A MelanieM Review: The Wolf and the Sparrow by Isabelle Adler

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Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5

Derek never wished to inherit his title as a result of a bloody battle. With the old count dead and the truce dependent on his marriage to the rival duke’s son, Derek has no choice but to agree to the victor’s terms in order to bring peace to his homeland. When he learns of the sinister rumors surrounding his intended groom, Derek begins to have doubts—but there can be no turning back from saying I do.

After the death of his wife, Callan of Mulberny never expected to be forced into another political marriage—especially not to someone like the new Count of Camria. Seemingly soft and meek, it’s only fitting that Derek’s family crest is a flighty sparrow, worthy of nothing but contempt.

Another war with the seafaring people of the Outer Isles looms on the horizon, and the reluctant newlyweds must team together to protect those caught in the circle of violence. Derek and Callan slowly learn to let go of their prejudices, but as they find themselves enmeshed in intrigue fueled by dark secrets and revenge, their tentative bond is all that keeps their world—and their lives—from plunging into chaos.

 

I  enjoyed the sort of mystical historical fantasy novel, The Wolf and the Sparrow by Isabelle Adler. I thought it worked very well on some levels and less well on others.   From the moment I met the main characters of Derek, son of the fallen Count of Camria and now the new “head” of house, and Callen, first son of the Duke of Mulberny, victor of the war, the author eases of us the perspectives of both men and their various different worlds.    The gulf between them necessarily wide due to the losses of war, Derek his father and the fear of losing his small fiefdom and all that entails for his people and family. For Callan?  It’s merely one more political move by his father with himself as the chess piece, one he doesn’t want to make but will for duty.

The young men as characters are well thought out and presented, less so some of the people around them.  I am not sure if this is the first story in a series but much is made of Derek’s brothers, an older scholarly brother Ivo and a sullen teen brother who constantly acts up, putting his brother’s safety and that of any  political agreements in danger.  That it is allowed to continue makes no sense in this narrative other than for dramatic purposes.  The brother is unlikable, the author makes no attempt  to layer him into anything other than a cardboard character and eventually he disappears completely two thirds of the way from the story leaving the reader to wonder why he was inserted at all.  Ivo’s character  did a flip flop at the end and then exited as well after being used as a potential red herring for a relationship with Callan’s sister.  Both examples of throwaway characters that had way too much page time.

The relationship development between Callan and Derek moved along nicely when they were allowed to be out in the field doing exactly what warriors like themselves were allowed to do, bonding over field maneuvers and showing their skills at taking down marauders.  That made complete sense and I loved it.  The other   element I started to get into and I thought was absolutely underused was that of magic.

What a waste.  It was, in my opinion, such a great part of the narrative and yet so underwhelming at the same time.  One, the effects were only related  by one of the  main characters not both.What a loss because while we get the maelstrom of physical, emotional, and magical elements happening from one side, we never get to “see” it from the other’s.  Which is weird because this whole story is a two narrative novel.  Why reduce to one now?  When we want to “see” what is happening at it’s most wildest and wonderful?  Makes no sense.  The best part and powerful potential of this story is lost.  And not for the last time.

If the author was laying the groundwork for a series, that would be different, but I believe this is a standalone novel, so here is all this great promise for magic within this novel and character and quite frankly, it gets tossed away, not one but twice, because the author holds back, throwing out tidbits instead of going full throttle.  This character can control animals, have them do his biding.  Do we see it?  Uh, off stage sort of.  Control the wind and seas?  Does that come into play?  Nope.  Other cool stuff?  Pretty much no.  Just one more “bunny out of the hate” and done.

What a shame.

The end comes off the same way. Characters disappear,  there is an odd resolution that feels sort of inadequate, magically speaking.  and yes, a HEA for this couple, which seems odd, because, other than Ivo, Derek’s family is never mentioned again.

So yes, I enjoyed it but so many questions kept popping back up into my head about other characters, universe building, and the holes in the magic that it wasn’t a smooth read for me. If you are more of a surface reader than I am, perhaps this story is more in your wheelhouse than mine.  Either way, I found it went pretty quickly and the main characters were enjoyable.  I just wish the promise I saw had been fulfilled.

Cover art by Natasha Snow is eye catching and dramatic.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 300 pages
Published November 25th 2019 by Nine Star Press
ISBN139781951057893
Edition Language English

New Release Blitz for The Wolf and the Sparrow by Isabelle Adler (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: The Wolf and the Sparrow

Author: Isabelle Adler

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: November 25, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 72000

Genre: Fantasy, LGBT, fantasy, nobility, arranged marriage, abduction, enemies to lovers, witches, magic users, action/adventure, family drama, pansexual

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Synopsis

Derek never wished to inherit his title as a result of a bloody battle. With the old count dead and the truce dependent on his marriage to the rival duke’s son, Derek has no choice but to agree to the victor’s terms in order to bring peace to his homeland. When he learns of the sinister rumors surrounding his intended groom, Derek begins to have doubts—but there can be no turning back from saying I do.

After the death of his wife, Callan of Mulberny never expected to be forced into another political marriage—especially not to someone like the new Count of Camria. Seemingly soft and meek, it’s only fitting that Derek’s family crest is a flighty sparrow, worthy of nothing but contempt.

Another war with the seafaring people of the Outer Isles looms on the horizon, and the reluctant newlyweds must team together to protect those caught in the circle of violence. Derek and Callan slowly learn to let go of their prejudices, but as they find themselves enmeshed in intrigue fueled by dark secrets and revenge, their tentative bond is all that keeps their world—and their lives—from plunging into chaos.

Excerpt

The Wolf and the Sparrow
Isabelle Adler © 2019
All Rights Reserved

“Derek, you lucky devil,” Macon said. “A marriage proposal the minute you inherit a title. How propitious.”

Derek ignored the note of bitter mockery in his brother’s voice. Instead, he focused on the letter lying on the table in front of them. Words were scribbled across thick paper in an almost careless hand, with nothing to indicate its earth-shattering contents at a casual glance. The red wax seal bore the emblem of a wolf’s head, and an unpleasant jolt went through him as he recalled the same sigil splashed over black-and-silver banners streaming above a bloody battlefield. Pain flared in his injured shoulder, as if in response to the memory, and Derek shifted uncomfortably in his chair, adjusting the sling that held his left arm. He made himself focus on the words again, tracing them as if they could somehow magically rearrange themselves into a different message upon rereading.

“Macon, this is not helping,” Lady Casea chided.

Macon threw their mother a sullen look that clearly indicated he wasn’t there to help. He was sixteen, the age when everything was painted black and white, right and wrong, with nothing in between. Both Derek and their mother knew all too well how washed-out those colors became with time.

They were all sitting at the round table in Lady Casea’s drawing room. The upheaval of the last few days hadn’t seemed to reach it, unlike the rest of the keep. Embroidered tapestries lined the walls, displaying flowers in fanciful patterns, and the chairs were lined with soft cushions. A familiar scent of lavender and sage permeated the warmth from the fireplace. How strange it was to discuss the grim future of their family in this cozy room, with the only reminder of the presence of death in the gray mourning ribbons tied around their sleeves.

“Let us go through this again,” Ivo said, picking up the letter. His tone was neutral, as if he were discussing a passage from a recently read book. He was the scholar among Derek’s siblings, but Count Johan had long refused to send him to one of the royal colleges in Oifel, the capital. Father hadn’t approved of bookishness, especially not in a nineteen-year-old man who was perfectly capable of holding a sword.

“Duke Bergen offers Lady Casea condolences on the passing of her husband, and asks for Derek’s—the new Count of Camria’s—hand in marriage to his eldest son and heir, Callan, ‘to secure the recently signed truce in hopes of reaching a standing peace treaty between our fiefdoms and show goodwill.’”

“‘Passing,’” Macon sneered. “‘Goodwill.’”

“Derek, have you even met Callan?” Ayleen asked, turning to him. “I had no idea he was interested in you.”

“I doubt he’d know me from a signpost,” Derek said dryly.

He’d only ever seen Callan in passing while visiting the Royal Palace a few years ago, and they had paid each other little heed. Undoubtedly, Callan had been in the field along with his father, Duke Bergen, when they fought Camria’s forces, but fortunately, Derek hadn’t encountered them directly, and neither of them had been present during the signing of the truce, delegating it instead to their field commander.

Ayleen was only twelve, and still somewhat charmed by the notion of romance. Derek was a little sorry to disillusion her, especially so soon after all the other shocks she’d had to endure in the past few days, but it was better if she knew exactly what was going on. Ignorance and pretense weren’t going to help any of them when their situation was so precarious.

“The proposal isn’t coming from Lord Callan, but from his father. There’s nothing to it but politics.”

Ivo looked up. “I fear Bergen’s essentially trying to annex us. Derek would keep the title while he lives, but with him being a lower noble, it’d eventually pass to his husband or to their heirs. Not to mention that his spouse—whoever they are—would be an equal ruler of Camria while Derek lives.”

While he lives. The words sank into Derek’s mind, laden with meaning. The marriage contract would still be valid, even if he were to die, effectively passing the fiefdom of Camria to the duke’s family. And with Derek out of the way, they’d be free to do what they wished with it.

He said nothing aloud.

“Can we possibly refuse? Find some pretext to decline the offer?” their mother asked.

Ivo shook his head. “I cannot see how. This is not exactly an offer. More like an order, if courteously worded. The letter continues on to stipulate that the wedding take place as soon as possible. In fact, as soon as it would take Derek to arrive at the duke’s ancestral castle at Irthorg.”

“What about postponing it, then?” Lady Casea turned to Derek in concern. “You’re badly injured. Surely, they cannot expect you to stand at the altar, still bleeding. At least a few months, until you’re well. It will give us time to petition before the High Queen. This is nothing short of coercion under duress.”

There were fading bruises on her neck peeking above the collar of her dress, a yellow imprint of fingers that had nothing to do with the recent battle. Not for the first time, Derek thought that perhaps their father’s death was more of a blessing than a tragedy. It felt treasonous to entertain such notions, as though he was betraying his father’s memory, but he hadn’t imagined the relief in his mother’s eyes when the messenger delivered the awful news. He was ashamed to admit, even to himself, that he’d felt the same relief.

But it also meant he was now the head of the family. It was his duty and his responsibility to protect them after Count Johan had failed to do so. Even if it meant marrying a man he’d never met, who’d nearly destroyed everything he held dear, who might still want him dead.

“I’m not hurt that badly,” Derek heard himself say. “Besides, I hardly think they’d care—or if the Queen would see it quite the same way. The truce expires in a week. If I don’t give an answer by then, I’m afraid there will be no long-standing treaty.”

Casea frowned and was about to say something else, but Derek forestalled her.

“I don’t see any solution other than conforming to Duke Bergen’s wishes. I’d rather not aggravate him while his troops still have free rein within our borders. There would still be an opportunity to do something when we’re not in such dire disadvantage. A marriage can always be annulled should the Queen prove sympathetic to our case.”

“So, we just roll over and give the duke our land?” Macon said. “That’s what he’s really after, isn’t it? He basically threatens us with another war, and he has the audacity to call it a gesture of goodwill!”

“It is goodwill,” Derek said quietly. “He doesn’t need this union to take the land away from us. In fact, nothing is stopping him from storming the keep and killing us all when the truce ends. It would be his right to do so since he was provoked, and frankly, we’ve already seen that Camria cannot hold its own when it comes to military strength.”

As a warrior himself, Derek was loath to admit it. But Camria was a small fiefdom, and its contingent consisted of the Count’s Guard, which numbered only two hundred men, while the rest were mostly peasants who had been hastily called to arms and had little to no fighting experience. That was hardly a match for Mulberny, a much larger and more prosperous domain with a long and bloody history of fending raiding sea pirates off its shores. But of course, these considerations had meant little to his father in the face of a perceived slight.

“You seem very eager to go through with it,” Macon sneered. His eyes were rimmed in red and recessed in deep shadows. “Can’t wait to become the bed toy of our father’s murderer?”

“Macon!” Casea said sharply. “Watch your tongue.”

“I will not!” Macon slammed his hand against the table, making everyone save Derek jump. “He’s only trying to save his own hide while his new husband turns us out of our own home!”

“Will you stop that?” Derek said levelly, fixing his gaze on Macon. He kept a tight rein on his anger. There was no point in getting into a shouting match with his brother, whose grief was perhaps the most acute of all of them. “No one said anything about turning you out. I’m trying to keep all of you safe, and it would be much easier to do from within the duke’s castle than from the chopping block.”

“Yes, much easier for you! You’d be the duke’s lapdog while the rest of us are reduced to beggars!”

Derek’s patience, already frayed, finally snapped.

“Maybe Father should have thought about that before he waged war on Bergen over a fucking river dam and got himself killed!”

Macon rose to his feet so abruptly he knocked over his chair. Without another word, he stormed out of the room, slamming the door with enough force to rattle the flower vase on the side table.

There was an awkward silence while everybody avoided looking at one another.

Derek sighed and ran a jerky hand over his face. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”

Lady Casea got up from her seat. “I’ve had quite enough of this squabbling. There are still soldiers’ wages and widows’ allowances to be distributed, and I have work to do. Ayleen, come.”

With an apologetic glance at Derek, Ayleen followed Casea out the door.

Derek slumped on the table, propping his head with his right arm. He wasn’t used to being in his mother’s rooms without her there; however, he was in no hurry to leave. They were all tired, hurt, and confused. Derek had barely slept since signing the temporary truce between Camria and Mulberny. The nagging ache in his shoulder had worsened, and now his head was throbbing as well. But he welcomed the pain. It was the only thing keeping him from numbness—and he couldn’t afford to sink into it at the moment.

This was not how he’d imagined coming into his inheritance. Shouldering responsibility was not unfamiliar to him. His father had been more than happy to let Derek handle the more mundane affairs of daily life in the keep and the surrounding villages—though Derek sometimes thought it was so he’d have someone to criticize. But this…this was almost too much to take on. He was good with a sword and possessed sound common sense, which was perhaps enough for a minor ruler of a small fiefdom, but now he had to admit he was in over his head. Despite trying to present a solid front to his family, he had no idea what to do to prevent more harm coming to them.

Ivo coughed delicately, drawing his attention.

“I didn’t want to say anything in front of Mother, but there is something you should know before you make a decision.”

Derek raised his head. He didn’t like the sound of that, but what could possibly make this entire affair worse than it already was?

“What is it?”

“Did you know that Lord Callan was married before?”

“No.” Derek straightened in his chair. He didn’t like the look on Ivo’s face, the one that said he was troubled. It was a bad sign. Unlike Macon, Ivo was rarely visibly upset over anything.

“Well, he was. To an Agiennan clanswoman, no less. I don’t recall her name, but it was about two years ago. Apparently, the duke has a thing for offering his son in marriage to secure his peace treaties.”

“What happened to her?” Derek asked, already knowing he wasn’t going to like the answer.

“She died. Some sort of accident, but…there were whispers about something not being quite right with that story.”

“And you know all of this how?”

Ivo smiled faintly.

“Unlike you, dear brother, I pay attention to rumors. Most of them are nothing more than idle gossip, but some contain a kernel of truth.”

“All this might be just that—nothing more than gossip,” Derek said.

“I’m absolutely certain he was married,” Ivo repeated. “Accidents do happen even to the most lofty, but you’d better be careful. Some people have an unfortunate tendency to bury their spouses all too often.”

“What are you saying?”

“You should consider why Callan wants to marry you—or why his father wants him to. Camria is a well-off fiefdom, but it’s hardly of much strategic importance. The duke’s heir could set his eyes on a much more advantageous match, striking a union with a foreign noble, or even marrying into the royal family. Your nuptials could be nothing more than a stepping stone for whatever larger scheme he envisions.”

“He can’t subjugate Camria based on a marriage contract alone, not until Callan and I either name or produce heirs. The law is clear—if something should happen to me, the fiefdom would pass to my next-of-blood kin. To you.”

“I am not yet of age to inherit. Your husband could be legally appointed regent, and if that is what they’re after, they don’t need you for any longer than your wedding night.” Ivo shrugged. “Once you say your vows and the marriage is consummated, he could contest the inheritance of your fiefdom at the Queen’s Court if you happen to die under tragic circumstances. And then Callan is once again free to take another spouse. Maybe someone more lucrative.”

It appeared Derek had not been the only one to have thought of that, but again, Ivo had always been the smartest of his siblings, and the most astute, despite his age.

“You make him sound like some sort of fairy-tale villain,” Derek protested, out of some stubborn determination to refuse to be intimidated, whether by Ivo or by his own apprehension.

But he couldn’t help feeling there was something odd about the proposal. It seemed entirely extraneous. Whatever treaty Bergen wanted to sign would have been achieved without a marriage contract to strengthen it, given that Camria was at a dire disadvantage. And Derek entertained no illusions about being so desirable a match as to be of particular interest to the other party. Moreover, while arranged marriages were par for the course among the aristocracy, nobles of similar rank (in this case a newly minted count and the heir apparent of a duchy) did not usually enter such unions for precisely the same considerations of seniority of inheritance Ivo had voiced earlier. If this was all about upholding the peace, it would have been much more reasonable for Duke Bergen to ask for Ivo’s hand in future marriage for his son, as he was the only one of Derek’s younger siblings close enough to the age of maturity.

“I’m saying that by agreeing to accept this proposal you might be placing yourself in danger,” Ivo said.

New Release Blitz for Half Life by Gregory L. Norris (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Half-Life

Author: Gregory L. Norris

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: January 21, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 14300

Genre: Paranormal, LGBT, witches, zombies, gay, magic

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Synopsis

Whitney Abbott travels to the seaside Maine town of Window to begin a new life in his uncle’s home. Robert Abbott is well-to-do and owns several high-end restaurants. Whitney will start at the bottom and work his way up at the flagship. But from the moment Whitney exits his car in the drive of the big, brooding house, he senses the sinister atmosphere surrounding his relations.

His cousin November, princess of the estate, feigns joy at having Whitney in town. And November’s handsome athlete boyfriend, Griffin, is an enigma. Soon after his arrival, Griffin warns Whitney to leave. With nowhere to go—and certain that his attraction to Griffin goes both ways—Whitney is drawn into November’s malevolent plans. Plans that will pit Whitney against dark supernatural forces in order to save both his and Griffin’s lives.

Excerpt

Half-Life
Gregory L. Norris © 2019
All Rights Reserved

I hit the switch. The familiar cold, white glare from the overhead lights rained across the kitchen, prep station, and the industrial dishwasher, scenes of so many long shifts and leg cramps. The light did little to remove the greater darkness that hung over the back of my uncle’s restaurant. The gloom swirling outside had followed me into Abbott’s Table, one of your finer dining establishments along this part of Maine’s Rocky Headlands. Rain pelted the oblong window above the prep-station sink, where I’d cleaned and breaded untold thousands of shrimp. The ghostly aroma of garlic, lobster, and grilled meat hung over the place. Cloying, with an edge of lemon cleaner.

“Hello?” I called.

My heart hammered against my ribcage. I imagined my balls shriveling up against the root of my dick. An icy finger stroked my spine.

“Anyone here? It’s me, Whitney.”

Identifying myself made the creeping sensation even worse. The darkness had pursued me, constantly there at the periphery hiding in shadowy corners. Here in my uncle’s flagship restaurant after hours, the unwanted attention from sinister powers was more tangible, more intimate. I choked down a heavy swallow to find my mouth had gone completely dry.

“Griffin, it’s me. I saw your truck in the lot,” I said, aware of how my lips risked a smile at the mention of his name. Griffin. My heart raced for different reasons after that. “Griff?”

I checked the kitchen—empty. Willing my legs forward, I pushed past the rightward pair of swivel doors, hearing the awful voice of the restaurant’s manager, Marc with a c—Always keep to the right, that’s how it’s done at Abbott’s Table. The dining room sat dark and empty, chairs stacked upside down over tabletops, the floors swept, mopped, and shiny under the green glow of the exit lights.

I checked the bar and both of the public heads, finding the same result: no Griffin. My pulse continued its mad speed. Danger juice soured in my bloodstream. His truck in the far corner of the Abbott’s Table parking lot could have meant a hundred different things on any other night—Griffin out having fun with some of his hockey league buddies, late fun, guy stuff. I knew he wasn’t with the Ice Queen. No, after what had happened and the kiss that followed, Griffin wouldn’t have gone back to confront my cousin, November Abbott.

That kiss…

For a wonderful instant, the storm cloud dissolved, and I was in my car again, his big hand cupping my cheek, his mouth crushed over mine, claiming me as his and offering me all he had to give in return. I remembered the warm scent of pinesap, of Griffin’s magnificent body, the swell of his erection pressing against me as we kissed, and the certainty that what we both felt, while undeniably physical, went past simple attraction. Dare I again think it? Love.

I loved Griffin, and he loved me.

The rain pounding the world outside the restaurant’s windows unleashed eerie silver dapples across the dining room. I stood pondering, waiting for a sound, a sign. When none came, I turned and hastened back in the direction of the kitchen exit.

“Whitney…”

I dug in my sneaker treads on the rubber mat set between the kitchen and rear door, at first thinking I’d hallucinated Griffin’s voice. But then I faced the direction of the sound and found myself staring at the one corner of the restaurant I hadn’t thought to search: the walk-in refrigerator and freezer.

Reaching the big stainless-steel door seemed to take longer than the actual few seconds. I tugged on the latch. The door resisted, as though someone was pulling at the same time from the other side. The inner voice that had told me a week earlier to turn around, to not travel north to the town of Window, Maine, was back, urging me to get out. Just leave. Run!

I drew in a breath, smelling the rain, the kitchen’s funk, and the trace of clean, athletic sweat from the T-shirt I wore—Griffin’s sweat, and Griffin’s shirt, borrowed on an afternoon that now felt part of another decade. I pulled harder. The door released. A gust of cold, foggy air billowed out.

The front part of the walk-in was already lit up from inside, even though the light switch was off. I pushed through the long plastic strips of the freezer curtain and into the wide space that housed expensive cuts of tomahawk steaks, bins of heirloom tomatoes and other fresh produce from the local farmer’s market, and, I discovered, one sacrificial altar.

I froze, my eyes recording details—the waxy candles, three, burning around the body on the folding table, the sprigs of Datura stramonium Devil’s Snare flowers draped around the nude man’s corpse laid out in a funeral pose. I recognized the patch of hairy, athletic lower leg, upon which a winged lion had been inked.

“Griffin,” I gasped.

A breeze that hadn’t been there the previous second whispered through the walk-in, stirring the leaves of bunches of basil, parsley, and other fresh herbs. My paralysis broke. I moved beside the table, my eyes wide, not blinking. Griffin, naked, his hands folded over his midriff. Even as I reached my trembling fingers toward his and the voice in my head screamed for me to run—run from the restaurant, from Window, Maine, and, above all else, from Griffin—my eyes recorded the pallor of his skin. Griffin’s flesh was gray in the flickering candlelight.

My hand covered his. A chill raced up my fingertips. He was icy to the touch. No, impossible—hours before, in that other era, he’d held me, kissed me. And I had seen proof of our tomorrow together even as the storm clouds raced over our heads. Griffin had pledged his love and promised to return.

I glanced at Griffin’s big jock feet—still sexy despite their grayness, up his legs, past his junk, and all the way to his eyes, clamped shut. I gripped his hands, the fingers interlaced in prayer, and squeezed.

“Griffin!”

The dead man’s eyes shot open. Gone was their beyond-blue color—what I’d come to think of as twin sapphire gemstones. What focused upon me now was a pair of predator’s eyes with a wolf’s silver sharpness. The hands beneath my fingers abandoned their illusion of prayer and seized hold of my arm. I shrieked, attempting to pull away. Right before the corpse’s legs swung out and the altar collapsed, toppling candles, I saw Griffin’s mouth open. He licked his lips. His teeth chattered. The dead man salivated hungrily.

And then his weight spilled on top of me, and he was snapping at my throat.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Raised on a healthy diet of creature double features and classic SF television, Gregory L. Norris is a full-time professional writer, with work appearing in numerous short story anthologies, national magazines, novels, the occasional TV episode, and, so far, one produced feature film (Brutal Colors, which debuted on Amazon Prime January 2016). A former feature writer and columnist at Sci Fi, the official magazine of the Sci Fi Channel (before all those ridiculous Ys invaded), he once worked as a screenwriter on two episodes of Paramount’s modern classic, Star Trek: Voyager. Two of his paranormal novels (written under my rom-de-plume, Jo Atkinson) were published by Home Shopping Network as part of their “Escape With Romance” line — the first time HSN has offered novels to their global customer base. He judged the 2012 Lambda Awards in the SF/F/H category. Three times now, his stories have notched Honorable Mentions in Ellen Datlow’s Best-of books. In May 2016, he traveled to Hollywood to accept HM in the Roswell Awards in Short SF Writing.His story “Drowning” appears in the Italian anthology THE BEAUTY OF DEATH 2, alongside tales by none other than Peter Straub and Clive Barker. Follow his literary adventures at http://www.gregorylnorris.blogspot.com.

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JP Jackson on His Writing Process and new release ‘Magic or Die (Inner Demons #1’) (guest blog, excerpt, and giveaway)

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Title:  Magic or Die

Series: Inner Demons, Book One

Author: J.P. Jackson

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: July 2, 2018

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 87300

Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, paranormal, demons, witches, magic

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have J.P. Jackson here today on tour for his latest novel, Magic or Die. Welcome, J.P. Please tell us a little about what your writing process is like?

JP Jackson and My Writing Process

Writing for me is very organic, and raw. I choose not to outline or plot too much of the story in advance.

I take delight and pleasure in watching the words form their own worlds, and having the characters I develop come to life. They are the ones who dictate what action comes next. I have a general idea of where I want the tale to take the reader, but it’s the magical beings and demonic beasties who really own the book. After all, it is their story.

I’m fortunate that I can carve out free time to indulge myself in this creative art form. I love doing it, telling stories. Unlike some authors I know, I quite enjoy the spotlight. I’m 100% an extrovert, and it’s not uncommon to see me at parties and social gatherings ‘holding court’ as my husband would say. I like to gather people and regale them with our latest adventures. Writing is no different. I get to share my imagination and tomfoolery with anyone who’s willing to pick up one of my books.

Do you create an outline first?

I currently have two books out.  Daimonion, Book One of the Apocalypse, which is the first in a trilogy, and is my retelling of how the world ends, and then Magic or Die about a broken psychic teacher and the five students he’s charged with helping. Each of these were pantster created. No outlines, no cue cards with notes. I do write supporting documents, character sheets with details I can refer back to. I may or may not have written a spellbook or two – depending on the characters in the story.  I’ve even done timelines and maps, just to make sure that the story has progressed in an accurate manner. But as I mentioned above, I usually just create my characters and then set them free.

They run amok, creating havoc and chaos.

I just sit back, laugh maniacally and document their lives.

Do you seek out inspirational pictures, videos or music?

Absolutely. I have a Tumblr account [(18+ only, please) http://canuckbear88.tumblr.com/} where I store images that inspire me. I also have Pinterest boards [https://www.pinterest.ca/jacksonbear88/] where I collect images that I pull and use for various characters. I have an extensive music library where I pull together a new playlist for each project. Every time I start a new work, I have to have new music too, so I’m always on the lookout for haunting music.  Here’s my YouTube channel and the Magic or Die playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLMD–CnQs723AsxRz1FEN4dI0Vkrg9rIV. All of this helps put me in the right mood to create fantastical worlds, intricate magic spells and creatures who are more likely to eat you than help you.

Do you just let the words flow and then go back and try and make some sense out it?

As I said above, my writing is organic. I just let it all fall out. But then I’m also a little OCD and so I find myself writing a page or two, and then going back to edit and alter the writing. I hate the little squiggly red lines Word puts underneath things it doesn’t recognize. They drive me nuts, and I can’t look at them. So I have to go back and correct the word. Same can be said for the blue grammar and technical suggestions.  I need to see black and white. That to me is clean, and non-distracting. It allows me to read what I’ve written unencumbered. I know, I’m crazy.

Synopsis

James Martin is a teacher, a powerful Psychic, and an alcoholic. He used to work for the Center for Magical Research and Development, a facility that houses people who can’t control their supernatural abilities, but left after one of his students was killed, turning to vodka to soothe his emotional pain. The problem is he still has one year left on his contract.

When James is forced to return to the CMRD, he finds himself confronting the demons of his past and attempting to protect his new class from a possible death sentence, because if they don’t pass their final exams, they’ll be euthanized.

James also discovers that his class isn’t bringing in enough sponsors, the agencies and world governments who supply grants and ultimately purchase graduates of the CMRD, and that means no profit for the facility. James and his students face impossible odds—measure up to the facility’s unreachable standards or escape.

Excerpt

Magic or Die
J.P. Jackson © 2018
All Rights Reserved

One: Call Back
“YES, MIRIAM. YES, I know. I know it’s been over a year. I’m not sure I’m ready.”

The knuckles on my hand cramped from clasping my cell phone in a death grip. I glanced at my watch. This conversation had gone on too long. In the span of two minutes, Miriam had managed to exhume memories and history I wanted buried and forgotten. I sucked in a short breath as nausea surged like a tsunami of fear. Its behemoth wave washed bile against the back of my throat.

I slumped down the stained and weathered wall of the coffin-sized studio apartment I reluctantly called a home. It wasn’t a bad place to live, except for the cockroaches I found on a daily basis. I’m sure they considered it a veritable paradise. Absentmindedly, I toed an old pizza box near my foot while listening to Miriam. One of the insects scampered across the matted Berber carpet.

Gross.

Cody. A pale ghostlike face flashed before me. His hair, the exact colour of fall fallowed fields, hung listlessly over one eye, as blood trickled out of the corner of his mouth. His chapped lips parted, asking me, “Why?”

I ignored the vision. Well, ignored wasn’t the right word, more like boxed it up with a heavy rock and pitched it into the abyss of my mind with all the other terrifying nightmares.

“I know. I owe you, yes. I’m just not sure—” I crawled over to the upended crate being used as a coffee table, grasping for my last pack of smokes. I lit one, enjoying the soothing crackle of the tobacco as it ignited, and then inhaled deeply.

Ah, yes. Hello, nicotine, my demon friend.

Miriam continued blithering while I half-heartedly listened to her soul-sucking voice. She was demanding my presence.

“What? You mean, tomorrow? Miriam, I don’t think it’s a good idea.” I drew in another steady stream of the toxic smoke. It burned my lungs as the addictive chemicals flooded through my body. I really need to quit. Scraping together the smallest ounce of courage, I attempted to defy her. “No, I can’t.”

A wraithlike hand, desiccated and fragile, inched its way across my shoulder and gripped my tense neck muscle. Its sharp nails dug into my flesh. Its bite, a warning.

Cody’s lifeless lips brushed my ear, sending cold shivers skittering across my back. Eruptions of goose flesh covered my neck and shoulders. His voice was a memory and a sound I would never forget.

“Don’t do this. You’ll kill me again.” His icy breath whispered to me.

Another box, a bigger rock, another addition to the pit of despair in my head.

“No,” I replied to one of Miriam’s inane questions. “There’s an Arcane too? I’ve never been good with them. They creep me out. No, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that. Shit.” Miriam had just described a scene for me. My flesh turned buggy, as if I had chiggers nesting and burrowing deep into my skin. “Oh god that’s gross. It’s also not a good sign.” I pointed uselessly at the wall, waving my finger, trying to make a point to the caller. “I never took the exam for the third class.” Miriam had asked if I’d kept up my licensing. I instantly felt guilty. I should have done it years ago. One thing was becoming evident from the conversation—she needed my help. Help only I could give.

“All right, maybe, I think I can. Consult only. Do you hear me, Miriam? Just a consult.” I had tried desperately to stay the hell out of this. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t want to go back there. “What time? Yes. I’m pretty sure. Miriam—” A thousand reservations ran through my mind, a wild stampede, unbridled, laced with dread and fear. “How many? How many in this class?”

The question sat like the world perched on my shoulders. The higher the number, the bigger the world, the more responsibility, an undeniable possibility of…

“Five! Are you kidding me? I can’t do five. No. No! It’s not possible.”

She was out of her mind.

“Yes, my sister is still on the streets. You know that’s close to blackmail, right?” I stubbed out the cigarette. The lacquer of smoke in my mouth tasted like I had just licked the bottom of an ashtray, and it was suddenly very hard to breathe. Why do I smoke again?

“Fine. Tomorrow. Yes. Ten a.m. Yes, I’ll be there. What do you mean dress appropriately?”

I looked at my cell phone, disgusted as the call ended.

I flipped the device onto the floor as if it had burst into flame and branded the conversation into my hand. I snorted. Like, I’d forget.

Stretching around to the other side of the crate, I grabbed blindly for a bottle I hoped was there. By all the gods’ great divine gifts, it was. And it still had liquid in it. In fact, it was surprisingly half-full.

I tipped the vodka bottle back, allowing its burn to strip away the cancer stick’s smoky film inside my mouth.

Swaying back and forth with my eyes closed, I tried to drown out the endless voices in my head. The words inundated my impending thoughts of doom and failure, and I could feel the chaos and panic mounting. Steadying myself and regaining my mental capacities, I gazed out the window. It was dark already and only six, early evening at best. Yay for daylight-savings time and late fall in Canada. Lights from the downtown cityscape lazily twinkled and danced before me. It should have been a pretty sight, but the darkness always seemed too oppressive, like a shroud. And I knew better. Things lived in the shadows.

I took another swig from the clear glass bottle. The burn hit my throat and disintegrated the bile that had crept up there.

Five very gifted students.

I rubbed the stubble covering my face and took yet another nip. Except it wasn’t a quick sip, it was a good one. A long one.

The window acted like a mirror, and my image reflected against the backdrop of the city skyline. I looked like shit. My short brown hair had cowlicks; thank god I kept it close. But the rest? No wonder Miriam instructed me to clean it up. The shirt I was sort of wearing was only half buttoned and stained in several spots. I had no pants on, but the pair of tighty-whities, which weren’t exactly white anymore, or tight, were ripped and showed more flesh than they were supposed to. Jesus.

How did my life get here?

Five young people had no control of their gifts.

And I had a sister who was lost out in the sparkle-light of downtown’s darkness, up to who knew what, and doing it with god only knew who, mired in her own addictions.

I glanced around my shit-hole apartment, wondering what the fuck I was going to do.

Purchase

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Meet the Author

J.P. Jackson works as an IT analyst in health care during the day, where if cornered he’d confess to casting spells to ensure clinicians actually use the electronic medical charting system he configures and implements.

At night however, the writing happens, where demons, witches and shape shifters congregate around the kitchen table and general chaos ensues. The insurance company refuses to accept any more claims of ‘acts of the un-god’, and his husband of almost 20 years has very firmly put his foot down on any further wraith summoning’s in the basement. And apparently imps aren’t house-trainable. Occasionally the odd ghost or member of the Fae community stops in for a glass of wine and stories are exchanged. Although the husband doesn’t know it, the two Chihuahuas are in cahoots with the spell casting.

J.P.’s other hobbies include hybridizing African Violets (thanks to grandma), extensive travelling and believe it or not, knitting.

 

 

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Release Day Blitz for Magic or Die (Inner Demons #1) by JP Jackson (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Magic or Die

Series: Inner Demons, Book One

Author: J.P. Jackson

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: July 2, 2018

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 87300

Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, paranormal, demons, witches, magic

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Synopsis

James Martin is a teacher, a powerful Psychic, and an alcoholic. He used to work for the Center for Magical Research and Development, a facility that houses people who can’t control their supernatural abilities, but left after one of his students was killed, turning to vodka to soothe his emotional pain. The problem is he still has one year left on his contract.

When James is forced to return to the CMRD, he finds himself confronting the demons of his past and attempting to protect his new class from a possible death sentence, because if they don’t pass their final exams, they’ll be euthanized.

James also discovers that his class isn’t bringing in enough sponsors, the agencies and world governments who supply grants and ultimately purchase graduates of the CMRD, and that means no profit for the facility. James and his students face impossible odds—measure up to the facility’s unreachable standards or escape.

Excerpt

Magic or Die
J.P. Jackson © 2018
All Rights Reserved

One: Call Back
“YES, MIRIAM. YES, I know. I know it’s been over a year. I’m not sure I’m ready.”

The knuckles on my hand cramped from clasping my cell phone in a death grip. I glanced at my watch. This conversation had gone on too long. In the span of two minutes, Miriam had managed to exhume memories and history I wanted buried and forgotten. I sucked in a short breath as nausea surged like a tsunami of fear. Its behemoth wave washed bile against the back of my throat.

I slumped down the stained and weathered wall of the coffin-sized studio apartment I reluctantly called a home. It wasn’t a bad place to live, except for the cockroaches I found on a daily basis. I’m sure they considered it a veritable paradise. Absentmindedly, I toed an old pizza box near my foot while listening to Miriam. One of the insects scampered across the matted Berber carpet.

Gross.

Cody. A pale ghostlike face flashed before me. His hair, the exact colour of fall fallowed fields, hung listlessly over one eye, as blood trickled out of the corner of his mouth. His chapped lips parted, asking me, “Why?”

I ignored the vision. Well, ignored wasn’t the right word, more like boxed it up with a heavy rock and pitched it into the abyss of my mind with all the other terrifying nightmares.

“I know. I owe you, yes. I’m just not sure—” I crawled over to the upended crate being used as a coffee table, grasping for my last pack of smokes. I lit one, enjoying the soothing crackle of the tobacco as it ignited, and then inhaled deeply.

Ah, yes. Hello, nicotine, my demon friend.

Miriam continued blithering while I half-heartedly listened to her soul-sucking voice. She was demanding my presence.

“What? You mean, tomorrow? Miriam, I don’t think it’s a good idea.” I drew in another steady stream of the toxic smoke. It burned my lungs as the addictive chemicals flooded through my body. I really need to quit. Scraping together the smallest ounce of courage, I attempted to defy her. “No, I can’t.”

A wraithlike hand, desiccated and fragile, inched its way across my shoulder and gripped my tense neck muscle. Its sharp nails dug into my flesh. Its bite, a warning.

Cody’s lifeless lips brushed my ear, sending cold shivers skittering across my back. Eruptions of goose flesh covered my neck and shoulders. His voice was a memory and a sound I would never forget.

“Don’t do this. You’ll kill me again.” His icy breath whispered to me.

Another box, a bigger rock, another addition to the pit of despair in my head.

“No,” I replied to one of Miriam’s inane questions. “There’s an Arcane too? I’ve never been good with them. They creep me out. No, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that. Shit.” Miriam had just described a scene for me. My flesh turned buggy, as if I had chiggers nesting and burrowing deep into my skin. “Oh god that’s gross. It’s also not a good sign.” I pointed uselessly at the wall, waving my finger, trying to make a point to the caller. “I never took the exam for the third class.” Miriam had asked if I’d kept up my licensing. I instantly felt guilty. I should have done it years ago. One thing was becoming evident from the conversation—she needed my help. Help only I could give.

“All right, maybe, I think I can. Consult only. Do you hear me, Miriam? Just a consult.” I had tried desperately to stay the hell out of this. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t want to go back there. “What time? Yes. I’m pretty sure. Miriam—” A thousand reservations ran through my mind, a wild stampede, unbridled, laced with dread and fear. “How many? How many in this class?”

The question sat like the world perched on my shoulders. The higher the number, the bigger the world, the more responsibility, an undeniable possibility of…

“Five! Are you kidding me? I can’t do five. No. No! It’s not possible.”

She was out of her mind.

“Yes, my sister is still on the streets. You know that’s close to blackmail, right?” I stubbed out the cigarette. The lacquer of smoke in my mouth tasted like I had just licked the bottom of an ashtray, and it was suddenly very hard to breathe. Why do I smoke again?

“Fine. Tomorrow. Yes. Ten a.m. Yes, I’ll be there. What do you mean dress appropriately?”

I looked at my cell phone, disgusted as the call ended.

I flipped the device onto the floor as if it had burst into flame and branded the conversation into my hand. I snorted. Like, I’d forget.

Stretching around to the other side of the crate, I grabbed blindly for a bottle I hoped was there. By all the gods’ great divine gifts, it was. And it still had liquid in it. In fact, it was surprisingly half-full.

I tipped the vodka bottle back, allowing its burn to strip away the cancer stick’s smoky film inside my mouth.

Swaying back and forth with my eyes closed, I tried to drown out the endless voices in my head. The words inundated my impending thoughts of doom and failure, and I could feel the chaos and panic mounting. Steadying myself and regaining my mental capacities, I gazed out the window. It was dark already and only six, early evening at best. Yay for daylight-savings time and late fall in Canada. Lights from the downtown cityscape lazily twinkled and danced before me. It should have been a pretty sight, but the darkness always seemed too oppressive, like a shroud. And I knew better. Things lived in the shadows.

I took another swig from the clear glass bottle. The burn hit my throat and disintegrated the bile that had crept up there.

Five very gifted students.

I rubbed the stubble covering my face and took yet another nip. Except it wasn’t a quick sip, it was a good one. A long one.

The window acted like a mirror, and my image reflected against the backdrop of the city skyline. I looked like shit. My short brown hair had cowlicks; thank god I kept it close. But the rest? No wonder Miriam instructed me to clean it up. The shirt I was sort of wearing was only half buttoned and stained in several spots. I had no pants on, but the pair of tighty-whities, which weren’t exactly white anymore, or tight, were ripped and showed more flesh than they were supposed to. Jesus.

How did my life get here?

Five young people had no control of their gifts.

And I had a sister who was lost out in the sparkle-light of downtown’s darkness, up to who knew what, and doing it with god only knew who, mired in her own addictions.

I glanced around my shit-hole apartment, wondering what the fuck I was going to do.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

J.P. Jackson works as an IT analyst in health care during the day, where if cornered he’d confess to casting spells to ensure clinicians actually use the electronic medical charting system he configures and implements.

At night however, the writing happens, where demons, witches and shape shifters congregate around the kitchen table and general chaos ensues. The insurance company refuses to accept any more claims of ‘acts of the un-god’, and his husband of almost 20 years has very firmly put his foot down on any further wraith summoning’s in the basement. And apparently imps aren’t house-trainable. Occasionally the odd ghost or member of the Fae community stops in for a glass of wine and stories are exchanged. Although the husband doesn’t know it, the two Chihuahuas are in cahoots with the spell casting.

J.P.’s other hobbies include hybridizing African Violets (thanks to grandma), extensive travelling and believe it or not, knitting.

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On Tour with Curses, Foiled Again by Sera Trevor (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Curses, Foiled Again

Author: Sera Trevor

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: November 27, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 98700

Genre: Paranormal, vampires, witches, undead, abduction, paranormal, addiction, ghosts, homophobia, immortal, magic users, dark, drug/alcohol use, dark, blood play, curses

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Synopsis

Felix is a vampire—a fierce creature of the night who strikes terror into the hearts of everyone unlucky enough to become his prey. Or at least, that’s what he thought was true, until he met John. John is completely unimpressed with Felix, much to his dismay. Felix becomes fixated on proving his ferocity to John—and when that doesn’t work, he strives to make any impression on him at all.

John is a witch, and as all witches know, vampires are notoriously stupid creatures who only have the power to hurt those who fear them. Besides, he’s under a curse much more frightening than any vampire. Felix’s desperate attempts to impress him annoy John at first, but gradually, they become sort of endearing. Because of his curse, John has pushed everyone in his life away. But Felix can’t be hurt, so there’s no harm in letting him hang around.

Felix is technically dead. John has nothing left to live for. But together, they might have a shot at life.

This dark and witty vampire romance for adults is complete at 100,000 words, with no cliffhanger. Despite some dark twists and turns, it ends with a solid HEA.

Excerpt

Curses, Foiled Again
Sera Trevor © 2017
All Rights Reserved

One: The Witch Boys of Sunset Boulevard

Someone smelled delicious.

Felix really ought to have been sated. He had fed that night already, but in spite of his satiety, the new aroma tempted him like nothing before. It was the same dark tang that normally inspired his appetite, but with a sweet note buried in the scent—like an orange at the peak of its sweetness, right on the cusp of rotting. It didn’t take him long to discover the source of the aroma; it was a young man in a hooded sweatshirt, making his way down Sunset Boulevard. He walked with remarkable confidence for being on his own at two o’clock in the morning. Felix grinned. He liked the confident ones; their shock when confronted with the likes of him was always amusing.

He raced ahead of the young man with superhuman swiftness, jumping in front of him with his fangs bared. Felix loved this part, right before the attack—the moment when human confusion and animal terror mixed together as his victim realized their fate. Any moment now, he would scream. Or at least, he would try to. By then it would be too late.

The young man jumped and inhaled sharply at Felix’s sudden appearance. But once he’d given Felix a good once-over, he let out his breath in a relieved puff. There was no screaming, no futile attempt to flee or freezing in terror. In fact, it was Felix who froze in place, confused by the young man’s strange reaction.

As Felix tried to gather his wits to think of what to do next, the young man brushed past him and continued on. Felix shook himself out of his muddle. He brought a hand up to his mouth, feeling to make sure his fangs were still bared. They were. Perhaps the young man hadn’t seen him clearly; the lighting here was particularly poor, and mortal vision was not very good.

He zipped ahead of the young man and jumped out at him again, making sure he was directly under a streetlight. He raised his arms and hissed for good measure.

“You can stop doing that,” the young man said. “I’m not afraid of you.”

“Oh really?” Felix sneered, although in honesty he was taken aback. “We’ll see if your bravery lasts when I sink my fangs into your yielding flesh!”

He attempted to pounce, but nothing happened. He tried again, but his limbs just wouldn’t cooperate. As he stood there in confusion, the young man stepped around him and continued walking.

Once Felix had collected himself, he set out after the young man again, this time trotting beside him. The young man paid him no attention.

“Have you put a spell on me?”

“No.”

“Then why can’t I attack you?”

“Because I’m not afraid of you,” he said. He wasn’t even looking at Felix. “Vampires can only attack people who fear them.”

Felix scoffed. “That can’t be true.”

“Think about it. Can you ever remember a time when a potential victim wasn’t afraid of you?”

“Not that I recall.”

“Then if you only ever confronted people who were afraid of you, how would you have found out you couldn’t attack someone who wasn’t?”

Felix turned that over in his mind. It did make a certain amount of sense.

They continued to walk together. Felix tried to startle him a few more times, hoping it would raise enough fear for Felix to strike, but it didn’t work. The young man’s face remained expressionless, as if Felix weren’t even there. He was a remarkably good-looking fellow, with sandy-blond hair and blue eyes. He was so pleasant to look at that Felix eventually ceased his efforts to frighten him in favor of simply gazing at him. His sweatshirt was not zipped all the way, but the T-shirt underneath was too baggy to give even a suggestion of the body it concealed. He wished the young man would take it off, or at the very least remove the hood.

After some time, they came to an apartment building. The young man approached one of the doors on the first floor. “Well, I would say it was nice meeting you, but it wasn’t, really,” he said as he took out his keys. “Good night.” He unlocked his door.

Felix blocked the door with his body, preventing the young man from entering. “You’ve led me straight to where you live,” he said in his scariest voice. “I could strike when you least expect it, in your very home. Certainly that will frighten you enough for me to attack!”

“Vampires can’t enter a home unless you invite them. Did you really think I wouldn’t know that?”

Felix scowled. “How do you know all this?”

“None of your business. Now unless you want to stand around here until dawn, get your hand off my door and go away.”

“Maybe I do want to stand around here,” Felix said. “You can’t make me leave.”

The young man rolled his eyes. “Fine.” He leaned on the wall a few steps away from the door and took a pack of cigarettes and a silver lighter out of the pocket of his hooded sweatshirt. He perched a cigarette between his pink lips and lit it.

Felix remained where he was. The young man didn’t even spare him a glance as he smoked his cigarette, gazing instead at the smoke as it left his lips and dissipated into the night air. Felix felt annoyed; surely he was more interesting than a cloud of smoke!

“Why are you out alone so late?” Felix asked. “While you may not be afraid of vampires, you are still vulnerable to mortal attackers.” An idea flashed through Felix’s mind. “What if I got a gun? Would you be afraid of me then?”

The young man rolled his eyes again. “Why are you so intent on killing me?”

“I don’t want to kill you. I want to drink your blood.”

“And that’s not the same thing?”

Felix had to think about it. “No, I don’t think it is,” he said. “It’s true that my victims swoon, but I’m fairly certain they survive.”

The young man raised an eyebrow. “You don’t know for sure?”

“There isn’t much reason for me to linger after I’ve fed, is there?”

“I guess not.” He took another long drag of his cigarette. “So why do you want to drink my blood? You’ve already fed tonight.”

Felix looked at him with surprise. “How did you know that?”

“You’ve got blood on your chin.”

Felix wiped his face with the hand that wasn’t holding the door shut. Sure enough, it came away red. “Doesn’t that make you feel at least a little scared?” he asked plaintively.

The young man finished his cigarette with one final inhale, dropped the butt on the street, and then stubbed it out with his toe. “Sorry to say, but it takes a lot to make me feel anything at all.” He pulled out his pack of cigarettes again and took another one. “Would you like one?”

The young man offered the pack and his lighter. Felix stared at the cigarettes and then back at his face. The young man put his hand forward farther. “Go on. Take one.”

Felix frowned, wondering at the young man’s sudden generosity. John stood just out of reach, so Felix had to step closer to him to accept the pack and the lighter. Felix’s fingers brushed over the skin of the young man’s hand. It was so warm.

“Thank you,” Felix said, a little dazed.

“No problem.” The young man’s smile was dazzling.

Felix smiled back and turned his attention to the pack of cigarettes, pulling one out and readying the lighter—

—and then, quick as lightning, the young man slipped inside his apartment and slammed the door shut behind him.

Goddamnit!” Felix shouted after him, pounding on the door. “Come back out here!”

There was no answer. Felix stomped around in a circle, cursing. Once he composed himself, he went back to the door. “Well, I’m keeping your cigarettes! And your lighter! And you’ll never get them back!”

This also failed to get a response. Felix examined the lighter. On one side there was a figure etched into the metal: a dragon, or a demon. Some mythical creature, at any rate. On the other side, there was an engraving: To John. Love, Rob.

A gift, then. Perhaps he could use its sentimental nature to his advantage. “I really mean it!” he shouted. “I’ll throw this lighter in the sewer!”

Still no response.

With a huff, he zipped away. His preternatural speed meant he only had to travel a few moments before he reached the estate in Beverly Hills where he resided with his sister, Cat, and her husband, Richard. The sprawling wrought iron gates were shut, but unlike the young man’s closed door, the gates posed no barrier to him. He launched himself upward and over the curled letters that spelled out the name of the estate: HAPPY ENDINGS. Under it was the image of a boar, cast in iron. The sign’s rusted state made the promise of the words ring a bit false. Nevertheless, it was the only home he had, and he had no desire to meet the dawn.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Sera Trevor is terminally curious and views the thirty-five book limit at her local library as a dare. She’s a little bit interested in just about everything, which is probably why she can’t pin herself to one subgenre. Her books are populated with dragons, vampire movie stars, shadow people, and internet trolls. (Not in the same book, obviously, although that would be interesting!) Her works have been nominated for several Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards, including Best Contemporary, Best Fantasy, and Best Debut, for which she won third prize in 2015 for her novella Consorting with Dragons.

She lives in California with her husband, two kids, and a cat the size of three cats. You can keep up with her new releases and gain access to bonus content by signing up for her newsletter.

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11/27 The Blogger Girls

11/27 Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

11/27 Bayou Book Junkie

11/27 Love Bytes

11/28 The Novel Approach

11/28 Divine Magazine

11/28 Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews

11/29 Stories That Make You Smile

11/29 Shari Sakurai

11/30 Erotica For All

11/30 Happily Ever Chapter

12/1 MM Good Book Reviews

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Review of Midnight (Dance With The Devil #3) by Megan Derr

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Rating: 5 stars

Devlin White, Duke of Winterbourne, is the last of a great line of Black Witches.  With the death of his father, his remaining siblings has renounced the black arts for white and left for the new world, only he remains to carry on the family name and glory.   He receives a request from Lord Tamor, demon lord of his land, to investigate the latest draugr sightings in the countryside just outside his territory, far more numerous than ever before.  The vampires whose territory it is refuses demon assistance, preferring that of a renown and infamous witch instead.

When Devlin accepts the mission, he decides to leave behind his beloved ward, Midnight, who he treasures above all. The reason?  Midnight is a draugr as well, a living corpse made by Devlin’s own special magic, and until White can figure out why or who has called these draugrs from the grave, he doesn’t want Midnight close to the problem or Midnight may be influenced as well.

Powerful magic is at work and the culprit clever at hiding themselves and the motives behind their actions.  When Midnight appears on the scene despite Devlin’s orders, he catches the attention of the person behind the draugr attacks.  Then the race is on to find out who is responsible for the draugrs and stop them before they take control of the one being Devlin loves, whether he knows it or not.

Midnight continues our journey through the different territories of the world that makes up The Dance With The Devil series.  Each book contains  either overlapping characters or mentions characters/beings that are central to the next  book.  Midnight’s focus is on the walking dead.  We know them as zombies.  People or beings called from the grave, animated for some or someone’s purpose.  Midnight, the character, of the title is a unique draugr, created by Devlin White himself and another sorcerer, when just a boy.  With snow white skin, blue hair, nails and eyes only to give away his status as a walking dead, he is otherwise perfection to look upon with powers of his own.  He is an innocent among evil or those to whom evil or black magic are constant companions.  Midnight is also deeply in love with Devlin and doesn’t know how to get Devlin to look at him differently.  Every aspect of Midnight will claim the reader’s compassion and instill him into our hearts, so beautifully is he realized. In Devlin White, Derr draws our attention to the witches in her universe and their companions. I loved Devlin White who continues her rolecall of aristocratic main characters.  He is elegant, wry, and aware of his status without being autocratic and  unduly harsh.  He is a wonderful construct   among many here.  I found his feelings towards Midnight especially authentic.  He has raised Midnight since he was a boy.  In the back of his mind, he wonders if his feelings toward Midnight are appropriate, if he is not taking advantage in some way of Midnights total reliance on him.  Devlin recognizes his love for Midnight, but doesn’t want to recognize at what level that love exists.  It is a touchy emotional terrain he has to navigate over and Derr does a wonderful job of helping us understand not only his frustration with their relationship but Midnight’s as well because we get to “listen” to both sides of the argument they are having with themselves and each other. Barra, his man servant, is equally memorable as he is a “wolf elf” to use the term coined by a dragon.  A mongrel who is hurt by the term and gentle in spirit. Barra is such an interesting character all by himself, made more so by his interactions with others, especially a certain knight and his dragon.

Yes, that would be dragon, and where there are dragons, there are also knights, a goblin or two, an angel, imp, vampires, and several sorcerers as well.  Derr throws the whole complement of mystical and supernatural beings at us not only in this story but the entire series.  And each and every being comes through as believable, from their actions to skin color.

Derr’s vivid description extends to her settings, where the mist lies cold upon your face, the rains soak your clothes and the fog obscures the frightening creatures hunting you.  She doesn’t just inform you of the danger but makes you feel each second of every minute of the menace and perils facing our protagonists.  She can make your heart race and your breathe quicken along with Devlin’s as he faces down one opponent after another.  Derr finds subtle ways to endear her quirky characters to you even when they are characters that exist towards the edges of the story.  There is no character or stray plot thread that can ever be considered a “throwaway” in a Derr novel.  Somehow,  someway, that fact, that character will make a reappearance and resolve a plot point you hadn’t considered before.

Midnight is a solid 5 star story in the middle of a wonderful 5 star series.  Megan Derr really deserves such a larger audience for her stories and her talent, both of which encompasses many gifts as well as wild and wonderful elements. From supernatural detectives, a bar where everyone knows your name even if it be mystical in nature, action/adventure stories as told by demons and love lorn vampires, there is something for everyone here.  Start at the beginning or start here.  Just don’t let this series or this book pass you by!

The Dance With The Devil Series.  The first two especially should be read in order:

Dance With The Devil (DWTD #1) – see my review here.

Dance In The Dark (DWTD #2) – see my review here.

Ruffskin (DWTD#4) – see my review here (the switch in order is intentional)

Midnight (DWTD#3)

 

Cover.  The cover by London Burden is just outstanding.  Simple, elegant and with a cohesive design for the entire series.  I love it.

Review of Dance With The Devil (Dance With The Devil #1) by Megan Derr

Standard

Rating: 4.5 stars

Chris White is a detective with a unique caseload and an even stranger group of clients. Or it would be unique if Chris wasn’t a detective of the supernatural in a City ruled by a storm demon.  And as for Chris White himself?  Well, he’s not exactly a normal either.  The son of a black witch and a ghost, he can become transparent and walk through solid objects, an ability that comes in handy if you are a detective. Doug, a free imp is his friend and co detective, a situation that came about from one of Chris’ first cases.  No case is refused, whether it be a missing normal, a sleeping alchemist who won’t wake up, a runaway vampire, warlock in search of a book, a frightened goblin and a demon lord with one interest, that of Christ White himself.

Megan Derr just keeps the terrific reads coming, one captivating book after another.  Dance With The Devil is the first book in the Dance With The Devil series and introduces us to Christ White, supernatural detective,the demon Lord, Cadfael, also known as Sable Brennus whose consort just happens to be Chris White, and all the denizens of the storm demon’s territory and neighboring lands.  I loved the structure of this book.  Instead of chapters, Derr gives us case files from the White’s Detective Agency.  The lower the case file  number, the earlier in the time line of the  book which starts at Case #503, which is present day with Chris already Sable Brennus’ Consort and Doug, a full grown imp, a friend and co detective.  They are looking for the daughter of a missing “normal” friend of Sable’s.  The next case? In another book, it would be a flashback but here it is Case No. 37-Devoured which brings Chris into his first contact with the storm demon ruling the city and our first look at the beginnings of their relationship. And so the book continues, after each case in present time, we get the characters backstory in a case from their past.  Case load by case load, we gather together the histories of the beings we meet and the social structure of the world they live in.  I loved this element. Already a mystery addict, this was a story construct that had me glued to the pages from the very first sentence.

The dimensions here are not only in the demon worlds, but in the characters created for the story.  I loved Chris White and his unusual family and backstory.  Even in a world full of supernatural creatures, he was still a small boy made fun of at school because of his ghostly half nature.  Chris, with his determination to take care of those in need, even if he doesn’t like them very much, is a honorable, if prickly Knight in jeans and leather jacket.  And the Woods, a section of town he lives in with all the other marginal creatures trying to get through every day, is so vividly described right down to the sad sack buildings and structures long past their glory days full of victims and predators is easily visualized by the reader. Doug is worthy of our sympathy for his beginnings and our delight in a knowledgeable, lonely being craving a love that he believes will never be his. Then there is Phil, Philipa actually, who starts out as a victim who dusts off her Louboutins (or the demon world’s equivalent) to become so much more than she started out to be.  One after another, memorable characters march into view to capture our hearts and tether our hopes to their efforts at achieving self worth, companionship and love.

And at the end of the book, I wanted more, much, much more! Dagnabbit! At 146 pages, it was just too short for me.  Happily, there are other books in this series which I have listed below and will review in the order they were written.  Next up?  Dancing in the Dark (Dance With The Devil #2).  Look for it coming soon.  Until then, it’s back to Case No. 629 and Phil’s first case!  That’s right, Philipa became a detective, ok a junior one, and got involved with a goblin….well, you just have to get the book and find out for yourself.  Trust me, you will love it!

Dance with the Devil (Dance with the Devil #1)

Dance In The Dark (Dance with the Devil #2)

Midnight (Dance with the Devil #3)

Ruffskin (Dance with the Devil #4)

Sword of the King (Dance with the Devil #5)

I like this cover but the rest of the series has a uniform format and design that I find much more appealing. London Burden is the cover designer and does just an outstanding job with Megan Derr’s series.