Blog Tour for ‘Kevin Corrigan and Me’ by Jeré M. Fishback (author guest post, excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Kevin Corrigan and Me

Author: Jere’ M. Fishback

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: June 19

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 57400

Genre: Contemporary and Historical, YA Literature, Historical, memoir fiction, non-explicit, Gay, Bi, Cisgender, coming-of-age, friends to lovers, homophobia, in the closet, coming out, athlete

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Where my ideas come from by Jere’ M. Fishback

People ask me where my ideas for my stories come from, and I always have to tell them, “I don’t know.” When I start a new book, I only have a character in mind who has a problem or a challenge to face and I know the setting for the story, that’s about it. I never outline my books, I could not imagine doing so because my stories develop as I go along. After a while I find the characters are telling me what to write and where they want to the story to go. I know that sounds strange but it’s true.

Synopsis

Ever since their boyhood days, fifteen-year-old Jesse has craved something more than friendship from Kevin Corrigan. Athletic, handsome and cocky, Kevin doesn’t seem approachable. But when Kevin spends a summer at Jesse’s family’s beach home, an affair ignites between them, one so intense it engulfs both boys in a emotional tug of war neither wants to give up on.

Excerpt

Kevin Corrigan and Me
Jere’ M. Fishback © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Kevin Corrigan died two days ago, on a Thursday, at the age of sixty-five. I know this only because I saw his obituary in this morning’s Tampa Bay Times. The obit provided limited information: date of birth, date of death, and Kevin’s place of residence, Madeira Beach. It also said Kevin had no known survivors, but that isn’t really true because I’m still alive and I am very much Kevin’s survivor.

My name is Jesse Lockhart. I grew up in the Jungle area of west St. Petersburg, Florida, in a cinder-block home with a fireplace, casement windows, a weed-and-dirt yard, no air-conditioning, and an ineffective furnace. My parents divorced when I was six years old and my father disappeared shortly after that, so he wasn’t a factor in my life. I lived with my mother and younger sister, Lisa.

Kevin was an only child who lived next door to me with his Boston Irish parents. He was a year older than me, and between my parents’ divorce and the time I reached the age of eleven, Kevin became my primary masculine influence.

I worshipped him.

Always half a head taller than me, Kevin was lanky, with curly blond hair and a riot of freckles dancing across his turned-up nose. His blue eyes twinkled, and he was athletic in a way I would never be. He had a cocky attitude; he wasn’t intimidated by anything or anybody, not snarling dogs, rattlesnakes, teenagers, or any type of authority figure: cops, umpires, or the nuns that taught at his Catholic primary school.

Okay, he wasn’t the sharpest when it came to his schoolwork. I was mostly a straight-A student while Kevin scraped by with Cs, and every time report cards issued, his mom compared mine to his. Then she’d say to Kevin, “Why can’t you be more like Jesse?”

But Kevin wasn’t meant for school and textbooks; he wasn’t designed to perform academic tasks. His world was the palmetto and pine forest near our homes, the baseball diamonds in our part of town, a tree house he built for himself, and the streets and alleys of our suburban neighborhood.

It seems hard for me to believe now, but when I was eight and Kevin nine, he and I often rode a city bus, unaccompanied by an adult, from the Jungle all the way to downtown St. Petersburg, a ten-mile journey, just to see a matinee at the Florida Theater. Afterward, we’d visit a magic shop called Sone’s, a quirky place run by a Japanese couple where we bought stupid things to bring home: fake plastic puke, a whoopee cushion, and cigarette loads I snuck into my mom’s Viceroys; they exploded with a bang shortly after she lit up. Once we bought a tin of itching powder, which I think was simply shredded fiberglass, and then on the bus ride home, Kevin surreptitiously sprinkled some of the powder down the backs of two women’s sundresses, causing the women to writhe and scratch while we giggled and jabbed each other in the ribs.

Kevin’s home life was a mess. His father, Colonel Frank Corrigan, was a wheelchair-bound WWII veteran who’d sustained spinal damage in the Pacific theater. He was in constant pain, and this caused him to be cranky and out of sorts. He puffed on Hav-A-Tampa cigars jammed into a holder he’d fashioned from a coat hanger because his fingers didn’t work very well. He drove a black Cadillac with the accelerator and brakes operated by calipers attached to the steering wheel. He was always yelling at Kevin for one thing or another in a barking tone I could hear a block away. His favorite epithet was, “I’m gonna kill that kid, Margaret.”

Margaret was Kevin’s mother, the Corrigan household martyr who endured Kevin’s mischievous behavior and her husband’s unceasing demands. A bulky woman with auburn hair and a narrow, thin-lipped mouth, she bathed the Colonel, helped him in and out of bed, got him dressed, and cooked the family meals. She washed clothes in an old-fashioned ringer-style washtub, then hung them to dry on a clothesline in the Corrigans’ backyard. She always seemed tired and dispirited to me. I rarely heard her laugh, and I often wondered whether the Colonel and Margaret had once enjoyed a happy marriage, back when the Colonel was healthy and Kevin wasn’t part of their lives.

The Corrigans’ social life revolved around the Madeira Beach Moose Lodge, the VFW, and St. Jude Catholic Church. Every Sunday they piled into their Cadillac to attend Mass with the Colonel’s wheelchair loaded into the trunk by his wife. Once I went with them; I was curious to see how a Catholic service might differ from those at my Methodist church. Much to my surprise, the St. Jude Mass was conducted in Latin; I couldn’t understand a word the priest said. Money was collected from parishioners through use of a metal basket attached to a telescoping aluminum pole operated by an usher. The day I was there, Kevin pretended to put money in the basket, but instead he stole a dollar when his folks weren’t watching, then stuffed it into his pocket after giving me a wink. I felt appalled by his behavior, but of course I didn’t snitch; I wouldn’t have dreamt of it.

Kevin was a natural athlete; he could play any sport—baseball, basketball, or football—with agility and grace. But he couldn’t get along with other players; he constantly got into scraps with members of opposing teams, or even with his own teammates. He had a way of needling guys with sarcastic remarks about their lack of athletic prowess or even their looks. (“Is that your nose or are you eating a banana?”) In fact, he seemed incapable of forming true friendships with anyone other than me.

For reasons I didn’t understand at the time, Kevin was drawn to me just as I was drawn to him. He never teased or threatened or taunted me like he did other boys in the neighborhood. He never called me an insulting nickname. I was by nature a gentle boy who lacked self-confidence in the masculine world, so I never tried emulating Kevin’s miscreant behaviors on my own, but I loved serving as his sidekick and sycophant. I relished my role as abettor.

Many of our neighbors had citrus trees in their backyards: oranges, tangerines, and grapefruits. One night, at Kevin’s suggestion, we snuck into the neighbors’ properties to fill two paper grocery sacks full of grapefruits larger than softballs. Across the street from my house, a huge live oak grew in the right-of-way. One of the oak’s limbs stretched across the road like an arm reaching for a box of crackers in the cupboard. Toting our sacks of grapefruits, Kevin and I scaled the tree and perched ourselves on the limb overlooking the road. When a car passed beneath us, Kevin or I dropped a grapefruit on the car’s windshield, which always scared the bejeezus out of the car’s occupants. Women screamed and brakes squealed. Men cursed. But of course no one could see us up there in the darkness.

Every Halloween Kevin and I dressed as hobos. We scavenged the neighborhood, collecting candy in our pillowcases while pulling the occasional prank. My favorite was one where Kevin scooped up a pile of dog turds using a Sabal palm boot as a shovel. He dropped the turds on someone’s doorstep, soaked them in lighter fluid, and set them on fire. Then he rang the unsuspecting homeowner’s doorbell. The result, of course, was never in doubt. The surprised resident stomped the fire out with his shoe, only to belatedly discover what sort of material flamed. Kevin and I hid in a nearby bush, watching and chuckling so hard I think I might have peed in my pants.

Kevin liked to spy on people at night, on weekends or during summers when we could stay out until nine or ten. We peeped on women undressing, on an old guy who picked his nose and ate the boogers, on a pair of men who slow-danced together in their underwear to Johnny Mathis records, on a high school boy who often pleasured himself while leafing through a girlie magazine. I, of course, had never seen such things before. Kevin’s spying opened up a whole new world for me, one I knew I would never discuss with my mom or sister or anyone else. How could I possibly?

I remember one summer when the Colonel traded in his Cadillac for a two-toned, cinnamon-and-cream Rambler station wagon. The Corrigans took a month-long cross-country trip in the Rambler, all the way to California, where Kevin sent me a postcard from Disneyland. He sent me another from the Alamo in San Antonio. Both were places I’d always dreamed of visiting, but figured I’d never see. That was a miserable month for me. I felt jealous of Kevin’s travels and as lonely as I’d ever been in my young life. I think I was nine then. Of course there were other boys in the neighborhood and I did my best to pass the time with them, but it wasn’t the same as being with Kevin. I longed for the day the Corrigans would return.

The Corrigans’ house stood north of ours. Kevin’s bedroom was at the southwest corner, while my bedroom was at the northwest corner of our house, so Kevin and I always slept about twenty feet apart. If we’d wanted to, we could have tossed a football back and forth between our bedroom windows. But I never spent the night with Kevin and he never spent the night with me because Kevin was a chronic bed-wetter. His mother kept a fitted rubber sheet on his mattress at all times, and this went on for as long as Kevin lived next door. I didn’t know anything about the reasons behind bed-wetting, but even then I suspected it was caused by emotional distress of one sort or another, probably linked to his poor school grades, his father’s withering tirades, and the Colonel’s very obvious disability that surely must have embarrassed Kevin. But I always kept his bed-wetting problem to myself; I never even mentioned it to my mother or sister. I figured I owed it to Kevin to keep his habit a secret from the rest of the world.

When Kevin and I were boys, Catholics were not supposed to eat meat of any sort on Fridays: no beef, chicken, or pork. So every Friday Mrs. Corrigan prepared a dinner featuring Mrs. Paul’s fish sticks. These were tasteless little rectangles of processed and frozen cod you heated up on a cookie sheet, and Kevin detested them.

“They taste like cardboard,” he told me, “even when I cover them with tartar sauce.”

At our house, my mom prepared a fried chicken dinner every Friday—the tasty meal was a ritual—and every Friday Kevin would sneak over to our house to dine on fried chicken, unbeknownst to his parents. Of course, my mom knew what was up, but she never told Kevin’s parents he violated God’s law every Friday night. She let him gnaw on wings and legs with abandon because Mom was that way. Within reason, she believed in giving kids the freedom to do whatever they chose.

The summer before my sixth-grade year, I was nearly eleven and Kevin was already twelve. He was almost as tall as my mom at that point—he’d put some muscle onto his frame as well—and I remember very clearly an incident involving Kevin, a truly cathartic experience for me. I had just finished my breakfast and brushed my teeth, and I walked over to the Corrigans’ house to see what Kevin was up to. Their garage door was open, and I heard someone rattling about inside, so I walked into the garage’s shadowy interior where I found Kevin rummaging through the contents of a cardboard box. He wore nothing but a flimsy pair of briefs that clung to his buttocks and displayed a randy bulge in front.

Kevin might as well have been naked.

Right away my mouth grew sticky and my knees wobbled. I lived with two females—I had never seen another boy in his underwear—and the sight of Kevin’s lean physique captivated me in a strange way I hadn’t felt before. There in the garage, I thought Kevin was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. I felt so stunned I couldn’t speak. I just clenched and unclenched my fingers at my hips while I kept my gaze focused on Kevin.

When he finally noticed me standing there, Kevin gazed at me with his eyes narrowed and his forehead crinkled, as if to say, “What are you looking at?”

It was then, of course, I realized something about myself that I’d never before suspected: I felt a physical attraction to Kevin; I wanted to touch him in ways that weren’t allowed in the world we dwelt in, and the realization that I harbored these urges frightened me out of my wits. I didn’t know what to do or say, so I turned on my heel and ran back to my house as quickly as I could. I went to my room and closed the door behind me. Then, after I sat on my bed, I rocked back and forth while wagging my knees and cracking my knuckles. My stomach roiled and my heart thumped. Between my legs, I felt a stiffening as I recalled exactly what I’d seen in the Corrigans’ garage. My viewing of an almost nude Kevin had seared his sex appeal into my brain, and I was never quite the same guy after that morning. There in my bedroom, I knew I was somehow different than other boys, and though I couldn’t yet articulate how I was different, I was certainly on my way to finding out. Neither Kevin nor I ever mentioned the incident in the garage after it happened. In fact I suspect Kevin had no idea what it had meant to me or how that moment had altered my view of myself.

But I knew.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

 

Jere’ M. Fishback is a former journalist and trial lawyer who now writes fiction full time. He lives with his partner Greg on a barrier island on Florida’s Gulf Coast. When he’s not writing, Jere’ enjoys reading, playing his guitar, jogging, swimming laps, fishing, and watching sunsets from his deck overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway.

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Tour Schedule

6/19    Bayou Book Junkie

6/19    MM Good Book Reviews

6/20    Divine Magazine

6/21    Stories That Make You Smile

6/22    Dean Frech

6/22    Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews

6/23    Love Bytes Reviews 

6/23    Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

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Release Day Blitz for A Way with Words by Lane Hayes (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  A Way with Words

Series: A Way With Stories Series

Author: Lane Hayes

Publisher: Self Pub

Release Date: June 22

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 24k approximately

Genre: Romance, Contemporary Romance, Humor, New York City
Amazon- http://amzn.to/2sXx9mn

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Synopsis

 

Tony De Luca is a simple guy. He works for his uncle’s Brooklyn-based construction firm. And he knows from experience that keeping his head down and doing his job is the best way to deal with the meddlesome family members he sees daily. They think he’s quiet and maybe a little awkward but the truth is more complicated. Tony has a secret he isn’t ready or willing to share. He’s an expert at avoiding familial scrutiny. At least he was until the sexy guitar player showed up.
Remy Nelson is a small-town, free-spirited guy looking for a new life in the big city. He stays busy playing his instrument on a busy Manhattan street corner during the day and bartending at night. Remy is more interested in finding steady employment than a mate, but he can’t deny his attraction to the dreamy construction worker with soulful eyes, a kind heart, and a unique way with words. Falling for Remy wasn’t what Tony expected, but keeping him will require courage. And an end to keeping secrets.

 

Excerpt

“Yeah, that’s no fun. But it’s good to make new friends.” He gave me a sideways grin. “Like us.”

“Yeah, except you make me sweat,” I admitted with a half chuckle. Then I added, “In a good way. I like you.”

Remy hummed softly and sidled closer to me, resting his thigh against mine. “I like you too, Tony. You make me smile.”

We stared at each other for a long moment. All those funny details came rushing at me. Things I never noticed about other people. The gorgeous halo of curls, the shape of his eyes, the freckle on his cheek and those luscious lips. The lone bulb above the back door illuminated him in a yellowish light that shouldn’t have been flattering but I had a feeling Remy would look good with a paper bag on his head. Wait. That didn’t make sense. I furrowed my brow and cocked my head just as Remy set his arm over my shoulder and pulled me forward.

My heart raced when the tips of our noses brushed and our breath commingled visibly in the cool air. With a courage I didn’t know I possessed, I angled my head and slowly touched my lips to his. Just a touch. He had room to pull away. Hell, he even had room to punch me if I got this totally wrong. But when he purred softly and licked the corner of my mouth, I knew we were on the same page.

I cradled the back of his head and gently threaded my fingers through his hair. I held him like he was a fragile flower or something. Then in my typical bull-in-a-china-store style, I plunged my tongue between his lips. Remy gasped at the onslaught but he didn’t miss a beat. He wrapped both of his arms around my neck, drawing me close as he glided his tongue over mine, twirling and sucking feverishly.

I didn’t know how long we made out on that stoop but I could have done it all damn night. He tasted incredible and he felt even better. I loved the way he pressed his chest against mine and those sexy noises he made drove me wild. I wanted more than we were able to do on a cigarette break. Much more.

We broke for air and eyed each other, looking for clues. Or maybe that was just me. I couldn’t be the one in charge of directing traffic here. I was out of my depth. He had to tell me what came next. I’d never figure it out on my own. Remy caressed my cheek and smiled before leaning in to nibble on my bottom lip.

“I have to go,” he whispered.

“Okay. I’ll see ya ’round.” My huskier than usual voice didn’t mesh with the casual vibe I was going for.

Remy pulled back with a smirk. “That’s all you’re going to say? “See ya”? Don’t you want my number or something?”

“Um yeah. Yeah, I do.” I pulled out my cell and handed it to him. “Put it in. My hands are shaking.”

This time when he smiled, I felt it deep inside me. The butterflies in my stomach fluttered like crazy but in a good way.

Available for Purchase at Amazon

Meet the Author

Lane Hayes is grateful to finally be doing what she loves best. Writing full-time! It’s no secret Lane loves a good romance novel. An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to well-told love story with beautifully written characters. These days she prefers the leading roles to both be men. Lane discovered the M/M genre a few years ago and was instantly hooked. Her debut novel was a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist and subsequent books have received Honorable Mentions, and were winners in the 2016 Rainbow Awards. She loves red wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in an almost empty nest.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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Blog Tour for Queer Magick (Queer Magick Vol. 1) by L.C. Davis (special excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Queer Magick

Series: Queer Magick Vol. 1

Author: L.C. Davis

Publisher:  Self-Published

Release Date: April 26, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: M/M/M, Male/Male Menage

Length: 212 pages

Genre: Romance, Fantasy, Horror, lgbt, polyamory, genderqueer, trans MC

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Synopsis

An LGBT+ fantasy of apocalyptic proportions.

Twenty-something Holden Adams never asked to be the harbinger of the apocalypse, or for the seven lovers who come with the job. All he wanted in Stillwater, Vermont was a fresh start, but his past as a preacher’s kid turned witch threatens any hope he has of a normal life in the idyllic town. A fateful encounter with a strange cat on the brink of death earns Holden a new enemy and some unlikely friends, but as Stillwater reveals itself not to be as conventional as it appears, the line between the two becomes irreparably blurred.

Daniel St. James is getting too old for this crap. The love of his life turned out to be a cold-blooded killer and while Dennis got away with murder thirteen years earlier, Daniel and the rest of the town are still reeling from the tragedy. Now some kid who claims to be a witch waltzes into town and all of a sudden, Daniel’s unflinchingly straight best friend is head over heels for Holden. Chaos has a way of following Holden, revealing a web of supernatural secrets around Daniel that makes him question everything he believes about the town he’s lived in his entire life–and everything he doesn’t.

Welcome to Stillwater. Things are a little queer here.

Special Excerpt

 

“So, tell me about yourself, Holden. Did you really come here for the plants?” The way Nick’s eyes shone in the moonlight made it pretty damn clear he knew I was lying about my reason for moving to Stillwater, but at least he didn’t seem offended.

“No,” I confessed. “Honestly, I came here because I wanted to go somewhere that was the complete opposite of the place I grew up in, if that makes any sense.”

“It does,” he said thoughtfully. “A lot, actually.”

Normally, silence made me nervous unless I was enjoying it alone, but being around Nick was almost as easy. “So,” he began, “I hear you’re a cat thief.”

“That damn doctor can’t keep his mouth shut,” I muttered.

Nick laughed. “To be fair, I’m usually the first person he calls to bitch to.”

“You’re friends?” I did a poor job of hiding my shock, if his grin was any indication.

“Daniel’s an acquired taste, but he’s a good guy. Just a little…”

“Obnoxious? Overbearing? Judgmental?”

“I was gonna say crusty, but yes to all of the above. Sorry about the diner. I heard he laid into you pretty bad.”

“That’s putting it mildly.”

“He’s just a little overprotective of this town. Thinks he’s its self-appointed guardian or some shit.” He looked me over, tilting his head. “Did you really take that cat from his office?”

“Yes, but in my defense, I was the one who brought it in.”

Nick shook his head. “Man, you picked the wrong day to piss him off. Daniel holds a grudge like no one’s business.”

“Good to know,” I said with a sigh. “If you’re such good friends, do you think I’m a charlatan, too?”

“Nah. I’ve got a good feeling about you, and my gut’s never wrong.” He shrugged. “Besides, I’m pretty sure I saw that cat wandering around earlier and he was fine. I don’t exactly believe in miracle cures, but whatever you did obviously worked.”

“You saw the cat? Where?” I asked hopefully.

“Outside Daniel’s place, actually.” He chuckled.

“What?”

“Just thinking about the look on his face when he sees that thing. He’s convinced you’re keeping it in your freezer or something.

I grimaced. “Glad I’m making such a positive impression in my new town.”

“Aw, don’t worry about it. You’ve made a good impression on the people who count.”

“Your aunt and uncle?”

“Them, too.” He grinned.

I couldn’t help but smile. Cocky son of a…

Nick’s phone buzzed in his pocket and he took it out, frowning. “Sorry, I’ve gotta get going.”

“A prior engagement?”

“More like someone is coming who I’d rather avoid.” He paused. “What are you doing tomorrow night?”

“Nothing much, really. Why?”

“There’s not a lot to do in Stillwater, but I could give you the tour after work. We could grab something to eat after.”

I hesitated, mostly because I was sheltered enough that I was having a hard time figuring out whether he was asking me out or just being friendly. Before I could ask, he added, “And yes, it would be a date.”

My face grew warm and I hated how easy it was for me to turn into a blushing schoolboy talking to his crush around Nick. Looked like my gaydar was off, after all. “Yeah, that sounds nice.”

“Cool. I’ll pick you up at seven.”

“You know where I live?”

His face went blank. “Yeah, Aunt Carla told me.”

“Right.” I laughed. “Of course. Small town.”

“Hope you don’t have any deep, dark secrets,” he teased.

I forced a smile but felt that old familiar feeling of dread creeping in again. “Oh, just a few.”

Purchase at Amazon

Meet the Author

L.C. Davis is a trans & nonbinary author of lgbt fantasy and romance with a passion for representation. His current series include Queer Magick, Kingdom of Night and The Mountain Shifters.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | eMail

Tour Schedule

6/12    Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews

6/12    Happily Ever Chapter

6/13    Books,Dreams,Life

6/14    MM Good Book Reviews 

6/15    Boy Meets Boy Reviews 

6/16    Stories That Make You Smile 

6/17    Sharing Links and Wisdom

6/18    Divine Magazine

6/19    Queer Sci Fi

6/20    Love Bytes 

6/21    Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words 

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Blog Tour for Sum of the Whole by Brenda Murphy with our Author Interview (Excerpt and Giveaway)

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Title:  Sum of the Whole

Author: Brenda Murphy

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: June 19

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 50000

Genre: Contemporary, Contemporary, BDSM, age gap, interracial, businesswoman

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~Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with Brenda Murphy~

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Brenda Murphy here today talking about writing, books, and her latest story Sum of the Whole!, Welcome, Brenda!

 

When did you write your first story and what was the inspiration for it?

The first story I submitted for publication was 1500 word short story and the inspiration came from a news headline. It was rejected but the editor gave me very good feedback and encouragement.

Do you have a writing schedule or do you just write when you can find the time?

I stick to a strict writing schedule and write from nine AM until one PM, Monday through Friday when my kids are in school. During the summer and when they are on break I write in bits and pieces, making use of whatever time I have. If I am deep into a story, I will write after they go to bed. I wrote my master’s thesis between the time they were born (I have twins) and when they were one. I learned how to write fast and make progress with little bits of time.

Briefly describe the writing process. Do you create an outline first? Do you seek out inspirational pictures, videos or music? Do you just let the words flow and then go back and try and make some sense out it?

I do a lot of pre-writing, backstory and such, coming up with my characters and the setting for the story. I make a playlist choosing a theme song for the lead character, and choose songs that create a mood for the book.  Once that is in place I create goal/motivation/conflict sheets for each character, write up a brief physical description and find a photo that will represent that character. After that I create a scene list writing down ideas as they come to me. Once I have a list, I transfer the scenes to 3×5 cards with a sentence or two about what has to happen in that scene to move the story forward. I lay them out and rearrange them on the floor of my office until the story flows. I know that a scene is about a thousand words so the number of cards used is about my word count, eighty cards would equal about eighty thousand words. I transfer the final organization of cards to Scrivner and then start typing.

Where did the desire to write LGBTQIA+ stories come from?

As a gender non-conforming queer woman I write the kind of stories I want read. Growing up there were very few books that featured LGBTQIA characters, and the ones that existed portrayed the characters in very negative ways and never had happy endings. 

How much research do you do when writing a story and what are the best sources you’ve found for giving an authentic voice to your characters?

I love to travel and talk to people. I always keep a travel journal and take notes/photographs to use in my stories.  To give my characters authentic voices I read ethnographic research, oral histories, and blogs. When I write outside my race/ethnicity, I have lovley friends who are willing to read my manuscript and give me feedback about my characters.

Synopsis

Jaya Pomroy falls desperately in love with Sarah while vacationing at an exclusive BDSM pleasure house. Unwilling to become Jaya’s possession, yearning for independence, Sarah refuses to leave with her and they part after a bitter fight.

Six years later they meet again. Fighting to leave her past behind, but unable to resist her attraction for Jaya, Sarah agrees to try again. Jaya has to cope with new rules and new roles. When a former client threatens to expose Sarah, Jaya risks everything to protect her.

Can their love survive in the real world filled with vengeful ex-lovers and deadly secrets?

Excerpt

Sum of the Whole
Brenda Murphy © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Jaya scrolled through the messages on her phone, rereading the instructions from the owner of the house. Her palms were sweaty in spite of the air conditioning. She shifted her hips, trying to find a comfortable spot on the broad leather seats.

“Do you wish to stop, Mistress? It’ll be at least an hour before we reach the house.” The driver’s husky voice matched her stocky build and ruddy face. Jaya appraised the thick hands wrapped around the wheel and the way the chauffeur’s livery draped her broad shoulders and considered it. The woman made eye contact with Jaya in the rearview mirror, one eyebrow raised and lips in a closed-mouth smile. Jaya imagined saying, “Yes, let us stop somewhere and I’ll flog you until we’re both satisfied,” but the instructions from Rowan House were explicit and interactions with the staff were not permitted outside the house.

“No.” Jaya kept her voice soft and let her gaze rest on the woman’s face in the mirror. “I’m tired of people staring at me.”

“You’re a sight, Ma’am, if you don’t mind me saying so.”

“You’d think they’d never seen a woman in a suit before.” Jaya left out the word “dark-skinned.”

“It’s your height, Ma’am. And you’re fetching in that suit. I imagine out of it as well.”

Jaya looked down. She had not flirted like this in years and it was wonderful, even if she knew it was not going to lead to anything more.

“Do you always flirt with your guests?” She relaxed her shoulders and sat back in the seat.

“Only the ones I find—” The driver looked at Jaya in the mirror. “Stunning.” She turned on the radio and went back to piloting the long, black town car through roundabouts as they left Armadale. As they traveled farther from the city, she was occupied dodging rough spots and the occasional mud-splattered sheep wandering along the edge of the single-track road.

Jaya sank into the soft leather seats, grateful for the distraction of the driver’s banter and the tinted windows, dark enough to hide her face from anyone who might try to catch a glimpse of the car’s passengers. On the ferry to Skye, she had caught more than one mother reminding her children not to stare. The curious faces of the children were better than the hard looks she got from the men on the ship. Half of them looked like they wanted to fuck her; the other half looked like they wanted to kill her. Some probably wanted to do both.

She had not anticipated how angry she would feel under the gaze of the other passengers. She had almost wished one of the rude men would start something so she could finish it. She had worn this suit to her father’s funeral, to her brother’s dismay. An orphan again at thirty-five. The high from the banter with the driver wore off and she slumped in her seat. She sifted through her memories of the last two years. Her father’s illness and slow death, her brother’s anger, and Deidre’s departure blended into an oppressing melancholy. What the hell was I thinking? Why am I looking for comfort here?

She could have chosen another venue for her adventure, but Jaya wanted to experience this house. The house Deidre spoke of as her home. She lied to herself, telling herself she chose this house because it was highly recommended as a discreet, old-school establishment dedicated to unique and personalized experiences.

Deidre. The woman of sorrows. Never was a woman more truly named. Jaya scrolled through the photos of Deidre on her phone. Brutal memories of their life together filled the emptiness of the ride. As they traveled farther into the country, the battery on her phone quietly expired. Jaya tucked it into her bag and let the rocking of the car soothe her as they drove past rough stone walls and rocky pastures.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

 

Brenda Murphy writes both short stories and novels. She is a member of Romance Writers of America. Her non-fiction and fiction work has been published in various collections—most recently, “Whole Again” in First: Sensual Stories of New Beginnings (Ladylit Publishing, 2015).

When she is not writing or teaching cooking classes, she’s attempting to train an unrepentant parrot, much to her Ohioan family’s delight. She writes about life, books, and writing on her blog, writingwhiledistracted.com. She shares recipes and celebrates food on her blog, quinbykitchensideshow.com.

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Tour Schedule

 

6/19    Love Bytes – http://www.lovebytesreviews.com

6/19    Boy Meets Boy Reviews – Boymeetsboyreviews.blogspot.com

6/20    Scattered Thoughts and Roue Words – https://scatteredthoughtsandroguewords.com/

6/20    Liz’s Reading Life – http://lizjosette.blogpsot.com

6/20    Erotica For All – http://eroticaforall.co.uk

6/21    Happily Ever Chapter – https://www.facebook.com/happilyeverchapter

6/21    My Fiction Nook – http://myfictionnook.com

6/22    MM Good Book Reviews – https://mmgoodbookreviews.wordpress.com/

6/23    Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews – http://wickedfaeriesreviews.blogspot.com

6/23    Divine Magazine – https://www.divinemagazine.biz/

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Release Day Blitz Drama Queens and Devilish Schemes by Kevin Klehr (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Drama Queens and Devilish Schemes

Series: Actor and Angels, Book 3

Author: Kevin Klehr

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: June 19

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 54000

Genre: Contemporary Fantasy, performance arts, drug/alcohol use, contemporary, established relationship, angels, demons, over 40

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Synopsis

Adam is dead, but that’s not his only problem. His husband, Wade, is still alive and sleeping with losers. His guardian angel, Guy, has grown fond of the liquor cabinet. And Adam suspects his demise was the result of foul play.

Meanwhile, in the depths of the Afterlife, the devil forces Adam to put on a play for the sinners. If he fails to entertain them, Guy’s parents will spend eternity in the Underworld.

As he gambles with the freedom of the damned angels, Adam comes to terms with infidelity, friendship, and the reason why he was the victim of a double murder.

Excerpt

Drama Queens and Devilish Schemes
Kevin Klehr © 2017
All Rights Reserved

It was like being in a Hollywood remake of The Jetsons, suspended in air and surrounded by cloudless sky, with interweaving conveyor belts shifting us farther to the front.

Behind me a couple of lesbians fidgeted while peering forward, trying to see where we were going. Below, another mix of curious folk deliberately moved forward on this mechanical mess of pathways. Above me, the same.

“Do you have any idea what’s going on?” asked one of the women behind me.

While she could pass for the girl next door, all made up with lips as red as a 1950s advert model, her checkered dress spoiled the effect with its huge smoldering burn mark.

“What happened,” I queried.

Her partner stuck out what was left of her tongue. It too was charcoal black with a melted piercing smeared all over it.

“Let’s just say, never get frisky outside while there’s a thunderstorm.”

She reached for her skirt and was about to lift it to prove her point. I clutched her wrist just in time.

“I get it. Your girlfriend’s stud became the conductor. I don’t need to see something that will haunt me for the rest of my life.”

Her eyes widened. “Your life? Look at your chest!”

I released her arm and felt my heart. It was like someone had used too much starch while ironing my shirt. I examined a rusty brown stain on the crisp white cotton.

“I’ve returned, but this time for good,” I muttered.

“Wha uw ya awing awout?” said the one with the brittle tongue.

“What did she say?”

“I think she wants to know what you’re talking about.”

I stood on tippy-toes to see farther ahead, but all I saw was a long row of people waiting patiently.

“I’ve been here before, I think. I’m not sure.” I jumped high on the spot but still couldn’t see where we were going. “I guess that’s why I’ve got this frantic ink blot on my chest.”

“Sweet cheeks, it’s blood.”

“Yes, I know that.”

“So what’s your story? How did it get there?”

I felt it again. Its sandpaper texture began to crumble. “I wish I knew.” Bending sideways, I tried to steal a glimpse, but it was no use.

“Well, it’s not quite how I imagined it. I’m not sure it’s how you saw it either, Frida.” She held her girlfriend’s hand. “I was expecting tattooed angels parked on clouds with big black motorcycles ready to take us to Heaven.”

Frida nodded.

“What did you expect, um, what’s your name?”

“Adam.”

“Hi, I’m Sue.” We shook hands. “And this is Frida.”

“Ice oo eet yoo.”

“My pleasure.”

“So, is this the way you pictured it?”

“No, I can’t say it is. My partner isn’t here.”

“What’s his name?”

“Wade. We’ve been together for nearly nineteen years. Or at least, we were.”

“I’m sorry he’s not with you.”

I felt my bloodstain once more.

“Well, at least he survived, if what happened to me happened to him, if that makes sense?” I bit my bottom lip. “Actually I really don’t know what I’m talking about.”

“Aw leees ee awive…”

Sue raised her hand like a cop stopping traffic.

“Don’t try to speak, darling. It looks like hard work.”

“Yeah, but I get what Frida’s trying to say. At least Wade’s alive instead of here.”

“A silver lining in the cloud.”

“That’s one way of looking at it.”

Below me a young chap in a Second World War uniform peeled off his gloves. His conveyor belt had stopped. An African woman wearing more colors than a rainbow tried to speak to him, but he seemed too traumatized to reply. She raised her arms in disappointment and began talking to the gray-haired woman behind her.

“Leopard print,” said Sue.

“Huh?”

“Check out the middle-aged woman in the leopard print, far behind us. Wow! She’s wearing more jewelry than a 1960s movie star.”

I looked. “I think she is a 60s movie star. Look at that beehive!”

“Jackie O she ain’t.”

“And look at the older woman next to her. A lollipop in a pantsuit.”

“Adam, how can they be from the 60s?”

“Now I know I’ve been here before.” I glanced ahead and saw the tip of a wing obstructed by the others on my conveyor belt. I couldn’t hold back my smile. “Sue, let me ask you something. What era are you from?”

“Nineteen ninety-three. Why? Aren’t you?”

I pointed to the man in uniform. Sue’s jaw dropped steadily.

“And what country?”

“Poland. And you?”

“Australia, twenty-first century.”

“You speak Polish well for an Australian.”

“Sue, I’m not speaking Polish.”

She shared stunned looks with Frida.

“Wha iz ee alking avout?”

“Girls, you’re about to enter a world I’ve been dreaming of returning to since I was last taken from earth before my time.”

“Maybe you should try Polish. I have no idea what you mean.”

Frida rotated her finger by the side of her head; a gesture to make out I was loony. Sue shrugged before carrying on a private conversation with her girlfriend about the family they’d left behind.

A few drops of water splashed on my face. I looked to the moving path above. A group of teenagers also from the 60s flower-power days stood shivering, saturated to the core. One long-haired guy, with enough swirls on his shirt to send you into a trance, saw me.

“Never do your own plumbing when you’re tripping, man,” he called. “I flooded the apartment.”

“Why didn’t you run outside?”

A naked girl with waist-length long hair clutched onto his arm. “I thought I was swimming in candy floss,” she replied.

“Candy floss!” he said. “I thought the sky had fallen and there was no escape.”

“Weren’t we in space, floating?” asked another.

I chuckled before bending sideways to look ahead. I saw half his body. My guardian angel, Guy. He acknowledged me with a kind grin. I was eager to jump to the head of the queue. I took a calm breath, stood up straight, and closed my eyes.

I already sensed his comforting hugs, letting me know I’d returned to safety. I could feel his strong wings wrap around me like an extra layer of armor. Nothing would harm me here in the Afterlife, not with him by my side.

“Adam’s here,” said another voice I recognized.

“Yeah,” Guy replied. “There’s something I need to explain.”

“Mannix?” I mumbled to myself.

Many passengers later I was at the front. I stepped off the conveyor belt onto thin air, and before a word was uttered, both the angel and my old friend wrapped their arms around me. I clutched them tightly, never wanting to let go. Huge smiles engulfed us all. Behind me were bewildered murmurs, as a stray tear from Guy softened my cheek.

“I’ve missed you,” I said to my angel. I kissed him tenderly on the forehead. “And I missed you too, Mannix.”

“Welcome to the Afterlife again,” said Guy.

“Why am I here?” I whispered. We stepped apart.

“I think this time you’re actually dead,” Mannix replied.

He sounded unsure, like a wife telling her tired husband that there might be a burglar in their house. He was still in his early thirties, just as he was the last time I was whisked off to the Afterlife six months earlier.

His sensual demeanor still warmed me in places I’m too polite to mention, even though his boyhood looks had faded slightly since we last met. A man was taking his place. A man wise beyond his years, wearing older-sexy like a stylish coat.

“Where’s Wade?” I asked.

“Sadly mourning your demise, my friend,” Guy said in a hushed tone. “Adam, we’ll talk about that later.”

I touched the dried blood on my shirt, crumbling it into tiny pieces that fell away.

“Guy, I need to know what happened.”

He turned to Mannix. “I’m releasing you from welcoming duties to show Adam his new home.”

“Which is where?” the young man asked.

Guy pulled out a key from his trouser pocket. “The apartment under mine.” He had a devilish grin. “Adam’s not the only one who needs a friend at the moment.”

Purchase

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

 

Meet the Author

Kevin lives with his long-term partner, Warren, in their humble apartment (affectionately named Sabrina), in Australia’s own ‘Emerald City,’ Sydney.

From an early age, Kevin had a passion for writing, jotting down stories and plays until it came time to confront puberty. After dealing with pimple creams and facial hair, Kevin didn’t pick up a pen again until he was in his thirties. His handwritten manuscript was being committed to paper when his work commitments changed, giving him no time to write. Concerned, his partner, Warren, secretly passed the notebook to a friend who in turn came back and demanded Kevin finish his story. It wasn’t long before Kevin’s active imagination was let loose again.

His first novel spawned a secondary character named Guy, an insecure gay angel, but many readers argue that he is the star of the Actors and Angels book series. Guy’s popularity surprised the author.

So with his fictional guardian angel guiding him, Kevin hopes to bring more whimsical tales of love, life and friendship to his readers.

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Blog Tour and Giveaway for Will to Live by M. Christine (special excerpt)

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Title:  Will to Live

Author: M. Christine

Publisher:  Torrid Books

Release Date: March 16, 2017

Heat Level: 5 – Erotica

Pairing: Male/Female, Male/Female/Male (No Male/Male interaction), Female/Male/Female (No Female/Female interaction), Female/Female/Male (Female/Female interaction)

Length: 29,509 words

Genre: Erotica, BDSM, Contemporary,Multi-Cultural,Friends-to-lovers

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Synopsis

The old adage learn by doing sure applies to Williamson “Will” Franco, a dominant prodigy at age 18. If it weren’t for an impromptu threeway encounter—with a sideshow of anilingus—this truly intercultural young man never would have dreamed of spanking, bondage, and role play. So he becomes an employee of a sex club.

When Will shows up, club revenues jump. Consensual kinky sex is not a required part of the job, but is optional. The club, however, ends up being much more than a sexual awakening. His coworkers embrace him as kin, while the proprietress and her submissive husband end up being Will’s benefactors, bankrolling his education and guiding him on a good path, despite a dire home life in the hood.

The experience matures him, equips him to cope with inevitable family problems and tragedy, and shows him how to live.

Excerpt

Kendra then gave him a tour.

“There are so many fun things to do here,” she said. She walked demurely with Will, as if she were a debutante being courted by a gentleman. “For instance, if we detour into this big room, we find gloryhole action. There’s a big space over yonder where someone who’s really hungry for dick sits inside a cubicle, and the four walls around it have a bunch of holes for insertion. Then there’s a couple of smaller setups that accommodate a more intimate experience of one unknown cock, one unknown mouth.”

The more compact gloryhole structures reminded Will of confessionals, which made him feel uneasy. His grandmother was a devout Catholic, and he did not like thinking of his grandmother in connection to a gloryhole.

Kendra led him to another room. It was black-lit, and to enter it they were required to attach a bendable glow stick onto their bodies. Will could see a few glowing wrists groping frenetically at some dark mass of bodies; a few folks made illuminated cock rings or hooked their glow stick through nipple hoop piercings. A sweaty energy emitted from this grope center. Although Kendra longingly watched some of the action, Will stayed put. He let her get her eyeful as his arm remained linked to hers, but he did not budge toward that orgy.

There was a region of the club space to the side of the large main room, where rows of racks of varying heights were lined up against the walls. Bodies in various states of dress were fastened to most of them. Some racks were in an X-shape, others were like door jams with hooks on the outside, holding paddles and other toys.

“Are those whips?” inquired Will just before he heard a sharp crack. A hand flicking a blood-red bullwhip caught his eye. Will observed a big, pale set of anonymous butt cheeks receive a snap from the uncoiled object. The flesh flinched and wobbled hypnotically, though the biting blow appeared to draw blood, which jolted Will out of his dazed stare. He expanded his vision, noticing that the restrained female was wearing a cloth sack over her head.

Will noticed other people—men and women—clamped, locked, or roped onto the different racks. They were disciplined with paddles or riding crops, and Will became aware of the cacophony of slaps filling the space. There were a few attendees waiting in line for some of this action. One Bettie Page-type submissive apparently had her fill, calling out Uncle! as she squirmed inside her limb restraints. Her ebony-skinned female partner’s whole hand—gloved to the elbow—was inside her. G-spot liquid spilled out from her pussy as the dominatrix yanked out her fist. She wiped the wetness onto the bound female’s tits and stomach, dried her glove with a towel hanging nearby, and made a half-hearted effort to slacken the knots at the limp captive’s wrists. With one spiky stiletto, the domina tugged loose the sinew around her partner’s red and raw ankles. The released girl curled up on the floor, groveling at her top’s sexy high heels and long legs. Those legs kicked her aside while the fierce lady fetched a container of disinfectant wipes and threw it at her. The groveling one commenced to clean up the area and equipment they used. She gathered the trash and vacated the spot for those waiting their turn—which happened to be a threesome.

“I don’t see too many people smiling in this area,” Will said.

“Come this way,” Kendra responded with a tilt of her pretty head.

In one corner was a leather swing. Will once saw one like it on a porn site Yuri showed him. In the swing, which was hooked to the ceiling with industrial strength, was a fine Latina with her legs spread comfortably in the provided stirrups. She smiled and laughed as the swing rocked back and forth. Her pink labia was impaled on a rigid dick. The dude who the dick belonged to manipulated her swing to slush and stroke it over and over. The woman just giggled and sighed and grinned, speaking a few encouraging words like so thick, and oh, stud. When she spoke her voice was low and sexy, which made the guy push and pull her hips more intensely, and that made her squeal in delight.

“Hi, Evelyn,” cooed Kendra.

The swinger waved to Kendra and blew her a kiss, never breaking out of her state of pleasure.

.

Purchase

Torrid Books | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes

Meet the Author

M. Christine is a SoCal writers whose work is infused with an extended tour of duty in adult-magazine publishing, melting-pot subcultures, and art school.

Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | eMail | Simon & Schuster | Google Play

Tour Schedule

6/12 – millsylovesbooks

6/13 – Divine Magazine

6/14 – Books,Dreams,Life

6/15 – A Book Lover’s Dream Book Blog

6/16 – Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

6/16 – Happily Ever Chapter

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Release Day Blitz for Painting Class by Suzanne Clay (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Painting Class

Series: Chiaroscuro, Book 1

Author: Suzanne Clay

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: June 5, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 10300

Genre: Contemporary, erotica, contemporary, lesbian, artist, teacher/student, age-gap, interracial, light D/s

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Synopsis

Ainsley’s first gallery showing is way out of her comfort zone. After teaching high school art for over a decade, she can’t think of anywhere else she’d rather be than the classroom, and especially not in front of a crowd of strangers ogling her paintings.

Salvation comes in the form of an insightful young woman who coaxes Ainsley to open up about her inspiration, her drive, and her sexuality. Sparks fly before Ainsley realizes that the young woman is her former student, Noma, freshly graduated from college. As Ainsley fights to reconcile her memories of Noma with the woman she’s become, they fall into a playful game of dominance and submission that will change their relationship forever.

Excerpt

Painting Class
Suzanne Clay © 2017
All Rights Reserved

“You look like you might need this.”

Ainsley looked at the glass of wine hovering in front of her and smiled at her deliverance. “Thank you, Brent,” she murmured, exhaling shakily as she lifted it to her lips. Sipping carefully, she let the bouquet bloom on her tongue and checked that she hadn’t left a lipstick stain on the glass. “No one told me it was going to feel like this.”

“What, success?” Brent chuckled as he fit against the wall beside her, his hand tucked into his pocket, his suit neatly tailored as always. “Yeah, I feel like you probably should’ve anticipated this.”

Ainsley shook her head. Her bangs fell in her eyes as she ducked behind the rim of her glass. “I wouldn’t call this success. It’s a gallery showing.”

“That happens to have an open bar, an excellent setting, and a room full of people analyzing your work.” He gave her a look. “Babe, please, you’ve got something in your hand here that not a whole lot of us get.”

“Jealous?” she asked as she met his eyes and quirked a brow, trying to hide the curve of her smile.

“Oh, miserable,” Brent said dryly. “No, yeah, I absolutely wish I’d gone this route and not the one that got me my giant house.”

“Ouch.” Ainsley elbowed him. “You know, some of us weren’t lucky enough to bag a rich husband right out of college.”

“And some of us weren’t lucky enough to have actual talent,” he shot right back. He tilted his glass toward one of Ainsley’s paintings. “You worked with what you had, and I worked with what I had. Turns out you had the drive, and I had a rockin’ bod. And y’know, I think it worked out pretty damn well for the both of us.”

Ainsley laughed as she leaned into him. “You’re ridiculous.”

“Yeah, but it got you smiling, didn’t it?”

It had. Ainsley was thankful for Brent, really. These little bursts of comedic cattiness were a mask he hadn’t worn around her since they were in college, but it made her feel young again, not like they were nearing forty and trying to figure out where their lives had gone.

“You’ve gotta get back out there, kid,” Brent murmured near her ear. “Schmooze with the best of them.”

“Can’t you do that for me?” she whispered back.

“Boy, I wish,” he drawled. He touched a hand to the small of her back and nudged her. “Go on; get yourself some exposure. Sell some of those paintings. I wanna see one of them hanging in Madonna’s house by the end of the year.”

“Or it’ll be a wasted year,” Ainsley quipped back. But she let Brent guide her onto the gallery floor anyway. It’d be easier to hide in the corner and let her batteries recharge, but it’d also be a shame to waste this opportunity, especially if this was going to be her only gallery showing ever.

Ainsley hadn’t regretted her time working as a teacher. She really hadn’t. If she had to choose between every one of her paintings on the walls here and the thousands of students who’d come through her door, she’d pick the students a million times over. In her younger days as an undergrad, when she would quietly set up in a studio, picking the perfect paints for her canvas and thrilling herself with the feel of a brush in her hands, she might’ve said she craved the life of a gallery artist. But she’d changed. It felt like too selfish a life.

Should she have believed her art would change the world? She valued beauty. She valued a high aesthetic. Her statements were softness, silence, and warmth. And she’d be a fool if she pretended these were anything unique or groundbreaking. No, Ainsley found it more important to empower the next generation to create whatever statements they chose in whatever medium they preferred.

Still, Ainsley liked scratching things off her bucket list as much as the next person. She never imagined this show happening when she’d reached out on a whim, but it had, and now that she was here, she might as well soak it all up.

She approached her favorite piece, a lush field of flowers and two couples having a picnic within it. The two men were dressed in soft bowlers and fine suits, and the women, on their separate blanket, were lovely with their parasols and lace. Each couple had their hands gently knitted together between them, and their backs were to the viewer as they sat considering the sunset.

Perhaps she made more of a statement than she believed.

“Man, that’s really something.”

Ainsley smiled at hearing the soft voice behind her, at how low it was, how warm. It sounded exactly like she wanted her paintings to feel. She wondered if the speaker knew she was the artist and decided to take the risk they didn’t. But when there was no immediate response, no one the speaker had been sharing their thoughts with, Ainsley turned to take a look. A young woman stood there in a bright sundress. Her hair was teased out in a dyed green afro that played off the hazel of her eyes beautifully.

She was lovely. Ainsley immediately felt the itch in her fingers to paint again. It felt like coming home, but she couldn’t place why.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Suzanne is an asexual woman with a great love for writing erotica and enjoys spending her time confusing people with that fact. She believes there is a need for heightened diversity in erotic fiction and strives to write enough stories so that everyone can see themselves mirrored in a protagonist. She lives with her husband and cat, and, when not writing, Suzanne enjoys reading, playing video games poorly, and refusing to interact outdoors with other human beings.

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Megan Derr on How the Trilogy Came About and her latest release ‘Waiting for You’ by Megan Derr (guest blog, excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Waiting for You

Series: Lifesworn, Book 1

Author: Megan Derr

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: June 5, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male/Female (Male/Male interaction)

Length: 40000

Genre: Fantasy, fantasy, friends to lovers, reunited, royalty, bodyguard, established couple, political, spies

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How the Trilogy Came About by Megan Derr

So a question that crops up pretty often is what comes first, plot, setting, or characters? For me, that varies from story to story. This particular one started with the characters and some of the plot (I wrote another post on the exact inspiration for this story).  I had a princess in danger, a prince, and his bodyguard, and an eventual threesome. I had an evil parent (though father become stepfather).

Since this had originally been meant as an erotic short for ARe, I decided to keep the setting simple. Two countries, one with obvious medieval Europe influences, the other with medieval Middle East influences. No magic. Pretty confined plot, in that there’s a small cast and they don’t move between a whole lot of locations. But as is my want and practice, I also built a world where all things queer are accepted. Her stepfather hates her, but only because she’s a threat to his power, not because she’s bisexual. It doesn’t matter to him if she marries a man or a woman, if they’re cis or trans. He just wants her out of the way or under his control once and for all.

And I felt it was important to lay out how this story came about, because there’s this idea that persists in writing, in art, that we must wait for inspiration! and be struck by muses! and listen to the voices! and that to purposely write something with a goal like money in mind makes us less. And that’s stupid and worse harmful. I always write what I want, but sometimes what I want is something that does not tax and exhaust me the way High King or Dance-verse or Tavamara-verse does, something that is easy to write, appealing to more readers than usual (since queer fantasy romance is never going to have the draw that contemporary romance does), and makes good money.

So that is how this trilogy came about.

Synopsis

Shanna has spent her whole life waiting—waiting to be old enough, waiting for the day she must pick a consort, waiting for a chance to finally overcome her despicable stepfather… and waiting for someone to finally banish the loneliness that comes with being a queen-in-waiting one step away from being murdered.

On the eve of the two-week event during which she must pick a consort from a bevy of suitors, two strangers arrive claiming to have been invited—though she knows full well they did not receive any such invitation. But the handsome, mischievous Prince Kallaar is too intriguing to resist, and his quiet bodyguard too compelling to ignore…

But she’s learned the hard way never to let anyone get too close, and on the verge of gaining true independence her stepfather will stop at nothing to see she never gets it.

Excerpt

Waiting for You
Megan Derr © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Prologue

Shanna sighed in the gloom of the stables, enjoying the dark and quiet, even the smell of horse, dragon, and manure.

Gingerly touching her sore cheek, the result of a stepfather who’d succumbed to a rare fit of temper and struck her, she went to get some treats for the animals.

After she’d given apples to the horses and hazelnuts to the dragons, she pulled out the small flask of wine she’d brought with her, upended a bucket to make a seat, and settled in front of her favorite dragon’s stall for a night of drinking.

She’d prefer to be making merry, a proper ceremony honoring her mother, two years dead now, but of course her worthless stepfather, Mercen, preferred a much smaller, quieter, and more somber affair. Just one more occasion for him to do what he needed to further his own goals while paying token respect to the woman who’d made him consort.

At least it was late enough she’d be left alone out here. Everyone else was asleep or on duty. The only person who’d be in the stable at that hour was Tikki, the stable boy, and even if he woke and realized she was there, he’d leave her alone.

All the problems of the day—week, month, past two years—tried to rise up, but Shanna had endured more than her fill of them for the present. They’d have to wait until tomorrow. Instead, she drank wine and tried to focus only on happy memories of her mother, the sorts of things her mother would tell her to think about.

She’d almost managed to achieve a good mood, or something close enough, when she heard voices outside. Voices that were not speaking Remnien. If she wasn’t mistaken, they were speaking Morentian, which was bizarre. Morentians didn’t travel this far north very often, and certainly not in the dead of a winter night.

Pushing to her feet, Shanna headed for the stable doors—and barely jumped back in time to avoid being whacked in the head by one.

Two figures, accompanied by horses, hurried into the stables and closed the doors behind them. The shorter of the two said something, and Shanna caught snatches of “finally” and “snow” and something she didn’t understand but suspected was a curse. Her mother had never taught her those words, though Shanna had tried to learn them.

“Can I help you?” she asked.

They spun toward her, going still a moment before removing the snow-crusted wrappings from their faces—which revealed extremely handsome men, tired and travel-worn though they were. Shanna swallowed, painfully aware suddenly of her own unkempt state: the old, ragged dress she’d thrown on, her hair only loosely knotted back, the bruise slowly forming on her cheek.

Oh, what did it matter? She was a princess—a queen in waiting—what did it matter if she looked good to a couple of travelers she’d never see again?

“I am sorry to disturb,” the shorter man said, mouth curving in a smile that reminded Shanna of the kitchen boy, Benni, who caused no end of trouble but always charmed his way out of it with smiles like that. “We are humble peddlers from Morentia and not accustomed to your wretched snow. We were hoping to reach the royal castle tonight, but I honestly have no idea where we are right now.”

Shanna laughed. “You’ll be relieved to know you’ve reached your destination, though you’ll have to wait until morning to peddle your wares. But come, there are places aplenty for you to stay the night, and the kitchens can give you a meal.”

“We’d be most grateful, Lady…”

“Shanna.”

Both men stilled again briefly before venturing farther into the stable, closer to Shanna. She moved backward a few paces and nearly collided with one of the two lanterns that lent the stables light.

The shorter man said something in Morentian she didn’t understand, the words spoken too low and fast to catch. “You are no lady, but the fine princess herself,” the man said, his wickedly charming smile returning. “We are most honored to make your acquaintance, my princess.”

Shanna shivered. My princess. She liked the way he said that.

“Shall we tend the horses before you attempt to flirt with someone too good for you, Kallaar?” the second man asked gruffly.

“Yes, Ahmla.” Kallaar glanced back at Shanna. “Where should we put our horses, Your Highness?”

“This way.”

Once the horses were tended, Kallaar returned to her side immediately, almost but not quite standing improperly close. “Now then, what brings a lovely princess to the stables so late at night? And all alone. Surely there are better places to be in this terrible weather? I should think anywhere else at all would be better.”

“It’s not that cold.”

Kallaar looked at her like she had lost her mind. “There is snow.”

Shanna laughed at his affronted tone. “Yes, but it’s early winter yet. Soon it will be so cold every breath feels like knives in your lungs, too cold even for snow, and everything that ventures outside unprotected freezes immediately.”

“How can it be too cold for snow?” Kallaar sounded affronted. “That sounds like a nightmare come to life.”

Ahmla made a noise that sounded like agreement.

“I’m certain many people say the same about the heat of Morentia. What brings you so far afield this time of year? Surely your wares could wait to be traded in weather you find more pleasing?”

“I come from a very bossy family, and there are things that must be done, and I am the one to do them,” Kallaar said, looking oddly intent for a man who probably traded in bobbles and knickknacks. “Not that I mind, of course. I am just as bossy and demanding as the rest of them—” He gave a snickering Ahmla a look. “Anyway, despite our grousing, we are happy to be here, my princess. Now, I do not suppose there is anywhere in this place where a couple of frozen strangers might thaw?”

“I think I can help with that,” Shanna said, smiling in a way she hadn’t since her mother had died two years ago. Hard to find anything to smile about when she was a prisoner in her own castle, constantly afraid she would join her mother in the afterlife while Mercen stole their kingdom.

“Splendid!” Once they were outside, Kallaar offered his arm.

Amused and charmed despite herself, Shanna made to accept—and slipped on a patch of ice, but even as she drew breath to scream, she was scooped up before she hit the cold, hard ground.

Shanna blinked at Ahmla, who held her like she weighed nothing, and was shockingly warm for a man who had seemed cold and miserable. “Are you all right?” he asked.

“Um. Yes. Thank you, Master Ahmla. That would have been a nasty fall.”

“My honor to serve, princess.” Instead of setting her down, though, Ahmla carried her all the way to the castle and only put her on her feet once they reached the stones of the kitchen yard, which were kept clean by the staff so they could work safely.

“Thank you again,” Shanna said and hastened inside to hide her flushed face.

In the kitchen, she found the late-night cook in the pantry and requested she see about food and beds.

Returning to Kallaar and Ahmla, she said, “You’ll be taken care of quite well from here by the staff.”

“It’s most appreciated, my princess. You are even kinder and more gracious than rumors say.”

Shanna highly doubted any such rumors existed, but she smiled all the same. “It’s sweet of you to say so.”

“No, it’s not. Don’t encourage him,” Ahmla said. “He’s enough of a brat.”

“You wound me,” Kallaar said with a pout.

Shanna laughed. “I will leave you to charm sweets from the cook, for I must to bed. It was a pleasure to meet you both. Perhaps I’ll see you again before you continue your travels.”

“Count on it, my princess. I could never leave here without seeing your lovely face at least once more.”

Ahmla lifted his eyes to the ceiling, and even the cook snorted as she brought them bowls of the soup kept on the fire for staff and soldiers working through the night.

Smiling again, Shanna bowed her head as they bowed. “Goodnight, dear sirs. Sleep well.”

“And you, my princess,” Kallaar said. “Sweet dreams.”

As she headed off to her room, still smiling at Kallaar’s antics and how nice it had felt to be held so easily by Ahmla, Shanna thought maybe for the first time in a long time, her dreams just might be sweet.

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Meet the Author

Megan is a long time resident of LGBTQ fiction, and keeps herself busy reading, writing, and publishing it. She is often accused of fluff and nonsense. When she’s not involved in writing, she likes to cook, harass her cats, or watch movies. She loves to hear from readers, and can be found all over the internet.

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6/5 – Erotica For All

6/5 – Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Word

6/6 – MM Good Book Reviews

6/6 – Sharing Links and Wisdom

6/7 – millsylovesbooks

6/7 – Divine Magazine

6/8 – A Book Lover’s Dream Book Blog

6/8 – Happily Ever Chapter

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Blog Tour and Giveaway for Permanent Jet Lag by A.N. Casey (author interview and excerpt)

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Title:  Permanent Jet Lag

Author: A.N. Casey

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: May 29, 2017

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 87000

Genre: Contemporary, literary, Student, family, coming of age, alcohol use, illness/disease, tear-jerker

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~Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with A.N. Casey~

 

What’s the one thing, you can’t live without?

I’d say my water bottle because I have that thing with me constantly and get very moody when thirsty. Like Hangry but Thangry maybe? Plus, bonus: it gives me something to do with my hands, and as a fidgety anxious person, having something to hold onto during conversations—especially lulls in conversation—keeps me calm. 

What internet site do you surf to the most?

Tumblr. I have a blog there where I work with other writers to help out on new projects and answers questions (ancwritingresources.tumblr.com) and also have a couple writing blogs that just serve as a good creative outlet (and an excuse to put off writing the stuff I’m supposed to be writing).

If you had your own talk show, who would your first three author guests be and why?

The easy one that is probably over said is J.K. Rowling because I’d like to ask what it feels like to have seen your story not only turned into a movie but a theme park; what’s it like knowing that nearly everyone in the world has heard of your character even if they haven’t read your book. Malinda Lo because I’d want to ask her about Ash, about recreating this story everyone knows—Cinderella—in a brand new way and just congratulate her on what a good book that was. I mean, that’s my dream, moving forward, to begin to tell these stories that “old as time” but with the LGBT representation we deserve. And for the same reason, my third guest would be Madeline Miller. The Song of Achilles was a real game changer for me, so many of my favorite things—LGBT YA novels meets Greek mythology—all put together in such a beautiful way. And she’s not even a novelist by trade! I’d want to ask her what it was like to write that book and just get to learn more about that process.

When you got your very first manuscript acceptance letter, what was your initial reaction and who was the first person you told?

My reaction was disbelief, without a doubt. There comes a point after countless rejections when you just get used to it; without feeling, you read the nice form letter and move on with your day. So when I got a letter back, I assumed it was more of the same. I had to read it over three times to realize it said “yes” and not “no.” I told my best friend first, and then about 48 hours later, I actually got excited when I fully realized it was real.

 

 

Synopsis

Nineteen-year-old Lucas Burke prefers being alone. He likes the silence, and he loves not having to care about anyone else’s problems: the less he’s forced to feel, the better. But after a year of college-induced isolation from everyone he used to know, the wedding of a former classmate sends Lucas back home, and that means reconciling with a group of friends that now might as well be strangers.

His sister hardly knows him, his “genius” best friend is nothing more than an addict, and his ex-boyfriend is still in a coma. All the while, wedding preparations send Lucas head first into a relationship with the groom’s best man—a recently cancer-free ex-Olympian who can’t stop talking.

Lucas knows that if he wants to survive the summer, he’ll have to learn to be a friend again, but it doesn’t come easy, and it might already be too late.

Excerpt

Permanent Jet Lag
A.N. Casey © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

96 Days Before

On the last day of my freshman year of college, my parents—dressed head to toe in the obnoxious green and gold colors of my school—arrived on the threshold of my dorm room with five extra-large boxes for packing, a tin of mom-baked chocolate chip cookies to cure my assumed “home sick blues,” and two snippets of hometown gossip for my ears only. When you leave home for college, there’s a certain assumption that says you will learn to be independent. You do your own laundry, you buy your own meals, and your parents never come knocking on your door to ask if you’ve done your homework or to ground you for coming home past curfew. You’re alone—blissfully independent and free.

My mother had other ideas. Ideas that filled the voicemail on my cell phone until I could no longer receive friends’ missed calls. Ideas that left a pile of cookie tins in the corner of the room and a dozen more care packages under the bed. Even now, as I finished the bulk of my packing, a poorly knit mom-made sweater hung limp over the side of the latest care package, threads unraveling and fraying in every direction with a note pinned to its sleeve with words I could not remember—words I likely never read.

My roommate sat on the other side of the room upon his stripped-down bed, munching away at the first cookie handed to him. He wore a thick pair of headphones that flattened his usually unruly brown hair. Though the cord was not connected to anything, my mother seemed pleased with this sense of security and began her “top secret” gossip. As though my roommate would care at all about the small-town news of Franklin Creek, California.

“Rylie Graham is getting married!” she squealed. Despite her rising age, my mother’s face still lit up with all the excitement and energy of the young woman I could just barely remember from the photographs on the walls at home. Today, my mother was plump and nearly always flushed in her cheeks. The freckles on her nose were faded underneath a splotchy tan that extended only to the bottom of her neck, and her clothes, though neatly pressed, still appeared crumpled by her slouch and the endless movement of her limbs. She went on and on about the wedding, the beautiful invitations, and the color schemes she hoped they’d use, how she could still remember Rylie as a baby, crawling around at the neighborhood block parties.

I was already aware of this news, of course. The invitation had arrived in the mail two days ago, vividly pink with a handful of red hearts and almost a dozen purple and green flowers decorating the edges. Unless the groom was a botanist, there was no inkling of his presence in the design. To top it off, at the very bottom of the paper, beneath the RSVP notification, was a dried crimson lipstick mark. Nine months since I’d seen her, and I could still vividly imagine Rylie prepping her mouth with that darkened color she had so adored in high school and kissing each invitation one by one.

The invitation was now crumpled up in my suitcase with the rest of my belongings, but the image of it had not left my mind for a second.

“Isn’t it great, Lucas?” my mother asked, and I nodded. “She’ll look so beautiful as a bride.” Another nod. “Just wait until you meet the groom. What a charming young man.” At this, I fidgeted with the zipper on my luggage and forced a smile.

My father, lounging lazily upon my still-sheeted bed, gave me a knowing smile over the top of his third cookie. My mother promptly smacked it out of his hand.

“That’s enough, Tim. Didn’t you hear a word the doctors said? I think one heart attack is quite enough for one year, don’t you?”

“I thought two would make a more interesting story at this year’s Christmas party,” my father replied, grinning.

And so began an argument that lasted through the remainder of my packing, the long trek downstairs, and into the oversized van waiting for us in the parking lot. It continued as my father stabbed the key into the ignition, as my mother pulled on her seat belt, and as I peered through the window and watched San Francisco—all its big buildings and bustling bridges—disappear into the night.

By the time we pulled into the driveway of my childhood home, my parents were just progressing toward the makeup phase of their disagreement, or, as I’d dubbed it over the years, the honeymoon period. They sat, arms tangled in the front seat, kissing and whispering loving platitudes into each other’s mouths with such nauseating enthusiasm that sitting through it was quite like staring at the sun: tolerance came in small doses. I left the car and dragged my luggage up the porch steps alone.

I had come home exactly twice since leaving for college, once for spring break and once after my father’s heart attack, and I was greeted the same each time. Homecoming generally went like this: my oldest sister, now sixteen, would nod her head in my direction over the top of her cell phone, give me a hug if I came close enough, and then resume her texting. My brothers, identical in all but their clothing, would rush in for the tackle. And my youngest sister would wave from the couch—a simple twist of her hand—and then return to her TV show. Today it was an old rerun about a teenage spy, and because the theme song was particularly catchy, the wave was even shorter than normal, barely a twitch of her fingertips.

I disappeared into my room.

From the window of my dorm room in the mornings, I could see the wide expanse of the San Francisco landscape for miles, a hundred buildings huddled together against the fading fog, life bustling below. From the window of my hometown bedroom, I could see the neighbor’s pool. A thoroughly unexciting, lifeless pool. As summer had not technically begun, the water that would soon promise endless good times and relief from the heat was still currently abandoned. A heavy pile of leaves covered much of the surface, but through the spaces between, I could make out a glimpse of the water—a murky, untouched green.

Rylie called at half past eleven while I was cleaning the windowsill for the second time. Her voice was shrill and rushed as she screamed into my ear, “Why didn’t you tell me you were home? I had to hear it from my mom, who heard it from your mom, and I feel like I’m in a weird stupid sitcom, because I’m not supposed to be hearing gossip from your mother, Lucas. You’re supposed to tell your friends when you come home. Clay is pissed.”

As she spoke, I tucked the phone between my shoulder and ear. Downstairs, my mom was yelling at the twins, and Dad was swearing about the score of a baseball game. I retreated farther into my room and closed the door.

“Sorry,” I said.

“Sorry?” Rylie let out a long, exasperated sigh, and I thought I could hear her nails tapping against the back of her phone. “Will you meet me somewhere? I haven’t seen you in ages, and everyone misses you. Please?”

“Okay.”

“Is this how this is going to be now? One-worded conversations?”

“Probably.”

Rylie laughed, a deep, chest-rattling sort of sound that in no way matched the high, squeaky pitch of her voice. It was for reasons like this I’d stopped trying to understand her in the third grade.

“You’re an ass, Lucas. Meet me at the flower shop across from the grocery store, okay? Ten minutes, don’t be late. Oh, and Todney is going to be there. I can’t wait for you to meet him. Don’t be late.”

“We have a grocery store?”

“Goodbye, Lucas.”

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

A.N. Casey is a Californian born and bred writer with very few interests beyond the literary. As a former copywriter and a current freelance writer and editor, Casey was asked what he likes to do outside of writing for work and responded only with: “write more”—much to the disappointment of his colleagues who had hoped he might be more interesting. His few attempts to leave his computer or notebooks behind have led to an interest in camping, traveling, and very bad attempts at cooking. He is currently studying to become a teacher where he hopes his fondness for the red pen will not make him too many enemies. Above all, Casey believes that storytelling has the power to shape lives, and that young people deserve to see themselves represented on the page in every shape and form until no one is left feeling alone in this wide and confusing world. You can find A.N. on Tumblr.

Tour Schedule

5/29    MM Book Escape

5/29    MM Good Book Reviews

5/30    Stories That Make You Smile

5/30    Reviews for Book Lovers

5/31    Divine Magazine

5/31    millsylovesbooks

5/31    Love Bytes Reviews

6/1      Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

6/2      Sharing Links and Wisdom

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6/2      Bayou Book Junkie

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Release Day Blitz and Giveaway for Frank at Heart (A Foothills Pride story) by Pat Henshaw (excerpt and giveaway)

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Frank at Heart (Foothills Pride #6) by Pat Henshaw

Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press

Release Date: May 31, 2017

Purchase

Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

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Synopsis

Everything about thirty-five-year-old Stone Acres hardware store owner Frank McCord is old-fashioned—from his bow tie and overalls to the way he happily makes house calls to his dreams of lasting romance, true love, and marriage. Frank’s predecessors have run the store and been mainstays in the small California town for over a century. While genial Frank upholds tradition and earns the respect of friends and neighbors, he fears he’s too dull and old to attract a husband.

Into his life comes handsome thirty-six-year-old electronic games designer Christopher Darling and his fifteen-year-old son, Henry. Christopher has everything Frank could want in a potential partner: charm, kindness, and compatibility. Also, he’s a terrific father to Henry. When their Stone Acres home turns out to be uninhabitable, Frank offers the Darlings temporary lodging in his ancestral farmhouse, where he and his tenant Emil reside. Since Emil thinks Frank is his, sparks fly. Suddenly, Frank’s monotonous life promises to explode with love and threatens to change him forever.

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex
Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 30,236 words
Genre: Contemporary Gay Romance

Excerpt

My procedure for hiring was pretty simple. In the identification section of the test, I gave applicants a common nail, a Phillips head screw, a paint stirrer, a tape measure, a claw hammer, a screwdriver, a crescent wrench, pliers, a putty knife, and a box cutter. I gave these objects one at a time to the teen and asked him to identify what the object was, when to use it, and how to use it.

Then I gave the applicant six pieces of precut plywood, eight corner angles, tools, and other supplies, and had him—it was usually a him—follow simple directions to make a box with a hinged flap. The whole test was either incredibly easy or horribly complex and frustrating.

My first applicant was a poster boy for the latter. He called both the nail and the screw a screw, then dissolved into a fit of adolescent giggles. I waited for his mirth to subside. He had no idea about any of the tools except the box cutter, which he simply called a wicked-ass knife.

As I walked into the back room with him for the second part of the test, I was appalled at how little he knew and wondered why he wanted to work at a hardware store. Was it just the money?

I stopped him after watching for five minutes as he tried to figure out how to make the box. When he looked at me with defeat in his eyes, I called a halt.

Thank you for coming in, Seth. I think we both know this job wouldn’t be a good fit for you.” I looked over his application form. “I think working at one of the mall stores might be more your speed, don’t you?”

He nodded eagerly. “But my folks say that you’re more established and fairer than the mall stores. I wanted to work for the coffee shop or the movie theater.”

Well, you can tell your parents I appreciate their support, but I’m voting for you to be a real success at either of those other two choices.”

He beamed. As we shook hands, I knew his dad would be in later this week to talk about his son.

Henry turned up alone at two o’clock, and I ran him through the first part of the test. We only hit one snag. We got along too well and ended up having side discussions about the items.

When I handed him the nail, for example, he took it between his fingers and caressed it.

It’s a two-penny flat-head nail.” He rolled it around for a second. “You know, they used to keep nails in big casks like they do wine. Then they sold them by weighing them. They’d scoop them up out of the barrels.”

Well, I mean, what was I supposed to do? Ignore that? Of course not. I took him into the back room where we stored everything we’d removed when my father updated the store in the 1970s. I showed him the old scoop-shaped scale, and we weighed a few nails and other items hanging around.

This is so cool, Frank. You should put it back on the counter. I’ll bet everyone would want to see it. It’d give the store an epic feel.”

I wasn’t sure I agreed about the epic part, but maybe it was time to give the store another more modern redesign.

We scurried out of the back room when the bell tinkled and we could hear someone walking around the front of the store talking to Riley. I tried to stop giving Henry the first part of the test, since he still had the box to build. But when we saw the customer was his father, who seemed to be fascinated by the wall of power tools, Henry took out the remaining items in the little bag.

He held them up one at a time and rattled off their names and purposes.

There!” he crowed, smiling up at me. “Now what do you want me to make?”

I showed him the wood, tools, and directions and left him to the project. When I saw he was reading through the directions, I walked over to his dad. Riley’d already moved back behind the counter and seemed to be working on some inventory sheets.

I’m not here to ask how he’s doing, so don’t think I am.” Christopher didn’t turn around when I got up behind him. He was staring at the power saws.

He’s doing fine.” I didn’t step too close, but drat if I didn’t want to. I wanted to put my hand on his shoulder and squeeze. Or if I was even bolder, I’d put my arm around his waist and snuggle his head back onto my shoulder.

Weren’t those counterproductive daydreams? Now I’d have to wait a moment before I could go back to check on Henry. Overalls worn in public, especially if I was in the vicinity of Christopher, were my groin’s personal enemy.

Christopher turned his head. We were close enough to kiss if I leaned in a little more. I didn’t. Instead I stepped back, although I did smile.

Can I peek?” Christopher was whispering like we had secrets.

I leaned back and looked over my shoulder at his son. Henry was nearly finished with the box. He was studying the directions like they were a map to the El Dorado treasure.

Sure. Go ahead and peek. He’s just about done.”

I sounded as stunned as I felt. First off, Christopher and I were standing too close and whispering. I felt his warmth, and my cheeks burned. As I tried to shake myself back to reality, the second reason I was a little stunned hit me. Henry was on the final step of building the box. How could he be done so quickly?

As I walked back toward him, he held the box at eye level in one hand and opened and closed the hinged door. Henry looked up as I entered the workroom.

I don’t get it,” he said. The hinged door snapped shut as he let it go. “What’s it for?”

He seemed so puzzled that I started to chuckle. Then at his stricken look, I stopped.

It’s not useful in itself. It’s just a test to see if you can follow directions and know how to use the tools.”

His face darkened as I explained.

You use up all of this stuff for that? Anybody can make this.” He put the box down, acting a little disdainful and a lot put out.

You’d be surprised.” I didn’t elaborate. Why tell him that another boy who was in the same grade couldn’t figure out the directions at all?

I picked up the box and studied it. He’d done a remarkable job in so little time. He’d even used the flush piano hinges instead of the more cumbersome butt hinge, even though the directions didn’t specify which would be better for the project. His box opened and closed easily, and the corners made perfect ninety-degree angles.

I started to put the box down, but Christopher reached for it. I passed it over and watched a moment as he held it up, a look of awe on his face.

Henry, this is—” he started, but his son stopped him.

Dad, I’m taking a test here.”

With a sheepish grin and an amused side-glance at me, Christopher put the box down, said a short “Sorry,” and returned to the front of the store.

Again, I hid my amusement at how well they interacted and shelved my amazement at how Christopher had shared the moment with me. I ran my hand over the top of the box. This one I’d keep.

As I was about to find out when Henry could start work, the bell tinkled. I looked over my shoulder to see a newcomer hurry in. His sneakers squeaked on the wood floor.

Hi. You the owner?” he greeted me.

I looked around for Riley but couldn’t see him anywhere. Had he called it a day and gone home? I wouldn’t blame him. Except for the Darlings, it’d been slow.

When I nodded at the customer, he launched into a fairly typical request. He and his wife had bought some Ikea furniture, and now he couldn’t put it together. I told him what I told everyone, to bring it into the shop and we’d assemble it for him.

Then I told him the setup fee, said it would take a week or so, and took down his name and contact information as he started to thank me. After I told him the store was actually closing right now, he left reluctantly, looking at the merchandise around him as he shuffled to the door. This time I locked it and put out the Closed sign. Christopher had said he wanted me to visit the Adams-Scott House this afternoon, but first I had to hire Henry officially.

So, Henry, when would you like to start?”

He was staring at the door and the escaping customer. I had to ask the question twice.

Who puts together the Ikea stuff?” Henry responded instead of giving me a date.

Riley and I do. When we get a chance. We do it between other things. Why?” The truth was we both hated assembling the furniture because it was tedious.

May I do it?” The eagerness in his question caught me off guard.

You want to put together Ikea furniture?” He didn’t mean it, did he?

Yeah. Cool. I love Ikea!” Henry beamed at me as if to ask “Doesn’t everyone?”

Book Trailer

Meet the Author

Pat Henshaw has spent her life surrounded by words: teaching English composition at the junior college level; writing book reviews for newspapers, magazines, and websites; helping students find information as a librarian; and promoting PBS television programs.

Now retired, Pat, author of the Foothills Pride Stories, was born and raised in Nebraska and promptly left the cold and snow after college, living at various times in Texas, Colorado, Northern Virginia, and now Sacramento, California. Pat has found joy in visiting Mexico, Canada, Europe, Nicaragua, Thailand, and Egypt, and relishes trips to Stowe, Vermont, to see family.

Two of her fondest memories include touching time when she put her hands on the pyramids and experiencing pure whimsy when she interviewed Caroll Spinney (Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch). Her triumphs are raising two incredible daughters who daily amaze her with their power and compassion. Her supportive husband keeps her grounded in reality when she threatens to drift away while writing fiction.

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Happily Ever Chapter
Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews
A Book Lover’s Dream Book Blog
Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
Bayou Book Junkie
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Lustful Literature
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