A MelanieM Review: We Still Live by Sara Dobie Bauer

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Running from a scandal that ruined his life, Isaac Twain accepts a teaching position at Hambden University where, three months prior, Professor John Conlon stopped a campus nightmare by stepping in front of an active shooter.

When John and Isaac become faculty advisors for the school’s literary magazine, their professional relationship evolves. Despite the strict code of conduct forbidding faculty fraternization, they delve into a secret affair—until Simon arrives.

Isaac’s violent ex threatens not only their careers, but also John’s life. His PTSD triggered, John must come to terms with that bloody day on College Green while Isaac must accept the heartbreak his secrets have wrought.

***WE STILL LIVE is a standalone M/M friends-to-lovers romance featuring detailed adult content, graphic violence, hurt/comfort, and mental illness.

What an incredible story! Full of current, tough topics and damaged characters, elements  guaranteed to make one think, flinch, and often weep, as well as a romance that encapsulates some of the best and yes, worst that love can bring out in us.  In short, We Still Live by Sara Dobie Bauer is an amazing work of contemporary fiction, romance fiction is just a part of that.

Domestic shootings, whether it is at schools, workplaces,malls, or events, has, unthinkingly and horrifically, become part of our lives.  Here in We Still Live, author Sara Dobie Bauer exams what it means to have survived one of those shootings ,not just the main character’s trauma ,but that of an entire campus’. Bauer’s vivid descriptions of a darkness that hangs is so heavy over the town, campus, and people is so real as it creeps over the reader page by page until you feel it just as Isaac must.  We are coming into the situation just as he is, almost an interloper, an outsider who slowly starts to become part of their neverending landscape of pain, loss, and regret.

I can’t begin to find the words as to how beautifully written this story is.  Or how achingly subtle and fragile her characters.   Both in their strengths and their vulnerabilities.

The true measure of the damage done to Professor John Conlon is only slowly revealed here, layers peeled away as core truths come to the surface.  And not just for John.  Because Isaac has his own demons he has brought to the campus.  Ones just as current today, given the rising conservative values and his own religious background.  Bauer has developed these themes and woven them flawlessly into her narrative and romance, bringing me to tears multiple times as well as to laughter.

It’s not just the main characters that are so well developed but all of them, from those with minor parts to those with larger supporting roles like Tommy, John’s best friend professor who lived through the shooting too.   This is a story that will stay with you, lines that will haunt you, from a dedication in a Student literary magazine to the last lines of this novel which I will leave for the reader to read for themselves.

It’s life affirming as well as wrenching.  It’s so damn real.  It will be on my Best of 2019 list this year.

Cover art by Natasha Snow,  Honestly I expect more from this artist than a bunch of trees (while I get the symbolism), especially with this exceptional book as inspiration. Meh.  Feels like a stock photo you can purchase anywhere.

Buy Links

NineStar Press  |   Amazon UK  |  Amazon US  |  Paperback 

 

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1st edition, 233 pages
Published December 9th 2019 by NineStar Press (first published December 4th 2019)
Original Title We Still Live
ASINB082BJDX2P
Edition Language English

Join Us for the Blog Tour with Excerpt for We Still Live by Sara Dobie Bauer

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BLOG TOUR

Book Title: We Still Live

Author: Sara Dobie Bauer

Publisher: NineStar Press

Cover Artist: Natasha Snow

Release Date: December 9, 2019

Genre: Contemporary M/M Romance

Tropes: Friends to lovers, hurt/comfort

Themes: Coming out, depression, anxiety, PTSD/post-traumatic stress, mental illness

Heat Rating:  4 flames   

Length: 62 000 words

It is a standalone book.

Add on Goodreads

 

Buy Links

NineStar Press  |   Amazon UK  |  Amazon US  |  Paperback 

 

To escape the past, accept it.

Blurb 

Running from a scandal that ruined his life, Isaac Twain accepts a teaching position at Hambden University where, three months prior, Professor John Conlon stopped a campus nightmare by stepping in front of an active shooter.

When John and Isaac become faculty advisors for the school’s literary magazine, their professional relationship evolves. Despite the strict code of conduct forbidding faculty fraternization, they delve into a secret affair—until Simon arrives.

Isaac’s violent ex threatens not only their careers, but also John’s life. His PTSD triggered, John must come to terms with that bloody day on College Green while Isaac must accept the heartbreak his secrets have wrought.

***WE STILL LIVE is a standalone M/M friends-to-lovers romance featuring detailed adult content, graphic violence, hurt/comfort, and mental illness.***

 

 

Excerpt

Close as they were to the foyer, Isaac was the first to notice the front door opening. A student walked inside. The kid dragged a heavy-looking suitcase behind him. Dressed as he was in a slim-fitting button-down, Isaac immediately assumed preppy, although that assumption altered and changed when taking into account the tight black jeans, Converse sneakers, and shaggy hair the color of caramel and chocolate—a mass of waves and curls that fell down the back of his neck but not quite to his shoulders. 

The kid pushed his hair out of the way and looked up, eyes finding Isaac and flashing a moment of panicked nonrecognition before seeing Tommy.

“Um.” Isaac pointed toward the new arrival.

Tommy turned and shouted, “John! My man!”

Not a student, then.

Tommy wrapped John in a hug that actually lifted his feet off the ground. Isaac imagined it wouldn’t be difficult. The new guy might have been average height, but he was gangly, skin and bones. 

Tommy ruffled his hair. “Have you lost weight?”

John grumbled and scratched his face with his middle finger. “What are you freeloaders doing in my house?” His voice was surprisingly resonant for someone Isaac considered “pretty.” At John’s pronouncement, crows of approval rang from every direction.

“Come meet Isaac,” Tommy said.

John wiped his palms on his jeans before reaching out to shake, and Isaac’s large hand dwarfed his. 

“Isaac Twain is the newest addition to our special corner of Hambden hell. Isaac, this is John Conlon.”

John brushed more hair out of his face. “Nice to—”

“John Conlon?”

John and Tommy froze.

Isaac jerked his thumb over his shoulder. “The books on the shelf. Those are yours?”

John’s face, immobile in what looked like dread a moment before, melted into relief, tinged with a bit of blush. “Oh, yeah. You’ve read?”

“No, but I should. You’ve published a lot of books. You must be good.”

John’s nose wrinkled, and he looked away. 

Tommy shook him by the shoulders. “John is an amazing writer. He had a story published in The New Yorker when he was, like, five. Are you working on anything right now?”

John glanced at the bookshelf. “Not lately.”

“You need a drink,” Tommy said.

John’s eyes widened on a big breath. “God, yes, I do.”

“Nice to meet you,” Isaac said, but John just nodded quickly, smile thin, before allowing himself to be herded farther into the house toward the sound of quiet laughter and clinking bottles.

Isaac felt it then—an outsider’s emptiness. He became a nervous-looking coat rack in the corner, a terrified tree waiting for the ax. As the party doubled in auditory volume, he bemoaned his spilled wine. Was it okay for him to leave? It wasn’t like he was supposed to make a speech. He was only there because he figured it was the easiest way to meet everyone before the first official faculty meeting, but he’d been standing around too long. He wanted to run.

Out of curiosity, he reopened John’s book from earlier and read the front flap. It was a coming-of-age story about a gay kid in the Midwest. He flipped to the back, and a picture of John stared back at him. He’d assumed the guy was tired when they first met, but no; apparently, John had perpetual bedroom eyes, and his hair was always an artful mess. He skimmed…creative writing professor at Hambden University…gay rights activist…Converse-wearer and “old-people music” enthusiast.

All arrows pointed to John’s probable sexual preference for men. A spark of interest flickered but quickly went out. True, John Conlon was what most people would consider beautiful, but he wasn’t Isaac’s type. John was the kind of man butch guys fought over in gay clubs, but he was too small for Isaac, too fragile-looking, girly. After all he’d been through, the last thing Isaac wanted was someone feminine.

A thin figure ducked into the library and literally hid against the doorframe. He took a long drink of something brown and leaned his head back. “It’s not good when you want to hide in your own house.”

“Library is the best place for it,” Isaac said.

John kicked away from the wall. “Tommy mentioned you just moved here? I’ve been in Lothos forever, so if you need anything…” He examined Isaac from his brown boat shoes to the top of his blond head. John’s large eyes, dark green, seemed bottomless—drowning pools of intellect and soul—only slightly overshadowed by his thick eyebrows.

 

About the Author  

Sara Dobie Bauer is a bestselling author, model, and mental health / LGBTQ advocate with a creative writing degree from Ohio University. She lives with her hottie husband and two precious pups in Northeast Ohio, although she’d really like to live in a Tim Burton film. She is author of the paranormal rom-com Bite Somebody series and Escape Trilogy.

 

Photo credit: Bill Thornhill

 

Author Links

Blog/Website  |  Facebook  |  Private Facebook Group

Twitter  |  Instagram  |  Newsletter Sign-up  |  BookBub

 

 

Follow the tour and check out the other blog posts and reviews here

 

Hosted by Gay Book Promotions

 

A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Complementary Colors by Adrienne Wilder

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Paris is a successful artist who picks up Roy, a maintenance man, at his gallery showing. He’s trying to get away from his overbearing sister, Julia and the patrons who all want a piece of him. This one night stand doesn’t go like all his others. By the time his other sister Alice is introduced, it’s obvious something is very wrong with not only Paris, but everyone who surrounds him. It’s a story of greed, lust, and betrayal.

First, I would say this book has very dark themes with: angst, violence, drugs, drinking, brutal sex, deaths, PTSD, and past trauma. But those are just words; if you read this book, you will feel all of those words. Second, it is written in the first person POV of a mentally ill person who is in tremendous pain, is self medicating, and has no sense of self worth. Add in the layer of abuse Alice heaps on him as his legal guardian, and the story is quite harrowing. There is a really pivotal scene where I realized Paris can take care of himself…does he let Julia hurt him because of guilt? or is it just fear and habit?

The meaningless sex here is brutal and explicit as Paris exercises some of the only power he has. Then there is the dubious/non consensual sex. As Roy starts to realize the sex means nothing, he tries to date Paris without it. All the meaning comes from Roy’s care giving, but Roy quickly realizes he’s in over his head and Paris needs professional help. Roy is also clever enough to realize he can give Paris a positive sexual outlet for the first time in his life, with someone who loves him. I made a point to mention this because, sex is a major, integral part of this book. I didn’t feel the story lacked anything at all, it’s just important to remember the reader is never given anyone’s POV but Paris’s. Paris’s world is filled with wealthy, bloodthirsty sharks. Paris is drowning from the inside out. Roy may be a flotation device, but Paris still has to hang on, and he is still in the sea.

By the halfway mark, the reader should understand almost all of the demons that drive Paris, but it’s not until the end that the demons driving Julia and Alice are understood. There could be a debate about whether this is a romance or not. While I love Roy, for me, the HEA comes from Paris getting the professional help he needs from a doctor he trusts. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. I knew it was going to be an emotionally devastating read, so I kept putting it off. I can say without a doubt, this will be on my best of the year (and possibly ever read in this genre) list.

The cover design is by Adrienne Wilder with a photo from Dan Skinner. While it does show the colors in Paris’s mind, and the photo shows the darkness, it’s not terribly compelling.

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US  |  Amazon UK 

Book Details:

ebook, 320 pages
Published June 20th 2014 by Adrienne Wilder (first published June 19th 2014)
Edition Language English

Kelly Jensen on Characters, Animals Comparisons and her new release ‘Chasing Forever (guest blog and giveaway)

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Chasing Forever (This Time Forever #3) by Kelly Jensen
Riptide Publishing
Cover Art: Natasha Snow

Sales Links: Riptide Publishing | Amazon

 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Kelly Jensen on tour with her latest novel, Chasing Forever.  Welcome, Kelly.

✒︎

If You Could Be Any Animal by Kelly Jensen

This post is another in a series I’ve written for all three books of the This Time Forever trilogy. To recap, in Building Forever, I decided that Charlie was most like a golden retriever and Simon wouldn’t mind being associated with a rare leopard. For Renewing Forever, Frank still hasn’t forgiven me for comparing him to an otter, but Tom said it first. For his part, Tom’s quite pleased with the choice of coyote. So what about Brian and Mal?

Mal’s actually pretty easy. I had his animal pinned down month ago. Easily, he’s a St. Bernard. To begin with, it was a bit of a whimsical choice. I sort of pictured Mal (in St. Bernard form) racing to the rescue of someone (probably Brian), barreling over a mountain landscape, never flagging, tongue lolling, handy little keg of something warm bouncing from his collar.

What? I’m a writer. I have a very active imagination. Also, I might have been drinking whiskey at the time and it’s definitely whiskey in that little keg. Tell me you don’t immediately picture the little barrel hanging from its neck when you think of a St. Bernard.

What really drew me to this particular breed, though, was their temperament. The St. Bernard epitomizes the phrase “gentle giant.” They’re large, loving, puppy dogs. They’re patient and sweet. They’re notably good with children. Like all large breeds, they do need proper exercise and socialization, and that could be why Mal is such a grump at the beginning of the book. Active people don’t do well with broken limbs.

Mal has a twin, Donny. They’re fraternal twins, alike enough in appearance to be brothers, but in no way identical. Physically, they’re similar, though, and Donny is as much a St. Bernard as Mal. Donny is the one who’ll grab you by the scruff of your neck when you’re lying half dead in the snow and drag you back down the mountain to a cozy little village so you can be fussed over. (I feel another book idea coming on…)

Donny is also the one who’ll drool all over you as he enthusiastically licks you clean. Or just says hello. Thankfully, Mal is a little bit more restrained. Or just shy.

So what about Brian? I had to think long and hard about Brian because he holds so much of his self close. He’s very guarded, which is odd when you consider how social he is. My first idea for him was a cat, but that felt too easy. Also, Simon was a cat and I didn’t want to give them the same animal. I started thinking about more secretive, furtive animals, but they didn’t feel right, either. Brian isn’t small and he’s not shy. He just has secrets.

I briefly considered giving him my own avatar, the mythical creature I most closely identify with: the phoenix. He does transform during this story and in a way, he does pass through a veil to return from the ashes of his past. But it felt a little unfair to give Brian something so magnificent when everyone else got regular creatures.

Brian, by the way, thinks it’s very fair. But he’s not writing this post.

But he is a bird. A golden eagle. I did hesitate to use an eagle, because they’re notably monogamous, or mostly so. But Brian is human, first of all, and not solely driven by the imperative to mate (not for the purpose of offspring, anyway). Secondly, he does desire just one partner. He’s not polyamorous, he’s just… not settled. His domestication starts the very minute he finds his nephew on his couch, though. Suddenly, Brian’s home is no longer just a house. It becomes a nest, and he begins the process of making it a safe place for Josh. He’d already set his sights on Mal, and Mal is just the sort of partner he’s always needed.

By the end of the book, Brian is very much an eagle. He has soared—and he knows exactly where his home and family is, meaning he will always return to his nest.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of posts. It’s fun to be whimsical with my characters, and so often after I finish a book and particularly a series, I miss hanging out with my guys. These posts have been an opportunity to revisit them for a while, as well as introduce them to you.

 

Chasing Forever is the final book in the series This Time Forever. Brian and Mal’s story is special in all sorts of ways. Even though these books all standalone, Brian has been there since the beginning–as the character everyone loved to hate in the first book, and the character who seemed to have more to him in book two. In this final story, I share who Brian really is, and hope you’ll all come to love him as much as I do. Then there’s Mal, his other half, my serious soldier who has been waiting all his life for a challenge like Brian. Sometimes we have to be knocked lower than ever before in order to reach that high, and Mal’s journey is one I treasure. I hope you enjoy reading this story of redemption and learning to live out loud.

About Chasing Forever

Old wounds, new directions, and a forever worth chasing.

Malcolm Montgomery was a history teacher and track coach until an accident left him with two broken legs. He’ll recover, but life has knocked his feet out twice now. He’s not sure if he’s ready to try again, especially when it comes to love—and slick guys like Brian Kenway. Still, he needs help mentoring the school’s LGBTQ society, so he asks Brian to take some responsibility.

Brian has been hiding behind his reputation as a liar and a cheat for so long that he actually believes he’s that guy—until his nephew, Josh, turns up on his couch, tossed out for being gay. Brian has never considered being a father, but he knows all about being rejected by loved ones. Now Brian wants to be more: a partner for Mal and a role model for Josh.

But when Mal’s recovery is set back and the sad truth of Brian’s past is revealed, the forever they’ve been chasing seems even further from their grasps. It’ll take a rescue effort to revive their sense of worth and make Brian, Mal, and Josh into a family of their own.

Now available from Riptide Publishing!

About the This Time Forever Series

Small towns and second chances.

Simon, Frank, and Brian think love has passed them by. Each is facing down his fiftieth birthday—Simon in a few years, Frank next year, and Brian soon enough. Each has loved and lost. But for these men, everything old really is new again, and it’s only when they return to their roots that they’ll find their second chances and the happily ever after they’ve been waiting their whole lives for.

This time it’s forever.

This series includes:

  1. Building Forever — released October 15
  2. Renewing Forever — released November 12
  3. Chasing Forever — released December 10

About Kelly Jensen

If aliens ever do land on Earth, Kelly will not be prepared, despite having read over a hundred stories about the apocalypse. Still, she will pack her precious books into a box and carry them with her as she strives to survive. It’s what bibliophiles do.

Kelly is the author of a number of novels, novellas, and short stories, including the Chaos Station series, cowritten with Jenn Burke. Some of what she writes is speculative in nature, but mostly it’s just about a guy losing his socks and/or burning dinner. Because life isn’t all conquering aliens and mountain peaks. Sometimes finding a happy ever after is all the adventure we need.

Connect with Kelly:

 


Giveaway

To celebrate the release of Chasing Forever one lucky person will win a $25 Riptide Publishing gift card and a swag pack of stickers, art cards, and bookmarks! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on December 15, 2018. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following along, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

 

In Our Spotlight Tour: INSIDE DARKNESS by Hudson Lin (giveaway)

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Inside Darkness by Hudson Lin

Riptide Publishing
Cover by: Natasha Snow

Sales Links: Riptide Publishing | Amazon

 

 

Welcome to the blog tour for Inside Darkness! I’m Hudson Lin and I’m here to share some behind the scenes sneak peaks about my debut novel, available June 11th. Leave a comment on the tour posts for a chance to win a $10 gift card from Amazon!

 

About Inside Darkness

 

He’s come in from the field, but the darkness has followed him home.

 

After a decade as an aid worker, Cameron Donnelly returns home jaded, tired, and with more than just a minor case of PTSD. Plagued by recurring nightmares but refusing to admit he has a problem, Cam quickly spirals into an alcohol-infused depression, and everyone around him is at a loss for how to help.

 

Journalist Tyler Ang met Cam on a reporting assignment in Kenya, and their first encounters were rife with hostility and sexual tension. Back in New York, their paths continually cross, and each time, Cam’s brokenness reminds Ty more and more of his own difficult childhood. Letting Cam in goes against Ty’s instinct to live life autonomously, but the damaged aid worker manages to sneak past his guard.

 

Their relationship is all sharp corners and rough edges, and just as they’re figuring out how to fit together, a life-threatening accident puts it all in jeopardy. If they want a future together, both will have to set aside their egos and learn to carry each other’s burdens.

 

 

About Hudson Lin

 

Hudson Lin was raised by conservative immigrant parents and grew up straddling two cultures with often-times conflicting perspectives on life. Instead of conforming to either, she has sought to find a third way that brings together the positive elements of both.

 

Having spent much of her life on the outside looking in, Hudson likes to write about outsiders who fight to carve out their place in society, and overcome everyday challenges to find love and happily ever afters.

 

When not engrossed in a story, Hudson knits, drinks tea, and works the nine-to-five in the beautiful city of Toronto, Canada.

 

Connect with Hudson:

Giveaway

To celebrate the release of Inside Darkness, Hudson is giving away a $10 Amazon gift card! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on June 16, 2018. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following along, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

Book BLITZ Get Up by Reece Pine (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Get Up

Author: Reece Pine

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: December 25, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 69500

Genre: Contemporary, LGBT, MM, contemporary, wilderness, child abuse, mental illness, PTSD

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

Recently dumped (again) for being cold, Guy gladly accepts his publisher friend’s request to go to a remote hut in wintry Nunavut to find out whether aspiring novelist Cam Campbell is a plagiarist. By agreeing also to help the eccentric ecologist survey wildlife for a month, Guy buys time to assess Cam’s innocence and hear stories about Cam’s late father–Guy’s favorite fantasy writer and the man whose book Cam is accused of stealing.

Guy’s investigation is soon biased by his attraction to Cam and the growing concern about Cam’s odd behavior. At times, Cam dissociates and is icier than Guy could ever be, yet he’s the only one who’s ever recognized, at a glance, the emotions burning beneath Guy’s surface. Guy knows he’s the best person to help Cam abandon the dangerous wilds outside and address those in Cam’s head, but he also knows that he’ll lose the chance if he comes clean about his ulterior motives for getting close to Cam. How can he convince Cam to come in from the cold… and why are they both really out there anyway?

Excerpt

Get Up
Reece Pine © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

At least he wasn’t nervous about meeting the kid anymore. He’d stopped feeling anything at all besides dread and the wheels of the suitcase he’d slung over his shoulder bruising his numb ass with every stumble. Finally, Guy glimpsed smoke wisping from a rustic pipe chimney a hundred yards farther than the thousand miles he’d already come. His brogues, so iced over they looked like glass slippers, skidded on the porch’s wooden boards. The leather-gloved hand he threw forward to balance himself rattled the doorframe with a thudding knock, sending ice shards showering behind him from the rafters overhead.

“Hell-lo?” he croaked. “Cam-meron C—”

The alluring burst of firelight that greeted him as the door opened was immediately extinguished by someone squeezing the swollen wood shut behind themselves as they stepped forth. Guy was suddenly too surprised to be awestruck over meeting Alessandro De Carli’s son at last. He was glad his frozen eyelids couldn’t blink, because the guy—the specter, presumably Cameron Campbell—might disappear if he did. For a second, he wondered if he’d knocked on the wrong gingerbread house door, only there was no other shelter for fifty miles.

Cameron Campbell was known to be even more reclusive than his late father, but he wasn’t actually supposed to be mythic. The tiny guy blocking the door with sturdy, unlaced boots looked like a wood nymph. Eyes as blue as distant stars stared at him unabashedly. Maybe the reason no journalists had ever snapped pictures of the kid, and why he had no online presence, was because he couldn’t be caught on film.

“Incredible.” Cameron must have read Guy’s mind, and he pressed rosebud lips together in exasperation. “Are you alone? Did you hitch here? There’s no corpse in a cab parked on the highway I need to go rescue? Insane.”

Guy respectively nodded and shook his head, hoping the well-earned insult was aimed at the driver on his way west who’d dropped him at the side of a barely used road, far from the highway. Guy had considered himself lucky to thumb a ride at all out of the tiny settlement of Ipasila, built around a gas station, which was the closest town to Campbell and two hours’ drive from the Hudson Bay hamlet of Arviat in southern Nunavut. In hindsight, the man had been almost as reckless as Guy himself had been for not driving him straight to the police. Instead, Guy had been let out of the relative safety of a truck armed with nothing more than the GPS tracker Guy had brought with him and prayed was accurate.

“C-Cameron…” Not Cameron, Guy revised. A Cameron was a strapping guy—like a Brad or a David—or a blonde woman. This pixie prince was either a Cam or a question mark. His eyes looked magnified behind the lenses of large glasses, the arms of which must have burned cold against his temples because Cam removed them—only for his naked eyes to be comically large. It was still possible he wasn’t even De Carli’s son, since he looked nothing like him. Wrote nothing like him either, which was why Guy was here. “You’re C-Campbell, right? De Carli’s s-son?”

It was Campbell’s turn to draw back in surprise. “Are you from a newspaper?”

“Am I s-selling subscriptions?” Traipsing from cabin to cabin after dark? “D-does it matter? Let me in.” Heat from indoors infused the porch floorboards and bled into Guy’s damp soles, announcing itself as pain in his brittle toes.

“I don’t do interviews about my father.” Cam reached inside the hood of his puffy coat, just a shade lighter than his luminous, creamy skin, to pull a long coil of black hair forward. It hung like gossamer over the gray scarf around his shoulders.

He’d let down his hair, so now Guy could enter, right? “Do I l-look like a journalist?”

“Nah, you look too honest.”

Guy’s brows were too frozen to frown at the sarcasm. He knew damn well he had a poker face. That was the problem; now that he was literally incapable of moving his face he probably looked normal, not dangerously hypothermic.

“I’m with your p-publisher.”

“You’re from Ames? In that case, first, tell Claire she should be fired and charged with attempted murder for sending you. Secondly, and for the hundredth time, I canceled the submission for Close to Home. I didn’t mean to send it to you guys in the first place. Third, stop hounding me about it.”

“Fourth, f-fuck off,” Guy anticipated his next order. “I c-can’t. And I’m from F-Fairbanks Press.”

“Ha! Are you guys even still publishing me?” Cam swept his bangs behind an ear, which was slightly pointed at its tip.

Of course, it is. “You’re the one who n-never answers emails.”

“Internet’s intermittent out here. And there’s nothing wrong with that manuscript that isn’t Fairbanks’ fault.” Cam pursed his lips, which were tinging blue before Guy’s eyes, and nuzzled his chin into his scarf. Guy was torn between thinking it served him right to be cold and wanting to offer his firstborn as passage to the gatekeeper who halted Guy’s shuffle forward by holding up a gloved palm. “Uh-uh, no way. You ought to know the drill, New Yorker. You are, aren’t you?”

Guy was as native a New Yorker as anyone who’d moved there in adulthood and would never live elsewhere. A load of the population was in the same burned boat as him, so yes, he could claim to be from New York, but that was irrelevant while the heat fleeing his eyes stung.

“S-so?”

“So the same rules apply here as there,” Cam continued, as though this were a holiday home in Connecticut. “You know, I met a hiker from Texas here who’d never even seen snow before, but he knew enough about it to come in September, not March. Why do you think I can’t get any volunteers to assist me at the moment?”

Because not only did this waif conduct questionable wildlife research in the middle of nowhere while purportedly editing a novel, but he also lived at the end of a spur trail a mile west of an icy road to nowhere.

Cam stamped his feet, blowing into hands he cupped over his mouth. “Come on.”

What did the little sylph want? For Guy to roll a seven? Produce a magic key?

“For God’s sake, guy, you need to strip!” Cam finally twisted the door handle behind him, spilling back into an amber glow. Guy tumbled in after, out of the deadly night air.

Instantly, his coat became the warmest bath Guy had ever had the pleasure of sinking into. Flames in the hearth curled into come-hither licks Guy’s jellied legs couldn’t obey. There was enough ecstasy to be had where he wilted against the closed door. The sensation wrenched him from numb to overwhelmed in a blink, and thrust him the closest to an imminent powerful orgasm he’d been since…he didn’t want to know.

Cam busied himself over at a kitchen counter, ignoring Guy, who stood, shaking in the doorway, suddenly struggling with a boner that had sprung from pure physical shock, surprising and mortifying him. He had to admit he could see how post-hypothermia blood rushing around could cause such a phenomenon, but man, did it have to? Thankfully, melting into a hunch helped hide it when Cam reappeared in front of him wearing only a few layers of sweaters and brandishing two steaming mugs of coffee.

Its intoxicating aroma further confused his senses by going straight to Guy’s cock. Now, there’s a new kink. He failed to convince himself his hand quivering was an aftereffect of the cold, not the sight of the now gloveless, pale hand offering a chipped mug with the handle out for Guy to grab. Cam raised an eyebrow at Guy’s taking it with his left hand.

“Oh, you’re a lefty?”

“I guess,” Guy said, distracted by just how fine Cam’s fingers were…and how Cam’s palm was apparently immune to the hot ceramic he held courtesy of calluses, frostbite, or immortality. “Looks nice….”

“Not too strong?” Cam asked, a smile curling the corners of his mouth.

“N-no such thing.” Guy slurped half the treacly concoction before gasping, “Thanks.”

“Sit.” Cam nodded to a couch piled high with blankets resembling a laundry pile. There was nowhere to sit except on top of them. “And I wasn’t kidding before. You need to strip, like, five minutes ago. Show me some skin.”

“What?” Skin?

“And a business card.”

Shit. Guy had no such thing—he should have made Huw make him a mock-up one before coming. If Cam was astute enough to ask questions like that, it might be hard to deceive him as planned. Plausible excuses whirled in his mind, but were as hard to grasp as the snowflakes he ruffled loose from his hair, stalling for time. He was surprised they hadn’t melted, since his scalp was beginning to burn….

“Of course, I’d prefer skin first. And so would you,” Cam said.

“I’m here to work,” Guy retorted, reinforcing the lie to himself.

“How do you know De Carli was my father?”

Guy blinked. “Isn’t he?”

“My pen name’s Cameron Stewart. I know my real name’s on the contract I signed with you guys, but that’s Cameron Campbell.”

“That’s De Carli’s son’s name.”

“It’s also as common as mud. How do you know I’m him?”

“Because…” Heat surged through Guy’s veins, and flashes from the fireplace in his periphery blinded him. Flames shot up his spine, turning his thoughts to smoke. His erection stirred as he willed it to subside. Instead, his heartbeat faded, which was a lot more alarming. “Because…”

Struggling to balance his tilting mug on the surging, damp footwell he slumped down upon, Guy bit at his glove to peel it from his roasting hand. It dangled from his lip, and he batted it away to better claw at his collar, trying to escape its stranglehold. Sweat made it slippery in his shaking hands, and he panted more feverishly than he had while staggering outside, where everything was white—as white as everything was turning now.

“Hey, stay with me, guy.” Cam rose from his slouch against the back of the sofa, surrounded by a blizzard of stars that swarmed Guy’s vision. He was warmth personified, the most enchanting thing in the dreamscape Guy had navigated to get here, and he was still miraculous, even now that everything had become a nightmare. His own sharp intake of breath echoed from afar as Cam lunged toward him through the static.

“I hoped you were him,” spilled in a murmur from Guy without his control. Strangely, Cam seemed to slip farther away the closer he got, as Guy sensed himself falling. It looked like he wouldn’t manage to save De Carli’s son after all. Well, he thought as all light vanished, at least he’d managed to meet him. And he got to die in the arms of a beyond-beautiful man.

No, forget that, his consciousness broke through. De Carli’s son was stunning, strange, and fascinatingly all the way out here. Never mind the fact Guy couldn’t write, he was going to live and find out what made Cam tick if it was the last thing he did.

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Meet the Author

Reece is allegedly a descendant of Ann Boleyn. If you have any ancestors who were in England circa 1500, then there’s a 50% chance you too are distantly related to Anne Boleyn. In fact, if you’re of European descent, then you and everyone else of European descent share a single ancestor, who lived around 1400. And in 3,000 years’ time, all of humanity will be able to trace their lineage back to someone who is alive today. Reece thinks it would be cool if that person was G-Dragon.

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A MelanieM Release Day Review: Joker (Executioners #2) by J.M. Dabney

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Rating:   5 Stars out of 5

Joker, what a misnomer, but Jackson Webb’s friends were idiots. He’d joined Executioners almost three years earlier after the lead singer King caught him playing his guitar behind his garage. It broke up the monotony of his life, but once he got bored he’d move on to another distraction. He wasn’t nice. He sure as hell wasn’t friendly. He was what he was, his friends handled his attitude and standoffish nature just fine. At thirty-eight he was pretty sure he was too stuck in his way to change shit now.

Demetri “Dem” Urban was settling into a new life in the middle of nowhere. Okay, he was hiding from everywhere in a kitchen as far removed from his five-star kitchen back in New York. Gideon invited him to stay with him and his wife for awhile just until he could get everything back on track. He didn’t see it happening, but he had to admit the scenery wasn’t bad even if the man had the personality of a rabid, man-eating bear. Dem did like a challenge and that fit Joker Webb perfectly.

My first sighting of Joker was in Ghost (Executioners, #1), a deeply moving story that served as my first introduction to D.M. Dabney and that author’s interlocking series (Twirled World Ink, Brawlers and Executioners and hopefully more).  Of course, I started with the most recent in the series which has turned out a fascinating, fortuitous move and I’m now moving backwards to the beginning series.  And Joker aka Jackson Webb has appeared everywhere, a dark, violent presence, sometimes just a fleeting reference, sometimes more as a participant in a rescue or beatdown, but Joker has been an enigmatic thread running through three series who now when ready in Dabney’s mind, explodes into the cacophony that is his heartrending, beautiful and oh so memorable story.

Forewarning.  If you’ve read Ghost, which is where I fell in love with Joker, you knew peeling back the edges of Joker’s armor would be like staring into the abyss.  His past is stomach churning and even though the abuse and descriptions of what happened to him is handled “off stage” , there is no space for your mind and heart to run from his scars…physical, mental, emotional that are revealed here.  They feel intense, all too real, and full of suffering of the unimaginable kind.  For some of you, these are triggers and you should be aware of the impact they will have.  Even if they aren’t triggers, prepared to have the abuse that Jackson suffered stay with you  long after the story is over, which is as it should be I suppose.

Jackson is the town vigilante/Paladin and his friends’ worry now that Harper has found love, happiness and safety with Ghost. Jackson aka Joker is still on his mission to protect and deliver his own forms of justice to those thugs/bullies in town who have been under the protection of the old corrupt (and now dead) Sheriff.  Given that mission it’s no surprise that he’s often found in one of the jail cells,  with his friends called to bail him out.  Outside of jail, his little dog Killer is his constant companion and yes, unacknowledged therapy dog.  He’s violent, untouchable, moody, and broken.  Yet everything about him shouts need.  I wanted his story from the minute I met him in Ghost.  And love him completely.

Then comes Dem, a man from a loving home who sets his eyes on Joker, knows that he and that broken man are somehow ‘meant’ for each other like his mom and dad. Dem is unique. Some see him as broken too. Dem is also a character you come across in Ghost, but here Dem becomes a complete person.  I loved his parents, the background Dabney supplies for him and his reasons for being in this small town. He’s pretty easy to fall in love with himself.   In the book, it all makes perfect sense as do the characters.  Dabney’s characterizations and writing is so good, so perfect for the themes the author chose and the paths the story needs to take, that all I could do is be pulled in, totally absorbed by the drama and evolving relationships.

Dem’s pursuit of Joker shakes the man to his emotional and mental foundation.  It’s everything he fears and has no reason to understand.  Love. J.M. Dabney creates two of the most perfect, broken, believable characters and then takes us on their journey towards a love only they can find with each other, and a  small dog named Killer.  At times, your heart will break over the blackness and evil suffered, sometimes your breath will catch with hope as they get close at times a relationship only to see it crash under the weight of the past and reality, and finally  your heart gets to soar with laughter and love at what the author has wrought out of darkness and pain.

How I love Joker (Executioners #2) by J.M. Dabney and the entire series.  I highly recommend it and Ghost.  Start with Ghost and then read Joker.  And look for all my reviews of the Twirled World Ink, and Brawlers series by J.M. Dabney to come.  I’ll be covering them all and the evolution of a universe.

Cover Design: Winterheart Design.  I think the cover captures Joker perfectly.

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

Published August 29th 2017
Edition LanguageEnglish
URL https://www.jmdabneyauthor.com/executioners
setting Georgia (United States)

Series Executioners:

James Stryker with Deleted Scenes from his latest release The Simplicity of Being Normal (guest post, excerpts and giveaway)

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Title:  The Simplicity of Being Normal

Author: James Stryker

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: May 8, 2017

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 87500

Genre: Contemporary, YA, transgender, transvestite, transphobia, bullying, child neglect, PTSD, mental illness, Mormonism

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is delighted to have James Stryker here today. The author has brought some deleted scenes for our readers to enjoy. Thank you, James!

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Deleted Scenes from The Simplicity of Being Normal by James Stryker

Sam’s depression is only briefly mentioned in the final version of The Simplicity of Being Normal; however, in original drafts I’d intended for his mental state and suicide attempt to play a more prominent role. The more I invested in this idea, I realized that it felt misplaced and was driving the book in a direction I wanted to avoid. Where Simplicity begins, Sam has moved forward from the feelings of hopeless that drove him to suicide. Placing so much emphasis on the incident seemed to counter who he’d become, and while it’s important for the reader to be aware that he’d hit a critical point previously, the level of detail wasn’t necessary.

Proof of successful “darling slaughter,” removing this concept from Simplicity allowed me to take the idea of being institutionalized and forced to take anti-psychotics into its own book (completed, and currently titled The Better Man). Being an entirely different piece, I was able to take liberties and explore directions I wouldn’t have been able to in Sam’s world.

In the deleted section below, Sam prompts his teacher, Todd Keegan to view the full school record detailing his “Emotionally Disturbed” classification.

***

“Supposedly, supposedly the law considers me a fully formed human being with the same rights as anyone else, but that’s not true,” Sam had said before.

At the time, Todd had thought that the young man had jumped the track and been about to start a rant about lowering the drinking or smoking age. Usual things teenagers bitched about while there were people starving in third-world countries. Of course, Todd’s care for malnourished Ethiopians was about equal to his concern over green apple jellybeans, but he’d decided to listen anyway. Because he didn’t consider Sam in the Snoochie pile anymore, and sometimes he even surprised him.

Anything I do can, and will be held against me. I’m not innocent until proven guilty. Not until I’m eighteen.” 

“You don’t seem the type to have spent much time behind bars,” Todd had responded. “Or what do you call it? Juvey?”

“Read my file, Mr. K.” 

So once the school hallways had cleared out, Todd left his classroom earlier than usual.

He opened the door to the dark front office. Stepping inside, he didn’t bother to turn on the lights. He just crossed to the back room and into what should have been a secure office. He flipped the light switch in the little room, five black file cabinets were illuminated.

Todd closed the door behind him to hide the light, since technically student files weren’t community property and one was supposed to gain the proper authorization to view the confidential information. He didn’t even need to jimmy open the cabinet.

If I ever have to flee the country, I’ll stop in and pick up a few dozen files.

Not for his entertainment. Full names, addresses, contact information, histories, dates of birth, social security numbers…

It’s an identity thief’s wet dream. I could retire at thirty on a private island in the subtropics. It’s a good thing I don’t like sand.

Todd took out Sam’s folder and opened the cover. It was thicker than most records – about thirty-five pages secured by the top tab embedded fasteners.

On the first page, he skimmed down to the bottom section where the letters “ED” had been typed in a field labeled “CLASSIFICATION; IF ANY.”

But he already knew Sam had bene labeled as “Emotionally Disturbed.” When he received his student lists every year he could count on at least a few names having an attached tag. But unless there was an IEP or a 405 that he was required to read and abide by, he never bothered to dig further. He didn’t care why Johnny’s hamster dying eight years ago necessitated that he have unlimited bathroom passes and needed a ruler to scratch his ass at exactly 12:05 PM. 

Under the “ATTACHED ACCOMMODATIONS” header, both the “IEP” and “SECTION 405” boxes were unchecked. But in the last, shaded blue area marked “CLASSIFICATION OTHER COMMENTS” the note had been added: “IMPORTANT. SEE FOLLOWING DOCS.” 

Todd turned back the page and read more closely.

It was a petition for emergency admission of a minor to a behavioral health center. He recognized the name of another teacher listed as the petitioner at the top section of the statement.

“I respectfully represent that Amanda Michelle Porter needs to be admitted to a Designated Receiving Facility, on an emergency basis because she is in such a mental condition as a result of mental illness as to pose a likelihood of danger to self or others. I believe she has engaged in the following dangerous acts:”

He read the box that’d been checked:

“(A). Within the past thirty (30) days, s/he has inflicted serious bodily injury on him/herself or has attempted suicide or serious self-injury and there is a likelihood the act or attempted act will recur if admission is not ordered.

Sam didn’t seem like a violent person. Todd had Julie to accept and support him. But who did Sam have? And there was only so long a person could stand alone when their kneecaps kept being broken with a baseball bat.

He flipped the page.

“Mental examination of: Amanda Michelle Porter.”

And the results:

“No past or present mental conditions, medications, or hospitalizations. Memory, speech, productiveness, coherence, insight are normal. Current mental status anxious. Potentially depressed due to parents’ divorce and father’s recent remarriage and disinterest. Mother is relatively absent and preoccupied with self-agenda. Handles inordinate amount of responsibility as a result. Grandmother recently passed. Excellent candidate for trial medication.”

Todd only leafed through intake forms, more psychiatric evaluations, and recommendations upon release. It appeared that Sam had spent two weeks in the behavioral center before being freed.

Anything I do can, and will be held against me. I’m not innocent until proven guilty. Not until I’m eighteen,” Sam had said.

Todd tucked the file back in the cabinet. He didn’t feel like he needed to read anymore.

I get it. Without you having to tell me anything else, I get it.

***

Sam had given him more details the next day. As soon as he came in for the prep period, he asked immediately if Todd had read his file.

“They pulled me out of class, you know. A policeman came into the room and escorted me out. Drove me up to the hospital in a cop car.”

“Where was your mom?”

“At work. They wouldn’t even let her see me for the first few days.” Sam added another stapled packet to a growing pile. “They talked to me, they stripped me, they booked me. In less than two hours. I spent the next twenty-four in a padded room.”

Todd hadn’t been sure what to say, so he just let the young man continue talking.

“I’ve never felt as vulnerable as when I was in that padded room. Trapped and alone with just this little window where anyone could look in on me whenever they wanted.  And there was nowhere to hide. It did get a little better once they let me out of isolation and I got my clothes back… Well, almost all my clothes.” He’d put his stapler down and twisted his chair to the side. “Do you know what the most important thing is in a mental institution, Mr. K? What it needs to exist?”

He wished a clever comment would pop into his head, but nothing came.

“Control. Absolute control.” Sam looked at the ground. “They wouldn’t give me back my shoes.”

“Why not?”

“Because I might make a break for it, even though I promised I wasn’t going to run. And I’d be unable to get as far, and be easier to catch without shoes.” He swallowed before tilting his head up again. “Are you familiar with what pinioning is?”

Todd was. But drawing a parallel between having one’s shoes taken away for two weeks and surgically removing a bird’s joint so it was permanently incapable of flight seemed dramatic.

“But do you know what is an apt comparison?” For this, Sam again went back to stapling papers, and Todd could tell it was because he was trying to control his emotions. “Using a child to test a new psychiatric drug.”

Jesus Christ.

“They held me down to take my blood and make sure I was a good candidate. And then they forced me to take it. I was one of the first children they used it on. It’s been two years. Do you know what the fucking warning label says now? It says to not administer to individuals under the age of twenty-one! It’s an anti-psychotic! You read my file! I may have been depressed because a lot of shit was happening to me, but I wasn’t psychotic!”

Synopsis

Sam has his life after graduation figured out. Until then he has to deal with being terrorized for expressing his gender identity. His pleas for help have been ignored by the principal and most of the staff, and his time is spent moving quickly between classrooms and anticipating the freedom that will come with leaving high school behind.

Teacher Todd Keegan, at first, wonders if Amanda is on drugs and if he’s underestimated her maturity. Between enabling his traumatized, dependent sister and hiding secrets of his own, Todd has no desire to waste time on a junkie teenager, but this one intrigues him. When Amanda shows up in his classroom, bleeding from a head wound, he decides to investigate further.

In order to survive senior year, Sam must convince Mr. Keegan that he’s not a junkie teenager and decide if, unlike his family and school staff, this teacher can be trusted with the truth and become his only ally.

Excerpt

The Simplicity of Being Normal
James Stryker © 2017
All Rights Reserved

“Amanda Michelle! I won’t tolerate that mouth of yours a second longer! Get out!”

“Or what? You’ll hit me? Repeat performance sixteen years later. Go ahead!”

If there was one positive thing to be said of his mother, it was that she avoided violence. While her own mother had often resorted to physical punishment, Scarlet had never put a hand on Stevie. And she’d only hit Sam once, which was how she learned her lesson.

“Amanda was maybe one. Barely walking. I can’t remember what she did, but I hit her so hard that she flew across the room. That’s when I decided to keep my temper in check. I just send them away when I’m angry now.”

Scarlet told this story often when child discipline surfaced in adult conversation. She was proud of herself. Proud that it only took one incident of hitting a toddler with enough force to knock her across the room to realize that violence wasn’t a good idea. She never understood why she received strange looks when she finished this charming anecdote of her parental prowess.

Because you should be ashamed that you struck an innocent baby. That you hurt your child, Sam would think when Scarlet retold it and people gave him the confused looks he often received when his mother opened her mouth. You should want to bury that secret instead of continuing to get off on it more than a decade later. The last thing you should feel is pride.

But sometimes he’d rather have a slap to the face than the emotional abuse Scarlet dealt. Bruises healed. The damage from seventeen years of being blamed for every negative circumstance? The constant feeling of rejection? The thousands of times when something or someone else was of more importance than him? His father. Stevie. The boyfriends. Work. The fucking Golden Girls.

I’ll never get over it. Even when I’m free of you. Even when I’m free of Amanda. Sam stared Scarlet down and waited for her to respond. You’re a cancer to me. I’ll cut you out. But I’ll always have the scar.

“Get out, Amanda! Get out!”

“Oh, I’m going.” He lowered his voice and took a step into the hall. “But so should you. That’s all I came to tell you. You should check into a hotel for a few days. It’s not sanitary. And that’s not even my opinion—it’s the disaster crew’s recommendation. You could get sick.”

“This is my house, young lady. I won’t be told what to do by you or anyone else.”

It was the most below-the-belt thing he could be called, and his skin was smoldering. Sam didn’t believe he was capable of laying a hand to anyone, especially a woman. But he needed to leave now before he said something he’d regret. Like yelling in her face at the top of his lungs. Like using every profane word he could think of until her ears bled. Like divulging his secret when she had some power over him.

“Well, I’m not staying here.”

“As long as it’s out of my sight, I don’t care where you go.” She’d turned away from him again. “But Stevie and I are staying here. I’m not paying for a hotel room because the basement is dirty.”

“You know what else lives in their own shit? Pigs. It’s too bad Gary’s condo doesn’t allow farm animals, or you could stay with him.”

Scarlet spun around and slammed the door in his face without another word.

Purchase

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Meet the Author

James Stryker is a central-Pennslvannia author who enjoys writing speculative and literary fiction. Themes in his work focus toward diversity in the LGBTQ spectrum and the voice of underrepresented or misunderstood viewpoints. His debut novel, Assimilation, was released in 2016.

James shares a residence with a pack of pugs, who continue to disagree about the ratio of treats to writing. Despite his day job and writing projects, James is never too busy to connect with readers or other writers. He welcomes you to check out his website, follow him on social media, or drop a line to his email.

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Tour Schedule

5/8 – My Fiction Nook

5/8 – Boy Meets Boy Reviews

5/9 – Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

5/10 – The Novel Approach

5/11 – Love Bytes Reviews

5/12 – Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews

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