Tis the Season for Giving ~ Check out the ‘Love Wins Anthology for Charity and the Tray Ellis Interview

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Love Wins Anthology
Publisher:Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: December 16, 2016

Available at

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Contributing Authors: Lucie Archer , Kris T. Bethke, Deja Black, M.A. Church,
David C. Dawson , Jana Denardo , Nicole Dennis , Julie Lynn Hayes  , Jude Dunn , Xenia Melzer,
Grace R. Duncan , L.A. Merrill, Ravon Silvius , Renee Stevens , Alicia Nordwell, Troy Storm , Tray Ellis

~An Interview with Tray Ellis~

Hi, I’m Tray Ellis.  I have a short story called “Prevailing Zzz’s” in the Love Wins charity anthology. Today I’m visiting here at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words.  I have a few interview questions that challenged me to be introspective, and following after that is information on the anthology and my story.

  • Where do you normally draw your inspiration for a book from?  A memory, a myth, a place or journey, or something far more personal?

Inspiration for me comes from every day events and people.  I might have a conversation with someone, or overhear a snippet of dialogue in a store, and it occurs to me that the subject would make a very good topic for a story. It is exciting when that happens. The feel of inspiration is a thrill.  I jot the ideas down as soon as I can, mull them over, and pick and choose which ones will resonate. 

  • Are you a planner or a pantzer when writing a story? And  why?

Definitely a planner! Although there are always elements of ‘I’ll figure it out when I get there”, I like to go for long walks and really think about the story and the characters. I do hold a lot of it in my head rather than try to write it all down in an outline.

  • Contemporary, supernatural, fantasy, or science fiction narratives or something else?  Does any genre draw you more than another when writing it or reading it and why does it do so?

Generally contemporary, but with supernatural elements. Ever since I learned the term “magical realism”, I’ve known how to name what I like to write most, and read the most as well. I love writing contemporary stories with something out of the ordinary. I think most of us want our lives to be extraordinary, and it is fun to imagine special ways to make that happen to characters.

  • If you had a character you’ve written you would write differently now at this time in your writing career, who would it be and why?

This question really made me think, but I’m going to say that I wouldn’t.  There’s something about a character that once development ends, and the story is over, that they feel entirely separate and their own selves.  I suppose there could always be additional information discovered about them. Why do they love something? Or fear something? But to go back and fundamentally change them would be to pull a thread out of a fabric.  You can try to fix it by meticulously pulling the loose thread back in. You can go on wearing the garment, but it never looks quite as nice. It’s always in danger of unraveling again.

  • Can a author have favorites among their characters and do you have them?

Absolutely. It’s hard not to.  Sometimes it is the immediacy of writing about the character.  I might like whomever best that I’m currently considering and typing up in the story. Then, when I shift on to a different portion of the story and spend time with a different character, I might become fond of them.  I suppose it makes me sound a little fickle! But, honestly, even the villains of the story are going to have elements of the author in them, so you’re going to like them just a little.

  • If you were to be stranded on a small demi-planet, island, or god forbid LaGuardia in a snow storm, what books would you take to read or authors on your comfort list?

I actually still travel with real books in my backpack. I like real paper, even though I love electronic reading as well. I always want to have something with me in case I need to settle down and wait for a time.  I have bookshelves stuffed with books I’ve read and when I go to pick them out, as I run my fingers over the spines, I remember the stories told within.  Some of the ones I grab the most often:  Dracula by Bram Stoker, Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, any of the Stephanie Plum books, and Witch Week by Diana Wynne Jones. These are worlds that I enjoyed traveling through again and again.

  • How early in your life did you begin writing?

I wrote adventure stories as early as elementary school with my friends.  In middle school, I started writing stories on my own. One of the best compliments I’ve received was because a friend showed my stories to her mom, and she wanted to read more of my stuff even then!

  • Were you an early reader or were you read to and what childhood books had an impact on you as a child that you remember to this day and why?

I was read to as a child, and we went to the library as a family. Libraries are amazing, and I often borrowed as many books as I was allowed. I loved mystery stories.  I read through the Bobbsey Twins mysteries and moved on to Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys as I got older. The children’s book that made a serious impact on me was The Big Orange Splot, by Daniel Pinkwater. For such a short story, it’s got a lot of complex things to say about differentness, conformity, and being our truest selves. 

  • What question would you ask yourself here?

I thought of about a dozen questions, but one of the better ones was: If you could choose to hear one thing about the stories you write, what would it be?

That I made the reader smile or laugh. I’m not a straight-out comedic writer, so my words aren’t going to make a reader guffaw until tears roll down their cheeks, but I do like to tuck amusing and funny little bits into my stories. I find it supremely satisfying when I hear from someone that they had a good chuckle over some irreverent dialogue or an unusual situation.

  • If you were writing your life as a romance novel, what would the title be?

The Constant Heart. This was the toughest question in the bunch!  Like a lot of authors who write in the romance genre, I believe in True Love.  If I can’t find enough of it in real life, I’m going to seek it in the fictional worlds. This constancy is the element that most describes my affections.

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Love Wins Blurb

With time comes healing, but Orlando and the LGBT community are still recovering from last June’s tragedy. To show our ongoing support for those affected by the Orlando shooting, our authors, editors, artists, and staff have volunteered their talents to create this second benefit anthology. All proceeds will be donated to LGBT organizations in central Florida. Join us as we reaffirm that no matter the obstacle, love always wins.

Specific Blurb:

Prevailing Zzz’s by Tray Ellis

After eight months together, Greg wants Win to move in with him. But how can Win agree when Greg’s snoring leaves him sleep-deprived and miserable?

Author Bio

Tray Ellis grew up across from an empty field where she spun a lot of imaginary adventures, helping to prepare her for a lifetime of writing. When she isn’t writing, she keeps busy by hiking, cooking, stacking the odd cord of wood in the shed, baking, and being too busy to keep her home in any semblance of order. Currently she tries to find a balance between the logical way she thinks and the flights of fancy that she often daydreams about.  Mostly, the daydreams are winning.

Tray can be found at the following social media locations:

trayellis.dreamwidth.org

http://www.facebook.com/tray.ellis.54

trayellis.blogspot.com/

twitter.com/TrayEllisWrites

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Once Upon a Time in the Weird West Anthology

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Rating:  4.75 stars out of 5

 

once-upon-a-time-in-the-weird-westThis isn’t the same old Wild West. The usual suspects are all present: cowboys, outlaws, and sheriffs. There’s plenty of dust, tumbleweeds, horses, and cattle on the range, but there are also magical gems, automatons, elementals, airships… even dinosaurs and genetically modified insects. Roaming among the buffalo and coyotes, you’ll encounter skinwalkers, mad engineers, mythical beings cloaked in darkness, and lovers who stay true to their oaths… even beyond the grave. On this frontier are those at the mercy of their own elaborate devices as well as men whose control of time and space provides a present-day vision of the West. There might even be a dragon hidden amongst the ghost towns and wagon trains.

If you like your Westerns with a splash of magic, a touch of steampunk, and plenty of passionate romance between men, these genre-bending tales will exceed expectations.

Hold on to your hats, cowboys and cowgirls. The West is about to get weird, and you’re in for a hell of a ride.

Its been quite a while since I’ve  read such a strong and outstanding anthology.  I can recommend almost every story and most are 4 to 5 stars.  Its remarkable.  The American West has always been wild but never this weird and extraordinary.  In the hands of these authors, they transport the readers and romance into other dimensions  and worlds entirely.  From steampunk to mages to things supernatural, all the roads to love, however strange and mysterious, can be found here.

I’ve listed them in the order they can be found in the anthology with my comments and ratings.

Reaper’s Ride by Astrid Amara  – 5 Stars

Johnny Jenkins  loves  most aspects of riding  for the Pony Express, but  the  loneliness  can  be  hard  to  abide.  When  a  raid  injures  the  station keeper  at  remote  Jacob’s  Well,  Johnny  is  left  alone  to  tend  the  incoming riders until a replacement can be found. Isolated and without even a horse to keep him company, Johnny thinks he might go mad from solitude. 

That is, until he meets Sye Fairchild, a rider for a different kind of express.  This  one  operates  in  the  shadows,  and  the  deliveries  are  of  a much  darker  nature.  Sye  is  dashing  and  kind,  but  he’s  also  under  a deadline—he’s  got  to  finish  his  deliveries  by  Friday,  or  he  breaks  a  very old and very serious bargain. 

And  as  Johnny  finds  a  kindred  soul  in  Sye,  he  realizes  that  soul needs saving—even if it means ruining his own.

 Astrid Amara does her normal outstanding job of melding accurate historical fiction with the supernatural in the Reaper’s Ride, one of my favorites.  It launches this anthology with a bang and I still have this couple hanging about in my head.

Wild, Wild Heart by Shira Anthony – 5 stars

Al Pennington and Cyrus Reese are both damaged men. Apprenticed as a child to a master who created clockwork wonders, Al now prefers to spend his days on his secluded homestead, toiling over his own fantastical inventions. But when he takes the wounded Cyrus into his home and nurses him back to health, Al realizes he wants Cyrus to stay. Al’s tired of being alone, Cyrus is tired of running, and maybe their time together can be a balm to wounds left by their difficult pasts. 

When an outlaw bent on dragging Cyrus back into a life of crime comes knocking, Al is seriously injured. Cyrus must quite literally take Al’s broken heart in his hands to save his life.

 Wild, Wild Heart by Shira Anthony makes steampunk inventions believable as she does the men who  toil over them.  Here a simple sound become ominous, and then  joyous.  I loved it.

Dr. Ezekiel Crumb’s Heavenly Soul Purifying Elixir by Lex Chase – 3.75 stars

Dr. Ezekiel Crumb’s Medicine Show runs a booming business conning homesteaders with his Heavenly Soul Purifying Elixir. He takes advantage of the gullible, who believe the only way to be purged of their sins is with his moonshine—strong enough to strip paint at forty paces. 

When a sandstorm buries his caravan, Ezekiel is hauled to safety and trapped in his wagon. His savior is none other than Levi Everett, his lost love. But Ezekiel put him in the ground years ago, and he fears Levi is the Devil, come to demand atonement for his sins. The tale Levi spins leaves Ezekiel wondering if he’s lost his own soul—or maybe his mind. All he knows is that not even his elixir can heal his broken heart.

 I thought this story got stronger the further in I got and loved the ending.

Corpse Powder by Jana Denardo –    4.75 stars

Doctor Isaac Adler came to Virginia City, Nevada, to escape the horrors he witnessed during the War between the States. Despite a living in a thriving Jewish community, Isaac’s having trouble finding his faith… and finding work. Just when he’s contemplating leaving the desert, life takes an unexpected turn when the airship Aurora is attacked by pirates and Isaac is called upon to help the wounded.

The ship’s first mate, Tsela “Alexander” Zhani, is also trying to outrun a nightmare, his in the form of the powerful skinwalker who drove him from his Navajo village. Tsela’s friendship with the handsome doctor responsible for saving the lives of his friends gives both men a fragile hope for a better future. But their demons aren’t as far behind them as they thought.

 Corpse Powder  blends two religions and two disparate men and comes up with a remarkable romance.  One is Dr. Isaac Adler, Jewish and afraid of heights.  The other, a flying ship’s first mate, Tsela Zhani, a Navajo being chased by a skinwalker.    The imagination shown by the author in not only Denardo’s world building but the battle scenes and the characters is amazing.  Another world I could happily have stayed in.

The Sheriff of Para Siempre by Jamie Fessenden  – 3 stars

In 1875, Billy Slade is one of the fastest gunmen in the territory of New Mexico, despite his youth. With his lover, Joe Brady, he travels from town to town, hiring out his skill wherever he can—provided the cause is noble. Billy fancies himself a hero defending the common man against bandits and ruffians. But a night of passion gets Billy and Joe run off the ranch they helped defend from rustlers.

In the failing mining town of Para Siempre, Billy’s skill as a marksman lands him the job of sheriff. But the town is run by the corrupt Cassidy brothers, who take a liking to Billy and Joe, and they’re used to getting what they want. When Billy rejects Jed Cassidy’s proposition, Jed challenges him to a gunfight. It’s a fight Billy could easily win—but the Cassidys don’t play fair.

For me, this was the only story I disliked.  The writing is good but the story is one that I actually ending up rushing through.  From a rape and murder, its sad, bittersweet and left a awful taste in my mouth.  Its 3 stars only because the writing is so good.  Disliked everything else. 

The Tale of August Hayling by Kim Fielding – 4 stars

August Hayling went west following the discovery of gold in California. While most prospectors were hoping to strike it rich, August was more interested in a place big enough to let him get lost. Sitting alone in a saloon, he is approached by a peculiar man named Georgios Cappadocia, who offers August a fortune in gold if August will come along and help him fetch it. August soon learns that his strange new employer is engaged in some kind of ancient dispute. And when they arrive at their destination, both men will realize that not all treasures are golden—and sometimes destinies can be changed.

Ah a Kim Fielding story!  I never know which way its going to go.  This time its whimsical.  I sort of guessed at the identities of the characters but that didn’t take away my enjoyment of the story.  Extra bonus?  Features one of my favorite fantasy creatures!

 Time Zone by Andrew Q. Gordon –   4.5 stars

Some people possess gifts that allow them to change the world. For Wesley Blake, it’s all a matter of time. He can stretch a handful of seconds into a whole day. But his ability hasn’t saved Wesley from being hurt by others. As a field agent for the Department of Gifted Americans, Wesley throws himself into his work to forget that he is alone. The only person Wesley trusts is his handler, Lothar.

Then a vital mission brings a new partner, Eric, who refuses to let Wesley shut him out. As they train for their assignment, a friendship builds between them. Wesley cautiously lets Eric into his life, until he learns Eric and Lothar lied to him. Betrayed and angry, Wesley struggles to control his powers, and when things take a dangerous turn, even Wesley might not have enough time to get out with his life.

 Another strong story. Time Zone and Andrew Q. Gordon delivers great characters and a fascinating world.  Wesley Blake in particular, a vulnerable gifted man with a dependancy on his handler Lothar, who he’s never met.  How the story unfolds, its revelations, including the spectacular one at the end?  It kept me involved and connected to Wesley and his path to love.  Outstanding story.

Get Lucky by Ginn Hale – 5 Stars  

Pinkerton detectives, saltwater crocodiles, the Borax Brothers, and the sinister Swaims: seems everyone is out to get water mage, Lucky Spivey.

Lucky Spivey just wants to pay off his dead father’s debts and forget about the gunslinger who left him waiting at the stagecoach station three years before. But when he stumbles across a handsome Pinkerton detective in mortal peril, he can’t abandon the man to his fate, and all too soon Lucky finds himself in a wild chase filled with magic, murder, and a triceratops or two. Surviving the marshlands might mean working together with a disturbingly familiar gunslinger…. 

 Ginn Hale had me at Lucky Spivey.   What a wild ride!  Mages, crocodiles, swamps and a lost love returned.  I really wanted so much more at the end.  If you’re listening Ginn Hale, bring Lucky back and his beau too. 

From Ancient Grudge to New Mutiny by Langley Hyde – 4 stars

In the small town of Wilson Creek, two handsome lovers, destined for death at each other’s hands, attempt to end their families’ Shakespearean feud over precious magical minerals.

When James Caplin, inventor of a new magic-detecting device, returns home after graduating from Hinton’s Academy for Boys, he’s looking to have one last hurrah with a handsome cowboy. But he discovers not only that his handsome cowboy is Frank Montgomery, the son of the Caplins’ hated enemies, but also that the Montgomerys are accused of stealing the Caplins’ precious illudine, a rare magical stone. When the argument between the Montgomerys and Caplins becomes heated, James and Frank are expected to settle the matter with a duel. If James doesn’t want to put a bullet in Frank, he’ll have to recover the illudine, reveal the thief, and end a centuries-old rivalry… and he needs Frank’s help.

 Romeo and Jules with Alchemy.  Another neat twist on the  Romeo and Juliet  tale with  a M/M twist and turns.  I wish I had more background on the world but it was  fascinating in the bits and pieces the author set out.  

POMH by Venona Keyes  4 .5 stars

Lorem Farcome makes inventions that cater to the working class. He dreams of a lost chance in love and a lost apprentice. The lost love he can do nothing about, but an apprentice, he can surely build. With a rare red prism, Lorem creates and animates his assistant, dubbing him “Pomh.” The road never runs smooth, and a wealthy and powerful competitor, Markus Reighn, accuses Lorem of stealing the red prism and claims Lorem’s mechanical man for himself. But an odd-looking prospector might hold the key to clearing Lorem’s name and giving Lorem his true heart’s desire.  

Lorem has lost someone and he makes  wonderful inventions.  He finds a rare prism, and something miraculous  occurs.  Venona Keyes takes us on a steampunk journey of lost love and heartbreak and miracles.  Its one to be treasured, a standout in a collection of standouts.

 

Oh, Give Me a Home by Nicole Kimberling – 5 stars

Corporate terraformer turned social justice worker, Gordon gave up a good living to pioneer New Saturn, where the ranges are as vast as they sky—just the way Gordon likes them. Together with his partner Henry, Gordon herds the ankle-high genetically modified insects, which deposit crucial bacteria into the soil so the ground can one day be farmed. But when rustlers strike, the barren beauty of the frontier  turns deadly, and Gordon must risk everything to keep himself and Henry alive. 

Nicole Kimberling has long been a favorie of mine, especially her Bellingham Mysteries.  Here you have an established  couple Henry (born earthbound) and Gordon (born in space) and their herd of bugs each with their personalities.  Yes from Screwloose to Queen Esther, you’ll be falling in love with these terraforming bugs too.  Kimberling gives us the complete world, including Gordon’s space born physiology and what that must mean when it comes to making love or even existing within quarters with gravity.  A stunning story all around.

Gunner the Deadly by C.S. Poe – 5 stars

Special Agent Gillian Hamilton is one of the top magic casters in law enforcement. Sent to Shallow Grave, Arizona to arrest a madman engineer responsible for blowing up half of Baltimore, Gillian isn’t expecting a run-in with notorious outlaw, Gunner the Deadly.

Gillian and Gunner become temporary teammates when it turns out they’re after the same man. The Tinkerer will stop at nothing to get rid of the two so he can steal the town’s silver mines and build an army of steam machines to take down the country. If facing Gatling guns, airships, and magic wasn’t enough, Gillian must also struggle with the notion that he’s rather fond of his criminal partner. But perhaps a union between copper and outlaw isn’t so weird out in the wild and lawless West.

 Gillian and Gunner and a madman on the loose in a steampunk world.  Its wildly imaginative, its fast paced, and its romantic.  Loved it.

After the Wind by Tali Spencer     –  5 stars

Plagued by drought and raids from hostile Comanches, the West Texas frontier is a hell of a place to carve out a living. Twenty years ago, a mysterious disaster devastated the Llano Estacado and cursed the survivors with supernatural abilities over Fire, Air, Water, and Earth. The Anglo government promptly outlawed these powers—and they’re willing to pay good money to anyone who turns over an elemental, dead or alive.

When rancher Micah Dawes desperately needs water for his herd, he strikes a deal with two unsavory bounty hunters for the services of a chained, blue-haired water elemental named Rain. Micah pities Rain, but he has to play his cards close to his chest—because Micah, too, survived the Wind, and the reason he always wears a hat is to hide his glowing red hair….

We end up this extraordinary collection with a strong story.  After the Wind by Tali Spencer.   Is the Wind an environmental foreshadowing?  Whatever the cause the devastating effects on the human and animal population is swift and brutal.  Genetic changes for the remaining populations in some areas that cause them to be hunted and killed for their properties.  Its heartbreaking and Spencer brings that out in vividly described passages and the character of Rain.

The story is stark and yet, full of hope at the end.  Its a perfect way for Once Upon a Time in the Weird West to come to a close.  But these characters?  They will continue to stay with you for some time yet.  What great stories!  What marvelous world building.  More,  I want much, much more.  I highly recommend this anthology.  Its one of the best I’ve read and it will in my Best of 2016 List!

Cover Artist: Nathie Block.  I just love this cover.  Eye catching and works for the stories.

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Book Details:

ebook, 400 pages
Expected publication: December 16th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634779185 (ISBN13: 9781634779180)
Edition LanguageEnglish

Review: Kept Tears by Jana Denardo

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Kept Tears coverArmy vet Aaron Santori’s time in Afghanistan almost broke him.  An explosion on duty cost him his arm and killed many of his friends.  Now home, Aaron is trying to deal with his PTSD, his scars both  physical and emotional, adjust to his new trans-humeral prosthesis, all while studying physiology as a grad student at Pitt.  A full load, almost guaranteed to keep him so busy that dating or any relationships outside of friendship are a challenge at best.  Then one night at a steampunk event at a local bar, Aaron and friends run into  Rhys Edwards, a YA novelist from Wales and everything changes.  Rhys is not put off by Aaron’s prosthesis and he makes it very apparent that he finds Aaron absolutely attractive no matter what scars Aaron carries.  Soon, Aaron finds himself in a relationship that he never anticipated with a gorgeous man of his dreams.

But Rhys has many secrets, including the fact that he is not human.  As a prince of the Tylwyth Teg, Rhys is fae.  He is an immortal Seelie, with enemies and ex paramours that come with centuries of living.  One such ex lover, Morcant, is determined to have his revenge on Rhys for cutting him loose centuries ago.  Soon  the unwary Aaron becomes the target of Morcant’s plot against Rhys.  The truce between Seelie and Unseelie Courts may be broken, and lives lost, including Aaron’s if Rhys can’t stop Morcant from carrying out his revenge.  Can the mortal Aaron survive being in love with a Seelie Prince?

Kept Tears is a story that has me wavering in setting any ratings at all.  I loved so many parts of this story and yet can see where many readers will want to discard it almost immediately when it comes to Denardo’s idea of Fae morality including her Fae outlook on love and fidelity.  I will get to that later.

First, lets look at the excellent job she did in creating Aaron Santori, a wounded warrior, whose time in Afghanistan has cost him his arm, a horribly scarred leg and left him with PTSD.  Denardo’s descriptions of Aaron’s night terrors and flashbacks, seen from Aaron’s point of view, brings the reader intimately into the character’s mindset and emotional turmoil.  But we are eased into it slowly as we get to know the character better.  Our first introduction to Aaron (and Rhys) is the night of the steampunk event at a local bar.  The scenes let us know that while Aaron has shied away from intimate relations, he has not isolated himself from those that care about him.  We get to see a man involved with life, although on his terms, and it becomes easy to embrace his character.   Denardo has made Aaron  accessible by his interests,his appealing nature and of course, by his frailties.  Aaron’s transhumeral prosthesis is a fascinating element in this story. Aaron is studying myoelectics because of his arm.  I recently saw a piece on a hand prosthesis such as his on a cable science program and was as fascinated as Rhys.  Here is an excerpt as Aaron shows Rhys his arm for the first time:

 “Your turn.”

“Grad student at Pitt. I’m studying physiology. I wanted to be a doctor, went to the Army to pay for it, and ended up a medic. Things went sideways from there.”Aaron gestured with his prosthetic hand and Rhys’s blue eyes widened. “Ah, you didn’t expect it to move.” Aaron grinned.

Rhys studied the transhumeral prosthesis Aaron sported, obviously amazed, awe in every word. “No, I did not.”

“I’m in a program working with myoelectrics, and this arm is part of it.” Aaron moved his fingers.

“How does it work?” Rhys leaned closer.

Aaron didn’t mind bragging about his arm. “There are electrodes under my skin that talk to the arm. I think about moving the arm, and it moves. I’m still learning all the intricacies. I’m working on the physiology aspect as part of my doctoral work.” He couldn’t contain his excitement as he explained, his mechanical fingers clenching and unfurling as he showed off.

“That is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.” Rhys reached over and touched the prosthetic hand.

Aaron wiggled his thumb. “Isn’t it?”

“Absolutely.” Rhys back, tossing his head. His wheat-gold hair flopped into his eyes. “What else do you like besides steampunk?”

Aaron was dressed for the event in a costume where “Aaron had designed his dress shirt to be short-sleeved on the side of his prosthesis so it could show off the gears and brass work he had sheathed the nonmoving parts in.”  Aaron has adjusted to  his arm in a healthy way but is wary of others reactions to the prothetic.  It’s a realistic and lovely moment, especially when Aaron realizes that Rhys has easily accepted it as part of Aaron and moved on.  For me, Aaron is the best, most moving part of Kept Tears and when his relationship with Rhys places him in unknown danger, I found the suspense to be almost unbearable.

Then there is Rhys Edwards aka Myrddin, prince of the Tylwyth Teg. Rhys is a Seelie fae, an immortal who has a Sidhe wife and children who he cares about deeply.  And therein lies the rub for many readers.  One half of the romantic couple is happily married to a female fae and has children.   He has no intention of leaving his wife or children nor would it be reasonable to assume he would do so as he is heir to the Seelie throne. This is not a spoiler as the reader learns about his marital status almost immediately in the story.

I will admit that this startled me at first.  But as Rhys (and Denardo) admonishes/informs us, that is a human outlook, not a Sidhe one.  In fae lore and Denardo’s construct, the Sidhe are immortal, and for them monogamy is unrealistic past the first 50 or 60 years with the same person.  Rhys is bisexual, and has had many partners (and relationships) over the hundreds of years.  Rhys has always found himself attracted to humans, with their mayfly (one day life span) existence.  He has had innumerable human lovers of which Aaron is just one more.  His admiration for humans is touching and real as is his sadness for our brief life span.  Think of Denardo’s Sidhe as beings for whom polyamory is something of a norm.  Rhys’ wife and children are aware and sometimes approving of his  paramours incorporating them, however, briefly into the family.

If you can let go of a need to see Denardo’s Sidhe as extensions of ourselves instead of inhuman immortal beings with their own societal norms then the romance between Rhys and Aaron becomes a lovely, wonderful love affair. I also feel that any author whose story, including one with a love between an immortal and a human mayfly, must contend with the readers imagination and need to “fill in” the emotional plot blanks.  I am talking about the need to extrapolate the relationships past plot and story endings. Think of all the fanfiction out there and you can see where I am going with this.  This will always be a HFN, with an overlay of bittersweetness that comes from the ephemeral nature of a Sidhe/mortal love affair.  Denardo recognizes that and addresses it as realistically as possible in a fantasy story.  This aspect of the author’s story did not bother me after a while as I adjusted my own expectations for Rhys and Aaron.  It helps greatly that Gwenllian, Rhys’ wife and all his children are engaging, wonderful creations in their own right as is their Sidhe world.

The narrative flips from various characters point of view, including the Unseelie villain, Morcant.  I liked this format here is it serves to let the reader in on Morcant’s maneuverings and dastardly plots, upping our anxiety over Aaron’s welfare and increasing the suspense overall.  My only quibble here is that after bringing the reader up to a high threshold of anticipation over the extent of Morcant’s deviousness, the resolution doesn’t measure up to the events that preceded it.  A bit of a let down, unfortunately.

For those readers who can’t get past a main character , even if they aren’t human, who is married and therefore “cheating” on his wife and children with another, this is not the book for you.  But if you can enlarge your view of relationships to include one where one half of the romance is actually a group of people, then Kept Tears will be a story you will want to pick up.  Aaron Santori is amazing, Rhys and the Sidhe universe he comes with are intriguing, and the villain Morcant as  unscrupulous, cruel and self serving as any you have met before.   Denardo’s prose is lively, the plot engrossing, and the ending one I could understand and enjoy.  Pick it up and decide for yourself.

Cover artist Paul Richmond’s cover is amazing, with the prosthetic arm of Aaron’s in clear view.

Book Details:

ebook, 210 pages
Published January 27th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press (first published January 26th 2014)
ISBN 1627983120 (ISBN13: 9781627983129)

The Never Ending Winter Whine and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Winter trees longs

Yes, its still Winter!  White, white everywhere and not a drop of green to be seen.  We have snow, icicles and water in about every frozen variation there is and I am heartedly sick of it.  We finally saw a snow plow late last night.  It had to dodge a Prius and a small sedan of unknown origin whose owners thought their vehicles capable of navigating through over 19 inches of snow.  What were they thinking?  I do know they left their cars where they were stuck, one right in the middle of the street interchange until a neighbor helped them move it to the side of the street.  I do  know what the driver of the plow thought about that as he plowed DSCN4178_2them under a ton of snow last night.  That car was gone this morning and I was happy not to witness the amount of shoveling they had to do to release their  car from that cold embrace.

I have been throwing food out to the birds and wildlife as much as possible and my birdseed reserve is running dry.  Even the snowy owl that stopped in Washington, DC, in search of better weather has had a rough time of it.  She was hit by a Metro bus and ended up at a Wildlife hospital.  She is recovering and so shall we all.  It just doesn’t feel like that right now for either of us.

Hopefully I can get out to the stores tomorrow.  But of course, it has started snowing again.  Big, large fluffy white flakes.  Just the sort I love as a child or even an adult a few, ok more than a few, years back.   So I am beginning to feel like a Grinch these days as the snow mounts instead of melts.  Lasts night my favorite meteorologist forcasted temperatures in the 50’s and maybe even 60’s for next week.

Should I believe him?

Or does he just have a case of snow fever and a sick sense of humor.  Only time and the temperature will tell.

I have some wonderful books for you this week.  There is crippled werewolves, hardened mercenaries, the Fae and an American army vet, a lethal world virus and of course, a revised story from one of my favorite series, Blue Notes.  There are contests and guest author blogs.  Truly something for everyone.  Stay with me all week long.

The week ahead in reviews:

Monday, Feb. 17, 2014:         Kept Tears by Jana Denardo

Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014:        Lying with Scorpions by Aleksandr Voinov

Wed., Feb. 19, 2014:              Amelia Gormley’s Strain Book Tour and Contest

Thurs., Feb. 20, 2014:          Shira Anthony’s Blue Notes Release Tour and Contest

Friday, Feb. 21, 2014:            Strain by Amelia Gormley

Sat., Feb. 22, 2014:                Pretty Poison by Kari Gregg

Review of Peace in the Valley by Jana Denardo

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Rating: 4.5 stars

DSP Evergreen Cover for 2012John and Anthony have a tough time making time for each other, especially at this time of the year.  Not only do both men work in emergency services, John as a EMT and Anthony as a nurse, but they also are members of the local Search and Rescue outfit.  But their roles in Search and Rescue make them one unique couple with John as the S&R handler for his “dog” Sir Barksalot who just happens to be Anthony, a wolf shifter. The holidays always bring crazy demands on their time, from people lost on the slopes to a full ER.  But they have been lovers for a long time and know how special it is to make time for each other in their special valley.

I loved this short story written for Dreamspinner’s Evergreen Advent Month.  Jana Denardo captures beautifully the portrait of a couple who have been together long enough that they mesh in that special way only committed partners do.  That one partner happens to be a wolf shifter and Native American adds spice to the relationship but never takes the focus off the love John and Anthony have for each other.  There are some very cute scenes in which  John interacts with his rescue “dog” during training and Anthony’s comments about his love for liver treats.  We also get to see them as an established couple at Christmastime with John’s large Italian family who clearly see Anthony as they would any of their children’s spouses, a very nice touch.

Peace in the Valley gives us tender moments in the lives of John and Anthony, the drama of a rescue and some hot sex too, all nicely wrapped up in 39 pages.  Another don’t miss for the holiday season.  Lovely.

Review of Two Tickets to Paradise Anthology

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Rating: 4 stars

Two Tickets to Paradise is a collection of 15 stories of men, alone or with a partner, traveling by car, train, plane, and the occasional time travel in search of new experiences and romance in destinations both home and abroad.  What they find runs the gamut from first time love to love rediscovered after considerable time apart. Can you buy a ticket to paradise? Within these stories, the men find the answer to that question and so much more.

After reading this anthology, I found it difficult to come to a rating, as some of the stories floundered, stuck in the mundane and predictable while others soared into great heights of emotion and romance.  The stories that have remained with me are:

J.L. Merrow’s All At Sea, a tale of youth and young love on the Isle of Wight. The characters here have hidden depths, delightful dialog, exquisite scenary and an ending I am still smiling over.

Chelle Dugan’s Off The Tracks, a middle aged man who believes that love has passed him by takes a train trip into the past and gets the chance at love he’s always dreamed of. Realistic characters, vivid descriptions of the Grand Canyon, combined with flashbacks to the 80’s.

Sean Michael’s Something Different, a story of two ex-lovers reunited in Las Vegas after a separation of 10 years.  What can I say?  It’s a Sean Michael’s story, so the sex is hot, the characters memorable and hope for a HEA is on the horizon.

Mal Peters’ Perpendicularity.  The high altitude setting of the French Alps is the perfect location for Kyle, an Olympic snowboarder, to spend Valentine’s Day with his girlfriend.  But an unplanned breakup, sees Kyle alone in the resort chalet until the smell of baking bread and a succulent pork tenderloin lead him to a young personal chef and a change of heart.  Just the descriptions of baking bread and smells emanating from the kitchen won me over, add in the characters of Kyle and Dylan, and you have a story that is a delight to read.

B.G. Thomas’ New Lease is the penultimate story and reason alone to buy this collection. Wade Porter is alone is an oceanside cottage mourning the loss of his long-time lover, a married man who only saw him for two weeks out of the year at their bungalow near Key West.  With the loss and his age wearing him down,  Wade sees no reason to continue living until he meets Kent, a man who has just moved in next door. Kent too has lost a partner and gradually shows Wade the path out of depression and into the true meaning of love.  I was still crying over this story hours later so be warned!  Get those tissues handy.

Zee Kensington’s Krung Thep, City of Angels is the final story of the anthology and my final recommendation.  Marco has dreamed of traveling and for his first trip abroad or any where actually, chooses to go to Thailand.  Marco is the typical innocent abroad who lands in the steamy, packed streets of Krung Thep also known as Bangkok.  Clearly out of his depth, his journey is almost derailed by his inexperience until he meets seasoned journalist, Chris, who writes for travel magazines.  Chris takes him under his wing, and introduces Marco to the sights, tastes and people of Krung Thep.  The author did such a great job with the vivid descriptions of the food markets, pungent odors of the food stalls, and feel of swampy heat rising from the streets that I felt like I had been there. From the bouncy innocence of Marco to the weary self isolation of Chris, the characters felt alive right down to the sweat rolling down their backs.  I wanted to continue on their journey with them, seeking the paths to paradise.

Cover:  Cover Artist Steve Walker.The cover says it all, because how can you show the range of the stories contained within this anthology?

Reviewed for and copy of anthology obtained from Joyfully Jay

Anthology available from Dreamspinner Press, Amazon and ARe..