GUEST POST: World building with Ann Gimpel

Creating a Setting for Your Characters Otherwise Known as Worldbuilding

Highland Dragon Series Banner 851 x 315

Thanks so much for inviting me and my first two Dragon Lore books to your blog! I appreciate the compliment.

I’d love to say I use the same process for every book I write, but I don’t. Many of my books begin with an image, or series of images, that form the basis for the book. I occasionally begin with an empty world, and it tells me what kind of characters it needs. I’m more likely to begin with a character and form a world around them, though.

The Dragon Lore series began a big differently. I wrote To Love a Highland Dragon two years ago, and the first thing that came to me was the image in Chapter One of a dragon shifter wakening in his cave deep beneath Inverness after being ensorcelled for over three hundred years. Elements I built specifically for that book were dragon shifters including how the bond worked and what magic it conferred. I had to figure out how to weave time travel in as well. I actually wrote the prequel after books one and two were complete. And I wrote Dragon’s Dare at the end—just where it should be since it’s the last book.

As the series progressed, I added dragon society to the mix. Interestingly, Dragon Maid, the book after To Love A Highland Dragon, began with another male dragon shifter and it just didn’t feel right. Enter Britta—and her dragon. Once I had the proper main character, the rest of the book flowed from there.

One of the things I love about urban fantasy, as opposed to high fantasy, is it’s set in the “real” world. No odd names for things. No triple moons transiting the sky. My favorite urban fantasies feel so real, they could actually happen. That hunk living next door could be a closet Celtic god, who’s really been alive for millennia. Or a mountain lion shifter jetting off to Europe to track a dangerous adversary. That being said, even urban fantasy needs magic systems that are consistent. Nothing annoys me more than characters who can do everything as an author lurches from one convenient plot twist to the next.

The Dragon Lore books actually combine high fantasy with urban fantasy. When I created a dragon society, they needed their own world. And they got it. A world of heat and volcanoes and lava flows just beyond the edge of time.

Let me tell you a secret. I’m wretchedly old-fashioned. We lost something when our lives got very easy. There’s not much challenge left anymore, unless we create it. That’s why I’ve had a lifelong love affair with traveling the backcountry with a pack, where I have to rely on my wits. I’ve been cold, lost, and out of food, but I feel ever so much more alive when I get back to civilization.

I give my characters similar challenges. They need wits, creativity, and courage to survive to the next chapter, let alone make it to the end of the book. That their worlds hold tests and trials ups the ante.

How about the rest of you authors out there. Do you create characters first, or worlds? Or do they come to you as a unit that refuses to be separated?


Highland Secrets

A Dragon Lore Prequel

Ann Gimpel

Release Date: 9/08/15

Genre: Paranormal romance

Tumble off reality’s edge into myth, magic, and Scottish dragon shifters

Furious and weary, Angus Shea wants out, but no matter how he feels, he can’t stop the magic powering his visions. The Celts kidnapped him when he wasn’t much more than a boy and forced him to do their bidding. He’s sick of them and their endless assignments, but they wiped his memories, and he has no idea where he came from.

Dragon shifters are disappearing from the Scottish Highlands, and the Celtic Council sends Angus to investigate. He meets up with Arianrhod, legendary virgin huntress from Celtic myth, in Fire Mountain, the dragons’ home world.

Arianrhod prefers to work alone, mostly because she harbors a dirty little secret and guards her privacy for the best of reasons. She’s not exactly a virgin, and she’d be laughed out of the Pantheon if the truth surfaced. Despite the complications of leading a double life, she’s never found a lover who tempted her to walk away from her fellow Celtic gods.

Attraction ignites, hot and so urgent Arianrhod’s carefully balanced life teeters on the brink of discovery. Angus is everything she’s ever wanted, but he’s far too close to her Celtic kin to keep her secret safe. Angus wants her too, but she’s a Celt. He’s hated them forever, and she’s part of everything he’s lain awake nights plotting to escape from.

Can they risk everything?

Will they?

If they do, can they live with the consequences?


EXCERPT

…Excitement thrummed through her, and she considered how to proceed once she arrived at Fire Mountain. Mayhap she could pretend she was interested in pairing with a dragon. She narrowed her eyes and chewed thoughtfully on her lower lip. Should she join with Angus and the dragon, Eletea? Or pretend she knew nothing about them. If she chose to masquerade as a wannabe dragon shifter, would the Ancient Ones believe her?

“Why would they?” she muttered. “I haven’t shown the slightest interest in anything dragon-related since the dawn of time.” Perhaps she could tell them she was bored, that her life lacked meaning, purpose. All true. Immortality held a big downside, particularly since somewhere along the line, she’d fashioned herself as the virgin huntress.

Arianrhod rolled her mental eyes. Why the hell had she thought that was a good idea when Danu suggested it? At the time, she’d hoped to escape Bran’s attentions, but she hadn’t planned on a millennia tossing and turning in an empty bed. The god of prophecy—Bran—was as big a pain in the ass as he’d always been, but at least he had a cock…

She winced. It had taken stealth and cunning to maintain her artfully crafted persona and still have a sex life. Nothing frequent enough to draw attention, but she’d lain with an amazing coal black dragon. He’d worried his kin would shun him if their affair were discovered, but it hadn’t made a dent in his hunger for her.

Nothing quite like the forbidden to fan those flames…

Truth smacked her between the eyes. Loneliness and lust were why she’d volunteered so readily to make the trek to Fire Mountain. And why she’d sidestepped Gwydion. The last thing she needed was a witness if she stumbled onto Keene—or another likely candidate. Dragons lived forever. Perhaps Keene might be interested in another fling—for old time’s sake if nothing else.

Usually she stopped herself from thinking about her past and what she wished she’d done differently, but she couldn’t shut off her thoughts. If she’d had children, real children, it would’ve made such a difference.

The two sons she’d conceived magically were odd. But how could they have been aught else? She’d been forced to jump over a magical rod to prove she was a virgin, and twin sons were the result. Dylan sank into obscurity, retreating to the seas when the strain of day-to-day life without enough power to light a candle became too much to bear. Lleu would’ve left as well, but Gwydion subverted every single one of Lleu’s escape plans as he grew to manhood. Lleu blamed her for Gwydion’s meddling, and she hadn’t laid eyes on him for a very long time. She suspected Gwydion hadn’t, either.

Her empty life mocked her, but she was damned if she could figure out what to do to change it. It wasn’t as if she could march up to Ceridwen and the others, clear her throat, and say, “Sorry, but I’m sick of being a Celtic god. Think I’ll be a mortal for a while. And hey, if that doesn’t please you, I’ll take to my owl form and be done with the lot of you.”

“Oberon’s balls!” She crashed one fist into an open hand, taking care not to jostle the traveling portal. “I have to pull my head out of my ass. Ceridwen handed me a fascinating problem. I need to focus on it. No dragon fucking. No diversions. Go in. Put my head down. Get the job done.”

Nice lecture, but can I do it?

Arianrhod stroked the shiny bow draped over her shoulder. It was a work of art. She’d made it herself from yew wood, not cutting any corners, so it took months for the wood to shape and cure. She twisted her mouth into a wry smile. The huntress part of her title was fine. It fit, and she enjoyed the cunning, planning, and forethought it took to outsmart prey. If she was sick of the pretend-to-be-a-virgin part, who could blame her?

The rhythm of her traveling tube shifted. Arianrhod glanced at a node to check her location and understood her journey would be over soon. She rotated her shoulders to relax and ready herself, thought about her virgin huntress title once more, and laughed.

“The virgin part may grate, but I adore being a huntress. Fifty percent isn’t bad,” she told the gray-pink walls as they shuddered to a stop. “Most people don’t even get that.”


To Love A Highland Dragon

Dragon Lore

Book One

Ann Gimpel

Release Date: 9/22/15

Genre: Paranormal romance

Tumble off reality’s edge into myth, magic, and Scottish dragon shifters

A dragon shifter stirs and wakens in a cave beneath Inverness, deep in the Scottish Highlands. The cave’s the same and his hoard intact, yet something’s badly amiss. Determined to set whatever’s gone wrong to rights, Lachlan Moncrieffe ventures above ground—and wishes he hadn’t. His castle’s gone, replaced by ungainly row houses. Men aren’t wearing plaids, and women scarcely wear anything at all, particularly the woman who accosts him with unseemly banter. What manner of wench is she to dress so provocatively?

In Inverness for a year on a psychiatry fellowship, Dr. Maggie Hibbins watches an oddly dressed man pick his way out of a heather and gorse thicket. Even though it runs counter to her better judgment, she teases him about his strange attire. He looks so lost—and so unbelievably, knock-out gorgeous —she takes a chance and stands him a meal. Lachlan’s shock when he picks up a local newspaper at a pub is so palpable, Maggie jumps in with both feet.

She knew something was off, but the hard-to-accept truth bashes gaping holes in her equilibrium. He looks odd, sounds odd, acts odd because he’s a refugee from another era. Her half-baked seduction scheme takes a hike, but her carefully constructed life is still about to change forever. Born of powerful witches, Maggie runs headlong into the myth and magic that are her birthright.


EXCERPT

… He detached the last thorn, finally clear of the thicket of sticker bushes. Where could he find a market with vendors? Did market day still exist in this strange environment?

“Holy crap! A kilt, and an old-fashioned one at that. Tad bit early in the day for a costume ball, isn’t it?” A rich female voice laced with amusement sounded behind him.

Lachlan spun, hands raised to call magic. He stopped dead once his gaze settled on a lass nearly as tall as himself, which meant she was close to six feet. She turned so she faced him squarely. Bare legs emerged from torn fabric that stopped just south of her female parts. Full breasts strained against scraps of material attached to strings tied around her neck and back. Her feet were encased in a few straps of leather. Long, blonde hair eddied around her, the color of sheaves of summer wheat.

His cock jumped to attention. He itched to make a grab for her breasts or her ass. She had an amazing ass: round and high and tight. What was expected of him? The lass was dressed in such a way as to invite him to simply tear what passed for breeks aside and enter her. Had times changed so drastically that women provoked men into public sex? He glanced about, half expecting to see couples having it off with one another willy-nilly.

“Well,” she urged. “Cat got your tongue?” She placed her hands on her hips. The motion stretched the tiny bits of flowered fabric that barely covered her nipples still further.

Lachlan bowed formally. He straightened and waited for her to hold out a hand for him to kiss. “I’m Lachlan Moncrieffe, my lady. ’Tis a pleasure to—”

She erupted into laughter—and didn’t hold out her hand. “I’m Maggie,” she managed between gouts of mirth. “What are you? A throwback to medieval times? You can drop the Sir Galahad routine.”

Lachlan felt his face heat. “I fear I doona understand the cause of your merriment…my lady.”

Maggie rolled midnight blue eyes. “Oh, brother. Did you escape from a mental hospital? Nah, you’d be in pajamas then, not those fancy duds.” She dropped her hands to her sides and started to walk past him.

“No. Wait. Please, wait.” Lachlan cringed at the whining tone in his voice. The dragon was correct that the Moncrieffe was a proud house. They bowed to no one.

She eyed him askance. “What?”

“I’m a stranger in this town.” He winced at the lie. Once upon a time, he’d been master of these lands. Apparently that time had long since passed. “I’m footsore and hungry. Where might I find victuals and ale?”

Her eyes widened. Finely arched blonde brows drew together over a straight nose dotted by a few freckles. “Victuals and ale,” she repeated disbelievingly.

“Aye. Food and drink, in the common vernacular.”

“Oh, I understood you well enough,” Maggie murmured. “Your words, anyway. Your accent’s a bit off.” His stomach growled again, embarrassingly loud. “Guess you weren’t kidding about being hungry.” She eyed him appraisingly. “Do you have any money?”

Money. Too late he thought of the piles of gold coins and priceless gems lying on the floor of Kheladin’s cave. In the world he’d left, his word was as good as his gold. He opened his mouth, but she waved him to silence. “I’ll stand you for a pint and some fish and chips. You can treat me next time.”

He heard her mutter, “Yeah right,” under her breath as she curled a hand around his arm and tugged. “Come on. I have a couple hours, and then I’ve got to go to work. I’m due in at three today.”

Lachlan trotted along next to her. She let go of him like he was a viper when he tried to close a hand over the one she’d laid so casually on his person. He cleared his throat and wondered what he could safely ask that wouldn’t give his secrets away. He could scarcely believe this alien landscape was Scotland, but if he asked what country they were in, or what year it was, she’d think him mad.

Had the black wyvern had used some diabolical dark magic to transport Kheladin’s cave to another locale? Probably not. Even Rhukon wasn’t that powerful.

“In here.” She pointed to a door beneath a flashing sigil.

He gawked at it. One minute it was red, the next blue, the next green, illuminating the word Open. What manner of magic was this?

“Don’t tell me you have temporal lobe epilepsy.” She stared at him. “It’s only a neon sign. It doesn’t bite. Move through the door. There’s food on the other side,” she added slyly.

Feeling like a rube, Lachlan searched for a latch. When he didn’t find one, he pushed his shoulder against the door. It opened, and he held it with a hand so Maggie could enter first. “After you, my lady,” he murmured.

“Stop that.” She spoke into his ear as she went past. “No more my ladies. Got it?”

“Aye. Got it.” He followed her into a low ceilinged room lined with wooden planks. It was the first thing that looked familiar. Parts of it, anyway. Men—kilt-less men—sat at the bar, hefting glasses and chatting. The tables were empty.

“What’ll it be, Mags?” a man with a towel tied around his waist called from behind the bar.

“Couple of pints and two of today’s special. Come to think of it…” She eyed Lachlan so intently it made him squirm. “Make that three of the special.”

“May I inquire just what the special is?” Lachlan asked, thinking he might want to order something different.

Maggie waved a hand at a black board suspended over the bar. “It’s right there. If you can’t read it—”

“Of course, I can read.” He resented the inference he might be uneducated but swallowed back harsh words.

“Excellent. Then move.”

She shoved her body into his in a distressingly familiar way for such a communal location. Not that he wouldn’t have enjoyed the contact if they were alone, and he were free to take advantage of it…

“All the way to the back,” she hissed into his ear. “That way if you slip up, no one will hear.”

He bristled. Lachlan Moncrieffe did not sit in the back of any establishment. He was always given a choice table near the center of things. He opened his mouth to protest but thought better of it.

She scooped an armful of flattened scrolls off the bar before following him to the back of the room. Once there, she dumped them on the table between them. He wanted to ask what they were but decided he should pretend to know. He turned the top sheaf of papers toward him and scanned the close-spaced print. Many of the words were unfamiliar, but what leapt off the page was The Inverness Courier and presumably the current date: June 10, 2012.

His heart thudded in his ears, deafening him with the roar of rushing blood, as he stared at the date.

It had been 1683 when Rhukon chivied him into the dragon’s cave. Three hundred twenty-nine years ago, give or take a month or two. At least he was still in Inverness—for all the good it did him.

“You look as if you just saw a ghost.” Maggie spoke quietly.

“Nay. I’m quite fine. Thank you for inquiring…my, er…” Lachlan shut up. Anything he said was bound to be wrong.

“Good.” She nodded approvingly. “You’re learning.” The bartender slapped two mugs of ale on the scarred wooden table.

“On your tab, Mags?” he asked.

She nodded. “Except you owe me so much, you’ll never catch up.”

Still shell-shocked by the realization hundreds of years had slipped past while he and Kheladin slept, Lachlan took a sip of what turned out to be weak ale. It wasn’t half bad but could’ve stood an infusion of bitters. Because it was easier than thinking about his problems, he puzzled over what Maggie meant about the barkeep owing her so much he’d never catch up. Why would the barkeep owe her? His nostrils flared. She must work for the establishment—probably as a damsel of ill repute from the looks of her. Mayhap, she hadn’t been paid her share of whatever she earned in quite some time.

Protectiveness flared deep inside him. Maggie shouldn’t have to earn her way lying on her back. He’d see to it she had a more seemly position.

Aye, once I find my way around this bizarre new world.

Money wouldn’t be a problem, but changing three-hundred-year-old gold coins into today’s tender might prove challenging. Surely banks existed that could accomplish something like that.

One thing at a time.

“So.” She skewered him with her blue gaze—Norse eyes if he’d ever seen a set—and took a sip from her mug. “What did you see in the newspaper that upset you so much?”

“Nothing.” He tried for an offhand tone.

“Bullshit,” she said succinctly. “I’m a doctor. A psychiatrist. I read people’s faces quite well, and you look as if you’re perilously close to going into shock.”

Highland Dragon Series Button 300 x 225


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ann Gimpel is a national bestselling author. She’s also a clinical psychologist, with a Jungian bent and a vagabond at heart.  Avocations include mountaineering, skiing, wilderness photography and, of course, writing.  A lifelong aficionado of the unusual, she began writing speculative fiction a few years ago. Since then her short fiction has appeared in a number of webzines and anthologies. Her longer books run the gamut from urban fantasy to paranormal romance. She’s published over 30 books to date, with several more planned for 2015 and beyond.

A husband, grown children, grandchildren and three wolf hybrids round out her family.

www.anngimpel.com

http://anngimpel.blogspot.com

http://www.amazon.com/author/anngimpel

http://www.facebook.com/anngimpel.author

@AnnGimpel (for Twitter)

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REVIEW: Put A Ring on It by K.A. Mitchell

I received this book for free in exchange for a fair and honest review. My receiving this book in no way affects my opinion.

PutARingOnItLGTITLE: Put A Ring on It

AUTHOR: K.A. Mitchell

GENRE: Contemporary Romance

TAG LINE: “Now everyone wants in on the wedding, except the grooms…”

 

RATING: 1 Stars

SUMMARY:  Kieran Delaney-Schwartz—adoptee, underachiever, and self-professed slacker IT guy—lives his under-the-radar life by the motto: Don’t try, don’t fail. His adopted siblings are all overachievers thanks to his driven, liberal parents, but Kieran has elected to avoid disappointing anyone by not getting their hopes up. He’s coasting through his early twenties when he’s hit head-on by Theo. The successful decade-older Broadway producer sweeps him off his feet for a whirlwind thirteen months that are pretty sweet until it all comes screeching to a halt on Valentine’s Day, with an unexpected proposal via a NYC Times Square Flash mob.
BUY LINKS: Dreamspinner | Amazon

 

REVIEW:

 

I’m going to tell you right now that this book got shelved on the DNFR (Did Not Finish Reading) shelf. I grew so frustrated and angry with this book that I finally threw it down (figuratively) and gave up. I did skip to the end to see what happened and wasn’t happy with the resolve, so I stand by my decision with not finishing the book.

I’ve read K.A. Mitchell’s work before and enjoyed it, so I’m a fan of her work. But this book I just could not enjoy. I made it about 80 pages in (a little under halfway?) before I threw in the towel. Now I don’t want to say that my decision to quit reading was because of the quality of the writing.  K.A. Mitchell is a talented author, and as I stated before, I’ve enjoyed previous stories by her, but this particular one just chaffed me the wrong way. On a technical level the story was great. It wasn’t the quality of the writing, but the characterization and the actual plot of the story I didn’t enjoy.

This story had a lot going for it: pre-marital drama, which is always fun, and a nice little age gap between the two characters, a personal kink for me. I was completely psyched to read this. But things got really confusing from the get-go. The first thing we’re introduced to is a scene years before the actual story about Theo interacting with a group of college friends (characters who will appear throughout the series). This threw me off, because it felt really out of place. I understand the author was trying to set us up for the series, and while Theo’s friends play a crucial role to the plot, it felt out of place. It was meant to build Theo’s friendship with his college buddies, but all it did was feel like an unnecessary prologue. The information we gleaned from the first chapter could have easily been integrated into the story.

The second chapter we get to meet Kiernan and see him interact with Theo. This gets into the heart of the story. I immediately didn’t feel any chemistry between them. Kiernan didn’t seem as interested in his relationship with Theo as Theo was. It was obvious Theo adored Kiernan, but Kiernan felt aloof towards his emotions with Theo. This is an ongoing problem throughout the story. Kiernan’s lack of feelings towards Theo, despite the author’s attempt to show that Kiernan does indeed love Theo, made it hard to really root for them. I honestly wanted Theo to kick Kiernan to the curb and go find someone else.

Now I want it to be noted that I don’t agree with how Theo proposed to Kiernan (spoilers ahead). It was stupid of him to make a public display of a very intimate proposal towards someone who has social anxiety, so shame on Theo for that. But Kiernan also failed to explain his feelings properly and only made a bad situation worse.

There was way too much drama in the story. I was frustrated from the beginning. It was like the author took several ideas and then threw them all together, unable to decide which route to go. Where I left off as where Kiernan was agreeing to have one of Theo’s meddling friends help him break off his relationship. It was a childish choice and neither party seemed to have Theo’s best intentions in mind.

Books aren’t meant to stress you out and this book did just that. Because I couldn’t finish it, had no investment in the characters, and felt no chemistry between the main couple, I’m giving this book 1 star.

EXCERPT: Put a Ring On It by K. A. Mitchell |

PPutARingOnItLGut a Ring on It

Ready or Knot

Book One

K.A. Mitchell

Genre: Contemporary Gay Romance

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Date of Publication: September 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63476-380-6 Paperback

ISBN: 978-1-63476-381-3 eBook

Number of pages: 204

Cover Artist: Reese Dante

Kieran Delaney-Schwartz—adoptee, underachiever, and self-professed-slacker IT guy—lives his under-the-radar life by the motto: Don’t try, don’t fail. His adopted siblings are all overachievers thanks to his driven, liberal parents, but Kieran has elected to avoid disappointing anyone by not getting their hopes up. He’s coasting through his early twenties when he’s hit head-on by Theo. The successful decade-older Broadway producer sweeps him off his feet for a whirlwind thirteen months that are pretty sweet, until it all comes screeching to a halt on Valentine’s Day, with an unexpected proposal via an NYC Times Square flash mob. Now everyone wants in on the wedding, except the grooms….


BUY IT HERE

Dreamspinner Press   ARe


EXCERPT

KIERAN’S PHONE buzzed incessantly in his pocket, and he glared at his khakis as if he could see through to the caller. What part of ‘away from my desk’ is confusing to you people?

It was his own fault for violating his core principle: Success invariably leads to diminished returns. He’d done one job well because it was interesting, and now everyone in the building wanted the Korean IT Guy With the Hair to be the one who showed up when they yelled for help.

He sank down against the wall until he sat folded, head on his knees. He’d hide out in the server room, at least until the afternoon sleepies hit around two and they all started playing their Facebook games. In fact, as long as they could get online to Facebook, probably no one would notice if everything else on the servers went dark.

This room had a consistently cool temperature, perfect humidity control, and top-of-the-line filters. His nose and eyes never itched when he was in here. The constant rush of the fans blotted out any outside noise.

The phone buzzed again, a steady rhythm. He should have put it on silent.

Just audible over the white noise of the fans, keys jangled outside, then scraped against the door. Not a lot of people had keys to the server room, but most of the ones who did could fire him. He rolled onto his knees and slid across the floor, pulled out a screwdriver, and prepared to look busy.

A voice came to him now—Shanara, the office manager. As bosses went, she wasn’t a bad one, but Kieran still figured hiding and ignoring his phone would probably get him reported to the head of IT, who was a total dick.

“Someone said they saw him headed this way.”

“Thank you for all your help, Shanara.”

Kieran dropped the screwdriver. What the hell was Theo doing here, thirty blocks away from where Kieran thought he was? His brain raced through multiple possibilities. Theo had met Kieran’s family, but why would Theo have been the one to come if something had happened to one of them?

“My pleasure, Mr. Medina.”

“Theo, please.”

The door opened. Kieran straightened from picking up his screwdriver and caught Theo’s wink square in the chest.

There it was again. That funny jolt that Kieran was sure his sister, the epidemiologist, could explain resulted through neurotransmitters, conditioned responses, and hormone dumps. But since Siobhan had been in Sierra Leone for the past eight months working to contain the latest Ebola outbreak, she was a little busy for stupid questions about why Kieran’s heart jumped when his boyfriend looked at him like that.

As cheerful as Theo usually was, Kieran was pretty sure Theo wouldn’t wink if something bad had happened. It didn’t explain why he was suddenly next to Shanara in the door to the server room.

Hi seemed like a safer bet than What the fuck are you doing here? so he went with that.

“Hey, I wanted to take you to lunch.” Theo’s smile didn’t affect Kieran’s nervous system like that look could, but it was definitely an autonomous response that made Kieran smile back. “I planned to do it tomorrow, but it’s the understudy’s first matinee and I need to be there.”

“You’re so lucky, Kieran.” Shanara had a smile a bit brighter than her usual professional one. Theo had the same effect on other people. “My boyfriend probably won’t even remember.”

Kieran was already in the same boat with Shanara’s boyfriend. Then he saw the rose Theo produced from behind his back, and Kieran’s brain latched on to the significance. Valentine’s Day was this weekend.

Theo turned and offered the rose to Shanara. “If you can spare him.”

She held the paper-wrapped stem in the space between them. “I thought this was for Kieran.”

Theo sighed. “He’s allergic to flowers. And romance. But I’m working on him.”

Kieran shoved his glasses up on his nose and glared, only to get smacked with another Theo wink, which induced a helpless shake of his head.

“It might take some time….” Theo trailed off and glanced at Shanara.

Her smile was broad, sharpening her cheeks. “You have personal leave banked, right, Kieran?” Barely pausing for his agreement, she said, “I’ll write you as out for the afternoon, let Todd know.”

Kieran nodded. The less he had to deal with the asshole director of IT, the better. Especially now that Kieran was in high demand.

“Thank you so much, Shanara.” Theo handed her a business card. “Just present that at the Will Call window any time and they’ll take care of you.”

“Thank you, Theo. Be sure to lock up the server room, Kieran.”

Shanara shut the door, which had an auto lock, so Kieran was puzzling over her order when Theo put his hands behind Kieran’s neck and kissed him.

A typical Theo kiss, warm, open, inviting Kieran to decide if it was going deeper.

Kieran put his hands on Theo’s back, under his coat, touched the velvety fleece, and breathed in the rich leather scent from his shoulder. The heavy wool coat Theo had been wearing when they met vanished immediately when Kieran confessed his allergy to it.

When Kieran drew back, Theo released him with a leer. “Cozy in your little den, here.”

Kieran shook his head. “The servers are sensitive to humidity. I’m pretty sure that includes jizz.”

“I’m insulted. I never spill a drop.”

Theo said it mockingly, but the reminder of how incredible Theo was at sucking dick stirred a tingle in Kieran’s balls.

“Yeah.” Theo leaned to brush his forehead against Kieran’s. “You’re thinking about it now.”

He was right. Because Theo was damned good at reading Kieran. The first person ever who bothered to pay enough attention to figure out—and offer—what Kieran wanted.

A nooner sounded interesting, but they certainly weren’t doing it in the server room.

“Thought you said we were going to lunch?”

“I did. Are you hungry?”

Kieran shrugged. He could eat, but he didn’t want Theo to think Kieran expected a lobster dinner just because he was peckish. Theo liked making people happy. He wasn’t a pushover or anything. Kieran had heard him get pissed enough to snap at people on the phone. Once when he met Theo at the theater, Kieran had heard him go off in a rage about a delivery of light bulbs. So scratch that. Theo was nice to most people, but he liked trying to make Kieran happy. And that didn’t suck at all.

The look in Theo’s eyes did that thing to Kieran’s circulatory system again as Theo tugged him toward the door. “Come on, then.” 

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

K.A. Mitchell discovered the magic of writing at an early age when she learned that a carefully crayoned note of apology sent to the kitchen in a toy truck would earn her a reprieve from banishment to her room. Her career as a spin-control artist was cut short when her family moved to a two-story house and her trucks would not roll safely down the stairs. Around the same time, she decided that Chip and Ken made a much cuter couple than Ken and Barbie and was perplexed when invitations to play Barbie dropped off. She never stopped making stuff up, though, and was surprised to find out that people would pay her to do it. Although the men in her stories usually carry more emotional baggage than even LAX can lose in a year, she guarantees they always find their sexy way to a happy ending.

K.A. loves to hear from her readers.

She is often found talking about her imaginary friends on Twitter @ka_mitchell

http://www.kamitchell.com/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2746690.K_A_Mitchell

https://www.facebook.com/authorkamitchell

https://authorkamitchell.wordpress.com/

https://twitter.com/ka_mitchell

http://kamitchellplotbunnyfarm.tumblr.com/

GUEST BLOG with D. River | GIVEAWAY

Hello, I’m D. River, author of Moon Born, Feral Hearts Tales #2. Today I thought I’d talk dirty to you. Wait, that came out wrong. I meant I’d whisper dirty things…

I’ll come in again.

In any book with a romantic element, sex is pretty much a given. As a reader, I know I like to see when the two romantic leads finally, after challenges great and small, get it on. Er, that is, they finally bond in a beautifully emotional and spiritually satisfying way.

When I wrote my first M/M book, “Wild Horses,” I was coming to it from years of experience with erotica and friends telling me I wrote really good sex scenes and that I should write erotica for a living. No, really, my friends said that. It wasn’t the voices in my head.

As time has passed and I’ve read even more gay romance, in particular paranormal romance, I’ve seen sex handled well and seen it handled badly. With a romance novel, it could be argued that sex is the whole point of the book, that getting to that moment with the characters is the story’s climax, as it were.

However, with a paranormal story, there’s other stuff going on. As with the Feral Hearts Tales, while certainly the point at which the straight friends give in to their mate urges and have sex is important to the story, they had a whole lot of other things going on. So that creates the interesting dilemma that this post is all about:

How much sex is enough? How much is too much?

A very clever review of a shifter book (not mine but not naming names either) remarked that the sex scenes felt like “commercial breaks” in the story. The reviewer hit it right on the nose with that one. Of course the sexy times are fun and all, but if they are actually causing a pause in the story, that seems like a problem. And I’ve seen enough feedback from readers to suggest that a lot of people are getting tired of books with a lot of sex in them.

What I like to read, and what I try to write, are sex scenes that forward the characters’ growth. In that way, they mesh with the story and become a part of the plot. Put another way, they’re not just a part of the story that you can skip. If that means a book only has one or two sex scenes, that’s fine with me. If that means a book needs a dozen (there is one shifter title in particular I can think of where this is true) then by all means, have at.

Anyway, that’s how I feel about sex scenes in books. How about you fine folks? Do you like your books with a little or a lot of sex in them?


moonbornMoon Born

Feral Hearts Tales

Book 2

D. River

Genre: Shifter/paranormal romance/gay romance

Publisher: Lightbane Publications

Date of Publication: 9/14/2015

ISBN: 978-1-4675-7745-8

Word Count: 90,000

Pages: 332

Cover Artist: Fiona Jayde

Tucker and Ryder figured that the worst was over. They’d gotten used to being lycans, they’d managed to not get killed by werewolf hunters and they’d stopped a crazy magician from trying to unleash Armageddon.

However, as they try to get back to their lives, they find a whole host of new problems awaiting them. The government has established a task force to deal with paranormal threats and lycans are at the top of that list. There is a monster prowling the dark places of New York City. And the Moon Spirit has an agenda for them to fulfill.

Moon Born continues the story of Love Bites, with new characters, new dangers and new complications for Ryder and Tucker’s relationship.


EXCERPT

Ryder awoke very slowly, and only because there was an obnoxious ray of sunlight trying to burn a hole through his eyelid, undoubtedly seeking to find a way into his brain. He grumbled and swatted uselessly at the sunbeam and then rolled over to get away from it.

After three nights of glorious hunts, he and his pack were all thoroughly done in. Ryder wasn’t even sure where they were, other than the Wild Wood somewhere. He didn’t really feel inclined to care, either. The Wild Wood had been strangely hospitable to them, which made him resent it a little less even while he suspected the trees were just biding their time.

Having escaped the sunbeam, Ryder now had a twig under his ribs. He sighed and surrendered, sitting up and looking around. Tucker was already awake, standing nearby and examining a tree. Ryder didn’t ignore the fact that Tucker was gloriously naked, but after the last three days, sex was not his primary interest.

“You were twitching a lot in your sleep,” Tucker said. “It was kind of adorable.”

“I was having a good dream.” Ryder looked over at Trey, who was sleeping on his stomach and snoring peacefully. “We really need to find him a mate, you know.”

“Do they have a dating app for that sort of thing?”

“No, I don’t think anyone’s created ‘Wolfr” yet.” Ryder smiled and yawned. “It’s just…. I mean, we had so much fun these past few days and he had only his hand.”

“Which he used liberally.”

Ryder stifled a giggle. “It was hard to miss that. But anyway…. We need to look into it.”

Tucker nodded. “I think we’ll need some advice on that, though.”

Ryder cocked his head to one side. “Oh?”

“Yeah, we should head to the lycan cave, get the Moonstone and talk to the Moon Twink about his crazy idea for making more lycans.”

“You’d be willing to consider doing that?”

Tucker shook his head. “It sounds like a terrible idea. But I’m willing to hear what our friend has to say.”

Trey started to twitch violently in his sleep. Low, unhappy moans spilled from his lips. Ryder was just about to poke him awake when the younger lycan started awake. He looked around with wild eyes for a moment that were full of terror. His auburn hair was a fright, sticking up at all angles and full of leaves and twigs.

“Trey?”

For a long, unsettling moment, the young man just stared blankly ahead. Then he shook himself and rubbed at his eyes. “I’m fine.”

Tucker eyed him. “That seemed like one bitch of a nightmare. And I’ve had my share.”

Trey pulled his knees to his chest. “It…. It’s fine.”

Ryder sighed and looked skyward. “Why am I doomed to be surrounded by guys who can’t talk about what’s going on with them?”

Tucker smirked at him and then went over to sit beside Trey. Even as the younger lycan stiffened in a defensive posture, Tucker slipped an arm around his shoulders and gave him a firm sideways hug. Trey looked down at his knees, his eyes clouded with misery.

“Hey, dude, look, I get it. More than you know.” His expression grew somber. “When I was growing up, my asshole old man beat the shit out of me too. So I get nightmares of my own.”

Trey relaxed a tiny bit against his Alpha. “It’s not that. I’m used to those.”

Ryder wished he could live in a world where no one ever had to get used to that sort of thing. “Then what was it?”

“It’s hard to explain…. When I wake up, the dream sort of dissipates like smoke. But in the dream, I’m somewhere dark and someone’s hurting me….” He swallowed hard. “I think it’s Matchitehew.”

Ryder frowned. “Maybe it’s just because of that horrible place we raided?”

Trey nodded. “I think so. I mean, that’s what makes the most sense. It just…. It feels so real.”

Tucker eyed him sidelong. “Well, we’ll add it to the questions for the Moon Twink.”

“I wish you wouldn’t call him that. He might turn us into wereturtles or something,” Ryder said.

Trey giggled. “Wereturtles….”

Tucker gave Trey a pointed look. “No more keeping secrets from your pack, puppy. If something’s bothering you, you tell us.”

“Yes, sir,” Trey mumbled.

“Hey, you get all grumpy with me when I call you ‘puppy,'” Ryder complained.

“You’re not the Alpha,” Trey said.

Tucker laughed. “He’s got you there.”

“I suppose. So, homeward?” Ryder asked.

Trey nodded and stretched mightily. “Absolutely.” He smacked his lips. “I could use some coffee first. And maybe some eggs.”

“You’re not full from last night?” Ryder asked. “I’m still stuffed.”

“Well, you two hogged most of that deer, so yeah.” Trey frowned. “Not sure when I stopped thinking of raw meat as icky, but whatever.”

“Well, Clif bars will have to do.” Ryder looked around. “Now, where did we put that pack we brought?”


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

River has been writing for many decades, and most of it is filthy, dirty stuff that you absolutely shouldn’t read. Highly-trained experts have successfully quarantined most of that work to keep save innocent bystanders from debilitating cases of blushing.

River started putting out books for sale with Wild Horses. Since no one told him to stop, he went on to publish other novels, including the popular Love Bites. The men in white coats caught up with him, though, and he vanished off the face the of Earth. Having made his escape and having set up shop in an abandoned adult toy factory, he is now ready to unleash more paranormal romances/adventure stories on an unsuspecting world.

http://lightbane.com/driver.html

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4123971.D_River/blog


GIVEAWAY

D. River will be giving away 1 $25 Amazon gift card to one lucky reader! Enter via rafflecopter.

GUEST BLOG: Christy Carlyle on Writing a Book Lover’s Romance

Christy Carlyle on Writing a Book Lover’s Romance
One Scandalous Kiss Banner 851 x 315

Books have been a preoccupation since I was a kid. My grandfather collected books, and Grandma taught me to read long before I started kindergarten. Books were my favorite birthday gifts, and going to the library always seemed like a bit of an adventure. Maybe it had something to do with being an only child. Reading kept me entertained and gave me a place to let my imagination soar.

Our collection of books tends to grow as we do, reflecting our changing tastes, perhaps evolving into a stash of “keepers” as we cull some and acquire others. My books have followed me through countless moves, even overseas and back, and they multiply every year. When I moved two years ago, one of the moving guys actually grumbled, “I hope you enjoy your books!” as he carried the umpteenth book box up into my second floor apartment.

As a reader, I like encountering characters who love to read as much as I do. I’m also intrigued by any story with a writer hero or heroine. When a character is portrayed as a book lover, I feel an instant connection, relating to them more easily and rooting for them more readily.

When the idea for my first Avon Impulse historical romance, One Scandalous Kiss, popped into my head, I knew my heroine, Jessamin Wright, would be a book lover. She ended up being a book seller too, with a failing bookshop inherited from her father. I wanted her to be someone whose life had been affected by the power of books. She believes in women’s rights, so Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman is near and dear to her heart, but during the story she reveals that Charles Dickens is her favorite author. Jess even asks Lucius, the hero, to name his favorite book. His choice gives her insight into his heart and mind.

As a reader, do you enjoy encountering characters who love to read as much as you do?


EXCERPT

London, September 1890

She’d never imagined wealth would be so uncomfortable. Nearly every aspect of the Marquess of Clayborne’s Belgrave Square drawing room made Jessamin Wright uneasy. There were no books stacked in piles, no candles whose wax had run down their sides in haphazard sculptures, and not a spot of ash dusting the hearth—nothing inviting about the room at all. How could any lived-in space be so clean? The slippery damask settee felt stiff and unyielding beneath her body. Nothing about it urged you to sit and stop awhile. Even art was lacking from the walls, except for a series of watercolors of what must have been a terribly boring fox hunt. A fire burned low in the grate and offered a bit of warmth against the autumn chill, but the cool beiges and tepid pinks of the wallpaper and furnishings made Jess feel slightly queasy, as if blood had been drained from her body as thoroughly as color had been drawn out of every surface in the room. Even the wood was light colored or painted white and lacquered to a high sheen. It was all wrong. No room should be so spotless. As she and Alice had yet to meet their host, she began to doubt that anyone lived here at all. Then again, she’d never before set foot inside a fine London townhouse. Perhaps they were all this stark and unpleasant.

Jess didn’t have to look down to know the room’s pristine neatness contrasted sharply with her scuffed boots, soot-dusted cloak, and unfashionable work clothes. She found it impossible to settle herself in such elegant surroundings. Sitting, then standing, then sitting again, she rearranged her limbs and scratched her neck in a most unladylike manner. Finally finding a spot on the settee that suited her, she stripped off her twice-mended gloves but kept her hands clasped, careful not to touch anything for fear she might leave a mark.

Her cluttered thoughts offered as little comfort as the room. She fretted about leaving the bookshop managed solely by her assistant, Jack. He was a longtime employee and utterly trustworthy, but he’d never been fond of dealing with customers. He simply loved books—acquiring them, reading them, repairing them—and that was something she understood. He hadn’t stayed on after Father’s death for her, but out of loyalty to Lionel Wright. She understood that too. One of Father’s gifts had been the ability to inspire a bone deep sense of obligation in others. Since Jess had taken on the shop, other employees had been hard to come by—few men wished to take their wages and direction from a woman.

Slipping Father’s old watch from its place in her skirt pocket, Jess’s mind sifted through what she had yet to accomplish before resting her head for the day. It was a long list and —Ah, that too—now included an article she’d almost forgotten to write for the Women’s Union journal.

“I hope Lady Katherine hasn’t forgotten us. To be honest, I won’t be sad to see the last of this room. It’s all rather cold, even with the fire. Makes you afraid to touch anything or even breathe.”

Alice McGregor had an uncanny talent for reading one’s mind and could always be counted on for blunt and insightful commentary. Of all Jessamin’s friends at the Women’s Union, Alice was the most practical and plain-speaking. Delicacy was overrated as far as Alice was concerned. She said what everyone else was thinking but knew it impolite to mention.

“No, it’s not terribly inviting, is it?”

If Jess could decorate such a room, the colors would be bold and full of life. Red would do very nicely. And she’d decorate the walls with art so vivid you’d believe you could smell the pot of basil in a Holman Hunt painting or hear the swish of silk and satin as one of Mr. Tissot’s beauties crossed the room. She closed her eyes and imagined crimson walls covered with art in rich, vibrant colors.

“Miss Wright, have I caught you napping?” Lady Katherine Adderly’s giggle was like the clash of two crystal glasses meeting in a toast. Sharp and clear, it instantly snapped Jessamin out of her fantasies.

As she swept in, a maid followed close on her heels with a tea tray. Lady Katherine smelled of flowers, but far too many, the scent cloying and sickly sweet.

“Forgive me, my lady.” It was easier for Jessamin to apologize for drowsing than acknowledge how she loathed the decor.

Jess and Alice exchanged raised-brow glances as their hostess handed each of them a fine porcelain teacup and began the process of pouring tea and offering them confections from plates laden with biscuits and tiny pastries. It was an elaborate ritual, much more fuss about tea than Jess had ever made in life. But the rich tang of jasmine in the brew was delicious and she was grateful for the distraction of the warm refreshment, even as she sensed the persistent tick of Father’s watch against her skirt pocket. She had to get back to the shop and hoped their meeting with the marquess’s daugther wouldn’t take long.

“I’m pleased to make this donation to the Women’s Union. You know how I enjoy the lively meetings.”

Lady Katherine had attended only three of the group’s weekly meetings over the course of four months, but she’d been eager to make a financial contribution and Alice, as the union’s treasurer and co-founder, was all too happy to accept. Jess wasn’t certain why Alice had asked her to come along to collect the money, but as editor of the group’s printed journal and author of many of the speeches given at gatherings, she supposed she was a visible member of the organization.

“We are most grateful for the funds, my lady.” As always Alice spoke with sincerity, gratitude clear in her tone.

“Oh, please call me Kitty.”

Alice took a sip of tea, attempting to hold the cup with all the dignity  Kitty seemed to manage effortlessly.

“I understand there’s another worthy cause to which I may also contribute.”

“I’m sure there are many in London,” Jess offered, thinking of a dozen ways she might spend charitable funds, not to mention the money needed to salvage the indebted bookshop her father had left her.

“I was referring to you, Miss Wright.”

Jessamin shot Alice a look, wondering just what her scrupulously honest friend had revealed to Lady Katherine.

“I understand you have a bookshop and lending library here in town.”

“Yes, my lady,” Jess bit off, unable to keep the irritation from her voice. Alice shouldn’t have mentioned her situation to anyone. Kitty might be feeling benevolent, but the amount needed to clear the shop’s debt was more than any wealthy aristocrat’s daughter would wish to spend, no matter how generous they were feeling.

“Would one hundred pounds be useful to you?”

A shiver tickled Jessamin’s spine as she contemplated the amount, a sum she couldn’t earn at the shop in months, perhaps not even in a year. It wasn’t nearly enough to clear the entire debt, but it would bring her payments with the bank current.

Jessamin studied Kitty’s feline smile and tried to unravel the mystery of the young woman’s wish to help her. She knew Kitty was wealthy, the daughter of a marquess, and perhaps a bit bored, but she’d never even conversed with her before today. Kitty was mentioned off and on in the scandal sheets Jess admitted to no one she indulged in reading, but she was hardly known as an outstanding philanthropist.

Charity tasted sour, yet how could she refuse the sum?

“Neither a borrower nor a lender be” had been one of Father’s favorite lines from Hamlet. But it was an adage he’d failed to uphold. His gambling had turned him into the worst sort of borrower, taking loans from friends and money from the bookshop he’d worked so hard to build up. For Jess’s part, she’d become a lender soon after her father’s death, finally instituting the lending library she’d been envisioning for years. It seemed neither of them had heeded the Shakespearian admonition at all.

Kitty watched Jess closely and appeared to notice the moment she’d almost made up her mind to accept the money.

“I am so pleased you’ll allow me to help you, Jessamin. And in return, I’m certain you won’t mind assisting me with one tiny request.”

Alice frowned and set her teacup on the table between them, edging forward on the settee as if she meant to get up and leave. “I’m not sure that’s quite right.”

“What is the favor, Lady Katherine? Please, let’s speak plainly with one another.” It didn’t surprise Jess in the least that Kitty expected something in return. No one offered such a sum without expecting something in return.

“Kitty, please. Do call me Kitty. It’s a simple favor, really. As simple as a kiss.”

Jess choked. “Pardon?” she squeaked, when she’d finally managed to swallow her mouthful of tea and could breathe again.

“Just a kiss, Jessamin. Surely you don’t object to kissing.” Kitty’s teasing tone belied the glint of steel in her gaze. “You’re a modern, free-thinking woman, after all. You believe in the suffrage and equality for our sex. You should feel quite free to kiss any man you like.”

Kissing men had nothing to do with Jess’s interest in social reform or gaining a voice for women in the political sphere. If Kitty thought it did, she hadn’t been to nearly enough meetings.

“You want me to kiss a man?” Jess spoke the words as if it was an extraordinary feat. And it was. She’d never kissed a man. Not really. A childish, graceless kiss on the cheek from Tom Jenkins when she was twelve years old hardly counted.

“This seems a rather strange favor, Kitty.” Alice’s precise tone cut through the quiet of the room.

Kitty’s tinkling laughter rang out. “Yes, I suppose it does. But it’s merely a harmless bit of revenge.”

“Revenge.” Jess waited. There had to be more.

“Oh, all right. If you must know, the dreadful man snubbed me.” Kitty plumped her bow-shaped mouth in a pout.

Was she the shallowest heiress in Belgravia? The thought that Kitty wished to seek revenge because a man did not prefer her company was ridiculous. Her beauty and wealth could secure her any suitor she set her cap at. In fact, the question of why the man rejected her was as intriguing as her desire for Jess to kiss him.

“Why did he snub you?”

“Why, indeed!” Kitty straightened up in her chair and slid her fingers into honey blond hair, tucking her already neatly pinned coiffure more firmly into place. “Perhaps because he is an odious man. If he wasn’t a viscount, soon to be an earl, and so irredeemably handsome, I wouldn’t have bothered with him. Never mind Papa’s mad notion I marry Lord Grim. Freddie is much more fun, even if he doesn’t have a farthing to his name.” Kitty turned the full force of her bright green gaze on Jess. “You’ll do it then?”

“I’m still not sure I understand.”

Kitty’s tone became pedantic, as if she was speaking to a child who needed to be set aright.

“My dear, it couldn’t be simpler. Viscount Grimsby snubbed me at a soiree last week and I would like your help to put him in his place. He’s a dour man, as cold as marble. Some call him Lord Grim. And so he is. Grim and heartless. He needs a little comeuppance.” As an afterthought, she added, “He’s against the vote for women, of course.”

As if that made the whole ridiculous scheme noble. As if kissing him would change his mind about women’s suffrage.

“And where does kissing come into play?” It all sounded wrong to Jess, like the discordant notes of an untuned piano playing over and over in her mind, but Kitty waved away her concern dismissively.

“It won’t be a real kiss, my dear. Not the kind that matters. Just a kiss that knocks him off his pedestal a bit. It will cause him a trifle of social bother. Stir up some tittle tattle.”

For a moment Kitty’s expression altered, the corners of her mouth turning down as if she’d fallen into troubled contemplation. Jess wondered if she was already regretting her petty scheme? Then she lifted her head, a satisfied cat-at-the-cream grin lifting her cheeks.

“The next time I see the man at a ball, perhaps he’ll manage a bit of humility. And since no one else will wish to stand up with him, I suspect he’ll be more than happy to dance with me.”

None of Kitty’s words put Jess’s mind at ease. She’d never heard of Lord Grimsby but from Kitty’s description, kissing the man certainly didn’t sound appealing.

“I happen to know he’ll be at an art gallery in Mayfair this evening.”

“And?” Jess was growing impatient. Who had time for games when she had a business to run?

“There will be a gathering at the gallery. Mrs. Ornish is a great fan of art and has sponsored one of the artists whose works will be featured. I do wonder why he always goes to Mrs. Ornish’s events. Could he have his eye on Meredith, do you think?”

Of course, Jess had no idea who Mrs. Ornish or Meredith was. She might share their love of art, but they were the kind of women with wealth enough to offer an artist patronage. Jess couldn’t even afford to buy a painting. Her walls were decorated with cut-out prints culled from books and newspapers.

“Kitty, please just tell me. What must I do?”

Kitty’s crooked her mouth alluringly. Jess supposed she used the simpering expression to charm everyone. Everyone except Lord Grimsby, apparently.

“I want you to show up at the gallery event and stride up to Lord Grim. Yes, you’ll just walk up and plant a kiss square on that cruel, unsmiling mouth of his.”

“I really don’t think—“Alice’s voice had taken on the same pitch and volume she used to quiet the women’s group meetings.

Jess knew what she was going to say and cut her off. “Wait. Let me consider a moment.”

Jess closed her eyes and breathed deeply. She had to do it. She needed the one hundred pounds Kitty offered. There was no denying what the woman proposed was scandalous, not to mention farcical and childish. But Jess had no reputation to protect. As Kitty said, she saw herself as a free-thinking woman, unhampered by society’s strictures and eager for changing women’s roles. She had no idea how kissing a complete stranger would strike a blow for woman’s rights, but she knew her desperation for funds made her beholden to Kitty’s whims.

“Come, Jessamin.” Kitty’s sing song voice was cajoling. “I dare you.”

Because Jess’s speeches encouraged action over words, perhaps Kitty saw her as brave and daring. But if she was brave, it was because Father died and took all of her options with him.  She’d lost everything—her home, a modestly comfortable lifestyle, freedom to study and spend her days more or less as she wished—and put all her energy into maintaining his business, even after discovering the massive debt he’d accumulated. She was beginning to make inroads toward repaying the debt and Kitty’s funds would be another step toward financial success for Wright and Sons Booksellers.

“Fine. I’ll do it.”

Kitty gasped with delight and clapped her hands together.

Alice shot her a look as if Jess had taken leave of whatever sense she’d been given.

Jess couldn’t match Kitty’s enthusiasm nor acknowledge Alice’s concern. She was too busy fighting off the sense of dread that settled in the pit of her stomach at the prospect of what she’d agreed to do.

“Where is this gallery and what time will he be there?”

I AM HOPE OUT NOW!

ES_IAmHope

BUY IT HERE | GOODREADS

Topher, Jesse, and Sawyer thought their greatest threats were the Infected and Mutated that roam the world. As they struggle to reach the Concentration Center in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina they discover that the monstrous mutations of the undead are the least of their problems. Something else, something far more intelligent and lethal, is hunting them.

Topher knows that the only way humanity will survive is to find a cure for the strange infection that’s ravaged civilization. He’s on the brink of discovering it, but the further his research goes, the more he realizes that curing the world may mean losing Sawyer.

In order to stay together, all three men will have to battle for their lives and Topher will have to make the ultimate choice: cure the world or save his lover?

EXCERPT

“You stupid bitch!” Richey shouted. Chloe was hitting him, throwing everything she had into her punches and slaps. Richey punched her in the face, and Chloe fell limply to the side.

Reality snapped back.

Nash scrambled for the fallen gun. I dived for another. I grabbed the shotgun and fired a shot at Stu, hitting him in the stomach. He dropped the AK-47 with a scream.

Jane’s gun went off. I craned to look. Jesse had her hand raised in the air, twisting her wrist so that she dropped the pistol. He slammed his knee into her gut. She collapsed to her knees with a groan.

I climbed to my feet and grabbed the AK-47 from Stu, keeping my shotgun aimed at his head. He lay on the ground, clutching his stomach. There was a dampness that seeped through his fingers. Stu stared up at me, but it was too dark to read his expression.

“Help over here!” Nash shouted.

I jerked my head up. Nash was on the ground, struggling with Richey. There was a flash of silver mixed in the tussle, and then a succession of gunshots. Nash and Richey froze, and my heart leaped into my throat. Nash shoved Richey, who fell back lifelessly.

“Bastard,” Nash spat. He stood, holding the gun.

A hand locked on my ankle and pulled my foot out from under me. The world tipped sideways; all the stars spilled out of the galaxy. My head slammed into the ground. I dropped the guns. The grass smelled damp and musky. I groaned and dug my fingers into the dirt. When I looked up, Stu had a gun pointed at my head. Blood poured from his mouth. He didn’t have long. A few minutes, maybe only seconds.

I tipped my head back and looked over at Jesse. At some point, the tables had flipped again. More of Jane’s guards had come, corralling Jesse, Sawyer, and Rio over with Chloe, who lay motionless on the ground. Jaden clung to her. His tiny whimpers punctuated the night.

Nash stood off to the side, his newly proffered gun pointed down. He glared mutinously at Jane.

“Enough games,” Jane said viciously.

I inched my fingers toward the AK-47. Stu kicked the gun out of my reach. “Don’t move,” he wheezed and then coughed wetly.

“You’re going to die,” I whispered. “Do you want these to be your last moments of humanity? Killing innocent people?”

“Shut up!” Stu roared. He towered over me, all muscle and rage.

I closed my eyes. A cool breeze stirred through the grass and kissed my face. I opened my eyes and looked back at Jane.

“Abominations must be destroyed,” Jane said, as if it were a mantra. If she said it enough times, would it make everything that happened here okay?

“Do it,” Jesse challenged. “Kill us. It won’t make a difference.”

Jane took a gun from one of the guards and aimed it straight at Jesse.

My eyes widened. I clawed at the grass, trying to compel my body to move. Jane’s arm trembled. Her convictions shook.

“Please,” I croaked. Her head snapped in my direction. “Don’t. This isn’t the answer. This isn’t the way to save the world. You do this, and you destroy all hope of ever stopping the infection.”

“What do you know?” she sneered, her teeth dark with blood.

“I know that if we kill one another, we’re no better than the Infected.” I pushed up on unsteady arms. “Life isn’t over. It’s only evolving—”

Jane scoffed. “Blasphemy.”

“No, reality. The ability to adapt, to expand, it exists inside us. We can overcome this, but we have to stop killing one another first.”

Her gun turned on me.

“You think we can overcome this? This hell on earth?”

“Do you think this is the first time we’ve faced extinction?” I rose to my knees. Icy fingers of fear inched down my spine. My blood pounded between my ears. I had to force myself not to look away. Somewhere, deep inside Jane, was a little girl scared of the monsters. I had to find her and show her that we had hope. “I know how to save us, but if you kill us, then you destroy any chance of stopping this.”

“Liar,” Jane said. “How could you know?”

“Just kill them!” Stu shouted.

“Jane, please,” I whispered.

Beyond her, a crowd huddled together. A few guards had been left to keep watch. Past them was the tree line, which was nothing more than a formless shadow stretched across the horizon. The world continued on, beyond this camp, beyond any other camp that struggled to get by.

From the trees, shapes emerged, black figures that staggered and stumbled toward our camp. They pressed into the perimeter, a deluge of undead that would soon wash over us.

A gunshot cracked open the night with a thundering clap. I caught the glimmer of blood spray before Jane fell forward and face-planted the ground. Bruce stood behind her, a revolver aimed at where she’d stood.

It was like a bomb went off. The three guards who stood by Jane began to fire. I lunged for the shotgun and turned around, shooting Stu before he could get off a round. His head exploded into a congealed mess of blood. I scrambled to my feet.

Three guards lay on the ground with head wounds. The wall collapsed, toppling over as easily as a house of cards, and the Infected flooded in.

Bruce stood over Jane, chest heaving. “I… She… This wasn’t what was supposed to happen. I…”

“We don’t have time—” I was cut off by the foghorn bellow of an Infected.

They were right on us. Their rotting shapes grew solid. I pumped the shotgun and fired off a shot at the barreling Infected, hitting him in the shoulder. The Infected’s body twisted, and he staggered, but he didn’t stop. He came, ravenous and wild.

Bruce craned his head around. He started to scream, but it was knocked out of him as the Infected tackled him. I lunged for Bruce, but someone caught me around the waist.

“Let him go,” Jesse shouted. “Grab the guns, and let’s go!”

“You can’t— He’s—” What? Dead. Bruce’s screams grew wet and gurgled, like so many others we heard all around us. I pushed off Jesse and collected Stu’s weapon.

Everyone grabbed what guns they could. Screams erupted in the distance. The purging was over, and all that was left was another broken camp. Nash carried Chloe into the RV with Jaden following behind. I shoved some guns into the front of the truck. Rio climbed into the driver’s seat of the pickup and started it up.

I glanced toward the Infected. They were running for us, closing in fast. I spared Bruce one final look and then rushed into the RV. Sawyer started her up, and we peeled around the church, barreling through the rest of the flimsy perimeter.

I shoved past Jesse and ran into the bedroom, where I raised the blinds on the single window. I watched as people scrambled to pull themselves together and escape. Now, with death pressing in, it didn’t matter who was a sinner and who was a saint. We were all food.

Time and time again, we watched civilization fall, and it always felt like a bitch slap. I bit back the misery, told myself to move on, but how long would we keep going? I pressed a hand against the window. The Infected came down on the fence, the numbers too great for the plywood and sheet metal to hold. They slammed into the barricade, and like the rest of the world, it fell.

I swore Bruce looked up and watched us as we drove away. Impossible, I knew. He was lost to the infection and to the inevitable fate of mankind. But in the thickness of the night, I saw a faint glimmer. Most likely it was my mind playing tricks on me, but there was a small part of me that saw moonlight reflecting off his eyes.

A hand slid over my shoulder. I turned to Jesse and pressed my face into his shoulder with a shudder.

“I…” What? I hated this? So did he. I didn’t finish the sentence. I wrapped my arms around his neck and savored the feel of him against me.

“We can’t save them all,” he whispered into my ear.

I nodded, because really, that was all I could do.

EXCERPT: Fur, Fangs, and Secrets by | GIVEAWAY!

Title: Fur, Fangs and Secrets

Author: Katie Gatto

Genre: Paranormal Romance

When Alpha Cole Martin takes his mate from the middle of a public park, he expected some complications. He didn’t expect her to have a few secrets of her own.


EXCERPT

“Who are you really?,” I asked him.

“Someone who is desperately in love with you,” he said in a small voice. I yanked my hand away from his. “That’s not possible,” I told him. I looked him in his eyes. He seemed so earnest. I let him keep talking, “Yes it is. I fell in love with you the second I saw you in the store. I’ll never love anyone else but you for the rest of my life. I need you by my side. Please don’t run from me. I’ll do everything I can to make you happy.”

My next thought came out of my mouth before I had time to check it with my brain, “You’re insane!” It wasn’t the best response I know, but it was the truth. He grabbed onto my hand tighter. “I finally touched you. You must be feeling something by now. I know humans don’t feel the connection the way that we do, but they usually feel something. Don’t you feel it?,” he sounded downright desperate at this point. “All I feel right now is frightened. I really think you need to see someone about these mental problems. I’m worried about you. This isn’t normal.”

He didn’t let go and he didn’t speak. His eyes were wide. His grip actually tightened on my hand. I tried changing my tactic, “Look we are in a very public place right now. If you don’t let go of me I’m going to scream.”

Cole

 

She didn’t feel it. She thinks that we’re crazy. I looked to my wolf because I didn’t know what else to do. We can’t lose her. Get her somewhere safe. He didn’t tell me to try and mate her right there so I figured his advice was better than my lack of plan. I was actually starting to formulate one of those. I let go of her hand and like I expected she started to get up. She’s leaving, my wolf was howling, Make her come back!

I let her stand up, and then when she got up I kissed her. Not a simple kiss but one like the movies, where I bent her backwards over my arm. She must have been surprised because she opened her mouth and I pressed into her deeper, covering all of her mouth. I cupped her head in my hands and used one of them to cover her nose as surreptitiously as I could. When she finally passed out I scooped her up. Leaving the picnic I got her into my car as quickly as I could.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Katie Gatto is a New Jersey based fantasy and romance author, with more than a dozen books to her name. You can follow her on Twitter for up to the moment updates or find on her author site. Samples of her works are also available on Wattpad.

Links

Author Site – https://katiegatto.wordpress.com

Smashwords Profile – https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/katiegatto

Twitter – https://twitter.com/KTMG


GIVEAWAY

A random fan who reviews the book on Goodreads during the tour will get to choose the name of one of the characters in the author’s next book. Rafflecopter.

REVIEW: Through Adversity by Amelia Faulkner

I received this book for free by the author for an honest and impartial review. My receiving the book in no way affects my review.

Through-Adversity-0TITLE: Through Adversity

AUTHOR: Amelia Faulkner

GENRE: Historical Romance, LGBT

RATING: 4 Stars

SUMMARY: Tortured German fighter ace Lt. Siegfried Krämer has a terrible secret which could ruin him: he prefers men. Hurried, loveless encounters have armed him with a sardonic wit and a bleak outlook, and he faces a life in which his only companion is his dog, Eike.

The young and talented Lt. Valentine Westbrook should be considered an ace, but most of his victories are unconfirmed, and now that his squadron is relegated to bombing missions the chances of him ever reaching the magic number are dwindling. When he encounters an equally-skilled enemy pilot during a terrible storm, Valentine is unable to resist the hunt.

Both men soon abandon all common sense and – with a protracted dogfight at their backs – crash-land in the midst of the German Empire’s last great offensive push. Injured, stranded, and with no idea which side of the Line they are on, they must work together if they are to survive. One of them will become the other’s prisoner just as soon as they figure out where they are, but until then they are stuck with no food and no shelter in storms which don’t seem ready to end. But worse still, their mutual respect blossoms into something dangerously intimate, and their lives are about to become forever intertwined…

BUY LINKS: Lovelight Press | Amazon

REVIEW:

Through Adversity is a historical romance that tells the story of a British pilot and a German pilot falling in love. It’s the kind of forbidden romance that we can all get on board with, so I was eager to read this story. All together I was really happy with the book, but there were still some points that I think could have used some work.

The beginning was slow and it almost turned me away from the story. It took about three chapters for me to really grow invested. As soon as Valentine and Siegfried met, though, I felt an instant chemistry and was pulled in. While Valentine and Siegfried interacted naturally, some of the conversations Val and Siegfried had with others around them felt artificial and forced.

I was pulled in once we into the meat of the story, when Valentine and Siegfried have to trek across the countryside, not sure where they are, and slowly falling in love. It only took me a couple days to read the book. The nice thing was that when I did set it down (not because I was bored, but because life interrupted or I had to go to bed), it was easy to pick back up where I left, as if I’d never even set it down.

Ms. Faulkner crafted wonderful characters. There was an authenticity to Valentine and Siegfried that a lot of m/m novels lack. They were human. It was refreshing to read about two male characters falling in love and neither being pigeonholed into an “Alpha Male” status. They reacted to their situation appropriately and their romance felt real. Watching it unfold was heartbreaking, because you knew that things wouldn’t end well, but you hoped they would get their happy ending.

Ms. Faulkner’s style is gorgeous. She weaves in the descriptions beautifully so that you feel as if you’re stuck in the French countryside right along with Val and Siegfried.

My only other issue was that I wanted more at the ending. While it was touching and had me choking a bit, I really wished that the story had an extra fifty pages where she expanded on Val and Siegfried’s separation. I wanted to hurt while reading this. I wanted to feel their pining and the distance, and I wanted to see them suffer because of it. I feel a little cheated that we didn’t get this moment, especially after the great build up of their relationship. It would have made the reunion (which was so sweet) much more emotional.

I went back and forth on how I should rate this one by about ½ a star. While Through Adversity has some faults and parts that could use work, for the most part the story was engaging and beautiful, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. In the end I settled on four stars, because despite some cons, all together this was a very entertaining read and I would recommend it to other readers.

SPOTLIGHT: Love Bites by Valerie Kogan | BOOK GIVEAWAY!

Love Bites:

A Collection of Short Stories

Valeria Kogan

Genre: Romance

Publisher: Wattle Publishing

Number of pages: 134

Love Bites is the debut collection of short stories by Valeria Kogan. From heartbreak to redemption, Love Bites provides a spellbinding interpretation of love and friendship, glamour and guilt, secrets and deceit. Each story provides a captivating insight into the world of love; its profound impact and effect; and how women relate to their partners.

This cleverly constructed collection of short stories will leave you tantalized and yearning for more.

Amazon    Amazon UK   

Paperback Amazon.co.uk    Paperback Amazon US


ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Valeria Kogan was born in Russia and moved to the UK in 1991, where she developed her love of art and literature.

Website: www.valeriakogan.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6154487.Valeria_Kogan

Publisher twitter: @wattlepub

Wattle Publishing Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WattlePublishing


GIVEAWAY

Valerie is giving away 3 paperback copies Love Bites. Enter through the rafflecopter!

GUEST POST: Pest Peeves with Spencer Dryden | SWAG GIFT BASKET GIVEAWAY!

Hello, I’m Spencer Dryden, author of a new book, “The Memory Of Mermaids” published by Fireborn Publishers. It’s an action/fantasy/adventure about an ordinary guy living in the world today who rescues a mermaid from a sea monster and then….

I’m still pretty new to the writing life, if you can call living in a refrigerator box a life, but I’ve been at it long enough to develop a few pet peeves. Pardon me while I take a moment to vent. These are in no particular order but if the shoe fits wear it. Most of my rants have to do with social media where we all have to camp, building our platform.

I must confess one part of me is very envious of writers, who in addition to literary skills also poses graphic arts skills. I don’t know much, but I know a post that includes catchy graphics is more likely to be read. Moreover, I’m impressed by those writers who are avid readers and reviewers and maintain elaborate websites and blogs. Not me. I have a website but it’s an embarrassment. Blogging depletes my limited creative talent. Finally, there are those that can traverse Goodreads. I find it hard to navigate. I’m grateful for people who have added and reviewed my books. I’ve all but given up on Twitter, the noise is deafening me, me! ME! is all I hear. Facebook is the source of my biggest anguish. So here we go:

1) As writers in the modern era we all have to do platform building. Facebook is a big hang out for trying to gain some exposure. But friends, because of the Facebook algorithm everyone you friend is also a writer trying to gain attention. Sites are overloaded with promotion. I get that. I do some self-serving promotion but the thing that drives me crazy is the people who day after day, sometimes many times in the same, day put up the same promotional material. Dude, we get it, you managed to fit enough words together to have a book. Beating us on the head won’t make us want to read it. Why not take part in discussions, promote other writers, find something to lighten our day. Stop with the repeat button already.

2) Cryptic language for a small group of insiders. Do it in a group e-mail, Facebook is a public forum. It’s annoying. Stop it. Hit that button that limits who sees your posts.

3) Using the same promo over and over. Oh, I said that.

4) Reporting writers on violation of Facebook community standards. F’n’ trolls do this. If you’re subscribing to an adult site expect adult material. Unfriend the person but don’t report them, you are depriving someone of their livelihood and undermining their self confidence.

5) Some women seem to use Facebook trying to get over bad self image problems. They publish endless selfies seeking approval for their looks. Facebook is not a good place to try to cure deep seeded psychological problems. Go get therapy or join a private support group. Nothing anyone tells you on Facebook is going to make you feel pretty if you feel ugly inside.

6) Publishing the same promo material day after day. Is there an echo in here?

7) I’m sorry that creep broke your heart, but he was a creep. There are plenty of good men out there who would treat you with far more respect. Whining about it day in and day out wears thin. It’s important to go through grief but a public forum isn’t the right place. Once again, hit that button that limits shares. Get out of the virtual world and get out in the real world. You’ll find your true heart there.

8) I’m sorry about breast cancer, really, but if you are not aware of breast cancer by now you’re too stupid to live. More men die of prostate/ colon cancer than woman die of breast cancer. We need more awareness of men’s health issues because we are too stupid to live.

9) Memes that use false dichotomies, like I’m not a patriot unless I forward your poster. I am a patriot. I don’t need to prove it to you. Put your energy to work helping disabled veterans.

10) Did I mention how much I hate seeing the same promotional material day after day?

11) Trolls. Ladies, I’m sorry, trolls are everywhere. They are seriously diseased. It has to be unnerving to be trolled.  It’s nothing you did.  There seems to be no way to stop them. At the first sign inappropriate behavior block the bastard.

12) Too many 5 star reviews for a POS. Amazon has it faults worthy of an entire rant, but one thing they try to do is perform a service of accurately representing user experiences. I don’t know how many stories I’ve read, mostly by indie authors operating outside of any vetting mechanism, that somehow manage to get their book loaded with five star reviews when in fact, it’s a piece of crap. There are very few books worthy of five stars, including mine. (Some would say especially mine). When you line up a pile of friends to give five star reviews you’re cheating honest buyers and making the world more resistant to good evaluations. Seek honest reviews. It’s very revealing and will actually help you grow as a writer. I’m terrible at doing formal reviews so I don’t do to many. I won’t post a review unless I can honestly give the book three stars. For bad ratings I prefer to contact writers off line to tell them of my problems with their work.

13) I almost forgot. Posting the same promo material ad nauseam.

14) The endless invitations to ‘like’ pages and attend cover reveals.

I’ve done something a little different with “The Memory of Mermaids.” (Actually not me but my creative, energetic marketer Lori Blantin of Indigo Marketing) She created a Facebook give away page for me where we celebrate the inner mermaid with photos, musings and easy entry contests for mermaid theme bath products. Once in a while I throw in a promo for the book but it’s easy to ignore. You should come over and take a look.

Thanks for spending a few minutes with me. I know my host would be most grateful if you made a comment or asked a question.

Oh did I mention how much I hate seeing the same promo material every day? I finally unfriended that guy.

TITLE: The Memory of Mermaids

SERIES TITLE AND NUMBER:  N/A

PUBLISHER:  Fireborn Publishing

RELEASE DATE:  August 21, 2015

GENRE:  Fantasy

TAGS:  Action/Adventure, Romance, Comedy/Humor  

HEAT LEVEL: 2

PAIRING: Male/Female Mermaid

LENGTH: Novella

BOOK LINKS:

Fireborn Publishing – http://firebornpublishing.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_bookx_info&cPath=4&products_id=130

BLURB:

After he rescues a mermaid from a sea monster, Max Weiss falls into a world of pirate treasure, dolphin whisperers, murderous mobsters and a forbidden love.

Troubles multiply in the already-troubled life of Max Weiss after he rescues a mermaid from the clutches of a sea monster. Drawn by the allure of the enchanting mermaid, Azzaria, Max agrees to help her find her lost mermaid sister. Max is pulled into a world of missing drug money, pirate treasure, murderous mobsters, dolphin whisperers and a forbidden love.


AUTHOR BIO

Spencer Dryden is a new writer, but an old guy on the threshold of draining any reserves left in Medicare and Social Security.

In real life he is a handyman, an at-home dad, inventor and web videographer living a quiet life in the frozen tundra of Minnesota (USA).

Like all writers he has a cat but they don’t get along well. He can be found at the usual writer hangouts:

Facebook |Twitter |Goodreads |Email


GIVEAWAY

Rafflecopter Giveaway – Mermaids and Seashells Gift Basket valued at $100.00

Memory of Mermaids gift basket includes;

Seashell Gift Box that looks like a Book

Bamboo Fiber Bath Scrub

Mermaid Ornament

Mermaid window decal

Starfish Glass Soap Dish

Sea Clay Dry Body Scrub 5 ounce

Shimmering Mineral Bath 5 ounce

Soy Milk Bath scent Mermaid Dreams (2 standard tub uses or 1 garden tub size) scent Mermaid Dreams

Bath Melts (2 standard tub uses or 1 garden tub use)

Shimmer Body Powder scent Memory of Mermaids

Cocoa Butter Lip Balm – passion fruit

Organic Sugar Lip Scrub- passion fruit

Sea Urchin Massage Bar Soap

Mermaid Olive Oil Soap

Nautilus Soap

Conch Soap

Sand Dollar Soap