Release Blitz for Seeking Solace (The Walker Boys #3) by Ari McKay (excerpt and giveaway)

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Length: 55,188 words
 
Cover Design: Alexandria Corza
 
 
Walker Boys Series
 
Book #1 – Striking Sparks – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #2 – Breaking Bonds – Amazon US | Amazon UK
 
Blurb
 

All hands on deck for a shipboard romance—with a secret.


Like his cousins, Devin Walker aspires to be a chef, but he wants to indulge his wanderlust while feeding his customers, and working a cruise ship seems like the solution. Since he can’t find an opening in the kitchen, he’s happy to start out in a position behind the bar.


While onboard Poseidon’s Pearl, Devin is assigned to shepherd a visiting executive. Paul Bailey is quiet and unassuming, and a car accident that cost him his leg also shattered his confidence. He doesn’t think he’s attractive to other men anymore, and Devin is eager to show him just how wrong he is. Paul has a surprising secret that might sink their passionate affair before it even leaves port.

 
Excerpt
 
PAUL MERCER stood in front of the full-length mirror mounted on the closet door and checked his tailor-made navy suit for lint or wrinkles before he left his cabin, which was more like a small hotel room than he’d expected. But Triton Cruises prided itself on being one of the more upscale cruise lines, and Poseidon’s Pearl was one of their top ships.


The suite was luxurious enough that Paul could have spent the entire trip inside, maybe reading on the private deck, which was big enough for two lounge chairs with a small table between them. But Paul wasn’t on vacation.


He’d been sent by his father, who was the CEO of Triton Cruises, to assess the ship and its crew and to report on whether the crew was adhering to company standards. To do so, he was posing as Paul Bailey, a new executive with the company who needed to learn about the cruise line. He was using his mother’s maiden name to help avoid anyone making a connection between him and the company’s founding family.


He glanced down at his pants, which were loose enough to hide the fact that he wore a prosthetic on his left leg below the knee. He’d covered the prosthetic foot with a shoe, and looking down at his dress shoes made him feel almost normal again. He had a slight limp, especially at the end of the day when he was tired, but most people were tactful enough not to ask about it, if they even noticed.


The other reason Paul had been sent was because he’d never been on a Triton cruise before. Hell, he’d never been on any cruise before. The cruise line was strictly eighteen-plus so Paul was never allowed to go with his parents when they took their annual trip while he was growing up. Then he’d gone away to college, and after graduation he went straight into grad school for his MBA. After that, he’d started working his way up the ladder at Triton and hadn’t taken much time off except for a few long weekends here and there. Then the accident happened. So the trip was a way for him to experience a Triton cruise from their guests’ perspective. It was also the last trip Paul would take anywhere in a while. Andrew Mercer was ready to retire, and he had put Paul on a fast track to taking over after Paul finished rehab and was cleared to return to work.


Focusing on his reflection, Paul smoothed his hand over his dark brown hair, which was cut short and neatly styled, its natural wave tamed with product. It was too early to go to the dining room, so Paul decided to visit the bar for a while instead.


While most cruise lines these days seemed intent on going the megaship route—huge vessels that could accommodate almost seven thousand passengers—Triton catered to a different clientele. Ships like Poseidon’s Pearl and her sisters carried a maximum of nine hundred passengers, with a crew of nearly six hundred, and every stateroom on the ship boasted a private balcony. The decor in the common areas was just as posh as it was in Paul’s cabin. As he left his cabin on Deck 7, it was only a short walk to the Seafarer’s Lounge.


He heard soft piano music—live, not recorded—as he entered the two-story lounge, which was set in the fore of the ship. It had glass windows from floor to ceiling on three sides that offered a magnificent, panoramic view of the Gulf of Mexico and the serenely blue sky above. The room was large, with stairways on the port and starboard sides giving access to the second level. Small clusters of loveseats and chairs were set around low tables, allowing for intimate groups to engage in conversation, while the rear of the room was lined in bookcases housing the ship’s library, which was large enough to cater to almost any taste. The plush carpet underfoot was patterned in tones of deep blue and gold, which set off the cream of the upholstery.


In the center of the room was a semicircular bar topped with polished mahogany, surrounded by comfortable high seats. As with everywhere else on the ship, the trademark of the line—a three-pronged triton—was subtly worked into the decor, such as the patterns of tile fronting the bar and the fabric covering the seats. There were no more than twenty or so people in the bar, broken into groupings around the room. Everyone was well-dressed, and conversations were muted, giving the room a relaxed and welcoming feeling.


As Paul approached the bar, he caught sight of the bartender, who was tall with broad shoulders tapering to a narrow waist emphasized by his tailored uniform vest. He had high cheekbones, a square jawline that looked sharp enough to cut paper, and skin with a rich copper glow that seemed to result from a combination of genetics and sunshine. His dark, thickly lashed eyes were crinkled at the corners as he flashed a dazzlingly white smile and handed an olive-garnished martini to his customer. His midnight-black hair was pulled back from his face and hung in a thick braid that reached all the way to his waist.


As soon as the bartender had scanned the customer’s cruise card and returned it, he turned to Paul, who had claimed a seat at the end of the bar, and Paul got the full effect of his smile. “Good afternoon, sir. I’m Devin. How can I make your day even better?”


The intense charisma behind that smile made Paul almost believe Devin meant the greeting for him alone, but he sternly reminded himself that the ship employees were supposed to say such things to all the customers.


“I’d like a glass of Malbec, please,” he said.


“Excellent choice,” Devin replied. He retrieved a bottle from the wine rack, and after uncorking the wine, he placed a crystal wineglass on the bar, then held an aerator over it as he poured a stream of the rich, dark wine from the bottle through it, making a bit of a show of the process. Then he set the bottle and aerator aside, placed a gilt-edged paper napkin in front of Paul, and served the glass of wine.


“Thanks.” Paul picked up the glass and took a sip, and he was pleased by the quality of the wine.


After cleaning up and recorking the bottle, Devin returned to Paul, favoring him with another smile. “How do you like it? Triton prides itself on the quality of the wines it serves, even the ones they use in the kitchen.”


Good to know, Paul thought, making a mental note for his report. “It’s good, thanks.”


Devin glanced around the nearly empty lounge, but he must not have seen anything that needed his attention, since his gaze returned to Paul. He tilted his head to one side, looking at Paul with a slightly puzzled expression. “If I may ask, sir, have you cruised with us before? You look familiar.”


Paul smiled as blandly as possible and shook his head. Full-sized portraits of Andrew Mercer and Abraham Mercer—Paul’s grandfather and the founder of Triton Cruises—hung in the atrium, so Paul wasn’t surprised one of the employees had picked up on the family resemblance.


“No, this is my first cruise,” he said, assuaging the slight pang he felt over deceiving the crew with the fact he was telling Devin the truth.


“All right, then. I’m very good with faces, and I’m sure I would have remembered you.” Devin grinned. “Especially since you’re almost as tall as I am.”


“Almost?” Paul raised one eyebrow. “I’d say we’re about even.”


“I’m six-foot-five,” Devin said. “In the lower areas of the ship, I have to be careful not to smack my head on the conduits.”


“Then we are in fact even,” Paul said. “I was in high demand for basketball teams all through school.”


Devin chuckled. “If that Charleston accent hadn’t already told me you weren’t from Texas, the basketball comment would have. I was in demand too, but as a wide receiver.”


“I’ve heard rumors that football is the state religion of Texas, but I’ve never played it myself,” Paul said, taking a sip of his wine. “I was on the varsity basketball team in high school, and I played intramural in college.”


“Nice,” Devin said. “I played in high school, then was offered a scholarship to Texas A&M, but football was never more than a hobby. I wanted to go to culinary school, and they don’t have football teams.” He lowered his voice. “Although we often played badminton with food that didn’t turn out very well. It’s amazing how much overdone chicken Kiev resembles a hockey puck.”


Paul chuckled. “How did you go from culinary school to tending bar on a cruise ship? Have you worked here long?”


“Six months, and it was a matter of opportunity,” Devin said. “My best friend and I took a cruise after… well, after I went through a bad breakup, and it was just what I needed. I fell in love with the ship, and the sea, and the travel. I’d never even been out of Texas before, and the travel bug bit me hard. I did some research, and Triton is far and away the best cruise line to work for. They have people lining up for jobs, and it took me almost two years to get my foot in the door, and then it was because I’d also trained in bartending. Of course I hope to work in the kitchen someday, but when they offered me a position I jumped on it, and I haven’t regretted it for a second.” Devin’s smile was rueful. “I hope I haven’t bored you to death.”


“Not at all.” Paul thought it was helpful for the staff to be friendly, especially on longer cruises like this one. It would promote the family atmosphere that Triton Cruises wanted to cultivate. “I don’t want to monopolize your time, though.”


Devin glanced around the nearly empty lounge. “It’ll be slow in here until after dinner,” he said. “The action right now is up by the pool. But once the sun goes down, everyone will come into the Seafarer to socialize and listen to the cruise director’s talk about our ports of call.”


“I should probably come back for that,” Paul said. “I don’t know much about the ports we’re visiting, and I don’t want to wander off without a plan.”


“There are some great shore excursions,” Devin said, his brown eyes shining with interest. “They have some for people who like to be physically active, like diving trips and hiking tours, and some for people who prefer to relax on the beach and play in the waves. They also have activities for people who want to experience the culture of the various islands. And if you’d prefer to be on your own, they’ll have maps to help you out.”


“Sounds like I shouldn’t have any problem finding something fun to do.”


“I’m sure you’ll have a great time,” Devin said. “If I may make a suggestion, there’s something you can do tonight. Just before midnight, go up on Deck 9. They have an open area to do outdoor yoga. The captain always turns off all the extra lights on the ship for several minutes, and we’ll be well away from land by then. You’ll be able to see more stars than you ever thought the sky could hold. It’s beautiful and humbling at the same time.”


“If I’m still awake, I’ll check it out.” Paul glanced at his watch, then slid off the bar stool, taking his wineglass with him. “I should probably head to the dining room.”


“Be prepared for a real treat,” Devin said. “I recommend the beef Wellington, and the triple chocolate torte with Chambord for dessert. Although you won’t go wrong with any of the selections. The food on the Pearl is fantastic.”


“You had me at triple chocolate,” Paul said, lifting his glass to Devin. Then he headed out of the lounge. He wanted to get there in time to take a few notes about what he had observed so far before dinner, but if the rest of the ship had the same kind of staff and atmosphere as the lounge, his assessment would be a glowing one.

Ari McKay is the professional pseudonym for Arionrhod and McKay, who have been writing together for over a decade. Their collaborations encompass a wide variety of romance genres, including contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, gothic, and action/adventure. Their work includes the Blood Bathory series of paranormal novels, the Herc’s Mercs series, as well as two historical Westerns: Heart of Stone and Finding Forgiveness. When not writing, they can often be found scheming over costume designs or binge watching TV shows together.


Arionrhod is a systems engineer by day who is eagerly looking forward to (hopefully) becoming a full time writer in the not-too-distant future. Now that she is an empty-nester, she has turned her attentions to finding the perfect piece of land to build a fortress in preparation for the zombie apocalypse, and baking (and eating) far too many cakes.


McKay is an English teacher who has been writing for one reason or another most of her life. She also enjoys knitting, reading, cooking, and playing video games. She has been known to knit in public. Given she has the survival skills of a gnat, she’s relying on Arionrhod to help her survive the zombie apocalypse.


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A Barb, A Zany Old Lady Review: Gays of Our Lives by Kris Ripper

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

GaysOfOurLives_600x900 (1)Emerson Robinette has MS.  He also has a huge case of chip-on-shoulder and another of social anxiety. Ever since his diagnosis, he’s limited himself to being only in safe situations, or situations he perceives as safe and follows his rules—only pick up guys on days his legs don’t tingle; don’t let his dominant side out for fear of failure; don’t make friends so they won’t be disappointed in him; and so on. 

He teaches ESL and GED prep classes at a community center and loves his job. Though he never intended to be a teacher, he pretty much just fell into it. He happens to meet a hipster named Obie on a bus ride home one day.  Obie is a happy-go-lucky kind of guy, dresses the way he feels, and seems to be attracted to Emerson.  The only problem?  When Emerson gets off the bus, he has to use his cane and he notices that Obie notices so he figures that’s the end of that hope. 

One thing about Emerson that we come to see as we read the story is that he just can’t muster up the courage to be positive about anything.  He so afraid of losing hope that he refuses to have it in the first place.  He’s isolated himself without even realizing it, and he refuses to let in the people who genuinely care about him: his GED class members, his boss, and most definitely, Obie.  But Obie doesn’t allow Emerson to wallow in his own depression.  Little by little, he chips away at that façade until he exposes the real Emerson, the young man who has hopes and dreams and the one Obie is falling for. 

Obie also introduces Emerson to Dred, his best friend. Dred is biracial, very pregnant, and a single parent, having been deserted by the baby’s father as soon as he found out she was pregnant. Dred is another person who slowly chips away at Emerson’s isolation.  If any character ever needed to change, it’s Emerson.  At first, I found him to be so abrasive that I wasn’t sure I could enjoy the story.  However, by about the 25% mark, I was intrigued. 

I enjoyed the author’s writing style and liked the parenthetical, often self-deprecating or snarky, comments that punctuated much of Emerson’s thoughts. The parallels drawn between Dred’s pregnancy and Emerson’s MS were spot-on, and Obie was not just the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow—he was the rainbow. 

I recommend this story to those who love an MM romance with and anti-hero—someone you may hate at the beginning and love by the end—and those who love stories of overcoming disabilities, friends as family, and those who simply want to read something different and interesting.

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The cover art by L.C. Chase shows a close-up of a bearded, good-looking young man against a bright purple background.  The use of color makes this an attractive cover.

Sales Links:   Riptide Publishing | ARe | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 226 pages
Published July 11th 2016 by Riptide Publishing (first published July 10th 2016)
Original TitleGays of Our Lives
ISBN 1626494258 (ISBN13: 9781626494251)
Edition LanguageEnglish

SeriesQueers of La Vista #1

Kris Ripper Talks The Big Picture and the ‘Gays of Our Lives’ (Blog Tour and Giveaway)

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Gays of Our Lives (Queers of La Vista #1)by Kris Ripper
R
iptide Publishing
Cover art by L.C. Chase

Read an Excerpt/Buy it Here

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Kris Ripper here today to talk about zir release, Gays of Our Lives and The Big Picture.  Welcome, Kris.

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The Big Picture

I’m not a writer who focuses a great deal on theme and motifs while I’m writing. If you do your job right—if you write a book that’s formed well, and has a coherent story to it—then all that exists whether you know it or not.

I was the kid in the literature class who sat there daydreaming about my own books while the teacher went on and on about the Biblical resonances in Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. Start talking High Lit and my eyes glaze over.

However.

There comes a point as a writer when you realize that this stuff exists in stories. All kinds of stories: novels, poems, movies, television shows, video games. If you’re caught up in a character or a plot, chances are there’s something about it, thematically, that calls to you.

As a reader/viewer/consumer, you can pay attention to this stuff or not. (I always find it’s a lot more fun to decode and deconstruct stuff with a group of folks who enjoy that sort of thing.) But as a writer, I think it’s pretty important to have at least a passing knowledge of the stuff you’re actually trying to say with a story.

And let me stress again, that this stuff is accessible to everyone, even those of us who weren’t good in school, even those of us who were trying so hard to understand Tristram Shandy that we missed the sex bits.

In Gays of Our Lives it’s virtually impossible to miss the sex scenes. (Whew. Nothing like reading a whole novel and facing your professor’s “So, let’s talk about the sex in this book” with a blank stare.)

Gays of Our Lives is a sort of adult coming of age story. It doesn’t document the transition many people experience when they leave their family of origin—raw, and edged with fear, excitement, expectation. Emerson’s thirty-one years old; he broke away his family a long time ago, but he’s still saddled with an young adult’s mental baggage about who he should be, and how he relates to other people.

Sometimes the hardest battles we ever fight aren’t the ones against authority, or bullies, or even our own bodies (though Emerson’s had skirmishes in all of those areas). Sometimes it’s the persistent voice in the back of your head telling you you don’t deserve to be happy, that you don’t deserve to find a good partner.

One of the coolest things about books—and storytelling in general—is that you can find yourself in characters who are very little like you. Emerson’s a white, cisgender, gay dude with multiple sclerosis; of those things the only thing we share is that we’re both white. But I had a great time living inside his head, and taking his journey with him, and I learned a little bit about myself along the way.

What about you? Across mediums, who’s the character you’ve most related to, and do they superficially resemble you at all, or are they vastly different?

About Gays of Our Lives

Emerson Robinette only leaves his apartment to get laid and go to work. Having MS—and trying to pretend he doesn’t—makes everything more complicated, especially his fantasies of coming on strong and holding a guy down. Finding a partner who’ll explore that with him isn’t Emerson’s idea of a realistic goal.

Until a chance meeting with a hipster on a bus makes him reconsider. Obie is happy, open-hearted, and warm; what’s more, he gets his kicks being physically dominated, spanked, and teased until he’s begging. It would be perfect, except for one thing: Emerson isn’t made for happiness, and he doesn’t see how a guy like Obie would settle for a cynic like him.

But as far as Obie’s concerned, the only thing keeping them apart is Emerson. Can Emerson handle a boyfriend who’s more invested in his future than he is? Emerson’s barely convinced he has a future. But when Obie’s smiling at him, anything seems possible.

About Kris Ripper

Kris Ripper lives in the great state of California and hails from the San Francisco Bay Area. Kris shares a converted garage with a toddler, can do two pull-ups in a row, and can write backwards. (No, really.) Kris is genderqueer and prefers the z-based pronouns because they’re freaking sweet. Ze has been writing fiction since ze learned how to write, and boring zir stuffed animals with stories long before that.

Connect with Kris:

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Giveaway

To celebrate the release of Gays of Our Lives, Kris is giving away your choice of ebook from zir backlist. (Any release from Kris Ripper prior to Gays of Our Lives.) Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on July 16, 2016. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

This title is part of the Queers of La Vista universe

A PaulB Review: Living Again by Brynn Stein

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Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Living Again coverAfter a car accident breaks Daniel’s arm and good leg, he must rely on nurse Jonah for the next couple of months while he recuperates. They must move past both past memories and present troubles in order to build their future together with Jonah’s son.

Daniel Larson wakes up in the hospital after a serious car accident in which he suffers a concussion, broken arm and broken leg. Having lost his other leg in an explosion in Afghanistan, Daniel wonders how he will cope until he heals. His Uncle Lawrence has contacted a home nursing agency to help Daniel deal with life until he is recovered. Uncle Larry is upset when the nurse that is sent is Jonah Thacker, a male nurse.

Daniel prides himself on being able to live his life despite his disability. At first he resents having someone taking care of his basic needs. However, he soon realizes that he will not survive without help for the next few weeks until his arm and leg heal enough for him to return to his life as a college professor. And if that help comes in the form of hunky nurse Jonah, who is he to complain?

As the two grow closer together, various obstacles come in the way. First, Uncle Larry does everything within his power to get another nurse assigned to Daniel. Uncle Larry has promised Daniel’s father that he would take care of Daniel. However, he does not approve of Daniel’s homosexuality. A male nurse would he figures would be too much temptation. Second, they want to maintain a sense of professionalism, at least until Jonah is no longer Daniel’s nurse.

Daniel is drawn further to Jonah when he meets Jonah’s nephew/son Ethan. Ethan was born with birth defects due to his mother (Jonah’s sister) being exposed to a virus in Africa as a medical resident. Ethan was born with malformed legs and heart problems. His mother dies nine months after he was born in an accident and Jonah becomes his primary care giver.

As the relationship between Daniel and Jonah grows, both most deal with issues concerning past relationships. Daniel lost his boyfriend Tom in the explosion that took his leg while Jonah was rejected by Ted when he became Ethan’s de facto father. To complicate things more, Ethan’s health problems become worse and Uncle Larry does whatever he can to keep the two apart. They realize that they should make a go of the relationship, but is it too late to build this family?

I liked the slow build of the romance and the angst each of the characters felt as they move toward each other. You can tell they have been hurt in the past and are slow to move onto a new relationship for fear of being hurt again. This of course leads to misunderstandings on both their parts as to each other’s motives. However, they do work together to thwart Uncle Larry’s attempts to keep them apart. They also find comfort in one another during Ethan’s health scares and what finally brings them together for good.

Jonah’s son Ethan is a well written character. His precociousness and love of life despite all his health problems warms your heart. I wonder if Ms. Stein drew on her work as a special needs teacher to help her craft Ethan’s vivacious personality.

If you are looking for steamy sex scenes, this is not the book for you. Most of the bedroom activities take part off page and are only alluded to for the most part. However, if you are looking for a well crafted angst filled romance, I would give this book a read.

The cover art by Bree Archer is well done. The models selected for Jonah, Ethan and Daniel on the top half are what I would picture them to be. The bottom half shows a silhouette of Daniel walking on a boardwalk using crutches instead of his prosthetic leg.

Sales Links:    Dreamspinner Press      All Romance eBooks (ARe)      Amazon          Living Again
eBook Details
200 pages
Published July 21, 2014 by Dreamspinner Press
Edition Language English