys before, ass munch.

The confused squint of the eyes staring back at him—moss-green with spikes of brown radiating from his pupils—told Gio his answer didn’t exactly make sense to Lance, either.

“I always wondered if those rumors were true before you got married.” Lance made it sound like a question.

“Well, you know how it is … when you’re young, and you party too much. Sometimes you do shit you wouldn’t normally do if you weren’t fucked up, right?” Gio gave a weak laugh. Continue reading

Go Into The Wind with Shira Anthony and her Mermen of Ea Book Tour (2 Contests to Enter)

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IntoWindBlog Tour Giveaway Info:
Contest starts 5/5 (release day) and ends at midnight on 5/31.
Prizes include the following
:

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  • Grand Prize: Handmade Merman Tail Fluke Pendant
  • 1st Prize: Mermen of Ea Goodie Basket (includes autographed copy of “Stealing the Wind” paperback, t-shirt, and lots of other fun stuff)
  • 2nd Prize: $10.00 Dreamspinner Press Gift Certificate
  • 3rd Prize: Paperback copy of “Stealing the Wind” (Mermen of Ea #1) – or for non-US winners, a $10 Dreamspinner Press Gift Certificate

Here’s the Rafflecopter link

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Shira Anthony stopping by today to talk about her inspiration for the Mermen of Ea novels and latest book, Into The Wind, the 2nd story in her Merman of Ea series.  

Shira Anthony has also brought a copy of the first story, Stealing the Wind, to give away to one person who leaves a comment at the end of this post.  Two contests, two ways to enter!  Now enjoy a look into Shira Anthony’s inspiration for this wonderful series.

The Mermen of Ea Series: Ocean Inspiration by Shira Anthony

About two years ago, I decided to write a story about pirates and sailing ships. Captor/captive, a little sexy dubious consent. Nothing too complicated. A single novel set in the age of sail. Not a single merman in sight. That single book became a story about shapeshifting mermen than spans three novels….
I’m going to backtrack a bit here and start off by saying that I’ve been a fantasy, sci fi, and sword & sorcery reader since I was old enough to read. I grew up on the original Star Trek, read every Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov book I could get my hands on (I lived in France for a few years, and they weren’t easy to find in English!), and fell in love with the Darkover universe created by Marion Zimmer Bradley (probably my most powerful writing influence). As an adult, I read the Harry Potter books to my kids and loved them as much as my children did.

My first gay romance was an erotic fairy tale called The Dream of a Thousand Nights. But in spite of my love of fantasy, the first novel I wrote was a contemporary: Blue Notes. And I learned with Blue Notes that what I write best is what I know. In the case of the Blue Notes Series, that’s music and musicians. Makes sense, right?

Somewhere between Blue Notes books and a few joint writing projects, the idea of a story set on the water hit me squarely between the eyes. I needed a break from angsty musicians, and I started playing around with a pirate novel. That’s how Taren Laxley was born. An indentured servant (a slave, really), Taren dreams of sailing on the ocean. It calls to him. So began my adventure of writing the Mermen of Ea Series. Only there were no mermen when I wrote the first few chapters, only pirates and sailing ships.

Then I spent a weekend sailing aboard our 36’ catamaran sail boat at the North Carolina coast and saw a pod of dolphins swimming nearby. I watched them play in the water and jump into the air. They love to chase boats, and I love to watch them. A few months later, my husband and I spent a week on the Caribbean island of Grenada getting our open water scuba certification. And as we were swimming around, heavy metal tanks on our backs, fins on our feet, and regulators in our mouths, I imagined what it would be like to swim and breathe underwater without all the gear. Suddenly, Taren wasn’t just a human boy who longed to sail the high seas—he was a merman.

When I wrote Stealing the Wind, the first book in the series, my scuba experiences were fresh in my mind. The feel of the water on my skin. The tiny popping noises of tiny shrimp in my ears. The colors of the coral reefs. The overwhelming beauty of the ocean surface. The feel of the wind on my face and the sun on my back. With each scene aboard the Sea Witch and later the Phantom, I tried to recreate those sensations. I knew what Taren longed for because I longed for it myself.

Land's Zen sail boat SAThere’s nothing quite like the sensation of floating on the water. Nothing like the feeling of peaceful calm when we’re on our boat. In fact, when we bought our most recent boat, I suggested we name her the Land’s Zen, because she is just that for me—a place where I can relax and forget about the million and one things I should be doing. A place where I can just be.Land's Zen 1

Into the Wind, the second book in the Mermen of Ea Series, evokes the same deep connection to the wind and the water as the first book. In it, Taren grows by leaps and bounds, fearful of what the future may bring, but knowing that he can’t fight his destiny. Raised as a human and not knowing his true nature until he meets his soul mate, Ian, Taren sees things differently from his Ea brethren. His powerful love of the ocean drives him and will chart the course his people must follow in order for their race to survive.

I hope that when you read the Mermen of Ea books you’ll feel some of my own Zen come through. Even if you’ve never tried scuba or snorkeling, I think you can imagine what it might be like to swim through the vastness of the ocean or even live under it. The appeal of mermen for me is, at its core, the appeal of the water and the peace I find on (and in) it. I think that’s why the merfolk myths still capture our collective imagination long after the age of sail has passed and we jet around the globe in airplanes that cross the oceans in hours instead of weeks.

Stealing the Wind cover

IntoWind

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2 Contest Info:

  1. Would you like to win an ebook copy of Stealing the Wind, the first book in the Mermen of Ea Series? I’m giving one away to a lucky commenter on this blog post. Melanie will choose a winner from all the comments on 5/14. To enter to win, leave a comment below and an email address where you can be reached.
  2. I’m also running a special Into the Wind Blog Tour Giveaway with some great prizes including a gorgeous unisex pendant and a Mermen of Ea goodie basket. Here’s the link to the Rafflecopter giveaway: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/cf0ba93/ The blog tour giveaway ends on May 31st at midnight!Shira

Follow Shira Anthony at:
Email  shiraanthony@hotmail.com
Shira’s Website   Shira’s Facebook
T
witter @WriterShira
Goodreads Author Page

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Follow Shira Anthony on each stop of her tour for more insight into the series and this story:
Blog Tour Participants:

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Book Buy Links:

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IntoWindBlurb: Since learning of his merman shifter heritage, Taren has begun building a life with Ian Dunaidh among the mainland Ea. But memories of his past life still haunt him, and as the threat of war with the hostile island merfolk looms ever closer, Taren fears he will lose Ian the same way he lost his beloved centuries before. Together they sail to the Gateway Islands in search of the fabled rune stone—a weapon of great power the Ea believe will protect them—and Odhrán, the pirate rumored to possess it.

After humans attack the Phantom, Taren finds himself washed up on an island, faced with a mysterious boy named Brynn who promises to lead him to Odhrán. But Taren isn’t sure if he can trust Brynn, and Odhrán is rumored to enslave Ea to protect his stronghold. Taren will have to put his life on the line to find his way back to Ian and attempt to recover the stone. Even if he does find it, his troubles are far from over: he and Ian are being stalked by an enemy who wants them dead at all costs.

There are 3 wonderful excerpts that follow, all are SFW:
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Short Slightly Sexy Excerpt:

They swam out from land as they held each other, tails beating the water in tandem as they spiraled in a dizzying dance. More than anything, Taren found the Ea mating ritual a beautiful thing. Ian’s Ea body was also beautiful. In this form, Ian’s chest was broad and the muscles of his belly and arms more powerful. As a human, Ian was strong. As an Ea, he possessed strength and surprising grace few others did. Taren loved to watch Ian swim, watch the sinews of his body ripple as he moved his tail, watch his hair twist in the current. More thrilling, perhaps, was the knowledge that Ian was his, that Ian desired him above all others, that Taren held Ian’s heart.

Ian released Taren as they glided over the sand at the bottom. Large schools of silver fish followed the contours of their bodies, calling to mind the shimmer of moon across the waves. Here, many feet below the surface, the pressure of the water created a warm cocoon around Taren and drove the warmth in his chest to his extremities, making his fingers more sensitive.

Taren flicked his tail to propel him around so that he and Ian swam toward each other, arms extended, then moved upward as they laced their fingers together and floated perpendicular to the sea floor. They kissed and their tongues entwined. Ian tasted of the ocean and of the promise of Taren’s new life. Their former incarnations, Treande and Owyn, had been equals in everything. Partners, friends, lovers. Taren both relished and feared the power of his connection to Ian and the unexpected turn of fate that had brought them together, as well as the revelations of their past.

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Medium Length Slightly Sexy Excerpt: Continue reading

In the Author Spotlight: Jim Provenzano

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spotlight on booksMessage of Love cover

ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords is happy to host Jim Provenzano today, talking about his latest release, Message of Love, the sequel to the Lambda Literary Award winning, Every Time I Think of You.

Giveaway:  Jim has brought with him a Kindle ebook copy of Every Time I Think of You to give away today along with a copy of Message of Love to a 2nd winner.  To enter to win, leave a comment below as well as your email address so you can be contacted. We would also appreciate it if you left your Amazon email address in the body of the comment to make it easier to send the book to you as it is a Kindle edition.  Contest closes 4/19. Thanks.

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Getting It Right, the Second Time Around

by Jim Provenzano

When I started writing my fourth novel Every Time I Think of You, the first few chapters came to me in a dream in January 2011. I’d already had a few other novels nearly completed, but the story of Reid and Everett basically took over my life.Every Time I Think Of You

After finishing it in early December of that year, I agreed with the almost unanimous suggestion of friends who had read early drafts, and cut an epilogue where Reid and Everett are living ‘happily ever after’ as college roommates in Philadelphia. I realized that the last chapter was actually a draft treatment for a sequel. What happens after the rush of romance concludes with the blossoming of love? Well, a lot happens.

In the sequel, Message of Love, Reid and Everett attend separate universities in Philadelphia. While Everett’s studies focus on politics and world affairs, Reid remains devoted to his Forestry studies. And while the symbolic aspect of the City of Brotherly Love offers new adventures for them, the urban environs tests their relationship, and in particular, Reid’s once heartfelt passion for nature.

I prepared for my new novel, Message of Love, with funds generated from a small yet successful 2012 Kickstarter project. The week before attending the Lambda Literary Awards in New York City, where Every Time I Think of You won the Lammy for Gay Romance, I spent a week in Philadelphia. Combining my journalism experience with a bit of adventurous tourism, I researched the campuses, the city and Fairmont Park, where most scenes are set.

I also spent several days in the archives at both Temple University, the University of Pennsylvania, and at the Philadelphia Public Library, where I scanned issues of the Philadelphia Gay News, converting page after page into saved PDFs. I even found a house where the fictional version of an apartment would become their home.

Numerous personal interviews with current and former Philadelphia and Greensburg residents, and graduates of Penn and Temple, led to an insightful perspective on the novel’s setting. Sometimes a single detail or correction would lead to an entire chapter revision. But what surprised me were how often real-life events aligned with the story I had already outlined.

I spent months researching the disability issues relating to Everett’s experience, both from the perspective of a paraplegic and someone who loves him. Personal interviews with wheelchair users led to new insights into their daily lives.

As a former professional dancer, one of the most inspirational aspects came from other dancers. Like my first novel, PINS, about high school wrestlers, I took my own physical experience as a sort of muscle memory. By watching and talking with a wonderfully talented dancer and a choreographer from the Oakland, California AXIS Dance Company, I was able to feel and visualize the practicality and athleticism of a young active paraplegic.

But with a specific time frame, thirty years ago, I didn’t have the advantage of relying on contemporary aspects of disability. I bought several books from that era, specific to the limitations of the early 1980s, before the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, and before most sidewalks and buildings were made accessible.

As with Every Time I Think of You, the story is written from Reid’s point of view and his attempts to comprehend and understand Everett’s challenges. Despite being a pair of romance novels, I worked within the popular genre while crafting a decidedly new approach. I also read many gay and straight romance books with disabled characters. Some of them were touching and sweet. Some were uninformed and misguided.

But at the same time, while I endeavored to ‘get it right’ about such a relationship, I kept asking myself, ‘Is this a Romance?’ Reid and Everett are already boyfriends. The quest of finding love has been achieved. Their new challenge is to sustain their love through some separation. Veering from the standard romance, they live together for most of the story.

With the advantage of having already established the love between Reid and Everett, I faced new challenges with an historic time and urban setting, placed against the encroaching threat of a plague.

Many contemporary romances quickly dispense with AIDS and other difficult issues, and that’s fine. That is the decision of other authors, to make a fun, sexy escapist story. But having set this sequel after the ‘halcyon’ days of the late 1970s, when being gay wasn’t a big problem in some communities, the sequel would have to deal with realities of the era in which I came of age; infidelity, identity, and the growing, then unnamed, epidemic.

A major symbol, a small evergreen tree, served as an actual gift in Every Time I Think of You. For Message of Love, a single ivy leaf, used on the book’s cover, becomes a significant gift of apology in a crucial moment when Everett and Reid’s relationship is at its most fragile. Yet Everett’s life as a paraplegic is not a mere metaphor, but a realistic aspect of his life that’s given a thorough focus.

In the first book, the two young men’s time together is sporadic and passionate. In the sequel, their extended time together offers a new perspective on moving beyond the initial rush of first love, and growing toward a stronger form based on trust.

This four-year ‘distraction’ has led to creating two of the most endearing characters I’ve created. I really grew to love these guys, and I hope readers will, too.
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Author Bio:

Jim Provenzano is the author of the novels PINS, Monkey Suits, Cyclizen, the 2012 Lambda Literary Award-winning Every Time I Think of You, its sequel Message of Love, and the stage adaptation of PINS.

A journalist in LGBT media for two decades, and the guest curator of Sporting Life, the world’s first gay athletics exhibit, he also wrote the syndicated Sports Complex column for ten years. Currently the Assistant Arts Editor at the Bay Area Reporter, he also edits its weekly BARtab nightlife section.

For more information on Jim Provenzano’s books, visit

Watch the book trailer, which features a performance of Dudley Saunders singing “Message of Love,” the title song (by The Pretenders), and enjoy the companion video playlists for Message of Love, Every Time I Think of You and PINS on Jim Provenzano’s YouTube channel:

 

 

 

 

 

Author Spotlight on Mell Eight, author of The Oracle Series (And Book Contest)

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spotlight on books

 

 

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 In The Author Spotlight Today:   Mell Eight

 

The Oracle's FlameThe Oracle's HatchlingScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords is happy to have Mell Eight stopping by today to talk about The Oracle series:

Contest: Winner will win a copy of The Oracle’s Flame.  To enter please leave a comment and a email address or other method of contacting you. That’s it. Contest closes Saturday, April 5th. 

 

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Mell Eight:

Melanie very kindly asked me to stop by her blog, ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords, to talk a little bit about The Oracle Series. I’m so happy to have this opportunity to share more about the stories I love, so thank you very much to Melanie and her blog for the invite!

One of the most difficult things for me when I start writing a new book is figuring out how to make it completely unique from every other book I’ve written. This was especially true when I began writing The Oracle Series. At the time, I had just finished The Dragon’s Hoard series in which my dragons had a very specific type of society and their magic was tied to their hoarding instinct. I knew I had to go in the exact opposite direction for my new adventure in The Oracle’s Flame. I eventually chose to work inside a Monastery and with the elements of Fire, Water, Air, and Earth for the magic.

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Every single person born in the Monastery has the ability to use each of those elements, called Castes. As children they’re trained in all the basics. I think of it like primary school children who study everything there is to know at an elementary level, but they eventually graduate and go off to college where they specialize in just one degree. When the children in the Monastery turn eighteen they’re eligible to approach the Oracle to ask for permission to take the test that will determine their future. The Oracle is an all-seeing and all-knowing being. She looks into the future of each child and determines if they’re ready for the test. Dragon (Kindle), from The Oracle’s Flame, did not test until he was twenty while Ling, from The Oracle’s Hatchling, tested when he was still eighteen. To continue my metaphor, each student in the U.S. has to pass their SATs in order to get into college and their final grade often indicates what level college they’re able to get into. In a way this is also true in my Oracle Series. The children are tested and they receive power based on their need in the future.

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The testing itself is a mysterious process that only the Oracle really understands. The child enters a dark, magical room where they are imbued with power that takes the form of a tattoo on their back. The tattoo will belong to only one specific Caste—i.e. an Earth Caste tattoo might have a tree in it, but it won’t have a nearby stream or leaves rustling in the wind—and the child would only have the ability to use that Caste.

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I can already hear readers of The Oracle’s Hatching asking me about Ling’s powers. He was able to use all four elements even after his testing! I don’t want to give away too many spoilers for future readers, but there is a very rare fifth Caste where the ability to use multiple elements is possible. Ling belongs to the Ether Caste, which is part of the strife he has to overcome in his story. Because the Ether Caste is so rare, it’s not included in the list of elements.

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Which brings me to my dragons! As I said earlier, the amount of future need determines the amount of power each child receives during their testing. If Dragon’s future only included lighting candles to keep the night at bay, he might have been a Kindle in truth instead of disguise. Instead he had a mighty quest to accomplish and emerged from the testing chamber with a dragon emblazoned on his back. Each Caste has one Dragon who is always the strongest person in the entire Caste. They have the ability to manipulate their element to the highest degree, including transforming into a dragon shape during dire need. Despite their strength, the Dragons are not the leaders of their Castes. The Oracle sends her Dragons into the world to keep it safe, like Dragon’s quest to find the missing Prince of Altnoia. This leaves other high level Caste members, called Masters, to run the Caste from the Monastery.

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Each book in The Oracle Series will focus on one Dragon and his or her Oracle derived quest to keep the world safe. There are five Castes which means I am planning on writing a total of five books for the series. The Oracle’s Flame was about the Dragon of Fire, The Oracle’s Hatchling was about the Dragon of Ether, and the upcoming The Oracle’s Golem will be about the Dragon of Earth. I have future books planned for the Dragon of Air and the Dragon of Water, which I am excited to write soon. Could there be more than five books in the series? Absolutely. I won’t know for certain until the very last word is written in book five and my muses close the door on the Monastery. There are two ways there could be more books: either a new type of Dragon emerges in the Monastery, which is very unlikely at this point, or I expand the world. I have mentioned in the stories that there is an entire world out there, but I have only gone into depth about the Monastery and the country of Altnoia. A sixth book would be a step sideways, a sort of new series connected to The Oracle because it’s set in the same world, but with a new setting and new characters. I won’t focus on the possibility of more books until after book five is completed, but the ideas are percolating!

I put a lot of thought into The Oracle Series as I was creating it and I hope I was able to unravel some of it for you today! Thanks again to Melanie and ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords for inviting me to stop by.

Purchasing information for The Oracle’s Flame and The Oracle’s Hatchling can be found at Less Than Three Press.
For more information about The Oracle Series, including published books and works in progress, please visit the series’ page on my website.

 STRW: Thank you, Mell, for stopping by today! You can find the reviews for the first two books in the series on my website.  And don’t forget to leave a comment and be entered into the contest!

Contact Mell Eight at:

 

Book Contest and Guest Post by T.A. Webb, Pulp Friction Author of the City Knight series

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Scattered Thoughts (that’s me) has loved having all the authors here this week.  And we still have another surprise day to go where I will announce the winners and the Pulp Friction authors will have one last post together.Darkest KNight cover

So, don’t forget to leave a comment, either at the end of today’s post or on the review post.  Either way, we will count that as an entry.

And now for our fourth and final Pulp Friction author, T.A.”Tom”  Webb and his City Knight series. *offers up a chair and a cup of coffee*:

TW: Thanks for having me, Melanie. Well, me and my guys Marcus and Benjamin. Now, these two men are rather mouthy and will tend to jump in and say what’s on their minds before you or I know it. So, bear with us and I’ll try to filter it all into something that makes sense for us all.

ST: *sinks into her chair, pets the pups*

TW: When Laura, Lee and Havan and I started talking about some kind of series that would be like the old pulp fictions, what immediately came to mind for me was the Doc Savage pulps I read as a kid. I loved Doc Savage with hathim, and always thought he was kind of like me, in that he was different. When I put a name to it—gay—I realized he never was with a person of either sex, but I could easily imagine him as mine.

So, when we put the series here in Atlanta, we talked about each of us putting out six stories. My first idea was to write two sets of three stories—a trilogy—for two sets of characters. Then Marcus whispered in my ear, and he was this mature cop who patrolled the area around his home. I asked him why, and the whole story came out about his doctor lover who was shot and killed senselessly, and how he made a promise to protect the neighborhood. Kind of Doc Savage meets Batman.

A man like that deserves a happy ending, so I imagined who would crack through a man like that’s shield? Because Marcus, he deserves someone who would make him laugh, someone who would light up his dark nights and make his heart beat again.

Enter Ben.

Now Ben, or as Marcus calls him, his Benjamin, isn’t a slam dunk. He has a past of his own that tried to keep him away from Marcus. He’s younger, smart as a whip, but so closed off from his own feelings because of his own soul-crushing experience—he was raped—that it was a challenge for him to connect to Marcus for more than sex.

But he does. And the trilogy follows how they two men circle each other and gently open up despite all the horrible things in their pasts, and the bad things coming after them in their present. But, they make it.

So, when it came time to write the other two men I had in mind, Marcus and Benjamin said they weren’t ready to step aside. Plus, we—Laura, Lee Havan and I—had started interweaving Chance and Zachary and Archer and Wick with my boys, so how could I leave them hanging?

ST:  You can’t, that obvious, plus it would make your fans cry. Not a good thing.

TW: Plus, slowly but surely, the fans caught on and would have killed me if I let them go. And we had to find out who killed Travis, and then Marcus’s brother Frankie showed up with little Marcus, and they have a loud voice too.

My plans, now that all five books are written as well as the final book we all will co-author, are to write a small holiday story for Marcus and Doc_Savage_plus_Five_by_SilvreBenjamin called “Christmas Knight”.  And at some point there will be a novella for Frankie and Brady, because they are screaming in my head that they need their story told.

ST:  I am so happy to hear that because I fell in love with Brady and Frankie!  They do need a story of their own. Oops,  sorry to interrupt.

TW: This has been such a fun process, and I have learned SO much about how to write from these three talented friends of mine. I almost hate to leave Atlanta behind, but Flagstaff calls and that makes my creative juices flow.

ST:  Hmmm. Flagstaff…..more stories perhaps?  Another secret for another day.

TW: Thanks to everyone who’s read City Knight, and it’s on sale for $0.99 for everyone on Amazon and ARe.

Please, leave a comment, and you can have your choice of any book in the series in a drawing especially for Melanie’s blog. She’s been so wonderful about reading all 20 of the books and reviewing them, and Marcus and Benjamin have her in a big hug for liking them. They have no words, and neither do I!

ST: Aww, shucks.   *hugs back*  Plus you mentioned Doc Savage.  I remember seeing plenty of those paperpacks on my dad’s shelf near his chair.  Oh that did bring back the memories.  Thanks for the great guest post and wonderful stories, Tom.

TW: Thanks all!  Remember to leave a comment and win!

Tom

Here are the books in the City Knight series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the men and their relationships and the events that occur:

City Knight (City Knight #1)
Knightmare (City Knight #2)
Starry Knight (City Knight #3)
Knights Out (City Knight #4)
Darkest Knight (City Knight #5)
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Review: Duplicity (Triple Threat #5) by Laura Harner

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Rating; 5 stars out of 5

Duplicity coverOn the surface, everything and everyone seems happy and settled in the home of Archer, Zachary and Jeremiah.  They have discarded Jeremiah’s contract and now have a loving threesome partnership. But only on the surface and when young, distraught Clarenda Harris enters their office to ask for their help, she triggers a set of events and emotions that none of them saw coming, not even Archer.

Clarenda Harris is the mother of twin baby boys and the father of her sons, wealthly Dwayne Cashman, is missing, presumed dead in a plane crash.  Dwayne Cashman, also a twin,and his brother were inseparable and now that brother is set to inherit all Dwayne’s money and estate, leaving nothing for Clarenda and her sons.  But Clarenda is certain something is fishy.  She thinks Dwayne is alive and wants Zachary, Archer and Jeremiah to prove it.  Usually, Zachary would turn to Wick Templeton for research and help but Wick has disappeared, leaving all Zachary’s phone calls unanswered.

Zachary is left to deal with his feelings of betrayal over Wick, Jeremiah is hiding his grief over the loss of a friend and Archer is trying to balance the needs of his men with his own feelings to master.  Duplicity is in the air and the tension is rising.  Everything is feeling unsettled.  Can Archer, Zachary and Jeremiah discover the truth behind Dwayne Cashman’s disappearance before the will is read and the estate settled?  Or will all the hidden feelings and complications cause a breakdown in communications and relations that will threaten their happiness and that of others close to them?

Duplicity is a perfect title for a story full of hidden agendas, false identities, and layers of deceit that cover the actions and events connected to Archer, Zachary and Jeremiah and their band of brothers.  It all starts with a case involving twins and more twins that causes reverberations through the closely bonded group of friends that includes Archer, Zachary, Wick, Marcus, Chance and their significant others, especially when  another set of twins turns up dead with connections to the missing Wick.   There are dangers and conflict doubled at every turn and Laura Harner does an excellent job of leading the reader through the maze of troubled relationships and past histories that have come back to upset all involved.

At the heart of the series is the loving menage of Archer, Zachary, and Jeremiah.  They are settling beautifully into a happy threesome and the sex scenes in this story are white hot and kinky.  There are elements of D/s and bdsm here but the manner in which Harner uses them to enhance and better understand her men and their needs makes not only for some very intense, loving sex but also makes their relationship understandable and accessible. This applies even to those readers who don’t normally read books with this content.

Harner also discloses aspects of the mens past, especially where it involves Wick Templeton, that starts to shed light on the origins of this band of brothers.  This provides us with a better understanding of the depth of Archer and Zachary’s feelings towards Wick.  It also gives Jeremiah a chance to step forward with his issues with Zachary’s dependance upon Wick and its intrusion into their relationship.  So many emotions in flux, including Jeremiah’s grief over the heinous torture and death of his friend, Nick.

Harner has created a story with all the right elements in play to create an atmosphere of suspense, mystery, angst that combined with the incendiary sexual and loving partnership of Archer, Zachary and Jeremiah makes Duplicity a must read for lovers of all genres.   Triple Threat is a dynamic, engrossing series, one of four interconnected series, that you should put on your lists of books needed for 2013 and every year after.

As with the others, if you are new to this series, go back and start with the first story, Triple Threat#1.  I have listed them all in the order they were written and should be read to understand the men, their relationships and the events as they occur.  Run, don’t walk, to grab them all up.

This is how it all starts:

“Nice to meet you, Clarenda. I’m Zack. If you’ll follow me, Archer and Jeremiah are waiting in the study.” As had become our custom, I greeted our newest prospective client at the door and used the opportunity to size up any potential threat. Although it was possible for a weapon to be hidden almost anywhere, it seemed unlikely that this harried-looking woman was armed with anything more dangerous than the sticky-looking Tickle Me Elmo that stuck out from the top of the oversized canvas bag slung over her shoulder. Standing not much more than five feet even, her long dirty-blonde hair pulled into a messy tail and dressed in khaki capris and a blue and white striped tee shirt, the woman could pass for a college student. Until you looked at her face. Dark circles under her eyes and hard lines etched into her cheeks added ten years to her looks.

Entering the study, I made the introductions and, after handshakes all around, led her to a wingback chair that faced the delicate looking couch Archer favored when we had a client. As usual, Archer got right to the point. “You understand how our business works, Miss Harris? You must have lost something of significant monetary value, and if we are successful, our fee is half of what we recover. Do you think what you’ve lost merits a fifty percent commission?”

“Is sixteen million dollars worth your time, Mr. Wilde? Because if I’m right, that’s what I estimate my former employer’s estate is set to pay to his twin brother in fourteen days.”

Triple Threat Series in order:

Triple Threat (Triple Threat #1)
Retribution (Triple Threat #2)
Defiance (Triple Threat, #3)
Crucify (Triple Threat, #4)
Duplicity (Triple Threat #5)

Cover art by Laura Harner is perfect for the story and the series.

Buy links:  All Romance EBook, Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 118 pages
Published September 27th 2013 by Hot Corner Press
ISBN13 9781937252601
edition language English
series Triple Threat

Book Contest and Guest Post by Laura Harner, Pulp Friction Author of Triple Threat series

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Pulp Friction 4 covers

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is so happy to have Laura Harner stopping by for a chat about the Pulp Friction series and how it alDuplicity coverl came about.  Remember, lovely readers, all you need to do to be entered into the contest, is leave a comment at the end of a author post or at the end of one of the Pulp Friction reviews.  Its that simple.  Now back to our guest this morning.

ST: Good morning, Laura, pull up a chair and make yourself comfortable.  Now, tell me how it all got started.

LH: Thank you Melanie!

It’s so wonderful that we are doing this blog in October, because it was a year ago this month that I took a nostalgic trip through an old Raymond Chandler book and decided I wanted to know more about the origins of pulp fiction. After a very little research, I knew I had to write short stories using the pulp fiction formula, with the hard-boiled attitudes and a down and dirty mystery. One of the key elements of pulp fiction was the “To be continued” nature of many of the stories, along with the rapid releases, so readers weren’t left hanging too long. Other PF books resolved the crime in every story, but gave the reader a relationship with the protagonist, revealing a little more with each subsequent installment. I loved the whole idea, but…

I realized there was no way I could manage serial fiction on my own…so I spent a long time thinking about who I might sucker into this crazy scheme.

0.237 seconds later, I had my answer. Havan Fellows, Lee Brazil, Tom Webb and I already had a permanent chat window open in Facebook anyway, and I couldn’t imagine better writing partners.

I gave them a very brief outline of what I was thinking, and for the next twenty minutes, I didn’t say a word as they took off and ran with the idea and made a vision we could all embrace. Four separate series, a new release every two weeks, and there would be crossovers between the series.

For those unfamiliar with the history of pulp fiction, the popularity of the genre ran from 1896 to approximately 1955, and you can read a history of pulp magazines here at the Pulp Magazines Project:

Excerpt: Originally, a pulp magazine was one that was printed on paper made directly from wood-pulp which rapidly yellows and becomes very brittle leaving a shower of confetti on the reader. …

…Another factor that distinguishes the pulps from other magazines was the lack of any bulk advertising. The pulps were produced cheaply and sold cheaply (initially 10 cents, occasionally only five cents, and seldom more than 25 cents, even in the later years) and relied wholly on revenue from sales. Another distinguishing feature is that the pulps ran almost entirely fiction.pulp_20

So Why Pulp Friction?

Why Pulp Friction? Why MM (or MMM-since I’m greedy)?

We wanted to pay homage to the golden days of story telling, when talk was cheap and so were the women…. Okay, not exactly, but close. We all loved the idea of telling a great story for a fair price. We also know that readers love a well-developed character, and when that character steps out of his own book and into another—double bonus.

The characters we created have taken over our stories, become good friends—no more than that—they’re family. With that comes the ability to love and to hurt each other in the way only family can. Havan, Lee, Tom and I have grown into that type of family, as well.
The one thing the characters know above all else, family keeps coming back. So while going into this last book, it may appear that certain relationships are broken, we all know—there are just some bonds that can’t be broken.

ST: What a great way to end this morning.  Thanks, Laura.  I can’t wait to find out what happens next with Pulp Friction.  I have grown to love all the characters and each series.  It’s lovely to see that the closely bonded group of characters is mirrored by their authors.

Thanks for stopping by today and I can’t wait for the final group post on Friday.

Laura Harner’s Triple Threat series in the order they were written and should be read are:

Triple Threat (Triple Threat #1)
Retribution (Triple Threat #2)
Defiance (Triple Threat, #3)
Crucify (Triple Threat, #4)
Duplicity (Triple Threat #5)

Review: The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari (The General #2) by Sarah Black

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

The General and the Elephant Clock coverGeneral John Mitchel and Gabriel Sanchez have finally begun to settle into their new lives as an couple and outwardly gay men when an old colleague calls with a request for help.  General David Painter, now CEO of a private security outfit, has two of his men, former Rangers, who have been captured and imprisoned in Tunisia. And they are being held in one of the most notorious prisons in the Middle East.  Painter wants John and Gabriel to get them out and safely home.

With problems on the home front with Kim, Abdullah, and Billy all involved in their own personal challenges, John and Gabriel knows its a tough time to leave but the alternative, leaving those boys to rot in prison or worse, is unthinkable.  The Arab Uprising has left the government unstable and the political climate rife for rebellion in Tunisia.  But liberating the men in only part of the mission, the other is to leave the country with every one involved safe and alive. An old enemy thwarts their every move, puting John and Gabriel in a dangerous position.  As the obstacles mount against them, John finds that one of the men’s obsession with the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari might not only be their ticket home but a way to heal some deep wounds as they go.

The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari is just spectacular!  I think it is the best book Sarah Black has written to date, a great book among many wonderful ones.  This book, the second in The General series, marks a departure from the original in so many ways. While that book, The General and the Horse-Lord, looked inward and focused on John and Gabriel as former Army officers now adjusting to civilian life and their status as out gay men and partners, this book takes all those elements (their  extended family, career adjustments, love for the Army and country,etc) and expands that view while placing the men back in their comfort zone of military action,hostiles, and hostage negotiations.  Its a brilliant move on the author’s part because now we get to see General John Mitchel (and Gabriel) in their element,. It is  here that we see their personalities, thoughts and actions shine and the depth of their partnership and love emerge to support their actions and the group they assemble.

This book is remarkable in that every aspect of this story is well constructed and beautifully implemented.  It has action scenes that will make you hold your breath in white knuckle anxiety yet scream in fear for those involved.  It has pathos and angst, especially in the form of Eli, the young, brilliant ex Ranger captured and abused.  It has the breadth of knowledge and admiration for a ancient rich culture and society now on the brink of meltdown while showing a sorrow for a people caught in the religious crossfires of zealotry and hatred. Black comments on the Arab uprising while bringing its reality to the reader in the scared visages and chaos that is every day life in Carthage and Tunisia.  There is scholarly references to Ibn Battuta’s Rihla, Al-Jazari’s book, The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices”as well as contemporary references to Star Wars, Spongebob Squarepants, and the lyrics of “Take It Easy” by the Eagles and Jackson Browne.   This book is bursting at the seams in an explosion of history, culture, pop society milestones and great characterizations that will cement themselves in your heart never to leave.

Existing on the same superior level as the action and plot are the characters created for this series.  Starting with John Mitchel, Gabriel Sanchez, Kim, Abdullah, Billy and even Juan, Gabriel’s confused and angry son, each and every one is a solid, believable, and often endearing personality that the reader will connect to easily.  John Mitchel, the warrior philosopher, is easily the strongest and probably most magnetic, along with Gabriel.  John is having the hardest time adjusting to civilian life, finding it boring and lacking the mental stimulation that he is used to.  He is also finding it hard to relinquish his role as the commander who sees to everyones safety and directing their safe passage through life.  Gabriel is also finding his new life harder than he thought it would be, with different demands as an ex husband and divorced family man whose kids are unhappy and angry over the destruction of their family unit to a law firm disintegrating under the load of needy cases and lack of revenue.  The pain and confusion of divorce and its effects upon a family are not glossed over but folded in as a matter of fact part of life that the men and Gabriel’s children and ex-wife must deal with.  It’s realistic, and recognizable in this day and age of multiple connected families.  I love these men and their relationship, a work still in progress throughout the story although their love is never to be doubted.

Swimming in the sea of John and Gabriel’s love and support is their wonderful extended family of Kim, John’s brilliant Korean nephew, Abdullah, his godson, and Billy, a young man recovering from a brutal attack on campus.  Now added to the fray are the men  and woman who make up the rescue unit in Carthage.  Eli and Daniel, Jen Painter, Sam Brightman, Wylie and Jackson, all memorable, each a living, breathing human being that will bring you to laughter and tears.  Eli and Jen have to be two of my favorites, Eli one of the young men captured and Jen, the resilient and courageous young woman fighting to empower the embattled women of Tunisia.  And then there is  the director of the Bardo Museum, Ibrahim ibn Saeed ibn Ahmad al-Aziz, old and wise, encapsulating the best combination of humanity, learning and wisdom.  There is a large cast here but each is necessary to the plot and to the group dynamic. You will fall in love with each and every one.  Here is an excerpt.  John is calling  home from Carthage and is met with the usual chaos of multiple voices before talking to Billy:

So how are you, son? I was craving some of your tea today, that one with the blood oranges and rose hips and hibiscus. I can’t believe I’m starting to like it.”

“That’s my favorite, too. I was thinking we could plant some blackberry and raspberry vines in the back yard, make some fresh teas. You think they would grow here?”

“Maybe. If we built them a deep planter that we sunk in the ground. I’ve heard there were some traditional ways to plant up in northern New Mexico where they dug shallow pits, lined them with rocks, and planted trees in them.”

“I read something about the Hopi, how they planted—I was thinking about waffles, or a grid? I can’t remember. I’ll have to look it up.”

“Billy, do you know anything about the museums in Carthage?”

“Not really. Want me to look them up?”

“I would. Just write me a brief and send it to me, okay? That would be a big help.”

“I looked up some pictures of Carthage. It looks so beautiful, with the Mediterranean right there, and the sky so blue. Sad, though. Like that poem, how does it go? Two vast and trunkless legs of stone….”

John concentrated hard, trying to remember. “Ozymandias, and it was Shelley, I think, or Keats. I used to know it. “I met a traveller from an antique land who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone stand in the desart. Near them, on the sand, half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown, and wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, tell that its sculptor well those passions read…. I can’t remember the rest. But you’re right, Billy. That poem looks like Carthage. I miss you, kiddo.”

“I miss you, too.”

Just look at the number of references in that short excerpt, from Hopi planting methods to Shelley’s Ozymandias overlaid with a man longing for home and the respect with which he treats the people who live under his roof. Black also demonstrates her knowledge and love of the military here.  Whether it is the Flying Stallions and the primal sound of the “rhythmic thump, then, the sound of a big helicopter’s rotors” to the pain and sorrow of a young injured soldier unable to fathom his doctor’s distant attitude, you will feel as though you have walked a short ways in a soldier’s shoes.

From vivid descriptions of far away places to the characters and the ever present love of the Army and its mission, The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari, is a must read for 2013 or any year.   Make sure you find a place for it on your bookshelf, digital or otherwise, with space for additional stories to come.  This is a universe that begs for more stories with its wealth of characters and various challenges ahead that each face.  I know at least one more is in the works, lets hope for an abundance.

This is how the story begins:

JOHN studied the candy-colored sky, raspberry pink edging to smudgy purple, the color of a grape lollipop. The colors reminded him of Turkish delight, a candy he’d been offered once in a Bedouin’s tent. He’d been there to negotiate passage for troops and troop trucks over the old man’s lands. It was rumored that the Bedouin was somehow involved in the nasty little conflict that had disrupted the flow of food aid to the region. John had been sent in to stomp on the sparks before civilian casualties escalated.

The old man’s grandson had filled two cups with mint tea so sweet John could smell the sugar over the dust and sun-warmed canvas of the tent. Then he’d offered the plate of Turkish delight with a flourish and a bow. The boy had black liquid eyes, long, thick lashes, and John had felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up. Eyes that beautiful and dark should have been filled with warmth, but the boy was young and didn’t know how to hide what was in his heart. John had watched the boy slide his hand down his leg, clutch the bronze dagger in the top of his boot and pull it free.

Then Gabriel was there, quiet as smoke, his rifle cradled in his arms, and the boy froze. John set his teacup down, refusing the Bedouin’s hospitality. It was an insult, a hard line drawn in the sand, nearly as hard a line as the one drawn when your grandson cut someone’s throat over a plateful of Turkish delight. The old man had eyes like the boy, a raptor’s eyes, cold and wet and black. John stood up, backed out of the tent without a word, and Gabriel spread his arms, the rifle in one big hand. No one could mistake the gesture. It said, No one touches him. You come through me to get to him.

SThe Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari 

Book Details:

ebook, 244 pages
Expected publication: October 25th 2013
ISBN13 9781627982085
edition language English
series The General