A MelanieM Review: The Evolution of Jeremy Warsh by Jess Moore


Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Jeremy Warsh has been in off-mode ever since his grandpa’s death a couple years ago. He set aside their shared passion, comic art, and hasn’t looked back. As an introvert from the other side of town, he fully expects to spend his boring life bagging groceries until, maybe one day, he’s promoted to store manager.

Yet, his two best friends, Kasey and Stuart, are different. They’re not afraid to demand more out of everyone. When Kasey comes out, Jeremy’s inspired. He picks up his colored pencils and starts drawing comics again, creating a no-nonsense, truth-talking character named Penny Kind. Who speaks to him. Literally.

The friend group set in motion Stuart’s plans for a huge Homecoming prank, and if they can get Penny’s comic trending, they might be able to pull it off. Could this be a stepping-stone to a future Jeremy’s only dreamed of? And after he kisses a boy at a college party, will Jeremy finally face what he’s been hiding from?

I don’t know why I  haven’t found or heard of this author before but Jess Moore is now firmly on my radar based on the absolute  brilliant storytelling I found in The Evolution of Jeremy Warsh by Jess Moore.  This novel just blew me away on so many levels that I hardly know where to start and I’m certain not to do it justice.

All the trials and tribulations of high school can be found here, as well as the angst and anxiety that seniors face that final year going forward into an uncertain future.  All these unformed young humans, trying to figure out who they are, how to be not only the best person they can be but what type of person that is, including the sex of the person they are attracted to and want to date.   Frame that within the even larger framework of telling their friends, family, and horror, the school network finding out…all before the homecoming? It’s stress by the truckload on teenage shoulders trying to do homework, tame their hair, skirt bullies, and find love.

And Jess Moore has delivered us into a world full of characters that we recognize immediately as so realistic that we lose our hearts to them, bleed for them, and cheer them on as they slowly find their paths forward.  Sometimes it’s a wonder any of our young survive high school.

Jeremy Warsh is such a memorable young man.  When we first meet him, he’s still grieving over the loss of his grandfather, the other person, other than his mother, who really raised him, who was his foundation.  He’s got a white boy’s “fro” with his frizzy hair, sort of pudgy, tall, intelligent, responsible, kind, and about the change the course of his life.  He’s our narrator and window into his world and life.  I couldn’t have wanted anyone finer or more complex.  Kudoes to Moore on his creation.

Jeremy’s best friends Stuart and Kasey each have their own journeys to go on while still being part of Jeremy’s and he a strong partner in their decisions as well.  Especially Kasey’s. But Jeremy has an unusual support from a cartoon he’s started to draw, a sassy girl called Penny Kind.  She offers up all kinds of advice on herself, Jeremy’s life, and how the cartoon is being drawn.  How I loved this aspect of the story!

Another deeply moving and heartfelt portion?  The mother/son relationship between Jeremy and his mother.  It never feels anything but real. It contains its natural flaws of any such familial relationship , but the support and love that flows between them is something that’s a joy to read.  I just adore the dynamics here.  In fact that goes for all the relationships as laid out by the author for Jeremy and his family and friends.  It all has a truly vivid and authentic ring to every thread and character set down in the story.

That includes Jeremy finding Matt and his discovery that he’s gay.

And the manner in which he deals with his lifelong school bully.

This book is amazing!  This review  doesn’t begin to go into the many layers of storyline and the nuances of life these young characters face with determination, grit, tears, and laughter.  And the reader will be there with them every gripping step of the way.

Just be aware that once you start it, you won’t be able to put it down.  So pull out that ice cream, get comfortable and be prepared to settle in until this astonishingly moving story is over and you’re cuddling your Kindle close to your heart.  Because that’s how The Evolution of Jeremy Warsh by Jess Moore makes you feel.  About Jeremy, his future, and this story.

It’s one of my top ten of 2018.

Cover art: Natasha Snow.  I like this cover and don’t.  Because both eye catching in its portrait of a teenager but clearly not Jeremy.    I ‘m not sure anyone could capture Jeremy or Penny KInd!

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book Details:

Published November 26th 2018 by SunFire Imprint of NineStar Press
ISBN 139781949909487
Edition Language English

A Caryn Review: Becoming Andy Hunsinger by Jere’ M. Fishback


Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The opening of this book really summed up the theme and was nicely done (even though the quote was misattributed to Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat https://quoteinvestigator.com/2012/12/04/those-who-mind/)

Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

This is a year in the life of Andy Hunsinger, a gay man entering his senior year of college at Florida State University in 1976.  He’d always suspected he was gay, but that summer had his first sexual experience which not only confirmed that he was queer, but made him want to explore that world and that side of himself.  He moved into a cheap apartment for privacy, and proceeded to expand his life.

The level of detail is pretty extraordinary (at times to the point of boredom, especially in the beginning of the book), as the author takes us through the experience of a young man living alone for the first time, paying bills, feeding himself, and overall learning how to be responsible.  Meeting new people outside of his previous comfort zone, going to new places, and gradually coming out.  Learning how to cruise men at the bar, finding a boyfriend for the first time, and navigating a relationship with someone who was not out and never wanted to be.  I don’t remember 1976, but I loved the descriptions of the handlebar mustaches, the clothes, and the music.  I was shocked to read about sex without condoms, but then again, this was before the AIDs era, when most gay men didn’t worry about STIs.  Andy is exposed to a level of homophobia that I am so happy is no longer so prevalent – demonstrating against Anita Bryant was a pivotal moment for him, and for me her platforms sound absolutely ludicrous in 2017, but that was Andy’s world.  Everything changed for Andy after that moment – he decided to live his life as an out gay man.

Andy’s coming out process was very realistic and believable.  Being forced out of the closet at work, coming out to his family, joining the campus “Gay Rap Group”, coming out to his friends…  He met these hurdles with trepidation, but handled them with grace, and was blessed to have loving and supportive friends and family.  And exposed to enough gay men who didn’t have the same experience to know exactly how lucky he was, so he never took them for granted.  The ordeals some of his friends went through were absolutely harrowing, and unfortunately are still happening today.

I enjoyed Andy as a character, the detailed descriptions of everything Andy saw and felt, his eclectic friends, his amazing family, and the way he took all of that and used it to become a better man.  I think there was a lot of character development.  The only reason I can’t give the book a higher rating is that it was so unemotional.  The descriptions are vivid, but never moved me.  I watched Andy fall in and out of love, but he always felt a little detached from everything.  I think it was a matter of too much telling and not enough showing – the introspection was good, but at times Andy seemed almost indifferent.  Granted, the end of the book was a bit more feeling, but it wasn’t enough.  It took longer than usual for me to read the book, and it was not wasted time, but I have no desire to read it again, and will think twice before reading more from this author.

Cover art by Natasha Snow is very nice – the water tower in the back is an important symbol in the book – but the model’s clothes and hairstyle are definitely not 70s.

Sales Links:

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Book Details:

ebook, second, 194 pages
Published August 14th 2017 by NineStar Press (first published December 30th 2014)
Edition LanguageEnglish
URLhttps://ninestarpress.com/product/becoming-andy-hunsinger/ settingFlorida (United States)

A MelanieM Review: Wallaçonia by David Pratt


Rating: 5 stars out of 5

High school senior Jim Wallace faces the approaching Christmas holidays with a mixture of hope and dread. To escape the pressure, he imagines the woods and marshes around his home to be an independent country, Wallaçonia, where he is accepted and recognized as the “upright and sterling” young man people expect him to be. And he may make it yet: this could be the week he and his girlfriend Liz finally have sex, putting to rest any lingering doubts Jim has about what kind of guy he really is. But then Pat Baxter, a neighbor, asks him to help out in his bookstore during the holiday rush, and Jim starts making new connections – and rediscovering an old one. Will Jim leave the sanctuary of his imaginary Wallaçonia for the real world? And which real world will it be, the one with Liz or the one that beckons from the bookstore?

Wallaçonia by David Pratt is a beautifully written story of one man’s journey to self awareness about his sexuality and adulthood.  As you can imagine,  it’s not an easy journey.  Its fraught with the perils of expectations, the hurdles of high school cliques, hormones and feelings of inadequacies and so much more.

Sometimes I’m amazed anyone makes it out of the high school environment intact, even more a LGBTQIA youth questioning their sexuality.  The stresses and pressures from everyone, from parents to peer groups to society is intense.  It’s through David Pratt’s  character of Jim Wallace that we watch Jim and others around him try to navigate through rough waters to get safely onto the path that will lead out of town to college. Not all will make it.

Jim’s path is strewn with rocks and holes, some of which he digs himself.  Why?  Sigh.  Because he’s young, confused, scared, questioning…check all those boxes and create some more.  Nor are his actions ones that you will like, understand perhaps, but not like.  Fear and confusion can make you do some downright mean things, which Jim himself will later acknowledge.  Every character here, from Jim to Liz, to Pat and  more are layered, real people.  They are recognizable.  And that makes all their actions, relationships and interactions feel not only authentic but able to let us so deeply into their lives that we can hurt for them in their stumbling youth, wishing we could in some ways help make their paths easier even knowing, that’s not possible.

The narrative flows smoothly, I was swept so easily into Jim’s story, caught up in his life and that of those around him, not coming out until the book was done.  It made me think of all the young people it represents, past, present and probably future.  In some things, high school never changes.

Wallaçonia by David Pratt is a complex and gorgeous coming out and coming of age story.  It will stay with you long after you’ve put the book or Kindle down.  It’s one I highly recommend.

Cover art is touching and matches the character and story.

Sales Links:

Beautiful Dreamer Press

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 227 pages
Published March 25th 2017 by Beautiful Dreamer Press

A MelanieM Review: The Music of the Spheres by Chase Potter


Rating: 5 stars out of 5    ★★★★★

Cover - The Music of the SpheresAn athlete and introvert from a family touched by loss, Ryan Mattson splits his life between reading and spending time with his dad and precocious younger sister. With the wounds of Ryan’s past almost healed, high school is simple, and so is everything else.

But that changes when he’s paired with Adam for a class project. Adam, the guy with birthmarks like flecks of mud and compost-brown eyes that hide behind dorky glasses. Grudgingly, the two young men work together, and as they do, an unlikely friendship is formed.

With the passing college years, their bond deepens and grows. Even Ryan’s sister and dad take a liking to Adam, and the family – always missing a voice – seems to gain another. But just as Ryan is forced to confront what Adam really means to him, his family is dragged toward crisis. And beneath the silent snows and starlit sky of a Minnesota winter, their friendship will be tested more than ever before.

I discovered Chase Potter through his wonderful debut novel, The Race for Second.  Two more stories followed, each even better than its predecessor, but now he’s written The Music of the Spheres, a novel so moving and heartwarming that I found it impossible to put down.

Its a tale of two young men, told from the perspective of Ryan Mattson, whose world was shattered when his mother died.  Rebuilding after that trauma made his small family stronger and more bonded but a little insular. So when a school assignment brings him into contact with Adam Haskamp, Ryan’s reactions aren’t exactly social. Then again neither are Adam’s.  Its not a particularly good first beginning but slowly, like a tentative dance, the two young men start to discover things about each other that they connect with.  How I loved this way to bring them together.  Potter made it feel so natural, you could feel it when the friendship kicks end and the vulnerabilities start to reveal themselves through the conversations and the descriptions of the body language and clothes.

Those characters are going to dig themselves so deep into your heart, starting with Ryan who doesn’t see himself as the special, caring person he is.  Ryan can be a little, no a lot, naive about things. Like those who just don’t pick up on clues while everyone else around them has not only gathered all the clues but solved the mystery and moved on to something else. I know people like that so I could see Ryan so clearly.  Adam too is painted so beautifully in words and descriptions that I could never get enough of him, every scene just cried out for more of his presence as his personality is so strong and yet so painfully vulnerable.  And together?  They have a friendship and romance everyone will want to see work and become something wonderful.

There’s Ryan’s father and brilliant sister and their own interactions with Ryan and Adam, at the start and as the relationship progresses.  Trust me, there is so much to love here.  You will find yourself quickly connected to these characters and their lives, your emotions riding along with theirs.  Yes, have that box of tissues handy, you will need it at times.

I’m not going into too much detail here, so much of this story should be savored, from the small revelations to the large painful realities everyone must go through.  It all feels so authentic that at times I thought my Kindle would bleed with the  pain and angst.  There are sections that some might feel a little slow but there are times in Ryan’s life when its introspection not action that he needs, so the pace feels right to me.

There is one nagging element, the tale of the disappearing blind dog.  He’s there and then, he’s gone.  I did talk to the author about this and was satisfied.  Unfortunately, I can’t say more at this time.  Hopefully that will change in the future and I will be able to update this review.  But it wasn’t enough to take away from the rating.

Need a story to lose yourself in?  Love a friends to lovers romance?  I haven’t even mentioned the magical inspiration behind the title, that might bring you to tears. It did me as did the story behind the cover.  The Music of the Spheres by Chase Potter has it all, deep friendship, family, self knowledge and enduring love.  Please don’t pass this one up,  I highly  recommend it to all.


Cover Artist: Chase Potter.  That is Chase and his husband, then fiance’, in that photograph on their engagement trip.  It makes that cover and its part in this book even more magical.

Sales Link:  Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 239 pages
Published January 21st 2016 by Chase Potter Books
Edition LanguageEnglish

In the Book Spotlight: The Storm Before The Calm by Cate Ashwood (Author interview and giveaway)



The Storm Before The Calm by Cate Ashwood
Release Date: June 5, 2015

STRW In The Spotlight Header

Goodreads Link
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Anna Sikorska

Sales Links at Dreamspinner Press
E-book – Paperback

My Interview with Cate Ashwood!

1. Dancing is so very sexual. Is that what made you make it a central component of your story?
Partly. I wanted the guys dancing together because there is such an intimate connection between partners when they’re dancing together. A lot of the time it can be sexual, but it goes beyond that too. There’s a level of trust needed for lifts, a certain amount of connection needed to know where your partner is at all times, even without looking at him. I wanted all that for Charlie and Max. And since dance is such an explicit form of expression, I needed Charlie to be able to come into who he was through something he loved.

2. When I think of dancers, I think of people totally at home in their skin. What is it about dancers that made you want to make it a passion for your characters?
That was a huge part of it! Dance was the one place that Charlie felt safe to be himself, even if he wasn’t able to admit out loud who he was. It was an outlet for him as it is for so many kids (and was for me, too, which makes it very close to my heart).

3. I can think of several of my favorite movies with dancing at its heart. From The Red Shoes to Dirty Dancing to The Turning Point, even today those movies take me to another place. Do you have any favorites? Or favorite dancers?
Oh God. So many! Of course the classics like Dirty Dancing and Strictly Ballroom. One of my favourites of all time is Singin’ in the Rain (which of course isn’t a movie about dancing, but there’s enough in it to make me giddy). And I’ll admit to loving the cheesier ones too, like Center Stage (which was huge for me when I was a kid), Step Up, and Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights.

4. What was the inspiration behind this title and characters?
The title comes from the song that I imagined them dancing to. “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” by John Mayer. I love the song and I saw a video of a dance choreographed to it that lit a spark for Charlie and Max. Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hk9-qH5fyTU
When I heard that line of lyrics, I knew it was perfect for Charlie. It’s exactly his path–the storm is within him but eventually he finds his happily ever after.
Charlie came first. To a certain degree, he’s a very exaggerated picture of me when I was younger. Thankfully, I never went through anything close to what Charlie endured, but I knew people who did. The world can be an ugly place sometimes, and often people can’t even see it. Max was created for Charlie, not only to give him the love he deserved, but to help be the catalyst for Charlie to discover who he was.

5. I have always loved the “truthfulness” you seem to bring out of every situation in your stories when it comes to exploring a person’s growing aware of their sexuality. what do you think makes your scenes stand out with such authenticity and realness?
Wow. Thank you so much! I try to write as close to real life as I can. I know there’s a certain fantasy element that’s required when it comes to writing romance, but I always strive to make my characters as authentic as I can. I’d be lying if I didn’t say there was a bit of me in all of them, but I think that’s true for all authors. It’s impossible to create someone else without leaving traces of yourself within them.

In terms of sexuality, that’s difficult for me. I was raised in a very open household (I was taught about the birds and the bees at age 4) and my parents were always very supportive and welcoming of conversation and discussion if ever I had questions. Despite it all, I’ve always been borderline prudish when it came to talking about sex. I had a hard time telling my parents that my husband and I were going to have a baby because it would mean admitting that I wasn’t a virgin (which was ridiculous, I know). So for me, writing about characters coming to terms with themselves as sexual beings and expressing those emotions and that desire is liberating because I had such a difficult time with it myself.

6. What’s next for Cate Ashwood?
Lots! I have a book coming out at the end of the month that I co-wrote with L.J. LaBarthe called Brick by Brick. That one drops on the 29th.
On the 15th of July, the second book in the Newport Boys series (Keeping Sweets was the first) comes out. This one is Colt’s story!

I have a novel in edits right now called Tasting Notes. It’s the first in a new series and it’s about a venture capitalist who one day realizes that he has money but not happiness, so he takes off for California to spread his grandfather’s ashes and take a step back from work. He arrives and buys a winery on a whim, and then meets the son of the original owners who is none too happy about him taking over his parents’ legacy.

There are a few more books in the works, as well–I am set to finish the first book in yet another series in the next few days. This one is about emergency service personnel. The first book follows a paramedic and a forensic pathologist. I also have two more co-writes that will hopefully be finished soon, one with Skylar Cates, and the other with LJ. And then eventually finishing up all the series with a few standalones thrown in for good measure. It’s going to be a busy year!

STRW Author BookSynopsis

Charlie has one passion in life: dancing. It’s his salvation when it feels like the world is swallowing him whole. When his mom secretly secures him a spot in the summer intensive at the Free Rein Dance Company in New York, he is thrilled. He knows that once the summer ends, he’ll have to return to Beacon to get a job and help support his family, but for those two months, he can spread his wings.

In New York he meets Max, a junior instructor who is everything Charlie wishes he could be. Bold and self-assured, Max radiates pride in who he is. As they spend time together, Max shows Charlie what life can be like past the walls of his closed-minded home town. But Charlie doesn’t know if he’s ready to show the world who he truly is when standing in the spotlight is the last thing he wants.

Pages or Words: 62,000 words

Categories: Contemporary, Gay fiction, M/M Romance, Romance

STRW Spotlight Book Excerpt

My fingers tugged at the edge of the cardboard cozy wrapped around the cup as I waited for him to speak. The silence between us felt heavy, and the awkwardness settled in around me as he stared at me, his mouth quirked in a playful expression.

“What?” I asked finally.

“Nothing,” he replied, smiling. “So I guess we should get started.”


“I think maybe just one, two songs at most. The festival isn’t until the end of the summer, so we have lots of time.”

“What festival is it again?” I asked.

“OutShine,” he responded.

“What kind of festival is that?” I asked.

“It’s a big arts festival that takes place throughout the city, mostly in parks. There are exhibits and performances, and a huge celebration at the end. It was started a few years ago to raise awareness and money for gay rights.”

“Oh. Are you… I mean….”

“Gay?” Max supplied.


“Yes. Are you?”

“I… no, uh I…,” I stuttered. I was stunned by how nonchalant and completely unapologetic he’d been about his sexuality, as though admitting to me he was gay was the most ordinary thing in the whole world. A part of me wished I could do that. I could nod and say the words like it was as natural as telling him I was blond or I liked chocolate ice cream.

“It’s okay, Charlie. No big deal. You don’t have to be gay to participate. Originally, all the artists were gay, but it has grown and evolved now to include everyone, which is how it should be,” Max said, shooting me an understanding look.

I should have corrected him. I should have told him, but I’d never said the words out loud. Hell, it was hard enough for me to form that three-word sentence in my head. Even as I sat there, my brain rebelled, doing its own version of sticking its fingers in its ears and humming. So instead of being honest with him about who I was, I let him assume I was something else.




STRW Author Bio and Contacts

Cate Ashwood wrote her very first story in a hot-pink binder when she was in the second grade and found her passion for writing. Her first successful foray into romance writing came five years later when she wrote her best friend, who was experiencing a case of unrequited love, her own happily ever after.
Cate’s life has taken a number of different and adventurous roads. She now lives a stone’s throw from the ocean, just outside of Vancouver, British Columbia with her husband, her brand new little boy, and her two cats. Her life is filled with family and friends, travel, and, of course, books.

Where to find the author:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cate.ashwood
Facebook Author Page
Twitter: https://twitter.com/cateashwood
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/cateashwood/
Other: http://www.cateashwood.com

 STRW Spotlight Contest Header

Giveaway: Must be 18 years of age or older to enter. Link and prizes provided by the author and Pride Promotions. Enter to win a Rafflecopter Prize: E-copy of ‘The Storm Before the Calm’ by Cate Ashwood.

Rafflecopter Code:
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Tour Dates & Stops:
Rainbow Gold Reviews
Because Two Men Are Better Than One
Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews

Chris McHart
Hearts on Fire
Boys on the Brink Reviews

Cathy Brockman Romances
Divine Magazine

3 Chicks After Dark
Bike Book Reviews

The Fuzzy, Fluffy World of Chris T. Kat
Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words

Amanda C. Stone
Love Bytes

Molly Lolly
BFD Book Blog

MM Good Book Reviews
Bayou Book Junkie

Prism Book Alliance
My Fiction Nook

Inked Rainbow Reads
The Hat Party

A MelanieM Review: Baby’s On Fire by A. F. Henley


Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Babys on Fire CoverIn 1974 Gerry Faun gets the break of his life—an opportunity to meet gorgeous, openly bisexual, glam-rock idol Mark Devon. Mark’s world is new, exciting, and Gerry finally gets to explore the side of his sexuality that he’s kept hidden. But the press is everywhere, and when Gerry’s father gets wind of what’s going on behind his back, Gerry ends up on the street. Mark offers to let Gerry come along with the tour and Gerry jumps at the chance. The tour is a never-ending party—and the start of what seems to be a perfect relationship for him and Mark. Until Mark’s manager decides Gerry isn’t worth the trouble he’s stirring up.

In 1994 Gerry is finally coming out of some tough times—he has a job that pays the bills, a car that hasn’t quite broken down, and a small rental in Jersey City. After a decade of barely getting by, if life was as good as it was going to get, Gerry figures he’ll manage just fine. It would be easier if he wasn’t still haunted by the man the media won’t let him forget, the man who stole his heart and then broke it… the man that’s shown up pleading for a second chance

In Baby’s On Fire by A. F. Henley, the author charts the rocky, troubled path to love for a rock ‘n roll singer and the young man who fell in love with him.  It’s a journey that swings back and forth between eras, the swinging drug-filled raucous years that were the 70’s and then forward to the 90’s, the present time frame for Gerry and Mark.

I have always admired Henley’s ability to capture the mood and character of each era she has chosen to write about, even if sometimes it is embodied only by a car (“Roadtrip“). In Baby’s On Fire, Henley tackles the 70’s, an era of contradictions and overindulgence.  It was the end of the innocence and hope of the 60’s while still continued that decade’s trajectory of drug use and music that pushed known boundaries.  There was soft rock, Hard Rock, Glam Rock which was also called Glitter Rock, personified by glam rocker Gary Glitter who sang Rock and Roll on his album “Glitter“, David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust  (how I still love him) and so many others.  It  was the time of Studio 54 and the out of control New York club life that so many stars and singers got caught up in. Excess thy name is the 70’s!  And its all here inside the page of this often heartbreaking story.

Appropriately enough, the story begins in October 1994 and we’re dumped into the present reality of Gerry Faun.  He’s middle aged, and life hasn’t exactly been very kind to him.  In fact, its been a very real struggle to make ends meet.  He’s alone but finally has a job that will pay his bills and that he is good at.  But all it takes is a song on the radio to turn back time….for Gerry and the reader.

Ever  had a crush on a singer when you were a preteen or teenager?  Remember those times of utter devotion and yes, a little obsession?  Even if you don’t, all you have to do is look at (insert name of any boy band or Justin Bieber) and fans to get an idea. Its along those lines that this story takes hold, when Gerry Faun is taking his sister and friends to a concert by Maxx Starlight and his band.  It’s June 1974, and everyone is giddy over the fact that they will be seeing Maxx in person and listening to him sing.  Especially young Gerry who’s trying to be the cool older brother while being even more ridiculously excited than his younger sis.  Gerry is aware that he is gay but keeping it a secret, a smart move when his conservative father is already calling the rock ‘n roll star slurs (“f…..t”) as the small group walks out the door into a night that will  permanently change them all.

In a scene charged with energy and a drug/alcohol induced wildness, Gerry ends up backstage and meets his idol, Maxx Starlight aka Mark Devon and the dance between them begins as the narrative starts to switch back and forth between the turbulent excesses and confusion that is the life Mark and Gerry live in the 70’s to the discontent and emptiness of Gerry’s life in the 90’s.  I thought Henley’s authentic, “spot on” descriptions of a popular rocker’s lifestyle works at every level.  It’s too bright, too over the top, too much of everything from sex ‘n drugs “living on the edge” as well as the mindless adoration of hundreds of thousands of fans.  And we get to see and feel its impact on the jaded Mark/Maxx and the innocent Gerry, whose Bambi like nature gives him the nickname “The Faun”.

A dramatic scene from Gerry’s youth brings on a change in decade and we move forward to the man he’s become…unhappy, alone and forever caught in the past, no matter how much he denies it.  He’s stored his youth and his ability to love in with all his keepsakes in a box in the back of his closet, likewise his memories and emotions have been shunted to the back of his mind, not to be taken out and examined too carefully.  What happens to break up this stalemate is the arrival of Mark, back after over 20 years absence with the intent of getting back together with Gerry.

The return of Mark brings the 90’s section of the story and Gerry to life.  The 90’s narrative has been one of a certain grayness and enervation.   With the return of Mark, it’s the anger, pain, and emotion that comes roaring back to life in Gerry that starts to be a match for all the action, decadence, overindulgence, and high emotion of the 70’s scenes and events.  That anger, pain, and rage  propels Gerry into action making the connection between the readers and the storyline snap firmly in place for the duration of the story.

I thought Henley’s characterizations worked extremely well,  no matter what time frame they happened to be in at the moment.  Young Gerry aka the Faun’s very youth and actions ooze innocence and new passion, and its that unformed outlook on life that get’s schooled in the most raw, blinding manner possible by the man he loves.  Mark aka Maxx’s character works well as the over indulged rockstar losing himself to the persona he and the manager have created.  The 70’s characterization of Mark works so believably because we see so much of him and his actions through the relationship dynamics with Gerry and the “support/hangers on” that surround them.

Unfortunately, when Mark disappears from Gerry’s story, his lack of presence for most of the 90’s section reduces our knowledge of the older Mark to the detriment of the novel.  We are “told” what happened to him, and that manner of narrative distances the reader from Mark as well as reduces our connection to him and his reunion with Gerry.  To make the love between Mark and Gerry sing with all the vibrancy and passion of their youth, the readers needs more of the grownup Mark and his journey towards adulthood and responsibility for himself and his actions.   We get that with Gerry and for balance  and to make this story feel whole, we needed it for Mark as well.  Telling is never any substitute for “doing” or action and that is demonstrated in Baby’s On Fire.

That issue aside, I thought Baby’s On Fire by A.F. Henley a wonderful story and one I recommend.  The emotional journey to love and a HEA for Gerry and Mark brought back to life an era I lived through, sent me running back to pull up Youtube vids of Ziggy Stardust, glitter, and a sexy rock god in all his glory as well as all the fallout and maturation needed to make it through to the 90’s for so many.

Love a rock’n’roll love story?  Need a little more glitter and glam in your life to go along with the romance?  Pick up Baby’s On Fire by AF Henley and make this lovely indulgence your own.

Cover art by Raphael works but yes, I wanted a little more glitter.  Go here for images of David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust.

Sales Links:      Less Than Three Press      All Romance (ARe)     Amazon     Buy It Here

Book Details:

Expected publication: May 6th 2015 by Less Than Three Press
original titleBaby’s on Fire
edition languageEnglish


Author Spotlight: Chase Potter, author of The Race for Second (Giveaway)



spotlight on books

A Scattered Thoughts Spotlight Interview with Chase Potter

The Race for Second Cover small

Author of The Race for Second



ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords is happy to welcome Chase Potter, author of The Race for Second, a marvelous story of one young man’s pivotal year in Germany.

Chase has brought with him a copy of The Race for Second to giveaway.  To enter to win, leave a comment below and an email address where you can be reached.  Contest ends 5/9. That’s it!  Now on to the interview.

I had quite a few questions I wanted to ask Chase after reading this wonderful story and it evolved into this interview with the author:

STRW:   1. What made you set the story in Germany?

I wrote what I knew. The setting and pacing (but not so much the plot) of The Race for Second drew from my own year abroad in Freiburg. Moving to a foreign country is an emotional rollercoaster, no matter how prepared you are. I wanted to capture both the feeling of isolation and the satisfaction of eventually assimilating into a new culture and learning a new language.

STRW:  2.  Some might say this is a “Gay for You” story, how do you see this “coming of age and coming out” novel?


I think that “Gay for You” is an interesting and enjoyable sub-genre, but generally these books are hard for me to identify with. I have a lot of straight guy friends, and I’ve even had crushes on a few of them over the years. But no matter how much you want something to be true, you can’t change someone in that way. I think that this is a common fantasy – wanting to “turn” your straight best friend – but life rarely works out this way.

Is it fun to read about the “closeted” star of the football team falling for the out skinny guy? Absolutely, because that skinny guy was me in high school. But is it realistic? Probably not so much. (The music video “All-American Boy” by openly gay artist Steve Grand is a great example of this)

I wanted to tell the story of what happens when our interest isn’t reciprocated the way we want, and I wanted to show how difficult it can be to get past our feelings, especially the ones we try to bury. It’s only when we pick ourselves up afterward that we see our own strength and resilience. This is the struggle and the triumph that I wanted to explore, and it’s how I ultimately see this novel – as a triumph of spirit.

STRW   3.  What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?


Editing, by far. I can create an outline and hammer out a first draft in a couple months, but the rounds of editing really get me. I know it’s worth it, though. The final product of The Race for Second might not be perfect, but it’s barely recognizable when compared to the first draft.

STRW  4.  Which character was the hardest to write/conceive?


Ethan was definitely the hardest for me to work with. There are a few reasons for this, but the biggest one is that since the story is told from his perspective, we are in his head during every single moment. As a result, we get to know Ethan better than any other character.

Another reason was that Ethan experiences a lot of personal growth, sometimes quickly and often unwillingly, and it was challenging to make sure he was always true to himself through these changes.

STRW:  5. Is any of the plot based on real events?


My close friends who have read The Race for Second will sometimes accuse me of this. Yes, I studied abroad in Freiburg, and yes, I leveraged my own experiences to be able to tell the story of a college student living abroad, but the vast majority of the story is purely fiction. There are a few exceptions – one being the incident where Ethan trips and smashes an entire case of beer on the stairs in his dorm. This actually happened to me, except there was no Daniel to help clean it up.

 STRW:  6. The ending is somewhat open-ended. Do you have plans to continue their story in the future?

In short, yes. I’ve spent enough time with Ethan and Daniel that the idea of letting them go makes me sad in a way. I’m really looking forward to telling the story of what happens to Ethan after his year abroad ends. Currently I’m just finishing the first draft of my second novel, which isn’t about Ethan and Daniel, but the third book will include characters from both The Race for Second and my current project.


You can connect with Chase Potter through any of the following ways:

The Race for Second Cover smallGiveaway:  To be entered to win this wonderful ebook, just leave a comment, your name and an email address where you can be contacted .  The contest ends 5/9, 12am EST.

Buy link on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00K1295RG/
Book to be released May 1st, 2014.

Book Details:

The Race for Second is a gay coming of age novel about an intense friendship that develops between two college students – an American studying abroad and a young German man. Told from the first person perspective of the American student, this story relates the hardships of adapting to another culture while exploring the intersecting lines of a relationship that struggles to define itself as somewhere between friends, brothers, and lovers.