A Very Special Charity Spotlight: A Intimate Look at Winter Oranges by Marie Sexton (guest post and giveaway)

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Winter Oranges cover

Winter Oranges by Marie Sexton
Published by Riptide Publishing
Cover Artist:  L.C. Chase

This title is part of the Love for the Holidays: A Charity Bundle Benefiting
the GLBT National Help Center collection. 
You can purchase it and learn more about the charity bundle here.

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is so happy to have  Marie Sexton here today to talk about the inspiration behind her Christmas novel, Winter Oranges.  Marie is sharing some of her photos from her Pinterest board and thoughts behind her characters.  Winter Oranges is one of Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Highly Recommended Novels.

Hello, everybody! This is Marie Sexton, and I’m thrilled to be here at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words today talking about my Christmas novel, Winter Oranges. I thought I’d share some photos that helped inspire the novel.

First things first: I started with the house. I originally planned to set the book in rural West Virginia, so I started out researching older homes. Later, I decided to move the story to Idaho, and I ended up making the house a “revival” built in the 1980s, which meant there was no “servant’s room” on the ground floor. I rearranged the entire dining room/kitchen setup, and added a Winter Oranges House Planspantry/mudroom. The other problem was, I kept picturing the garage on the left side of the property (the left when facing the house, that is). I tried over and over to flip that image in my mind, but it didn’t work. And why would the garage be on the family room side of the property rather than the mudroom side? It didn’t make sense. So I flipped the entire bottom floor. But for the most part, this is Jason’s house. (I’m sure he paid more than $1548 for it, though!)

The next step was the snow globe. Yes, I could have just made it up, but I wanted a photo. It needed to look old-fashioned and have a cottage. So I settled on this one:Winter Oranges_Snow Globe

Now, for the characters.

Winter Oranges_Tom HughesIn my brain, Ben looks like Tom Hughes, minus the bad boy attitude.

Ben’s clothes were based largely on this picture:Winter Oranges_civil war men

And Jason… well, I wasn’t entirely sure what Jason looked like. I was pretty sure he was blond, and I knew he was in his late 20s. That was good enough, until I got to a line where somebody says to him, “You look familiar.” Jason hates his semi-celebrity status, so rather than telling her who he really is, he says, “Some people say I look like [some other celebrity].” The problem was, who did he look like? I spent a stupid amount of time googling actors, but I finally decided on William Moseley.Winter Oranges_William Mosely

That’s it for my primary sources of inspiration, but for more pictures, check out my  Winter Oranges Pinterest Board. Have an image you’d like to add? Leave your Pinterest user name in the comments, and I’ll send you an invitation to add to the board.

And be sure to check out Winter Oranges! 20% of the proceeds go to the GLBT National Help Center.

About the Book

Jason Walker is a child star turned teen heartthrob turned reluctant B-movie regular who’s sick of his failing career. So he gives up Hollywood for northern Idaho, far away from the press, the drama of LA, and the best friend he’s secretly been in love with for years.

There’s only one problem with his new life: a strange young man only he can see is haunting his guesthouse. Except Benjamin Ward isn’t a ghost. He’s a man caught out of time, trapped since the Civil War in a magical prison where he can only watch the lives of those around him. He’s also sweet, funny, and cute as hell, with an affinity for cheesy ’80s TV shows. And he’s thrilled to finally have someone to talk to.

But Jason quickly discovers that spending all his time with a man nobody else can see or hear isn’t without its problems—especially when the tabloids find him again and make him front-page news. The local sheriff thinks he’s on drugs, and his best friend thinks he’s crazy. But Jason knows he hasn’t lost his mind. Too bad he can’t say the same thing about his heart.

Winter Oranges is one of Riptide’s 2015 charity titles.

Twenty percent of the proceeds from this title will be donated to the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) National Help Center.

Founded in 1996, the GLBT National Help Center is a non-profit organization that provides vital peer-support, community connections and resource information to people with questions regarding sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Utilizing a diverse group of GLBT volunteers, they operate two national hotlines, the GLBT National Hotline and the GLBT National Youth Talkline, as well as private, volunteer one-to-one online chat, that help both youth and adults with coming-out issues, safer-sex information, school bullying, family concerns, relationship problems and a lot more.

To learn more about this charity or to donate directly, please visit their website:  “http://www.glbthotline.org/

HYPERLINK “http://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/winter-orangeshttp://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/winter-oranges

About the Author

Marie Sexton lives in Colorado. She’s a fan of just about anything that involves muscular young men piling on top of each other. In particular, she loves the Denver Broncos and enjoys going to the games with her husband. Her imaginary friends often tag along.

Marie has one daughter, two cats, and one dog, all of whom seem bent on destroying what remains of her sanity. She loves them anyway.

Connect with Marie:

WinterOranges_TourBanner

Giveaway

To celebrate the release of Winter Oranges, Marie Sexton is giving away two titles from her backlist and a $50 Amazon gift card! Your first comment at each stop on this tour enters you in the drawing. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on December 5, 2015. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. Entries. Follow the tour for more opportunities to enter the giveaway! Don’t forget to leave your email or method of contact so Riptide can reach you if you win!  Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.  Happy Reading and Good luck!

A MelanieM Review: Dead Blind: Jack of Spades #2 (PF 2015: Altered States) by Lee Brazil

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Dead Blind coverIn the two months since Dr. Sabine Brusilov and his ghostly lover Bart discovered the curious brass circlet while investigating a haunting in an apartment building, Sabine focused on recovering from his accident. Now, his health restored, his mind returns to the mystery of the circlet. Even a commission to appear on a television show can’t distract him from its allure.

After nearly two centuries of resistance, it takes an exorcism for Bart to come to terms with being a ghost…and learning that everything in the other realm isn’t quite the way he had figured. As he grows more comfortable in the spirit plane, his abilities on the earthly plane evolve. Even though he feels the circlet’s evil, he can’t help but connect his growing strength with it.

Life and death are two sides of the same coin, but the circlet blurs lines for both man and ghost.

In Dead Blind (Jack of Spades #2), Lee Brazil takes his plot and gives it a dark, maze-like quality that adds another level of trepidation and suspense to a tale already overflowing with it.  For me, this story is where I start to connect with Sabine whose personality and cavalier treatment of Bart sort of pushed me away in the first installment.

With an evil circlet in his possession, Sabine’s control over his emotions, thoughts and actions become compromised.  And it’s his struggle to remain himself that really draws the reader onto his side and let’s us empathize with this complicated man.  Bart too is growing in substance…literally.  While the reasons he is becoming stronger are still somewhat nebulous, the fact that Bart abilities have grown now allow him to have avenues for his thoughts and emotions not possible before.  He can travel and move things, for good or bad.  But it’s his growing concern for Sabine that pulls us into their relationship and gives us a better feel for their couple dynamics which is undergoing  drastic changes even as they are.

But back to that evil circlet.  Lee Brazil does a fabulous job of bringing that object’s menace to life on the page. Through the vivid imagery of Brazil’s descriptions, t he circlet emanates such malevolence, that the  dreams and actions it’s pulling out of Sabine will bring chills as you read.  Yes, this story is getting marvelously darker, more convoluted and scary.  And I couldn’t be happier.

If you love your romance stories with a touch of horror, if you listen for those things that go bump in the night, than this installment has just the right amount of shivers to make you downright  gleeful.  But be warned, none of these are stand alone stories.  They must be read in the order they were written and often contain cliffhangers just as serialized stories should.

But don’t take my word for it.  Pick them all up and get started today.  Each is a truly delicious morsel of romance and fear, addicting and downright delectable.  Happy Reading.

Cover art by Laura Harner.  I like the overall design but am still missing a supernatural element.  It just seems too light and fluffy for the content.

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

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 54 pages
Published April 14th 2015 by Lime Time Press
ASINB00W5HNFYE
edition languageEnglish\

About Pulp Friction 2015
Lee Brazil ~ Havan Fellows ~ Parker Williams ~ Laura Harner

The Pulp Friction 2015 Altered States Collection.
Four authors.
Four Series.
Twenty books.
One supernatural finale.

Spend a year with the creatures that go bump in the night…fighting for their rights to exist and protecting the innocents of The Big Easy. A diverse group of friends trying to find their place in a world they never had to “fit” into before.
Although each series can stand alone, we believe reading the books in the order they are released will increase your enjoyment.
Round One:
Drawing Dead (Jack of Spades: 1) by Lee Brazil
Blind Stud (King of Hearts: 1) by Havan Fellows
The Devil’s Bedpost (Four of Clubs: 1) by Parker Williams
Diamonds and Dust (Ace of Diamonds: 1) by Laura Harner

Round Two:

Dead Blind (Jack of Spades: 2) by Lee Brazil

 

A MelanieM Review: Heart of Clay by Lee Brazil

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5:

Heart-of-Clay-400x600Decades earlier a tragic accident separated two men who were always meant to be together.  Now the ghost of the man that died makes one more effort to bring the men he loved together as they were always meant to be.

Clayton Merk, accomplished, yet arrogant, businessman, has a reputation for one-night stands and being steadfastly anti-relationship, life choices that stem from a traumatic loss in high school. When he decides to return home—to the root of all his problems—he brings a co-worker with him as a buffer against the past. Even though he’s ready to lay old ghosts to rest, he certainly didn’t expect a literal ghost to lend a hand.

Brad Jorgensen, Clay’s former best friend, has also clung to the past in an unhealthy way. When Brad’s brother died in that car accident, he lost not only his brother but any chance he had to get together with Clay, the boy he secretly loved. Now Brad holds Clay responsible for everything that has gone wrong with his life, not the least of which is his cousin’s death decades earlier. At one time they’d been closer than brothers, but blame and anger are powerful weapons of destruction, and they’ve left Brad in a wasteland of self-doubt, hatred, and loneliness.

For decades Clay and Brad have remained apart, separated by loss, anger, bitterness and guilt.  The ghost at the heart of the problem has had enough. Bobby isn’t pleased with his cousin or his ex. Their refusal to let go of the past has kept him on a plane where he doesn’t belong and isn’t at home. He’s expended all his energy trying to get through to Brad, without success, but Clay’s return finally gives him a foot in the door…or out the door.
If he could just get the two stubborn men together.

I have loved ghost stories since I was a child and when combined with romance, they prove downright irresistible.  In Heart of Clay, Lee Brazil takes this trope and gives it his own twist by taking these two men decades past the accident that caused Bobby’s death and the schism in their lives.  Heart of Clay by Lee Brazil opens with Clay, a successful businessman, returning home to the farm he grew up on with his grandparents.  So powerful and traumatic are the memories he has of his time growing up there (and the strong bonds he built with the Jorgensen brothers from the farm next door), that Clay has stayed away rather than deal with his memories and issues.  Clay even brings along his assistant as a buffer although the man has other ideas about the trip.  Brazil makes us understand Clay, the shallow life he’s been leading and the importance of the farm, and grandparents to his formative years and well being.  Clay is clearly someone stuck in a pattern that not even he likes but the past is holding him there and he doesn’t know how to move forward.

Like two halves of the same whole, Clay’s arrival home after all this time sets off sparks everywhere, including next door, where Brad is still farming his family’s land.  Brad’s life is just as dry of life as Clay’s, albeit in another drastic manner.  If Clay’s life is a constant revolving door of anonymous men and no commitment, Brad’s has been one of alcohol abuse, anger and guilt.  The author is able to make Brad’s pain visceral as well as his deep love for the man he blames for his brother’s death.

Little by little, their combined past, happy and traumatic, is revealed to the reader. We get to “see” it from several perspectives, the idyllic life all three boys lead, their strong bond, and, for one, the feelings he kept hidden from the other two.  And then, of course, we have Bobby, our frustrated ghost.  Bobby’s just as stuck as the other two, all three lives shattered by one awful decision.

Bobby is just as real a character as the other two men, however ghostly he might be. His frustration and pain balanced by his continuing love for Clay and his brother, Brad.  He’s a great character and I only wish I had a little bit more of his life before it was ended.

It’s easy to understand how one moment, one bad decision can obliterate three lives, especially the one that caused Bobby’s death.  Equally, the reader will recognize someone wanting to fix the blame somewhere, anywhere than accept the situation as it really occurred.  Brazil offers lots of small truths in this story and that makes Heart of Clay feel familiar and layered.

If I had a quibble with this story, it would be that I wish sections had been enlarged with more memories, more of each man’s life in the interim.  There is a wealth of back history here, and the parts that we see are so intriguing that it makes us want to know more.  And Bobby’s hauntings?  More scenes of those as well.  Bobby’s cuts quite the supernatural presence here.

I so enjoyed Heart of Clay and think you will too.  Love romance with a mixture of the otherworldly?  Love the idea of ghosts and a little supernatural matchmaking?   Pick up Heart of Clay by Lee Brazil, I absolutely recommend it.

Cover art by Laura Harner.  It’s a nice cover but I could have used a little more of the supernatural element whether it was in the color or design.

Sales Links:       All Romance eBooks (ARe)    Amazon       Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook
Published April 1st 2015 by Smashwords Edition
ISBN139781310511295

Review of Ghosts in the Wind by Marguerite Labbe

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Rating: 5 stars

Dean Marshall and Andrei Cuza have been together 10 years, a anniversary they just finished celebrating.  These years together have not come without their own difficulties and challenges, especially with regard to Andrei’s Romany tribe who had disavowed him. Then there is the stress of Andrei’s job which to find and rescue abused and stolen children.  But they are happy and their love stronger than ever, as is the expectation they will spend the rest of their lives together.

But fate and an enraged criminal change all that.  As Andrei races to save a group of abducted children, Dean stops to help a women and her children stranded by a flat tire by the side of the road.  Unbeknownst to her, the woman’s estranged husband has followed her intent on retrieving his children.  The encounter ends with the man killing Dean and his wife and fleeing with his children.

When Dean wakes up, he is standing by a sheet covered body, watching as paramedics rush about the scene as policemen take notes.  He doesn’t understand by they won’t listen to him until a young girl appears and tells Dean that he is dead.   Her name is Ileana and she is Andrei’s dead sister come to help Dean because she didn’t want him to be sad.  While still not accepting the truth, Dean knows he has to get to Andrei because the two  missing children need his help, so Dean sets off to figure out how to accept his new status with Illeana’s help.

Andrei is shattered when he gets the call about Dean’s murder.  Everyone in his life either rejected him or left him until Dean and now he is dead.  Andrei believes his life is over until Dean and his little sister appear before him.  Andrei has been haunted by ghosts all of his life and one of his biggest regrets is that he feels responsible for his sister being caught in limbo unable to move on.  Their sibling love was so strong that when her illness killed her, she didn’t want to leave her brother alone and she didn’t understand the ramifications of staying in limbo.  For those spirits who  linger controlled by the strong emotions they held in life are hunted by Jackal Wraiths who consume the souls of the spirits they hunt.  A spirit only has so many chances to move on before they are stuck in perpetual limbo something the little girl never understood.

Now between his grief, rage,  and his guilt, Andrei’s love for Dean and Illeana must prove to be the emotion to rule his actions.  Dean is insistant that he not move on before the children are found, Illeana won’t leave Dean or Andrei and the strong emotions swirling around are sure to bring the Wraiths if the trio is not careful.  Andrei must figure out not only how to catch the murderer  and bring the children to safety but how to say goodbye to the only man he has ever loved before the time runs out for all of them.

This is listed as a Bittersweet Dreams title, a genre I usually stay far away from.  Lucky for me and you, that would be the last place I would list this book.  In fact bittersweet is a word that would not ever come to mind when I think of this amazing story of love, its all encompassing and enduring nature.  Timeless love is perhaps more accurate, because it doesn’t matter whether it is the love you hold for your partner or the love of a sibling, not even death changes the power and depth of your feelings for them.  Above all else, this story is about  love.

Marguerite Labbe pulls you into Dean and Andrei’s relationship right from the start.  Dean and Andrei are waking up and move right into a sensual scene of morning sex, that is hot and loving and feels so true for two men in an established relationship.  We get descriptions of their little mannerisms and small details that heighten their commitment to each other as well let us know that sex plays an important part of their lives.  I fell in love with both characters immediately without having the background knowledge that will come later in the story.  I felt how deeply they loved each other which made what follows all the more shattering.

Labbe does a remarkable and heartrending job of letting us “watch” as Andrei enters a building filled with pedophiles and the children they have abducted.  The police are coming but the danger and the anxiety starts ramping up as he reaches the children he comes to rescue.  Our hearts are in our throats for Andrei as the danger increases by the moment and the children are so very vulnerable and hurt.  Then we turn back to Dean on his way back from a successful business meeting and sees a woman in distress at the side of the road.  Back and forth we swing between the men and their disparate scenes, and our stomach starts to get queasy  and our eyes to tear because we know whats coming.  And come it does.  In the splashes of blood, and tears and cries of pain and loss so unbearable that you shatter along with Andrei.

But there is always the presence of Dean and young Illeana to shore us up. So real, so genuine are all the characters including the children, that their situation seems as real as Andrei’s.  They pull us back from grief and involve us in the plight of the two missing children as well as their own as times starts to run out before Dean too is stuck in limbo.  The author gives us so many outstanding elements, each as complex and expertly executed as the next,  in this story.  We have the otherworldly strand that involves Dean, Illeana, and the Jackal Wraiths which is very scary as well as vividly described, truly the stuff of nightmares.  Along side of this, Margueritie Labbe hauls us into the hunt for the murderer and the missing children.  My god, this was so well done.  As the police give up on finding the children, Andrei, and Dean know better.  And the race is on with just themselves and a friendly detective to continue the hunt which turns into a real knuckle biter itself.  Oh and did I tell you a hurricane is coming?

And throughout all this both Dean and Andrei must find a way to say goodbye.  Yes, I sobbed buckets of tears with this story,from beginning to the end.  But by then the tears of pain and loss had turned into tears of joy and happiness.  Yes, you read that right.  Joy and happiness about a story of murder and lovers separated by a criminal act.  The ending is perfection and one you will treasure, turning back to it over and over again.

Really, this is an exceptional book.  I raced through to the end, gobbling up each and every word, heart pounding, pulse racing, and yes, throw in some head throbbing to go along with the red eyes and runny nose.  And then I did it all again because I was afraid I had missed something the first time.  Yes, you can count on there being another reading in the future.  Because this book will haunt you, mesmerize you and leave you thinking once you have finished.  Don’t take my word for it.  Go buy this book, do it now.  Get some tissures and prepare to be enveloped in a love that knows no boundaries, even death.

Cover.  This cover by Reese Dante is one of the top ten for 2012.  Lush, haunting, just perfect in every way.