Be Your Valentine with Xara X. Xanakas

February 10, 2016

It’s that time again. Valentines’ Day. Chalky hearts, boxes of chocolates, flowers. Commercials hawking the perfect piece of jewellery. Restaurants featuring special, guaranteed romantic meals. If you’re anything like me, you’re already over it. Don’t get me wrong, I love romance. It’s just… a bit much. Cram an entire year’s worth of wining and dining into one day, and do it bigger than the next person.

If you have someone special in your life, for the love of Dog, don’t wait for that one day to show them. Make sure they know, every day, that you love them. That you’re there for them. That they’re it for you. Why not go different this year? Here’s a few ideas to get you started.

http://www.yourtango.com/201167466/9-unconventional-valentines-day-ideas

http://www.details.com/story/8-clich-busting-valentines-day-ideas

http://indexdigital.co.uk/10-top-alternative-valentines-day-ideas/

http://www.cheapism.com/blog/4101/what-to-do-for-valentines-day

http://www.refinery29.com/alternative-valentines-day-ideas

http://www.buzzfeed.com/mallorymcinnis/you-repulse-me-the-least#.gbZKrjY4l

 

You may find yourself at a Singles Party, helpfully set up by one of your Valentine’s loving friends. Make sure you’re prepared:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/compost/wp/2013/02/14/the-top-20-grammatical-pick-up-lines-for-valentines-day/

http://www.pickuplinesgalore.com/valentinesday.html

https://pickupline.net/holiday-themed-pick-up-lines/valentines-day-pick-up-lines/

http://www.gotlines.com/lines/cheesy.php

 

If you know someone who is staunchly Anti-Valentines, here’s some gifts you could surprise them with. Maybe you’ll make a convert out of them.

http://giftcanyon.com/anti-valentines-gifts/

http://www.buzzfeed.com/jennaguillaume/down-with-v-day#.mdBrQ0MgJ

http://nerdist.com/6-movies-for-people-who-hate-valentines-day/

http://www.oddee.com/item_97438.aspx

http://www.hexjam.com/uk/news/9-incredible-anti-valentine-s-day-presents

 

If you don’t have someone, then take the day to spoil the one person you absolutely cannot live without: YOURSELF. Be as selfish as you want. You deserve it, just as much as the next couple. Here’s some tips:

http://toomuchonherplate.com/10-selfcare-tips-valentines-day/

http://www.yourtango.com/experts/kanya-daley/3-things-you-must-do-if-you-re-single-valentine-s-day

https://thegirlwhoknows.com/be-your-own-valentine/

 

Don’t let some marketer’s idea of ‘romantic’ make the rules for your life. So what if your Valentines doesn’t look like the idealized versions they wave in your face. Only you have the right to define what works for you.

 

~xXx~

Wild Foxes, Hampshire Woods and London Grammar with Lane Swift – Post + Giveaway

February 10, 2016

Wild Foxes, Hampshire Woods and London Grammar

Hi! I’m Lane Swift, and I’m excited to be able to share some of the things that inspired the writing of my newly-released novella, Dormant Heart.

About a year ago, someone on my Facebook feed linked to an article posted on “We The Urban,” a Tumblr account dedicated to fashion and art, showcasing the photography of Katerina Plotnikova.

The photographs were amazing. Plotinikova had photographed models in fairytale-like poses with various animals, from foxes to bears to snakes. They were romantic and utterly compelling. A friend of mine, similarly moved, left a comment on the Facebook post along the lines of, “I need the story! Except with a man, and he can’t speak.”

Check out the photographs here!

I don’t know what possessed me to think I could write that story, except that I had building work going on in my house at the time, and I was stressed, and looking for a light-hearted project to work on. In the end, that obscure plot bunny became Dormant Heart and it turned out rather deeper and more emotional than I thought it would.

It was an easy decision to set Dormant Heart in the woods on the South Downs, which are a few miles from where I live in Hampshire, in the south of England, and somewhere that I regularly cross-country run. England is a small country, and it might be hard to believe that it’s possible to get lost in our tiny stretches of countryside. Believe me, it is. Only last weekend, I got lost in the woods on a run and ended up trespassing on a country estate, in the middle of a shooting range, a field away from a huge herd of deer!

Once I had the setting, Josh had to have a reason for being lost in the woods with a camera. That was as much as I had of a plan!

I’d intended to write a short story, 20k words maximum, told entirely from Josh’s point of view. But as Callum started to evolve as a character, I realized he needed a “voice,” so to speak. So, the second half of the story was written from Callum’s point of view, and the word count went up to 30k. Then my first reader told me that I’d ended the story too soon—and there were other scenes that needed more detail. By the end, this short story had grown into a novella of 50k words. Almost a novel! All that, through banging and drilling and regular interruptions for cups of tea and biscuits (English builders really do need to be fed and watered every couple of hours).

DormantHeartFS

Ordinarily, I like to work in silence. However, I always, always make a playlist for whatever story I’m writing, and use it to get me into a mood, or zone. I might play the music while I’m running, or doing things like driving, housework or cooking. For Dormant Heart, I listened almost exclusively to London Grammar, particularly their songs, “Hey Now” (the live KEXP version on Youtube is stunning), “Wasting My Young Years” and “Night Call” (a Kavinsky cover).

I like a wide variety of music, from many eras, and usually my playlists feature at least ten or fifteen songs, each from different artists. But London Grammar’s songs seemed to completely capture the mood of this story, most especially Callum’s mental state. I have no doubt that in this instance, the music definitely shaped the direction the story took, and inspired its overall tone. Again, this wasn’t what I was expecting to happen. London Grammar’s musical style isn’t one I usually listen to—it’s described as ambient or trip hop (don’t ask me to explain what that is!). Nonetheless, I haven’t tired of their sound, despite the hundreds, maybe thousands, of times I’ve listened to their songs since April last year.

(I did also listen to Don Henley’s song, “Boys of Summer” more than several times. You’ll find out why if you read the story!)

***

What about you? I’d love for you to tell me about a song that has inspired or inspires you, and in what way. Leave your answer in a comment before 14th February for a chance to win a $10 credit for Dreamspinner Press.

***

Check out Dormant Heart here!

Blurb:

Amateur photographer Josh Thornton is out but not so proud. He’s estranged from his family, his boyfriend dumped him, and his job at an estate agency is in jeopardy—especially after he crashes his boss’s car in the middle of nowhere on his way to Hartley Manor.

Callum Black works at the English country estate and lives there in an isolated cottage. Left mute by a childhood accident, he’s more comfortable in the company of animals than people. But when Josh—literally—crashes into his life with his camera and his friendship, Callum realizes his peaceful solitude has been more than a little lonely.

Josh’s affection for Callum deepens even as he’s consumed by doubts over Callum’s sexuality and whether Callum could ever love him. And Callum is haunted by the secret that stole his voice—a secret that keeps him tethered to Hartley Manor. When the past comes hurtling painfully back into the present, Josh and Callum have to overcome their fears and breathe life back into their dormant hearts in order to have a chance at their own picture-perfect future.

 

You can find out more about me, Lane Swift, at:

Website: http://laneswift.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lane.swift.9

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LaneSwift

Or you can email me at mrslaneswift@gmail.com

 

Whippersnapper: My First Southern Novel by Michael Rupured

January 29, 2016

Whippersnapper- My First Southern Novel

Hey y’all! Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Michael Rupured, author of Whippersnapper—a new release from Dreamspinner Press. I’m mighty pleased to meet you.

I was born in North Carolina, grew up in Kentucky, and for going on twenty years now, have called Georgia my home. Whether by accident or design, a touch of Southern flavors everything I write. Whippersnapper reeks of the stuff.

My earlier books aren’t all that Southern. A desire to show how much gay life has changed in my lifetime motivated me to write them. The semi-historical stories take place in Washington, DC and New York City. Though below the Mason-Dixon line, diehard Confederates haven’t considered DC a Southern city since the War of Northern Aggression.

Writing about real people, places, and events created a lot of extra work and stress. Concern about getting things right kept me awake at night. After Happy Independence Day, I wanted to write something less constrained by matters of fact.

Mom suggested a funny story. She’s my biggest fan and has enjoyed the humor sprinkled throughout my previous novels. The multi-talented Charlie Cochet suggested a contemporary story about a May-December romance where the older guy talks about how things have changed. The more I thought about it, the more the idea appealed to me. Whippersnapper was born.

Whippersnapper is a contemporary story set in Fallisville, Kentucky—a fictional town midway between Lexington and Cincinnati. None of the characters are real people. Making everything up made Whippersnapper the most fun I’ve had with a writing project since a college creative writing class I took forty years ago.

Two gay men see each other at the gym. Crotchety Oliver Crumbly is set in his ways and bitter after a string of failed relationships. Tellumo Magnamater has a thing for older men and likes what he sees in Oliver. Unfortunately, Tellumo exemplifies everything Oliver hates about the younger generation.

Peggy Tucker also sees Tellumo and Oliver at the gym, but she has no idea they are gay. Determined to marry again, Peggy sets her sights on Oliver, one of the few eligible bachelors in Fallisville.

The premise still cracks me up.

I should clarify that Whippersnapper is NOT an MMF story. Tellumo might be open to the idea, but Oliver wouldn’t stand for it, and Peggy—an active member of the Trinity Baptist Church, for Christ’s sake—has never been that kind of girl.

Do our three protagonists find love? Who lives happily ever after? I’m not telling. To find out, you’ll have to read the book. Tellumo, Oliver, and Peggy will show you around Fallisville, introduce you to their friends and family, and fill you in on the rest of the story.

An appropriate setting is one of many characteristics of the Southern novel. Fallisville fits the bill. What else do you expect to see in a Southern novel? Leave your answer in a comment for a chance to win a $10 credit from Dreamspinner Press.

Find out more about me and my books at http://rupured.com. Connect via Twitter (@crotchetyman), on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMichaelRupured/), or by email (mrupured@gmail.com).

Whippersnapper

 

Check out Whippersnapper today!

Finding the Fairy in Fairytales with Joe Cosentino

January 27, 2016

Finding the Fairy in Fairytale

Hi, fairytale lovers, this is Joe Cosentino taking over the Dreamspinner Press blog. Don’t worry, they let me do it. You might have read my three novellas from Dreamspinner Press, AN INFATUATION (winner of Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Poll Award for 2nd Place for Favorite MM Novel of the Year!), A SHOOTING STAR, and A HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS. I’m here with you to talk about my current novella releasing today (Happy Release Day!), THE NAKED PRINCE AND OTHER TALES FROM FAIRYLAND.

The Naked Prince cover

I had terrible insomnia as a kid, and my older (sorry, sis) sister read fairytales to me at night so I would finally go to sleep. It worked! And it still works today! Except I read them to myself now to fall asleep. I know what you’re thinking. How can those sometimes violent, sexist, dark stories relax you to sleep? I was and still am totally transported by those magical tales of common people defying the odds, struggling through misfortune, surviving abuse, and ending up with their one true love—often a prince or princess in a palace! The likeable characters, witty dialogue, creative plot twists and turns, stunning illustrations, sense of wonderment, high drama, and of course happily ever after endings still make me cheer (and obviously konk out at night). I wanted (and still do) to live in those quaint mountain villages, rub elbows (and other things) with those charming princes, outsmart the witches and top 1%ers, and live happily ever after in those palaces. So my sister and I wrote, directed, choreographed, and costumes elaborate musical fairytales for our very patient family and neighbors. No ten million-dollar Broadway budget for us. Our parents’ card-table, bedsheets, blankets, robes, coats, serving bowls, and wooden spoons were all we needed for our audience to enter fairyland.

After college I continued playing make believe as a professional actor including acting in fairytale-like productions such as Roar of the Greasepaint on stage with Nathan Lane, A Midsummer Night’s Dream onstage with Bruce Willis, and the ABC-TV Afterschool Special My Mother Was Never a Kid with Holland Taylor. I also wrote and directed musical plays for professional touring theatre companies, many based on fairytales like The Princess and the Pea, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, Aladdin, The Emperor’s New Clothes, and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

As such a lover of fairytales I often wondered why there are no gay characters in them! Okay, Prince Charming does seem a little gay. Peter Pan may have a thing for the captain’s hook. And I have my suspicions about what the seven dwarves really did with the Woodsman in the woods. Yet there are no openly gay characters or same-sex romances in fairytales. I had my hopes up when Disney and other companies produced Broadway musicals and movies based on fairytales. But no luck. When openly gay celebrities like Chris Coffer wrote fairytale books, again I assumed the breakthrough would come. Alas, that wasn’t the case. Surely there are some gay people in fairyland! Why don’t we read about them?

As a writer, my imagination kicked into gear, and I started thinking about my favorite fairytales. Why couldn’t a poor boy living with his stepmother and stepsisters fall in love with a handsome prince? Couldn’t a blond boy who was thrown out of his home for being gay seek shelter with three bears? What was Pinocchio’s growing appendage really about? Did Jack and the Giant do more up there on the beanstalk than they let on? And could the Snow Queen be a tantalizing, smooth-faced prince with a cold heart?

So I wrote four humorous, romantic, adventurous, touching, and definitely gay tales from Fairyland for THE NAKED PRINCE AND OTHER TALES FROM FAIRYLAND. “The Naked Prince” is a different take on the Cinderella story. Cinder, a poor and beautiful young man who designs clothing, makeup, and hair for his stepmother and stepsisters, offers his clothing and slippers to a naked stranger in the woods who turns out to be none other than Prince Charming. Will Cinder and Prince Charming confront their manipulative mothers, bring equality to the kingdom, find themselves, and find one another? In “The Golden Rule,” when he is caught with nimble Jack, eighteen-year-old Gideon Golden is thrown out of his home in Fairyland by his homophobic parents. With nowhere else to go, he breaks into the home of three men living on Bear Mountain. Bo and Butch enjoy having a young roommate, but Ben isn’t convinced. Will Gideon and Ben make vinegar or honey? “Whatever Happened To … ?” takes place on Christmas Eve. A reporter living on Andersen Lane interviews a celebrity for the Queen Newspaper series, “What Ever Happened To … .” Friction ensues between the celebrity with the growing appendage who can’t tell fact from fiction, and the reporter who has a thing for giants. Eventually a romantic spark is lit between the two as Christmas Day arrives, and they realize they have more in common than living in Fairyland. Finally in “Ice Cold,” after losing their families during the great ice storm in the northernmost kingdom of Fairyland, young Gaelen and Kieran pledged their love for one another. When Isidore rides into Frost Village on his elaborate sleigh, Kieran follows the handsome prince to his castle in the Arctic Kingdom, where Kieran becomes Isidore’s bewitched slave. This leads Gaelen on an amazing adventure to find his true love and melt his frozen heart.

So if you’re a fairytale lover like me, or even if you aren’t, I think you will enjoy these very gay fairytales. Maybe movie studios will finally take notice, and realize the most entertaining inhabitants of fairyland are the fairies.

***

I hope you enjoyed my blog post. Now it’s YOUR turn. Write a comment about your favorite fairytale. Why do you love it? What’s gay about it? After seventy-two hours I will choose the comment that tickles my Fairyland dust the most and the winner will receive a gift e-book of my hit novella from Dreamspinner Press, AN INFATUATION (soon to be partnered with A SHOOTING STAR for a paperback version releasing March 21!). Thanks for reading my blog post. I’m looking forward to reading your comments!

***

An excerpt from THE NAKED PRINCE AND OTHER TALES FROM FAIRYLAND:

 

As was his custom, Cinder sat at the fireplace, lit a candle, and placed his pet mouse from the jar onto his lap. He closed his eyes and asked his fathers to help him get to the ball to give his stepsister her missing apparel for her dance with the prince. Suddenly the flame of the candle flickered, and Cinder heard his fathers’ voices. Cinder’s father Maxwell, told him how much he missed him. Cinder’s other father, Mortimer, reminded Maxwell that he missed Cinder too. Maxwell explained to Cinder that he was safe and happy in the other world. Mortimer interjected that Maxwell should not forget that Mortimer was safe and happy in the other world with Maxwell. It was the most comforting moment of Cinder’s life, except for meeting the young man in the meadow.

Maxwell then said, “Cinder, my son, whom I love more than anything in all creation, your fathers have been granted one night, and one night only, with the power to help you. And we have chosen this night.”

“Tell our boy what we are going to do for him,” said Cinder’s other father Mortimer.

Maxwell explained that Cinder would attend the prince’s ball.

Cinder could not believe what he was hearing. At first he thought it was a dream, but no dream could ever be so wonderful. Knowing his stepsister must be heartbroken without her hat and bag, Cinder hoped he could get them to her before she danced with the prince.

“Tell Cinder the stipulation, Maxwell.”

“I was just about to do that, Mortimer.” Then Maxwell said to Cinder with tenderness in his voice, “My son—”

“He’s my son too, Maxwell,” added Cinder’s other father.

After taking a calming breath, Maxwell continued. “Our son, the great force has granted me—”

Mortimer cleared his throat.

“Has granted us the special power to send you to the prince’s ball, but the power will last for one night only. At the stroke of midnight, everything will return back to the way it was.”

Cinder was incredibly grateful to his fathers. He wanted more than anything to tell them how much he loved them and to ask them so many questions, including whether they could help him see the young man from the meadow again. But before Cinder could speak, a slight breeze grazed his cheek. The breeze grew slowly and steadily in intensity and finally became a gust of wind as Cinder’s burlap clothing magically transformed into an exquisite powder blue suit, ruffled shirt, and handkerchief. Cinder looked down at his feet and noticed the mouse’s pickling jar had been transformed into handsome glass slippers. The wind continued to grow until it threw open the cottage door, carrying a pumpkin from the root vegetable bin and Cinder’s pet mouse with it. Cinder hurried outside and marveled as the pumpkin turned into a stunning gold coach and the pet mouse expanded into a handsome coachman. The squirrel, chipmunk, rabbit, and blue jay frolicked in the wind until they became four striking white horses.

***

Purchase Links:

Dreamspinner Press

Amazon

ARe

 

Links to Joe Cosentino:

Web site: http://www.JoeCosentino.weebly.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/JoeCosentinoauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JoeCosen

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4071647.Joe_Cosentino

Amazon: Author.to/JoeCosentino

 

Just a Little Bit Snowy with Andrew Grey #dreamer

January 25, 2016

This month’s post is going to be short and sweet.  Dominic and I have just spent most of the day digging out some 30 inches of snow that fell during winter storm Jonas.  Yesterday I shoveled from the front porch to the street and today we dug out the cars. A neighbor helped by snowblowing the sidewalk.  So right now, without a doubt I am dreaming of someplace warm and absolutely no snow.  I am already sick of snow and wish it would all go away and spring would arrive.  I’m attaching a picture of just how much snow we got.  I actually measured in multiple places and came up with just over 30 inches, two and a half feet of snow.  My back aches and my legs hurt.  Ok I know, that’s enough complaining.  But right now I am dreaming of blue skies, sand, surf, and scantily dressed cabana boys bringing drinks while I sleep under a thatched room on an island deep in the Caribbean.  All I can say right now is come on spring.

IMG_0353

Andrew Grey: Andrew grew up in western Michigan with a father who loved to tell stories and a mother who loved to read them. Since then he has lived throughout the country and traveled throughout the world. He has a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and now writes full time.

Andrew’s hobbies include collecting antiques, gardening, and leaving his dirty dishes anywhere but in the sink (particularly when writing)  He considers himself blessed with an accepting family, fantastic friends, and the world’s most supportive and loving partner. Andrew currently lives in beautiful, historic Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Check out Andrew Grey’s books here!

What Inspired Yesterday by Mickie B. Ashling – Post + Giveaway

January 22, 2016

What Inspired Yesterday

Hi, everyone!

I’m here to celebrate the release of my latest novel, Yesterday, a period piece set in Karachi, Pakistan. You’re probably wondering how or why I chose this locale. A writer’s brain is a weird and unpredictable part of our anatomy (at least mine is). It can draw inspiration from memories buried so far back in our subconscious we don’t even realize they exist—until a prompt comes along. It can be anything from a song to a smell, but once it’s unleashed, there’s no stopping the ideas from flowing. This is the magical part of writing I love. In the case of Yesterday, my trigger was a photo I’d unearthed while cleaning out my closets in preparation for my latest move from one suburb to another.

Yesterday Front

Several decades ago, before the Middle East was a tinderbox, and the most dangerous thing about traveling to that region of the world was heatstroke, my stepfather was assigned to a business posting in Karachi, Pakistan. Much like my character, Grady Ormond, I wasn’t thrilled by the prospect. The thought of spending any amount of time (I was also on break between high school and college) in a desert climate with no friends, other than my sister, and very little understanding of the culture or language, wasn’t my idea of a good time. I’d left a boyfriend behind as well, and in those days, there was no social media to keep us in touch. We had to resort to letter writing, something I didn’t mind, but he wasn’t too keen on the idea. Separation was bad enough, but imagining worst-case scenarios (cheating etc.) was depressing. I was stuck trying to figure out positive ways to keep my overactive mind in check. There was always reading, but since romance was my favorite genre and every bodice-ripper had a jealousy arc, I ignored the paperbacks in favor of exploration.

At the time, I didn’t know Pakistan was a melting pot of faiths and cultures. Having been occupied at one time or another by different empires—India, Persia, Turkey, Arabia, Mongolia, and Great Britain—it’s ethnically and linguistically diverse. The religion is primarily Islam, but when I was there, it wasn’t uncommon to have Hindus and Christians living side by side. The political atmosphere was very different in those days and foreigners could walk the streets without worrying about suicide bombers or being kidnapped.

We played it safe the first week, joining other expats at the American Club, lazing in the sun, and sampling the different varieties of food. I ignored hot dogs and hamburgers and reached for the Chicken Tikka instead, falling in love with the new flavors from the very bland to the tongue-scorching vindaloo.

The next week our parents allowed us to explore the city (with a guide), and our first stop was the Empress Market. Hypnotized by the exotic, I tried on bangles, earrings, scarves, and necklaces. Shopkeepers showed me how to turn lovely gold-threaded fabric into a sari, and I insisted on wearing one over my shorts and T-shirt, adding to the fun by parading up and down the aisles in my new outfit. We bought hand-tooled slippers, admired the colorful pottery and metal work, tiptoed warily around the animal cages, praying none of the cobras would leap out of their baskets, and I ate more street food than was smart. It was a magical place and I tried to share some of my exploits through the voice of my character, Grady.

There was a French girl I befriended at the club. She was older than me and much more sophisticated. Her English was terrible and my French was atrocious, but we managed to communicate. She eloped with her Pakistani boyfriend while I was there, and they lived in a tiny apartment with hardly any furniture. His parents were against the marriage so they made do with very little. At the time, I thought it was romantic as hell to live on love and not much else. I was pretty clueless in those days. Her husband was tall and very good looking, made even more attractive by his Brit accent and his impeccable manners. He was always dressed in a long white tunic and flowing pants, the salwar kameez I describe in my novel. In truth, a lot of Prince Kamran’s physicality was modeled after this man who made quite an impression.

Through our new friends, we were introduced to other people our age. I went out on a few innocent lunch dates with an Iranian student who shared interesting facts about his country and culture. He was very nice and I would have probably given some serious thought to his tentative advances if not for the fact that I had a boyfriend back home. I thought of him often when Iran was going through its political turmoil.

We learned that Pakistani beaches were famous for green turtle migrations.   One such beach, Hawks Bay, was twenty kilometers from the city, and my sister and I were invited to observe this phenomenon firsthand. Here’s a short excerpt from the novel that describes Grady’s evening.

***

Excerpt:

The turtle experience was as fascinating as I’d hoped, except for the buzzing mosquitoes determined to eat me alive. What made it worse was that I was the only one who was sweet enough to be targeted by the bloodsuckers. After a certain point, I resigned myself to being a lumpy mess by the time we got back on the yacht. Hopefully one of my companions would produce some home remedy to get rid of the itch and red spots.

Gus stayed on the yacht, but Jon came along to navigate the dingy, which was parked on the sand where we could see it but not in the pathway of the turtles. It was quite a hike from sand to sea, and I could understand how a lot of the hatchlings would fall into the mouths of predators before reaching their goal. It looked like a marathon crawl from where we were hiding, but they’d been doing this for centuries, and when they started to move, they came out in droves. One minute the sand was smooth and bare and the next covered with moving amniotes raring to go home. The moon was doing its job that night, shining brightly on the water to guide the little critters to the deep. I was pretty stoked with the idea of capturing something like this on film. Kam watched for a while but got bored midway and fell asleep. It was past midnight, and we’d had a long and emotional day. Jon was beside me, though, handing me whatever I needed to make sure I got it all on film.

Several hours later, everything stopped. The sand looked like a blanket of silk again, and the whole experience felt like a dream. The moon was starting to wane, and soon the sun would be rising, which was probably what put everything to a grinding halt. We shook Kam awake and made it back to the yacht without any problems. Back on board, I stripped and stood under the shower for as long as possible, trying to find some relief. My arms and legs were covered in red splotches. My torso was fine, thank the Lord, but the rest of me looked like I had a bad case of hives or measles. I popped a couple of aspirin when I got out of the shower and went up to the galley hoping Gus could recommend something to make it go away.

He took one look at me, mumbled a few choice words in Italian, removed a big bottle of vinegar from the pantry, and poured it on my skin. I howled like a banshee, but after a few minutes the pain subsided and so did the itch.

***

As it turned out, my summer in Karachi gave me a new appreciation and awareness of a previously unknown section of the world. The knowledge I gained at that time has stayed with me through the years, and the savory cuisine from that part of the world remains on my list of favorites.

The world has changed a lot since then. Good people who fall into a certain demographic are automatically shunned or condemned because of the radicals in their faith whose sole purpose is to stir up hate and dissent. As a writer, I’ve never shied away from including characters and situations as diverse and interesting as the people I’ve met in my life.  I hope you have an opportunity to pick up a copy of Yesterday, a love story between two very different men who dare to take a chance.

Answer any of the questions I’ve posed in italics, and your name will go into the drawing for a $15.00 DSP Gift Certificate. The winner will be chosen in three days.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation totally out of your control?

Do you like food from the Middle East? What’s your favorite dish?

Ever see a live cobra outside of a cage?  

Have you ever been attracted to someone you can’t have?

Would you travel to an exotic locale if given a chance? If so, where?

Do you enjoy stories with diverse characters?

Blurb

In June of 1978 Grady Ormond, eighteen-year-old son of diplomat Peter Ormond, accompanies his father to his new posting as US Ambassador to Pakistan. Neighboring Iran is on the brink of a civil war, with the monarchy in danger of being overthrown.

Grady will be leaving for New York City in late August to study cinematography and has been warned to keep his homosexual orientation tightly under wraps while on vacation. Repercussions in the predominantly Islamic region could be severe.

On their first night in Karachi, his father hosts a cocktail party to meet the local dignitaries. Grady is introduced to His Highness Prince Kamran Izadi, nephew of the shah of Iran. Twenty-three-year-old Kamran has recently returned from the UK, where he spent eleven years, first as a student, and then as a financial analyst.

The attraction is immediate—unforeseen and dangerously powerful—but neither one dares to make a move. Odds are so stacked against them it’s futile to even entertain a friendship, but they do, and their world tilts precariously.

With his country in turmoil and Grady about to leave for college, Kamran makes a decision that will change their lives forever.

 

Bio

Mickie B. Ashling is the pseudonym of a multifaceted woman who is a product of her upbringing in multiple cultures, having lived in Japan, the Philippines, Spain, and the Middle East. Fluent in three languages, she’s a citizen of the world and an interesting mixture of East and West. A little bit of this and a lot of that have brought a unique touch to her literary voice she could never learn from textbooks.

By the time Mickie discovered her talent for writing, real life got in the way, and the business of raising four sons took priority. With the advent of e-publishing–and the inevitable emptying nest–dreams of becoming a published writer were resurrected and she’s never looked back.

She stumbled into the world of men who love men in 2002 and continues to draw inspiration from their ongoing struggle to find equality and happiness in this oftentimes skewed and intolerant world. Her award-winning novels have been called “gut wrenching, daring, and thought provoking.” She admits to being an angst queen and making her men work damn hard for their happy endings. Mickie currently resides in a suburb outside Chicago.

Contact Info

E-MAIL: http://mickie.ashling@gmail.com

BLOG: http://mickiebashling.blogspot.com

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/mickie.ashling

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/MickieAshling

Get your copy of Yesterday now!

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All That Is Solid Melts Into Air: Writing Sequels For Fun and Aggravation with Christopher Koehler

January 22, 2016

All That Is Solid Melts Into Air-

Hello, everyone in DSP/Harmony Ink-land. Christopher Koehler here today to talk about my latest release, All That Is Solid Melts Into Air, the second installment in The Lives of Remy and Michael. I appreciate having the chance to talk about ATISMIA today. I hope you don’t mind me abbreviating the title like that, but it’s a mouthful.

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What inspired ATIS? Where did I get the idea?

Most of my books are spinoffs from earlier novels. That is, minor characters in an earlier book getting their own novel. Dreamspinner/Harmony Ink call these spin-offs. Sometimes the plot remains elusive, as in the case of Settling the Score, the fourth and final book in the original CalPac quartet, which is why Stuart’s story took so long to write. Stuart popped in and out of all the previous three novels, always the supporting character but never a protagonist until the very end. The inspiration for each novel came from Rocking the Boat, really.

I wrote First Impressions as a stand-alone, and in that case, I found inspiration in Pride and Prejudice and in my life at that time. Yes, my social life at that time resembled a Jane Austen novel, and let me tell you that was no end of fun. No joke. If life was Pride and Prejudice, my husband and I represented Mr. and Mrs. Gardner, Lizzy’s aunt and uncle, or uncle and uncle as the case may be, the sane and stable married couple. From the safe vantage point of our union, we watched the shark tank of the gay urban scene. As Austen said, for what else do we live but to make sport for our friends and laugh at them in our turn?

But for ATISMIA? This novel is a direct sequel to Poz and I’ve never written a direct sequel before. When I finished writing Poz, I was done with the story, but if you paid close attention to the final paragraphs, you could tell I wasn’t done with Remy and Michael. If you paid close attention, you might also have figured out how, at least to an extent, ATIAMIA would end, so don’t blame me for any feels you’ll have or have had. Notice how cagey I’m being? It releases today and I’m not spoiling anything. I’m evil that way.

I actually had the outline for ATISMIA underway before I finished Poz. I’d go to write something in Poz and realize that no, that was beyond the scope of Poz and needed to be told later in Remy and Michael’s lives. But wait, Christopher, I can hear you objecting from here. What if it’s much later in their lives? That’s why there’s a third book planned. You want details? You’ll have to check out my blog for details of the blog tour.

I’m evil that way, too.

So by the time I was done with Poz, I was outlining ATISMIA. By the time Harmony Ink had sent me edits for Poz, I was writing ATISMIA. The continuity is that direct, and to my regular readers I must apologize for that. You’re used to my books being more or less stand-alones. To new readers, if you go back and start with Poz, ATISMIA will make more sense. I don’t usually do this to readers. I hope you’ll bear with me, but at least Poz is on sale at Harmony Ink through January 23. Why? Because—shameless plug—the American Library Association named it to its Rainbow List for 2016.

Harmony_ALA2016_Badge_Poz

What does the title mean?

The title—All That Is Solid Melts Into Air—refers to the changes that Remy and Michael face in their lives and in their relationship throughout the novel. I felt bad for what I did to them, but not so bad that I held back. If you recognize where I lifted the title from, leave a note in the comments. There are Easter eggs littered throughout my books and no one ever calls me on them. It’s a great disappointment.

The Inevitable Soundtrack To The Book Question

I’m inevitably asked what music I listened to while I wrote a book, but before I answer it, I’m going to ask you what you listened to when you read it. Leave your replies in the comments, if you’d be so kind.

Here’s what I’m pretty sure I listened to while I wrote ATISMIA, because I failed to make a list. (Memo: Make a list for next time…anyone feel like keeping track to see if this actually happens?)

Bad Romance (Lady Gaga…I know, right?)
Cell Block Tango (“Chicago” Soundtrack)
The Killing Moon (Echo & the Bunnymen)
NYC (Interpol)
Out of My League (Fitz + The Tantrums)
Paris (Magic Man)
Summertime Sadness (Lana del Rey)
Transmission (Joy Division)
The Whole of the Moon (The Waterboys)

All of which probably explains why the book ends the way it does.

The thing is, though? I’ll listen to one song over and over and over before moving on to another.

Anyway, music is a huge part of my creative process, along with winking references to friends’ books, particularly if music is involved. Astute readers will have picked up on Outbreak Monkey in Poz and Kill The Wendybird in ATISMIA. I felt so bad for my editors in ATISMIA. Those heroic people checked everything I mentioned, and that included bands. One tried to find Kill The Wendybird in the International Music Database. The Wendybirds are from Settling the Score. They’re so alternative Sirius XM doesn’t even play them (h/t Jamie!).

I’m currently writing…

I needed a break from Remy and Michael, so now I’m working on a bit of Arthurian bit of fluff called Bullsh*tting Your Way To Camelot. There are people in the Arthur legends who show up in the historical record, specifically King Urien of Rheged, and his sons Ywain ap Urien and Ywain the Bastard, who preferred to be called Ywain the Adventurous for obvious reasons. Of course, where history goes off the rails is that Urien was allegedly married to Morgan le Fey. After that, everything’s just sort of bullsh*t….

Find me on:

On Facebook at Facebook.com/christopherkoehler

Twitter @christopherink

Blog: christopherkoehler.net/blog

Get your copy of All That Is Solid Melts Into Air today!

Dream Books with Lex Chase

January 21, 2016

Dream_Books

Howdy, everyone! Lex Chase here for the first edition of #Dreamer for the new year! I hope everyone’s had an awesome new year and is looking forward what 2016 has in store. (Besides writing 2015 until June. Oi, oi.)

This year for me has started off with a bang of pre-order mania! Bru Baker and I co-wrote a book called Some Assembly Required. It’s about two dead guys that meet in the afterlife in CASA—an affordable Italian minimalistic furnishing superstore—that happens to be purgatory. Yes. Really. You can check it out here! 

And that’s not all! Over at DSP Publications, the shiny new 2nd edition of my horror high fantasy novel, Chasing Sunrise is now up and ready to go! Heavily re-edited with humongous chunks rewritten, and yup, you heard right, a completely different ending.

All of that aside, I’m talking about Dream Books! I’m presenting my top five favorites that have definitely had an effect on me as a writer and as a reader. And some of them may surprise you! So presenting in no particular order.

Child of God by Cormac McCarthy

Child of God by Cormac McCarthy

I have a love/hate/love-to-hate/hate-to-love thing with Cormac McCarthy. I discovered him via a college class where we studied his works for the entire semester. Child of God remains a favorite. McCarthy breaks every damned rule he possibly can that are non-negotiables for book publishing and completely gets away with it. Not a single dialog quote, topics that are never, ever okay, dialect for days, and you can’t read his books without a dictionary in one hand and a map in the other. It’s one of the most challenging books I read just for the effort I had to make to understand it. But also the most rewarding. I find myself slipping tiny homages to McCarthy in my books all the time.

By the way, the “hero” and I use that term loosely is a guy named Lester Ballard. He is a horrid human being, but you also understand him deeply that he just wants to live his life in peace. His life? That of a necrophiliac. Yeah. Did I mention McMarthy’s work is whoa what nooooo.

Infected: Prey by Andrea Speed

Infected: Prey by Andrea Speed

Back when I was first trying to get published with Dreamspinner in 2009/2010, I was working with developing the world of Chasing Sunrise as well as another project. At the time, M/M was considered erotica, despite not having any erotic content. But of course in the realm of “the rules” of erotica, basically you needed a crapton of sex, and you didn’t need a happy ending. Because erotica didn’t count as romance and M/M slipped right through this loophole.

I picked up the first Infected book to actually get a feel for M/M. First, Infected isn’t erotica. Not even close. Sure there’s romance in it. A little. But it’s mostly Roan being the most broken anti-hero he can possibly be. He lives in a world that hates him just on the principle of the thing, and he just does his best with what he has, while he deals with the absolute worse in humanity.

Here is the ultimate kicker, I actually didn’t like Infected when I first read it. I didn’t even finish it. But in the years since, and since the Infected series has continued, and Andy has taught us a very valuable lesson. She showed us what M/M could be.

Thick as Thieves by Tali Spencer

Thick as Thieves by Tali Spencer

Can we just talk about that opening line to the blurb.

“After Vorgell the barbarian fucks himself with a unicorn horn, he ends up in a cell with Maddog, a pretty young thief.”

I was like “…………alrighty.” *buys with one-click.*

I read it while I was laid up with the flu. Because I am a terrible patient and I get mad when I want to get stuff done and my body said “Hahahah…silly you.”

So while I wasn’t coherent enough for a single thing, I dived in to the world of Gurgh and went on grand adventures with Vorgell and Madd. It was the most entertaining read I had had in a long time, and I am so, so hype about the sequel Thick as Ice. Thick as Thieves was a book that you knew going in the cheese was on purpose, and if you tried to rationalize any of it, you’d ruin it. The kingdom is called Gurgh, people. Like that’s kind of a clue.

Vorgell and Madd are a great mismatched couple. Vorgell can come off like a doof, but really he’s a guy of very simple desires and sees the world in a very pure way. Madd sees only the complications and has to run through every possibility before choosing one that sucks less. And then there’s Petal. The tiny baby basilisk that I can’t cope with she’s so adorable and full of sass.

Art of Death by Ana Bosch

Art of Death by Ana Bosch

I’ve known Ana for years. We met back when she was developing her now wildly popular webcomic Demon of the Underground. She’s multi-talented, and her ideas of how she connects the A to B are mindboggling. I had the pleasure of beta reading Art of Death, and the sequel Bonds of Death. Both of us hailing from art school backgrounds, she captured the feel of being back there with all it’s quirk, weirdness, and snarky professors.

We were also introduced to the undead and their secret society. They never really had an exact name, but Ana and I discussed they were basically revenants.

We also met Westwood. *dreamy siiiiiigh* Reviews of Westwood had been mixed, but I have such feelings for him. He is the most anti of anti-heroes. He makes no apologies, takes no shit, and just doesn’t care. He’s not a perfect person, in fact he’s a terrible person, but he never stops being an effective person. He gets results under any means necessary even if that means putting his love interest directly in the line of fire. He is definitely a guy that will have no issues shooting the hostage and shrug.

Ana had hinted one day of writing Westwood’s origin story. Whether or not it’ll really happen, I can only dream.

The Authority by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch

The Authority: Relentless by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch

I will always and forever be in love with comics. The Authority was a revelation. The birth of the “widescreen cinematic comic” and amazing writing and comics were never the same again. With Bryan Hitch’s beautiful art, and Warren Ellis’s brilliant writing, I was chomping at the bit for each issue.

It featured the first gay couple in a mainstream comic book, and they were superheroes who happened to be gay, and not gay superheroes. There’s a difference. Every character was flawed, and every character had their own thing going. They were not above sacrificing the many for the good of the few. They were the sledge hammer of justice upon the world.

Warren Ellis gave us concepts like their mode of transportation being the size of a large city was powered by a caged baby universe. To save the day, one of the heroes used his powers to hold Italy stationary while the Earth rotated around it. Hell yeah!

Warren Ellis not only writes comics, but everything else. Novels, articles, screenplays, and one of his quotes “whatever I can steal money for.” His writing is gritty, subversive, and can be downright filthy not at all in the erotica sense but in the complete horrific things he can come up with. Stuff that sticks with you and haunts your nightmares and makes me think dammit why didn’t I think of that!


So question time! What’s a book that’s stuck with you? One that remains a tried and true favorite? For an even bigger challenge pick one that isn’t M/M! One lucky commenter will walk away with a 5 dollar DSP Gift Certificate!


Lex Chase brings readers on dangerous adventures alongside heroes facing impossible odds from saving the world from a nefarious villain, to saving dinner from igniting like a roman candle. Lex believes that even in lush fantasy worlds or grim and gritty sci-fi, there is a timeless human quality. Marching to the beat of a different drum, Lex knows we’re all going to die someday, but she’s on a mission to make the ride interesting through action, adventure, and true love.

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Of Intergalactic Space Ships and a Paradise on Earth with L. J. LaBarthe – Post + Giveaway

January 18, 2016

Of Intergalactic Space Ships and a Paradise on Earth

Hi there! I’m L. J. LaBarthe and I’m here today to talk about my new release, “Song of Song.”

“Song of Song” is a science fiction novel. I’ve always wanted to write a sci-fi, as I love sci-fi myself. I grew up watching “Star Wars,” the original “V” series’, “Blake’s 7,” the 1980s mini-series “The Martian Chronicles” starring Rock Hudson (one of the last things he made before he died), and more. My father was an avid fan of sci-fi, he loved “Buck Rogers,” which never really appealed to me at all, and “Battlestar Galactica,” which I liked (although I preferred the remake!) My mother was and still is an avid “Doctor Who” fan, and I read a lot of fantasy and sci-fi books while I was growing up… and I still do!

So as you can see, sci-fi is a genre that is near and dear to my heart. It was only going to be a matter of time before I sat down and wrote one myself, and “Song of Song” is the result. It’s set in the future, a future where the rich have taken over Earth, sending the poor to live in off-world colonies and eke out their own existence, while the rich use Earth as their own paradise and playground. To support the wealthy families, there are groups of genetically engineered humans called Boxies, who live in what are called Box Towers and do things like mechanical repairs, laundry, clothing alterations, and things like that. One Boxie, named Dex, decides to escape with his only companion and friend, an AI cat named Manx.

As AI pets are not permitted to Boxies, Dex decides to run away with the help of his friend, and soon finds himself on board the sentient and organic spaceship Fa’a with her crew. He’s instantly physically attracted to the man who designed and built her—Song. Despite all manner of threats and trouble, the two of them manage to get together and fall in love, even when it seems that their burgeoning relationship may be destroyed by outside nefarious forces.

While I was writing, I had a variety of DVDs on as background noise, things that are both dear to my heart and inspired me to come up with ideas. I alternated between “Star Wars,” “Babylon 5,” and “Blake’s 7,” which makes for quite a mix of dystopian sci-fi, wartime futuristic sci-fi and a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away sci-fi. All of it did help keep me in the zone, though!

SongOfSong

So what’s your favorite sci-fi show or film? Do you prefer the modern ones or the older films, the more kitschy and schlocky ones? (“Planet of the Apes”—the original one with Charleton Heston, “2001: A Space Odyssey” “Alphaville,” “Solaris,” “Logan’s Run,” and “Dark Star” are all favorites of mine from the 1960s and 1970s.)

Leave a comment about your favorite sci-fi TV show or film or both to go in the draw for a copy of “Song of Song!”

You can find me on social media too at the following locations:

Twitter: @brbsiberia
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lj.labarthe.9
Blog: http://misslj-author.livejournal.com/
Webpage: http://www.ljlabarthe.com/

Get your copy of “Song of Song” today!

Old Finds, New Beginnings with BA Tortuga

January 17, 2016

Old Finds, New Beginnings

Howdy, y’all. I’m BA Tortuga and I write cowboys.

Does anyone else find these introduction things weird? I never know whether to be all “Oh, y’all know me” or “Hey, I’m the big redneck lesbian writer with a thing for blonde bombshells”. It always ends up just being “hello, I’m a huge dork, pleased to meetcha.”

Grins

RefiredFS

At any rate, I’m here to talk to all y’all about my new book, Refired. It’s a new type of book for me, and it has been from the beginning. Of course, everything about my life right now is new, sort of, so that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

You see, Josh and Kris, the heroes of Refired weren’t born from eavesdropping or from seeing some beautiful person.

They were born from a piece of pottery.

Wedding vases are vessels with two spouts, traditionally intended to be used at a marriage ceremony for the bride and groom to drink from. The story is, if neither of the couple spills a drop, then their relationship is eternal.

Now, whether or not a particular tribe followed this tradition (it was mainly Pueblo and Navajo), many Native American artists choose to design pottery in the two-spout shape.

Why is this important to me?

Well, I just recently said goodbye to my home state of Texas and moved with my wife to the New Mexico mountains. I’m smack dab between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. We spend hours at weird antique shops, little art galleries and estate sales learning about the local art, talking to collectors and artists and gallery owners, and just immersing myself in this entirely new culture.

I’m a newlywed and, of course, we bought pottery for our wedding (we also ended up buying a piece of bear sculpture, a weird cribbage board, and this amazing left handed, finger warming coffee cup). I love the story behind the wedding vase, and more than that I love the idea of art and love and what if…

What if there was this pair of former lovers that owned a failing art gallery in Austin? What if one of them was a recovering alcoholic? What if they had trust issues that were near insurmountable?

What if they headed to Santa Fe on one last trip?

I started this book as my goodbye to Texas – and to Austin in particular. I wanted to give a nod to the city that I called home for twenty years, to the state that will always be where I call home. It’s my wave and hug, my fond farewell.

I ended Refired as a love letter to my new home, as a glorious welcome to this place with skies that never end, with my watermelon mountains, with the most welcoming, friendly, accepting people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. This is a place of amazing food, stunning artwork, and a landscape unlike anything I’ve ever had the joy to experience. This is a passionate kiss, a clench, and the beginning of a promise about loving this land.

See? This is what happens when you marry a New Mexican.

You keep falling in love, over and over again.

***

Here’s the opening of the book, before you get to meet Josh and Kris. Why share this? Because this is how the story started, y’all.

 

“What are you doing, Cypress?” Naki leaned against the doorframe of the studio, watching him with her button black eyes. “You don’t seem the wedding vase, traditional type.”

“I need to do it. You know how that is?” He felt the urge like a fever in the base of his spine. Two spouts, one handle—Naki was right. Traditional Pueblo design wasn’t his thing, but it was what the clay needed.

“Need, as in you got a commission, or need, as in the muse is going to peck your eyes out with a skewer if you don’t?”

“God, you are a sick, sad broad. I adore you. Skewer. This is totally a skewer moment.” He smoothed out another set of coils, then stretched and listened to his back pop. “Someone will love it. I’m going to paint it with rainbows.”

“You’re so queer.” She came farther into the studio. “I’m going to go take photos in the trees. I need a model that’s willing to get naked.”

He grinned over at her. Cypress had zero issues with naked. None. “Go grab that wet cloth for me and wring it out?”

“You’ll do it? You totally rock.” She went to get the cloth for him. “I want to do this thing that evokes Pan. You’ll wear horns?”

“I can’t think of anything I’d rather do with a nearly snowing afternoon.” He wrapped the vase up, protecting it. “If I freeze to death, you’ll have me cremated?”

“I won’t let you freeze. I adore you, and you’ll do anything for art.”

“Truth.” He grabbed his coat and yanked on his boots. “Let’s go play Narnia, shall we?”

Someone would want the wedding vase.

Someone would come for it.

***

Refired releases on January 18, and I hope all y’all love it.

Get the eBook!

Get the Paperback!

 

Official blurb: When Kris Cerny walks back into Two Spirits, the art gallery he owns with Josh McPhee, all he wants is a clean break. Austin’s booming real estate market means the building he bought years ago is worth a fortune, and with the sale, he and Josh can finally go their separate ways. They won’t be reconciling, right? Josh may be sober now, but an addict is always going to be an addict, and Kris can’t take that chance again.

Josh isn’t willing to sell. Not yet. He’s discovered a new artist in Santa Fe he knows will put Two Spirits in the black, and if he can just make a success of the gallery, maybe he can earn Kris’s respect, if not recapture his love. He need

Kris to give him time for one more buying trip, one more gallery show. Josh wants nothing more than a final chance to make things right. Kris agrees to let Josh have this last ditch effort on one condition– he wants to go along for the ride. On the way Josh hopes they’ll find the next big thing in the art world as well as peace, forgiveness, and a love he thought was lost forever.

 

You can find me at batortuga.com and batortuga.blogspot.com.

Also, I’m at the following social media places. Come play with me!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/batortuga

Facebook Author Page:  https://www.facebook.com/BATortugaBooks?fref=ts

Twitter: @batortuga

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/batortuga/

Instagram: https://instagram.com/batortuga/

 

Much love, y’all.

BA Tortuga