A MelanieM Release Day Review: In Enemy Hands by MA Church

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

in-enemy-handsTwo very different civilizations—one bathed in bright sunlight, and the other veiled in shadow.

Bad decisions, declining resources, and a king on the brink of madness force Prince Varo Kutchif, third son of the royal family and a starship captain, to attempt the impossible: barter for Black Phospolrock, an energy source the mysterious Helkan kingdom has in abundance. Varo opens a line of communication with Adlar, an intriguing Helkan who seems to reciprocate Varo’s interest. He hopes so, because if negotiations collapse, Varo has orders to attack.

The Helkans preside over a planet shrouded in perpetual darkness. Several species have tried to exploit its natural resources through trade with them, but all have failed. Adlar Mondur is the older brother to the Helkan ruler. An assassin of the highest order, he’ll do anything to protect his king and his people—including tracking down the Yesri prince who crash-lands on their planet, leaving an ugly scar across its untouched beauty.

Thus begins a journey where two men from disparate civilizations grow from enemies to lovers.

In Enemy Hands by MA Church was a story I never wanted to end.  Great world building to the extent that you felt you were walking along side Varo, seeing the planet’s marvels and dangers through his  eyes, the flora and fauna each and every one detailed and enticing.  And the Helkans are  every bit as intriguing and captivating as their planet.  Church has naturally carried through to from a planet wreathed in darkness to its peoples.  They are pale, dark haired, yellow eyes, strong and, just as beautiful and lethal as their home.  The Helkans view their resources, including the precious Black Phospolrock, in a manner the rest of the galaxy does not.  Church lays out their society and culture clearly.

What little we learn of the Yesri, they are the opposite in every way.  Industrialized to the point that they have destroyed their planet’s habitats and resources, their  planet is covered in sun as is their high born people who are tanned, white haired with brown eyes.  Heavily divided into class systems, the disparity between them is getting greater, and desperation is driving the commands behind Varo’s mission into space.

Was I hooked?  Oh you bet!

And once the two met?  Even better.  Because every time I came up with an issue with the way I thought Varo should be acting (perhaps more assured, whatever), Church was there ahead of me, anticipating my questions about his behavior, putting forth answers through Adlar…well, it was amazing.  I’m not one of those readers who enjoy a captive situation but this made great reading.  It was a slow learning process for both men, no hurt/comfort, just discovering who each one was under a stressful situation.  Adler giving Varo space to grow and Varo being  able to see past his prejudices.  Plus the two of them together?  Sexy as hell.

There’s intrigue of course, and danger.  Enough here for two books.  I believe the author has left open enough possibilities that should Church wish too she could revisit this planet and couple easily.  Or we could see how  Wrief, Varo’s brother got on.   After this, I’m up for anything to do with the Halkans and its ruling family.

As I said this was an amazing story.  I loved it.  If you are a lover of science fiction, romance, M.A. Church, or all of the above, pick it up and start reading.  I highly recommend it.

Cover art by Anne Cain is perfect for Adler.

Sales Links

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Book Details:

ebook, 214 pages
Expected publication: December 30th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634776089 (ISBN13: 9781634776080)
Edition LanguageEnglish

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 Caryn Review: One Pulse Anthology

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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

one-pulse-anthologySince the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12, 2016, people worldwide have donated a total of more than 23 million dollars to the OneOrlando Fund set up to benefit the victims and their families.  It seems like a lot of money, but between the number of people affected, and the severity of their injuries – mental and physical – that money will be exhausted fairly soon.  Also, after the initial outcry and horror that such a thing could have happened, and for such a reason, the shooting has faded out of the headlines.  But for those who were directly affected, and for all people in the LGBTQ spectrum, the shooting is still at the forefront of their thoughts, and fears, and worries.  So I was very pleased to see Dreamspinner Press put out this anthology to raise money for various LGBT organizations in central Florida, and I jumped at the chance to review it.  Dreamspinner also has another anthology coming out in time for the 2016 holiday season, that will also benefit the same charities.

At first, I planned to do a short review on each story individually, but at a total of 31 stories (and almost 200,000 words) that just wasn’t possible.  The stories are written by a combination of well known and lesser known authors from Dreamspinner’s ranks, and run the gamut of genres.  There are contemporary, fantasy, paranormal, historical, and sci-fi works.  Most are romances, but some are not.  Most are M/M pairings, but there was also one F/F and one M/M/M/M.  Some stories were extremely good, some less so, but there was only one that I had to DNF.  My favorite was The Tithe by K.C. Burn, which was one of the fully original stories, but there were several that were in the various universes created by the authors in other published works (like Edmond Manning’s They Danced which tells another tale of the Lost and Founds, which would not have made much sense to me if I hadn’t read one of them first).  The stories ranged from1 star to 5 star ratings, and overall the anthology really is more of a 3 star read, but I give it an extra star because of the generosity of the authors and the other people from Dreamspinner involved in putting it together.  I looked at the call for submissions, and they were due only a month after the shooting itself, which is an incredibly short period of time to write something really good, so I actually expect the next anthology to be even better.

I also hope that there will be a little more detail of which organizations the money will be going towards in the next anthology.  Overall, I do recommend this collection, especially for those who like to read shorter stories.  I plan on buying the next anthology when it’s available.

The cover art, by Paul Richmond, really fits with the title of the anthology and the reasons it was written.  I like the symbolism of one pair of hands holding and caring for another, checking a pulse as a nod to the name of the nightclub, and the rainbow coloring for Pride.

Sales Links

        

Book Details:

ebook, 574 pages
Published September 19th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
Original TitleOne Pulse
ISBN139781635330984
Edition LanguageEnglish

Our Best Books of April 2015

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This year has been a little crazy and we got away from our monthly Best of Lists!  But they are back starting with April 2015.

Let’s take a closer look at those stories we read and loved so much.  One or two are 4.75 stars rounded up to 5, the rest are 5 star rated stories.  Are some of yours there t0o?  Drop us a line and let us know what books and authors stood out for you this month!

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Best Books of April 2015

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Fantasy:

Contemporary Romance:

Science Fiction:

Supernatural/Paranormal:

YA – Aurora Reviews (Both 5 stars)

Review of Priceless by M. A. Church

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Rating: 2.75 stars

Billionaire Garrett Shiffler glances up from the craps table to see good looking young man watching him as he played.  The young stranger brings Garrett luck at the tables as well as turns him on. Garrett is determined to take him to bed, and what Garrett wants, Garrett gets.

Randal Jones of Memphis, Tennessee is in Las Vegas for the weekend when he spies a gorgeous and obviously wealthy man at the craps table.  Their eyes meet and Randy is unable to move from his spot, frozen by  instant desire.  When hunger causes his stomach to rumble, the man laughs, introduces himself as Garrett and hauls him off for food and sex. After a weekend of intense sex, both men start to wonder at the deeper feelings they have for one another.  Randy can’t believe someone like Garrett could fall for an average guy like him and runs home to Memphis without so much as a note or goodbye. Garrett believes Randy is the one for him but where does Randy live and what is his full name?  Is it true love that binds them both?  Between Cupid and romance lies the answer for Randy and Garrett.

Priceless is the first book for author M. A. Church and has some lovely qualities that make it a nice read at 99 pages.  However, that said, Priceless contains quite a few problems that I would contribute to an author just beginning their craft.  The plot is one that anyone familiar with generic love stories will recognize.  The very rich man, scornful of those who would love him for his money and status, meets someone who argues with him. The younger person/man/girl of lower status doesn’t care about money, and runs from him.  Then the rich man has to chase the person down, woo them and live happily ever after.  It takes an author of skill to elevate this common plot line, but Church needs more experience to deliver it here.

The characters of Garrett and Randy are pretty generic and the author has not given them her own twist to make them more interesting. Randy seems to spend an inordinate amount of time weeping over a lost weekend after he has left Las Vegas.  Garrett is too much the stock arrogant persona. We never get a real basis for their actions in the story because we lack a foundation upon which we can build a belief in these characters.  We are told they fall in love but only get an abundance of sex scenes, not ordinarily a bad thing but when used in place of plot and depth, then it is no substitute. Garrett tells us everyone wants him for his money and yes, he can act like an arrogant ass (that we do  believe) but why does Randy see anything different in him?

Instantaneous love rears its head here, although Church uses poor Cupid as the supposed basis for Garrett and Randy’s “instalove”. The author has Cupid appearing throughout the story and then promptly dispels his participation as the cause of the love at first sight.  Cupid and his arrow is one of those “deus ex machina” that tells me the story is in trouble from the beginning.  It’s too “cute” and not needed if you have a good plot to begin with.

The dialog between the men becomes an issue too.  One character tells Garrett to “cool your jets”, an older phrase that seemed out of place. Then Randy tells Garrett to “I can’t wait to have your dick stretching my channel”, more than once.  Such odd terminology in the heat of passion was just perplexing. Try shouting it out like you mean it and you will understand my reaction. The author seemed to be trying too hard in searching for terms and descriptions.  This sentence is the perfect example. “Their shirts hit the floor like discarded scratch tickets.”  Scratch tickets?  In another scene perhaps, but not when conveying clothes flying off due to crazed lust.

The first book can be a hard book for an author in many ways.  Inexperience, lack of critique partners, structure and editing issues are often apparent. When they  do pop up, I always hope that the author’s love of writing shines through as well. It does here. M. A. Church has talent so I will be looking forward to her next book.  And as for Priceless?  Not a bad way to spend some time if you happen upon it as a free read but I wouldn’t recommend it otherwise.

Cover: Catt Ford has done a great job with the hot Las Vegas cover.

Olympics Addiction Continues, the week ahead in Reviews and a new Summer Cocktail

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It’s August, it’s hot and dry here in Maryland.  Normal right?  Well, except for the 100 degree days, but the dryness?  That’s becoming typical too.  We are down about 8 inches here from our normal rainfall, but compared to some of the other states now experiencing record drought conditions, that is nothing.  As we hear of farmers and ranchers selling off stock they can’t feed and the Mississippi is down 20 ft in places,  along with Lake Michigan recording a water temperature in the 90’s,  I think Maryland is getting off easy comparatively speaking.  But we will feel it, make no doubt about it.  Higher food prices, higher costs in transportation, we are all woven together.  A small ripple here becomes a tidal wave there.

So I would like to think that the Olympics in Great Britain are generating tidal waves of good feelings that are crashing upon the shores of many nations.  I love watching athletes from all over the world competing and (mostly, what was with those badminton teams?) giving it their best.  Did you see that rower from Niger?  Never been in a boat, never rowed  before, came in dead last and grinned like crazy! And then there is Michael Phelps putting on a show of remarkable  physical ability, great team spirit and a happiness that I will remember for some time to come.  So many wonderful moments this week from the women competing whether it was gymnastics, swimming, Judo, weightlifting, or women in head scarves running like the wind.  I am just glued to my set and don’t see that changing until the very last whistle is blown and the torch goes out.  How about you?  Are you watching?

So this is what I have been reading in between watching the Olympics:

Monday:                       The Druid Stone by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane

Tuesday:                        When Forever May Not Be Long Enough by Mychael Black and Shayne Carmichael

Wednesday:                  The Florist by Serena Yates

Thursday:                       Priceless by M.A. Church

Friday:                            Suicide Point by Georgie Leigh

Saturday:                        Brook Street: Thief by Ava March

Now on to this Sunday’s Feature Cocktail.  In a nod to the British Olympics, here is the recipe for a Pimm’s Cup.  This recipe is  for one drink. Make as many as you like!

 

 

 

 

 

Pimm’s Cup Ingredients:

About 1 cup ice cubes
1/4 cup (2 ounces) Pimm’s No. 1
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) ginger beer or ginger ale
1 cucumber slice
1 sprig fresh mint (5 to 6 leaves)
Directions:

Fill highball glass with ice. Add Pimm’s, then top with ginger beer, garnish with cucumber slice and mint sprig, and serve.

Now I am off to watch the Olympics and finish Megan Derr’s Poison, the 4th book in the Lost Gods series.