Holiday Book Spotlight Continues with Home For the Holiday M/M Anthology (excerpts/contests)

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Home for the Holidays

M/M Romance Anthology

SJ Himes

 Jenna Kendrick

Heather C. Leigh

Liv Rancourt

Felice Stevens

 HomeForTheHolidaysCover

Cover Design: LateNite Designs

Cover Photo: StockPhoto

Release Date: 11.29.15

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/1lOHE4h

Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/1OvvQ0e

Amazon CA: http://amzn.to/1lOHPN5

Amazon AU: http://bit.ly/1OkPsWI

BLURB

Home can be a person as well as a place. Everyone deserves a home for the holidays, as the stories in this collection affirm.

 Proceeds from Home for the Holidays are being donated to the Ali Forney Center in New York City to help homeless LGBTQ youth.

 

 

*The Eighth Night by Jenna Kendrick

BLURB

Going home for the holiday only to find his parents have made other plans, Kai Meyers is thrilled to reunite with an old friend. Disowned by his religious family, Ari Fisher is used to being treated like a boy toy rather than a boyfriend, and now he only has eight days to reveal his secrets to Kai.

 

 TEASER

 JennaFinal

 

EXCERPT

The last thing Ari saw as the lights went out and the elevator jolted to a stop was Kai stumbling forward. Ari started to move closer to help him up, but his foot bumped into a piece of fruit or something, so he pulled back. Kelev barked, clearly upset by the chaos, while Kai called to the dog to make sure he was okay.

Ari, felt something sniffing at his pants leg. “Kelev, c’mere boy. Good boy.” He bent over to scratch his head. He was happy to see the dog was still alive; he had to be going on twelve or thirteen by now.

“You know Kelev? Well, obviously. I suppose you know my parents, then.”

Ari chuckled. “You could say that. But I know you even better. Well, I used to.” Apparently the dog remembered Ari better than his owner. He wished he could get a look at Kai’s face as he connected the dots. When he’d first spotted Kai in the corner, he’d been relieved to see the guy was too weighed down with Kelev and a metric crap-ton of grocery bags to notice him. He’d known there was always the chance of running into Kai. Ari might have even hoped for it subconsciously. Otherwise, he could have avoided the possibility by insisting Prescott and Thomas meet him at a hotel, as he did with some of his other clients.

“Wait a minute… Ari?”

“Long time, no see, Kai.”

“I can’t see you now, either.” Kai’s voice had matured over the past eight years, familiar and new at the same time. “Sorry, I was in my own world and didn’t notice you before the lights went out.”

“Hope you’re not still afraid of the dark.” Ari remembered them leaving a lamp on when they had sleepovers, but only until they’d hit middle school.

“Probably a hard sell after screaming like a teenage girl, but no, not generally.” Kai must’ve set the rest of the groceries down because Ari heard bags rustling and felt a can roll into the side of his shoe. “I don’t suppose you want to join me here on the floor. I’d try to get up, but I have a feeling I’d wind up tripping over an avocado and inadvertently turning it into guacamole.”

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jenna Kendrick writes male/male new adult and contemporary romance, her favorite genre to read. She lives in Upstate New York, where she spends the better part of the year trying to stay warm and dry. When she’s not writing, she reads, watches The Princess Bride and The Avengers far too often, spends time with her husband and friends, and drinks more coffee and tea than she’d care to admit. She shares her home office with her dog, Tally, and her cats, Loki and Tamiris.

Jenna spent most of her class time in high school writing bad poetry and short stories in which her teachers were the villains. She began writing in earnest in college, putting it aside for a few years to work as a teacher and product manager for several online services. In addition to writing fiction, Jenna also writes nonfiction technical books under another name.

 

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS

Facebook — https://www.facebook.com/jennakendrickauthor

Twitter — https://twitter.com/jennakendauth

Instagram — https://www.instagram.com/jennakendrickauthor/

Tumblr — http://jennakendrickauthor.tumblr.com

 

 

*24-Hour Hold by Heather C. Leigh

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Detectives Damon Porter and Anderson Malloy are now partners at Denver’s Major Case Unit. The problem is, they used to be boyfriends, and now they’re feeling anything but friendly towards each other.

TEASER 

HeatherCLEigh 

 

EXCERPT

“Still drinking enough coffee each day to keep Seattle’s coffee houses running for a year?” I ask, leaning back on the counter while Damon turns on the tap, rinsing his hands and attempting to wipe off the spill on his shirt with a wet paper towel.

He scowls, his dark brown eyes locking on mine. “Fuck you, Anderson.” Thoroughly annoyed with me, I watch, fascinated, as my ex-lover’s hands clench into tight fists. Damon tosses the used paper towel into the garbage can before whirling back around in my direction. His mouth opens, no doubt to tell me off, then snaps back shut.

My eyes drop to that full, red mouth—a mouth I’ve tasted hundreds, maybe thousands of times before—and molten heat spreads out from my groin.

I’m in the middle of imagining a detailed scenario that involves kneeling down on the hideous linoleum of the kitchenette and yanking down his perfectly pressed dress pants to suck on his cock when I realize he’s gone.

Shit.

It takes me a few minutes, but I finally find Damon in the conference room, quietly stewing while he sets up his laptop. He has the files open on the table.

“So,” I close the door behind me and his head of brown hair twitches as he ignores me. “Show me what you’ve got.” I drop into the swivel chair closest to him and snap my gum while spinning back and forth.

“Do you mind not doing that?” Porter scowls and turns away, fiddling with his computer. Fascinated, I watch the muscles of his back tense up under his starched button-down.

“Doing what?” I ask innocently, popping the gum again. Nothing turns me on more than riling up Damon Porter. Watching him go from cool and collected to hot and bothered makes my dick hard.

“Listen, D. I—”

The beautiful man beside me jerks around, practically snarling in my face. “Don’t. Call. Me. That.”

“Whoa!” I hold my hands up defensively, noting the way his hands are fisted at his sides. “Calm down, Porter.”

“Fuck you.”

“Jesus, Porter. Hold a grudge much?”

His eyes close and I recognize the way his entire body shudders. Damon Porter is close to losing his carefully crafted control.

“Sorry,” I mumble. “I didn’t expect this,” I motion between the two of us, “to be so uncomfortable.”

Those big brown eyes of his pop open, dark lashes fluttering wide as my words sink in. “Wait,” he says. “You knew I worked here?” Oops. I can practically see his sharp mind working to quickly put the pieces together. “Did you… Did you come to Denver, to this department specifically, knowing you would be working with me?”

My skin heats up from his dead-on conclusion. Damon leans close, the familiar scent of his aftershave hitting me hard. “What’s your game, Anderson?”

I can feel the heat coming off of him, even through the multiple layers of both his perfect white dress shirt and my rumpled old blue one. My throat is tight and I have to work to swallow in order to speak. “I don’t have a game. I moved back to Denver, applied for a job, they assigned me to your department. It’s temporary, so don’t get your starched boxers in a bunch.”

It’s the truth. Stretched, but the truth nonetheless.

Damon’s molten brown eyes narrow, his nostrils flare in anger. When he speaks, the formal, uptight man I know does the unthinkable. He cracks a joke.

“Still chewing that shitty gum, huh?”

I swallow again when his gaze drops to my mouth. Desire rushes through me, sending blood pulsing to my groin. “Yeah.”

He nods, as if confirming some thought in his own head, before turning to face his laptop. His professional façade slams into place like a thick steel door. With one long, elegant finger, Damon points at the files in front of me. “I guess you’ll have to start at the beginning. You read the reports and familiarize yourself with the cases, I’ll continue trying to find a link between the robberies.”

“Sure, D. Whatever you say.”

Porter’s mouth twitches, but he doesn’t correct me for calling him D. That little victory gives me enough confidence to grin, snapping my gum as I pull open the first file.

If I can just get past the four hundred fifty-three other layers of protection my ex has put up to keep me out, I’m golden.

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Heather C. Leigh is the author of the Amazon bestselling Famous series. She likes to write about the ‘dark’ side of fame. The part that the public doesn’t get to see, how difficult it is to live in a fishbowl and how that affects relationships.

Heather was born and raised in New England and currently lives outside Atlanta, GA with her husband, 2 kids, and French Bulldog, Shelby.

She loves the Red Sox, the Patriots, and anything chocolate (but not white chocolate, everyone knows it’s not real chocolate so it doesn’t count) and has left explicit instructions in her will to have her ashes snuck into Fenway Park and sneakily sprinkled all over while her family enjoys beer, hot dogs, and a wicked good time.

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS

Website: https://www.heatherleighauthor.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HeatherCLeighAuthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/goodreadscomHeather_Leigh

Twitter: https://twitter.com/HeatherLeigh_8

Instagram: http://instagram.com/heatherleighauthor/

 

 

*Learning to Love by Felice Stevens

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Returning home for the holiday, caterer Gideon Marks tried hard to push away his high school crush. But Rabbi Jonah Fine wouldn’t let him run again, or keep the secret Gideon’s tried so desperately to hide.

TEASER

LearningToLoveFinal 

EXCERPT

The bells above the shop tinkled and Sean glanced over my shoulder.

“I’m sorry, sir but we’re closed.”

“I’m not here to buy anything, I came to talk to Gideon.”

I spun around to face Jonah. “I’ve got nothing to say to you.” I walked behind the register, putting the expanse of the counter between us. Jonah had changed from this morning and now wore a heavy sweater, corduroy pants and a black leather motorcycle jacket. He looked tired, windblown and utterly desirable. Despite my words, I couldn’t tear my gaze away from his face.

Ten years away hadn’t changed the irrevocable fact that I still wanted Jonah, now more than ever. There were some people who got under your skin and no matter what you did to erase them from your mind and heart, they remained, clinging to your soul.

“Gideon, please.” He darted a quick look at Sean who’d apparently forgotten about his hot date and was intent on having a ringside seat to my sex life. “Can we please go somewhere and talk?”

“Go ahead, boss. I’ll close up.”

Rico leaned against the doorway, his dark eyes fixated on Jonah. I knew my obvious attraction wouldn’t bother Rico; we hadn’t been together in years. The deep friendship and mutual respect between us was rock solid.

Jonah hadn’t taken his eyes off of me, his face an unreadable mask. If I said nothing, I could let him think Rico and I were lovers and he would no doubt leave me alone.

“Gid, go on, man. Give the guy a break.”

Rico’s urging broke me out of my deep thoughts. “Okay,” I said begrudgingly. “Let me get my jacket and I’ll be right back.”

I hurried to my office, pulled on my jacket and shoved the contracts Rico had worked on earlier into my backpack. By the time I’d returned, Sean had finally left and Rico and Jonah were discussing the demise of the kosher deli in New York City.

“Have a good one, guys.” Rico shook Jonah’s hand and gave me a swift hug. “Don’t fuck it up man.” His breath tickled my ear. “I got a feeling this one’s for real.”

I pushed him away, giving him a funny smile and a shake of my head. “See you tomorrow. We need to plan the wait-staff for the party and then go through the other orders. Plus I need to contact some of the people I met last night, who said they wanted to maybe hire us for their small dinner parties.”

“Will you get out of here already and stop talking business?” Rico shoved me toward Jonah. “Take him and feed him so he’ll shut up.”

Jonah held the door for me and side by side we walked down the block. Christmas lights had already gone up on the lampposts and in store windows and happy people walked with bright red and green shopping bags stuffed with their purchases. The entire city was seized with holiday cheer, yet all I felt was depressed.

“Have you eaten dinner?”

We stopped at a corner waiting for the traffic light to change. “No, but it’s Saturday night. Why aren’t you out on a date or something?”

Jonah’s sweet smile disarmed me. “Um, I thought I was.”

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Felice Stevens has always been a romantic at heart. While life is tough, she believes there is a happy ending for everyone. She started reading traditional historical romances as a teenager, then life and law school got in the way. It wasn’t until she picked up a copy of Bertrice Small and became swept away to Queen Elizabeth’s court that her interest in romance novels was renewed.

But somewhere along the way, her reading shifted to stories of men falling in love. Once she picked up her first gay romance, she became so enamored of the character-driven stories and the overwhelming emotion there was no turning back.

Felice lives in New York City with her husband and two children. Her day begins with a lot of caffeine and ends with a glass or two of red wine. Although she practices law, she daydreams of a time when she can sit by a beach and write beautiful stories of men falling in love. Although there is bound to be some angst along the way, a Happily Ever After is always guaranteed.

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS

Twitter:https://twitter.com/FeliceStevens1

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/felicestevens/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8432880.Felice_Stevens

Instagram: https://instagram.com/FeliceStevens

Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/felicestevensauthor?ref=hl

*Saving Silas by SJ Himes

Paramedic Gael Dominic wasn’t expecting much from the holidays. Blood, death, and loneliness were constants. So when tragedy puts a wounded Silas in his path, Gael takes a chance on his alleyway angel and love.

TEASER

SJHime

EXCERPT

“Find my son! He was shot, for Christ’s sake, he can’t make it too far. Does this place even have security? Morris, call the local department, I want my son found.” Warner sounded mad, but there wasn’t a frantic component to his tone that most worried parents had when their kids got hurt. He sounded…aggravated.

Gael looked up, eyes searching. This was a split in the Recovery level, the hall to the right swinging around to more patient rooms, the hall to the left leading to the surgery suites, exam rooms, and x-ray….and the elevator to the staff exit. It emptied out in the sequestered lot the doctors and staff used.

He headed in that direction, eyes peeled, making swift work of his search. He kept his actions subtle, not wanting to clue anyone in to the fact he was looking for someone. He smiled at the people he knew but kept going, and passed a cart full of clean scrubs, the plastic lid ajar. The pressed piles made it apparent that a pair of pants and a shirt were missing. Someone took them before the cart made it back down the hall to the doctor’s lounge.

Gael stopped at the elevator, and was about to hit the button, but the staircase several feet away was the better option. No one used the stairs in a hospital.

He entered the stairwell, letting the door swing shut soundlessly behind him. Gael listened, eyes shut, head tilted to the side. A scuffle, the faintest hint of a quivering breath, just below him.

Gael opened his eyes and took the stairs down fast, keeping his footfalls as quiet as he could. He found his quarry the next level down, huddled against the wall, tears running down his bone-white cheeks, hands shaking as he tried to push the door open. He was wearing the purloined scrubs, and the dark blue color merely accentuated the pallor of the young man’s skin. Gael moved just as Silas started to fall over, and he caught him about his waist, holding his angel to his side, keeping him upright.

Silas’ head fell back on his shoulder, and Gael found himself forgetting what he was about to say when a pair of the truest green eyes locked on to his. Every muscle in his body thrummed with electricity, and Gael held him tighter, taking his whole weight.

“Hi, handsome,” Silas breathed out, giving him a tiny twist of a smile, eyes watering. “I’d love to make out in the staircase with you, but I kinda need to escape right now.”

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I’m a thirty something bisexual cisgendered woman with way too big an imagination, but that comes in handy when I’m writing. I have been writing since I was a child, when I took a four page assignment on what I was going to do on summer vacation and turned it into a 100 page fantasy epic all written by hand…in crayons. No joke.

I work a day job, but I can’t share for who, since the Old Man isn’t as liberated as the people who read my books. I’m married, I have furbabies, and I live with loved ones. I adore a certain show about a British consulting detective and his grumpy army doctor, and that spawned an addiction to Johnlock fanfiction, which then evolved into me writing it. Gawd, that’s embarrassing. Put this down in the TMI section of my Bio, okay? I enjoy martial arts, movies where things blow up, and I wish I lived in a Marvel movie.

I live in the beautiful and lonely Berkshire County in Massachusetts, and I see way more wildlife than I care to on a daily basis (bears!). My perfect day is reading surrounded by friends and family who don’t think it’s odd I want to hang out but not talk, and my favorite scent of all time is a cool fall evening with leaves burning….less a scent, and more of an experience.
My writing is focused on gay and lesbian people, who are more than interesting side characters that hang out with the heterosexual MCs. My wish for the future is that when people ask me what I do for a living, I can say, “I write gay romance,” and NOT get weird looks.  Also write under pen name Revella Hawthorne.

 

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS

Amazon/SJ Himes: http://amzn.to/210nIeU

Amazon/Revella Hawthorne: http://amzn.to/210nW5P

Blog as SJ Himes: http://www.wherethewolvesrun.blogspot.com/

Twitter : @WriterSJHimes

Facebook/SJ Himes: https://www.facebook.com/SJHimes/

Facebook/Revella Hawthorne: https://www.facebook.com/Revella-Hawthorne-742177039236198/

*Christmas in LaLa Land by Liv Rancourt

For a Danaan sidhe like Aron, touching a human has consequences, while Damian’s hiding some serious scars behind his smile. A holiday trip to LA forces them to choose between acting on their attraction or giving up on love because of the past.

TEASER

Liv Rav 2

EXCERPT

“I’m sorry. The hotel is closed for a private party.” Blondie stalked over, making the most of her Heels from Hell. The huge lobby had a high arched ceiling and fabric drapes covering the walls. And every possible surface was hung or draped or covered with something red, green, or glittering.

“Um, Ophelia?”

The ploofy redhead almost dropped the string of stars she’d been draping over an enormous pearl chandelier. “I’m Ophelia.”

Her eyes were the same gray as the murk rolling in off San Francisco Bay before the sun rose. Soft, but cold. Spooky. I took a couple steps further in, trying not to let my hopes get ahead of me. “I’m Aron, Connealagh’s younger brother.”

“No shit!? Are you as big a bitch as she is?” The blonde’s shriek immediately turned into laughter.

Ophelia scrambled down off the ladder, freezing me with her ice-vision. “Connie has a brother?” She came at me fast. No time to duck. Only my face offered bare skin, so that’s what she reached for, cupping my cheek with her palm. “Aron.” Her whisper held confirmation, as if she’d been able to verify my story with a touch.

“Oh.” I started to giggle. Her fingertips held so much joy she fizzed. I turned into her, inhaling a hippie-princess mix of roses and patchouli and sweat. Love ran under the fizz, heavy and deep, the emotion tempered by danger and fear. Thoughtlessly I reached out, finding a firm, pregnant belly under her swirling, embroidered caftan. “She’s beautiful.” I smiled into my cousin’s frightening eyes. “Your Leah is a lovely little girl.”

“Um…” She raised an eyebrow. ““Not born yet.”

“Crap. I’m sorry.” I eased out of her grasp. “I can feel emotions and stuff. Sometimes. I didn’t know…”

She exhaled, puffing out her cheeks and shaking her head. “How ’bout you let me tell Gabriel we’re having a girl before sharing, okay?” Without breaking our connection, she pointed at Blondie. “Shut up, you. My cheeks will not freeze that way.”

Behind us, Damian made a choked sound. The jewel-tone fabric on the walls seemed to dim, though that had to be my imagination.

“Who’s your friend?” Ophelia took hold of my gloved hand.

Grateful for even that little display of support, I suddenly didn’t think I could deal with the say-goodbye-to-Damian thing.

“Damian Jones.” He crossed the tile floor, coming closer. I didn’t turn around. Ophelia didn’t leave my side.

His hand, extended to shake, crossed the corner of my vision.

“Sorry Damian,” Ophelia said, wrapping a protective arm around me. “It’s nice to meet you, but I don’t shake hands, okay?”

“Must be a family thing.” His footsteps retreated, and I wanted to whip myself for driving all the sunlight out of his voice.

Gathering as much courage as I could muster, I pivoted, staying within Ophelia’s circle of safety. “Thank you, Damian, for giving me a ride down here, and I’m sorry…” For knowing my limits? For caring too much to entrap you? For being afraid? If I didn’t like him so much, I’d treat him like that poor sucker in the night club bathroom. If I didn’t respect him so much, I’d try to explain. “Just, sorry.”

“Yeah? Well, all your stuff’s out on the steps. You have a happy holiday, okay?”

Ophelia’s gaze was positively balmy compared with the deep freeze in his tone.

He disappeared, leaving me with my cousin and her freakishly blond friend.

“Well, fuck if I don’t suddenly have a taste for chocolate.” Blondie squealed. She had tiny star tattoos and glitter sprinkles down one cheek and a skirt so short it should be illegal. Something triggered my memory of Ophelia’s only visit to Mari-Elle’s. Her friend, a serpent deity named Suzie or Sandy or something, had been shot on our doorstep. Nothing really kills a deity, though, so maybe this was the same girl.

“Shut up, Sally,” Ophelia said.

Yep, serpent deity.

“No way, sister-mine.” A man appeared on the other side of the ladder. Just, like, appeared. “That cocoa crisp plays for my team.” He disappeared before his voice trailed away.

My face must have asked what the fuck without words because Ophelia started to laugh.

“You have the ghost of Jason Patrick living in your lobby?” I asked.

“Jason Patrick is not dead.” The man appeared on the near side of the ladder. “But thank you, sweetie.”

“No living with him,” Sally muttered.

Ophelia left off laughing long enough to introduce me to Jimmy. “You had the ghost part right, anyway.”

“Aren’t you a pretty little fruit.” Jimmy appeared right next to me. He draped his arm around my shoulders, cool and surprisingly peaceful. “Did you invite him specially for me to play with, Ophie?”

“I didn’t invite him at all.” Keeping hold of my hand, Ophelia drew me over to an antique love seat that could have belonged to Marie Antoinette. She and I sat, and Jimmy perched on the arm next to me. Sally scooted her butt onto a large mahogany desk right across from us.

None of them looked particularly threatening. In fact, staying here could be fun. I grappled my twittering nerves and dove in. “It started because Mari-Elle and I—”

“Oh yeah, how is Mother?” For the first time since I’d met her, Ophelia’s effervescence dampened.

“Gorgeous, frightening, and kind of mean.” Wow! Did I just say that? Because slandering someone’s mother is such a great lead-in to a favor.

Ophelia snickered. “You’re giving her too much credit.”

Well at least my cousin didn’t act insulted. I relaxed against the couch. “I decided I wanted a break from the life for … reasons, and I’ve always wanted to visit L.A.” The next part was the scariest, so I spit it out fast. “I’m hoping I can crash here for a while.” I clasped my hands so tightly the leather on my palms squeaked. “I mean, I know it’s rude to just show up, but I kinda hoped I could rent a room here in the hotel.”

Sally hissed a laugh. “It’s not that kind of hotel.”

“He can totally stay,” Jimmy said. Between his square chin, curly mullet, and micro-skinny tie, he really did look like ‘80s-era Jason Patrick. “How ’bout 312? It’s right at the top of the stairs.”

A broad staircase curled up from one corner of the room, opposite a double set of very black doors.

Ophelia finger-combed red ringlets away from her face. “You know, I think that’ll work.” She fixed me in her cold-slate gaze. “You know what this place is, right? I’m not kidding when I say it’s a gateway to Hell. Couple times an hour Hell’s escorts bring in the souls of the damned, and I send them down. You can’t freak out when that happens, and you absolutely cannot go through those doors.” She pointed at the black doors, and while I generally love a good dare, this seemed like a stupid time to take up a challenge.

“You got it. I’ll even help”—I glanced around at the Christmas insanity “—decorate.”

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I write romance: m/f, m/m, and v/h, where the h is for human and the v is for vampire … or sometimes demon … I lean more towards funny than angst. When I’m not writing I take care of tiny premature babies or teenagers, depending on whether I’m at home or at work. My husband is a soul of patience, my dog’s cuteness is legendary, and we share the homestead with three ferrets. Who steal things. Because they’re brats.

For sneak peeks and previews and other assorted freebies, go HERE to sign up for my mailing list.

Come find me. We’ll have fun!

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS

Blog: www.liv-rancourt.blogspot.com

Facebook www.facebook.com/liv.rancourt

Twitter www.twitter.com/LivRancourt

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Memories of Christmas Past, Footsteps Made of Ash – My Guest Blog at Andrew Q. Gordon’s

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Winter trees longs

I am guest blogging over at Andrew Q. Gordon’s website today for his Holiday Blog Event.  Each day a different writer talks about their memories of the holidays, no matter which ones they celebrate.  It has been a joyous group of offerings, from Shira Anthony to Wade Kelly.  You can find the schedule here.  Today I have singled out one (among many) of my father and the meaning of Santa.

Footsteps of Ash and the Meaning of Santa Clause

Christmas holds so many wonderful memories of family and Christmas past that when Andrew asked me to share something about Christmas especially in regard to families and children, I found myself reliving so many joyous Christmas memories, both from my childhood and my daughter’s, recent and decades ago.  It was a tough choice but in the end I chose to go way back to my own childhood and an overworked Dad and Mom who never failed to bring the magic and joy of the holiday season alive each and every year.

Although my Mom was always an important “behind the scenes” partner in our family’s Christmas, it was left to Dad to put together the bicycles or anything that required tools and mechanical skill.  And it was Dad who supplied the special touches that I remember with a sparkling clarity today.  We always lived in small houses that had fireplaces both by choice and necessity.  With parents born and raised in the South, fireplaces were a rarity and not often needed.  So Mom and Dad found them not only charming and unusual but needed in the colder climates of New York and New Jersey where our family ended up as Dad took one education job after another.  Dad loved building fires in the fireplaces and took great pride in building them “just a certain way”.  But at Christmas time, those fireplaces took on a special meaning as that is where Santa would appear to bring our gifts on Christmas morning. And it all started the night before Christmas.

Our stockings were hung by the chimney with care, just as in the poem.  They were made by my grandmother, a seamstress of note, and I still have mine, ragged and threadbare, all these decades later, our names carefully stitched along the white fake fur at the top.  Everyone in the family had a homemade stocking and each was hung over the fireplace, from Dad’s to Alison, the youngest child.

Christmas Eve was full of preparations and anticipation. My grandparents would arrive from Florida to help out and keep us kids occupied. Mamaw was in charge of the baking. A small batch of sugar cookies were made that day before Christmas with green and red sprinkles flying everywhere . Pepaw made sure a special glass that we used every year just for Santa was washed and ready. And if he filled another with something fragrant and “medicinal”, well it was the holidays. As the cookies baked in the small kitchen, Alison and I would scramble over to the tree decorated in the corner, shining with tinsel, bubble ornaments, and those large bulbs that used to  overheat the longer they stayed on.  We would carefully peak under the tree to see what boxes lay there and whose name was on the labels.  This is where Pepaw really came in, he policed that tree as though it was a castle rampart and we were the enemy.  Oh the squeals as he “captured us” and held us above his head, yelling “gotcha, you rascals”.  He had to keep it mild, otherwise there would be a “Oh, John, ….”, coming from Mamaw and the kitchen. We may not have know what those other words meant but we knew he shouldn’t have said them and we giggled.

There weren’t many presents as my parents couldn’t afford it on Dad’s first job’s salary and with Mom not working but it seemed like a mountain to us kids.  Plus with Pepaw and Mawaw, the boxes multiplied after the suitcases were emptied upon my grandparents arrival.  After dinner on Christmas Eve and everyone made sure we were tucked away in our rooms, then the magic really started.  All the gifts would be hauled out of the hiding places and the assembly would start. Mom and Mamaw brought out the milk and cookies,  Pepaw supervised and Dad?  Well, Dad became Santa. Dad would bring out his old black galoshes and remove the fire grate from the fireplace.  The ashes from the fires recently lit remained and Dad used them to tell us a story.  With great care, he made footprints with those boots, coming from directly under the chimney and with ashy bootprints, “Santa” marched across the living room (carpet and all), drank Santa’s milk, ate some of his cookies (always making sure to leave one partially bitten), then over to the tree.  There the footprints went this way and that, as toys from stuffed cats to sleds were carefully placed, along with mysterious packages that had huge bows and labels that read “from Santa”.  Finally, the footprints made an ashy path back to the fireplace, where Santa “flew up the chimney with great care” off to deliver more presents to children elsewhere.

Christmas morning and oh the joy of finding that Santa had been there.  We ran, tracing his path from fireplace to our tray of treats and finally to the tree.  The adults watched and took pictures as bows and paper flew through the air.  As things calmed down, Dad would point out that Santa had left, via the chimney and we would run and look, marveling that he could fit up anything so small.  Then Dad would hand out the rest of the presents, one to each person to open before going around again.  And finally, the proceedings would end with everyone at the table having a huge Christmas and very southern breakfast, with Dad at the head looking very satisfied and happy.

The years passed, the footsteps continued until one year they didn’t make an appearance, we young adults deemed to old for Santa (and we probably had something to do with that).

But if someone would ask  me today if there was a Santa, I would have to say yes, there is a Santa.  Mine has gotten older, hair as white as, well, snow.  His steps are not as sure and his back a little bent.  My mother, his own “Mrs Claus”. is still at his side while he still builds his fires “just a certain way” as the Christmas tree with all our old ornaments still shines as brightly next to the fireplace as I remember it all those years ago.  Those ashy boots made a reappearance with his grandchildren who now have the same memories I have of the magic of Christmas morning and the certainty that Santa was real and had been there to deliver, not just packages, but the miracle and magic of a jolly old elf and eight tiny reindeer.

Through all these years we never asked and Dad never told the story of the bootprints made of ash.  We never will. And isn’t that what Christmas is really about?  Love and the willingness to do whatever it takes to make others happy, to bring magic and joy to those we love and hold dear?

Merry Christmas, Santa!  Merry Christmas to one and all!

2013 Pulp Friction Series Finale, Finale Contest and Odd Man Out!

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Pulp Friction 4 covers

Today ScatteredThoughts is welcoming back authors Havan Fellows, Lee Brazil, Laura Harner and Tom Webb to talk about the last book in the Pulp Friction series…all of the series…, Odd Man Out.  Odd Man Out was written by all of the authors and ties up all the storylines for each author’s main character or characters.  There is a sensational contest to go along with this series finale, Odd Man Out 2013 Finale coverbut before we get to the contest, lets meet our authors for our final Pulp Friction get together of 2013!

Meeting already in progress, let’s listen in….

Havan: Right now, here, talking about this—this feels like it might’ve been the quickest year of my life. I swear just a couple of days ago Laura came to us with—

Wait a second…how rude, here I am assuming that you know us and our dastardly delicious Pulp Friction stories…introductions may be appreciated…”us” is Laura Harner, T.A. Webb, Lee Brazil and Havan Fellows…now back to our ramblings *winks*

—so Laura approached us with this crazy idea of bad guys being good guys and serial pulp fiction booklets and lots of man love…or something like that. After we completely thought she’d taken up some sort of (perhaps illegal lol) habit and realized she was just naturally…um…spunky like that…lmao…we sat and thought about her proposition.

I just love saying that…Laura propositioned 3 people at once…and we accepted!

And…Pulp Friction was born.

Flash forward roughly a year…and we’re now saying good-bye to the characters that became a part of our lives. Oh I’m not kidding, when Zack got mad at Wick it was hard as hell for me to not think that Laura was mad at me…and when Rory walked out on Chance hearts broke and we wanted to wrap our arms around Chance and tell him it would be okay. These are our boys, our hearts and souls…we’ve brought a very turbulent year of their lives to you and hope that you—our readers—love them as much as we do.

The dynamics of these men are really mind-boggling. We were already friends when we decided to test our boundaries with this endeavor. We knew that we could spend elongated periods of time together and not want to do each other bodily harm…lol…but could we write together? Could we allow the others into our minds and create—develop something that readers would enjoy? (Because make no mistake, even though only the last book is a combined effort we were holding each other’s hands through every single one of the twenty books that came before the finale.) That’s a scary as hell concept for private people to bear.

But we did it…and when the finale came around four extremely talented (some maybe a tad bit melodramatic *cough cough* or a touch hard-headed) and dedicated authors worked together and wrote one blazingly hot and holy-shit-hang-on-for-your-life-roller-coaster ride of a book.

Oh – and just for the record – our voices freaking sing when combined…*bows*.

And now it’s time to say good-bye to what started as five bad guys being good guys and ended as nine men (throw in a cousin & aunt, a housekeeper/mother figure, a manager of a bar & smartening up cop, a brother with two kiddos and a voice across the line) and well—that’s one hell of a family that no one wants to cross and anyone would be proud to be a part of.

We’ll miss them, we’ll think of them often and we’ll always have a place for them in us.

That being said…we’re ready to wow you next year when we take on Flagstaff and see what kind of trouble we can rouse up there.

Lee: Havan, I think you said everything that we’re all feeling right now. I’d just like to add a big thank you to readers and reviewers who supported us with such enthusiasm in this whole endeavor. It isn’t the usual fare in today’s world of instant gratification. This whole concept of waiting to find out what happens next? Well, we knew it would tick some people off, but we hoped you’d love it as much as we did! People like Melanie and Will Parkinson wowed us with their responses, and that is so encouraging. Big hugs and lots of love to all of you!

Laura:  What she said. And then some. I really had no idea what this would turn into by the end of our first year together, but I can tell you, that just as the characters grew into a family, so have the PF writers. Friends who aren’t afraid to test the limits only come along so often in life. I’m grateful to have Havan, Lee, and Tom in mine. Tom wasn’t able to be with us today, but he and I have talked so much this past year about just how lucky we are to be part of this magical collaboration. He is always so appreciative of the amazing reader response to Marcus and Ben.

Havan: Oh-kay…the feelings have been tossed out there, our boys have shared every side they have…and the Macallans Whisky has run dry—well if that isn’t our cue to wrap this up nothing is. But we don’t want to leave ya’ll empty handed…because you should always have something in your hand *winks* soooooooooooo…time for some fun.

Leave a comment…any comment you want, we aren’t picky…and FOUR lucky winners will be picked—each to receive one of the four compilations we published of the series. Oh…don’t forget to leave your email address also! And for the ones keeping count at home—yes we just said we will be giving away a total of twenty books to four lucky winners…a set of each of the series…so leave your comment already *points to comment area*

Contest Rehash (because I always wanted to use that word): Leave a comment here and four winners will be picked to receive one of the four compilations of the series.  That’s 24 books to 4 lucky winners, wow.  A set for each of you.  And please leave us your email address as well so we can get in touch.  I mean, this is remarkable.  Here is what the winners will get:

Wicked Truths coverWicked’s Way Series by Havan Fellows:

Wicked Solutions (Wicked’s Way #1)
Wicked Bindings (Wicked’s Way #2)
Wicked Incarceration (Wicked’s Way #3)
Wicked Guidance (Wicked’s Way #4)
Wicked Truths (Wicked’s Way #5)
Odd Man Out (4 series finale, #6)

Chance In Hell coverChances Are Series by Lee Brazil:

Chances Are (Chances Are #1)
Second Chances Are (Chances Are #2)
Fifty, Fifty Chances Are (Chances Are, #3)
Ghost of a Chance (Chances Are, #4)
Chance in Hell (Chances Are #5)
Odd Man Out (4 series finale, #6)

Darkest KNight coverCity Knight Series by T.A. Webb:

City Knight (City Knight #1)
Knightmare (City Knight #2)
Starry Knight (City Knight #3)
Knights Out (City Knight #4)
Darkest Knight (City Knight #5)
Odd Man Out (4 series finale, #6)

Duplicity coverTriple Threat Series by Laura Harner:

Triple Threat (Triple Threat #1)
Retribution (Triple Threat #2)
Defiance (Triple Threat, #3)
Crucify (Triple Threat, #4)
Duplicity (Triple Threat #5)
Odd Man Out (4 series finale, #6)

Dreamspinner Advent Story Roundup – Part II and List of Story Recommendations

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This post will finish up our Dreamspinner Advent Story Roundup started on Saturday, January 4, 2013.Aunt Dee Dee's Holiday Check

A Charming Idea by Alex Mar

Rating: 4.5 stars

DSP: Having fallen on hard times, London-based wizard Evan keeps his charms shop open on Christmas Eve. When he finally gets home, he finds his neighbor, Kian, languishing with a wound that hasn’t healed properly. He takes Kian in and they share the Christmas roast from their neighbor, Mrs. Halfpenny—neither suspecting the magic in the marinade that will make their holiday especially merry.

Alex Mar has written a real charmer of a story in A Charming Idea.  I loved everything about this tale, from the characters to the enchanting descriptions of Evan’s Charm shop to the pixies in his apartment.  I so wished I was able to actually appear in his shop and be able to see for myself the tiny reindeer prancing and peering about the other charms on the old wooden shelves or see the snow butterflies lighting up the firefly glasses.  Even the angel on top of his Christmas tree snored lightly in her sleep and fluttered her wings while dreaming. Entrancing doesn’t even begin to cover it.

The characters themselves were as magical and magnetic as their surroundings.  Evan with his wild mop of red hair and Kian, the mysterious neighbor with his  black cloak and quiet,somewhat menacing demeanor filled me with delight and anticipation.  I couldn’t wait to see how Alex Mar was going to bring them together and Mar didn’t disappoint me.  In fact, my only quibble with this story is that it is far too short.  I wanted to know more about Kian with the phoenix tattooed on the side of his face marking him as a Wizard Guard.  And I wanted to know more about those Wizard Guards who patrol the area.  And Evan’s father whose stags would have been sent to bring Evan home for Christmas if he hadn’t needed to keep his shop open.  There are so many delicious details here that cry out for a larger narrative that I almost couldn’t believe it when the story ended.  Alex Mar, if you are listening, please revisit this wonderful universe you created and give us the story it is meant to have.  Really, if you love fantasy, you will absolutely adore this story.

Aunt Dee Dee’s Holiday Check by Joel Skelton

Rating: 4.25 stars

DSP: After his Aunt Dee Dee sends him a windfall, Ethan decides to bail on the family holiday drama and go on a college skiing trip instead. Then a reservation snafu lands him in the same room as Henry, another student on the trip, and Ethan stumbles onto a bonus present of another kind: one that could last through Christmas and beyond.

Joel Skelton, where you been?  I loved this story and both Ethan and Henry grabbed me from the start.  At 65 pages, it is a longer story than most but Skelton uses that length to slowly build up Ethan and Henry’s backstories as well as give us a slower climb into a relationship.  Skelton’s characters are marvels, more than just sketches, we get fully fleshed out human beings on every level of the story, not just the main characters. I especially loved Ethan’s Aunt Dee Dee of the title.  She is a lesbian who the family disowned and now she is trying to reconnect with them. Aunt Dee Dee, along with her partner Agnes, sent Ethan the check that changes his life.

This is how she describes herself and Agnes:  ”

“We’re day traders by profession, lunatics by disposition, and we like to drink.” Agnes spelled it out. “And smoke,” Auntie D added with a snort.”

How do you know love these two and want to seriously party with them?  The whole story continues in that vein.  It’s funny, heartwarming and is never overly saccharine. Nor does it fall into the trap of instant love for Henry and Ethan, just a lovely romantic weekend with the future of more  waiting them.  Perfect.  This is the reason I loved getting the Dreamspinner Advent stories.  New authors to look up and the possibility of new stories to discover.  If I hadn’t gotten the entire package, I would have missed out on this author  and many others.

The Christmas Snoop by Jean Wolfe

Rating: 3.25 stars

DSP:  After going on a present hunt while his boyfriend, Matt, is in the office, James finds several things he didn’t expect, including photos of Matt in a Christmas jumper, an old teddy bear, and several letters to Santa Claus—one of which states that Matt doesn’t need anything for Christmas because he has James. It seems Matt has been a very good boy this year….

This is one very cute story about a snooping boyfriend, looking around for his presents and finding much more than his expected.  It was sweet, nicely written and a lovely present to find on my computer that December morning.  The characterizations were well developed and the short story  about two men who love each other was completely angst free.  While I don’t feel any need to reread this story, I certainly enjoyed the time I spent with Matt and James.

Rudolph by Sam C. Leonhard

Rating: 3 stars

DSP: Crotchety and cranky Rudy—aka Santa—is in a foul mood every Christmas season. He talks to lots of children and even more parents but not with guys looking for dates. Only when his best helper makes him a very special gift does he meet someone to his liking. Kind of. Because that someone is made of flour and spices—and to impress him, Rudy seriously has to work on his seduction skills.

This is a story that you are either going to dislike it or love it, depending upon how you feel about your Christmas figures.  This will not surprise anyone who has been following my reviews of the holiday stories, but I am coming down on the side of not liking Rudolph.  Here is Santa (son of Santa) who is cranky, hates Christmas and all the trappings, rude to children, with the patience of a pouting child.  It is not spoiling things to tell you that someone decides to gift this curmudgeonly Santa with his own cookie man for Christmas to teach him a thing or two.

Really, someone has to create a man for Santa? Sigh.  The only reason this story has three stars is because despite my dislike for the subject matter, the story is very well written, the characters crystalline in form, and the ending open and full of possibilities.   Some people will adore this story.  So I will recommend it and let you make up your own mind.

This is the second time I have gotten the entire month of Advent stories from Dreamspinner Press and have exactly the same reaction as I did the first time around, that you end up with a mix grab bag of stories.  Most are wonderful, some very nice, some forgettable and a few that resembled lumps of coal.

So I am sure you are wondering, is it worth the price to buy them all or should you wait and purchase them one at a time?  Well, after some thought, I think that it is worth the price, even with the uneven quality in the stories.  I did love getting a new story every morning, that was fun.  And I found some new authors I might not have discovered any other way.  I shudder to think that I might have missed out on Cardeno C’s Eight Days or Kim Fielding’s A Great Miracle Happened There.  The Colors of Pastor Saul by SA Garcia made me think and The Ghost of Mistletoe Lock by Amy Rae Durreson  brought back memories of Christmas ghosts past.  Amy Lane’s Turkey in the Snow can make me laugh just thinking about the scene that produced the title and Andrew Grey’s Snowbound to Nowhere was full of holiday delight and wonder.  And then there was Alex Mar and Joel Skelton too.

So many gifts were received this Evergreen Advent month that I heartily recommend you try it next season.  But don’t wait until then to read these stories, pick them up now and capture the glow of Christmas past!

Here is the list of the stories I loved in no particular order:

Eight Days by Cardeno C

Turkey in the Snow by Amy Lane

Snowbound to Nowhere by Andrew Grey

A Great Miracle Happened There by Kim Fielding

Aunt Dee Dee’s Holiday Check by Joel Skelton

A Charming Idea by Alex Mar

The Ghost of Mistletoe Lock by Amy Rae Durreson

Traditions from the Heart by Bru Baker

The Colors of Pastor Saul by S.A. Garcia

Wish List by J.J. Cassidy

Lessons Learned, Wishes Earned by Cassandra Gold