Release Day Blitz and Giveaway for Performance Review by Tamryn Eradani (excerpt)

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Title:  Performance Review

Series: Daniel and Ryan, book 5

Author: Tamryn Eradani

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: May 29, 2017

Heat Level: 5 – Erotica

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 11600

Genre: Contemporary, BDSM, businessmen, friends to lovers, bisexual

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Synopsi

After a day testing Daniel’s limits and then a day being spoiled, Daniel has some time to reflect on his and Ryan’s relationship. He thinks they’re ready for their next step; planning a weekend away.

Excerpt

Performance Review
Tamryn Eradani © 2017
All Rights Reserved

 

Sundays are the one day of the week that Daniel doesn’t run, which also makes it the one day of the week he lets himself sleep in. There’s no alarm yanking him out of his sleep, no carefully planned morning routine to force him out of bed. Instead, he wakes slowly, arms stretching out, reaching toward the far side of the bed.

His hand knocks into an extra pillow, but doesn’t encounter another person, and that makes Daniel open his eyes. There’s supposed to be someone else in bed with him.

The other side of the bed is empty, and Daniel brushes his hand over the empty space. The sheets are cool. Which means Ryan’s been up for a while. Craning his head to get a look into the bathroom, Daniel sees that the lights are off.

Daniel pushes down the wave of hurt that comes when he realizes Ryan’s left him to go into the other room. Daniel leaves Ryan sleeping alone in the bed all time, especially on Saturdays when he wakes up much earlier so he can go running. And it’s not like he needs Ryan here.

He just wants him.

Awake now, Daniel slides out of bed, pausing as the first movement he makes alerts him to the fact that his entire body is sore. It’s an achy kind of pain, from his neck to his toes, muscles complaining that he didn’t even know he has. That’s what he gets for being so tense last night. Turns out not getting to come over and over again is a full body workout.

He likes the soreness. It’s not painful. It’s a reminder every time he moves of what happened last night. A reminder of how desperate he was. Desperate enough to cry. Desperate enough to beg Ryan to fuck him.

Daniel flushes, embarrassed even though he’s the only one in the room. It’s another useless emotion. There’s nothing for him to be ashamed of. If Daniel didn’t want Ryan to fuck him, then they wouldn’t be in a sexual relationship. And if Ryan didn’t want Daniel begging for it, then he wouldn’t have teased Daniel for as long as he did.

Then why isn’t he here, the insidious part of Daniel’s brain wants to know.

Daniel forces himself out of the room, but he doesn’t go looking for Ryan right away. He goes to Ryan’s bedroom instead, because his overnight bag didn’t make it to the guest bedroom, and Daniel doesn’t like wandering around his own apartment without clothes on, let alone Ryan’s apartment.

He pulls on a pair of sweatpants and a plain white V-neck, but it’s a little chilly in the apartment, and he looks around for something warmer. He has a sweatshirt in his bag, but it’s not what he wants. His eyes fall on one of Ryan’s cardigans, hanging over the open closet door. So close to being put back away.

Daniel plucks it from its current resting place, and slips his arms through the sleeves. Ryan doesn’t wear cardigans to work, or he hasn’t yet that Daniel’s seen, but he has a whole collection of them in his apartment. They’re all stretched at the sleeves or fraying at the collar. This one is light blue, and its sleeves are loose from being rolled up too many times.

Daniel tugs the sleeves over his hands and goes to find the owner of the cardigan.

Ryan’s in the guest room, standing by the bed with two plates in his hands and looking confused.

Daniel watches him wander over to check the bathroom, before he says, “Looking for someone?”

Ryan turns around, smiling when he spots Daniel in the doorway. “I was hoping to catch you before you got out of bed,” he says, holding up the two plates of breakfast for Daniel to see.

“Breakfast in bed?” Daniel asks. “Isn’t that messy?”

“We’ve got to wash the other sheets anyways.” Ryan sits down on the bed. “Come on, live adventurously.”

“I thought that’s what we did last night,” Daniel says, but he joins Ryan on the bed.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Meet the Author

Tamryn studied English and Creative Writing in school but has been writing since she could first hold a pencil. Recently, she’s turned her focus towards writing erotica. She enjoys writing stories where sex comes first, then feelings, because doing things out of order can be fun.

Tamryn has spent the past few months writing the Daniel and Ryan series with a lovely view of mountains out her window, and she’s now searching for a new mountain range to serve as her backdrop as she begins her next project.

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Sydney Blackburn on Writing and The Lure of Port Stephen by Sydney Blackburn (author guest post,excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  The Lure of Port Stephen

Author: Sydney Blackburn

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: May 22, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 29900

Genre: Contemporary, sweet, blue collar, class difference, interracial, camping, fishing, coming out, Lake Erie, Canada

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Sydney Blackburn here today. Sydney is sharing a bit about writing her latest story, The Lure of Port Stephen.  Welcome, Sydney!

Writing The Lure of Port Stephen by Sydney Blackburn

I think all writers feel some degree of nerves knowing people are reading their work. Even when it’s my editor, I sometimes feel like, “oh my god, they’re *reading* that!”

With The Lure of Port Stephen, though, there’s an additional element of anxiety when it comes to readers. I wrote The Lure of Port Stephen while staying in the real village of Port Bruce, in a real RV park/marina not unlike the one in the story. The biggest difference is all of the people populating Port Stephen have no counterpart in the actual summer people of Port Bruce. They all know I’ve written the story and they’ve been dying for it to come out, but they keep expecting to see themselves in it, no matter how often I explain that they’re not there.

We moved back to the village for the summer on the twelfth. Although part of me remains convinced none of the summer people will actually buy it–I worry also that they will. My biggest fear? That they’ll read it, and project themselves into one of the characters and tell me, “But I’m not really like that!”  Granted, there’s no sexy twenty-something gay men in the real RV park, so there’s that.

I also gave the location internet service and reliable cell service in the book, neither of which really exist in this particular spot–all my internet necessities are met by hanging out in the bait shop for a few hours. Being without the distractions of the internet did help me focus on my writing. When I wasn’t at the beach or sitting out on the deck watching the ducks and herons in the creek.

Although it’s too soon to tell if my fears will come true or will be ungrounded, the fact that I’m anxious about it will probably be enough to keep me to my more fictional settings.

In future posts on this tour, I’ll talk more about Port Bruce, and even have some photos of locations that made it, unchanged, into the story!

Synopsis

Robbie Wales is young and starting a new job in a new town, on his own. Coming from a split family, he was raised by his mother and maternal grandparents and came out as a teen without a lot of fuss, but his father, whom he only saw infrequently, has never known. As an adult, he’s found he’s got a lot in common with his father, and they’re finally getting to know each other. He fears coming out to his father may jeopardize that.

Then he meets Raj Williams, the attractive man in the trailer next to his father’s in a seasonal RV park. Raj is handsome, sophisticated, yet loves to fish and watch silly Disney movies.

Raj finds Robbie equally interesting. But Robbie’s still in the closet, at least in Port Stephen, and Raj’s ex used that as an excuse to treat him as nothing more than a friend with benefits. He’s not interested in a repeat experience.

Robbie finally finds the courage to come out to his father, but was it all just for a summer fling?

Excerpt

The Lure of Port Stephen
Sydney Blackburn © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

Robbie Wales rented a car Saturday morning to go down to his father’s trailer in Port Stephen. Alone—because he’d just moved to St. Albans and hadn’t had the opportunity to meet someone. Like Dad and Wanda had been nagging him about.

It would help if he could actually tell them the someone he hoped to meet was a guy. His mother knew, of course. But his parents had split when he was a baby, and he hadn’t spent more than a couple weeks a year with his father until he’d moved to Woodstock for his apprenticeship training. He’d never had a boyfriend serious enough to mention. Coming out seemed too important not to do in person, but the right time never seemed to come up.

He had to come out to them soon—he was twenty-two, and the more time he spent with them, the more obvious it would be—but he was worried. What if his father rejected him just when they were finally having a real relationship? But—new job, new apartment, new city—it was time.

St. Albans was only a twenty-minute drive away from the port. He could, in theory, hang out and fish during the day and go back to town at night. It wasn’t that he didn’t like sitting around their firepit, but listening to a bunch of people his parents’ age or older wasn’t his idea of a fun time. They wouldn’t miss him.

He pulled in beside the end of his parents’ trailer, leaving room for other vehicles in case the people in the small Prowler next door had friends coming up for the weekend too. Robbie grabbed his duffel and used the keys his father had given him last year to let himself in. The water and electric were already on, and the fridge was humming softly.

He dropped the duffel and went out to retrieve the case of beer he’d brought. Hard liquor would take up less fridge space, he mused. Too bad it made him stupid. He gave the neighbouring trailer a sidelong glance. Small propane grill, decorative urns spilling jewel-tone flowers, sun shelter, and a couple of fishing rods. Retired couple, he decided. Flowers had to be a woman’s touch.

Movement on one of the boats caught his eye, and he turned just in time to see a man—literally tall, dark, and handsome—strip his T-shirt off. There was nothing erotic in the motion—guy probably didn’t even know he was being watched—but Robbie’s mouth watered all the same at the unexpected vision.

He was lean, deeply tanned, and wearing shorts that were short enough to make Robbie wish they were even shorter. Nice legs. Nice everything.

As if sensing Robbie’s stare, the guy turned his head. Robbie blushed, glad he was too far away for it to be seen, and hurried to bring in the beer. That was a sight he’d never seen here before. Was he the son of the couple in the trailer?

One way to find out. Randomly chatting to strangers was a thing here, giving Robbie an excuse. He stuck six beers in the fridge and took two of his father’s, already cold, and hastily checked his look in the mirror. His sandy-brown hair was tousled from the drive, but there were no stains on his tank or rainbow-coloured board shorts. Good. Normal. He pulled his sunglasses down over his eyes and almost forgot the beer on his way out the door.

Walking along the waterfront, he tried to appear nonchalant, though he’d never been 100 percent certain of what that meant. As he strode out onto the dock, the guy raised his head. He looked even better up close. His hair was thick, dark, begging to be ruffled… Try not to drool, Rob. He didn’t have the words to describe the guy’s mouth—full lips he’d love to kiss, a pinkish-brown colour a little lighter than his nipples. Dark hair scattered across a gorgeous dark tan. Robbie licked his lips before he realized what he was doing.

Then Tall, Dark, and Handsome’s kissable lips pulled up into a smile, and long fingers with very pale fingernails shoved the sunglasses up over his hair. “Hey.”

“Hey.” Robbie handed him a beer. “You looked thirsty. Boat trouble?” he added quickly, squatting down to eye level. Tall, Dark, and Handsome had eyelashes like a woman’s—long, feathery, soft. And his eyes were amber, a little darker than the beer he’d accepted from Robbie.

“Thanks.” He pushed a hand behind his ear, and Robbie’s tongue slipped out to swipe his lower lip again.

The handsome stranger twisted the cap off the beer and tipped the bottle to his mouth, his long throat working as he swallowed once, twice.

Robbie let his gaze slide down the deeply tanned bare chest in front of him. Gay men, in his admittedly limited experience, tended to wax their chests. Trying to match the guys on billboards and magazines, he supposed. Handsome here had a sparse triangle of dark hair from below his collarbone across pecs with more definition than he’d initially thought. Gravity pulled a trickle of sweat down the narrow bit of hair in the center of his torso, one that disappeared… Robbie forced himself to not stare as if the guy was the first steak dinner he’d seen after months of bread and water.

Tall, Dark, and Handsome was glaring at the cables he’d uncovered that led to his motor. “It pulls to the left.”

pulled his shades down, hiding his eyes. “You know much about boats? You’d think I’d learn, owning one, but goddammit, I had it in for a thorough check in St. Albans before I put it in the water.”

“I know a little more about outboards than inboards,” Robbie said truthfully, “but I’d be happy to take a look.”

TDH waved vaguely toward the open panel. “Sure. Please.”

Robbie’s heart tripped a little at getting so close to his new fantasy man, and he nearly lost his balance getting into the boat—to his embarrassment. TDH’s steadying hand was hot and dry, and Robbie nearly jumped as his cock twitched.

“Fuck,” he said, before he could stop himself. His voice was hoarse, but he hoped TDH would think he was cursing his clumsiness and not his riotous imagination.

The smile on his face seemed sly and suggestive to Robbie, but he figured that was wishful thinking on his part. He smiled back and took a swig of his beer. Down, boy, he told his overeager cock. He set his bottle in a holder and turned around, kneeling to examine the innards exposed.

“Huh. Interesting,” he said, having no idea what he was looking for.

“Isn’t it, though.”

His voice was like a caress. You’re imagining things, Robert Eliot Wales. He leaned back to sit on his ass and reached up for his beer. He froze momentarily as TDH sat on one of the pedestal seats. He could almost—but not quite—see up the leg of his shorts. Stop looking.

He forced himself to raise his gaze all the way to the other man’s face. “Tell me exactly what it’s doing?”

“When I put it under full throttle, it pulls to the left. I don’t notice it on the creek, but out on the lake this morning, it pulled so hard it almost yanked the wheel out of my hands.” He ran a hand through his hair again.

Robbie knew he was staring, but he hoped it wasn’t too obvious behind his shades.

“First time I’ve been scared on the water.”

“Sounds like your trim is out of whack. Maybe you bumped something in the creek?”

“Maybe,” he said. “It seems rather shallow this year. So I have to take it out of the water?”

“Yeah, I think so. When my dad gets here, he’ll take a look. He knows a lot more…” Geez, he sounded like a teenager. “Robbie Wales,” he said, thrusting out a hand, more dirty now than it had been twenty minutes ago.

“Raj Williams,” he said, grabbing his hand and pulling him to his feet.

Raj. That explained the great tan. Even if he still had tan lines, his bare ass was probably a gorgeous honey gold…. He shook his head. “That’s my dad’s trailer.” Robbie jerked his head. “The Golden Falcon there.”

TDH—Raj—laughed. “Tell me that’s not your dad’s name.”

“What?”

“Wayne and Wanda Wales of Woodstock.” He snickered. “Say it ain’t so.”

Robbie chuckled at the awful alliteration. “It ain’t so,” he reassured him. “Wales is my mother’s name. Dad’s is Richardson. And Wanda kept her own name, Nichols. I take it you’ve met.”

“Neighbours. Your dad is very…sociable.”

“They say in Woodstock, if you don’t know Wayne Richardson, it’s not Wayne Richardson’s fault.”

“I can believe that.”

Neighbours. So… “Which trailer’s yours?”

“This one,” he said with a pleased nod toward the Prowler. “My company started a work-from-home initiative, and I talked them into paying for my Internet to work from here, instead.”

Ah. Straight and married then. Robbie nodded, trying not to show his disappointment. “Where is home when it’s not Port Stephen?”

“Toronto.”

Robbie felt his eyes widen. “My god, you must feel like you’re in redneck country.”

Raj laughed again, a warm, rich sound that Robbie liked very much. “Kind of,” he said. “Let’s go sit in the shade. My deck’s a little iffy; carpentry isn’t my forte. Along with boat mechanics,” he added ruefully. “I can refresh your beer.”

Eh, he could still fantasize, as long as he didn’t have to watch TDH kissing his no-doubt-pretty wife. “Sure. Thanks.”

The deck, which looked like freight pallets bound together, had an outdoor rug on it and two director-style chairs. Solar LED lights were strung across the canopy. The flowers in each corner were bright primary colours, so intense they almost seemed fake. Nestled against the trailer was an electric cooler. Robbie watched those shorts get a little shorter and tighter as Raj leaned over to grab two cold bottles. To his horror, a whimper came out of his throat before he could stop it.

He cleared his throat and spun to examine one of the flowerpots. “Nice flowers.”

“Thanks. My apartment is tiny without much in the way of a balcony. But I’ve always admired those perfectly landscaped little houses on the magazine covers. Clearly, I’m not a landscaper or a designer either, but it makes me happy—those ridiculously bright flowers.”

“Oh. So you’re not married?”

Raj smiled at him, an expression that seemed full of hidden meaning. “Haven’t met the right person yet. And you? Will you be bringing someone special down to share romantic evenings on the beach?”

Robbie blushed. “No.” He’d never put Port Stephen and romantic together in his head. “So, why here?”

“The fishing. And I can have this place for five months for the same price a month’s rent would cost me in Toronto.”

Robbie opened his mouth to ask another question but frowned. “You’re not paying rent in Toronto? Are you moving here, like, permanently?”

“Hell, no. Can you imagine going all the way to Bayham just for groceries every week in the winter? Do they even have a bar that doesn’t serve a Sunday brunch?” Raj laughed.

Robbie hadn’t realized before now sound could be a thing one wanted to roll in—or lick up.

“Don’t think so,” he managed to say.

“I sublet my apartment for the season, so until October first, it’s not actually mine. I still have a place to live at the end of the season but don’t have to pay the rent. I love it here”—he gestured toward his boat, or perhaps just the water in general—“but it would be nice to meet some people under forty and over twenty.”

Robbie opened his mouth to invite Raj along with him to St. Albans some night. “You met me.” He hadn’t meant to say that, but for some reason the idea of Raj meeting someone other than him made his stomach twist.

Raj smiled. “True…”

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Meet the Author

Sydney Blackburn is a binary star system. Always a voracious reader, she began to write when she couldn’t find the stories she wanted to read. She likes candlelit dinners and long walks on the beach… Oh wait, wrong profile. She’s a snarky introvert and admits to having a past full of casual sex and dubious hookups, which she uses for her stories.

She likes word play and puns and science-y things. And green curry.

Her dislikes include talking on the phone, people trying to talk to her before she’s had coffee, and filling out the “about me” fields in social media.

Besides writing, she also designs book covers for poor people.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Tour Schedule

5/22 – Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

5/22 – The Novel Approach

5/23 – Erotica For All

5/23 – Out Of My Head

5/24 – Happily Ever Chapter

5/24 – A Book Lover’s Dream Book Blog

5/25 – Stories That Make You Smile

5/25 – Sharing Links and Wisdom

5/25 – Bayou Book Junkie

5/26 – Boy Meets Boy Reviews

5/26 – Divine Magazine

5/26 – Love Bytes Reviews

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Release Day Blitz Drama Queens and Adult Themes by Kevin Klehr (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Drama Queens and Adult Themes

Series: Actors and Angels, book 2

Author: Kevin Klehr

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: May 22, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male, Male/Male Menage

Length: 62350

Genre: Fantasy, performance arts, contemporary, established relationship, angels, over 40, open relationship, age gap, ménage, cheating, drugs, death, romance, fantasy, paranormal, cisgender

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Synopsis

Adam’s about to discover how much drama a mid-life crisis can be. He’s obsessed with Mannix, the nude model in his art class. But Adam has been married to Wade for nearly two decades, and they don’t have an open relationship.

Little do they know that Fabien, a warlock from the Afterlife, has secretly cast a spell of lust on Adam and his potential toy-boy.

As things begin to heat up, Adam’s guardian angel, Guy, steps in. But what’s the best way to save the relationship? Should Guy subdue Adam’s wandering passions or instigate a steamy threesome?

Excerpt

Drama Queens and Adult Themes
Kevin Klehr © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

Adam

He stood wearing a velvety white towel and an eager grin. Either could’ve disappeared at my whim. I smelled the freshly laundered lemon scent of the towel combined with the odor of his body sweat, which I was dying to lick from his forehead. I’m always a sucker for a devil-may-care attitude. It makes me weak at the knees in an instant, but in this case, I was already reclined in my gleaming white tub, so there was no danger of losing my balance. The water filled to the brim, and I knew that when he joined me, he would splash the tiles below.

I’d only known him for half an hour, and already I was under his spell. Was he a young man of style, or was he a man of simple tastes? Did he have a daytime career that gave him the world at his fingertips, or did he simply have the freedom of freelance engagements?

Time slowed as his luxurious towel fell to the floor. His body was not toned like a swimwear model. His features would never inspire a dozen wet dreams. It was his everyday physical qualities that were driving me wild. That tuft of silky chest hair that traced its way to his belly button. He even had a little flab. Not too much, just a tad. To me, it signaled a man of zero pretense.

But as the towel was now on the floor, his upper body wasn’t what I was focusing on. He lifted one leg and eased himself into the water. The other leg followed as instinct lured my face toward his luscious…

“At some point, Adam, you do need to put pencil to paper,” said my art teacher. He had crept up behind me.

My wayward daydream vanished. Hopefully, I’d find it again before bedtime. I blushed and so did the nude model. I quickly drew a line, but it wasn’t in keeping with the young man’s form.

I was startled at my own behavior. A man of my age wasn’t supposed to act like a starstruck teenager. My instructor gently gripped my hand and guided my pencil to create a more natural line.

The model winked at me as some of the other students chuckled. Another budding male artist with bleached-blond hair nodded in my direction, smiling slyly.

“Okay, I admit it. My mind was somewhere else, and I apologize to the model,” I said.

All eyes in the room were on me.

“I’m flattered,” the model replied.

“It’s not like me to act like this, seriously.”

“Can I get you a glass of water?” asked the teacher.

“Thanks but I’ll get one myself. I think I need a walk. I’ll catch up on my drawing as soon as I get back.”

I rushed out of the classroom. This was all too weird in my situation. I was in my early forties and still madly in love with the man I’d shared my life with for the last eighteen years. We had a healthy sex life, even though I fantasized more than I’d like to admit. In fact, any dreamy man wandering past my view would arouse my animal instincts faster than a straight guy in a room of lipstick lesbians. But this young man posing for art class had my tongue dragging so close to the floor I was licking it clean. I was definitely not ready for a midlife crisis, or so I thought.

I sat on a seat in the corridor. Was I capable of having a discreet fling? I lightly slapped myself on the cheek, waking up to how ridiculous this question was. Why would he want to have an affair with an old fart like me?

It was the middle of winter, and I could already feel chilled air on the tip of my nose. I stood up and headed for the bathroom. I splashed warm water on my face. I stared at the mirror, giving my reflection some sound advice.

“Adam, get a grip. You don’t know this guy, but suddenly he’s invaded your thoughts. Yes, I know he looks really cute up there with nothing but that devilish grin and a pair of turquoise socks, but come on now, he can’t be more than thirty!”

“Seems like you’re smitten,” alleged the bleached-blond student.

He had wandered through the door and was heading for the urinal.

“Were you standing outside long?”

“I heard you down the corridor. Nothing to be ashamed of, really. This is my fourth class, and I’ve had to draw that same model once before. He hasn’t got the perfect body, but boy has he got the perfect attitude. Alluring, and if there is a god, available.”

The blond zipped up his fly and wandered to the sink next to me.

“I agree, but I usually don’t go around acting like a schoolgirl with a crush.”

“Enjoy it. Not all their models have that much charisma.”

We escorted each other back to art class where the other students had made headway on their drawings. I focused on the model’s socks in an attempt to concentrate on my artwork, rather than the young man’s prominent feature. Soon the ankles were added before my pencil carefully outlined his masculine legs.

As I traced up to the hip, I sighed as I studied his most manly asset. How should I draw it? Would the teacher fail me if I portrayed it erect? After all, a great artist should display his own feelings on the sketchpad.

I decided to skip his crotch and draw his chest. His slightly defined chest. Not too developed, but not devoid of shape either. The small tuft of dark hair in the center of the upper body was outlined with great care. Outlining shape was one thing, but defining the type of chest hair someone had was another. A trail of thick small lines was carefully added to the picture from the torso to the navel.

“Okay folks, pencils down.”

The teacher wandered around the room giving us feedback. The charming model reached for a pair of frayed blue jeans, which were neatly folded over the back of a chair just an arm’s length away. He pulled them up and carefully buttoned the fly around his naked assets, as he clearly hadn’t brought underwear.

“We’ll have him back in a couple of weeks if you want to complete this particular drawing,” said the teacher.

He gave me a cheeky look.

“How far did you get?” asked the model.

He grabbed his dusty-pink T-shirt and snuggled into it tightly.

“Not as far as I would have liked,” I replied.

“Let’s see.”

He strolled over to my unfinished work. I was anxious by the thought of only a patch of denim between me and the model’s private bulge. I concentrated on my artwork and tried not to let the man’s proximity lead me to more wicked thoughts. Who was I kidding?

I had to divert my attention to our teacher instead, who was heading my way. He was a funky, retired chap. Black thick-rimmed glasses, peppered hair, and beard with a gentle face. The kind of man who’d take long walks with his wife in the park and watch Sunday arts programs on television.

“For the short amount of time you spent on this, you did pretty well for a newcomer,” he said. “But what are these strange lines to his side?”

“Um, I had this desire to add wings to my subject.”

“Wings?”

“I know it’s odd, but you did say at the beginning of class not to be constrained by what we see, and that we all see characteristics differently.”

“Yeah, but wings? Are you picturing our model as some kind of angel?”

“Why not? I’m seeing caring characteristics.”

The young man gave me a saintly smile. The teacher stroked his chin before pointing to the socks I’d drawn.

“Are my ankles really that shape?” the model asked.

He bent over to take a closer look. I wanted to bury my tongue in the nape of his neck and lick off any imaginary sweat.

“Yes, that’s the shape of your ankles,” the instructor replied. He gestured toward a student near the window. “Ian over there did a better job on your ankles, but Adam really did well on your socks. The way the shape of the feet peep through the cotton is not something I expect from a first-timer.”

“Thanks,” I replied. “I used to do a little sketch work last year but only amateur stuff. Still life from things around the house. A clock, fruit, dirty laundry, that sort of thing.”

“Bring in your drawings next week. I’d like to see them.” He spoke up to address the class. “Now let’s check out Ian’s work, and Carla’s. Ian knows his ankles, and Carla’s good with faces.”

We walked over to look at Ian’s sketch as the other students followed. Ian’s careful study of the model’s feet almost made them look bare. Carla captured the man’s cheeky smirk skillfully, making that feature alone the highlight of her image. The budding blond artist did his best work with the chest and hips, although they were considerably more masculine than they needed to be.

We all made the rounds, admiring and commenting on the other artworks before ending back at my attempt. There were unanimous compliments about the socks, sparking the suspicion that I must have a foot fetish. Like anyone, I had my kinks, but sucking toes was not one of them. There’s something about a tinea marinade that just doesn’t float my boat.

“You know, Adam, maybe you’re onto something with the angel wings,” said Carla. “I would have put a wry smile and devil horns on him, just because I think he’s cheeky. But you see him as virtuous.”

“Divine, maybe, but not virtuous,” I replied.

Everyone strolled back to their easels to pack away their portraits except for the appealing model. He stayed to chat. He even helped me roll up the drawing as I studied the way his skillful hands worked with a cylindrical object.

“I’ll be back here in a couple of weeks if you want to finish the picture. They use me at least once a month.”

“Getting naked doesn’t bother you?”

“I have open-minded parents. They used to take me to nudist beaches when I was a kid.”

“Only child?”

“Only child.”

“Spoiled?”

“A bit. Still am, I suppose, even living away from home. Mum’s always dropping off baked dinners or cookies for me and my flatmate. You’d think we can’t fend for ourselves.”

“I’m Adam,” I said.

I raised my hand, and he shook it firmly.

“Mannix. Please don’t ask what my parents were thinking when they came up with that name. On marijuana or something.”

“I like it.”

“I want to change it, eventually.”

“What to?”

“At this stage, I haven’t a clue.”

“Keep it. It sounds like the name of a secret agent.”

“Yeah, a pretty lame one at that.”

Mannix handed me my picture as I beamed at him, probably resembling a lonely bachelor with a crush on an enigmatic porn star.

“I’m honored you were taken with the subject matter,” he teased.

“Between you and me, Mannix, that’s never happened to me before. I’m sorry if I was staring.”

“Not blowing my own trumpet or anything, but Adam, you wouldn’t be the first.” He winked, which kind of made me feel embarrassed. “Do you need a lift somewhere?”

“It’s okay. I have my car.”

Instantly, I regretted this admission of car ownership. Could I grab those words from the air and stuff them back in my mouth? My beautiful partner, Wade, was not going to be home for at least another hour and a half, and maybe, just maybe? I snapped back from my adolescent thoughts and sighed.

“Do you want a nightcap before going home?” he asked.

“Yes!” I replied with the zeal of a henpecked man about to get a lap dance. “I mean, sure. That’s a good idea. Whatever you want. Drink. Good suggestion.”

“Is that bar on Clarence Street on your way home?”

“As a matter of fact, it is.”

It was actually in the opposite direction.

“Looks like we’ve got a date.”

He walked ahead of me before helping get my pencils and my sketch onto the passenger seat of my car. It was a ten-year-old modest two-door hatch, which Wade and I had bought secondhand. We both used to drive it before my partner fell in love with a flashier sedan he’d found at a dealership.

I thanked Mannix as he walked to the opposite row of vehicles parked at the neighborhood center. The beep of the automatic lock made a sporty little mini double blink its headlights.

The young man eased into his understated luxury car with unassuming confidence. I was a sucker for material items I couldn’t afford, especially this type of tasteful indulgence. Mannix teased his engine before letting his vehicle make its way out of the car park.

I sat there for a minute or two, wondering if I was doing the right thing. After all, I was only going for a drink. Wasn’t I? Guilt was rising through my body. I could see Mannix climbing over me into that imaginary bathtub again. His basket of goodies inviting this old wolf to sample.

I turned the key and started my engine. As I made my way to the street, my thoughts alternated between Technicolor adultery and refined G-rated friendship. Did Mannix have an ulterior motive, or was I full of wishful thinking? It wouldn’t be hard to hide this fling from Wade, even if we just decided to meet up on another night when I was supposed to be at art class.

No, bugger it. Why wait? There was a bathtub waiting at home, and Wade was at his salsa lesson and wouldn’t be home for at least another hour. The tub would be filled to the brim, a bottle of champagne, two glasses, and a Northern soul compilation drifting in from the lounge room.

But then, I wondered what would happen if Wade’s dancing partner, Tim, didn’t need a lift home. He’d be home early. How would I have explained my need to bathe? Perhaps the other students attacked me with their charcoal crayons. Maybe the teacher hated my work so much that I was berated to the point of needing to soak up the tension.

I pictured Mannix on our sofa when Wade came home. I would try several coded words to let my husband know that a threesome was on my mind.

But this wasn’t our style. We didn’t invite costars to our bed. In fact, like most long-term couples we went through phases of being either solely devoted or acting more like two confident individuals. In recent months, we’d behaved like old souls who knew we couldn’t live without each other. We’d hold each other before we fell into slumber and awake needing to possess each other again. But it might have been fun to share that experience with Mannix.

I pulled up in front of the pub, still reeling from my own errant imagination. I took one deep breath to jolt myself back to reality. It didn’t really work. My sense of guilt magnified while I pictured that bathtub again and Mannix’s soft lips cruising toward my own.

“Adam, are you okay?”

My gaze darted to the person who was knocking on the windscreen. It was Mannix, curious to why I was taking so long to get out of my car.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Meet the Author

Kevin lives with his long-term partner, Warren, in their humble apartment (affectionately named Sabrina), in Australia’s own ‘Emerald City,’ Sydney.

From an early age, Kevin had a passion for writing, jotting down stories and plays until it came time to confront puberty. After dealing with pimple creams and facial hair, Kevin didn’t pick up a pen again until he was in his thirties. His handwritten manuscript was being committed to paper when his work commitments changed, giving him no time to write. Concerned, his partner, Warren, secretly passed the notebook to a friend who in turn came back and demanded Kevin finish his story. It wasn’t long before Kevin’s active imagination was let loose again.

His first novel spawned a secondary character named Guy, an insecure gay angel, but many readers argue that he is the star of the Actors and Angels book series. Guy’s popularity surprised the author.

So with his fictional guardian angel guiding him, Kevin hopes to bring more whimsical tales of love, life and friendship to his readers.

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Love a Fantasy? Check out ‘The Castaway Prince’ by Isabelle Adler (author interview/excerpt/giveaway)

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Title:  The Castaway Prince

Author: Isabelle Adler

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: May 15, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 20000

Genre: fantasy, fantasy, royalty, androgyny, cross-dressing, friends to lovers, disguise, princes

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Isabelle Adler here today.  Welcome, Isabelle, tell us a little bit about yourself!

✒︎

~Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with Isabelle Adler~

✒︎

If you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpowers to be?

There are so many superpowers I’d like to have! For instance, the power to slow or stop time entirely. I’d get so much done! Telekinesis would be rather useful as well; and don’t get me started on teleportation!.. The one thing I definitely wouldn’t want, though, is telepathy.

If you could trade places with one of your characters, who would it be and why?

If you could sequester yourself for a week somewhere and just focus on your writing, where would you go and what would the environment be like?

I guess my perfect writing getaway would be a ski lodge somewhere in the Swiss Alps, sitting in a comfortable armchair in front of a roaring fire, with snow falling outside and an endless supply of hot chocolate. Hey, we can dream, can’t we?

What’s the one thing, you can’t live without?

Coffee. Definitely coffee.

What internet site do you surf to the most?

YouTube and Thesaurus.com

When you got your very first manuscript acceptance letter, what was your initial reaction and who was the first person you told?

Oh, wow. When I got the acceptance letter for Adrift from the editor at NineStar Press, I was ecstatic. I could hardly believe my eyes! I mean, somebody thought my manuscript was good enough to publish! I wish I could say I did a happy dance, but unfortunately, I was too busy organizing my kids in the morning. I told my husband right away, though; he was even more excited than I was!

Synopsis

Ostracized by his family for his sexual identity, Prince Stephan is forced to flee his homeland before his older brother ascends the throne.

Stephan has been drawn to feminine things for as long as he can remember, so when the dire need for secrecy arises, he seizes the chance to don the perfect disguise. With the help of his loyal servant, Stephan picks his way through hostile territory, hiding his identity by posing as a woman. His only hope for asylum lies with the man who had been his friend and lover three years ago. But when that man also happens to be the crown prince of a rival country, things are a bit more complicated.

With war looming on the horizon, the danger of discovery grows by the moment. With all odds stacked against him, will Stephan find a safe place where he can be his true self, or is he doomed to remain a castaway?

Excerpt

The Castaway Prince
Isabelle Adler © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

“My, aren’t you a beauty.”

“Shut up,” Stephan said as he hoisted his skirts. The wind and the rain had made the pier boards slippery, and he nearly fell over as the wet fabric twisted around his legs. All his surreptitious practice wearing dresses and feminine undergarments hadn’t prepared him for the trials of this kind of miserable weather. In the course of a few minutes after stepping out of the relative coziness of their private boat cabin, he’d managed to get soaked through down to his stockings and narrowly avoided falling into the river.

Warren, his manservant, seemed to be rather amused by Stephan’s efforts. He was grinning as he watched him try to drag his bags onto the pier. Stephan really wasn’t supposed to do that, but the port hand was currently busy unloading another boat, and the prospect of warming up in front of a cozy fire had lost Stephan all patience.

“Help me, you oaf!” Stephan glared at Warren from under the hood of his fur-lined cloak. The man was having a bit too much fun at his expense.

“Watch your language. You’re a lady, remember?” Warren said, quickly coming to his aid, shouldering the heavy travel bags. “One who’s too pretty to be so bad-tempered.” He winked at Stephan and led the way across the busy dock, farther into the streets of the city.

Zenna, the capital of Esnia, sprawled on both banks of the river, its two halves connected by a multitude of stone bridges. This was a city Stephan had never thought he’d be visiting—certainly not in his current predicament. The royal castle, partially visible from the docks, was an ominous presence that loomed over the city and more resembled a prison. It spanned the narrowest point of the river with its massive arch of a weathered stone bridge. Built to withstand invasion and siege, it was supported by great rectangular pillars rooted deep in the riverbed, now almost entirely green with centuries-old buildup of slime and algae.

Stephan was glad when its daunting bulk was lost from view as they headed to the more genteel part of the city, where the smell of fish and refuse wasn’t quite as overpowering. They had to walk a good distance from the docks, but as they left the bustle of the riverfront and fish markets behind, the streets became broader, and the mud was replaced with cobblestones. The rain was bitterly cold, making him miss the slightly gentler climate of his homeland.

Thankfully, with so much traffic this time of day, they didn’t attract too much notice. They found a respectable-looking inn, situated on one of the main streets, where noble folk, even those traveling ostensibly without a retinue, weren’t an uncommon sight.

“My sister and I require lodgings for tonight,” Warren announced with a haughty air as they stepped inside the common room and the innkeeper rushed to meet them. Really, Stephan thought as he pushed back his hood to watch Warren dispense silver coins, the man was doing a startlingly good job imitating nobility, even considering he came from a well-off merchant family and not some backwater village. Stephan stood aside, waiting meekly for his “brother” to finish giving instructions regarding their meals and baths, and then followed him upstairs. He would be overjoyed to finally see a dry bed and a lit fireplace in a room that didn’t sway with the river’s tides.

They were given two adjacent rooms on the second floor. Warren deposited Stephan’s bags in his room before retiring to his own, where Stephan could hear him unpacking on the other side of the wall. He took off his cloak and fumbled with the lacings of his bodice, cursing under his breath. The wretched things were so wet it made them more difficult to handle, but finally the knots came undone, and the heavy dress, crumpled and dirty from the journey, slipped from his shoulders to the floor. The corset that cinched his waist and added discreet padding to his chest was next to come off, and Stephan could finally draw an unrestricted breath, standing in nothing but a fine cotton chemise and bloomers.

As this was a room intended for a lady, there was a large standing mirror in one corner. Its ornate frame must have been the pride of the innkeeper.

Looking into the spotless polished surface, Stephan had to admit his bedraggled state didn’t quite mesh with his idea of feminine charm. The paint he’d used to accentuate his lashes had smeared beneath his eyes, and his chestnut hair, usually done in a low bun, was now in complete disarray.

Despite the dress being uncomfortable at times—particularly when it was nearly soaking wet—he was growing more and more accustomed to it. At the beginning of their journey, he’d been nervous about appearing ridiculous, despite all the previous careful preparation and the endless hours spent on modulating his voice and perfecting his posture in front of the mirror. His shoulders were too wide, his hips too narrow, his gait too awkward. Perhaps he’d been lucky no one had peered too closely at a noblewoman traveling under the protection of her fierce-looking older brother.

It was one thing to put on a costume once in a while for the sheer fun of it, and quite another to wear it constantly, living in it and assuming it as a part of his identity, affecting a wholly feminine character at all times. Especially when this identity—as attuned as it was to his preferences—was the only thing keeping him alive.

Still, as he wiped away the streaks of paint and grime from his face and leaned in to look more closely—at the smooth cheeks so rarely in need of shaving, the long lashes, and the finely arched brows—the familiar similitude of womanly features reasserted itself. There was nothing overtly masculine about the face staring back at him. Turning slightly, he lifted a shoulder, affecting a coquettish pose, and smiled at his reflection. Maybe the possibility of him pulling this off wasn’t so entirely unfeasible.

There was a knock on the door, and he turned around in alarm, clutching the chemise that had slipped off his shoulder, but it was only Warren, carrying a tray with two steaming cups of tea.

“Your Highness,” he said, after shutting the door with his heel.

Stephan took the cup gratefully, warming his fingers. The scalding-hot fragrant tea made him feel marginally better about the world.

Warren set the tray on the table. He took a quilted silk robe out of one of the bags and helped Stephan put it on, after which he proceeded to pick up the discarded articles of wet clothing strewn across the floor.

“It would behoove you to be a bit more circumspect,” he observed in a neutral tone as he shook the water out of the velvet. “For a pampered aristocrat, you behave like a loudmouthed milkmaid sometimes.”

Stephan barked a laugh and turned away from the mirror. “Only when I’m too cold to wait on my servant’s alacrity.”

It was meant as gentle ribbing, not real censure. Warren seemed to take it as such, because he draped the dress neatly over a chair to dry, and sat down without waiting for permission, pouring another cup for himself.

While Stephan had been busy ogling himself in the mirror, Warren had taken the opportunity to change out of his travel clothes. The plain linen shirt clung to his broad shoulders, and his short auburn hair was half dry already. He was tall and solidly built, the very image of hale masculinity, whereas Stephan was slender and almost petite, with fine bones and delicate features. He’d been teased for these attributes since adolescence, but now he worried they were not nearly as effeminate as the situation required.

“You seem glummer than usual,” Warren observed. “I’d have thought it would take more than a bit of rain to dampen your spirits.”

“The prospect of being thrown in prison and possibly executed if anyone were to recognize me doesn’t exactly make me cheerful,” Stephan said dryly, setting his cup down and removing the needle-sharp pins that held his long hair back. “And it’s so…dreary here.”

He supposed his own anxiety made the surroundings seem more depressing than they truly were, but so far nothing about this city had appeased him, apart from the tea.

“At least we’re off that cursed boat,” Warren offered wryly, watching him over the rim of his cup. He’d had some difficulties adjusting to that mode of transportation, and spent the first few days on the upper deck, leaning over the rail. The experience hadn’t served to lighten the moods of either of them. “And no one has followed us.”

Stephan nodded in acquiescence as he languidly finger-combed his hair, working out the knots. There had been no signs of pursuit, or of anyone actively looking for them, as far as he could tell. Of course, he was counting on the likelihood of his seeking refuge in Esnia being rejected as outright preposterous. Just as his outfitting himself as a woman would have been thought to be. It was one reason—though admittedly not the chief one—why he’d resorted to this type of disguise.

“We’re due to arrive at the royal castle tomorrow,” Warren reminded him. Stephan could tell he’d been steeling himself to have this conversation. Again. “Are you absolutely sure you want to go through with this? You know what I think about this whole matter, Your Highness. It’s not too late to turn elsewhere.”

“We’ve come this far already,” Stephan said. “To back down now would be—”

“Prudent,” Warren interjected. “Up until now, we’ve been traveling by the waterways, which was safe enough. Not a lot of people, more privacy to be had, no fear of discovery. And if anyone thought you behaved strangely—well, gentle-born women are peculiar in their manner, you know? But it won’t be like that in Zenna. Here, there are real noblewomen aplenty, around whom you will need to take special care of how you conduct yourself. Not to mention people who might recognize you from before.”

“Who? The only ones who might would have been the members of the Esnian delegation to Seveihar, and that was three years ago. A lot has changed since then.” Three years was a long time, especially in that awkward age between sixteen and nineteen. Stephan was reasonably sure it would be difficult enough to associate him with the shy, lanky youth he’d been back then, even without the disguise.

Warren shrugged and took a sip of tea. For a moment, his eyes lingered on Stephan’s hands going through his hair, and then he looked away. “When you have reason to hate someone as the Esnians hate us, you remember your enemies’ faces. You send spies that would know what they look like. We’ve talked about this already, but what makes you think Prince Arlen himself won’t call the guards when he sees you? As you’ve said, a lot has changed in three years.”

“He wouldn’t,” Stephan said with a conviction he wasn’t feeling.

Warren rolled his eyes, his expression that of a long-suffering voice of reason. At twenty-five, he was only six years Stephan’s senior, but at times he acted like Stephan’s aged grandfather.

“It’s not as if I have a lot of choice,” Stephan said bitterly. He finished combing his hair and picked up his tea, which was rapidly growing cold. “I don’t have anywhere else to go. Arlen is the only one who might grant me asylum.”

“There are other people who could help you,” Warren said carefully. “I mean—”

“You know very well there aren’t,” Stephan cut him off. “None that would support me against Robert and my uncle.”

Warren opened his mouth and then paused as he seemed to reconsider what he was going to say.

“With all due respect, you have no idea what kind of man Arlen is now. Do you really want to risk your life on his ability to handle seeing you in a petticoat?”

Stephan turned away and walked to the fireplace, letting the warmth spread through his weary body. As much as he wanted to snap back at Warren, he couldn’t. Warren was right, of course, and it wasn’t only Stephan’s life that hung in the balance. Stephan’s title as the prince of Seveihar—even while he was fleeing his own country—offered at least some semblance of protection, while Warren had none. Furthermore, the circumstances in which Stephen’s identity could be discovered—namely, pretending to be a woman—would mean nothing but shame and ridicule for his family, regardless of his ultimate fate. Shame and ridicule that they would not react well to.

Stephan often wondered why Warren had agreed to accompany him and share in his uncertain fate—loyalty notwithstanding. More than loyalty, really, as a bond had formed between them, tenuous but certain. But it had become clear from their first night on the road that Warren’s plan had been to continue to dissuade him from this folly—a plan that had proved futile in the face of Stephan’s blind determination.

It wasn’t as if Stephan wasn’t aware of the risks. He knew exactly how dangerous this scheme was. He’d known that when he’d first devised it, but then it had seemed like a daring idea, a shockingly outrageous adventure, even if it had been conceived of out of sheer desperation. Making his way through enemy territory, securing invitations to the High King of Esnia’s annual ball under false names—all for a chance to reconnect with the man who had been his first love and best friend years ago, and seek refuge with him—it all seemed improbable.

But after surviving a third alarming “accident” at the royal palace at Sever, his home in the valley-situated capital of Seveihar, Stephan was more than ready to risk appealing to an old lover rather than tempting fate by remaining in the family nest.

Certainly, in coming to Esnia, he was placing himself in no lesser danger. Seveihar’s relations with Esnia had been tenuous for decades, and then there was King Feden’s personal dislike of him. If exposed, Stephan would most likely face captivity and incarceration.

At least the choice of disguise for his escape had come easily to Stephan. If he was going to be persecuted for his idiosyncrasies, he might as well embrace them fully. Stephan had always enjoyed exploring his feminine side, and despite the audacity of it, when the idea of this subterfuge entered his mind, he’d directed all his efforts to delving deeper into it. He was still not entirely certain of his ability to fool others, of not making some stupid mistake that would give him away, but it was attainable, given time. He just wasn’t sure he had enough of it at his disposal.

“I have to at least try to get through to him,” he told Warren. “I can do this. I promise I’ll be careful. And it’s not like anyone would miss me should anything happen.”

Warren wisely didn’t contradict him, but his expression grew pensive. He seemed to put his arguments aside, as he’d done so often before when Stephan refused to be swayed.

“I wish you’d listen to reason, Your Highness. But since you won’t, and we’re here, we might as well go through with it. I’ll fetch you some food and hot water,” Warren said. “I’ve requested for you not to be disturbed.”

“Thanks, War,” Stephan offered him a smile. The man insisted on addressing him by his title, but in truth he was more a friend than a servant; he’d become the only one whom Stephan could trust when so much was at stake.

Warren left to get their dinner, and Stephan shed his robe before stretching on the bed, luxuriating in the crispness of clean starched sheets against his skin. After a three-week boat journey at the wane of autumn, he was grateful for all the little comforts he’d always taken for granted. The linen smelled vaguely of lavender. Stephan liked lavender. His household staff had scented his pillows with the dried flowers, and he remembered the smell clinging to Arlen’s hair as they rolled about in bed, laughing.

He closed his eyes, breathing in deeply. The memory of that long-ago summer had lingered on the edge of awareness. Now, he could see in his mind’s eye the bright-colored light that had spilled from the stained-glass windows of the throne room, lending an almost festive appearance to the first and only Esnian delegation to Seveihar. How handsome Prince Arlen had been, wearing a silver circlet in his hair and Esnian royal blue. How happy they’d been later, finding joy in each other’s company. He wished he could stay in that memory a little bit longer, but it dissolved in the warmth, transforming into deep, exhausted sleep.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Meet the Author

A voracious reader from the age of five, Isabelle Adler has always dreamed of one day putting her own stories into writing. She loves traveling, art, and science, and finds inspiration in all of these. Her favorite genres include sci-fi, fantasy, and historical adventure. She also firmly believes in the unlimited powers of imagination and caffeine.

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Tour Schedule

5/15 – Hoards Jumble

5/15 – Dean Frech

5/16 – Bonkers about books

5/16 – MM Good Book Reviews

5/17 – Molly Lolly; Reader, Reviewer, Lover of Words

5/17 – The Novel Approach

5/18 – Love Bytes Reviews

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5/19 – Bayou Book Junkie

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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!

✒︎

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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Matt Doyle Talks Play Lists and his latest release ‘Addict’ (guest post, excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Addict

Series: The Cassie Tam Files, book 1

Author: Matt Doyle

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: May 8, 2017

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 56000

Genre: science fiction, Sci-fi, futuristic, addiction, friends to lovers, private detective, lesbian

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Book Playlist by Matt Doyle

So, when I wrote Addict, I had a lot of different songs playing in the background, and each one played for different reasons. In fact, there were times that I was playing one or two songs on loop while writing certain scenes because they just felt ‘right’ for that moment. I’ll put a link to the list at the bottom of the post, but in the meantime, these are the songs that I was using:

New Hopeland City Themes

These are the songs that resonated with me in terms of reminding me of the book’s setting. New Hopeland was built to be a sign of hope for the future, but it fell into corruption quite quickly. That being the case, two songs by Canada’s The Tea Party spring to mind. Both Babylon and Temptation offer a good representation of how the city is for those that live there. Musically, they have a tech infused industrial feel to them, and they lyrically deal with the things that New Hopeland’s darker underbelly thrives on: tempting and seducing others, and the idea of falling low. If I was writing a scene that specifically dealt with glimpses into this side of the city, then these were my go to tracks. At the same time though, the city was always intended to be a positive, and many still try to make it as good as it can be. There hits a point for all of them where they need to decide whether to give in to the corruption or say, “Hey, I’m doing things my way.” In terms of that lingering feeling of hope and trying to be what they want to be rather than what the city wants them to be, I always hear Round Here by Counting Crows, in particular the extended live versions. There’s just something about Adam Duritz’s voice when he performs this live that really takes you on a journey and sucks you into it all.

Cassie Tam Themes

Cassie is such a joy to write because there are a lot of layers to her. Depending on who she’s speaking to or what she’s set out to achieve at any given time, there’s just so much to her, and I love that. Part of her character has been shaped by various tragic events, both in her distant and recent past. Being a Chinese-Canadian, I found that I stuck with The Tea Party for representation of that, in particular the track Walking Wounded, as I felt that Cassie really was walking wounded at times, especially in terms of letting people get close to her. Next is Second Chance by Shinedown. This one really plays into Cassie’s distant past and in particular her relationship with her mother and how that was affected by the way that she lives her life, at least in terms of her approach to her job. Shinedown are actually a band that gets mentioned directly by Cassie as one of her favourites too, and that is because she remains hopeful that she can be a good person. Shinedown’s lyrics here really encompass that. The other band that she mentions is The Wildhearts and I often turned to Geordie in Wonderland by them as a Cassie Song. Again, the song deals with taking the good and the bad, and there’s something wonderfully endearing about this live version with the crowd taking the lead.

Lori Redwood Themes

At the start of the book, Lori is confused by her brother’s death. She’s hurting, but she’s reaching out and trying to uncover the truth and to understand what happened. Alone You Breathe by Savatage always put me in this frame of mind when I needed to deal with Lori’s views in that regard. In sticking with the same band, Back To A Reason actually felt very representative of Cassie’s journey with Lori for me, from the giving what she could with the case, to the questioning of herself that Lori caused, and in the end the resolution of the heavier themes into admitting what you feel. By the end of the book, I see Lori as a character in Heal My Wounds by Poets of the Fall. She’s in a delicate state, and everything is teetering on the edge, but she can heal her wounds if she wants to try.

General Songs

Finally, there were a couple of tracks that I listened to a lot while writing the book, each far different reasons. Last Ride Of The Day by Nightwish was a constant favourite because it summed up part of the story for me. The idea of life being a bit of Carnival with so many acts going on, but trying to find ways to enjoy it and embracing what you can in it. Also by the Finnish rockers, was Storytime, a song about discovering yourself and what is important to you through the stories that you read. In the same way, Cassie has to discover what matter to her through the story that she’s living by investigating Lori’s case.

So, there you have it: The music that helped shape Cassie Tam and her world. If you want to check the songs out, then you can find the playlist here:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL1P5KltuBriLysLz7hPmsIm57QZ9I7AqL

Synopsis

New Hopeland was built to be the centre of the technological age, but like everywhere else, it has its dark side. Assassins, drug dealers and crooked businessmen form a vital part of the city’s make-up, and sometimes, the police are in too deep themselves to be effective. But hey, there are always other options …

For P.I. Cassie Tam, business has been slow. So, when she’s hired to investigate the death of a local VR addict named Eddie Redwood, she thinks it’ll be easy money. All she has to do is prove to the deceased’s sister Lori that the local P.D. were right to call it an accidental overdose. The more she digs though, the more things don’t seem to sit right, and soon, Cassie finds herself knee deep in a murder investigation. But that’s just the start of her problems.

When the case forces Cassie to make contact with her drug dealing ex-girlfriend, Charlie Goldman, she’s left with a whole lot of long buried personal issues to deal with. Then there’s her client. Lori Redwood is a Tech Shifter, someone who uses a metal exoskeleton to roleplay as an animal. Cassie isn’t one to judge, but the Tech Shifting community has always left her a bit nervous. That wouldn’t be a problem if Lori wasn’t fast becoming the first person that she’s been genuinely attracted to since splitting with Charlie. Oh, and then there’s the small matter of the police wanting her to back off the case.

Easy money, huh? Yeah, right.

Excerpt

Addict
Matt Doyle © 2017
All Rights Reserved

I always did like Venetian blinds. There’s something quaint about them in a retro-tacky kinda way. Plus, they’re pretty useful for sneaking a peek out the front of the building if I feel the need. That’s something that you just can’t do with the solid, immovable metal slats that come as a standard in buildings these days. That said, a thick sheet of steel is gonna offer you a damn sight more security than thin, bendable vinyl, so I keep mine installed. Just in case.

Another round of knocking rattles the front door, louder this time than the one that woke me.

The clock says 23:47, and the unfamiliar low-end car out front screams “Don’t notice me, I’m not worth your time,” which makes for the perfect combo to stir up the paranoia that the evening’s beer and horror-film session left behind. This is my own fault. My adverts are pretty descriptive in terms of telling what I do: lost pets, cheating partners, theft, protection, retrieval of people and items, other odds and sods that the city’s finest won’t touch…I’ve got ways to deal with it all. That’s right, I’m a real odd-job gal. The one thing that I don’t put in there are business hours. The way I see it, even the missing pet cases usually leave me wandering the streets at half-past reasonable, so what’s the point in asking people to call between certain hours?

More knocking, followed this time by the squeak of my letter box and a voice. “Hello? Cassandra Tam?”

It’s funny, really. For all the tech advances that the world has made, no one has been able to improve upon the simple open-and-shut letter box. I stumble my way through the dark and wave dismissively at the frosted glass. The light switch and the keypad for the door lock are conveniently placed right next to each other on the wall to the right of the door, so welcoming my apparent guest is a nice, easy affair. The lock clicks a moment after the lights flood the room, and I pull the door open.

“Cassie,” I say, turning and skulking my way back into the room. “Or Caz. Drop the Tam.”

I hear a sniff behind me, and the lady from the letter box asks, “Are you drunk?”

“If I pass out in the next five minutes, then yes,” I reply, turning the kettle on. I’d left it full, ready for the morning, but I guess this is close enough. “Take a seat at the table. Would you prefer tea or coffee? I’d offer beer, but since I reek of it, I guess I must’ve finished it.”

Footsteps creep unapologetically across the room, and a chair squeaks on the floor. Good. If you can’t deal with a snarky response to something, don’t say it all, and if you can deal with it, then as far as I’m concerned you don’t need to apologise.

“Coffee,” the lady says. “So, do you always see potential clients in your underwear, or is it just my lucky day?” Her voice has a slightly playful edge to it, but with a sarcastic kick to round it off.

The business portion of my apartment comprises entirely of a small open-plan room separating my kitchen from my living room. And by open plan, I mean an allotted space that encroaches on both territories but is conveniently large enough to house what I need. Or, in other words, a table, four chairs, and nothing else. Since filing went near entirely digital, filing cabinets have pretty much become obsolete, so the two that I found dumped outside the building when I bought the place currently live in my bedroom, and contain a mix of quick access work stuff and personal files I’d rather not have floating on the net. Most things, though, I store electronically, the same as everything else.

I rarely use the business table to eat, read, or any of that junk, so until this evening it’s been entirely empty for a good few weeks. The lady sitting there now is studying me, I can see, and probably wondering if this was a mistake. Whatever she may have expected, a Chinese-Canadian gal of average height in a cami top and a loose pair of sleep shorts most likely wasn’t it. For what it’s worth, though, I’m studying her just the same. She’s a lithe-looking thing, dressed in a casual pair of jeans and a plain black fitted top under a leather jacket. If the metal plugs running down her shaven head like a shiny, rubber-tipped Mohawk weren’t a giveaway for what she is, the light scarring punctuating the outer edges of her pale blue eyes certainly would be. She’s a Tech Shifter, and like most of her ilk, she looks like a punk rocker gone cyborg.

Purchase

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Meet the Author

Matt Doyle lives in the South East of England and shares his home with a wide variety of people and animals, as well as a fine selection of teas. He has spent his life chasing dreams, a habit which has seen him gain success in a great number of fields. To date, this has included spending ten years as a professional wrestler, completing a range of cosplay projects, and publishing multiple works of fiction.

These days, Matt can be found working on far too many novels at once, blogging about anime, comics, and games, and plotting and planning what other things he’ll be doing to take up what little free time he has.

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Tour Schedule

5/8 – Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

5/8 – Queer Sci Fi

5/9 – Oh My Shelves

5/10 – Booklover Sue

5/11 – The Novel Approach

5/12 – love bytes reviews

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Release Blitz & Giveaway for Positive Reinforcement by Tamryn Eradani (excerpt)

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Title:  Positive Reinforcement

Series: Daniel & Ryan, Book 4

Author: Tamryn Eradani

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: May 1, 2017

Heat Level: 5 – Erotica

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 14300

Genre: Contemporary, BDSM, Businessmen, Friends to Lovers, gay

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Synopsis

It’s Hell Week at work, which means Daniel hasn’t seen Ryan in what feels like too long. A quiet weekend in is exactly what they need, and Daniel strives to make sure he’s exactly what Ryan needs.

Excerpt

Positive Reinforcement
Tamryn Eradani © 2017
All Rights Reserved

The first time Daniel passes by the conference room, he has a reason—he needs to ask Richards about a client call he made last week, because one of the names on Daniel’s list today is one he’s pretty sure Richards has already contacted. If the name’s an accidental repeat, then he wants to make sure the client isn’t getting double-called.

He knows they have phones and even an interoffice instant messaging system, but he likes the opportunity to stretch his legs when he can. He has a bit of a lull in his day, so it’s no problem to go see Richards in person.

Besides, it gives him the chance to check on Ryan’s meeting.

He and Ryan spent the whole weekend together, at Daniel’s place, and Ryan had warned him they might not see much of each other this week. Marketing is having focus groups all week to figure out the new strategy. At some point, sales will get called in to give their opinion, but for the first few days at least it’s just marketing, and it’s going to take all of Ryan’s time and attention.

Daniel can handle that.

They both knew going in that their arrangement could only last if it didn’t get in the way of work, and if that means a week of not seeing each other except at work then, well, Daniel can do that.

It doesn’t mean he’s not going to check up on Ryan, though.

The conference room has a line of windows between the rest of the office and the room as well as a line of windows that overlook the street below and give a glimpse into the office building next door. None of the blinds are closed, which means Daniel can see in, and, as evidenced by Palmer squinting at his notebook, the sun can stream through freely.

Ryan’s at the head of the table, and Daniel catches a spot of red on his chair which means Ryan’s at least got the nice chair. It’s the little things that matter when you’ve got hours of sitting written into your schedule.

There’s a slight frown on Ryan’s face, as if he’s disagreeing with whatever Richards is saying, but he doesn’t look too miserable.

Not like he does the third time Daniel passes by the conference room. Daniel volunteered to get Tracy a coffee refill, which of course led to a five-minute interrogation of what he’s done wrong (nothing), if he thinks it’s her birthday (obviously not, it’s not for another three weeks, and he’s getting her something better than an office coffee), or if he thinks Tracy looks tired today (no, she looks radiant as ever).

Despite the interrogation, Tracy still eyes him with suspicion, like he can’t do anything nice without an ulterior motive. He would be offended by that but, since he’s getting her coffee as an excuse to walk by the conference room again, he can’t exactly fault her for thinking the way she does.

Ryan’s slumped in his chair now, which can’t be good for his back, and it’s definitely a sign that the meeting isn’t going anywhere good. There are frown lines in his forehead that weren’t there earlier, and there’s crumpled-up aluminum foil scattered across the table, evidence of a working lunch.

There’s only about an inch of coffee left in the pot so Daniel dumps it out and starts a new pot brewing. He knows there’s no way to make office coffee good, but at least he can bring it to Tracy hot.

It does mean his break’s going to be longer than he intended, so he putters around the breakroom as the coffee brews, seeing what’s in the cabinets. Extra boxes of coffee filters, rows of clean mugs, extra boxes of sugar and creamer.

None of that is interesting. On the far side of the room, though, he finds the office supplies closet and that is much more interesting. He’s running low on Post-its and his pen is beginning to look more gray than black, so he picks up two squares of yellow sticky notes and a handful of pens to bring back to his office with him.

He’s pouring Tracy’s coffee when there’s a sudden influx of people—it must be break time for the marketing team too.

Ryan’s the first one in, making a beeline for the coffee. It’s like he’s got blinders on; he doesn’t notice Daniel or anything else around him. He just goes straight for the coffee and then makes the most pathetic face Daniel has ever seen when he’s confronted with two empty coffee pots.

“Here,” Daniel says, handing over the pot he just brewed. “It’s fresh. And hot.”

Ryan startles at the sound of Daniel’s voice, and he looks like he wants to hug him or maybe even kiss him.

“You,” Ryan says, voice deep and serious, “are a lifesaver.”

Purchase

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Meet the Author

Tamryn studied English and Creative Writing in school but has been writing since she could first hold a pencil. Recently, she’s turned her focus towards writing erotica. She enjoys writing stories where sex comes first, then feelings, because doing things out of order can be fun.

Tamryn has spent the past few months writing the Daniel and Ryan series with a lovely view of mountains out her window, and she’s now searching for a new mountain range to serve as her backdrop as she begins her next project.

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Release Day Blitz: Nate and the New Yorker by Kevin Klehr (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Nate and the New Yorker

Series: Nate and Cameron, Book 1

Author: Kevin Klehr

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: May 1, 2017

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 23300

Genre: Contemporary, cisgender, contemporary, cross-dressing, depression, gay, grief, long distance relationship, non-explicit, paranormal, reunited, romance, vacation

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Synopsis

Cameron has it all. He’s rich, lives in Manhattan, and even has a cross-dressing butler. But then he meets Nate, an Australian who’s bitter about love. Cameron is determined to turn this realist into a dreamer by sharing his world of classy restaurants, Broadway shows, and fabulous parties. And while Nate’s friends see the makings of a fantasy romance, it’s Nate who has to learn that in order to open his heart, he has to face a painful secret.

Excerpt

Nate and the New Yorker
Kevin Klehr © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Trailer: https://youtu.be/p3zjFttpjXc

Both Cameron and I had Hawaiian shirts to wear, while Rowena sported a tie-dyed sarong and an afro wig. And around us, interesting guests wore chic little skirts, James Dean–style jackets, hippie gear, and mod wear.

“You haven’t introduced me yet,” said a middle-aged woman to Cameron. Her rust-colored coat had a masculine cut. Yet she elegantly held a long-stemmed cigarette holder with something that smelled very much like a joint burning on the end.

“Sorry,” said my charming American. “This is my friend, Nathan. And this well-dressed lady is my aunt Beverley.”

“Nice to meet you,” I said.

She took my hand and kissed it. “I hope you don’t think me too forward; it’s just that you’ve got such fascinating features.”

“My aunt likes to flirt.”

“It runs in the family,” she replied. She gave me a measured wink. “Now, nephew, where have you been hiding this handsome Englishman?”

“I’m Australian.”

“It’s your accent. I never can tell the difference.”

“I need you!” yelled a girl in a flower necklace. She was the drummer of the band and was addressing our host.

“It’s time,” Cameron said.

“Time for what?” I asked.

He kissed me on the cheek and then headed for the microphone stand.

“You’re in for a treat,” whispered Aunt Beverley, her voice raspy from years of smoking.

“He sings?” I asked.

“He sings,” she replied.

A laid-back strum of the bass guitar started the song, followed by a drum beat. Then the vocal. And before I knew it, I was being serenaded in front of a room full of acquaintances. But, wow! What a unique experience.

“I’ve never seen him go out on a limb for someone like this before,” said his aunt.

I smiled politely, then closed my eyes. He was crooning. His honey voice made my soul rise out of my body and search for a dream. And in the hip nightclub that appeared in my mind, he wore a gray suit with a crimson tie, standing tall in front of the trumpet section who were waiting for their cue. And I was the only one in the club.

“Where are you?” asked Aunt Beverley in a low tone.

I wanted to say I was in love but stopped myself. I realized it was rude to have my eyes closed during Cam’s song. I opened them. He had me in his sights. I wanted to jump into the waves on his Hawaiian shirt and end up on a deserted island with just him and me.

“Would you like a toke of my cigarette, Nathan?”

“No, thank you. I think the fumes have already hit me.”

Purchase

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Meet the Author

Kevin lives with his long-term partner, Warren, in their humble apartment (affectionately named Sabrina), in Australia’s own ‘Emerald City,’ Sydney.

From an early age, Kevin had a passion for writing, jotting down stories and plays until it came time to confront puberty. After dealing with pimple creams and facial hair, Kevin didn’t pick up a pen again until he was in his thirties. His handwritten manuscript was being committed to paper when his work commitments changed, giving him no time to write. Concerned, his partner, Warren, secretly passed the notebook to a friend who in turn came back and demanded Kevin finish his story. It wasn’t long before Kevin’s active imagination was let loose again.

His first novel spawned a secondary character named Guy, an insecure gay angel, but many readers argue that he is the star of the Actors and Angels book series. Guy’s popularity surprised the author.

So with his fictional guardian angel guiding him, Kevin hopes to bring more whimsical tales of love, life and friendship to his readers.

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BLOG TOUR See My Words by Melanie Hansen

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Title:  See My Words

Series: Spectrum Nights, book 2

Author: Melanie Hansen

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: April 24

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 101300

Genre: Romance, angst, family drama, friends to lovers, hurt/comfort, model (ish), Photographer/photojournalist, reunited, step brothers

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Synopsis

Successful underwear model Scott Ashworth is lucky—his attack at the hands of an unknown assailant will leave no visible scars. His professional goals are still within reach, and best of all, his stepbrother Rylan Mahoney is back in his life, their teenage infatuation at last getting the chance to deepen into something more.

Thrown together by the circumstances of Scott’s injury, Rylan’s long-dormant feelings for him are quickly rekindled, though he’s haunted by the memory of Scott’s disappearance on the night of his eighteenth birthday and the six missing years that followed. Rylan pushes Scott for the truth, a firm believer in the maxim that secrets lose their power once they’re shared—but resurrecting old demons almost always comes with a price.

Before Scott knows it, his life is spiraling out of control, his toxic insecurities welling up to threaten the fragile relationship he’s building with Rylan. Learning to let go of the past and believe in himself will be Scott’s greatest challenge, or else he risks losing Rylan forever this time.

Excerpt

See My Words
Melanie Hansen © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Scott stared at the image. All three of his half-brothers were sitting at one of the bar’s high tables, Donna standing behind them with her arms around their shoulders. They were clustered close together, leaning on each other, beaming.

“Whoa, they’re so big. And they look really happy.”

“They are.”

“When was this taken?”

“Right before I moved out here. In fact, I stopped in Pace on the way just to see them.”

Scott tore his eyes away from the picture to stare at Rylan. “So you’re still in touch with them? With the boys?”

Rylan nodded. “I am, yeah. We’re friends on Facebook, and we text sometimes. They’re great kids.”

Scott was silent for a moment. “What about the baby? Cara? Is she—”

“Still with Heather? Yes.” Rylan’s voice was soft. “The picture you saw that first day in my apartment? That was the last time I saw them, when I went up to visit Cara before finals.”

“So you talk to—her? Heather, I mean.”

“Sometimes. Not often.” Rylan touched the scar on his cheek almost absently, and his eyes took on a haunted look. “When she and my dad split up, Scott, it was…ugly.”

Scott’s stomach roiled, and the puree he’d just drunk surged back into his throat. He grasped Rylan’s wrist, drawing his startled glance.

“Did Heather give you that scar?” he demanded. “That fucking bitch—”

Rylan gasped. “No!” he exclaimed. “She’s never, ever touched me.”

Scott released him, studying the scar before tracing it lightly with his thumb. It was high on Rylan’s cheekbone, small, but white and jagged.

“You can’t tell me that’s always been there, Ry. I would have noticed it before.” Would have noticed it back when he used to map every inch of Rylan’s face with his lips as they lay entangled together in his narrow bed. “Who did this?”

A pause. “My dad.”

The answer was so unexpected that Scott reared back in disbelief. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” he croaked. “Bob—hit you? Bob?” He couldn’t wrap his mind around it. Gentle Bob, who adored his son beyond reason, hit Rylan so hard he’d left a fucking scar? “What the hell happened?”

Rylan wrapped his arms around himself, hunching over. “While my dad was gone on one of his over-the-road jobs, Heather went out with her friends one night, got drunk, and brought home a man. But this time the dude didn’t fuck and run; he stayed for the weekend.”

“Holy shit. And your dad caught them.” Scott’s voice was hushed.

Rylan gave a jerky nod. “He walked in on them, in bed. I could hear them through the wall, and I’ll never forget the anguish in his voice as he demanded to know what exactly it was he was seeing. Heather was pleading with him, and the other guy was trying to tough it out. Lots of yelling, lots of crying—”

Rylan surged to his feet and started to pace. “The other dude finally left, and my dad and Heather kept fighting. I could hear them in the living room. I was gonna stay the fuck out of it until I heard Cara crying. So I went out there.”

Rylan’s chin trembled, but he pressed his lips together, breathing hard through his nose until he regained some control. “Heather was on the couch bawling, and Cara was wrapped around her leg. My dad was losing it, and when he saw me, he got up in my face. ‘Has this happened before, Rylan?’ I had no fucking clue what to say, and I guess my hesitation was his answer, because the next thing I knew, I was on the floor, my cheek on fire.”

He touched the scar, his eyes awash with the tears he was refusing to let fall. Scott ached to take him in his arms, but instead he jammed his hands in the loose pockets of his sweatpants, his fists clenched.

“My dad stood over me and screamed, ‘How many times? Why didn’t you tell me?’ He just kept saying that,” Rylan went on hollowly. “I had a cut on my cheek from a ring he was wearing. Blood was everywhere, dripping from my chin, getting in my mouth—” He licked his lips as if remembering the rusty taste on them. “—and all I could do was say, ‘I’m sorry, Dad.’”

“Jesus.” Scott’s curse was heartfelt.

“He was hurting, Scott, looking for someone to blame, and I was there. I was right there.”

“Why the fuck didn’t he blame the one who deserved to be blamed?” Scott snarled, taking his hands out of his pockets and slamming them down onto the couch cushions.

“He told me later that blaming her was too much like blaming himself, that he didn’t want to think about it being his fault. He wanted it to be someone else’s fault, even mine. After he hit me, he left and drove away. Heather helped me up, washed the blood off my face, and glued the gash shut with this liquid skin stuff she had. She wasn’t crying anymore, and she seemed really calm. It helped me calm down.”

His shoulders were so bunched and tense Scott couldn’t help but get up to put his hand on Rylan’s back, gratified when he seemed to take comfort in the soothing touch.

“What happened then?” he whispered, stroking the nape of Rylan’s neck with his thumb.

A quiver ran through Rylan’s body. “She put Cara to bed, and then we sat out on the porch together the rest of the night. Sometimes quiet, sometimes talking a little.” He heaved a sigh. “I think she really loved my dad, Scott, but for some reason couldn’t keep herself from sabotaging everything. She was devastated, but at the same time seemed almost relieved it was over, as weird as that sounds.”

When you don’t feel you deserve anything nice in your life, it scares you to death when you actually get it. It was a feeling Scott was all too familiar with, and he winced as an unwilling sympathy for Heather churned in his gut. He didn’t want to feel sorry for her, didn’t want to—understand her.

He shoved the thought away, concentrating instead on what Rylan was saying.

“We didn’t see my dad for about a week. Heather seemed okay on the outside, but I could tell she was slowly falling apart on the inside. I recognized the signs.” A shadow flitted over his face, and he clenched his hands into fists. “My own mom, you know? I couldn’t go through that again, and I felt so fucking helpless, so I went to Donna.”

Scott gave a quiet snort. “That woman is a force of nature.”

Rylan quirked his lips. “That she is. She drove over to the trailer, packed up the kids’ stuff, and took all four of them to her house. Told Heather they’d be safe until she got her shit together. She didn’t protest it, didn’t fight. When my dad came for me after a few more days, I left with him. Left her alone.”

“You’d done all you could, Ry. You know that, right?”

“I left without a backward glance,” Rylan said bluntly. “I was so fucking drained. By you, by her…”

Scott flinched, but Rylan went on, “My dad needed me. I walked away so I could save what was left of my strength for him.” His face was expressionless. “And for myself. I’d gotten a full scholarship to the University of Miami, but there was still a third of my senior year to go. I needed to concentrate on my grades and my own future. You were gone, the kids were safe with Donna, and there was nothing else I could do for Heather.”

The sun shimmered off the nearby buildings and bounced in through the windows, hurting Scott’s eyes and making him feel light-headed.

You should have been there, you stupid fuck.

As if reading his mind, Rylan murmured, “You being there wouldn’t have changed a thing, Scott. Heather would have still done what she did. You know that. It was only a matter of time.”

“But if I’d been there, maybe I could have deflected Bob’s anger onto me. Could have taken that blow for you, saved you that heartache at least.”

So much fucking heartache.

Rylan’s face softened. “It is what it is, Scott. Your mantra, remember?”

“Fuck mantras. I should have been there.” He slid his hand down to Rylan’s shoulder. “Were you and your dad okay, after what happened?”

“Yeah. He got us a tiny apartment not far from the school. It took a while, but we got everything sorted out. By the time he—died, we were more than okay.”

Scott relaxed a fraction. “Good,” he whispered hoarsely. “That’s good.”

Rylan patted Scott’s hand once before releasing him. “Ugh, I guess I’d better go take a shower, get ready for the club. There’s a big bachelorette party tonight, and Corey wants lots of pictures.”

“Yeah, okay.” Scott wiped a stray tear away with rough impatience. “If you need to go—”

“Can I take your car, or do you need it? I don’t mind taking the bus.”

Scott started to tell him to take the car, but the thought of the long, lonely night stretching before him made him say impulsively, “If you can wait a few minutes, I’ll drive you. Maybe stay for a drink.”

Rylan lifted an eyebrow. “Really? That’d be great. I know everyone would love to see you. People are always asking me how you’re doing.”

Scott didn’t know how true that was, given how silent his phone had been for the past three weeks, but he didn’t say anything, just headed for the shower. Afterward he pulled on a pair of jeans and an aqua-green silk T-shirt, standing in front of his full-length mirror and looking himself over, suddenly unsure.

“You’re beautiful as ever, Scott.” Rylan’s quiet voice came from the doorway.

“No. I don’t feel like myself at all.” Scott tugged at the loose material of his shirt, a shirt that used to mold itself to his ripped torso like it was painted on. “Maybe this isn’t such a good idea. People don’t need to see—”

Rylan came behind him and put his hand on Scott’s shoulder. “You’ll be the most gorgeous man in the room. Trust me.”

Their eyes met in the mirror, and Scott gave him a shaky smile. “I think you’re biased.”

Rylan chuckled. “I’m a photographer. I can’t be biased.” His voice was gently teasing. “Don’t believe me?”

Scott shrugged, and Rylan reached out and threaded their fingers together. “The camera doesn’t lie, Scott. Let me show you.” He turned to walk out of the room, tugging Scott after him and making a quick stop to snag his camera from the couch before leading him to the balcony.

The sun was low in the sky now, bathing everything around them in a soft, golden glow.

The camera whirred, and Rylan glanced at the screen, making a few quick adjustments before starting to shoot in earnest. Scott lost himself in Rylan’s quiet directions, first leaning back against the railing and then turning to prop his elbows on it while he gazed into the distance.

“Here, come see.” Rylan beckoned to him, and Scott walked over to gaze down at the digital screen in awe. The waning light kissed his face, throwing his cheekbones into sharp relief, the light scruff on his chin emphasizing his full lips. The soft green of his T-shirt reflected the fading radiance of the sun and made his eyes stand out like jewels.

“No filter, Scott. Just you. And you’re fucking gorgeous.”

Scott quirked his lips in a rueful smile. “You probably think I’m the vainest son of a bitch you’ve ever met, don’t you?”

“Never. There’s nothing wrong with needing some reassurance, especially after the trauma you’ve been through.” Rylan held up the camera. “I can tell you you’re beautiful, but sometimes you just have to see the words. See what I see.”

The lump in Scott’s throat threatened to choke him. “Sweet Ry,” he whispered. “Thank you.”

They smiled at each other, and Scott leaned in. Rylan lifted his face for the kiss, his lips parted, but Scott turned his head so his mouth grazed Rylan’s temple instead.

“Let’s go to the club.”

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Meet the Author

Melanie Hansen has spent time in Texas and Florida prisons…for work. She’s been in a room with a 17-year-old mass murderer who was also one of the most soft-spoken and polite teenagers she’s ever met. After a 13-year career as a court reporter, she can tell many stories both hilarious and heartbreaking.

She grew up with an Air Force dad, and ended up marrying a Navy man. After living and working all over the country, she hopes to bring these rich and varied life experiences to her stories about people finding love amidst real-life struggles.

Melanie left the stressful world of the courtroom behind and now enjoys a rewarding career transcribing for a deaf student. She currently lives in Arizona with her husband and two sons.

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Tour Schedule

4/24 – Love Bytes

4/25 – Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

4/25 – Hoards Jumble

4/25 – Bayou Book Junkie

4/26 – Joyfully Jay

4/27 – Boy Meets Boy Reviews

4/27 – The Novel Approach

4/28 – Dirty Books Obsession

4/28 – MM Book Escape

4/28 – Happily Ever Chapter

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In the Contemporary Spotlight: Solid Ground by Jeff McKown (Guest Post, Play List and giveaway)

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Title:  Solid Ground

Author: Jeff McKown

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: April 24

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 114200

Genre: Literary Fiction, drug/alcohol abuse, family drama, gay, homophobia, humor, infidelity, literary, religion, writer

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Art Begets Art: Music, Mood, and Words by Jeff McKown

The creation of any work of art is almost always influenced by art that came before. Sometimes the origin of the inspiration is obvious, clearly reflected in the substance or style of a newly created piece — a recognizable brushstroke, the sound a particular instrument makes, the repetition of a familiar literary trope or theme. In these instances, the homage is apparent. Other times though, the impact of one work of art on another is subtle, even imperceptible, the only evidence resting in the mood of the influenced artist or in his somehow altered understanding of the world.

The latter, that unnoticeable sway that seeps quietly into an artist’s consciousness, is the way music influences me when I write. Often, as I sit down to work on a chapter or a scene, I select a musician, or even a particular album or song, that will kidnap my consciousness, drive it far away, and then plop it down in the middle of the mood I’m seeking. I visualize the scene in my head and let the music wash over me, through me. As the music moves and inspires me, it feeds my mood, my vision, and my words — and it becomes art reincarnated, reborn on the page. The end result is not a story or scene that looks or sounds like the music that inspired me as I wrote, but words that evoke the same feelings in the heart of the reader that the music inspires in the heart of the listener.

With respect to my forthcoming novel, Solid Ground, I owe a significant debt of gratitude to several musicians who inadvertently and unknowingly contributed to my work. I’m particularly grateful for the deeply sincere and introspective music of Greg Laswell and Gregory Alan Isakov. Give both of them a listen — particularly, Laswell’s 2013 heartbreaking remake of “Embrace Me” and Isakov’s haunting “Master and a Hound.”  If these songs don’t immediately appeal to you, that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy Solid Ground, but I’d wager that if you appreciate the feelings these songs stir inside you, you’ll connect with my words and my story.

Synopsis

As Conor McLeish’s fortieth birthday approaches, the life he’s always dreamed of has finally taken shape. He has a steady day job, a debut novel, and Will, his Buddhist boyfriend of nearly a decade. He should be happy. The trouble is, Conor wouldn’t know happy if it smiled, winked, and offered to buy him a drink. With a hard-earned penchant for self-sabotage and an unfortunate Jameson habit, Conor frequently finds a way to disappoint himself and those he loves.

Solid Ground is a story of personal evolution—how we are each sculpted by the past, carved out of childhood, shaped and molded by what we’ve done and by what’s been done to us. For better or worse, who we are is the unavoidable sum of it all. But how we are, how we choose to love, and whether we stand alone in the end, that—at least in part—is up to us.

Excerpt

Solid Ground
Jeff McKown © 2017
All Rights Reserved

I was never worth much. Growing up, I wasn’t particularly clever or funny or handsome. I didn’t sing like an angel or say the darnedest things, and I was never the adorable kid in the tiny plaid vest and bow tie. I played Little League for a while, but I was mostly tucked away in right field, which in retrospect didn’t matter much since no one was there to watch me. My mother was too busy drying out my father to have time for shit like that.

Don’t misunderstand, I wasn’t a bad kid. I didn’t light fires or torture cats. I just wasn’t a kid anyone fought for. If it weren’t for my grandmother, I might never have known there was anything decent in me. June was my one true believer, the only one who waved my flag, tattered piece of shit that it was. She was busy with her own life—sipping whiskey at blackjack tables and flirting with strangers—but she found time to pay attention to me, which in the end is all a kid really wants.

Some people learn from their childhood bullshit. They overcome nearly insurmountable obstacles and get invited to appear on Oprah, where they shine like beacons for the rest of the less fortunate. Others just grow up and make one awful mistake after another. I’ve always been somewhere in the middle, half fuck-up and half hidden-heart-of-gold, the kind of guy you love in spite of the horrible shit he’s done.

*****

I heard Will through the screech of grinding metal parts and the clatter of a thousand porcelain dinner plates crashing to the floor. “You have to let it go, Conor.”

“I can’t.” I glanced down at my phone.

“You can, but you won’t.”

“Who even taught her to text?” I took one hand off the wheel and mashed my reply into the small, flat keyboard.

“Pay attention to the road.”

“I’m being careful.”

“Jerking the steering wheel back after you swerve out of your lane isn’t being careful.”

“I’m using the little bumps in the road the way you’re supposed to—to make corrections.”

He shook his head and sighed. “If you have to keep texting, let me drive.”

“Calm down. It’s bumfuck I-10 on a Saturday morning.” I checked the rearview mirror and turned my attention to an incoming text.

“Bitch,” I whispered as I pounded another reply into the phone.

“Nice. She did give birth to you.”

“It’s not my mom. It’s Aunt Doris.” The phone beeped again and my eyes darted back to the screen.

He rested his hand on my thigh. “Try not to get so worked up. It’s not good for your heart.” I was barely middle-aged, but Will was ten years younger than me. It was a difference he liked to play up.

I smiled and rubbed the top of his hand. “You make me feel lucky.”

“Show your gratitude by keeping me alive all the way to your mom’s house.” His voice was soft and earnest, as though by not sending him to his death in a fiery crash I was doing him a solid.

“Is it too late to turn around?”

“Just keep going.”

Driving across Florida isn’t all palm trees and pink flamingos. There’s plenty of that shit down south, but up north there’s plenty of rural nothing. My dad calls this lonely stretch of the Florida panhandle the “Eglin Desert.” Other than the desert’s namesake air force base, there’s just mile after mile of pine tree-lined interstate, and a light sprinkling of highway exits, each of which leads nowhere and offers little more than a depressing, albeit useful, combination Exxon-Burger King-convenience store.

Beep.

I looked at Will, seeking his permission to check the phone. Two raised eyebrows implored me to stay focused on the road.

I checked the rearview mirror again, turned up the radio, adjusted the air conditioning vents, and then finally snatched at the cell phone in the console, knocking it to the floorboard in the process.

“Fuck.” I fished around blindly on the floor mat.

“Let it go.”

“Not a strength for me.” I hunched low in the driver’s seat, keeping one hand on the wheel as my other hand traced methodical rows across the faux carpet beneath me.

“Jesus Christ!” He thrust his hands onto the dashboard as we veered center and a twenty-ton Peterbilt rocketed toward us. I jammed the brakes and jerked the wheel, steering us out of the overgrown median and back into our lane. A rush of blood raced to my temples, blurring the outside world.

I took a long slow breath and eased the car to the shoulder. “Fine. You drive.”

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Meet the Author

Jeff McKown writes fiction. In his work, he is especially fond of exploring tragic flaws, unfortunate circumstances, and the small moments that matter. In life, he obsesses over tennis, politics, and whiskey, not necessarily in that order. He endeavors to be a better Buddhist — which hasn’t always worked out that well. He lives near Monterey, CA with his partner Paul and their best friend, Kyle. Solid Ground is his first novel.

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Tour Schedule

4/24 – Dean Frech

4/25 – Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

4/25 – Boy Meets Boy Reviews

4/26 – Happily Ever Chapter

4/26 – Books,Dreams,Life

4/27 – Love Bytes

4/28 – MM Good Book Reviews

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