An Alisa Advent Calendar Review: A Holiday Tradition by Chrissy Munder

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Rating:  4 stars out of 5

 

Paul Carpenter has his life all planned out. Or at least his father does. The right school, the right degree, the right job. Paul is on track, until a bus accident has him sitting out a coveted internship, babysitting, or being babysat, by a grandfather he barely remembers during his holiday stay in a Florida RV park. His father’s reasoning? How much temptation can Paul find around a bunch of senior citizens playing bingo? There’ll be nothing to distract him from his studies.

 

It’s hard to muster his holiday spirit when Paul is used to snow and cold, not sun, surf, and plastic flamingos in Santa hats. But then Paul meets Kevin Lombardo, who offers to show him some new holiday traditions. Suddenly Paul’s fast track hits a curve.

 

I feel bad because a lot of the holiday stories aren’t really connecting with me this year, while I like them they aren’t blowing me away.  This one has done better than the others so far.  Paul is trying to make his father proud but it’s so hard when it makes him unhappy while Kevin is supporting Paul he wants him to be happy.  I was easily able to connect with Paul and could feel his frustration and unhappiness throughout his ordeal and was glad when Kevin finally knocked some sense into him.  I liked that they were able to work everything out and see them happy together in the future.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

 

Book Details:

ebook, 58 pages

Published: December 17, 2018 by Dreamspinner Press

Edition Language: English

One Pulse Anthology and a Interview with Jon Keys, author of A Single Night

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one-pulse-anthology

One Pulse (A Dreamspinner Press Anthology)

Release Date September 17
Purchase Links

Stories drive life. Sometimes life is good; sometimes life is bad. But it’s the nature of our community that in the aftermath of an act of hatred, we respond with love. Because darkness cannot exist in the presence of light. Cruelty cannot stand against compassion. Negativity will never overcome hope.

To show our support for those affected by the Orlando shooting, our authors, editors, artists, and staff have volunteered their talents to create this anthology. All proceeds will be donated to LGBT organizations in central Florida. Join us as we celebrate the triumph of love over every obstacle.

Jon Keys—A Single Night
Alicia Nordwell—About Best Friends & Boyfriends
Mickie B. Ashling—Adíos
M.T. Aspen —Asking for Trouble
M.A. Church—Chasing Tyme
Caitlin Ricci—Coming Out
George Seaton—Cucurrucucú
Jayce Ellis—Dance
Bree Cariad—Everyday Miracles
Chrissy Munder—Everything I Need
Ellis Carrington—For the First Time
Felicitas Ivey—Get Me to the Church Town Hall on Time
John Amory—Happy Pride
Grace R. Duncan—Hope
John Goode—Let Them Eat Cake
J. C. Long—Magical Boys Just Wanna Have Fun
Elizabeth Noble—Magicicada
Renee Stevens—More Than a Pact
Troy Storm—One Big Happy… Bunch
Connie Bailey—One Heart at a Time
Dev Bentham—Perfection
Andrea Speed—Pride
Laura Lascarso—Pull
Lila Leigh Hunter—Raffled Kiss
Emery C. Walters—Ranch Dressing
C.C. Dado—Read My Lips
Sera Kane—The Stag’s Bane
KC Burn—The Tithe
Vicktor Alexander—The Wooing of the Marqués de Sierra de Outes
Edmond Manning—They Danced

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is proud to help host Dreamspinner Press’s release week for its One Pulse Anthology, a collection of stories written in the aftermath of the horror of the shootings in Orlando.  Here today, is Jon Keys, author of the wonderful Obsidian series and the story, A Single Night. Welcome, Jon, to Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words.

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A Single Night by Jon Keys from the One Pulse Anthology

Interview

  • Where do you normally draw your inspiration for a book from?  A memory, a myth, a place or journey, or something far more personal?Good question! For me it can be from almost anything: a random comment; a location I’ve never been to before, or a familiar one I revisit. I’ve written a few stories based on fairy tales. Many of the contemporary novels begin as a “what if” story. For example, a novel I’m writing now is built from the question of what would happen if a college professor fell for his mechanic. From there I’ve added twists and turns to take it beyond the obvious.
  • Are you a planner or a pantzer when writing a story? And  why?Both. I start out planning the important elements of the novel. Lately I’ve been mapping stories out to get their flow. But once I begin writing, all kinds of twists and turns happen that I hadn’t foreseen. When they do I usually let them run their course.
  • Contemporary, supernatural, fantasy, or science fiction narratives or something else?  Does any genre draw you more than another when writing it or reading it and why does it do so?Well the reading side is easier, so lets start there. Science fiction and fantasy are big time favorites. I enjoy the peek at another world or another time. All of those situations appeal to me as a reader. So far as other genre that are in the mix; some murder mysteries will fall in from time to time. I enjoy solving the puzzles and figuring out the who done it. Contemporary is also in the combination. Nothing scratches an itch sometimes quite like a good love story. But even then I want to know about their life, where they live and other background. I guess that element comes through on both my reading and writing. I want them to have a feeling of place.Writing follows some of the same lines of thought, but the emphasis has been different. Most of my writing has focused around contemporary, or at least the first handful of stories was firmly rooted in the here and now. They also had a strong rural/cowboy flavor to them.  But over the last several stories the focus is on fantasy. Whether it was the retelling of a classic fairy tale or the worlds of high fantasy, I’ve found writing these created worlds very satisfying. I love creating worlds and the animals and people who populate them. But in my next novel set to be released early in 2017 I’m back firmly in the contemporary world, telling cowboy stories again. I seem to have somewhat of a split writing personality!
  • If you had a character you’ve written you would write differently now at this time in your writing career, who would it be and why?The characters I’d probably want most to redo would be some of the antagonists, particularly Peter’s ex from Home Grown. He’d be much more multilayered now, more ominous. Yeah, he would be the character I could change more than most others.
  • Can an author have favorites among their characters and do you have them?Sure! I think authors can definitely have favorites. Some characters come out with so much personality and personal growth that you can’t help but cheer them on and want them to win. Terja from Obsidian Sun was one of those. He grew and changed so much through the course of the books.
  • If you were to be stranded on a small demi-planet, island, or god forbid LaGuardia in a snowstorm, what books would you take to read or authors on your comfort list?Oh jeez, I always go back to these later and can think of a dozen more. My test of a good read is how many times I’ve reread them. Some authors who have made it on my reread list: Anne McCaffrey’s Pern, Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar world, Allen Dean Foster, and for humor I love Robert Aspirin; the MYTH series, Phule’s Company and the Dragon Series. Yeah, that would be the short list, at least for now.
  • How early in your life did you begin writing?.I’m not one of the child prodigies I’m afraid. I never considered writing until a few years ago and I thought, “I can do that” and gave it a try. Now? Well it’s become quite an addiction for me.
  • Were you an early reader or were you read to and what childhood books had an impact on you as a child that you remember to this day and why?I read a lot of books, but don’t remember too many of the early ones. Actually the oldest book that I remember was Mother Goose. I had people read that book to me until I could ‘read’ the book out loud. Oddly enough the novel I remember from elementary school was Farmer Boy and yes, I was an adult before I realized it was part of the Little House on the Prairie series. But I could identify with Alfonzo. Later I found more science fiction and fantasy books. Of course I had the classic collection of all the comic books I could afford. I’d never heard of a graphic novel in those days.
  • If you were writing your life as a romance novel, what would the title be?Oh wow, hard question. I agonize over titles. I really like for them to work on a number of levels. Maybe “Here we go again.”

Blurb:

The aftermath of tragedy calls for more than just physical healing, but Devon and Logan may find it with family—and with each other.

Author Bio

Jon Keys’ earliest memories revolve around books; with the first ones he can recall reading himself being “The Warlord of Mars” and anything with Tarzan. (The local library wasn’t particularly up to date.) But as puberty set in he started sneaking his mother’s romance magazines and added the world of romance and erotica to his mix of science fiction, fantasy, Native American, westerns and comic books.

A voracious reader for almost half a century, Jon has only recently begun creating his own flights of fiction for the entertainment of others. Born in the Southwest and now living in the Midwest, Jon has worked as a ranch hand, teacher, computer tech, roughneck, designer, retail clerk, welder, artist, and, yes, pool boy; with interests ranging from kayaking and hunting to painting and cooking, he draws from a wide range of life experiences to create written works that draw the reader in and wrap them in a good story.

Buy links:

eBook: https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/one-pulse-7577-b

Social Media:

Excerpt:

Logan couldn’t help but notice Devon’s limp was more pronounced than normal. The wear and tear on his husband was visible tonight when Devon grabbed the back of the sofa. His fingers dug into the thick padding as he sighed.

“Sit down, please. I’ll call Michelle and Doug and reschedule. They’ll understand,” Logan said.

“I’m fine. Watch.” Devon winked at Logan, then vaulted over the back of the heavy piece of furniture to land with a bounce on the dense cushions.

A slight rattle and a stifled groan of pain made Logan cringe. “Would you behave, Devon! You’ll mess something up.”

Devon wrapped his meaty arms around Logan and worked to pull him on top. But Logan grabbed his face and planted a kiss on his forehead.

“Knock it off. It’s your sister who’s on her way,” Logan said.

But Devon ignored the protest, pulled Logan close, and pressed their lips together. The tingle in the pit of Logan’s stomach was the same he’d gotten the night they met. In the years since, it had only gotten stronger. Logan took a deep breath and filled his senses with Devon’s masculine scent, letting himself melt against the muscular chest and feel safe. His thoughts became fuzzy and his crotch tight as their closeness sent delicious jolts through Logan. He realized this wasn’t going like it should when they had guests arriving. Logan pushed away, wet his lips, and grinned.

“I have to cook supper before they get here. Go change into something comfortable. And hang up your dress clothes, because I’m the one who has to iron your crap.”

When Devon made an attempt to stand and his breath hissed through his teeth. Logan stepped over to help, but Devon waved him away. “When I can’t get my fat ass off the sofa, I’ll let you know.”

Logan rolled his eyes but stepped back. The effort took several tries before Devon stood. He shot Logan a wink and a smile. “See, told you I didn’t need help.”

Logan’s lips formed a tight line, and he started toward the kitchen. “You’re a stubborn jackass. Now go change.” He pulled out ingredients for dinner and within a few minutes had food strewn across the counters. He had the ingredients for the first course ready when Devon reappeared, still wearing his clothes from work.

“What do you want me to do?” Devon asked.

Logan glanced over and sighed. “Just once you could listen. Sit. Rest. They’ll want to play games until late.”

“I’ll help. I can make a pasta dish.”

Logan studied him for a minute before lifting an eyebrow. “Yeah, pasta would be good. What did you have in mind?”

Devon smirked as he made his way to the refrigerator while Logan worked on getting the entrée ready. He was preparing steaks and fresh vegetables from their garden for grilling. Logan spread them over two trays, seasoned them, and then coated everything with good olive oil they’d discovered on their trip to Italy. It was one of the little indulgences they allowed themselves. Devon was still working his way through the contents of the fridge when Logan stepped out onto their patio to get the grill ready.

While it heated, he looked around the yard and enjoyed the spring flowers he and Devon cared for with meticulous attention. They’d remodeled the deck last year and put in a Jacuzzi. He’d paid for it as part of Devon’s fortieth birthday gift. But he’d also hoped it would help keep the scar tissue on Devon’s leg a little more flexible. Whether it did or didn’t, they enjoyed having the little oasis to escape into each evening. Devon’s job as a victims’ advocate became stressful at times, and Logan wanted him to have a place to unwind.

Logan turned his attention to the barbecue, decided everything was fine, and slipped into the house. He glanced over at Devon and froze. A second later, he started laughing.

Devon turned to him and lifted an eyebrow. “Something wrong?”

“Nope. Not at all. I was just wondering if you’d left anything in the fridge.”

“You questioning my ability to make pasta salad?”

Logan held up both hands in surrender. “No, no. Nothing like that.”

Devon turned to his cutting board and diced peppers with the chef knife Logan bought him last Christmas. The mix of ingredients was unique, but Devon seemed satisfied with his hoard, so Logan didn’t care. No one’s crying, no one’s bleeding, then it isn’t a big deal. They worked together in the kitchen with practiced ease. Logan decided to make shot glass desserts for a treat. Devon was putting his salad in the fridge as Logan sprinkled pecans into the last dessert glass.

Devon was up to something; he was smirking too much over making pasta salad. Logan waited a minute before checking to see what was happening. He wasn’t surprised to discover the source of Devon’s amusement about the dish he’d made.

He frowned at the penis-shaped pasta filling the bowl. “Really? Another porn pasta creation? And for your sister?”

By this time Devon was cackling. “She’ll think it’s great, and Doug will turn a nice shade of red. It’ll all be good.”

Logan sighed and glanced at his watch. “Fine, keep your cock pasta. Your sister will be here soon. We need to shower.” He looked at Devon and lifted one brow. “And taking off your tie doesn’t mean you got relaxed.” Logan stood with an expression he hoped looked appropriately stern.

“If you ask me if I need help, I swear I’ll beat you with a wet noodle.”

Logan chuckled and waved him away. “Go shower. I’ll set the table. If you behave, I’ll come wash your back.”

“If you put out later, maybe I’ll let you,” Devon said with a laugh.

Review: Summer Lovin Anthology

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Summer Lovin' CoverRemember those long summer, sultry days when the heat beat down, the songs played endlessly into the night and romance was in the air?  Summer Lovin’ anthology brings you five stories of summer love by some of the best authors around. Chrissy Munder, Clare London, JL Merrow, Lou Harper and Josephine Myles put their spin on summer romance from light hearted love to an angst filled romance with the potential for more.

Grab a tall glass, filled with something wonderful and decadent (umbrella optional) and sit back and enjoy five tales of summer lovin’.

Stories in the Anthology are:

“Summer Hire” by Chrissy Munder
“Lost and Found on Lindisfarne” by JL Merrow
“Salt ’n’ Vinegar” by Clare London
“Werewolves of Venice Beach” by Lou Harper
“By Quarry Lake” by Josephine Myles

Usually when I read an anthology, I normally find a story or two that could be skipped over or at least is not up to the quality of the others included.  Not here.  Each one of these stories will resonate with a reader, whether it is the more lighthearted fare of Summer Hire by Chrissy Munder to the somewhat darker Salt n Vinegar by Clare London  They are all quite wonderful and each in of its own makes Summer Lovin’ a must have anthology.  I have a mini review of each story waiting below.

1. Summer Hire by Chrissy Munder: 4.5 stars out of 5

When Jim Carlson accepted a summer job along with his best friend at a repair/summer rental business, he had no idea his was stepping into one of his favorite porn dreams.  Too bad that gorgeous tattooed hunk in the overalls was also his new boss. And to make matters worse, Aaron  is also gay. Worse  because Aaron is remaining decidedly professional even when being friendly.  Jim thinks Aaron’s attitude towards him is because he is unremarkable and kind of dorky.  He is after all a just graduated IT major with no hopes for a job.

Aaron Torres has worked hard to overcome his family and poor start in life.  Now a successful businessman with his own business, Aaron avoids any romantic entanglements with employees, especially seasonal ones that will be gone in the fall with the tourists. Still, there is something so engaging about Jim Carlson.   Jim is clumsy, hardworking, and totally adorable.

As the end of summer draws near, the two men find it impossible to say goodbye.  Can a summer love last a lifetime?

Chrissy Munder takes all those lovely summer memories at the lake or beach and incorporates them into her short story of summer love.  The characters are engaging, the story well done and the relationship between Jim and Aaron realistic yet lighthearted.  No angst just a lovely relationship between two men you will adore.  Great way to set the tone for the collection.  Loved it!

2.  Lost and Found on Lindisfarne” by JL Merrow. Rating 4.75 stars out of 5

Single dad Chris and his 12 year old daughter, Kelis, are vacationing on the holy island of Lindisfarne when they run into a group of Viking re-enactors, village and all. Ulf the berserker, also known as Ian, strikes up a conversation with Chris. One conversation turns into a tour of the historic spots on the island.  When his daughter’s lost necklace makes them miss the ferry home,  Ian invites them to stay with him and the other re-enactors for the night.

Chris and Ian are more than attracted to each other but Chris has Kelis and no one wants a single dad as a  boyfriend do they?

Merrow offers up a tale that is both travelogue and love story and it works on both levels.  I loved all the details about the Viking villagers from making berries as ink to the historic places they visited on tour.  It’s a loving portrait of the island overlayed with a realistic persona of a single dad making up for lost time.  Chris is a wonder of a character and his backstory (and Kelis’) gave depth to the summer love story.   This is no case of instant love but just the beginnings of a wonderful relationship.  JL Merrow is one of my favorite authors.  Her attention to detail and loving descriptions of the settings in her stories make her a must read.  That includes Lost and Found on Lindisfarne.  This is how it starts:

“It was a hot summer’s day on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. The lanes were dusty underfoot, the languid breeze was heavy with the scent of the North Sea, and a Viking had just offered to buy my daughter.”

3.  “Salt ’n’ Vinegar” by Clare London. Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Joe and his twin sister, Mandy, were enrolled at Brighton University, so it only made sense that Joe, a Psychology major and Mandy, Food and Hospitality major, live and work together at the fish and chip shop opposite the entrance to the pier. “Chip ‘N Fin”.  The work paid enough for their lease and a little more and the location near the beach make it perfect for Joe to pick up the gorgeous young gay boys for casual fun and sex, especially during the summer months when Brighton was full of tourists.

But all that changed when a shy young man named Steven makes the chip shop his regular stop in the afternoons.  When it becomes apparent that he waits for Joe when ordering, Mandy urges her brother to ask him out. The resulting relationship quickly turns serious to Joe’s surprise as Steven is fun, intelligent and they are absolutely compatible in every way.  But Steven is hiding a dark secret that will threaten their new found love and so much more.

Salt ‘n’ Vinegar is the darkest of the 5 offerings in the Summer Lovin’ anthology.  I liked that it brought a soberness and diversity to this collection that made me not only appreciate its attributes but in comparison, those of the other authors as well.  I liked everything about this story from the setting in Brighton to the characters that felt very authentic from the sibling relationship to the superficiality of Joe’s initial outlook on romance.  My only quibble here is with the ending.  I am not sure how to say this without giving too much away but one character (secondary but important) doesn’t ring true to what I know about those type of individuals.  They do not react by walking away instead the opposite unfortunately holds true.  But that would have called for a much longer story and would not be in keeping with the tone of most of this collection.  Still that imperfection bothered me for quite some time, especially given the  seriousness of the situation.  And while I liked the story, that aspect made this my least favorite story of the anthology.  You tell me what you think.

4.  “Werewolves of Venice Beach” by Lou Harper.  Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Bryan Williams is  house-sitting for the Spencers.  He plans to spend the time deep in study for his architecture degree and maybe some time at the beach.  But Bryan knows that he is a nerd, and that the beach just spells trouble. Little did Bryan know that the trouble was waiting for him next door in a house full of interesting and quirky individuals, starting with the naked man that just ran past his window, up the front stairs into the house next door.

How can you not love a story that starts with “the naked man came out of nowhere”?  I love, love this story.  Bryan is a wonderful, decent young man. The next door people who could have been flat stereotypes instead are fully fleshed out human beings and the romance that springs up between the naked guy and Bryan is full of road bumps and self doubt.  Harper then adds in a bit about a possible werewolf and cracked me up too.  If this wasn’t my favorite, it came close.  I am still smiling as I think about it.

This is how it starts, so irresistible.

The naked man came out of nowhere. One minute I was eating my Wheaties and enjoying the early morning peace and quiet, the next there he was, walking through the neighbor’s front yard. The Spencers’ porch—where I was having my breakfast—sat at least a foot above ground level, providing me with an excellent view over the low stone wall separating the two properties.

5.  By Quarry Lake” by Josephine Myles. Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Tommy Freestone left his hometown 3 years ago to attend the university but the real reason he fled was because of Rob Carver, his best friend.  Now Tommy has returned.  He learned much about himself in his time away, including the fact that he should have never left Rob and the town behind.  Tommy hopes that now that he has accepted his sexuality, he can approach Rob, ask for forgiveness and a new relationship.

Rob Carver has never stopped loving and missing his best friend Tommy.  While Tommy left, Rob continued to work his family’s farm, staying deep within the closet.  His one and only attempt at a romance cost him Tommy so when Tommy returns Rob is determined not to let that happen again.  Just friends, right?  Tommy has other ideas.  Can Tommy woo Rob back or will their past cost them the relationship both want?

This story is in a tie with Werewolves as my favorite stories of the anthology.  Myles pulls me in with her descriptions of sleepy rural Somerset and the two boys who grew up there.  You can feel the heat beating down on the farmland, and the quiet, cool water that awaits Tommy and Rob in their secret lake in the quarry.  It’s engaging, its magical and it feels like the best of every summer you dreamed about.  You, your best friend/secret lover, a hideaway known only to the two of you and a cave.  Those are elements that will speak to every reader, it’s the best of summer hopes and dreams. I loved it all.

One kiss sent Tommy running away but once he realized and accepted that he was gay, it also sent him running back.  It’s the classic love story.  Boy loves Boy, Boy loses Boy, Boy gets Boy back.  That never gets old and Myles did a great job with her take on that classic theme.  Again no instant love but an old one reignited, totally believable and satisfying.  Especially the scene with Rob’s Dad, how I loved that scene, just perfection.  It pulls you in right from the opening line:

The river wasn’t the same as when he’d left it.

I can’t remember when was the last time I enjoyed an anthology as much as I did this time.  It wasn’t just that it happened to fall as August was waning, or that pictures from a cousin brought back memories of times at the beach.  It was the hopes and dreams these stories evoked inside me, the smells and sounds of summer overlaid with memories of fleeting romances that somehow you always wished would linger long after the vacation was over but never did.   I highly recommend this collection and loved them all, although not equally.  You will have your own favorites.  Let me know which ones they were.  Pick it up and return to your own summer recollections and dreams.

Cover art by Lou Harper works for the collection.  It feels like romance and summer.

Book Details:

ebook, 247 pages
Pink Squirrel Press
Published August 14th 2013 by Pink Squirrel Press
edition language English
other editions
None found