Back from GRL, Pulp Friction Week, Book Contests and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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It’s Sunday and I have been back from GRL in Atlanta a whole week but it feels like only yesterday.  How does that happen?  I still haveGRL ATL -Atlanta-skyline one small suitcase to empty, my swag bag contents are scattered across parts of the kitchen table like so much titillating, lovely fall debris.  And I have yet to take all my books and stack them close to the bed for reading.  Sigh.  I have an awful feeling that I will open the suitcases to pack for GRL in Chicago next year only to find the remnants of GRL Atlanta still laying inside ready to be put away.

It was an outstanding conference.  So many wonderful authors, publishers, bloggers, and readers to meet and talk with.  Amy Lane, Shira Anthony, JP Barnaby, Lynn Lorenz, Venona Keyes, Marguerite Labbe, Wade Kelly, RJ Scott (making the journey from the UK), Mary Calmes, Jessica Freeley, Kaje Harper, Anne Tenino, Laura Harner, Tom Webb, Katey Hawthorne (my roomy), so many more.  I know I will kick myself when I realize who I have left out. Oops Keturah from Riptide, Dolorianne from Wilde City, Kris Jacen, editor extraordinaire from MLR, ack my brain cells are running out….My head and thoughts swirl under all the great people I got to see and meet there.  TJ Klune and Eric Arvin got engaged in a tearful and heartwarming engagement in front of a Q & A audience to our delight.  The Heaven and Hell Ball sawDSCN4099 DSCN4103so many great costumes from the sublime to the silly and everything in between while the gorgeous Atlanta city lights twinkled as our backdrop. That is Edmond Manning (King Perry)to the right and the sexy Drake Jaden, porn star and model for the cover of JP Barnaby’s Painting Fire on the Air (Survivor Stories #2). Be still my heart!  I don’t know who that funny person is in the Queen of Hearts wig and outfit! lol.  From Heidi Cullinan, Reese Dante ,Ethan Day , Teresa Emil ,Carol Lynne , and  Damon Suede , thanks for organizing a great conference.,They made GRL memorable for me and everyone else I talked to.  I can’t wait for GRL in Chicago next year!

I will probably still be packed for it.

Now I am so excited for the week ahead as I am trying something new here.  Next week is Pulp Friction Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words and a multiple book contest to go along with 4 great authors and 4 wonderful intertwined series.  The Pulp Friction group consists of Havan Fellows, Lee Brazil, LE Harner and TA Webb.  They got together (I will let them tell it in their own words) and decided to write a group of serialized stories reminiscent of pulp fiction that interconnected through a group of tightly bonded men.  I have slowly been reviewing each series at four books a piece.  Now it all culminates in a fifth book each and a guest post from each corresponding author.  A review of the fifth book follows the author’s post in the afternoon.  This is how our week shakes out.

Wicked Solutions coverFifty Fifty Chances Are coverMonday, October 28:    Havan Fellows and Wicked’s Way series

Review of Wicked Truths (Wicked’s Way #5)

Tuesday, October 29:    Lee Brazil and Chances Are series

Review of Chance In Hell (Chances Are #5)

Wed., October 30:         L.E. Harner and Triple Threat series

Review of Duplicity (Triple Threat #5)

Defiance coverStarry KnightThurs., October 31:       T.A. Webb and City Knight series

Review of Darkest Knight (City Knight #5)

Friday, Nov. 1:       Pulp Friction Wrap up, Announcements, and

Winners of the book contests

Saturday, Nov. 2:          October Summary of Reviews

To be entered into the contest, just leave a comment on any post this coming week and you will automatically be entered one of four books being offered up by the authors.

Author Spotlight: Meet Lee Brazil!

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ST: Good morning, everyone.  Today’s guest author is Lee Brazil, author of the wonderful Chances Are series in the Pulp Friction offerings.   Good morning, Lee!

*pats chair and hands Lee a cup of coffee*.

“Don’t mind the terriers, they will ask their own questions later”  *shoos away dogs*

LB: Good morning! Thank you for inviting me over to talk today. For those who don’t know me, I’m Lee Brazil, author of m/m romance with Breathless Press, Silver Publishing, Evernight, and Total E Bound. I’m also a member of a writing association known as Pulp Friction.Chances Are cover

*sips coffee*

LB: Which is what Melanie invited me to discuss today. Pulp Friction came about as a mash-up of old fashioned pulp fiction writing and modern romance. Laura Harner suggested it to us, and the three of us jumped on the band wagon quickly. Originally, it was supposed to follow a strict format of 8 thousand words, and other tried and true pulp strictures.

ST: “Tell me about Chance.  How did he come about?”

LB: When Chance was born, I knew keeping it with in those bounds was going to be impossible. Telling his whole story, getting across the complexity of who he is in eight thousand words wasn’t going to happen. So it became a serial.

ST: “When we think of Pulp Fiction, we think tough, wise-guy detectives who have seen it all.”

LB: Chance is my version of the hard boiled tough guy, he’s known grief and pain, and disappointment, and that’s where we meet him, wallowing in his past. He presents a cold and unfeeling persona to the world and tells himself he’s happy with what he has.

That’s Chance in the first book, Chances Are, where that façade begins to crack. As the stories progress through small mysteries and tragedies and life happens to Chance, the cracks grow bigger and wider and eventually the walls fall down, blasted to rubble by his stalwart friends and a feeling he hadn’t been aware of growing inside.

ST: But that changes, doesn’t it?

LB: When he wasn’t looking his heart was sneaking people in, from the drunkard cop who sits at his bar every night, the cocky but dependable Gerry the bartender, the melancholic chef Blake and all Chance’s old buddies from his days on the force, Wick and Marcus and Zack the civilian. Turns out, he’s never been as alone as he thought.

And into this mix comes Rory. The golden-skinned, golden-haired open-hearted antithesis of Chance’s lost love. He finagles his way into Chance’s bed, and into his life, seeking more at times than Chance is willing to give.

Chance’s own sense of integrity eventually convinces him that his relationship with Rory is wrong, but events transpire that force him to take a deeper look into his closed off heart and make changes in his life. In the end, Chance learns to let go of the past, to embrace the possibilities of the future and to allow himself to be happy.

And the stubborn mule headed ex-cop turned my whole pre-drafted story line upside down in the second installment of the serial. Because that’s who he is. A man who has to follow his own path even when it wanders through hell.

ST:  I just love Chance and the entire series.  I can’t wait for the next book to be released.  Thanks for coming by today, Lee.

LB: *sips coffee. Thanks for joining while I blather about my sexy ex-cop. You can pick up the latest Chances Are book, Chance in Hell at ARE, Smashwords, and Amazon on September 1. In anticipation of that release, I’m offering a discount of 33% on the first four stories at ARE from August 28th until September 4th.

If you want to know more about me and my work, you can find me at the following places on the web:
Lee on FB http://www.facebook.com/lee.brazil
Lee on Twitter @leebrazil
Lee Blog http://leebrazilauthor.blogspot.com/
Pinterest http://pinterest.com/leebrazil/
You Tube http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKmjXLWlO4c2_5ZZQigbeZg?

Books in the series to date in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and events within:

Chances Are (Chances Are #01)
Second Chances Are (Chances Are #02)
Fifty Fifty Chances Are (Chances Are #03)
Ghost of a Chance (Chances Are #04)

Review: Fifty Fifty Chances Are (Chances Are #3) by Lee Brazil

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Series Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Fifty Fifty Chances Are coverChance Dumont, owner of Chances Are bar and his lover, Rory, are still trying to deal with the aftermath of Rory’s attack and the return of Cannon, Chances’s former boyfriend.  It’s not going well.  Rory, a cop, has still not been declared fit for duty.  But truthfully the trauma of the attack has left Rory fearful and he may never heal enough to be a cop again.  And Chance?  He’s trying hard to be the lover Rory needs but their relationship is strained and fragile, just like Rory.

When a man is found naked and dead in the bathroom stall in the men’s room, his identity points to Chance and Rory as suspects.  Chance knows he didn’t do it but did Rory?  That’s the question and no one likes that the answer might be that its a fifty fifty chance that Rory did.

This series is just amazing.  It continues to get better with each new story.  It deepens in intensity and in emotional layering and I can’t get enough. We left Chance and Rory trying to pick up the pieces of their relationship after Rory has been attacked in Second Chances Are, and it’s not going very well.  And it can’t because the relationship started on tenuous terms and has never found a firm foundation.  The men aren’t communicating, primarily because one is traumatized and the other doesn’t want to upset him further.  It’s a realistic portrait of two men at the very first stages of recovery and they are still trying to find their way past the pain.

Lee Brazil packs a lot into 34 pages.  Great characterization, wonderful plot, and tremendous dialog and with each new story it gets better, more layered, more authentic.  Chance was a complicated man in the first two books but not always likable, something the character himself acknowledges. But here as Chance struggles to put Rory first instead of giving into his impulses for revenge, he becomes more human, more understandable.  He is so frustrated, as is the reader that we instantly relate to him.

Trust is the issue and focus here.  So many areas where trust is lacking.  There is the trust missing between Chance and Rory. Plus Chance still doesn’t trust Gerry, his bartender who stole from him and both men are struggling with that fact.  Rory can’t trust himself or anyone other than Chance, maybe.  Then Brazil shatters the tentative trust established between Chance and Rory with a murder that either man might have done.  The emotional detonation that occurs reveals to all involved just how fragile the binding was that held them all together.   It’s angry, it’s hurtful, and it’s damaging on many levels, but is it permanent?  That’s the question that Brazil gives us to answer and the answer remains elusive by the end of the story.

Again there is an element of bdsm and D/s but it absolutely works for the characters and story.  Don’t let it put you off.  And for you  romance lovers, well, it’s coming.  Romance and love is not an easy thing for Chance Dumont. Its hurt him deeply in the past and he hasn’t been able to get past that emotional trauma.  Now he is finally ready but is the man he loves?  Brazil is stringing that aspect of the series out for us and it is making it  even more enjoyable to anticipate the outcome.

It’s hard for me to believe that Fifty Fifty Chances Are is only 34 pages in length.  It has the breadth and scope of a larger book.  So does the series.   Really, the author’s work here is immaculate.  Pick it up but start at the beginning and work your way through.  There are four stories so far and I know that more are coming.  Lucky us.

Books in the series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and events within:

Chances Are (Chances Are #01)
Second Chances Are (Chances Are #02)
Fifty Fifty Chances Are (Chances Are #03)
Ghost of a Chance (Chances Are #04)

Book Details:

ebook, 36 pages
Published May 1st 2013 by Lime Time Press
edition language English

Martin Luther King, Jr., I Had A Dream speech, and This Coming Week In Reviews

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MLK on the MallIt’s the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s speech on Wednesday and yesterday tens of thousands of people gathered to commemorate that momentous occassion and to remind  the world that his dream still needs to be fulfilled.   Racism still exists and we as a nation still have such a long way to go for all to be equal under the law and in each other’s eyes.

Just in time for his anniversary, the MLK statue on the memorial was “fixed” so that awful truncated version of MLK’s speech is now gone,  That was just another example of how this man and his message is still misunderstood by some, in this case the Chinese artist and a group of architects responsible for that statue..   IMLK statue am not a fan of that statue.  To me it belongs in Tiananmen Square not Washington DC, it exemplifying the type of statuary so often seen in the communist nations.  Where is the man of passion?  Where is the man of fire and vision?  I don’t see him in the statue but instead look to his speeches where he and his dream will live forever.

Martin Luther King’s “I Had A Dream” speech:

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Now to the week ahead in book reviews.  I have the second series from the Pulp Friction authors and a guest blog from Lee Brazil this week.  I love these series and can’t wait to bring the third one to you the week after next.  That will be the Triple Threat series by Laura Harner.  I also have two books by authors who are always on my TBR list, Astrid Amara and Josephine Myles.  Be sure to grab those up as well.

The weather is exquisite.  Present are those clear blue early autumn skies that make you smile and stay outside until twilight falls.  I heard my first flock of snow geese go trumpeting overhead last night, the first of many that signal an early fall.  The whitetail deer herds are also reforming early.  That would account for the over 15 of them in my neighbors yards last night.  Did it make the terrors three crazy?  Why, yes it did!  As well as every other dog in the neighborhood.  Almost time to start winter proofing my gardens but not just yet.  I will enjoy them for a little longer.  So its time to gather up my Kindle and my knitting (and of course the dogs) and head outside to enjoy the day.   I hope you will enjoy yours too.

Monday, Aug. 26, 2013:                     Fifty Fifty Chances Are by Lee Brazil

Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013:                     Ghost of Chances Are by Lee Brazil

Wed., Aug. 28, 2013:                            Author Spotlight: Meet Lee Brazil

Thurs., Aug 29, 2013:                           Demolished by Astrid Amara

Friday, Aug. 30, 2013:                         Handle With Care by Josephine Myles

Sat., Aug. 31, 2013:                              A Summary of Scattered Thoughts August Reviews

Review: Second Chances Are (Chances Are #02) by Lee Brazil

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Second Chances AreChance Dumont has decided to move forward wit his life.  Chance decides the best way to put the past behind him is a relationship with the young man, Rory, who idolizes him. At least it seemed like a good idea at the time.  But lately the relationship feels constricting, and Chance can see it deteriorating in the near future.  But how to tell Rory that its over?  Unfortunately, Rory saw it coming and made one of the worst decisions of his young life.  Now both men must deal with the tragic outcome.  Chance realizes that second chances are hard to come by and makes a hard decision.  Then his past walks through the doors of his bar after five years.  And Chance is face to face with the hardest decision he has ever made.  Who will get the second chance at love, his past or his present?

Second Chances Are picks up shortly after the end of the first book in the series, Chances Are.  Chance Dumont, that quintessential damaged ex cop is back and trying to move on with his life,  one that was destroyed both career wise and emotionally five years earlier.  Chance has decided to put his past behind him and give romance a try once more.  His choice of partner?  That would be Rory, a young gay cop who is clearly in love with the older man.  Lee Brazil brings us again into the weary, sarcastic personality that is Chance Dumont, a man who gained his  nickname from a grandmother he both loved and hated.  One who always said, “Chances are you will come to no good, just like your pa”, and the appellation stuck.

We reenter Chance’s life just as he has made a decision to try and move forward with his life.  New boyfriend, new attempt at a relationship (although on his terms).  But when the story opens, Chance is realizing that Rory will never be the one he wants and that’s a painful reality.  Chance is a difficult man.  He is complex, with his own set of rules and laws he goes by, not necessarily society’s ones.  He is a Dom and wants someone who not only has the same kink he has but something more.  Something he once had and lost.  Chance is not a bad man and he realizes the damage this is going to do to the young man who idolizes him.  It won’t be pretty, in fact, Chance is sure it is going to get ugly quick.   I love that Brazil’s characterization of Chance is realistically layered and contradictory in his thought processes.  He is human, not always likable but trying to be as honorable as possible.  Brazil’s Chance is a man who knows life is hard but is still surprised by the depths people will sink to.  I really like this man and can see why the author created Rory, his opposite in almost every way.  We need that to illuminate the truth of Chance and it works.

A traumatic event happens to Rory that changes the dynamic between the men.  Just when Chance had made one decision about their relationship, an attack on Rory changes everything. Soon Chance is dropping that hard won decision altogether in favor of a different path, one that is 180 degrees from the realistic one Chance thought was best for them both.  This is a hard choice for Chance and Brazil lets the reader into Chance’s inner thoughts and moral arguments as he works through his own culpability with respect to Rory and the attack.  This intimate look into Chance’s mindset is necessary for the reader to continue to be emotionally attached to a man who can be perceived as cold and removed.   Chance is a great character who continues to grow as more about his past is revealed and our attachment to the man grows with him.

In this case, his past walks through the door towards the end of the story.  The reader knew it was coming but the emotional implications and impact on Chance is still as disastrous as we expected.  It’s wonderful when an author can do that with an anticipated segment of their story, and Lee Brazil does a great job with it.

We get to see Wick Templeton or at least hear him mentioned as a possible course of action, so you know  things are dire when Wick is the weapon of choice.  I think it is wise that Wick is accounted for in these linked series by something as fleeting as a phone call.  I am  not sure that either series can hold both men together at the same time.  That’s a lot of testosterone and trouble for one series, let alone two.

The other aspect I need to bring up is that this is not truly a romance, at least not yet.  There are elements of BDSM, a D/s relationship, certainly affection as well as bitterness over a past love.  But romance? That would be no.  And it’s really not needed here.  This is a portrait of a man who is trying to move forward in his life, leaving his career and obviously love behind.  We don’t have the facts yet but they are coming.  Some of them just walked in the door. What Lee Brazil does give us is tension, the realities and hardships that life dumps at your feet, and taking responsibility for your actions.  This is a grown up story and I love it.

So start at the beginning and work your way through the series.  Then head on over to Wicked’s Way, Havan Fellows’s series and grab that one up too.  I have two more stories in this series to review so stay with us all the way to the end.  You won’t be sorry.

Cover art by Laura Harner is appropriate for the book and the series.  Works well to brand the series too.

Books in the series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and events within:

Chances Are (Chances Are #01)
Second Chances Are (Chances Are #02)
Fifty Fifty Chances Are (Chances Are #03)
Ghost of a Chance (Chances Are #04)

Book Details:

ebook, short story
Published March 1st 2013 by Lime Time Press
ISBN LBRZL00000 (ISBN13: 2940016176192)
edition language English

Review: Wicked Guidance (Wicked’s Way #04) by Havan Fellows

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Series Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Wicked Guidance coverIt’s not every day that a pickpocket steals the wallet out of Wick Templeton’s jeans.  And for Wick Templeton, it means he has to chase that unlucky thief down to retrieve his wallet and phone.  But the thief he catches is just a child, and a smart-mouthed one at that.  For Wick it’s like looking at a mirror, a small Wick mini me, all dirty, thin and full of sass.   And that’s just the start of the trouble, all four feet of it.  It seems that someone wants the kid out of the way – permanently.    Several fired shots later and Wicked is pissed.  No one is going to hurt this kid.  Its time for Wick to do what he does best, investigate, threaten and create total chaos.

And if one gorgeous, sexy Ned Harris turns up to meddle in the case, well no one, including Wick would be surprised.  Who is after Wick’s little 11 year old companion? And what is the deal with Ned Harris this time?  With a little wicked guidance, Wick will see his mini me safe and the criminals behind the threats in jail or dead.  It’s all in a days work for Wick Templeton, a law unto himself.  And with a twerp to protect, those hunting the boy had better run, and run fast, for the most wicked of them all is on their trail and judgement day is coming.

With Wicked Guidance, one more piece of the puzzle that is Wick Templeton is revealed and fitted into place.  With all the other stories, we have seen Wick’s intelligence, his ultra competency, his meticulous planning and control at work.  We have watched him smart mouth villains and outsmart the law.  He’s been witty, and sexy and dangerous.  But we haven’t seen him really care about someone…until now.  Sure we know he is a loyal and trusted friend to a small group of people and that his clients can trust him implicitly when it comes to their cases.  But a softer side, ok, Wick’s type of softer side has been missing until a young boy steals his wallet.

With the creation of Kyle, pickpocket and twerp extraordinaire, Havan Fellows delivers another facet to Wick Templeton’ character.   Kyle is a true eleven year old in every way.  Defiant, smug, mouthy, and full of fire, it’s no wonder that Wick looks at the kid and sees himself.  Fellows does a beautiful job in giving us a miniature Wick while still keeping Kyle believable as a tween out on the streets.  But Kyle is also in deep trouble with the vulnerability of the young that cries out for protection.  Kyle is just a terrific character and his interaction with Wick reveals more of Wick than we have seen in the other stories, starting from the moment Wick chases him down.

He tapped the handy dandy earpiece again then eyed his current problem. “Tried infers that you attempted something and failed.” He waved the wallet and phone in front of the brat before slipping them securely back in his pocket. “You attempted and failed.”

The kid humphed at him. “You gonna call the cops?”

“Why? They can’t protect you from me.”

The thief’s eyes widened for a brief second before he slumped his shoulders in defeat. “I’m real sorry, mister. I just was so hungry.” He rubbed his hand over his stomach for good measure. “I’ve learned my lesson and won’t do it again. Promise.”

Wick scored him a ten for his acting chops. He stepped back and took in the whole picture the kid presented. His blond hair teased the line of medium brown due to its oily matted down appearance, and Wick was sure there was a pale complexion on that face somewhere—if he Brillo padded through the dirt to find it. The bright hazel eyes that shone through the mess held intelligence and fire, defiance at its best. The twerp’s clothes matched the rest of him, filthy beyond any washing machine’s help, with holes in places that never qualified as cool. They hung loosely on his bony frame, as if at one time they fit properly but, with the boy’s new restrictive diet, had become too big too fast for him.

And that’s just the exchange I can quote.  The rest is both hysterically funny and perfectly authentic, especially the words coming out of Kyle’s mouth.  And all the more heartbreaking for all the sarcasm and bleak point of view in someone so young.  And you can see why this youngster appeals to every protective instinct that Wick has.  For me, it’s the most fulfilling and heartwarming relationship of Wick’s to date, his lustmance with Ned aside.  Trust me when I say the reader is absolutely emotionally involved in this boy and his future.

As with all the stories, we have a mystery to solve, and it’s a huge one.  Someone is trying to kill Kyle.  Havan Fellows has drawn us in, first with the introduction to Kyle, than with the developing relationship with Wick and finally with the threat to Kyle’s life.   We worry about the threat and we fear for his future, even while being assured that he is safe with the one person in the world who can protect him….Wick Templeton.  The author craftily sends us on an emotional rollercoaster of a ride, from laugher to fright back to laughter and than back down to dead fear once more.  It’s a true E Ticket ride (google it), one you won’t want to get off.

This is also the story where we see that the tenuous lustmance between Wick and Ned is finally turning into something deeper.  Oh, there is still scores of questions to be answered about both of their background and in Ned’s case, current employment.  But a deeper connection between the men has formed, and while the sex is still hot and spicy, an element of caring has arrived in the mixture too.  I love that Fellows is making this a slow build to something real and perhaps lasting.  We aren’t there yet, but the glimpses she gives us makes us want more.

Wicked Guidance is my favorite book of the Wicked’s Ways series to date.  Havan Fellows has written a story that combines all the ingredients for the classic story you constantly reread.  It flows smoothly from beginning to end, it has laughter, it has wit, it has memorable characters, a mystery and sex appeal.  And with the inclusion of Kyle, Wicked’s Way and Wick Templeton gain a measure of heartbreak and warmth as well.  By the end of the book, I felt like that little boy Joey who calls out “Shane, come back!” at the end of that classic western.  I wanted more…much, much more of Wick, of Kyle, of Ned….just plain everyone.   I think you will feel that way too.  Here is a little something more to wet your appetite:

Wick learned a long time ago that if you just gave a little nudge, a simple word or two, chances of someone talking raised significantly. It felt like he wanted to talk. Maybe he needed a reason to.

He fell in step with the kid and mimicked him as he started kicking the little pebbles out of the way. They walked the duration of the path this way, quietly kicking stones, matching strides with each other. It meant Wick had to shorten his step a bit, but that didn’t cause a problem, neither did the silence. Wick was one of those that could hold his tongue for however long it took to get what he wanted.

Thankfully for us, he won’t have to wait long. Soon he and the readers will get what we want.  So run, don’t walk, and pick up this series.  Start with the first in line, Wicked Solutions and work your way through to the last story released so far, Wicked Guidance.  I read them completely through in one sitting and then did it again.  Thank goodness, Havan Fellows has promised to deliver more Wicked’s Ways and Wick Templeton in the future.  I can’t wait until I make their acquaintance once more and get caught up in their lives and investigations.

Here are the books in the Wicked’s Way series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and the events that follow:

Wicked Solutions (Wicked’s Way #01)
Wicked Bindings (Wicked’s Way #02)
Wicked Incarceration (Wicked’s Way #03)
Wicked Guidance (Wicked’s Way #04)

Cover art by Laura Warner.  Nice job of branding the series, but I consider the design a missed opportunity to design something along the lines of the original pulp fiction novels.  This series cries out for more.

Book Details:

Published July 14th 2013 by Appleton Publishing Avenue

Review: Wicked Incarceration (Wicked’s Way #03) by Havan Fellows

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Series Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Wicked Incarceration coverIt was almost a guarantee that Wick Templeton would end up in prison one day, at least thats what the local wisdom said.  True insiders knew that if Wick Templeton is walking through the prison gates, all the inmates should run and hide for the devil’s at their door and knocking to get in.  With a wicked smile and a knowing smirk, Wick Templeton is being incarcerated.  So why is he so pleased?

It seems that inmates are disappearing only to resurface drooling at the local funny farm. Who is behind the disappearances and what could be their motive?  Wick Templeton is there to find out and if he has to become the king of the cellblock to do that, he will.  So run, you criminals, run while you can.  The most wicked of them all has been incarcerated and trouble has walked through the gates.

Wicked Incarceration, book 3 of Wicked’s Ways, has landed and my love affair with all things Wicked has deepened into addiction.  How I love this wicked, wicked man!  Once more we are thrown into the middle of an investigation of  Wick Templeton’s.  This time, it is a case of a disappearing ex boyfriend of a new client of Wick’s.  That the boyfriend turned up a drooling mess in a psychiatric ward is shock because the guy was sent off to prison and should still be there.  It makes perfect sense for Wick to investigate from inside the prison, at least that is the course that Havan Fellows takes to our absolute delight.

With delicious disregard for the bonds that rules and regulations lay on most men, Wick Templeton flows through the  prison corridors like the devil’s own enforcer, a dangerous wiseguy in orange.  As created by Havan Fellows, Wick has more hidden depths to him than the Carlsbad Caverns and navigating through to the truth about Wick Templeton can get just as tricky.   With friends and foe at his beck and call, Wick Templeton is always the dominant force in every situation, evens when it seems to be a hopeless mess.  Here is a taste of an incarcerated Wick:

He heard Banyu’s exaggerated sigh and smiled. That boy really thought he’d be able to instill proper phone etiquette in Wick.

“Hello, Wick, how are you doing today?”

“I’m in jail, how the hell am I supposed to be doing?”

Banyu laughed over the line. “You put yourself in jail. You can’t use that as an excuse for being a sourpuss.”

Wick straightened and shook his head. “I’m sorry, I thought we knew each other. Hello, my name is Wick Templeton. I’m an Aries, I enjoy long walks over fiery sandlots with broken shells cutting into my feet and smelly water creeping up to me, also putting on false happy faces when stupid people do stupid things that others consider cute. And did you just call me a puss?”

“Um…no?

Good answer. That’s Banyu, Wick’s go to IT genius. Banyu is at it again,  assisting Wick on his investigations.  Banya is another wonderful character among the small group of characters you will meet in this series that orbit around our man Wick.  Another is, of course, Ned Harris., our local law enforcement enigma who is not only hot but hot on Wick’s trail once more.  But is it Wick or the case, Ned is interested in? Wicked Incarceration brings the hint of romance or perhaps lustmance more fully into the picture here.  It’s dangerous, and incredibly sexy.  Just like the men involved.

Havan Fellows seems to specialize in questions with these characters, another of the joys of this series. We are still not sure of anyones true identity. Banyu is only heard over an earpiece. Who is Ned Harris?  Who exactly is Wick Templeton? We are never quite sure, precariously balanced as Wick is between the law and the lawless.   The author  continues to keep us guessing even as we snicker and gasp at Wick’s escapades and intrigues.  And they are many.  We know he will pull the situation together and escape but how?  And  when will Ned pop up, to mess up Wick’s plan and confound us further?  One thing I am sure of. We get a terrific little mystery and a joyfully, deliciously wicked path to journey on before the story will end.

Fellows’ narrative is an absolute treat.  It flows swiftly, even lightly through the maze she has laid out for us and her characters. There is snark, witty lines and tons of trouble on every page.  It’s just so much fun!

One more story to go, and it’s the best yet. But I truly adored Wicked Incarceration, read it twice in fact. So need a new addiction?  Something to make your heart beat faster and your brain giggle?  Meet Wick Templeton and crew in the Wicked’s Way series.  Start with Wicked Solutions, then Wicked Bindings, and then Wicked Incarceration.  You will love each and every one.  They are short in length and large in character and feel.  And you won’t ever want to put them down.  As I said, one more to go and more promised from the author.  I can’t wait.  And neither will you.

Cover art by Laura Harner does an excellent job of branding the series.  I only wish she had used elements of the old Pulp Fiction books on it as well, that was a missed opportunity here.

Here is the series in the order they were written to date:

Wicked Solutions (Wicked’s Ways #01)
Wicked Bindings (Wicked’s Ways #02)|
Wicked Incarceration (Wicked’s Ways #03)
Wicked Guidance (Wicked’s Ways #04)

Dog Days of Summer and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Canis Major Dog StarHere it is mid – August and the Dog Days of  Summer are almost over.  I know many of you have heard the term but do you really know where it came from?  I know that some of you are looking at your four pawed companions panting away the summer heat beside you, whether on shared walks or just sitting together in the backyard. One look at how the heat is affecting them, and I am sure you think “ah, dog days indeed.” But to understand where the term Dog Days of Summer, you must look to the sky.  The night sky that is and the Dog Star, Sirius, the brightest star above (no, we are not talking about the Sun right now).

Osiris

The Egyptians called Sirius the dog star after their god Osirus, whose head in pictograms resembled that of a dog.  In Egypt, and in ancient Rome, Sirius was in conjunction with the Sun in the summer (ie. it was up in the sky at the same time as the Sun) and ancient Egyptians and Romans argued that it was responsible for the summer heat by adding its heat to the heat from the Sun. Those in ancient times called the period of time from 20 days before to 20 days after the conjunction “the dog days of summer” because it coincidentally fell at the time of year when it was very hot.

The Dog Days of Summer start around July 7th ( I have also seen July 3rd at the start date as well) and runs until August 18th, normally the time in the Northern Hemisphere when it is the hottest.  It is the time we head for the beach, the air-conditioning, anywhere but the office.  It is also a great time to catch up on your reading and make headway on your “to be read” pile. Here are some books and one great series (Wicked’s Way by Haven Fellows) that you will want to add to the list.

Monday, Augusts 12, 2013:                   Nischal by Bailey Bradford

Tuesday, August 13, 2013:                     Wicked Incarceration by Haven Fellows

Wed., August 14, 2013:                           Wicked Guidance by Haven Fellows

Thursday, August 15, 2013                   Guest Blog by Haven Fellows

Friday, August 16, 2013                          Fall For Me by Ann Lister

Saturday, August 17, 2013:                   Home Sweet Home by TA Chase

Sirius

I will leave you all with two quotes about the dog days of summer.  Both perfection in tone and ability to paint a portrait of this time of year.

“Sophia and Grandmother sat down by the shore to discuss the matter further. It was a pretty day, and the sea was running a long, windless swell. It was on days just like this–dog days–that boats went sailing off all by themselves. Large, alien objects made their way in from sea, certain things sank and others rose, milk soured, and dragonflies danced in desperation. Lizards were not afraid. When the moon came up, red spiders mated on uninhabited skerries, where the rock became an unbroken carpet of tiny, ecstatic spiders.”
― Tove Jansson, The Summer Book

“The first week of August hangs at the very top of the summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone. There is no thunder, no relieving rain. These are strange and breathless days, the dog days, when people are led to do things they are sure to be sorry for after.”
― Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting