A Lila Release Day Review: Step by Step by K.C. Wells

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Jamie’s life is one big financial mess, and it really isn’t his fault. However, the last thing he expected to find in the library was a Good Samaritan. He might have been suspicious of Guy’s motives at first, but it soon becomes apparent that his savior is a good man who has been lucky in life and is looking to pay it forward. Guy being gay is not a problem. Jamie’s not interested… or so he thinks.

Guy is happy to help Jamie, and the two men get along fine. But when Jamie’s curiosity leads him from one thing to another, Guy finds himself looking at the young man with new eyes. What started out as a hand up is now something completely different….

Step by Step starts like a fairytale–with the knight rescuing the young prince and it ends the same way–with a happily ever after. The in-between is a coming of age story that intersects in parts with a mentorship-like relationship. Together, they give love new beginnings and second chances.

I like Jamie, but I need to accept that I love Guy. Perhaps because we are in the same age group. I don’t mind the age difference, but the way they met and how they responded to each other at the beginning of the story was a bit off-putting for me. I think it has to do with Jamie’s interpretation of Guy’s intentions; which he was right about.

The story has a good pacing, but the slow burn between the characters makes the reader want to read faster. I won’t recommend starting this story late at night or if you have something else to do. As soon as you get into it, it swipes you away and it’s going to be a while before you come out for air.

The smexy scenes are sweet and filled with emotion even when they’re trying to get the edge off. It’s more of an exploration than a quick one-off. There’s a lot of sensuality in their small touches and the way Jamie and Guy interact.

I like all the secondary characters and how their lives were interconnected with the main characters. I wanted to see more interaction with Jamie’s parents after they became a couple, but that’s just me.

Overall, this is a lovely story, but you have to keep some sort of suspension of disbelief in order to completely enjoy it.

The cover by Paul Richmond is simple, but the picture by Strangled Photography is everything. It’s beautiful and it captures the essence of the story to perfection. The models are age appropriate and go with the story’s descriptions.

Sale Links: Dreamspinner | Amazon | Nook

ebook, 256 pages
Published: March 13, 2017, by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN: 1635334527 (ISBN13: 9781635334524)
Edition Language: English

Tour and Giveaway: TWO NATURES by Jendi Reiter (exclusive excerpt)

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Title: Two Natures
Author: Jendi Reiter
Release Date: September 15th 2016
Genre: LGBT fiction, MM Romance

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Two Natures is the coming-of-age story of Julian Selkirk, a fashion photographer in New York City in the early 1990s. His faith in Jesus helped him survive his childhood in the Atlanta suburbs with an abusive alcoholic father, but the church’s condemnation of his sexual orientation has left him alienated and ashamed.

Yearning for new ideals to anchor him after his loss of faith, Julian seeks his identity through love affairs with three very different men: tough but childish Phil Shanahan, a personal trainer who takes a dangerous shortcut to success; enigmatic, cosmopolitan Richard Molineux, the fashion magazine editor who gives him his first big break; and Peter Edelman, an earnest left-wing activist with a secret life.

Amid the devastation of the AIDS epidemic and the racial tensions of New York politics, Julian learns to see beyond surface attractions and short-term desires, and to use his art to serve his community.

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Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | B&N | Saddle Road Press

**Kindle Price $0.99 from February 20th – March 17th ** (normally $9.99)

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Honors:
2016 Rainbow Awards: First Prize, Best Gay Contemporary General Fiction; First Runner-Up, Debut Gay Book
Named one of QSPirit’s Top LGBTQ Christian Books of 2016

TN Ch 8  Exclusive Excerpt for Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

“No repeats,” I told Phil. Again.

“What if there’s no one new around?”

Phil’s sulky tone, and the tickling of his fingers up my bare leg, distracted me in opposite ways from fixing us the sole breakfast dish in my repertoire, green tea and cheese grits, with a little something extra to chase away his hangover. “Try a different club. This is NewYork. They have more than one.”

“I don’t tell you what to do at your fancy-ass parties.”

“There are no parties. The only time I get down on my knees is to fix the wind machine.” Fourteen-hour days in the studio didn’t leave me much time to enjoy the no-strings-attached side of our relationship. Sure, I’d squeezed in a few gropes and groans in the back room of New Eden, jolts of furtive pleasure that left me dizzy with the momentary assurance that catching a boy like Phil hadn’t been just a fluke. Until I remembered that he could have the same adventures, and more, all day at the Ironman, training athletes who bench-pressed more than I weighed, while I was hauling tripods on the subway.

“So…no repeats, right?” I breathed out in a rush, before his hand between my legs could sidetrack the conversation. My arm jostled the pot on the stove, spattering the dingy wall.

“Okay, okay,” he murmured into my neck. His breath was hot, like cigarette embers. Phil was like that, rough words at cross-purposes with his body language. I was happier when I only believed half of it.

“And no bringing them back here.” I pressed my advantage, and my hip into his groin.

“You paying rent?”

“I will be, next month, I promise. But that’s not the point. I thought maybe, out of the goodness of your heart, you would spare me the sight of somebody else’s pubes on my soap when I shower in the morning.”

“Come on, maybe you’d like one of them. Probably take him away from me ’cause you’re so gorgeous.”

You’re all I want, I nearly said, but smiled and settled for the compliment, rather than admit something I wasn’t sure was true. Two months into living with Phil, and more than a year since our first hookup, I was working up the nerve to clarify our open relationship, and gaining a begrudging appreciation for its opposite. Marriage has the advantage of simplicity, like government forfeiture of your assets. Over here: you get the last name, the bankbook, the steering wheel, the 60-hour workweek, and the drunken tumble with your wife’s best friend. And you: here’s the kids, the white dress, the dinner table, the paid-up mortgage, and the moral high ground. As for me, right now the good life looked like a mattress in the basement with only two pairs of sneakers by the door, but this was proving more complicated than ordering a McDonald’s Happy Meal without the fries.

I was in my final semester at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and interning as an unpaid assistant to the photographer Dane Langley. More like assistant to the assistants; while Pierre accompanied Dane to Paris and Vince lunched with ad agency reps, I fixed lighting equipment and shopped for organic baby food. Everyone at school said I was lucky to have landed a spot with Langley, who had done album covers for Paula Abdul and Gloria Estefan, and had an ad contract with Revlon. Last week his girlfriend had dropped by with their new baby, which they left with me, sans backup diaper, while they went to lunch at Lutèce. The baby’s name was Taylor, which didn’t give me a clue to its gender. I figured, since the girlfriend was Swedish, it might respond to Abba, and indeed, it fell asleep for a full twenty-five minutes after I sang “Dancing Queen” four-and-a-half times.

Between these glamorous assignments and my job pouring three-dollar coffees at The Big Cup, I was barely at school anymore except to pick up my mail. Phil had resisted my switching my address to his apartment, claiming that his sublet wasn’t, technically speaking, totally legal. On the bright side, this spared me from telling my parents that I was living with him.

Having a male roommate wasn’t suspicious in itself, but combined with a career in fashion, and the fact that Phil and I could quote long stretches of dialogue from “The Prince of Tides,” my mother might be forced to recognize that her sensitive boy was experimenting with the homosexual lifestyle. Then would come the weekly letters, suddenly seeded with references to girls I hadn’t thought about since junior high, who had all grown up to be God-fearing, bosomy

A-students and were miraculously still single. Last week in Dane’s studio I had seen Allure cover model Cheryl Kingston’s rose-tipped breasts, pale and translucent as porcelain teacups. I was replacing the roll of seamless paper for the backdrop, and she ignored me, as was her right. Dane was all honey to her, a come-to-Papa smile on his swarthy bearded face. She didn’t have to worry about being touched, not like your average Tatiana or Mary Lou, as Dane guided them into

poses for some designer’s spring catalog, his hand steering this one’s waist, unbuttoning that one’s sweater. The Swedish girlfriend was half his age. They seemed very happy, but that was probably because her mother knew where to send her mail.

I was sorting through the latest stack of bills and credit card offers on our bed one morning while Phil fed me strawberries. He could be very sweet. Just when I’d gotten used to his blue-collar tough-guy routine, he’d surprise me with little things like washing my back in the shower, or reading to me from one of the books he read to make up for not going to college. As pillow talk, I ranked the I Ching above Atlas Shrugged but below Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder. But it’s the thought that counts. Without Phil, I might have forgotten that there were publications without pictures in them.

Leaning back against Phil’s warm bare stomach, I tossed my junk mail on the floor without looking through it. He ran juice-stained fingers through my hair. Sometimes I was so happy that a place like this existed, where I could be with a guy, naked and alone. He understood what it meant, too, a privilege that was all ours, no matter how many hours we spent running other people’s errands.

“Wait, that looks like a real letter,” he said, picking an envelope out of the discard pile.

I recognized my mother’s square ivory-tinted stationery. “See, I told you I’d be able to pay the rent.”

After depositing two fifties in the coffee tin on the windowsill (I never worried about our communal accounting; Phil had too much pride to be a sponger), I skimmed the closely written pages. “Huh, my sister’s looking at colleges in — whoa!” I caught my breath and my vision blurred for a moment. My jerky hands hunted around for the envelope. “What’s the postmark on this letter?”

Phil found the cast-off envelope under our rumpled blanket. “Last Monday. Why?”

“You see, this is what happens because I don’t get my mail here,” I snapped at him.

“Man, we’ve been through this. What is your problem?”

I reread the paragraph that had raised my heart rate faster than a triple espresso. “They’re coming.”

“Who? Where? Careful, your elbow’s in the bowl.” Phil rescued the strawberries in time to spare me from washing the sheets twice this month.

“My family. Here. Next week.”

###

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About the Author

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Jendi Reiter’s books are guided by her belief that people take precedence over ideologies. In exploring themes of queer family life, spiritual integration, and healing from adverse childhood experiences, her goal is to create understanding that leads to social change. Two Natures is her first novel; a sequel is in the works. Her four published poetry books include Bullies in Love (Little Red Tree, 2015) and the award-winning chapbook Barbie at 50 (Cervena Barva Press, 2010). She is the co-founder and editor of WinningWriters.com, an online resource site for creative writers.

Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter

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In the Author Spotlight: Jim Provenzano

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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:

 

 

 

 

 

Review of Fair Catch by Del Darcy

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Rating: 4.5 stars

It was Friday night lights and the score of the football game on the field was close.  Blake Thompson of the Mustangs watched and waited to see if the new Patriots field goal kicker was as good as they had heard. Then out came a slim figure, even in his football pads, brown hair caught under the lights and AYERS36 on the back of his jersey.  It was the first glimpse Blake would get of the boy he would play against and fall for.  Blake knows that he has to fight to play because of his height but he loves football, and his team.  And then he meets Alex Ayers at Rory’s Roadhouse, a local hangout after the game, a place the two teams mix, relieve stress and have fun.  That night turn’s into one of life’s game changers for them both.

Alex Ayers headed towards the sidelines after nailing his kick on the field.  It’s not hard to notice THOMPSON12 when not only is the Mustangs backup Quarterback doing a great job moving his team down the field but that he’s the same size as you are, a rarity among the humongous QBs around the league.  Alex is tired of moving from high school to high school as his dad follows jobs in the construction field.  He likes this high school, his team and wants to stay.  When the two teams hang out at the same place after the games, Alex meets and connects with Blake Thompson, the boy he saw on the field.  First there is a connection between the two boys, followed by attraction that they act on, becoming friends and lovers.  As the school year continues, two things are obvious.  Alex is already getting scouted by college teams for his kicking ability and as Blake is one year younger, he is the one who will be left behind.  The boys are experiencing so many firsts in their lives, including a first love.  Alex has never made a commitment before, his rootless upbringing making that impossible.  Can he now make one to Blake, the boy he leaves behind?   And how will Blake handle the loss of his football dream and the jealously he feels as Alex becomes a star player?

Fair Catch and Del Darcy deliver an insider look at what it means to be a gay teenager, and a gay teenager who plays football at that.  This is a long book at 403 pages but Darcy uses every bit of it to bring two very different young men to life in their struggle to come to grips with not only their sexuality but the restructuring of their high school dreams to include life’s reality.  I cannot begin to tell you how much I appreciate it that Del Darcy did not try to fit this journey into a smaller length book.  Blake and Alex’s story spans a three year time period in their lives from high school to early college. And as with real life, this journey from high school aspirations and teenage emotions to a older, more mature understanding of themselves is fraught with exuberant highs and depressive lows and everything in between.  Things are both deceptively easy in high school and hard as packed dirt to get through. It is through the characters of Alex Ayers and Blake Thompson and their circle of friends we once again experience what it means to be so young where high school was everything real, and life outside that framework was so huge as to feel alien.

Del Darcy an incredible job with the characters here.  They are everything that teenagers really seem to be.  They are full of themselves, and they are scared, they are sullen and timorous.  They are filled with joy, and lust, and yet filled with the need to accomplish big things, do big things, become the “big thing” for their families and themselves.  The dialog snaps with vivacity, rhythm and authenticity of youth as it flows out of the characters mouths. I can think of no other time in life than the teenage years when emotions and sexuality coincide with a person’s path to maturity with all the wildness and predicability of a roller coaster ride.  You know there will be heights to climb and dips to swing through but you are never prepared for the real thing, the real ride once you are on it.  Darcy makes all the characters here go through life’s challenges, the pain, the hurt feelings and makes us feel them too.  There is not one single character I  did not come to care for and indeed, with Dakota, I ended up going through boxes of tissues right up to the end of the book.  These people burst through the pages of this story full of life, laughing, crying, arguing, and loving. They smoke, swear, and on occasion show cowardice because they don’t know any better or because to do otherwise is even more frightening.

Think of the issues here.  What does it mean to be gay in high school? Should you come out to friends, and family?  What will happen if you do? Darcy gives us all parts of the coming out spectrum here.  From Blake’s family’s acceptance to the heartbreaking experience that Dakota comes through, trust me that boy will send you sobbing for hours. People are bullied for so for being slight of form or too quiet or too smart in high school, then add in a difference in sexuality.  It is no wonder that the high school years are such formative ones, carrying such weight with them into the adult years.Can you play football in high school or college and be out as a gay male? Can you expect to be given scholarships or a fair look by scouts, especially in certain geographical areas, if you are known to be gay.  I think we all know the answer to that is no.  But here in Fair Catch we watch how that plays out in a teenage relationship and the consequences that decision carries with it.

And what happens when one half of a new relationship achieves the dream of the other person?  Jealously is a tough issues no matter the age, and when a teenager has to face the idea that physically he does not mesh up with his dreams of college football? But the boy he loves does? Then it becomes even harder.  Issue after issue is brought up and addressed, but don’t expect to find easy answers here than you do in real life. Darcy respects that fact and gives us real boys trying to get through life in realistic ways.

So why not five stars? My only quibble here is that perhaps too much time is spent on football.  Yes, it is an integral part of the story but I think most people in the United States know their football basics.  But a little  less facts still would have left the foundation in good stead and the story a little tighter. Fair Catch is a wonderful coming of age, coming out story.  It is intense, joyous and downright heartbreaking.  Pick it up, and remember what it felt like to be a teenager once more.  Just don’t forget the tissues.

Interesting cover design by Alessia Brio.  Love the pigskin background  and the football equipment front and center.