Garrett Leigh on the Inspiration and Characters of ‘Finding Home’ (author interview and giveaway)

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Finding Home by Garrett Leigh
Riptide Publishing
Cover by: G.D. Leigh

Release Date: October 9, 2017

Read an Excerpt/Available for Purchase at Riptide Publishing

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Garrett Leigh today on her Finding Home tour.   We have a wonderful interview with the author and a giveaway to enter.  Neither are to be missed!

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~ A Memorable Interview with Garrett Leigh Talking About Writing Finding Home and It’s Characters ~

  •  You write so movingly and here there’s the main element of foster children, a gutwrencher of a topic. What prompted this element?

I was actually inspired to write Finding Home by a documentary I saw on BBC3 a few years ago. Ironically, I can’t remember much about it now, but I found the notes it prompted a year later, and the story was still there.

  • How much research did you have to do for this story and characters?

Not nearly enough at first. I had the characters down because they were very dear to my heart even in the early stages, but after checking with some sensitivity betas in the foster care system, I realised that I still had a lot of work to do. Assumptions I’d made didn’t ring true anymore, and there was some significant rewriting.

  •  Was there ever a time you thought that you were getting too emotional as you wrote or is there such a thing?

There is never such a thing. If I don’t connect with my characters, I’m wasting my time.

  • What makes you decide to go down this particular narrative path?

Originally, the story was told entirely from Leo’s POV, but Charlie had far more to say than I realised, so the dual POV came naturally.  

  •  Is there something special you would want the readers to know about this story?

I wrote it for my daughter.

  • I’m not usually drawn to young adult books but this one calls to me.  What is different about this book from other young adult books?

I think perhaps that it’s told in third person, rather than the first person/present tense we’re used to in YA books. I enjoy books like that, but I wanted this book to be a little more reflective. 

  • How old are Leo and Lila when they’re put into foster care?

Fifteen and five, though Lila has turned six by the time we meet her.

  •  I get the feeling that Leo’s journey through this book will be heartbreaking.  Will he fight letting Charlie in or welcome it?

Without giving too much away, Leo doesn’t have much left to fight Charlie with. And he doesn’t want to. Charlie is sweet and kind, and wonderful, and despite all Leo has been through—is still going through—he knows what a rare thing a boy like Charlie truly is.

  •  Does Charlie have his own darkness to conquer or is he the light to Leo’s dark?

Charlie has his own demons, but he’s had years of stability and love to build his resilience. He had a rough start in life, and he’s quite a shy boy, but he has an emotional confidence that Leo is lacking. You’ll see what I mean when you read it.

About Finding Home

How do you find a home when your heart is in ashes?

With their mum dead and their father on remand for her murder, Leo Hendry and his little sister, Lila, have nothing in the world but each other. Broken and burned, they’re thrust into the foster care system. Leo shields Lila from the fake families and forced affection, until the Poulton household is the only place left to go.

Charlie de Sousa is used to other kids passing through the Poulton home, but there’s never been anyone like his new foster brother. Leo’s physical injuries are plain to see, but it’s the pain in his eyes that draws Charlie in the most.

Day by day, they grow closer, but the darkness inside Leo consumes him. He rejects his foster parents, and when Charlie gets into trouble, Leo’s attempt to protect him turns violent. When Leo loses control, no one can reach him—except Charlie. He desperately needs a family—a home—and only Charlie can show him the way.

Available now from Riptide Publishing

About Garrett Leigh

Garrett Leigh is an award-winning British writer and book designer, currently working for Dreamspinner Press, Loose Id, Riptide Publishing, and Fox Love Press.

Garrett’s debut novel, Slide, won Best Bisexual Debut at the 2014 Rainbow Book Awards, and her polyamorous novel, Misfits was a finalist in the 2016 LAMBDA awards.

When not writing, Garrett can generally be found procrastinating on Twitter, cooking up a storm, or sitting on her behind doing as little as possible, all the while shouting at her menagerie of children and animals and attempting to tame her unruly and wonderful FOX.

Garrett is also an award winning cover artist, taking the silver medal at the Benjamin Franklin Book Awards in 2016. She designs for various publishing houses and independent authors at blackjazzdesign.com, and co-owns the specialist stock site moonstockphotography.com with renowned LGBTQA+ photographer Dan Burgess.

Social media:

Giveaway

To celebrate the release of Finding Home, one lucky winner will receive a $20 Riptide credit! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on October 14, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

In Our Spotlight: Covet by Yolande Kleinn (tour and giveaway)

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Covet by Yolande Kleinn
Riptide Publishing
Cover art by L.C. Chase

Read an Excerpt/Buy it here at Riptide Publishing

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Yolande Kleinn here today on her Covet tour. Welcome, Yolande!

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Hi everybody! I’m Yolande Kleinn, and I’m thrilled to welcome you to the Covet blog tour. I’m giddy to be here myself, and I hope you’re looking forward to my kinky contemporary M/M/M love story. I had a terrific time writing this book—getting to know Jack and Colin and Peter—and I can’t wait for you to meet them too. Follow along for the chance to win a $30 Riptide Publishing gift card!

About Covet

Jack Mason—graphic designer and unrepentant player—has never been interested in monogamy. He certainly isn’t looking for romance when he meets Professor Colin Sloan.

Newly single and not looking for anything serious, Colin is intrigued by Jack’s offer of a physical affair with no strings attached. Becoming friends wasn’t part of the plan, but as accidents go, this one’s pretty great.

Peter Mason is Jack’s identical twin. In a long-term relationship himself, Peter tells no one that he’s falling for his brother’s newest favorite, even as the secret creates tension with his girlfriend.

When Peter’s relationship falls apart, he seduces Colin, fully expecting Jack to forgive his transgression. But Jack is keeping secrets too—he hasn’t told even Colin that he’s fallen in love. Suddenly the twins are feuding, and Colin is caught in the middle, blindsided by the revelation that he doesn’t want to choose between them.

Now all three must find a way to share, or they’ll tear each other apart.

Now available from Riptide Publishing

About Yolande Kleinn

Yolande Kleinn may be a shameless dreamer and a stubborn optimist, but she is also a proud purveyor of erotic romance. Excitable, fastidious, and a little eclectic, she spends every spare moment as far away from reality as possible.

A Minnesotan by both heart and geography, Yolande has plenty of experience weathering tough winters. Her favorite method: distracting herself with warm beverages and even warmer stories. A night spent with a good book is heaven. A morning free to write, with a hot cup of coffee close at hand, is even better.

Connect with Yolande:

Website

Facebook

Twitter

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Giveaway

To celebrate the release of Covet, one lucky winner will receive a $30 Riptide gift card! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on September 23, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

An Ali Recent Release Review: Action (Murmur Inc. #2) by Quinn Anderson

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Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Pete Griflow is the last person anyone would suspect of being a porn star. He’s quiet, gawky, and can’t even talk to guys without turning red. But on camera, he’s a different person. In the porn world, he’s Jaden Prime, a coquettish power bottom who’s been tantalizing fans for over a year now.

Pete is in a rut, though, and he knows it. And what’s worse, his boss knows it. If he can’t reignite his passion for the biz, he’s going to have trouble paying his none-too-cheap college tuition.

When Pete is given the opportunity to star in a huge summer production, sparks fly between him and his costar, Kyle Darko. Kyle is Pete’s opposite: he’s daring, achingly sexy, and in love with the sex industry. Their chemistry is palpable on and off screen, but dating on a porn set is tricky. Even pros struggle to separate fantasy from reality, especially with a script dictating their seduction. But what’s building between them can’t be ignored, and it’s so much more than getting some “action.”
This was a sweet story about two college aged guys falling in love.  The story is told from Pete’s point of view.  He works part time and goes to school but does porn on the side to pay for his education.  It’s something he keeps as a closely guarded secret.  He doesn’t really want to do the side job his boss offers him until he meets his sexy co-star Kyle.  Kyle is everything Pete’s not, including being proud of his job in porn.
The chemistry between the two young men is instant and it burns bright.  They’re not supposed to be together off set but they can’t seem to stay away from each other.  In addition to his anxiety about a first love, Pete has to figure out what he’s going to do about dating a guy who is totally open about his porn career.  This leads to a bit of conflict but it’s very minimal and is easily resolved with some good communication.
Overall I enjoyed this story.  In a way I felt I was too old to be reading it.  It was definitely a NA, coming of age and first love story.  I think I’m a bit jaded to buy an almost instant love like these two had and the old, cynical part of me doesn’t see it working out in the long run.  But, if you’re hearts not made of stone like mine is, you will probably find this sweet and a bit romantic.  It was nice to see a story that is mostly angst free and doesn’t fall back on the over used, bad communication trope.  This was a refreshing change.
This is the second book in the Mumur, Inc series but is fine as a standalone.  These characters, except for the boss, are completely different than the characters in book one.
The cover was done by L.C. Chase and I really like it.  The bright colors catch your eye and it  fits both the plot and the cover for the first book.  I like the uniqueness of the cover.
Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon
Book Details:
ebook, 366 pages
Published June 5th 2017 by Riptide Publishing
Original TitleAction
ISBN 1626495726 (ISBN13: 9781626495722)
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesMurmur Inc. #2

A Julia Review: Thaw (Seasons of Love #2) by Elyse Springer

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Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Abigail is content with her quiet life as a librarian. But when she’s invited to a high-profile charity auction, she finds herself dancing with one of the most beautiful women she’s ever met. Abby’s sure she’ll never see her again, but then Gabrielle calls and asks her on a date. And soon after, another.

Supermodel Gabrielle Levesque has a reputation as the Ice Queen—cold and untouchable—except she warms up whenever she’s with Abby. Only Abby isn’t interested in the heat between them; she’s asexual, and she’s worried that admitting as much to Gabrielle might spell the end of their blooming romance.

They’re two different women from two very different worlds, but Abby knows she can love Gabrielle. Her passion for books, travel, and theater prove there’s more to the Ice Queen than meets the eye.  But they’ll have to overcome Abby’s fears—and Gabrielle’s own threatening secrets—in order to find their way to love.

Despite Thaw by Elyse Springer being the second volume in the “Seasons of Love” series, it is still a complete standalone novel. Characters from the first volume “Whiteout” appear or are mentioned but it is not at all necessary to have read it to understand this entry. Although after getting to read this one, I am very tempted to pick up more from this series. The other two volumes are scheduled for release later this year with each one getting published in the respective season they represent.

The first thing that grabbed my attention was the main protagonist, Abigail, and how endearing and relatable I found her to be. The story is told in third-person from her point of view and I could not help but smile at the way she interacted with the world and people around her. Despite being rather introverted sometimes, she watches the people around her with care and interest as she strives to uncover the unique story behind each person. I could immediately relate to her love for books and stories and it made my heart warm to read how she slowly came out of her shell of insecurity (which she hid herself in partly out of worry that people would react badly to her sexual orientations) also thanks to the support of her friends.

Gabrielle was also a very captivating character right from the beginning. Just like Abigail you wish to know what secret or truth lies behind the rumours of the cruel “Ice Queen” who seems perfectly amiable for the most part. I very much enjoyed the fact that I found myself rooting for their relationship for the sake of both women: I wanted Abigail to find the kind of connection with another person she was hoping for and I was convinced that Abigail would be a positive influence and just what Gabrielle needed to turn her current way of life (with which seemed rather unfulfilling to her) around.

The narrative was well-paced and there was never a moment that felt superfluous. The environment was also described in just the right amount of detail to get a feeling for the atmosphere without becoming tedious. A minor point of critique was that a couple of times the characters reacted a bit too “oblivious” to situations that seemed quite predictable to me (like Abigail being surprised when she learned that she got photographed on her date with a famous model).

Nevertheless, I found myself being genuinely drawn in the by the characters and the development of their relationship. I will certainly be looking forward to reading more from this author.

The cover design by Natasha Snow is quite lovely and very fitting for the story from the open book to the contrasting types of landscape. What I also appreciated were the painted spring flowers decorating the chapter headings within the book itself, a very nice touch.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 222 pages

Published April 24, 2017

by Riptide Publishing

ISBN: 978-1-62649-513-5

Edition Language: English

In the Spotlight: Thaw (Seasons of Love #2) by Elyse Springer (guest post and giveaway)

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Thaw (Seasons of Love #2) by Elyse Springer
R
iptide Publishing
Cover by: Natasha Snow

Read an Excerpt/Buy It at Riptide Publishing

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Elyse Springer today. Welcome, Elyse!

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Hello and welcome to the blog tour for Thaw! This F/F romance is the second in my “Seasons of Love” quartet, but stands alone– though readers of Whiteout may recognize some familiar faces. Thaw features an asexual librarian from Brooklyn, who meets an ice-cold super model from Canada, and I hope you’ll read on to learn more about Abby and Gabrielle’s romance.

Of course, don’t forget to drop a comment on this post… one lucky winner will get a $10 Amazon gift card!

Identities and Labels

The main character of Thaw, Abby, identifies as a biromantic sex-neutral asexual woman.

So what does that actually mean?

Let’s start with a ten second lesson on sexual vs. romantic attraction: who you want to buy roses for and who you wanna bang aren’t always the same. Love and sex may go hand-in-hand for many people, but your sexual attraction and romantic attraction may not always line up.

Let’s start with the easy one:

Asexual: Abby doesn’t experience sexual attraction. (Some asexual people do, of course! Gray Aces may experience sexual attraction; demisexuals can experience sexual attraction after establishing a close friend/romantic bond… wait, did I say this was the easy one?)

Biromantic: For Abby, this means she is romantically attracted to people of any gender.

Sex-Neutral: Some asexuals are sex-positive (meaning they often don’t mind, and maybe even enjoy, having sex) while others are sex-repulsed. Abby doesn’t have particularly strong feelings on sex either way.

Why do these labels matter?

Abby is not the defining example of asexuality! She is only one facet of a complex orientation, and her experiences in Thaw do not (and should not!) be held as the standard by which to define “asexuality”. But by understanding the labels she uses for herself, hopefully people will better understand the asexual spectrum and how beautifully diverse it is!

(Curious to know more? Cass Lennox has a great post about this: http://adanramie.com/fiction-and-the-asexual-character-by-cass-lennox-part-1/ )

About Thaw

Abigail is content with her quiet life as a librarian. But when she’s invited to a high-profile charity auction, she finds herself dancing with one of the most beautiful women she’s ever met. Abby’s sure she’ll never see her again, but then Gabrielle calls and asks her on a date. And soon after, another.

Supermodel Gabrielle Levesque has a reputation as the Ice Queen—cold and untouchable—except she warms up whenever she’s with Abby. Only Abby isn’t interested in the heat between them; she’s asexual, and she’s worried that admitting as much to Gabrielle might spell the end of their blooming romance.

They’re two different women from two very different worlds, but Abby knows she can love Gabrielle. Her passion for books, travel, and theater prove there’s more to the Ice Queen than meets the eye.  But they’ll have to overcome Abby’s fears—and Gabrielle’s own threatening secrets—in order to find their way to love.

Available now at Riptide Publishing. http://riptidepublishing.com/titles/thaw

About the Season of Love Universe

New York is the city that never sleeps: where everything can change in the blink of an eye, and where anything is possible—especially romance. In the bitter cold of winter or the impossible humidity of mid-summer, your own happily ever after might be right around the corner.

The people of New York come from all walks of life, and the relationships are just as diverse. So whether you’re a waiter or an aspiring actor, a banker or a model, falling in love can happen quicker than the seasons change.

Check out Seasons of Love! http://riptidepublishing.com/titles/universe/seasons-love

About Elyse Springer

Elyse is an author and world-traveler, whose unique life experiences have helped to shape the stories that she wants to tell. She writes romances with LGBTQ+ characters and relationships, and believes that every person deserves a Happily Ever After. When she’s not staring futilely at her computer screen, El spends her time adding stamps to her passport, catching up on her terrifying TBR list, and learning to be a better adult.

She’s always happy to chat with other readers, and you can find her online at:

Giveaway

To celebrate the release of Thaw, one lucky winner will receive a $10 Riptide credit! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on April 29, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

 

This title is part of the Seasons of Love: The Complete Collection collection. Check out the collection discount!

A MelanieM Review: Bulldust by D.J. Brumb

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Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

Bulldust coverRomance is lost and found in the dusty emptiness of the Australian outback, where love and friendship prove stronger than the harsh environment.

During a violent storm at sea on an immigrant ship bound for Australia, young British student, Paul Canfield, meets and falls in love with Mike Armstrong, an adventurous American on his way to Port Hedland in the far north to work at his father’s mining concerns.

Due to a disastrous event, Mike is injured and lost in the vast and hostile desert. He is found by a roving tribe of aborigines and nurtured back to almost complete health.

Paul is determined to trace the tracks of his lost lover and undergoes many varied and perilous adventures on his quest to bring Mike back.

Bulldust by D.J. Brumb starts off with a Prologue in the year 2012.  Paul and Mike are living in South Beach, CA and Mike has an accident and is transported to the hospital where Paul waits to see what happened to him.  Chapter 1 flashes back to 1956.  Paul and his family are on board the passenger ship MV Georgic.  His parents are emigrating from Liverpool to Australia and this ship is taking them to their new home.   The voyage has become turbulent and Paul is saved from falling overboard by American Mike Armstrong.  Mike is also headed to Australia to work  in one of his father’s mining concerns.  From moment, the two young men become inseparable during the voyage, discovering not only that both are gay but that they are seriously attracted  to one another.

Brumb is quick to authenticate the era the boys meet in.  Mike is reading Nevil Shute’s A Town Like Alice (a favorite of mine) which was published in 1950.  The ship is detailed down to the chairs bolted on the deck and the passage it takes from England to Australia is well documents as it sails through the Straits of Gibraltar, the Mediterranean toward Malta and on to Port Said and the Suez Canal.  The author is meticulous in their research and it shows.  However instead of an exciting  journey, the voyage felt more like a stuffy travelogue, an unfortunate side effect of a narrative that felt more like a “as told to”  then one we are in the middle of experiencing.  Which is a shame because this cruise and the places it passes by offer untold promise and excitement that is never fulfilled.

Mike and Paul become close on the trip and sexually intimate to the point that saying goodbye at the end is heartbreaking for both.  Perhaps not the reader but the main characters certainly.  For me, I never could get invested in their relationship.  It felt lacking any charisma or sex appeal or life for that matter.  The dry tone of the travelogue carried  over into every part of this story, including the new relationship between Mike and Paul.

It doesn’t get any better when Mike rents a car to travel by himself up to  the mining town, a perilous journey he  takes blithely. When the boys separate so does the narrative and the story starts jumping back and forth between Mike and Paul’s point of view.  Sometimes, in other books, this format is successful in allowing the reader to become intimate with the interior thoughts and feelings of each individual.  And sometimes it just muddies the flow of the  plot.  In Bulldust, it was definitely a case of the latter.

As you can guess from the blurb, Mike is injured and lost.  So lost that he and us lose all sight of what little we had learned about who he was and what he was doing there.  Mike becomes someone else and that takes us away from our connection to him and his relationship with Paul, what little of it is left at this point.  Plus there was the factor that this segment of the story contains one of the best possibilities for bringing us into the native aboriginal culture of Australia and fails utterly to make it fascinating and believable.  Not that the author didn’t do the research…Brumb did.  But it never comes alive or allows us to feel as though we are part of the story and Mike’s situation.

Meanwhile back at the city or wherever Paul finds himself,  time passes in multiple ways until Paul decides to look for Mike. Dusty travels ensue, via railroad and other methods of transportation and so does the lifeless tone of the novel.

I so wished I liked this story more.  That darn blurb hooked me in with all the sort of details that trigger my interest.  But that blurb turned out to be the most exciting thing about this story.  Loved the research, but barely made it through the narrative.  Plus that Prologue and Epilogue which pulls us back  to 2012 adds little to the story other than to put it in a modern context and act as its own spoiler because the men are together in the present day.  So much for the suspense of if Paul will find Mike.

What Bulldust has in factual information and length, it missing its equal in vitality and connection.  This story felt as dry as the outback without ever making us feel as though we had been there.  So much promise lost, so much potential in the plot wasted.   I certainly hope that the next story I read by this  author contains the research as well as the ability to lose us in whatever story Brumb wants to tell and makes us believe it with all our hearts.  I want to be transported in feeling instead of being told I was on a journey.

Art work by Christine Griffin.  I sort of liked the “oldtimey” feel to the cover.  Could have been one of those adventure novels of the 50’s.  But it didn’t take that far enough, and finally falls flat.

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

Book Details:

book, 150 pages
Published June 10th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781632168931
edition languageEnglish

 

 

 

 

Cover Art by

Sales Links:

Book Details:

ebook, 150 pages
Published June 10th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781632168931
edition languageEnglish

Playing Ball Authors Stop By For A Chat and a Contest!

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PlayingBall_tourbannerScattered Thoughts is hosting those wonderful authors of the Playing Ball Anthology today and offering a chance to win a eBook and a print copy!  The link to the contest is at the end of the blog! So join me as I pull up a chair and welcome Marguerite Labbe, Kate McMurray,Shae Connor, and Kerry Freeman:

Playing Ball End of Blog Tour and Giveaway

I can’t believe this is the last day for the blog tour, what a whirlwind ride it’s been. The ladies and I thought we’d share some of our favorite positions in baseball (outside the bedroom ) and a few excerpts.

Marguerite: So any thoughts on your favorite positions in baseball?

Shae: Catcher. Those THIGHS. 😉

Marguerite: One of my closest friends would agree with you for that very same reason.

Kerry: I’m partial to 2nd basemen. They have strong arms for to throw with, and you know they must have good hips to pivot and throw like they do 😉

Shae: And first basemen are usually tall, with long arms and legs, agility, and a lot of flexibility…

Marguerite: I’ve always been a fan of 3rd base and 3rd basemen. *Sighs* I still miss Mike Lowell. It gets hot and intense in that corner.

Kate: I don’t have a favorite, though my baseball boyfriend Joe Mauer is a catcher, so make of that what you will. Maybe it’s the mask, like he’s hidden and then there’s the hotness reveal? Also, some catchers get manicures so that the pitcher can see the hand signal while staring at the catcher’s crotch. (Just saying.)

Shae: One of the catchers today (Cards?) had his fingernails painted shiny gold. What happened to using white tape?? LOL

Marguerite: Maybe it’s more eye-catching or a secret signal? I noticed it too. I think though, that my favorites are pitchers. I just love the intensity and the way they torque their bodies and of course the staring at crotches.

Playing Ball coverPlaying Ball
Shae Connor, Kate McMurray, Kerry Freeman, and Marguerite Labbe

Cover by Aaron Anderson
Published by Dreamspinner Press
270 pages

Buy at Dreamspinner,Buy at ARe,Buy at Amazon

Blurb:

Baseball—America’s favorite pastime—provides a field wide open for romance. A Home Field Advantage may not help when Toby must choose between the team he’s loved all his life and the man he could love for the rest of it. In 1927, Skip hides his sexuality to protect his career until he meets One Man to Remember. Ruben and Alan fell victim to a Wild Pitch, leaving them struggling with heartache and guilt, and now they’ve met again. And on One Last Road Trip, Jake retires and leaves baseball behind, hoping to reconnect with Mikko and get a second chance at love.

The anthology contains the following novellas with an excerpt behind them:

Home Field Advantage by Shae Connor

Toby MacMillan, grandson of Atlanta Braves owner Ray MacMillan, lives for baseball and loves his team. When he meets new team member Caleb Browning, an innocent welcome-to-the-big-leagues dinner leads to a not-so-innocent night together. Toby quickly calls things off, afraid of the ramifications of their tryst, but the two men develop a friendship that soon becomes more. After Caleb takes a fastball to the head, their budding romance hits the news—and Toby’s grandfather hits the roof. When Ray MacMillan demands Toby deny the relationship, Toby must choose between the team he’s loved all his life and the man he could love for the rest of it.

“Come up for a drink?”
All the warning bells in Toby’s mind went off at once, but none of them were enough to stop him from doing what he did next. He followed Caleb into the elevator, rode up to the sixteenth floor beside him in silence, and then followed him down the hall to his room.
Once inside, Caleb dropped his duffel on the dresser and moved toward the minibar, like he was actually going to make good on his nightcap offer. “Not sure what they have in here, but—”
Toby didn’t let him get any further. He took three long steps, reached up to wrap one hand behind Caleb’s neck, and kissed the words right out of his mouth.
Caleb’s lips were soft and dry, yielding easily to Toby’s insistent pressure and soon parting to allow Toby’s tongue inside. Caleb tasted like the mint he’d popped as they left the table downstairs, with a hint of sweetness from the tea he’d had with dinner and a deeper flavor of pure Caleb.
Toby wondered if he tasted like that everywhere.
Eager to find out, Toby slid his hands under the hem of Caleb’s T-shirt and pushed it up until it bunched under Caleb’s arms. Breaking reluctantly away from Caleb’s mouth, Toby bent to lick his nipple instead, hearing the hiss from above at the intimate touch. Caleb’s skin was saltier here, the remains of a long day of travel clinging to his body, and Toby took another, longer taste, wrapping his lips around the pebbling skin and sucking gently.
“Holy shit, Toby.”
Caleb shifted, and Toby saw his T-shirt go flying a second before Caleb grabbed Toby’s arms and turned them both, shoved Toby against the wall, and fell against him. Caleb sealed his mouth over Toby’s even as he worked his fingers under Toby’s shirt and let them roam across his skin. Toby kissed him back desperately, kneading at the strong muscles of Caleb’s back, muscles honed from years as an athlete who used his body well. Toby was no slouch, physically speaking, but he relished the few inches and couple dozen pounds Caleb had on him. Toby felt surrounded by Caleb but not overwhelmed, the give and take between them perfectly balanced.
After breaking the kiss, Caleb pushed at Toby’s shirt, and Toby raised his arms to let Caleb strip it away like he’d done with his own. Caleb wrapped one arm around Toby’s body to pull their chests together and used his free hand to cup Toby’s ass so he could grind his pelvis into Toby’s. Toby groaned as Caleb licked across his jaw to his ear, where Caleb breathed out, “Jesus fuck, you’re hot.”
Toby let out a strangled sound something like a laugh. “Nothing on you,” he managed, turning his head to capture Caleb’s mouth with his.

One Man to Remember by Kate McMurray

It’s 1927, and in New York City, Babe Ruth and the Yankees’ unstoppable batting lineup, Murderers’ Row, is all anyone can talk about. Across town, the Giants’ rookie infielder Skip Littlefield racks up hits, creating a streak to rival the Babe’s. Worried his secrets could get out, he avoids the spotlight, but he catches the attention of lauded sports reporter Walter Selby, a notorious dandy whose sexuality is an open secret. Skip reluctantly agrees to an interview, and mutual attraction is sparked. Skip can only hope the more charismatic stars will draw attention away from his romance with Walt. Otherwise, his career and everything he loves is at stake.

Walt leaned against the brick facade of a Times Square building and watched Babe Ruth get out of a cab. The Bambino was wearing a clean white suit with a matching fedora tilted at a jaunty angle. Walt always found the contradiction of Ruth—the expensive clothes on the odd, triangular body, with the craggy face that looked like it had been in too many bar brawls—to be quite interesting. But there were plenty of reporters in New York dying to follow Ruth around. Walt had another story to pursue.
The Penguin Club was around the corner. It wasn’t Walt’s favorite Times Square establishment. It was a little bland, but that was why he’d chosen it—it was safe. He couldn’t imagine a kid like Skip would do well in the sorts of places Walt really liked to go. He was skittish in the baseball stadium; Walt couldn’t imagine him calm in one of the racier clubs.
He pulled his fedora down over his eyes and slunk down Fifty-Sixth Street. The Penguin was a little off the beaten path—another reason Walt had chosen it—and tonight, Walt wanted to fade into the background a bit, to observe instead of be observed.
He spotted a figure walking down the street from Sixth Avenue and knew immediately it was Skip. He walked with a dancer’s grace, something Walt had noticed at the stadium. As he came closer, Walt saw he was wearing a brown suit a couple of seasons out of style and a battered bowler hat that didn’t really go with the suit. These were forgivable offenses, Walt decided, since he did look pretty great out of a baseball uniform.
“Why, Mr. Littlefield,” Walt said as Skip walked up to him. “You’re a real sheik outside of the ballpark.”
It was too dark to see if Skip was blushing, but Walt imagined from the way he ducked his head that he was.
“I’m still not really sure about this,” Skip said.
“One measly drink won’t do any harm.”
Walt gestured for Skip to follow him. He knew the password, although the door was being watched by a big six named Anthony, with whom Walt had once had a brief and tawdry affair. Luckily, they were still on good terms.
“How are ya, Walt?” Anthony greeted him.
“I’m just ducky. This is my friend John.”
Skip tilted his head, but then extended a hand to Anthony, who shook it.
Anthony said, “You boys can go on in. Although, Walt? If you’re looking for something to do later, Carmela’s performing at that little place off Forty-Third tonight.”
Walt nodded. He loved Carmela’s show, but he was sort of wishing this interview would go long enough for him to miss it. And he certainly knew better than to think Skip would be interested in a show like Carmela’s. “I’ll keep that in mind,” Walt said.
As Walt led Skip into the speakeasy, Skip said, “Who is Carmela?”
Walt chuckled. “Would it terrify you if I told you she is a female impersonator?”
Skip tilted his head again, as if he were taking that in. “Like a man in a dress?”
Walt nodded. “Carmela is in fact an Italian fella named Carmine who I’ve known for years. He’s… well, he’s something, to be sure. But his brother owns a bunch of the Times Square establishments, plus a few other places downtown, so he has plenty of performance venues.”
Skip seemed more intrigued by this than put off, which was not the reaction Walt had been expecting. “What does he do in his show?”
“Dances, tells jokes, that sort of thing. Like a one-man vaudeville act. Why do you ask? Do you want to see it?”
Skip shrugged. “Just wondering.”
What an interesting man Skip was turning out to be. The lack of literacy had given Walt pause back at the stadium. Walt’s handwriting wasn’t so abysmal that it couldn’t be deciphered, so Skip’s hesitancy over the words said a lot. But he still had found the place. Asking about school was on Walt’s agenda for this evening. He didn’t know much about Skip except that he was very attractive—he had a round face with a narrow nose and surprisingly plump lips atop that athletic body, and as he removed his hat, he displayed a thick head of wavy blond hair—and he played baseball as well as or better than many of the best ballplayers in the city. He was also, apparently, barely literate and intrigued by the idea of a show like Carmela’s. Walt was fascinated.

Wild Pitch by Marguerite Labbe

Ruben Martell fell in love with Alan Hartner during their years playing baseball. They stepped over the foul line once, but the encounter left them struggling with heartache and guilt, turning away from each other to focus on their families. Now retired from the majors, they run a batting cage together and coach rival Little League teams as they juggle fatherhood and being single again. Though Ruben has never given up hope that Alan might look at him as more than a friend, Alan seems determined to keep things the way they’ve always been. But long-buried feelings and desires have a way of resurfacing, and Ruben can’t wait forever.

The pop fly went straight up the center and was caught easily by the shortstop. Ruben came jogging forward as the end of the inning was called. “Didn’t get enough sleep last night, Alan?” he called teasingly, and Alan narrowed his eyes. Oh no, he was not going to be the only one who had a hard time concentrating today.
“Just remembering The Maltese Falcon,” Alan said, patting Ruben’s back as he came to an abrupt halt. “Makes it a little hard to stay focused.”
Ruben turned to look at him, his gaze hot and intense, and Alan knew he’d gotten under his skin. He was learning to recognize the little signals from Ruben that gave away his interest, like the way those eyes of his would darken even more, or the way he’d kind of lean in toward Alan. “Good movie,” Ruben said, after a minute examination of Alan’s face. “Good memories associated with it.”
“Good, hmm?” Alan let his gaze rake over Ruben and grinned wickedly as the other man shook his head in bemusement. “I can think of many other adjectives.”
Ruben leaned closer still and lowered his voice. “You’re a damn tease, Hartner. I never would’ve thought that of you.”
“Goes to show you don’t know everything about me yet.” Alan backed away toward his dugout with another grin, spreading his hands wide. “Kind of exciting, isn’t it?”

One Last Road Trip by Kerry Freeman

With the last game of his Major League Baseball career behind him, Jake Wilson hits the road. Years have passed, but he never got over the romance he shared with Mikko Niemi back in college. Finally, he’s ready to do something about it. He starts with some crucial visits to his ex-wife in New Mexico, his son in Oklahoma, and his daughter in Tennessee. But his true destination is Mikko’s home in Georgia, where he’s hoping to get a second chance at love.

It had been a lonely few months in Atlanta. Jake had gone from being a high school baseball star to just another hick jock. It didn’t matter that his test scores and grades would have gotten him into Georgia Tech regardless of the baseball scholarship. The smart kids looked down their noses at him. And the other jocks? Until Jake played a game and played it well, he was only a wannabe freshman. The first day of preseason training, it all started to turn around for him. He and the other freshman bonded over their mutual desire to prove they were worthy to wear the gold and white. They worked hard and cheered each other on. They quickly became favorites of the handful of regular practice spectators, who all seemed to have a soft spot for the awkward newcomers. One spectator stood out. Jake tried not to stare, but he couldn’t stop his surreptitious glances at the man. Jake had known since forever that he could be turned on by men as well as women, but this was different. The man’s square jaw and tight swimmer’s body made Jake have evil, evil thoughts, thoughts of things way beyond the frenzied hand and blow jobs he’d experienced with other equally frightened high school boys. Jake also had more tender thoughts, which he found slightly frightening. Every time the man brushed his hair from his eyes, Jake wondered if the hair was soft, how it would feel if he ran his fingers through it. He snuck enough glances to determine that the man’s almond-shaped eyes were a beautiful hazel, and, more often than not, those eyes were trained on Jake. Worst of all, Jake wanted to pull the man’s full bottom lip between his and find out how the man tasted. He had never kissed a man, but God, he wanted to kiss this one. After a few weeks of torture, Jake decided he’d had enough. He might make a fool of himself. He might even get his ass kicked. But he was going to talk to the man who’d been starring in his dreams. When practice was over, Jake hung back on the field, waiting for the other players to head toward the locker room and hopefully out of earshot. He’d noticed days before that the man would not leave right away; he’d linger, reading a book or relaxing on the bleachers. It was almost as if he were waiting for someone. Then again, Jake thought, that could be his own wishful thinking. As he walked, Jake brushed off his pants and straightened his cap. When the man looked up from his book to see Jake heading his way, his smile was unmistakable. Jake was sure he’d never seen a clearer invitation to come closer, and he struggled to keep his feet from speeding up. He needed to play this cool, keep his intentions a secret until he was sure they were welcome. “Hey.” Jake shoved his glove under his arm. “What you reading?” The man waved the small paperback. “Oh, this? To Kill A Mockingbird. I have been told it is a classic American novel. I like it so far.” Oh holy fuck, Jake thought. He has an accent on top of everything else. The man’s voice was cool and smooth, like a window in an air-conditioned room. It sent frissons cascading over Jake’s sweat-damp skin. Each word was clearly enunciated, crisp. Jake sat down, leaving a respectable distance between them. “It is. I read it in high school, and it’s pretty good.” The man folded the corner of a page and closed the book. “We read a few American novels in school in Finland, but not this one. I think I may recommend it to my teacher back home.” “Finland? How did you end up here?” “I wanted more sunshine and warmth. My family visited friends in Savannah once, and I fell in love with Georgia.” “Well, you definitely came to the right place for sunshine.” Jake was positive if he heard much more of the man’s accent, he would melt on the spot. “I’m Jake Wilson,” he said, holding out his hand. The man stared at Jake’s hand before finally shaking it. “I know,” he said. “I read about you in the student paper. My name is Mikko Niemi.”

To celebrate the release of PLAYING BALL, we’re giving away two great prizes:

Grand prize: A print copy of PLAYING BALL signed by all four authors, a unisex BBQ apron featuring hot athletes from Originals by Lauren (https://www.etsy.com/shop/OriginalsbyLauren), and swag from all four authors.

Runner-up prize: An ebook copy of PLAYING BALL and swag from all four authors.

The giveaway will run from 12AM Central on September 21, 2013 to 12AM Central on October 11, 2013.
To give an opportunity for the authors to get together to sign the book and gather swag, the winners will be picked and the prizes shipped after the end of GayRomLit 2013.

Rules:

You must be a resident of Earth, 18 years or older, who lives in a place where the viewing of adult material is legal. By entering the giveaway, you are indicating your agreement to the rules. Winners must provide a physical mailing address to receive their prizes. If a winner does not respond to the prize notification within 48 hours, the prize will be re-awarded.

Link to contest page: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/76e2bf6/

Keeping Promise Rock by Amy Lane

Standard

Rating: 5 stars

All it took was one look at Deacon Winter putting Lucy Star through her paces in the workout ring for Carrick Francis to fall in love.  At first Carrick, aka “Crick”, thought it was the horse he loved and the farm called The Pulpit where the horse lived.  But it wasn’t long before the “little Mex kid” as his stepfather Bob called  him, realized  that the beautiful boy in the ring was his true and final love.  Deacon Winter was everything that was fine as far as Crick was concerned.  He was patient, beautiful with his green-hazel eyes and sun streaked blond hair. Deacon was also silent, being painfully shy.  For Deacon hardly ever talked but when he did, Crick listened.  When Deacon’s dad took Crick home one evening and realized how bad the situation was with Crick’s stepfather, Parrish Winter told Crick’s mom that he would be taking the boy every weekend to help at the farm.  Those weekends became Crick’s salvation, and refuge as Crick’s stepfather became ever more abusive. Crick stayed only to protect his younger sister from Bob’s rage.

As the years flew by, Crick’s love for Deacon thrived and deepened.  As did Deacon’s love for Crick, as everyone around them but Crick knew.  Just when Crick was set to leave for college, Deacon’s father  dies and Crick stays in Levee Oaks to help run The Pulpet with Deacon.  The sexual tension between them grows to the breaking point and Deacon gives in to Crick’s advances with tragic consequences for both of them.   Crick takes Deacon’s stunned behavior after they make love as a rejection and makes an impulsive decision that will haunt both of them for the rest of their lives.   Deacon is actually just stunned to recognize the depths of the feelings that Crick has carried within him for Deacon all these years.  When Deacon realizes that his hesitation has been taken as rejection he runs after Crick but it is too late.  He is gone.

The loss of Crick almost destroys Deacon.  The separation does the same for Crick, the two men left demoralized and despondent  by one rash decision.  But the men had also made a promise to each other.  “I need you, like I want you.  Always and forever.  I want you like I love you. Always and forever.  Consider that a promise.”    Now if only the world will listen and let them make that promise a certainty.

Keeping Promise Rock is one of my all time favorite reads.  It’s my “go to” book when I need comfort, it’s the book I grab when I need to revisit old friends, curled up on a long winter’s night.  It’s the book I reach for when I want to lose myself in beloved universe, full of people I have come to love and events that take me one more time on an immensely satisfying roller coaster ride of emotions.  There’s tears of joy to go with the heartbreak and overwhelming love to conquer the despair of the events within. How I cherish this book.

Amy Lane is a master of characterization and the people she has created for Keeping Promise Rock are as timeless as they are memorable.  We meet both Deacon and Crick as teenagers and watch them mature into men dealing with the tumultuous events that life has thrown at them. And not once does it ever feel less than completely real.  It’s not just the depth and dimension of each character that makes them so authentic, it’s their dialog too.  I could have someone read a conversation from the book between Crick, Deacon, and Deacon’s friend, Jon to me and I would never be confused as to which “voice” I am hearing.  In fact, most of the time I am so completely enveloped in the story that I am shocked to find that the hours have flown by as I read.

Amy Lane understands people so well that how her characters react to life’s roadblocks and misunderstandings comes across as being as true to life as possible.  It doesn’t matter whether Deacon is reacting to Crick fighting in the high school hallway or a devastated Crick sitting at Deacon’s hospital bedside after a car accident, trying to find the courage to tell Deacon what he had done.  Every circumstance the boys find themselves in is a place others would find familiar.   There is bullying, both at home and at school. And being out and gay in a high school where tolerance is an issue along with the consequences that comes with trying to deal with the issues stemming from intolerance in the classroom and on the playing field. The author gives us parental abuse where there should have been love and support. And we see how growing up under those conditions will leave their mark on the person, both in behavior and trust.

With that foundation laid, then certain actions become not only understandable but relatable. Lane never lets us forget that her characters conduct or behavior stems from a source that has a basis in reality. The fact that life is unfair can be visited upon the unwary in so many ways and Amy Lane delivers that emotional moment to us time and again and never to less than shattering impact. But if Amy Lane is outstanding in delivering life’s blows and making us feel them along with her characters, she is also balances the pain they feel with life’s joys and successes.  We celebrate as they do when life and love comes triumphantly together, knowing full well that the path getting to that point was as hard and tortuous as real life itself.

What can be better than this? With Amy Lane’s books we acknowledge life’s fleeting moments and their impact in peoples lives as well as those relationships that speak of permanence and the costs carried with them.  We get insight into human interactions no matter the age through characters like Deacon, Crick, Benny, Jon, and many others we want to visit again and again.  Luckily for us, Amy Lane feels the same way, as Keeping Promise Rock is the first in the Promise series.  Start with Keeping Promise Rock and read them all.  You will love them as much as I do.

Here is the Promises series in the order they were written and should be read to throughly understand the characters and the events mentioned:

Keeping Promise Rock (Promises #1)

Making Promises (Promises #2)

Living Promises (Promises #3)

Paul Richmond’s wonderful cover is perfect for the story within.