ScatteredThoughts Summary of Reviews for November 2013

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November banner

November really was such an extraordinary month for books.  It almost makes me giddy with joy. I can’t remember when I last had more 5 and 4 star  rated books as I have had this month.  And their genres and plots ran the spectrum, from contemporary fiction to what I might best describe as fantasy horror, making this truly a rainbow month of great books by outstanding authors.

There are quite a few books that are a part of a series and should best be read in order, while others are stand alone pieces of fiction, with one or two in between in that they are a part of a series but could be read by themselves. It’s all in the reviews which I have linked to each title.

The holidays are upon us and ebook gift cards are a wonderful way of sharing books with those we love.  Make a list, check it twice to make sure you have the titles listed below on yours:dried flowers for november
November 2013 Review Summary

*part of a series

5 Star Rating:

Corruption by Eden Winters*, contemporary
Encore by Shira Anthony*, contemporary
Lessons for Suspicious Minds by Charlie Cochrane*,historical
Shock & Awe by Abigail Roux*, contemporary
Sweet and Sour by Astrid Amara, contemporary
The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men by Eric Arvin*, horror, fantasy
Too Many Fairy Princes by Alex Beecroft, fantasy

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

After The Fall by L.A. Witt* (4 stars), contemporary
Bar None Anthology (4.5 stars) mix of contemporary, scifi
Close Quarter by Anna Zabo*(4.75 stars), supernatural
Family Texas by R.J. Scott*, (4.5 stars), contemporary
Good Boy by Anne Tenino*, (4.5 stars),contemporary
How I Met Your Father by LB Gregg (4.25 stars), contemporary
Illumination by Rowan Speedwell (4.5 stars), contemporary
Long the Mile by Ally Blue (4.25 stars), contemporary
The Retreat by BA Tortuga*, (4 stars), contemporary
The Stars that Tremble by Kate McMurray, (4 stars), contemporary

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Captive Magic by Angela Benedetti* (3.75 stars), paranormal
Hat Trick by Chelle Dugan (3 stars), contemporary
The Blight by Missouri Dalton (3.75 stars), fantasy

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:
N/A

Review: The Stars that Tremble by Kate McMurray

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

The Stars That TrembleMike McPhee and his partner were young and in love with a bright, long future ahead of them.  So when Mike’s lover suggested that they adopt a child, Mike agreed, thinking it would be years before a child was found.  But a young girl gave them her baby to adopt and soon they were a family.  However, their happiness was short lived as a gun shot took Mike’s lover away from him and made him a single dad.  Now years later Mike is still grieving, his happiness and life centered around his remarkable daughter Emma.  Emma wants to be an opera singer and is incredibly gifted.  She wants to be admitted to the renown Giovanni Boca’s opera workshop at the Collective Olcott Music School, a prestigious institution in New York City.  And Mike wants to make that happen even if he has to go into debt to do it.

Giovanni Boca was already an opera legend when a vocal chord injury abruptly ended his career during his performance of Nessum Dorma.  And while he has continued on as a much sought after vocal teacher and consultant, he has continued to mourn the loss of his voice and his career as an opera singer.  When young Emma auditions for his workshop, Giovanni finds not only a once in a lifetime talent but an attraction to the child’s father as well.

Both Mike and Gio understand what it is to lose the most important thing in their life and find themselves drawn to each other.  But life has a way of throwing hurdles in the path of true love, and for Mike and Gio, that includes Mike’s insecurities about their differences in status, income, and way of life.  Gio has other obstacles that mar their way to happiness, including a stage mother that will stop at nothing to see that her daughter succeeds, even if that means hurting Emma in the process.

The Stars That Tremble has so many lovely elements to its story that it can be appreciated on multiple levels.  First element that drew me to this story is the inclusion of music.  I happen to love music and opera so to be given a story where that is a key element makes me almost giddy with happiness, especially when it contains references to many of my favorite operas. Whether Gio is talking about a recording of June Anderson singing from Die Zauberflöte or the author is using different musical movements to describe Gio and Mike’s lovemaking, it is clear that the author is not only familiar with the world of opera and musical schools but has a deep love for them as well.  Here is a small excerpt:

GIO talked while he plugged his MP3 player into the speakers. “I had a voice coach when I was living in Milan who thought the best way to inspire his singers was to scare the living hell out of them. So now I will do that to you.”

Twelve teenagers sat rapt on the studio floor, staring at Gio. He found “Der Hölle Rache” in the list of songs. “This is June Anderson singing from Die Zauberflöte.” He hit play. “It is famously referred to as the Queen of the Night’s aria, although she sings another earlier in the opera that is nearly as good. Here, she is singing, ‘Hell’s vengeance boils my heart.’ She is not having such a good time, eh? And Mozart is about to put her through hell vocally too. Listen.”

It was clear from their expressions that a few of the girls knew this aria. Emma McPhee certainly did. The girls who didn’t blanched when the singer got to the run pattern between the verses.

“This,” Gio said when the aria finished, “is coloratura. Literally, it means coloring, but in the context of an opera, it means to add these vocal flourishes. They are beautiful but extraordinarily difficult to sing.” He smiled, trying not to freak the kids out too much. “That is, coloratura was often added to songs in the bel canto tradition. Can any of you think of other examples?”

About half the class was with it. Emma cited Rossini, the obvious example. Marie pulled out an obscure Mozart piece, which allowed Gio to freak the class out more by pointing out that this particular part was written for a castrato. Most of the boys winced at that. Greg knew “Every Valley Shall Be Exalted” from Handel’s Messiah was a coloratura tenor aria.

“Good,” Gio said. “Now I will blow your minds some more. This one is from “Nixon in China.”

What a terrific example of teaching!  The wording is concise, his meaning clear.  Obviously Kate McMurray has been in that situation before and her memories ground her writing in reality.  I loved this, although I have to admit “Nixon in China” sent me running to Google.

I loved her characters too.  Mike McPhee is a wonderful blue collar man who lives outside the normal stereotype.  He is compassionate, steady, intelligent, and warmhearted.  A man clearly in love with his daughter while still mourning the love of his life.  Mike put his personal life on hold the day his partner died, making Emma’s happiness and well being his sole goal in life.   Just as easy to connect with is Giovanni Boca, a legendary opera singer who tragically can no  longer sing.   Passionate, throughly Italian, cultured, Gio too rises above the almost expected snobbery to come across as a lovely, open hearted non judgmental human being. Emma completes the triad of main characters as it should be as Mike pivots around her and her future while disregarding his own.

If you have been around children of this age and talent or have them yourself then Emma is easily recognizable as that terrific kid who is self centered (in that way of children everywhere), concerned with her hopes and dreams while leapfrogging over those of her father.  Kids of any age like their status quo no matter what they may say differently and Emma is that child.  She is young, talented and been the center of her dad’s life all her years, so having that change in many ways is difficult.  I understood her even when I didn’t like all her very human reactions to her father’s and Gio’s burgeoning relationship.

There were parts where the narrative slowed down a bit or a transition in pov was a little uneven, but this story sings.  It is full of love, and romance, and of course, some of the most memorable music you have ever heard.  Run, don’t walk to add this to your bookshelf!  Consider this lovely story recommended!

Cover art by Aaron Anderson.  I found the cover a little murky in color but the music in the background is lovely.

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Published September 30th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN13 9781627981361
edition language English

Review: Playing Ball Anthology

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Playing Ball coverAre you in love with the boys of summer?  Can’t wait for opening day and the cry of “play ball”? Baseball is America’s favorite pastime and the focal point of the love, heartbreak and the dreams of a nation of fans and players alike.  In this anthology four terrific authors share their passion for the game of baseball with four stories of love…the love of the game as well as romance between men who share a passion for baseball and each other.

Here are the stories in the order they are to be found within this anthology:

“One Man to Remember” by Kate McMurray
“Home Field Advantage” by Shae Connor
“One Last Road Trip” by Kerry Freeman
“Wild Pitch” by Marguerite Labbe

What a treat to pick up a book whose authors and collection of stories share my love for baseball and the boys of summer!  From stories situated in 1927 that bring the Babe back to life to the present day game and romance, these four stories will keep you happy and engaged, especially during those months where the fields of dreams are empty and the stadium seats wait for summer and the fans to arrive once more.

Here are my reviews for each story in the order found within the book:

1.  “One Man to Remember” by Kate McMurray:  Rating 5 stars out of 5

It’s 1927, New York City. Babe Ruth and the Yankees’ unstoppable batting lineup, Murderers’ Row are on their way to a season that will go down in the annals of baseball as legendary.  Across town, a rookie infielder for the Giants, Skip LIttlefield is racking up as many hits as the Babe but no one is noticing.  No one except a  famed sports reporter named Walter Selby, a notorious dandy whose sexuality is an open secret.  Walter has been watching the kid make hit after hit in seeming anonymity as everyones attention is focused on the Babe.  Everything about this rookie puzzles and intrigues Walter so he arranges an interview that will have far ranging repercussions for them both.

Kate McMurray has gifted us with a small historical gem of writing with One Man to Remember.  She has captured both the flair of the era as well as the homophobia and secret society of gay men during those times.  Its clear that McMurray has done her homework not only for the information she imparts about that storied run of Babe’s and the Yankees but the every day life as lived in 1927.  Whether it is snappy slang of the day to notorious places represented by The Penguin Club off Fifty-Sixth Street near Times Square, the author submerges us as throughly as her characters in this time period and brings off a home-run of a story.

The men, their love and knowledge of the game and the manner in which they have to hide their romance is both realistically and beautifully laid out in a story so well done that it cries out for a sequel.  One of my favorite stories in an anthology full of great tales.

2. “Home Field Advantage” by Shae Connor.  Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Toby MacMillan lives for baseball and loves his team, the Atlanta Braves.  In fact Toby has grown up with the Braves as Toby is the grandson of Atlanta Braves owner Ray MacMillan. Toby owns 30 percent of the team and expects to inherit the rest from his conservative grandfather upon his death.  And that’s primarily the reason Toby has hidden his sexuality from his family and team.

Then a new rookie arrives from the minors, Caleb Browning, ready to make his appearance in the major leagues.  Caleb Browning is talented, naive, attractive and gay.  And he has eyes for Toby.  A dinner engagement highlights their attraction to each others as well as the dangers that any relationship between them will bring to each of their careers.  Despite their good intensions to remain just friends, a romance begins that soon deepens into love.  What will happen when a fastball to the head, threatens not only Caleb’s career but their  love affair as well?

Situated in present times, Shae Connor’s looks at the reality of major league players coming forward about their sexuality and the fragile acceptance they are met with.  Toby’s entire life has revolved about the Atlanta Braves, a team owned by his grandfather.  His is a  character in love with the game while still aware of the realities of being a gay man involved in professional team sports and the sacrifices that requires.  Toby is an endearing characters whose reality is grounded in the truth of the men who love and control the game itself.  Toby realizes that while change is coming, the progress is as slow as acceptance itself.

I had a little more of a stretch to believe in Caleb Browning.  I really don’t see someone who plays ball, whether it is in the minor or major leagues, not being more aware of the consequences of his “gayness” while remaining a ballplayer.  His naivete seems not only extreme but unrealistic, so it took me a while to commit to their relationship.  But once committed, I threw myself into their romance with all the fervor of a fan at the game.  And by the time I got to Toby’s speech towards the end I was cheering them on.  You will be too.

3. “One Last Road Trip” by Kerry Freeman.  Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

After many years in the major leagues, bad knees sees Second Baseman Jake Wilson retiring from San Diego Padres and heading back home to a small town near Atlanta.  He is making one last road trip, pulling along a small trailer of possessions both physical and emotional.  On his way, he visits his ex wife, his grown children, getting reacquainted with his present and bringing up memories of his past.  And always present in his thoughts is Mikko Niemi, the young man he fell in love with in college and has never forgotten.

From his Facebook account, Jake has learned that Mikko’s long term partner has died and Mikko has started to date once  more.  So Jake is heading home to Mikko hoping it’s not too late for them to reconnect and ignite a love that never should have been abandoned.

Kerry Freeman, Kerry Freeman, you hit a home run to the heart with this one.    Not only it is about older ex lovers getting a second chance at love but the main character is a retired MLB player feeling every inch of his years in the game and the injuries that go along with it.  I loved the character of Jake Wilson.  His rueful examination of his past actions along with acknowledging how much he was still grateful for his ex wife and children, well, it is a heartwarming and compassionate portrait of a man at a certain stage in life who has come to grips with who he is and where he hopes to be.   Jake is a large hearted individual aware of his short comings and his strengths.  He is easy to connect with and root for.  In fact all the people in this story are well rounded, layered characters that a reader will love spending time with.

If I have any small quibble at all, it is that I wish we had gotten a little bit more of Jake and Mikko after their reunion.  A little more interplay between them would have sweetened an already emotionally satisfying romance.  But that quibble aside, I loved this story and you will too.

4. “Wild Pitch” by Marguerite Labbe. Rating 5 stars out of 5

Ruben Martell and Alan Hartner have been together as friends for a long time. They met during their early years playing baseball, and their friendship stayed strong through marriages, different teams, and locations, and even through death of a wife and divorce.  Now they are business partners in a batting cage/ sports bar and coach rival Little League teams.  And through it all, Ruben Martell has loved Alan Hartner, not just as a friend, but with a passionate hidden love.

Except for one night where their relationship crossed the lines of friendship, neither man has ever referred to each other as anything other than best friends.  But the pain and stress of hiding his feelings and hopes from Alan is causing Ruben to question their friendship and business partnership.  Ruben isn’t sure how much more he can take of the status quo without even a glimmer of hope for their future. As Ruben pulls away from Alan and his kids, Alan realizes just how much he might lose unless he takes a chance on a wild pitch.

Wild Pitch by Margueritte Labbe brings together all the elements needed for a great romance and then spices it all up by  using baseball to frame this long term relationship between Ruben Martell and Alan Hartner.  This story is so great on so many levels I don’t know where to start.  Both men have been together since their earliest times in baseball.  With a love for that sport as the cement that initially held them together, Labbe lays out for the reader how that relationship has changed and deepened over the years, morphing from friendship to brotherly love to something far more dangerous and passionate, especially on Ruben’s side.

The author delivers this story with an intimacy and warmth that makes the reader a companion and friend to these men right from the start.  I loved feeling included as Alan and Ruben deal with Alan’s kids and the Little League players they coach.  These are  real kids spouting dialog that can be heard on school and park playing fields country wide as well as at home.  I loved them and wanted as much of this aspect of the story as I did the romance.

But it’s the emotional realism of the scenes that Labbe has written as the men break through the stasis of their present relationship into that of a recognized romantic love that will catch at your heart and perhaps even bring out the sniffles.  Watch out especially for that moment where one son’s asks how much love a heart can hold…sniff.  Well, just have the  tissues handy because you will find yourself bawling away like I was.  A remarkable story to end a collection of marvelous tales.

This collection of stories demonstrates just why baseball is so often used as a metaphor for life.  It is full of passion, and history.  It’s hilarious and heartbreaking.  It’s about the grand gesture and small intimacies.  And its about love and all the memorable diverse characters drawn to the National Pastime.  Every story here is a home run!   It is already on my must reread list.

Cover art by Aaron Anderson is perfect.  It has an almost old time look about it with the design and font that works perfectly for this collection.  Great job.

Book Details:

ebook, 270 pages
Expected publication: September 25th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press

Playing Ball Authors Stop By For A Chat and a Contest!

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PlayingBall_tourbannerScattered Thoughts is hosting those wonderful authors of the Playing Ball Anthology today and offering a chance to win a eBook and a print copy!  The link to the contest is at the end of the blog! So join me as I pull up a chair and welcome Marguerite Labbe, Kate McMurray,Shae Connor, and Kerry Freeman:

Playing Ball End of Blog Tour and Giveaway

I can’t believe this is the last day for the blog tour, what a whirlwind ride it’s been. The ladies and I thought we’d share some of our favorite positions in baseball (outside the bedroom ) and a few excerpts.

Marguerite: So any thoughts on your favorite positions in baseball?

Shae: Catcher. Those THIGHS. 😉

Marguerite: One of my closest friends would agree with you for that very same reason.

Kerry: I’m partial to 2nd basemen. They have strong arms for to throw with, and you know they must have good hips to pivot and throw like they do 😉

Shae: And first basemen are usually tall, with long arms and legs, agility, and a lot of flexibility…

Marguerite: I’ve always been a fan of 3rd base and 3rd basemen. *Sighs* I still miss Mike Lowell. It gets hot and intense in that corner.

Kate: I don’t have a favorite, though my baseball boyfriend Joe Mauer is a catcher, so make of that what you will. Maybe it’s the mask, like he’s hidden and then there’s the hotness reveal? Also, some catchers get manicures so that the pitcher can see the hand signal while staring at the catcher’s crotch. (Just saying.)

Shae: One of the catchers today (Cards?) had his fingernails painted shiny gold. What happened to using white tape?? LOL

Marguerite: Maybe it’s more eye-catching or a secret signal? I noticed it too. I think though, that my favorites are pitchers. I just love the intensity and the way they torque their bodies and of course the staring at crotches.

Playing Ball coverPlaying Ball
Shae Connor, Kate McMurray, Kerry Freeman, and Marguerite Labbe

Cover by Aaron Anderson
Published by Dreamspinner Press
270 pages

Buy at Dreamspinner,Buy at ARe,Buy at Amazon

Blurb:

Baseball—America’s favorite pastime—provides a field wide open for romance. A Home Field Advantage may not help when Toby must choose between the team he’s loved all his life and the man he could love for the rest of it. In 1927, Skip hides his sexuality to protect his career until he meets One Man to Remember. Ruben and Alan fell victim to a Wild Pitch, leaving them struggling with heartache and guilt, and now they’ve met again. And on One Last Road Trip, Jake retires and leaves baseball behind, hoping to reconnect with Mikko and get a second chance at love.

The anthology contains the following novellas with an excerpt behind them:

Home Field Advantage by Shae Connor

Toby MacMillan, grandson of Atlanta Braves owner Ray MacMillan, lives for baseball and loves his team. When he meets new team member Caleb Browning, an innocent welcome-to-the-big-leagues dinner leads to a not-so-innocent night together. Toby quickly calls things off, afraid of the ramifications of their tryst, but the two men develop a friendship that soon becomes more. After Caleb takes a fastball to the head, their budding romance hits the news—and Toby’s grandfather hits the roof. When Ray MacMillan demands Toby deny the relationship, Toby must choose between the team he’s loved all his life and the man he could love for the rest of it.

“Come up for a drink?”
All the warning bells in Toby’s mind went off at once, but none of them were enough to stop him from doing what he did next. He followed Caleb into the elevator, rode up to the sixteenth floor beside him in silence, and then followed him down the hall to his room.
Once inside, Caleb dropped his duffel on the dresser and moved toward the minibar, like he was actually going to make good on his nightcap offer. “Not sure what they have in here, but—”
Toby didn’t let him get any further. He took three long steps, reached up to wrap one hand behind Caleb’s neck, and kissed the words right out of his mouth.
Caleb’s lips were soft and dry, yielding easily to Toby’s insistent pressure and soon parting to allow Toby’s tongue inside. Caleb tasted like the mint he’d popped as they left the table downstairs, with a hint of sweetness from the tea he’d had with dinner and a deeper flavor of pure Caleb.
Toby wondered if he tasted like that everywhere.
Eager to find out, Toby slid his hands under the hem of Caleb’s T-shirt and pushed it up until it bunched under Caleb’s arms. Breaking reluctantly away from Caleb’s mouth, Toby bent to lick his nipple instead, hearing the hiss from above at the intimate touch. Caleb’s skin was saltier here, the remains of a long day of travel clinging to his body, and Toby took another, longer taste, wrapping his lips around the pebbling skin and sucking gently.
“Holy shit, Toby.”
Caleb shifted, and Toby saw his T-shirt go flying a second before Caleb grabbed Toby’s arms and turned them both, shoved Toby against the wall, and fell against him. Caleb sealed his mouth over Toby’s even as he worked his fingers under Toby’s shirt and let them roam across his skin. Toby kissed him back desperately, kneading at the strong muscles of Caleb’s back, muscles honed from years as an athlete who used his body well. Toby was no slouch, physically speaking, but he relished the few inches and couple dozen pounds Caleb had on him. Toby felt surrounded by Caleb but not overwhelmed, the give and take between them perfectly balanced.
After breaking the kiss, Caleb pushed at Toby’s shirt, and Toby raised his arms to let Caleb strip it away like he’d done with his own. Caleb wrapped one arm around Toby’s body to pull their chests together and used his free hand to cup Toby’s ass so he could grind his pelvis into Toby’s. Toby groaned as Caleb licked across his jaw to his ear, where Caleb breathed out, “Jesus fuck, you’re hot.”
Toby let out a strangled sound something like a laugh. “Nothing on you,” he managed, turning his head to capture Caleb’s mouth with his.

One Man to Remember by Kate McMurray

It’s 1927, and in New York City, Babe Ruth and the Yankees’ unstoppable batting lineup, Murderers’ Row, is all anyone can talk about. Across town, the Giants’ rookie infielder Skip Littlefield racks up hits, creating a streak to rival the Babe’s. Worried his secrets could get out, he avoids the spotlight, but he catches the attention of lauded sports reporter Walter Selby, a notorious dandy whose sexuality is an open secret. Skip reluctantly agrees to an interview, and mutual attraction is sparked. Skip can only hope the more charismatic stars will draw attention away from his romance with Walt. Otherwise, his career and everything he loves is at stake.

Walt leaned against the brick facade of a Times Square building and watched Babe Ruth get out of a cab. The Bambino was wearing a clean white suit with a matching fedora tilted at a jaunty angle. Walt always found the contradiction of Ruth—the expensive clothes on the odd, triangular body, with the craggy face that looked like it had been in too many bar brawls—to be quite interesting. But there were plenty of reporters in New York dying to follow Ruth around. Walt had another story to pursue.
The Penguin Club was around the corner. It wasn’t Walt’s favorite Times Square establishment. It was a little bland, but that was why he’d chosen it—it was safe. He couldn’t imagine a kid like Skip would do well in the sorts of places Walt really liked to go. He was skittish in the baseball stadium; Walt couldn’t imagine him calm in one of the racier clubs.
He pulled his fedora down over his eyes and slunk down Fifty-Sixth Street. The Penguin was a little off the beaten path—another reason Walt had chosen it—and tonight, Walt wanted to fade into the background a bit, to observe instead of be observed.
He spotted a figure walking down the street from Sixth Avenue and knew immediately it was Skip. He walked with a dancer’s grace, something Walt had noticed at the stadium. As he came closer, Walt saw he was wearing a brown suit a couple of seasons out of style and a battered bowler hat that didn’t really go with the suit. These were forgivable offenses, Walt decided, since he did look pretty great out of a baseball uniform.
“Why, Mr. Littlefield,” Walt said as Skip walked up to him. “You’re a real sheik outside of the ballpark.”
It was too dark to see if Skip was blushing, but Walt imagined from the way he ducked his head that he was.
“I’m still not really sure about this,” Skip said.
“One measly drink won’t do any harm.”
Walt gestured for Skip to follow him. He knew the password, although the door was being watched by a big six named Anthony, with whom Walt had once had a brief and tawdry affair. Luckily, they were still on good terms.
“How are ya, Walt?” Anthony greeted him.
“I’m just ducky. This is my friend John.”
Skip tilted his head, but then extended a hand to Anthony, who shook it.
Anthony said, “You boys can go on in. Although, Walt? If you’re looking for something to do later, Carmela’s performing at that little place off Forty-Third tonight.”
Walt nodded. He loved Carmela’s show, but he was sort of wishing this interview would go long enough for him to miss it. And he certainly knew better than to think Skip would be interested in a show like Carmela’s. “I’ll keep that in mind,” Walt said.
As Walt led Skip into the speakeasy, Skip said, “Who is Carmela?”
Walt chuckled. “Would it terrify you if I told you she is a female impersonator?”
Skip tilted his head again, as if he were taking that in. “Like a man in a dress?”
Walt nodded. “Carmela is in fact an Italian fella named Carmine who I’ve known for years. He’s… well, he’s something, to be sure. But his brother owns a bunch of the Times Square establishments, plus a few other places downtown, so he has plenty of performance venues.”
Skip seemed more intrigued by this than put off, which was not the reaction Walt had been expecting. “What does he do in his show?”
“Dances, tells jokes, that sort of thing. Like a one-man vaudeville act. Why do you ask? Do you want to see it?”
Skip shrugged. “Just wondering.”
What an interesting man Skip was turning out to be. The lack of literacy had given Walt pause back at the stadium. Walt’s handwriting wasn’t so abysmal that it couldn’t be deciphered, so Skip’s hesitancy over the words said a lot. But he still had found the place. Asking about school was on Walt’s agenda for this evening. He didn’t know much about Skip except that he was very attractive—he had a round face with a narrow nose and surprisingly plump lips atop that athletic body, and as he removed his hat, he displayed a thick head of wavy blond hair—and he played baseball as well as or better than many of the best ballplayers in the city. He was also, apparently, barely literate and intrigued by the idea of a show like Carmela’s. Walt was fascinated.

Wild Pitch by Marguerite Labbe

Ruben Martell fell in love with Alan Hartner during their years playing baseball. They stepped over the foul line once, but the encounter left them struggling with heartache and guilt, turning away from each other to focus on their families. Now retired from the majors, they run a batting cage together and coach rival Little League teams as they juggle fatherhood and being single again. Though Ruben has never given up hope that Alan might look at him as more than a friend, Alan seems determined to keep things the way they’ve always been. But long-buried feelings and desires have a way of resurfacing, and Ruben can’t wait forever.

The pop fly went straight up the center and was caught easily by the shortstop. Ruben came jogging forward as the end of the inning was called. “Didn’t get enough sleep last night, Alan?” he called teasingly, and Alan narrowed his eyes. Oh no, he was not going to be the only one who had a hard time concentrating today.
“Just remembering The Maltese Falcon,” Alan said, patting Ruben’s back as he came to an abrupt halt. “Makes it a little hard to stay focused.”
Ruben turned to look at him, his gaze hot and intense, and Alan knew he’d gotten under his skin. He was learning to recognize the little signals from Ruben that gave away his interest, like the way those eyes of his would darken even more, or the way he’d kind of lean in toward Alan. “Good movie,” Ruben said, after a minute examination of Alan’s face. “Good memories associated with it.”
“Good, hmm?” Alan let his gaze rake over Ruben and grinned wickedly as the other man shook his head in bemusement. “I can think of many other adjectives.”
Ruben leaned closer still and lowered his voice. “You’re a damn tease, Hartner. I never would’ve thought that of you.”
“Goes to show you don’t know everything about me yet.” Alan backed away toward his dugout with another grin, spreading his hands wide. “Kind of exciting, isn’t it?”

One Last Road Trip by Kerry Freeman

With the last game of his Major League Baseball career behind him, Jake Wilson hits the road. Years have passed, but he never got over the romance he shared with Mikko Niemi back in college. Finally, he’s ready to do something about it. He starts with some crucial visits to his ex-wife in New Mexico, his son in Oklahoma, and his daughter in Tennessee. But his true destination is Mikko’s home in Georgia, where he’s hoping to get a second chance at love.

It had been a lonely few months in Atlanta. Jake had gone from being a high school baseball star to just another hick jock. It didn’t matter that his test scores and grades would have gotten him into Georgia Tech regardless of the baseball scholarship. The smart kids looked down their noses at him. And the other jocks? Until Jake played a game and played it well, he was only a wannabe freshman. The first day of preseason training, it all started to turn around for him. He and the other freshman bonded over their mutual desire to prove they were worthy to wear the gold and white. They worked hard and cheered each other on. They quickly became favorites of the handful of regular practice spectators, who all seemed to have a soft spot for the awkward newcomers. One spectator stood out. Jake tried not to stare, but he couldn’t stop his surreptitious glances at the man. Jake had known since forever that he could be turned on by men as well as women, but this was different. The man’s square jaw and tight swimmer’s body made Jake have evil, evil thoughts, thoughts of things way beyond the frenzied hand and blow jobs he’d experienced with other equally frightened high school boys. Jake also had more tender thoughts, which he found slightly frightening. Every time the man brushed his hair from his eyes, Jake wondered if the hair was soft, how it would feel if he ran his fingers through it. He snuck enough glances to determine that the man’s almond-shaped eyes were a beautiful hazel, and, more often than not, those eyes were trained on Jake. Worst of all, Jake wanted to pull the man’s full bottom lip between his and find out how the man tasted. He had never kissed a man, but God, he wanted to kiss this one. After a few weeks of torture, Jake decided he’d had enough. He might make a fool of himself. He might even get his ass kicked. But he was going to talk to the man who’d been starring in his dreams. When practice was over, Jake hung back on the field, waiting for the other players to head toward the locker room and hopefully out of earshot. He’d noticed days before that the man would not leave right away; he’d linger, reading a book or relaxing on the bleachers. It was almost as if he were waiting for someone. Then again, Jake thought, that could be his own wishful thinking. As he walked, Jake brushed off his pants and straightened his cap. When the man looked up from his book to see Jake heading his way, his smile was unmistakable. Jake was sure he’d never seen a clearer invitation to come closer, and he struggled to keep his feet from speeding up. He needed to play this cool, keep his intentions a secret until he was sure they were welcome. “Hey.” Jake shoved his glove under his arm. “What you reading?” The man waved the small paperback. “Oh, this? To Kill A Mockingbird. I have been told it is a classic American novel. I like it so far.” Oh holy fuck, Jake thought. He has an accent on top of everything else. The man’s voice was cool and smooth, like a window in an air-conditioned room. It sent frissons cascading over Jake’s sweat-damp skin. Each word was clearly enunciated, crisp. Jake sat down, leaving a respectable distance between them. “It is. I read it in high school, and it’s pretty good.” The man folded the corner of a page and closed the book. “We read a few American novels in school in Finland, but not this one. I think I may recommend it to my teacher back home.” “Finland? How did you end up here?” “I wanted more sunshine and warmth. My family visited friends in Savannah once, and I fell in love with Georgia.” “Well, you definitely came to the right place for sunshine.” Jake was positive if he heard much more of the man’s accent, he would melt on the spot. “I’m Jake Wilson,” he said, holding out his hand. The man stared at Jake’s hand before finally shaking it. “I know,” he said. “I read about you in the student paper. My name is Mikko Niemi.”

To celebrate the release of PLAYING BALL, we’re giving away two great prizes:

Grand prize: A print copy of PLAYING BALL signed by all four authors, a unisex BBQ apron featuring hot athletes from Originals by Lauren (https://www.etsy.com/shop/OriginalsbyLauren), and swag from all four authors.

Runner-up prize: An ebook copy of PLAYING BALL and swag from all four authors.

The giveaway will run from 12AM Central on September 21, 2013 to 12AM Central on October 11, 2013.
To give an opportunity for the authors to get together to sign the book and gather swag, the winners will be picked and the prizes shipped after the end of GayRomLit 2013.

Rules:

You must be a resident of Earth, 18 years or older, who lives in a place where the viewing of adult material is legal. By entering the giveaway, you are indicating your agreement to the rules. Winners must provide a physical mailing address to receive their prizes. If a winner does not respond to the prize notification within 48 hours, the prize will be re-awarded.

Link to contest page: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/76e2bf6/

The Rank Few and their Rank View or When By The People and For The People Went Into the Dump and The Week Ahead In Reviews

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One of the many aspects that people either love or hate when living in the Washington DC Metro area is our constant bombardment of information of and about the Government.  The constant stream flows from our radios, tvs, cable, computers, phones, tablets, seemingly from the air itself.  It keeps us informed and aware of things happening in the government (whether we want to or not). I would even say that most of the people who live in this area work for the government or it has an impact on their work in some way.  Its Inside the Beltway at work and normally I kind of enjoy it.

Not now.

Now the government is shutdown and I am angry, and feeling helpless to make a difference in a situation that never should have happened in the first place.  This has effected me in so many ways, from the people I love, my family, my friends, acquaintances, all who are on furlough, those working and not getting paid, everyone who is impacted by this idiocy., including myself.

All those wondering how their mortgages will get paid, how will they put food on the table, or even get gas to bring them to the work they are not getting a paycheck for.    I see and hear it in the voices of cab drivers and food truck operators with no one to drive or feed,  hotels vacant because the tourists have gone home or have cancelled their trips.  From the front desk to those cleaning the rooms and hallways, and everyone else involved in the hospitality business, all are impacted, all are hurt.

What about those 30 children just admitted to a new cancer program at NIH, a last hope certainly and one that is frozen along with all the other protocols patients enrolled in specialty care need so desperately.  What about that person who needs a serious operation now.  It was scheduled then all leave was cancelled, no exclusions, no exemptions.  Who looks them in the face and tells them no? Even those hoping to get married or WWII veterans hoping to see their memorial? It’s certainly not the idiot Congress at the helm of this shutdown.

I, along with countless others, have called my representatives, Republican and Democrat, to voice my anger that the needs of the people who put them in office are being ignored, dismissed entirely because our views are not considered important.  The phone lines for all, especially the Republicans are constantly busy.  And when I did get through, I got a voice mail, saying all mailboxes were full.  No one is answering the phones on those offices.  But turn a camera in their direction, and they have time to expound on their importance and what they see as their own path to power and glory.

I am embarrassed that those people voted in to help their constituents have decided to help themselves instead.  The rank few with their rank view, those petulantly powerful, those gasbags of arrogance who should have been helping the government work has shut it down instead.  A fight was picked that they knew they wouldn’t win for the express purpose of shutting the government down.  They are confident that they will never have to come face to face with the millions they are hurting in the process.

And they are probably right.

Will they be visiting the people they made homeless?  Or those standing in line in the food banks?  Those in the hospital and those out of work because they lost their jobs or their businesses?  I don’t think so.  For these type of people its never their fault.  Their self-importance and arrogance overwhelms all else, leaving others to suffer for their selfishness and need for even more power.

The United States Constitution starts out as “We the People”, not We the Few and Powerful.  I think those Senators and Representatives who have shut down the government, need to be reminded who and what they represent.  They need to sit down and listen as someone reads to them the documents on which our nation and our freedoms are based.

Right before the signatures on the Constitution, the following paragraphs appear:

In all our deliberations on this subject, we kept steadily in our view that which appears to us the greatest interest of every true American, the consolidation of our Union, in which is involved our prosperity, felicity, safety–perhaps our national existence. This important consideration, seriously and deeply impressed on our minds, led each State in the Convention to be less rigid on points of inferior magnitude than might have been otherwise expected; and thus, the Constitution which we now present is the result of a spirit of amity, and of that mutual deference and concession, which the peculiarity of our political situation rendered indispensable.

That it will meet the full and entire approbation of every State is not, perhaps, to be expected; but each will, doubtless, consider, that had her interest alone been consulted, the consequences might have been particularly disagreeable or injurious to others; that it is liable to as few exceptions as could reasonably have been expected, we hope and believe; that it may promote the lasting welfare of that Country so dear to us all, and secure her freedom and happiness, is our most ardent wish.

Where is their adherence to those words and feelings expressed above?  Lacking, tossed aside in favor of their own positions and small minded thoughts.

How sad,, how infuriating, and how un American.

Now for the Week Ahead in Reviews:

Monday, Oct. 8:         Northern Star by Ethan Stone

Tuesday, Oct. 9:         Starry Knight by T.A. Webb

Wed., Oct. 10:             Enigma by Lloyd A. Meeker

Thurs., Oct. 11:           The Night Visitor by Ewan Creed

Friday, Oct. 12:           Guest Blog by Playing Ball Authors

Sat., Oct. 13:                Playing Ball Anthology