Scattered Thoughts Hosts Boys In The Band Blog Tour and Contest

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is the latest stop on the Boys in the Band blog tour, with authors L.A. Witt, Paula Coots, Rowan Speedwell, and Cecilia Tan. Each of these writers has brought a rock star to life in a recent romance release, so they got together to talk about music, musicians, love, and good old “sex, drugs, and rock and roll.” Today they answer the question: “What’s the biggest challenge when writing about a rock band or rock star?”

Scroll down for the answer and a chance to win a prize pack of all four books!

You could win:

LAW_WiththeBand_coverin_200tHard rock band Schadenfreude is finally on the verge of the success that’s eluded them for the last several years. With Aaron McClure as their new lead singer, nothing’s going to stop them…except maybe a steamy, secret relationship between Aaron and bassist Bastian Koehler. Aaron knows all too well what can happen when band members get involved with each other. After all, his last band was a casualty of his last relationship, and Schadenfreude forbids band members from dating for that very reason. But Bastian is too hot to resist, and besides, it’s just sex, so what’s the harm? Their passion in the bedroom is rivaled only by their ambition as musicians, though, and pretty soon, it’s going to tear them, and Schadenfreude apart, if they can’t get back to playing with the band.

Music is the driving force in Reed Lang’s life and he’s hit the jackpot when it comes to signing a major label deal and scoring a hit single oranother_rock_star_200t two. It’s never an easy task and certainly not for an out and proud gay man, even in this day and age. Now, it’s time to hire the backing band, shoot the videos, do all the promotion work and get out on the road. But what happens onstage is only half the show. When the wild energy onstage can’t be contained some become more than just hired hands. Friends. Mentors. Tormenters. Lovers. Surviving the circus of the music business, the rigors of the road, staying true to your art and discovering your heart show Reed that maybe there is more to life than being just another rock star.

????????????????????????????????????????It’s the 1980s, the era of MTV, AIDS, and Just Say No. Daron Marks is trying to make it as a guitar player in an industry where the whole world is the closet. Keeping his sexuality a secret would be a lot easier if he hadn’t developed a huge crush on his band’s lead singer, Ziggy Ferias. In fact, everything would be a lot easier without his crush on Ziggy… except for fame itself. In the latest volume of Daron’s Guitar Chronicles (volume 5), Moondog 3 are on the road. Is the tour bus the pressure cooker that will meld them together or will the pressure blow them apart?

Adam Craig is burned out. Lead singer of the hard rock band Black Varen, he’s tired of the empty life ofIllumination cover groupies, paparazzi, and hotel rooms. Worse, a life in the closet. Miles Caldwell is a brilliant artist, tied by agoraphobia and social anxiety to his family’s lodge. Alone but for his parrot, he spends his days illuminating manuscripts and hiding from the complexities of life. Somehow, the man who’s never home and the man who never leaves it must find the strength to fight for a future together.

Today’s question for our four authors: “What’s the biggest challenge when writing about a rock band or rock star?”

L.A. Witt: Song lyrics. Dear lord, song lyrics. I cannot write lyrics to save my life. With the Band has some lyrics in it, but those were actually written by Lia Wolff, my beta reader, who has considerably more talent in that department than I do. If I tried to write them, they’d come out sounding like something dreamed up by One Direction after some bad peyote.

Paula Coots:Trying to write about music itself is like trying to describe color to someone who has never seen it. You can evoke the essence of it–you can never quite capture the sound with words.

Rowan Speedwell:  Pretending to know anything about contemporary rock and roll. While I still listen to contemporary music, it’s not my overriding interest, the way it was when I was younger. I cherish quiet now, so I can go days without listening to music. Most of what I catch is in a movie or when one of my friends or nephews sits me down and poke earbuds in my ears and say “Listen to this!” I like music, but my taste is very eclectic, so it was very hard to sit down and imagine one specific kind of music, one “sound” that would belong to Adam’s band. I finally focused on the music of U2, which spans not only decades but musical styles. Then I had people who know much more about contemporary music read what I’d written and tell me where I went wrong.

Cecilia Tan: For me the biggest challenge has been keeping the details of rock and roll life realistic without overwhelming the reader. Daron narrates in first person, and sometimes he really wants to go into technical aspects of touring or of playing guitar. Sometimes I have to rein him in. Fortunately most readers are at least a little fascinated by details, like how difficult it is to park tour buses near certain venues. It’s necessary to do a lot of research to get those details right, though, and sometimes the answer can’t be found. Since my book takes place in the 1980s, a lot of these venues have been torn down. I invent when I have to, but I like using as much real detail as possible!

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for a prize pack including all four ebooks below!

About the Authors:

  • Paula Coots:After seeing David Bowie and his lead guitarist, Mick Ronson, when she was eleven, Paula knew what she wanted to do with her life. Her plan was to play lead guitar in a band and hopefully make it big, and then after that focus on writing. Well, she didn’t “make it big” as a rock star, but she has had her share of traveling band adventures as a lead guitarist over the past twenty five years. And now she writes!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PaulaCootsBooks
Twitter:@PaulaRCoots

  • Rowan Speedwell lives in a tarpaper shack in the North Woods, without so much as cable TV to keep her warm. She is allergic to publicity and loathes marketing, so her books only sell one or two copies. If you have one, she thanks you, as your purchase enables her to buy cat food for her diabetic feline companion, Kimball O’Hara.

Website http://www.rowanspeedwell.com
Twitter: @RowanSpeedwell

  • Cecilia Tan mostly writes erotica and science fiction/fantasy, but she started writing Daron’s Guitar Chronicles back in the eighties and is still writing it today. She is the author of Slow Surrender, The Prince’s Boy, the Magic University books, and many other novels and stories. She was inducted into the Saints & Sinners GLBT Writers Hall of Fame in 2010 and is currently a nominee for the RT Magazine Career Achievement Award in erotic fiction. She lives in the fantasy utopia of Cambridge, Massachusetts with her three cats and her partner of 23 years.

Daron serial website: http://daron.ceciliatan.com
Blog: http://blog.ceciliatan.com
Twitter: @ceciliatan
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thececiliatan

  • L.A. Witt is an abnormal M/M romance writer currently living in the glamorous and ultra-futuristic metropolis of Omaha, Nebraska, with her husband, two cats, and a disembodied penguin brain that communicates with her telepathically. In addition to writing smut and disturbing the locals, L.A. is said to be working with the US government to perfect a genetic modification that will allow humans to survive indefinitely on Corn Pops and beef jerky. This is all a cover, though, as her primary leisure activity is hunting down her arch nemesis, erotica author Lauren Gallagher, who is also said to be lurking somewhere in Omaha.

Website: http://www.loriawitt.com
Blog: http://gallagherwitt.blogspot.com
Twitter: @GallagherWitt

Visit to enter: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/38252b1/, a Rafflecopter giveaway

Other stops on the Boys in the Band Tour:
Dec 4  Sinfully Sexy Books
Dec 6 MM Good Book Reviews
Dec 10 Pants Off Reviews
Dec 11 Mrs. Condit Reads Books
Dec 12 Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
Dec 13 Chicks After Dark
Dec 14 Sid Love
Dec 16 Em Lynley’s Literary Love Shack
Dec 19 Joyfully Jay
Dec 18 Boys in Our Books
Dec 23 Elisa Rolle’s Reviews and Ramblings

Review: Illumination by Rowan Speedwell

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Illumination coverExhausted from his last performance on his band’s final tour,  Adam Craig, lead singer of the rock band Black Varen, returns to his suite to find it filled with his fellow band members and hangers-on partying out of control.  Adam feels burnt out and dissatisfied with almost every aspect of his life and now he’s had it.   Adam really wants to be back on stage, his real love. Plus, Adam is deeply in the closet, appearing to be straight because of his career.  Adam has always known he is gay but with a homophobic guitarist and Black Varen’s  fans to think about,  Adam has been forced to hide who he really is.  Now the secrecy and denial is wearing him down.  Escaping the party in a cab, Adam winds up hours way at a lake resort he remembered visiting often as a child.  It was a time and place where Adam had truly been happy.  Now its closed and the entrance chained. But a drunken Adam is not to be denied and he climbs over the chain and wanders around until he ends up falling asleep in a chair on the deck of a lakeshore cabin.

Miles Caldwell, a brilliant artist, lives in a cabin on the lake resort that his parents owned, now the property of Miles and his sister. It is the perfect place for an artist like Miles to live and paint.  It is also the only place Miles can live and stay sane.  Suffering from agoraphobia and social anxiety, Miles needs the isolation and quiet that the lodge and its surroundings give to him.  Unable to leave the resort, Mile’s only companions are his African Grey parrot, Gracie, his sister when she visits, and two old friends, a couple who help keep Mile’s grounded.

Mile’s spends his days illuminating manuscripts, often losing tracks of the hours he paints, consumed by the intricacies and tiny embellishments he creates for his masterpieces.  When Miles discovers Adam asleep on his porch, his first inclination is to call the police and have the intruder arrested.  But after introductions are made, each man is soon charmed by other.  Adam by Mile’s lack of knowledge as to his fame as a rock star as well as Mile’s gentle nature and idiosyncratic ways. And Mile’s? Well, he is enamored of just about everything about Adam, including his charm, gorgeous body and intelligence.

Before each man knows it, their accidental meeting turns into a two week romantic idyll.  Although each man tried to keep their affair light and complication free, just the opposite is happening.   When the demands of the band and his rock star way of life calls Adam away from Miles, can a man whose demons keep him trapped at home find a way to happiness with Adam, a man always on the run and still in the closet?

What is illumination? According to Webster’s, illumination is the act supplying or providing light to make something visible or bright. It is also the  manner in which an artist creates an elaborate decoration of the text of handwritten books with gold or, more rarely, silver, giving the impression that the page had been literally illuminated.  In other words, the page illustrated glows with light.   Rowan Speedwell uses both meanings of the word in her novel Illuminations to create a story that glows with its tale of love and redemption.

Speedwell has created two main characters, each a man carrying a darkness within them, both in need of love and passage to a happier life.  I loved both men.  The author has done a marvelous job making these men complicated real people, each layered with a variety of quirks, gifts, and oddities to their personalities.  And of course, each man also has his own individual demons to fight.

Adam is probably the most recognizable and even relatable of the two men.  He is a rock star tired of his fish bowl existence. He hates hiding who he really is, whether it is his sexuality or his love of the stage. Adam keeps both hidden and is paying the heavy price of denial with several types of self inflicted injuries.  He is using his best friend as a beard, having casual sex that later disgusts him and he is taking too many drugs.  Adam uses drugs to deal with life, not recognizing that it is getting out of control.   Rowan Speedwell paints a picture of an unhappy man who is self destructing with no way to stop it.

Her second character is astonishing in so many ways.  I never saw Miles Caldwell coming.  He is truly a unique creation.  Without going into spoilers, there is so much about Miles that will surprise you.  He is a artist of a very specific art form, one that is centuries old.  He illuminates text and he does so using the old methods.  He is brilliant in his artistry and known only by a small group of collectors and buyers.  His world is a much smaller canvas in all ways, not just in his artwork.  Due to his agoraphobia, social anxiety, and other issues, Miles has restricted his universe to his cabin and the lake shore in front of his cabin.  His companions have been winnowed down to his parrot Gracie, his sister Lisa, a lawyer, and two old friends, now a couple, who have known him since childhood.  And all contact with the outside world is handled either by phone, computer or by the delivery men.  It is a tight, small place in which Mile’s lives and feels safe.  And Speedwell brings the reader into Miles’ world gently and with an intimacy that makes us realize what Miles has both gained and lost in the hand life has dealt him.

Mile’s world is itself embellished by the secondary characters Speedwell creates to support him and shore him up mentally and emotionally.   Lisa is a heartbreakingly sturdy and loyal sister.  She has lost as much as Miles has, perhaps even more, and yet there is so much to admire about her.  Lisa is a well rounded creation and you will want to shed tears along side her when her pain and frustration gets too much and overwhelms her.  At little more on the odd side is Bobby and Doug, a  gay couple who have been friends with Miles for years.  Bobby, in fact, has been Miles  sex buddy with the complete approval of Doug, his long term partner.  With certain restrictions of course, because those sexual acts belong to Doug alone.  It’s a strange little arrangement that feels jarring to the reader and kind of pathetic in that is how narrow Miles’ life has become.   I understood the author’s reasoning in its inclusion but how you feel about this arrangement, whether you can accept it or not, might complicate your feelings  about this story and their friendship.

And of course, there is Gracie, the Congo African Grey Parrot.  As someone who has one as part of her family, I loved Gracie and thought the author did a  superb job of bringing the ACG to life in a remarkable way.  These are extraordinary birds with the recorded intelligence of a 5 to 7 year old child.  And given the right socialization and treatment act exactly as Gracie does.  So wonderful to see the African Grey as part of this story and this relationship, I loved it.

The art of illumination is such an amazing element of this story.  We learn about the types of ink, and how they are created as well as the calfskin used as canvas.  Every aspect of the products necessary for Miles to work as well as the history is included here. But it is done smoothly as part of the narrative rather than as a history lesson.  Through Adam and Miles’ interaction,  we learn about the types of illumination and the  intricate gold leaf work associated with it.  And as Adam is educated about illumination to his astonishment and joy, so is the reader.  This is Adam’s first introduction to illumination and Miles’ art:

Miles walked into the center of the room and pointed at the back wall. “That’s illuminated manuscripts.”

“Holy. Fucking. Shit.”

The wall was covered with framed calligraphy pieces. Adam had played around with lettering in high school art classes, but nothing even remotely like these. The calligraphy was a bunch of different styles that he supposed were historical, and they were beautiful, but the painting that decorated the pieces was amazing. What looked like real gold was interspersed with designs and foliage and flowers painted in deep, bright colors, layered and detailed. He put his nose up close to the glass covering one of them to look at the tiny brushstrokes showing the miniscule hairs and veins of a leaf no more than a half an inch long. “Christ on a crutch,” he breathed. “You did these?”

“Yeah. They’re samples,” Miles said carelessly. “That one you’re looking at is a reproduction of a fourteenth century Book of Hours—that’s kind of like a prayer book rich people carried around with them in the Middle Ages and Renaissance.”

“Whole books of these?”

“Yep.”

“Jesus.”

“Yep.”

Adam stood back and craned his neck to see the ones toward the ceiling. Those didn’t have as much gold—one didn’t have any at all—but they were even more intricate in the spiraling designs he recognized as Celtic. Others had amazingly realistic flowers and bugs painted so that they looked three-dimensional. One was entirely in shades of gray. The ones that had calligraphy all had the same text, that 25
started out “Lorem ipsum . . .” Some of them had the “L” ornately decorated, with pictures inside the letter of flowers or people or animals. “So this is like, what, your catalog?”

Miles laughed. “Yeah, in a way. I do have a catalog, both physical and online—I have a professional facsimile photographer take pictures of finished pieces.”

The paintings dazed Adam, already only semi-functional from the hangover. He turned and said weakly, “I need one of these.”

If you have been as lucky as I have to been able to see this work in person, then you know that its ability to stun a person with its visual beauty and astound with its intricate designs is realistically telegraphed in the scene above.   Its jaw dropping art and Speedwell not only understands that but is able to convey it through her words and characters,  an amazing achievement.  The author uses it as a metaphor for the light that Adam and Miles’ relationship brings to each man and their life, and their story is elevated further.   Like illumination, there are many stages and complicated procedures necessary before the final product is finished and will glow.   Speedwell delivers on that end too.

There are so many serious issues here for the author to address.  Issues of drug abuse, mental illnesses, family dynamics and personal growth that you might think that the story  would bog down under the combined weight of all these heavy problems and sometimes it came close.  But Rowan Speedwell also remembers to add in levity and light just when it is needed the most.  Whether it is in the reflected glory of Miles’ artwork or the comedy that is Gracie, the story swoops and climbs the emotional hills and valleys of the author’s plot with an agility that the heart can accept and the mind will enjoy.

For myself, the story works best with we are dealing with Mile’s and Adam’s issues in tandem.  Once the story removes Mile’s and his efforts at recovery from the equation to focus on Adam and his struggles with his fame and addiction, then an important part of the focus of the story is lost, not to be regained until Mile’s reappears towards the end of the book.  I wish the author had found a way to continue the equal treatment of both men as they are concentrating on their individual problems much in the same manner she  brought them together in the first place.  That would have made this story perfect.  As it is, it falters a bit towards the end when it stays on Adam and his efforts to balance his love for Miles with the reality of his life.  We need to have Miles there to balance out Adam as much as he does.  And when the story brings them back together, and the men find themselves glowing from their renewed health and love for each other does Illuminations really shine with its promise fulfilled.

Illuminations is a perfect title for this story that revolves around two artists in love. One, a man with a profession whose origins is steeped in ancient history and is consumed by the focus the small illustrations and gold leaf applications it requires.  The other man  a modern musician whose music is spread across countless stages, large venues and recording studios that carry his songs to millions everyway.  With these two diverse characters and their art, Rowen Speedwell delivers an intense and ultimately rewarding tale of love and redemption, one that I can recommend highly.   Pick it up and start reading.  And maybe once you are done,  head to the library or the computer and check out The Book of Kells and the art of illumination.  Prepare to be astonished and happy that the author incorporated such a magical art form into such a marvelous story.

Cover Art by L.C. Chase, http://lcchase.com/design.htm.  What a wonderful cover, perfect in every way.

Book Details:

ebook, 307 pages
Published September 30th 2013 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN13 9781626490529
edition language English